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Black & Decker Dustbuster NW4860N - review

Supermarket chains run a scheme where you can get things with fidelity points. Every year they bring out a new catalogue with a variety of things that can be exchanged for points - the current catalogue is here (in French!).
And, every year when there's a new catalogue, they try to get rid of the old stock at vastly reduced points values. Many things were at 50%, but I saw a little Black and Decker "aspirette" for a mere 660 points (70% off!). So expecting it to have already gone, I asked if the one remaining was still available.
It was.

Under my desk is a small carpet. And we live (very!) rural. So the carpet quickly accumulates dust and other gunk on it. The Dustbuster looks like it would assist in this respect, as well as being useful for other dust-sucking duties such as cleaning the inside of the car.

The Dustbuster is not quite capable of picking up everything, but it probably isn't fair to compare a battery powered device to a two kilowatt motor that would suck paint right off the wall. For what it is, it did a pretty good job. But not without some points of consideration:

  • When in use, the motor is fairly powerful and the filtering fairly rudimentary. The exhaust air is ejected out of the back at an angle approximately 60°. Be careful of this or you'll get a facefull of the fine dust particles that make it past the filter.
    This also pretty much rules out the use of this device for contact lens wearers or asthmatics.
  • Related to the above, it looks like the foam filter will need regular cleaning.
  • The dust collection is a sort of u-bend arrangement that dumps dust (and stuff) into the long nozzle. That's your dirt collection. It'll fill up pretty quickly.
  • Emptying the device is about as fiddly and messy as dealing with a knock-off Dyson (pretty much any of the cheaper bagless vacuums - it always amuses me when the box talks about quadruple-layer HEPA filters and neglects to mention the absolute mess it is to empty - I use one such vacuum at work and I hate emptying it).
  • It is a powerful motor powered by a small rechargeable battery pack. Sound familiar? Try my helicopter. Accordingly it can be expected to run for around eight or so minutes per charge. This is kind of short, but then the Dustbuster is not intended for cleaning an entire house.

This is the inside (waste emptied out) after cleaning a metre by metre square of carpet. You can see what I mean about the filter.

Underneath the handle are two attachments. The first is a rubbery thing to aid in sucking up spills (this Dustbuster does wet and dry, although giving the level of dust expulsion I'd worry about fine mist getting into the motor) and the second is a "crevice tool" to reach into narrower places (or concentrate the suck for better cleaning). The only thing missing is that thing with bristles, but the wet-tool acts as a reasonable replacement at helping to tease up difficult fluff. Certainly it is useful to have more options than just the basic nozzle.

The Dustbuster comes with a wall mounted 'station' that holds the charger cable in the correct place as well as provides a convenient way to store the device, while allowing quick and easy access (because, I guess, you never know when dust needs to be busted - insert your own Ghostbusters subtexts here). The picture to the right is of it mounted in the corner of my bedroom. The charger is a remarkably low powered 'lump'. Probably a linear (transformer rather than switchmode) that outputs 7V at a mere 150mA. This may explain why the user guide says that the Dustbuster may be left connected to the charger. It also likely explains why it takes a long time to charge the batteries - the user guide claims 24 hours! Yup - 24 hours for 8-10 minutes of use.

I'm not planning to mod this. If I was, I would do the following:

  • More intelligent charging? Interestingly the charger meters at 0V when the Dustbuster is not connected, so perhaps it is slightly smarter than just being a constant trickle charge. However 24h to charge an NiMH battery pack is...lame.
  • Possibly higher capacity (more mAh) batteries. Depends on available size/space. At a guess, they are either AAs or sub-C.
  • An LED to indicate charging.
  • I wonder if a second level filter (coffee filter? medical gauze?) might aid prevent the facefull-of-dust syndrome. I tried the Dustbuster on the floor of the car. The resultant exhaust was extremely unpleasant (and, yes, the filter was in place and snug).
Instead, I'll just leave it on charge for a day, then unplug the charger. I don't see it will be used often enough to justify always being left connected. Additionally, I should point out that it is worth giving the filter a few flicks to try to shake out the collected dust when emptying the nozzle. It seems that it clogs fairly easily when can dramatically reduce suction. Just expect that soon-to-be-familiar facefull-of-dust when you first switch on the vacuum the next time.

In short: It's primary purpose in life is to clean my little square of carpet. That it does, and reasonably well. It lists on various websites for €35-€50, so I think it was a steal for a mere 660 clubcard points. Sometimes you can get a few hundred points just for buying two chickens, so...
Having said that, there are some, shall we say "interesting" design decisions. A lame (and slow) charger, crappy dust filtering, and seemingly designed to spew the exhaust in your face (even if that's because I'm left-handed and hold it in my left hand).
Whether you should be interested depends a lot on your needs. Hand-held, light, and battery operated are plusses. Sometimes messing around with a full sized vacuum cleaner is too much hassle to bother. Parents with young and/or klutzy children might appreciate the ability to suck up liquids for the inevitable spilled drinks, though this is not something I have tried.


Apple "Pages" (iWork) - free, but not for me...

It appears that Apple have made their iWork suite free for registrations of new iOS devices, as of September 2013. Mine was registered a little over two weeks prior, so the screen says €8,99 for "Pages" (totalling something like ~€50 for the iWork suite that is otherwise 'free').
Gee. Thanks guys.

So, I'm on the lookout for a decent free word processor. Any suggestions? I'm currently using QuickOffice and it works so long as you don't want to delete a lot of text - for some reason deleting a character takes like a 1-2 seconds each. Odd. I also tried Google's Docs, but this just looks like the word processor part of Google Drive in a separate app. You have to sign in to Google to use Docs, so it doesn't appear to be able to be used stand-alone, so that's not of much use to me.
Well? Over to you - ideas?



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