Although its tried diversifying over the years by moving into and out of the washing machine market and even reinventing the desk fan with its Air Multiplier, Dyson is still best known for its vacuum cleaners, and nowadays there are plenty to choose from. The Dyson DC34 Animal is one of the company's cheapest models – second only to the non-Animal DC34 – though for good reason: it's a handheld. Claimed to be the most power handheld vacuum cleaner in the world, Dyson reckons it has twice the suction power of any other.
Design and Features
Powerful it may be but what the DC34 Animal isn't, though, is particularly small. As with all Dyson's it uses bagless cyclone technology for its suction so has to incorporate a relativity large cylinder section. Add the handle, battery pack and an accessory on the end and it takes up a fair bit of space - 205 x 115 x 322 mm (HxWxD) to be exact.
This larger than average-handheld size has its issues when it use, which we'll come back to later, but the more immediate issue is storage. Many handheld vacuum cleaners come with wall mountable charging and storage cradles. Not so the DC34 Animal. Instead you will need a fairly deep shelf on which to store it and its accessories. And you'll want it to be reasonably accessible too, as the charger plugs in using a conventional plug rather than an easy docking system.
So far so not-particularly-convenient, but there's still plenty to like about this cleaner. For a start, you get three genuinely useful accessories included. One is the eponymous Animal, a motorised brush head which is about four inches wide and designed specifically to – you guessed it – help picked up animal hair from carpets. Without this accessory you have a standard DC34 which comes with the same two other extras: an 8in long crevice tool and so called combination tool. The latter is either a wide angled tube with incorporated short bristled brush, or you can slide forward the longer brush element to provide a reasonable size brush tool – great for general purpose dusting-style hoovering.
Not only do all the accessories feel like they're actually designed by someone that knows what it is you want from each one – i.e. they work – but the way they attach to the main body of the cleaner is pleasingly easy. Rather than a friction fit, they use a proper clasp mechanism that makes it really easy to change the tools yet holds them securely when in use.
The “designed by someone that knows...” line could easily apply to the rest of the design. We could take or leave the actual styling – it's funky enough but isn't exactly a work of art – but what does appeal is that form follows function. The balance of the thing is just right with the weight being towards the back where you hold it. The gun-style upright grip is also very comfortable in use, as is the really light to the touch trigger that only activates after it's held down for half a second or so (actually, we're not entirely sure if that delay is a good or bad thing).
The key selling point for any Dyson vacuum is pretty well taken care of too. Namely, it's easy to empty the 0.35l bin without getting messy. There's one slight downside which is that the flap that flips open upon pressing the large red slider on the left edge does so towards you rather than away from you. As such it takes a bit of practice to not tip everything all over yourself or miss the bin.
Press the other red button on the bottom and you can remove the whole clear cyclinder in order to clear out any stubborn detritus. If you find the cleaner starts to become smelly or less effective you can also clean out the replaceable filter – something you should only need to do every few months. Press the purple button on the top and the whole thing spilts in two to easily access the filter.