The Dyson DC14 "Animal" 

I don't hate vacuuming. But I do hate when I have to clean something that my vacuum is inadequate for or when I have to frequently empty the vacuum or buy new bags.

The Dyson DC14 "Animal" promises to correct these typical complaints. On a recent test drive, I found it to be as good a vacuum as I've used, though perhaps it doesn't entirely live up to the expectations I had, seeing as how it claims to be "the most powerful upright for pet hair."

The Dyson has lots of little features and characteristics that take some time to get used to but that are very handy once you do get the hang of them. For example, the leading edge of the main floor component is too low to the ground to suck up larger pieces of refuse, such as dried cat food. But by briefly positioning the handle of the vacuum vertically, the base angles upward to allow room for any large bit of dirt to get sucked up.

The vacuum also comes with many attachments and a telescoping, easy-to-maneuver arm for cleaning up high and on furniture. The hose to the arm extends 17 feet, so you can easily vacuum stairs without having to deal with a bulky base.

The crevice tool is the best I've ever used. It's slanted, so when vacuuming behind and in between couch cushions, you don't have to bend or strain your back to reach down deep. It also has a second opening on the side of the attachment. If the main opening is blocked, it can still suck in dirt.

It also has an attachment with stationary brushes surrounding the opening for dirt. If you've put some kind of cleaner on the floor that needs to be rubbed into the surface, let the vacuum do the rubbing.

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Marketed as being a beast on animal hair, on this count, at least, I had disapointing results. The Dyson has an attachment with a spinning brush to pick up animal hair, and I found that it was more effective if you don't push down hard on the implement. (The brush spins faster if it's not being blocked by the upholstery you're trying to clean.) The vacuum cleaned 95 percent effectively, but it left behind some of those hairs that act as if they're sewn into the fabric. I suppose nothing on earth can get those out.

On a flat expanse of hardwood, the sucking action is strong enough to compel dust bunnies and lighter dirt toward it even when the vacuum is still several inches away. (My pets, on the other hand, were compelled to flee the scene.)

The machine's design is attractive, and it's easy to use once you get the hang of it. It's got some heft to it, which I like on a hardwood floor. The exertion needed to push it across carpeting may be greater.

One great feature is how you empty the chamber of dirt. The vacuum collects the dirt in a see-through compartment. When you're ready to empty it, release the section from the vacuum, hold it over your trashcan, and push a button to make the bottom open, spilling the contents into the waste bin. Your hands never get dirty. Since it doesn't require bags or filters (it has a lifetime HEPA filter), over the long haul you'll save money on the vacuum, which sells for $549.99 at www.dyson.com.

Despite its few instances of underwhelming performance, the Dyson DC14 "Animal" is still the best vacuum I've ever used, taking into consideration the functionability, ease of use, and price. You may not look forward to vacuuming, but you'll certainly enjoy how clean it gets your home. ■ -- GA

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