Dyson's cheapest laser vacuum made me feel bad about my dirty floors...in a good way

If you think you know how clean your floors are, no you don't.
By Leah Stodart  on 
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Person holding Dyson V12 Detect Slim to clean hardwood floor with laser on
The Dyson V12 Detect Slim shows you exactly where you need to clean. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable
Dyson V12 Detect Slim
The Bottom Line
The cheapest Dyson with a laser tells you the truth about your floors for hundreds of dollars less than its siblings.
Buying Options
Mashable Score 4.8
Cool Factor 5
Ease of Use 5
Performance 4.5
Bang for the Buck 4.5
The Good
  • Laser is genuinely game-changing on bare floors
  • Fluffy bristles lap up dust and specs of broken glass
  • Super lightweight
  • Vanes on Motorbar actually prevent hair wrapping
  • Converts seamlessly into a powerful handheld
  • Motorbar and mini motorized tool are tough on pet hair
The Bad
  • Small dustbin
  • Battery may not cover a multi-story house
  • Motorbar trips on some rugs

Mashable Choice
Mashable Choice is a badge of honor, reserved for the absolute best stuff you can see, use, or do. If it's Choice, it's worth your time.

If you think your hard floors are clean just because you vacuum on a regular basis, you're wrong. That's what I learned after just a few days with the Dyson V12 Detect Slim.

Dysons are the "it" vacuum of the cordless vacuum world not because of automation or fancy app features, but because of innovative yet super practical upgrades to how well the vacuum...sucks. (OK, their color palette contributes to the icon status, too.)

Dyson's latest cutting-edge element has nothing to do with the cyclonic suction itself. Rather, the new feature — a laser — highlights microscopic pieces of debris that the human eye would miss, ultimately leading to a deeper clean by showing you the spots that need attention. New cleaning paranoias unlocked!

With the release of the $649.99 V12 Detect Slim, Dyson offers customers a more budget-friendly way to incorporate the laser without spending between $749.99 and $969.99 (the price range of the other Dysons with laser technology.) The V12 Slim also rocks the digital display first seen in the V11, plus a piezo counter that reports on the size and amount of particles encountered. Dyson calls it "scientific proof of a deep clean."

The price cut can be attributed to a downgrade in battery life (60 minutes versus 120 minutes), a skimpier dust bin (0.1 gallons versus 0.5 gallons), a smaller motor (11 cyclones versus 18), and fewer attachments. It still comes with two interchangeable cleaner heads: the Laser Slim Fluffy and the Motorbar.

Dyson V12 Slim and attachments
Everything that comes in the box. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable

As one of Dyson's smallest-capacity stick vacuums, the V12 Slim doesn't look like it holds much. But for a 1,500-square foot apartment with three girls that shed and create a decent amount of crumbs, I was pleasantly surprised to only have to empty the bin once a week or so.

Front of Dyson V12 Detect Slim motor and dustbin
I wish the V12 Detect Slim's button was closer to my thumb. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable photo composite
Hand holding the Dyson V12 Detect Slim with dust bin open over trash can
The dustbin is easy to dump directly into the trash can, but dust bunnies get stuck sometimes. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable photo composite

FWIW, the downsizing is what keeps the V12 Detect Slim so slim and lightweight. Weighing in at 5.2 pounds, it's nearly three pounds lighter than the Dyson Outsize Absolute+, and a breeze to whip around with one hand.

A button under the V12's display allows you to manually choose between three cleaning modes: auto, medium, eco, or boost. Auto makes the decision for you by constantly scanning the floor and adjusting suction power accordingly. The cyclonic boost in heavy-debris areas, like the soiled floor surrounding plants that my cat insists on digging in, is audible — and comforting, because you know it's working.

Even with a few cut corners, I found the V12 Detect Slim to be a game-changer, and I'd quickly tell anyone to consider splurging on it over the cheaper, less-powerful Dysons.

This laser made me feel like shit about the status of my floors in the best way possible

We're all regretfully aware of the fact that dust is technically concoction of things like sloughed-off skin cells, hair, and dust mites — so even if you stay on top of vacuuming the obvious stuff like everything bagel crumbs or tumbleweeds of pet fur, other stuff is constantly gathering behind the scenes. The thing is, it's barely visible to the naked eye.

I, a chronic daily vacuumer, was the last person I expected to be shocked by how much dust and hair congregates on my floor in less than 24 hours. Naturally, one would think their floors are pretty damn clean if they're vacuumed literally every day. The laser says "sike."

It highlighted hair, fur, dust, and even minuscule shards of glass in spots that genuinely look spotless, like a black light illuminating glow-in-the-dark details on a bowling alley carpet. One rule: The lights stay OFF during sex vacuuming with the laser. It's the only way to get the full experience of watching microscopic pieces of dust light up like teeth and white T-shirts in the indoor roller coaster.

Tile bathroom floor with dust illuminated by green laser
This layer of dust congregated in, like, a day. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable
Hardwood floor with hair illuminated by green laser
I SWEAR our hardwood floors look spotless when not under the laser. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable

The laser saved our feet from rogue pieces of a broken mirror that weren't big enough to spot with the naked eye. As for the saving of my roommate's soul from seven years of bad luck, stay tuned.

My mother is the one person I know whose reaction to what's hiding on the floor would be even more visceral than mine. I brought the V12 Slim along on a visit to my parents' house and told her to let the laser rip on her textured tile kitchen floor. "This is the most depressing thing I've ever seen," I heard her say as she witnessed so many more pieces of dander and tufts of cat fur than you'd ever notice with a casual glance.

But after you've spent a few good minutes rocking in the fetal position whilst ruminating over what you've been stepping on all this time, it's really satisfying to visualize just how thorough of a job this vacuum is doing.

Most of us know the space underneath our bedroom furniture or behind the couch is a breeding ground for dust bunnies. We pretend we don't know, but we do. But if you ever do feel so inclined to give those "out of sight, out of mind" spots a much-needed sweep, the laser head makes it easy to see what you're doing.

Dyson vacuum with green laser cleaning under dresser
Not me airing my dust bunny petting zoo on the internet! Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable

The laser fluffy head ditches the tennis ball-sized ball that the motorized head uses to swerve around (it's like the mini version of the Big Ball that corded Dysons have). Instead, it takes on a bendy straw design. This keeps its profile low and allows the whole vacuum to lay almost parallel to the floor, depending on how close to the ground you feel like getting. I was able to push it under furniture where even a slim robot vacuum definitely couldn't fit. Its soft bristly approach laps up specs of dust similarly to how a cloth or Swiffer pad would, rather than relying on sheer suction to pull them up. After going over a particularly dirty spot, you can take a second look with the laser to ensure the pieces you saw before are gone.

While the fluffy head's wheelhouse is bare floors, it does a decent enough job on carpets and rugs that I didn't bother to swap heads unless I was strictly vacuuming plush carpet. I actually preferred it on the flat weave rugs in my apartment that toyed with the Motorbar. When my cat Sansa knocked her container of catnip off the coffee table (classic), the fluffy head picked up most of the leaves in one or two passes.

No, the laser doesn't highlight invisible debris on carpet, but I wish it did.

Cat and spilled cat nip on patterned rug
Who, me? Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable

The Motorbar is great for heavy debris, but sometimes too strong for its own good

The Motorbar cleaner head is the go-to for thick carpeting. It's half an inch thicker than the slim head, optimizing air flow for stronger suction. The conical shape digs deeper into carpet fibers than the soft design of the fluffy head, using special anti-tangle spirals designed to tear hair out of carpet fibers and push them into the bin without wrapping around.

As you reminisce on all the times you've had to cut jumbles of long hair out of the bottom of a vacuum with scissors, you'd be right to be skeptical about how anti-wrap any cleaning head could possibly be. It's probably inevitable eventually, but I haven't had to give the V12 Detect Slim a trim yet — and I vacuum daily in an apartment that's home to three long-haired 20-somethings who shed.

I was most impressed by the Motorbar's success rate on kibble on my parents' medium-pile carpet. (This mess was self-inflicted because the cats' bowls live on tile, but vacuums are better put to the test on a surface where crumbs can stick like Velcro.) In my experience, the most a vacuum typically interacts with heavier debris is pushing it around or sucking it up then shooting it out the back of the cleaning head — or glossing over it completely.

Dyson V12 Detect Slim sweeping cat food on beige carpet
Not all suction is strong enough to pull up large pieces of debris, especially on the first pass. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable
Dyson V12 Detect Slim cleaning turquoise bath mat
The Motorbar will probably eat your bath mats, even on the lowest power setting. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable photo composite

I drove the V12 Detect Slim right through the middle of the pile and watched a pristine path form behind it, clearly showing where the vacuum had and hadn't been. Not a single piece of food was left after just one pass.

However, the Motorbar's beastliness was also its downfall on some floor types. A flat weave floor runner, a low-pile bath mat, and a furry rug all tripped the Motorbar up to the point where it stopped spinning completely. At that point, you have to turn it off and back on to make spinning resume. Quelling suction with eco mode helped to avoid this on some surfaces, but it often stopped spinning so quickly that I didn't even have time to switch modes. Plus, when strong suction is typically associated with better performance on carpet, doesn't it seem antithetical to decrease power just to avoid a brush bar malfunction?

While I'd still prefer the fluffy head's fibers to lick up tiny specs of dust, I found the Motorbar to be really effective on heavy debris like soil on my hardwood floors. It's a godsend each time my roommates and I decide to re-pot plants inside.

Dyson V12 Detect Slim sweeping soil on hardwood floor
The Motorbar is tough on dense piles of dirt. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable

With these attachments, a dedicated hand vacuum is obsolete

Dyson Humdinger who?

Starting with the best, the motorized hair screw tool is essentially a mini version of the full-sized motor head with the same anti-tangle conical brush bar designed to target long hair and fur. This little beast is so powerful that no one would be surprised if it were a separate, extra purchase, so it's nice that Dyson includes it. (Mini motorized attachments aren't often included with cheaper cordless vacuums.) But if you have pets that sit on the furniture or car seats, motor-driven cleaning for smaller spaces is almost as crucial as the full-sized cleaning heads themselves.

Most of my cat's fur doesn't collect on the floor. It collects on her multi-story cat tree, which was the perfect place to test the mini Motorbar's tenacity on pressed-down pet fur. Its compact size allowed me to get close to the curved edges of her tree where my ChomChom is too wide and stiff.

Dust bin on Dyson V12 filled with pet hair
The dust bin was basically empty before I used the vac on the cat tree. Just sayin'. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable
Hand using Dyson V12 as handheld vacuum cleaning yellow chair
The mini Motorbar was great at combing crumbs off of velvet furniture, which is sometimes stubborn. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable

My apartment is only one level, but it's not hard to see how the mini Motorbar could come in clutch for carpeted staircases that collect fur where a full-sized vacuum can't provide the flexibility to nail the corners. Obviously, that detailing is something a robot vacuum can't provide.

The other included attachments (a crevice tool and a combination tool with a wide nozzle and brush) can be found in just about every cordless vacuum box regardless of price or brand, but are useful nonetheless. The skinny extender gets precise with where it's pointing and is great for squeezing between cushions, sweeping out crevices in the car, or tending to those nasty baseboards.

Hand using Dyson V12 Slim vacuum to clean cupholder in car
The McDonald's fries salt living in my cupholders has met its match. Credit: Leah Stodart / Mashable

Downsides: A few quirks, but they're not big deals

If anything, large homes (more than 2,000 square feet, maybe) with multiple pets that shed heavily might consider bumping up to a Dyson with a larger dustbin and longer battery life. You can squeeze just under an hour out of the V12 Detect Slim on one charge if it's on low power mode, but that's hard to achieve when the vac automatically works harder on areas it senses to be dirtier.

I like the idea of not actively holding a trigger to keep the vacuum on, which is what I had to do with my Dyson V10. But the on/off button on the V12 Detect Slim is positioned just far away enough from the handle that you can't hit it with your thumb on the hand that's vacuuming. It's not a striking inconvenience, but did get annoying if my other hand was busy moving an obstacle out of the way.

Is the Dyson V12 Detect Slim worth it?

The V12 Detect Slim takes advantage of Dyson's best features, like the laser, digital display and automatic boost, and powerful, precise attachments. The bullet points that it sacrifices to keep the cost down aren't major hits.

Between the laser, low profile, flexible swerving mechanism, and less-hostile suction on finicky rugs, I almost always found myself reaching for the Laser Fluffy Slim head over the more intense Motorbar. This says a lot about whether to opt for the V12 Detect Slim over a cheaper Dyson that doesn't have the laser head.

The lite (like diet but also like lightweight) version of Dyson's latest laser creation isn't Dyson's cheapest or highest-end vacuum. But the Dyson V12 Detect Slim will tell you the truth about your floors for hundreds of dollars less than its siblings, and that's what makes it such a worthwhile purchase.

How we tested

We tested this product because, well, it’s Dyson. Arguably the vacuum market’s biggest player, Dyson is constantly expanding its powerful cordless vacuum lineup. The newest release, the V12 Detect Slim, is the cheapest option that incorporates Dyson’s laser technology. We wanted to see whether it’s actually a bang for your buck or a bust.

The V12 Detect Slim was put to the test for two months in two different environments: an all-hardwood apartment home to three 20-somethings with long hair and a cat, and a mostly-carpeted house (with scattered tile) home to my parents and two cats. Aside from actual cleaning performance, the size of these homes also gave insight into the V12 Detect Slim’s battery life, which isn’t the longest — but given how hard it’s working, that’s understandable.

Both the Laser Fluffy head and Motorbar head were tested on hard and soft floors to determine how often swapping them is necessary. The attachments were tested on furniture covered in both crumbs and pet hair, a super furry cat tree, dusty baseboards, and the interior of a car. 

Some other factors taken into account during testing were:

  • Battery life: Few things are more frustrating than your vacuum dying halfway through its job. (It’s the downside of not being tethered to the wall.) The V12 Detect Slim’s alleged 60-minute runtime (on eco, the lowest power setting) is shorter than other Dysons, which offer up to 120 minutes, but beats the common 40-minute limit of more basic models.

  • Weight and maneuverability: As a one-handed task, the tedious-ness of vacuuming is directly impacted by the clunkiness of the vacuum. Its overall compactness also determines how easy it is to store. Note that the V12 Detect Slim is kept slim by using a smaller dustbin than its siblings.  

  • Attachments: Cordless vacuums offer serious convenience past just being cordless. Aside from their actual cleaning head (the V12 Detect Slim comes with two), a slew of included attachments let them quickly convert into a powerful handheld. Most cordless stick vacs come with a long-reach crevice tool and combination brush. The V12 Detect Slim has those, plus a mini motorized tool for concentrated suction on furniture or car seats.

  • Price point: A Dyson is an investment. $649.99 is a splurge compared to some $200 to $400 vacs from Samsung, Shark, and Black+Decker, but it’s certainly not as hard to stomach as pricier Dysons. Considering the V12 Detect Slim’s effective cyclonic suction, innovative (and genuinely helpful) laser technology, versatile attachments, and ease of use, $649.99 seems appropriate.

Leah Stodart
Leah Stodart
Senior Shopping Reporter

Leah Stodart is a Senior Shopping Reporter at Mashable. She covers shopping trends, gift ideas, and products that make life easier, specializing in vacuums, TVs, and sustainable swaps. She graduated from Penn State University in 2016 and is watching horror movies or "The Office" when she’s not shopping online herself. You can follow her on Twitter at @notleah.

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