Vax, 1989's best-selling vacuum cleaner brand, has been shifted down a few pegs since its heyday. Once the ruler of the roost with its 3-in-1 machine that also washed the carpet as it cleaned it, the company has recently announced a cordless, battery-powered upright cleaner called the Vax LiFE "unplugged". We took it for a spin around our hallways to see whether it sucks.
First impressions out of the box are good. While it doesn't come in one piece, assembly is trivial, with all the bits snapping together with ease. Its design isn't too flashy - grey and black plastic. None of your Dyson-esque bright yellow or purple here. It does, however, feel sturdy and resistant to the knocks that vacuum cleaners inevitably get during use.
With a slender main body it has a very small footprint on the floor when upright, and will happily sit in a corner. It's also notably light - just 3.4kg - so you'll be able to heft it up and down stairs with relative ease.
It's rather light in the way of features too. The on-off switch also acts as a toggle between carpet and hard floor mode, there's a battery life indicator, and that's pretty much it. There's no attachments - meaning that if you have a little crevice, smaller than the width of the cleaner, that you need to get into, then you'll be stuck. Stairs might prove similarly troublesome.
Suction was impressive, though. We poured a big pile of flour onto our floor, and the LiFE whooshed it all up in one go. After a few runs through a one-bedroom flat with mostly hard floors, the dust collection chamber began to fill up at about the same speed that the battery life was draining. We got about four and a half runs before the battery went dead, though suction stayed powerful until the moment of death.
Testing on a carpeted four-bedroom family home, on the other hand, filled the chamber up at about the same rate, but because of the greater area to cover we only managed it about one and a half runthroughs before the battery conked out and the dust chamber needed to be emptied. We were disappointed that a charging stand wasn't included - you have to take the battery out of the appliance and put it in a charging dock to charge it.
The VAX LiFE unplugged is a powerful, lightweight and manoeuvrable creature, suited perfectly to smaller flats and not too bad for larger homes either, if you can stand the lack of accessories. It's not cheap - it costs £200 - but that does give you a 6-year guarantee and access to a helpline open 7 days a week, if you're not sure what you're doing.