Given that this writer has a houseful of animals (two dogs and three cats), what better excuse to call in a couple of Dyson vacuum cleaners? Let’s begin with the Dyson Ball Animal 2 upright, a monster of a corded vac with enough suction to alter the moon’s orbit.
This might be the last period in time that you’ll be able to buy a corded Dyson vac because the company announced in March 2018 that it planned to stop developing corded vacuums in favour of cordless products across the board. However, the keyword here is ‘developing’ so one can safely assume that manufacturing of corded products will continue for the foreseeable future. The corded range is likely to see discounts in its dotage too, perhaps starting on Black Friday. Wahey!
Dyson Ball Animal 2: Design and build
There’s no two ways about it, the Dyson Ball Animal 2 weighs a ton. Well, not quite a ton (actually it’s 7.34kgs), but it sure feels like it when you get behind it. Really, if you’re frail or unfit then perhaps avoid this one because you will struggle to push it or carry for long periods, especially if your abode has more than three bedrooms and two flights of stairs. Dyson thankfully produces another non-animal specific upright model called the Light Ball which weighs in at slightly more modest 6.9kgs. It’s a hundred quid cheaper, too.
The Ball Animal 2 arrived in a tall box almost fully assembled. All you have to do is follow the confusing illustrations in the manual and insert the tall aluminium wand into the self-retracting hose – easier said than done – then clip the main cleaner head into the body. The box also contains a tranche of attachments but more on that later.
Build quality is excellent and, while the transparent and coloured plastics involved don’t look like they’d withstand a tumble down the stairs, they’re deceptively tough and known to withstand moderate levels of abuse.
As you should be able to tell by the images, this Dyson gets its name from the big rollerball it uses to manoeuvre itself around the home. It’s a cool innovation that does help it turn corners though not as easily as you might think.
Although the Ball Animal 2 stands up on its own for storage, it does feel a bit wobbly and top heavy. Sadly, it doesn’t have a retractable cable – admittedly difficult to achieve on an upright – but on the plus side, its cord is an impressive 10 metres long.
Dyson Ball Animal 2: Accessories
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 arrived with a full compliment of attachments, including the main epicyclic cleaning head – the one you’ll use the most. Granted, a selection of attachments is the norm with many upright vacs but how many different clip-on bits does one need? In its favour, the machine does at least come with housings to clip most of the tools to.
Aside from the main cleaning head, the Ball Animal 2 also comes with a smaller Turbine head that clips onto the extendable recessed hose for getting underneath furniture, a slim detail attachment for removing crisps from sofa crevices and cobwebs from the ceiling, a stair tool and, perhaps best of all for pet owners, a Tangle Free Turbine attachment that is very effective at removing dog and cat hair from fabric-based sofas and chairs. It also comes with an extension tube fitted to a flat attachment with a criss-cross velveteen brush that’s apparently designed for cleaning behind radiators.
But here’s the rub. As it’s a large-bodied beast, its steering ball and dust container are way too tall to get under a bed or furniture like chairs and coffee tables. And this presents a problem. Do you vacuum all the main floor areas first and then change over to the wand, hose and turbine head to tackle the areas you weren't able to do? Assuming you remember which areas to do. Or do you clean around a specific piece of furniture and unfurl the wand and hose and fit the turbine head while you’re there to sort the problem? And what if you can’t remember where you last left the turbine head? Oh, dear it’s in the kids room on the top floor. You get the gist. Personally I’d rather have a vacuum cleaner that does the floors as well as reach underneath the low coffee or bed without the rigmarole of faffing about with an integrated hose. The Gtech AirRam and any cylinder-based vac spring to mind.
Dyson Ball Animal 2: Performance
If you’re looking for an upright that provides supreme suction on most surfaces without making a racket then the Dyson Ball Animal 2 is a worthy contender. I tried it on a variety of surfaces using various types of detritus – rice, crushed cornflakes, sugar and dried peas – to simulate real-world use. It passed with flying colours on all surfaces bar a thin rug which kept being sucked into the rotating brush. Even with the brush turned off and the suction reduction switch engaged, it still sucked too heavily.
The animal hair test was a resounding success. On both carpet and hard wooden floors the 11-inch epicyclic brush head collected far more hair than was visible to the naked eye. And when it came to removing cat hair from the fabric sofa, the special ‘tangle-free’ turbine attachment performed miraculously well, leaving the sofa mostly hair free. So, top marks all round in this respect.
Perhaps the most annoying thing with this upright is that the method used to engage the vacuum head is practically the same as the one required to push it along from room to room. To engage the head ready for vacuuming, you pull back firmly on the handle and the main body tilts backwards, engaging the cleaner head in the process. However, in order to push it from room to room, you have to pull back lightly on the handle and the whole device – including the cleaning head – tilts backwards onto its two small rollers. I can’t tell you how many times I got that wrong; almost every time I wanted to push it to another area of the house, the damn cleaning head engaged. In fact, it also fell off a couple of times. Strange. Furthermore, the rear castor-style wheels are so small and stiff that it takes some effort to wheel it around.
Dyson Ball Animal 2: Emptying and filter cleaning
As is the case with all Dyson vacs, there’s no disposable bag involved so that’s a major plus. Its 1.8-litre bin is another massive bonus because it lets you vacuum a few rooms before the need for emptying (by contrast, the albeit much smaller Gtech AirRam requires constant emptying).
To empty the bin, simply press the red button and it automatically unclips. Now carry it over to a bin and push the admittedly awkward tab to release the bottom lid. Voila, empty in a thrice. Dyson recommends regular filter cleaning and this is easy to do by removing the whole bin, releasing the filter tab and washing the filter under a tap. Leave to dry for 24 hours and pop it back in. Simples.
Dyson Ball Animal 2: Verdict
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 tries to be all things to everyone and that’s fine for many users, especially those with plenty of floor space and not too many stairs. However, for small houses and flats, it’s too large and heavy to constantly manoeuvre around obstacles. The surfeit of attachments, too, is something to be wary of because you may soon tire of having to constantly change between vacuuming with the main head and unfurling the hose and wand to clean under the bed, the coffee table and any other low-slung furnishings.
On the plus side it sucks like a limpet and swallows pretty much everything its path; the included ‘tangle-free’ turbine attachment is extraordinarily efficient. It also has a really long cable and a doddlesome bin emptying system. Yet despite all this, it still comes a distant second to its superb cylinder-style stablemate, the Dyson Big Ball Animal 2, which is just as effective and versatile while being much more nimble and a lot easier to use.