Review – Black+Decker Cordless Lithium 2-In-1 Stick Vacuum with SMARTECH



It's a pretty fair assumption that most of us have a vacuum cleaner. And as we know vacuums have varying designs, ranging from industrial models that are typically heavy, tough as nails, and need AC power to operate to the other end of the spectrum of small lightweight battery powered handheld vacuums. Increasingly so called “Stick Vacuums” are becoming popular, as they are both lightweight, and quick to use and store. The new Black+Decker Cordless Lithium 2-In-1 Stick Vacuum with SMARTECH marries both worlds. It’s a small portable handheld vacuum, but then it snaps into full-size stick vacuum for your floors and carpets.

Vacuum’s have a unique niche in our consciousness, not because they have changed that much, but because of the marketing power and inventiveness of manufacturers like Dyson & Black+Decker, who have helped turn a utilitarian household tool into a high-tech status symbol. But, reviews of vacuums show that for the most part, despite the sizzle and flash, vacuuming is well, vacuuming. Still, the advent of Lithium Ion battery technology has allowed the creation of a new, and effective genre of powerful portable vacuums. One important consideration is that vacuum's now allow far less particulate matter into the air when you vacuum, usually noted by the HEPA notation, which uses a fine filter to trap even the smallest bits of dust.

Black+Decker is actually one of the oldest players in the field, having pioneered the portable battery operated market with their well know DustBuster models, beginning in 1979. The story behind the original DustBuster sprang from a NASA contract with the company to develop a small portable drill to obtain core samples from the moon. The system Black & Decker created with the help of computers to analyze and optimize the drill, led to a workbench vacuum, the Spot Vac, aimed at men in their garages. But… the product failed, until marketing revealed that women were borrowing them to clean up quick spills. So in 1979 the DustBuster appeared as a household consumer product rather than a power tool and became an immediate hit with millions sold around the world. Somwhere we still have an operational one, and while its vacuuming strength is miniscule compared to a modern version, the family roots are there. It’s design was so revolutionary and popular that a 1979 unit now resides in the Smithsonian Institution, so from the moon to your kitchen isn’t an exaggeration.

The new Black+Decker Cordless Lithium 2-In-1 Stick Vacuum with SMARTECH battery sensing technology is their latest take on the venerable DustBuster line, although they do have a line of DustBusters, this unit falls under their SMARTECH line which offers a more sophisticated battery management system, as well as letting you know when to change the filter.

The unit consists of three parts. The first is the actual vacuum, which is a fairly traditional handheld unit, and is supplied with a small brush tip, and a nozzle extends out to allow you to vacuum hard to reach areas. The filter is a two-part affair, an initial filter to capture larger particles, and then a replaceable filter that nestles within the larger filter that captures fine dust. In practice we found ourselves emptying both of them at the same time, and it was always surprising how much dirt the unit sucked up. The handheld unit is powerful, and we found that it sucked up everything from drywall dust to coffee grounds, as well as cat kibble.

The 2-IN-1 design is that the handheld unit snaps into a larger stick vacuum unit, complete with an autosensing head design, so if you are vacuuming a wood floor, the head adjusts, utilizing a “beater bar” for carpeting, and switching it off if encountering a smooth floor. This not only proves more effective as a vacuum, it also saves battery power. The head is attached to the body of the unit with a swivel, so it’s very light, easy to use, and easily goes around obstacles, corners, etc. Black+Decker claims that based on their tests you should be able to vacuum your entire house on one charge. We found that this depended on the amount of carpeting you have, as using the battery to power the powered brushes in the head for carpeting, obviously takes more power than a smooth floor. In our testing the battery held up for most cleaning duties. The third component is that the unit is provided with a small wall charger, and a plug that mates to the handle of the unit to charge the battery, which takes around 4 hours from dead to full.

The downside to battery powered devices is that at some point, the batteries need replacement and recycling, and the unit carries a 2-year limited warranty. According to the company the expected life span of the internally, non-user replaceable battery is approximately 5 years. We would like to see a clear path for users to send their units in for replacement. At the moment, you would need to seek out a repair facility, drop off, or send to them, which works, but from an environmental point of view, we wouldn’t want to see consumers just toss a perfectly good vacuum due to hassles replacing the battery, so we would encourage Black+Decker to make battery swaps seamless, affordable, and easy to use so along with cleaning our homes, we are taking good care of Mother Earth. Unlike other Black+Decker SMARTECH power tools which have replaceable batteries, this unit’s battery isn’t meant to be replaced by consumers.

The vacuum head is easy to take apart, important since we have two cats, and pet hair can quickly wrap around the brushes. So, we just made it a habit to clean the brushes and rollers after every session, along with emptying the filter canister. Black+Decker just introduced a Pet version of the unit, which we look forward to testing in the future. Replacement filters are available, including some scented ones. How did it work? Great. It’s lightweight, easy to maneuver due to its swivel design, and small enough to stash quickly, and its dual personality means that it’s useable for a variety of cleaning tasks. The suction power is impressive, besting in some cases our older AC powered floor vacuum, an impressive feat. The built-in extension nozzle is really useful, not only can you vacuum hard to reach areas above you, it also saves your back a bit when vacuuming the floor.

The old saying is that cleanliness is next to Godliness, and the Black+Decker Cordless Lithium 2-In-1 Stick Vacuum with SMARTECH makes household or small office cleanup chores a snap. Spill some ground coffee? No problem, just whip out the handheld vacuum, and things are clean in a minute. The toughest thing about purchasing the unit might just be choosing your favorite color! The Black+Decker Cordless Lithium 2-In-1 Stick Vacuum with SMARTECH comes highly recommended.

Harris Fogel and Nancy Burlan, posted 3/24/2017.

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