Reviewed by Louise Totton
There seems to have been a bit of a boom in the advertising and sale of vacuum cleaners of late – all of a sudden, cleaning your home has become something worthy of conversation with your friends, there are YouTube channels dedicated to cleaning tips and the TV seems to be full of adverts for the latest and greatest cleaning machine. I would imagine that most of us have seen at least one advert for a Gtech vacuum cleaner – it seems to be one of the most advertised ones on TV and I have always thought that it looked quite cool (is it a bit sad that I think a vacuum looks cool?), but they’re expensive and I’ve never felt brave enough to take the plunge and buy one.
Given as we seem to be accumulating a bit of a collection of vacuum cleaners (the only vacuum museum in Yorkshire, according to my partner), it did seem a bit of an omission not to have a Gtech machine in the fleet. So it was a source of much celebration in our house when Gtech asked us to try out one of their products, and I hopped straight on to their website to have a look at the different machines and packages on offer. All of the Gtech machines are cordless vacuums and up until recently they have been bagless but the line-up now includes their Pro range, which are bagged devices. There are also small handheld vacuums as well as the ubiquitous AirRams, which is the model I have always associated with the Gtech brand.
We chose the AirRam K9 System, which is the AirRam K9 upright vacuum bundled together with the Multi K9 – the smaller handheld vacuum unit. The RRP on this bundle is £349.98, which is a saving of around £70 on the cost of buying the units individually. The AirRam and the Multi are both available in a standard specification and the K9 specification, with the K9 version being advertised as being stronger and designed for the extra challenges presented by living in a busy home or sharing a home with a pet.
After a morning of peering out of the window every time I heard a car door slam waiting excitedly for the postman, I was ready to burst with excitement by the time the knock came and I had the package in my hand. The system arrives in one single box and requires minimal assembly at home, and the main AirRam unit was assembled in a couple of minutes and four simple steps. It really is a case of slotting and clicking the component parts together and you’re pretty much ready to go. I say pretty much, because the device requires a four-hour charge before it is first used.
You have two options when it comes to charging – it can either be charged as an upright vacuum cleaner, or the battery clicks out and can be charged independently of the machine. I decided to remove the battery from the machine to charge mine so I could spend some time getting familiar with the machine. It is a doddle to remove the battery; it just clicks out of the base unit and then the supplied charger plugs into it. The battery will charge completely in around four hours and the LED display indicates the charge level and also when the battery is fully charged.
As I said, I spent the time that the battery was charging to learn my way around the device and my first impressions were great. I do think that vacuums are becoming more ‘gadgety’ and the design of them is getting sleeker, and the Gtech AirRam is one of the most futuristic and sleek looking machines I have seen. The K9 variant is mostly black with Gtech’s trademark green trim which looks great and really distinctive. The AirRam doesn’t have multiple speeds or the option to turn the rollers on and off; it is operated with one single kick button which turns it on and off – nothing could be simpler!
The motor, battery, brush bar and dust bin are all contained in the base assembly along with the battery indicator and power button and the whole thing feels really easy and simple – after the four hours of charging, I popped the battery back into the unit and was ready to start cleaning. To get going, it is the simple matter of using your foot to release the handle from its locked upright position then kicking the power button to switch the power on. The battery indicator is a green circle (to match the green trim on the rest of the machine), divided into quarters, and as I had just charged it, all four were illuminated.
In common with lots of vacuum cleaners these days, the AirRam features bright white LED lights when the machine is powered on. When I first saw this feature on devices a few years ago, I thought it was a bit gimmicky and couldn’t see the point, but since then have become converted. I have dark carpets and the LED lights make it so much easier to clean and ensure that everything is clean and nothing has been missed.
I was particularly impressed with the suction of the AirRam. It coped superbly with the deep carpet on the bedroom floor which can look bitty and dirty quite easily because of the dark brown colour. We also have a ribbed carpet in the hall which some vacuums can struggle with but the AirRam coped admirably with the task.
The AirRam is somewhat chunkier than some of the other upright / stick vacuums that we have and feels a little heavier too. Having said that, I was very surprised just how agile and easy to push I found it, possibly because all of the weight is in the bottom, much less hard on the wrist than other similar types of vacuum cleaner I have tried before. It is very comfortable to hold and because the handle is so slim, I find manoeuvring it around the furniture easy. I am also very pleasantly surprised by just how agile it is – as I said, it does look pretty chunky at the bottom so I didn’t expect it to have quite the range of movement that it does, the stick has movement to almost horizontal, so I can clean under the sideboard and lounge chairs with ease. In spite of its chunky size, it cleans very close to the edge of the furniture and I have had very little need of a crevice tool to get a thorough clean.
I previously mentioned that it only has one mode – you do not need to select between carpet or hard floor mode options when using the machine. The machine works fantastically on laminate, lino and tiles but it does have a little extra trick up its sleeve for floors with deep grooves. The brush bar is removable as you would expect for maintenance and the machine can be used without the brush bar in place for extra power on grooved surfaces. Once the brush bar is removed (a simple process which I will talk about later), you insert a small plastic bung into the side and you’re ready to go. I understand that this basically drops the machine slightly closer to the floor, creating stronger suction and ensuring that even the smallest bits of debris can be vacuumed out of the grout in tiles. I would love to be able to say that this made a big difference when I was vacuuming the kitchen but I can’t. Because the AirRam in its standard configuration manages to effortlessly suck up even the tiniest crumbs so there was absolutely no need for improvement. Having said that, I can well imagine that there will be circumstances where it might be enough to make the difference, I just didn’t find I needed it.
One of my favourite features of the K9 version of the AirRam is the little air freshener capsules that sit inside the filter. They mean that every time I vacuum a room, there is a lovely fresh smell left in the room and more than one person has commented on it when they have entered the room after I have cleaned it. I have been using my AirRam for over two weeks now and the capsule is still as fresh as it was on day one. I vacuum daily, sometimes multiple times in a day, so I think this is quite impressive. There were six capsules included in the AirRam bundle so I would imagine these will last for a significant amount of time and refills are available to purchase from Gtech for a reasonable cost (£9.95 for 5). We don’t have pets in our house, so don’t need the air freshening to get rid of animal smells but I still think it’s a great feature to have as it just makes the house smell lovely and clean.
The dust container sits in the base of the machine and like virtually all dust containers, it is clear so you can judge how full it is. It holds a decent amount of dust, and I find that I need to empty it only after vacuuming the whole house. To empty it, you simply pop it out of the base, release the flap on the top and use the slider to push all of the dust out of the cannister and into the bin. I think this method of emptying it is fantastic as dust just doesn’t get stuck in the cannister. Some vacuums (especially my Shark Duo Clean) can be a bit harder to empty and I have had to use pencils to flick the dust out of some of the crevices. This system means that there are no difficulties in emptying and I am really impressed with the design.
Another thing I am really impressed with is the battery life for the machine (up to 60 minutes depending on surface vacuuming). As I said, I have had it for two weeks and am yet to need to recharge it! My house is a pretty standard size (two bedrooms, a study, playroom, one bathroom, lounge, breakfast kitchen and two staircases) and the only areas I haven’t been able to use the AirRam on is the staircases, so I think two weeks of nearly daily vacuuming is pretty good!
Of course, if you are looking at spending nearly £350 on a vacuum cleaner, you need to make sure you are looking after and maintaining the machine properly. With a vacuum cleaner, this means changing and cleaning the filters regularly and ensuring the brush bar is kept clean and debris-free. It makes a very welcome change for a vacuum cleaner to be supplied with a spare filter. Filters are sponge and need cleaning under running water regularly and most importantly, drying completely before they are re-inserted into the machine. For someone who likes to clean regularly, this can be a bit of a bind as I reckon they take 24-48 hours to properly dry so having the machine supplied with a spare one is a brilliant bonus!
Unfortunately for any vacuum cleaner that finds itself in our house, it will have three females’ long hair to contend with. My eldest daughter has very thick, bottom-length hair and the younger one isn’t hair behind. This along with my long hair and the fact that I feel like I am constantly moulting means that a lot is demanded of our vacs and the brush bars can get pretty full of hair, so I clean the brush bars around once a week. It only takes a couple of minutes to do this and the instructions in the user manual are simple and easy to follow. The battery is clicked out of place, then the brush bar button on the side releases the brush bar. You then pull the brush bar towards you and out it pops – it is then a simple matter of running a pair of scissors along the indicated line to cut the hair and any fibres before pulling them off the bar and replacing it in the device by reversing the steps. It is a complete doddle and only takes a couple of minutes a week to keep your machine in top condition.
I really am over the moon with my AirRam K9, and what it does, it does remarkably well. It is, though, designed to be a floor cleaner so doesn’t have the flexibility that many upright or stick vacuums do and can’t be used with tools for cleaning the ceilings, stairs, curtains or car. Which is where this bundle comes in to its own. In the AirRam System K9, the AirRam K9 is bundled with a Gtech Multi K9.
The Multi K9 is the handheld little brother to the AirRam and contains the functionality of the AirRam in a miniature, handheld format. It shares the charger with the larger machine and is fully charged in four hours. It features a similar battery charge indicator, with the charge levels also being divided into quarters and indicated via green lights on the side of the device.
I initially thought that it looked a little odd – like it had been sat on by an elephant as it looks a bit squashed and oblique. It became obvious quite quickly though that this is actually a design feature and a very clever one! First of all, because of the way it ‘slants’, it basically gets the nozzle closer to whatever it is that you are cleaning, meaning you can get into smaller spaces more easily. But the main reason I like the shape so much is that it makes it pretty difficult to knock over. I store the Multi on a bookcase on the landing, which means it gets a lot of traffic walking past it. If it were a more upright design, I would imagine it would be quite easy to knock over and off the shelf but the design gives it some very welcome stability which I think is great.
The main AirRam can’t really be used on the stairs as it has such a large vacuum head, so this is where I find having the bundle to be a great option. It only comes with four attachments, but they are all well thought out and one of them in particular has been a total boon – the powerbrush. This little attachment turns a handheld vacuum into a miniature version of the AirRam and has proved to be excellent for cleaning the staircases, completely clearing them of fluff, dust and debris. It is also incredibly handy to whip out when the kids have been eating cake or pastries and you have a small area that needs cleaning of crumbs. Being as the battery is every bit as impressive as that of the AirRam, a weekly charge means that I haven’t been let down by a lack of battery power yet.
The Multi comes with a long dust brush, a short dust brush, a crevice tool and the powerbrush and so far I haven’t found it lacking any functionality at all. It has been brilliant for the stairs, small areas of crumbs and keeping the car clean. It uses the same air freshener capsules that the AirRam uses and the fresh scent is particularly noticeable in small areas such as vacuuming the car. The suction power is just as good as the main AirRam, which I have to admit I was surprised about. I would never have thought that so much power could be crammed into such a small device.
Both of these devices are brilliant in their own right but I think if you are able to stretch to the System, I can’t imagine you would regret it. I think the term ‘system’ is perfect because these two devices do complement each other perfectly to form a complete cleaning solution for the home. I know they aren’t cheap, but the £70 saving compared to purchasing the devices separately is a big one and whilst it is a big outlay, I do think they are good value for money and I am delighted with mine!
For more information or to buy visit www.gtech.co.uk.