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Best Cordless Handheld Vacuums

By: Kelly Burgess on March 22, 2018

Cordless handheld vacuums are convenient, versatile tools

Portable cordless vacuums are ideal if you need a small, easy-to-maneuver vacuum for quick-pickup tasks around the house or for poking into small spaces that the larger accessories on full-sized vacuum cleaners can't access. However, the downside to cordless hand vacs is their relatively short runtime -- you're lucky if you get a full 10 to 15 minutes before recharging is necessary, reviewers say. If you need more time for cleaning, you may want to consider a corded handheld vacuum instead, and those are covered elsewhere in this report.

When it comes to a basic, highly affordable handheld vacuum for dealing with spot messes, it's hard to beat the Black & Decker CHV1410L (Est. $45). It's named the best budget choice after testing at Wirecutter, where testers point out that it's not quite as versatile as their top pick, but is plenty powerful for normal use and is offered at a great price for a hand vac with a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery. This type of battery is preferable because it holds full suction until the charge fully runs down, as opposed to weakening as the battery discharges.

At Reviewed, the Black & Decker CHV1410L is also a runner up (to the far more expensive Dyson V7 Car & Boat, which we cover below), with Jonathan Chan calling it "a great kitchen cleaner." They also point out that the CHV1410L can stand up on your counter while it's charging. It didn't perform well at heavy cleanup jobs, but was perfectly adequate for lighter cleaning, Chan says.

Owners like the Black & Decker CHV1410L quite a bit. Many say they appreciate its traditional DustBuster design, which was originated by Black & Decker. Tens of thousands of reviewers make it one of the highest-rated vacuums at Amazon. Most agree that it's powerful enough even to pick up chunky items, like cheerios or spilled rice, but quite a few praise its performance on pet hair as well. However, that's generally pet hair on smooth surfaces, like floors; it does not get as good of reviews for removing pet hair from upholstery. In general, it seems that most users find that this DustBuster runs for about 15 minutes per charge and takes about 4 hours to fully charge, although Wirecutter says it ran for 12 minutes in their test and recharged in three hours.

The CHV1410L includes two accessories, a crevice tool and a small brush, and one thing users appreciate is that both store on-board so they're always at hand and less likely to be lost or misplaced. The only real complaints we saw about this hand vac are pretty minor quibbles. A few say it's loud, although very few in general comment on its noise, and some would like it if a wall-mount was either included or optional. Still, we saw very few disappointed users, and quite a few say they bought one for their home, and were so pleased with it that they bought another for their office or RV.

A slightly less-pricey, but otherwise almost identical vacuum, the Black & Decker HHVI320JR02 DustBuster (Est. $40) might be a better choice if your vacuuming needs are even more basic. It's the top-rated vacuum at Top Ten Reviews, earning that site's Gold Award. In testing, it performed equally well on hardwood floors and carpet. It was the quietest vacuum in the test too.

User satisfaction is slightly lower with this DustBuster than with the CHV1410L. We spotted a few more durability complaints, but many pragmatic owners note that, "you get what you pay for." And this is a low-priced vacuum. It's also less powerful, 10.8 volts to the CHV1410L's 16 volts. It also takes longer to charge -- 8 hours, and runs for about 15 minutes on a charge.

If you need a hand vac that's more than just a basic vacuum, you'll want to check out the Black & Decker Platinum BDH2020FLFH (Est. $100). It gets excellent reviews for its versatility and its performance in pet hair pick up. The BDH2020FLFH also uses a Li-ion battery. Experts and users say it runs for a solid 16 minutes on a charge and maintains full power for that 16 minutes -- long enough for bigger cleaning tasks. The Black & Decker Platinum has a long, 4-foot hose that extends its reach to get into even high spots, and comes with a great assortment of accessories, including a pet hair brush, stick vac floor head, 2-in-1 nozzle/brush, and extended crevice tool. The smaller tools store onboard, the stick vac attachment does not.

Owners say the Black & Decker BDH2020FLFH is extremely easy to use and is small enough to stow away on a shelf or in a cupboard, although many note that storing the separate stick vac attachment can pose a challenge. They also praise the comfortable-to-hold curved handle, which is a different design than most straight-handled portable vacuums.

The pet hair tool is pretty basic, just a rubberized head, but as testers at Wirecutter point out, it does its job well on upholstery. Pet owners are also quite satisfied with this small vacuum's performance in picking up pet hair on even plush surfaces. Wirecutter ultimately names the Black & Decker BDH2020FLFH their runner up pick; it's identical to their top pick, the Black & Decker BDH2020FL (Est. $110), which doesn't include the floor tool. They suggest you buy whichever one is the cheapest; we agree with that, although the floor tool might be useful for some people.

Another handheld vacuum that's designed with pet owners in mind is the Shark Cordless Pet Perfect SV780 (Est. $60). It's the top pick at Consumer Reports, earning scores of Excellent for bare floors and edges, Very Good for carpet and pet hair, and Good for noise. Elsewhere, however, feedback is more mixed. At Top Ten Reviews it comes it at number eight out of 10, with tester Noel Case unimpressed with its long charge time (16 hours for a full charge) and short run time (10 minutes). Still, she says it does do a great job on pet hair.

Owners seem to be more impressed with the Shark, while it earns just an unremarkable 3.8-stars at Amazon, it does much better at both Best Buy and Walmart. In general, we spotted a lot of durability complaints. Those who don't have issues with the battery not charging, or the vacuum just not working after a short period absolutely love this Shark though. The attachments, which include a motorized pet brush, dusting brush and crevice tool, are said to be terrific for cleaning messes off upholstery.

Dyson is a well-recognized maker of high-end vacuums, and the Dyson V7 Car+Boat (Est. $240) is the latest in their handheld lineup. It's the upgrade pick at Wirecutter, where testers say it can "blast through trickier jobs like upholstery and pet-hair pickup." It's also the top pick at Reviewed due to its, "perfect mix of long battery life, powerful suction, and a flexible set of included attachments."

Those attachments include an extension hose, mini dusting brush, crevice tool, small motorized head, a combination tool, a stiff bristle brush and a car charger. The mini motor head is particularly popular with gardeners and pet owners because of its superior performance picking up dirt and dog hair from carpet and upholstery. In testing at both Wirecutter and Reviewed, the Dyson V7 picked up the most debris of any of the other handheld vacuums in their roundups,

Battery life is good on the Dyson V7. In standard mode it will run about 30 minutes on a charge; in turbo mode that drops to about 7 minutes. That comes in for some criticism with owners, who say it's too short for such an expensive vacuum, although that's the longest runtime of any cordless vacuum in this report, and about the best you can expect from that size of a Li-ion battery.

The Dyson V7 is expensive, and its reviews from owners tend to be lower than most of the other handheld vacuums in this report. However, we do need to qualify that by noting that there are far fewer reviews of the Dyson overall, and people tend to be harsher in their criticism of more expensive items. In spite of the seemingly lower ratings, most owners love their V7, saying it's great to have around for cleaning messes not only in their vehicles, but around the house as well.

The Dyson V7 also offers one of the easiest, most comprehensive dust-bin emptying processes of any hand vac, simply hold the unit over a trash can and pull up on the top of the bin to force the debris out the bottom.

One thing we'd like to add here is that all Dyson stick vacuums, which we review in a separate report, convert to handhelds. The Dyson V6 Animal ($500) retails for $500, but can often be found on sale for less than $300, because it's an older model, and it comes with the same assortment of attachments as the V7 Car+Boat (except the car charger). It can also be used for carpet and floors. It does have about a 10-minute shorter runtime, however. Alternatively, and at a higher price point, the Dyson V8 Animal (Est. $500) comes with the same useful assortment of accessories and has a 40-minute runtime. It is often on sale for around $400.

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