It's pretty clear from the name of my blog and the fact that I've written just short of 50 articles for it that I'm a little keen on gadgets. Okay, a lot keen. I'm generally quite proud of my status as 'go-to-guy' for friends and family who ask me for advice before parting with their cash on something shiny and internet connected. Whilst I try to keep life in balance and love to spend hours of my weekends out with friends exploring countryside (usually planning where to wind up for food, but I take in the sights too), I'm just as happy curling up with the iPad and skipping through reams and reams of RSS feeds making sure I know everything there is to know about the happenings of the technology industry and indulging my geek side.
The word 'gadget' though, is not really just there for fun electronics that exist to give us more and more different ways to play Angry Birds. It also describes products that are all around us automating and assisting with boring jobs so we don't have to spend all our precious hours doing the chores. White goods have had no mention in this blog, and yet the cooker, dishwasher and washer dryer have literally given me and my wife the free time that only a few generations before us, people would never have had.
But white goods are boring. It's just not possible to make something that does a boring job interesting. Or is it? Well, if your name is James Dyson, then I owe you my thanks, Sir, because there is one household brand that has added a slice of cool to the bland and that is Dyson.
The Dyson brand has been a phenomenal British success story. Founded by James Dyson in 1992; he was so intent on reinventing the humble vacuum cleaner (or Hoover as we called them before Dyson blew that word out of the dictionary) that he built and tested 5127 prototypes before the DC07, the first to the market was born. It all paid off though and Dyson now sell in over 50 countries round the world and have successfully reinvented other previously stagnant products like the fan (now bladeless) and even the public hand dryer! Who would have thought drying your hands in a public toilet would offer even a smidge of excitement?!
The Dyson I want to talk to you about is no less cool than the others, but I wonder if it's rather more divisive. It's the Dyson DC34 Animal, a handheld vacuum cleaner.
Looking like some sort of child's dream water pistol, of the kind that could blast you off your feet, this battery powered vac has the sort of power that you might expect from an every day upright and yet it runs off batteries and can be used almost anywhere that you can reach.
Like a more traditional 'dustbuster' handy vac, sucking up (dry) spillages is no problem at all, but for £180 (more than most would spend on their main vacuum, so this must be divisive point number one) you'd certainly want it to be more capable than that, and it is. With mine, I do all the household dusting. The power of the suction means everything is dust free. I'm especially pleased with how clean it helps me keep my audio equipment (air vents are normally dust's safe place and shorten the life of electronics). Nooks and corners that escape a traditional duster and polish are easily dealt with, so things like the television always look good as new. I also use it to great result on the stairs, yes it can do carpets with the included beater bar, no more lugging the big upright about, curtains and anywhere the cat sits. Judging by how quickly I fill the (admittedly small) dust chamber, having one of these alongside a traditional upright vacuum means the house is far cleaner than before. Equally, cleaning the inside of the car and keeping all the knobs and buttons on the dash clear of dust build up is an effortless task. If you take pride in your cleaning, the DC34 starts to justify it's existence pretty quickly.
So why do the comments sections in other reviews quickly fill up with negative statements from people who don't own one? Well, the price is high it's true and some of that price is undoubtedly paying for the brand. The second big criticism is the 15min battery life. Sounds terrible doesn't it? Well, yes but you're not trying to vacuum a whole house with it. You might dust one day with it, do the stairs the next and the cars at the weekend. Charge it inbetween uses (the battery can be topped up anytime) and it'll never let you down mid-task.
I wonder if it's a little bit like the criticism iPads get. Expensive? Yes. How much do you actually need it? Well, cheaper alternatives can achieve the same thing. A bit 'show off'? Possibly.
But like the iPad, the DC34 is well crafted, gets the job done in an effortless, easily accessible and immediate way and somehow makes the chores more of a pleasure than otherwise. A luxury item, yes, but it'll earn it's keep.
I say, if you're tempted, go for it. You'll come to realise its true value pretty quickly, after all you could wash the dishes by hand you know :)