We found the suction to be mediocre on medium-pile and high-pile carpet, but our bare floor and low-pile carpet tests were mostly a success. The AirRam just doesn’t have the power to pull up the debris that’s deep down in the carpet fibers on the thicker carpet.
The price of this vacuum feels high for the performance, features, and build quality. However, it’s a good buy if you can catch it on sale.
- Good performance on low-pile carpet and bare floors
- Good Battery Life
- Handle lays completely flat
- Swivel Steering
- Push button to remove brushroll for easy cleaning
- Awkward, and difficult on a thick carpet, to push around due to the rubber/plastic flaps on the front and bottom of the cleaner head
- Suction was too weak to pull rice from deep down in our high-pile and medium-pile carpet tests
- Sometimes debris would get thrown forward in our bare floor and low-pile carpet tests
- The rubber flap at the front of the cleaner head makes a lot of noise when you push and pull the vacuum on bare flooring.
You’re In The Right Place
If you’re interested in looking at how other vacuums from Bissell perform, then check out our Bissell Vacuum Overview for a summary of all Bissell vacuums and links to our other reviews.
Overall our satisfaction with this vacuum wasn’t great..
The main problems?
The bumper on the front of the cleaner head makes a loud noise as it rubs on the floor when you push and pull the vacuum. We had this problem when testing the vacuum on our painted concrete floor. There is no height adjustment to be made on the cleaner head, so there isn’t anything you can do about it. The bumper is flexible rubber, so it doesn’t seem like it would damage a floor, but it makes using the vacuum somewhat awkward.
We figure the purpose of the bumper is to allow enough room for larger debris to makes its way into the suction channel instead of getting pushed forward by the vacuum. This does prove to work well in our bare floor tests with the large pieces of dog food. However, we’ve seen other vacuums accomplish this without an annoying, noisy bumper.
Lastly, the AirRam is somewhat difficult to push around and had a disappointing performance on medium-pile carpet, and even more so on high-pile carpet. Not only is the bumper noisy on bare floors, but it also grips the carpet as you push the vacuum, which clearly contributes to the problem.
Most vacuums, even cordless ones, have some degree of “self-propelled” forward movement due to the brushroll, but the AirRam has none. Pushing it on medium-pile carpet is okay, but this isn’t something we’ve had to deal with when testing other similarly priced vacuums, such as the Shark ION 2x DuoClean (IF251). You’re already over two-thirds of the way to paying for the Shark IF251 if you’re considering this vacuum, and I highly recommend paying the extra money.
We use the Shark ION IF251 to clean up all the messes that other vacuums fail at after tests. In the performance section below, you’ll see why we had to do that with after testing the AirRam on medium-pile and high-pile carpet.
|Up to 40 minutes
|Handle Height Adjustment
As far as cordless stick vacuums go, the Bissell AirRam is unique in that the dustbin, motor, filter, and battery are all housed in the cleaner head. Remove the handle and it’s almost like a robot vacuum, but without the brain.
Here are a few feature highlights.
- 0.6-liter dustbin
- 40-minute battery runtime
- Foot pedal for turning on the vacuum
- No additional speed or power settings
- Swivel steering
- Washable filter
How Big is the Bissell AirRam?
The cleaner head is about 4″ tall and the handle lays completely flat. The handle is adjustable and at the lowest setting it sits at 34″ tall and at the highest setting it’s about 44″ tall. The swivel steering mechanism pivots at the base of the handle where the handle attached to the cleaner head.
The Brushroll and Suction Channel
The guts of the AirRam are all densely packed into the cleaner head. There is a bumper on the front of the cleaner head to allow larger debris to be pulled into the vacuum, and there is a similar rubber guard behind the brushroll as well. The rear guard helps prevent debris from getting blown behind the vacuum and creates a tighter air seal around the suction area.
The brushroll is very easy to remove by pushing a button and lifting it out, so cleaning up any tangled up hair or clogs is very easy. Once you’ve pulled out the brushroll, you can see directly into the dustbin where debris gets thrown around the center cylinder, and it relies on gravity to keep debris from coming back out. At the top of the image below, you can see a window which shows you the very bottom of the dustbin. Maybe it’s just for aesthetics, but there’s no obvious reason you would need to look in this window since it’s on the underside of the vacuum.
Next, we’ll look at the dustbin and you can get a better idea of how debris actually stays inside it and how to empty it.
The dustbin design is unique. It’s not clear exactly where you would consider the dustbin to be full as there’s no “Max Fill” line that we could discern. The image below shows the hatch open that lets you empty the contents of the dustbin. As you can see, the walls of the dustbin form a “G” shape. The opening of the “G” is where the brushroll and suction throw debris into the dustbin.
As you might guess, there’s nothing preventing debris from falling back out of the dustbin if you manage to fill it up over the center cylinder that houses the filter.
Since the dustbin is entirely transparent, you can quickly tell when it starts to fill up, and you’ll want to empty it before it fills up to the top of the center cylinder. Otherwise, you might dump some of the contents back out onto the floor if you move the vacuum the wrong way.
I just want to say that this wasn’t a big issue after doing our vacuum tests. However, if you have a large space to vacuum you do need to be mindful of the dustbin and make sure you empty it as needed.
The washable filter is housed in the center of the dustbin and is easily removed. As with all washable vacuum filters, you will want to clean them every week or two depending on how often you vacuum. If you only use this vacuum occasionally for picking up small messes then you can wash the filter about once a month. It’s easy to pull out the filter after you’ve emptied the dustbin to check and see if it’s starting to collect a lot of dust. If you notice poor suction then that’s a sign that you need to wash the filter.
It’s very important that you let the filter sit out to dry for at least 24 hours after washing it. Getting moisture in your vacuum creates a horrible smell that comes out of your vacuum’s exhaust, so it’s very important you never use a moist filter or suction up liquids.
|Shark ION F80
|Bissell Adapt XRT Pet
The dustbin on the AirRam holds up well against the competition in terms of size, but we don’t think the design is very convenient. As we mentioned before, overfilling the dustbin means debris will fall out onto the floor. The dustbin isn’t ever really closed as the opening where debris enters the dustbin is always open.
For the most hygienic dustbin emptying mechanism, we recommend the latest Dyson cordless stick vacuums.
When testing our AirRam, we were able to get 44 minutes and 9 seconds of vacuuming time before the vacuum shut off. This test was done on carpet. There wasn’t any noticeable change in suction or motor speed throughout the test.
The battery can be charged while it’s in the vacuum or you can take it out for charging. There’s no charging dock; you simply plug up a cable to the battery.
It’s recommended that you fully charge the battery before using the vacuum for the first time. The AirRam fully charges in less than 4 hours, which is on par with most other lithium-ion powered vacuums. There is an LED indicator on the top of the battery that lights up in 4 increments, so you’ll have a good idea of how much longer you can vacuum. You’ll get roughly 10 minutes per light.
The table below shows the run time while using the vacuum on carpet.
|Shark ION F80
|Bissell Adapt XRT Pet
The AirRam has a respectable run time and even exceeded the run time stated by Bissell. Manufacturers tend to put the longest run time you can get from their vacuums without using the cleaner head at all, which is not what most people use their vacuum for. So do keep that in mind if you’re comparing the numbers we’ve shown here. The numbers in the table above are when vacuuming on carpet using the motorized brushroll, which shortens the battery life when compared to just using a basic attachment like a crevice tool.
Do keep in mind the AirRam doesn’t have a hose or attachments, so it doesn’t make sense to compare the run time to, for example, the Dyson V10 while using an attachment.
Our vacuum tests are done on 4 types of flooring: bare floor (concrete or tile), low-pile carpet, medium-pile carpet, and high-pile carpet.
The AirRam does not have brushroll controls, but being a cordless vacuum, its brushroll doesn’t spin nearly as fast as a full-size corded upright such as the Bissell CleanView series. For that reason, we don’t expect to have any trouble on bare floors or thicker carpet.
During our tests, we did find that the AirRam was reasonably easy to maneuver, but the bumper at the front of the cleaner head made it more difficult than we would expect from a simple cordless stick vacuum. The swivel steering worked well, but the bumper rubbed the floor and increased the resistance we felt when moving the vacuum.
We keep mentioning the bumper as a negative, but customer reviews don’t seem ever to mention it being a problem. The bumper isn’t very noticeable on carpet, but certainly can be felt on bare floors as it scrubs when you push the vacuum back and forth. Either we’re just hard to please, or most people that reviewed the AirRam just don’t notice it or care.
Oat pieces come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Their rough texture causes them to cling to carpet fibers, which makes for a great way to test a vacuum’s suction and brushroll agitation.
Rice is relatively heavy and smooth. It tends to sink down into carpet which helps us judge a vacuum’s suction. Additionally, when rice goes flying behind a vacuum on bare floors, we know we’ve got a failure.
Large pieces often get pushed around instead of suctioned up, so dog food is a great way to test the limits of what size debris a vacuum can handle.
Bare Floor Test
The AirRam had an easy time picking up all of the debris, however, there were a few pieces of oats and rice that got thrown forward by the vacuum. It’s disappointing that the front bumper didn’t solve this problem.
The bumper on the front of the AirRam seems to work very well to allow larger debris to get pulled into the vacuum. Many vacuum cleaner heads struggle with the dog food and end up pushing it up into a pile in front of the vacuum. Despite our criticisms about the bumper, it is an effective solution for this common issue.
There was some debris that got thrown forward by the vacuum during this test. Often we see debris get thrown behind a vacuum when we can’t control the brushroll speed, but that wasn’t a problem with the AirRam. It’s surprising that the debris thrown forward was able to get past the front bumper.
Low-pile Carpet Test
The AirRam did really well on this test and picking up all debris types was quick and easy. Like the bare floor test, there was a small amount of debris that got thrown forward, but it was barely noticeable and significantly less than the bare floor test.
Low-pile carpet forms a better air seal around the vacuum’s cleaner head so we saw much less debris get thrown in front of the vacuum. In fact, it was only a few pieces of oats and rice, and was significantly less than what we saw with the bare floor test.
Using the AirRam on low-pile carpet was comfortable and there was no trouble pushing or pulling it. However, we do find the AirRam to be harder to push around than most of the other cordless stick vacuums we’ve tested.
Medium-pile Carpet Test
This test went very well and we were able to pick up all debris types. There was some trouble getting up some pieces of rice that had been pushed down into the carpet. While the AirRam does a great job at cleaning 90% of the debris on medium-pile carpet, we think it’s not a good solution for deep cleaning.
The suction of the Bissell AirRam is weaker than that of our Shark ION 2x DuoClean which we use to clean up messes after a failed test. There were a few pieces of oats and rice that got pushed down into the carpet that the AirRam struggled to pick up. We eventually were able to get 99% of the debris up, but we have a much easier time with our Shark.
Our medium-pile carpet is on the thicker side, so if you have a lower pile height carpet you will have an easier time. The AirRam is a great quick cleaning solution for most homes with carpet and bare floors, but deep cleaning thick carpet is not something it’s meant for.
High-pile Carpet Test
The AirRam didn’t quite have enough suction power to pull up some of the rice that had been pushed deep into the carpet. It did do a great job of picking up 100% of the surface debris.
This test does a great job of demonstrating the suction power of the AirRam. We think the AirRam is a great vacuum for quickly touching up your carpet, but isn’t capable of being a deep cleaning vacuum when it comes to thicker carpet.
You might be wondering if this test is just asking too much of a cordless vacuum?
Well, we were able to use our Shark ION 2x DuoClean (model IF251) to pick up all the leftover rice with no trouble. In terms of raw suction power, the AirRam is lacking. For that reason, we recommend it only for bare floors, and up to medium-pile carpet. High-pile carpet isn’t very common in modern homes these days, so for most people the AirRam is a reasonable pick for a cordless vacuum.
|Shark ION 2x DuoClean
|Dyson V10 Absolute
|Bissell Adapt XRT Pet
|Carpet Run Time
|Hard Floor Run Time
The comparison table above has some alternatives you should consider if you’re looking for a cordless stick vacuum. Those are some of the best models we’ve reviewed, but they all have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Overall, the Dyson V10 is the best performing cordless stick with some great features such as the hygienic dustbin emptying mechanism and extra large dustbin. You can swap out the standard torque drive cleaner head for the soft roller cleaner head when on bare flooring.
The Shark IF251 is a more affordable option that is a close second to the V10. It wins overall on battery life since it includes 2 batteries that you can swap out, which is something the Dyson isn’t capable of. The DuoClean cleaner head is built to seamlessly handle bare floors and carpet. We use this vacuum to clean up after all the vacuums that fail our tests. We have nothing but good things to say about it, especially given its price compared to the Dyson.
Who should buy the Bissell AirRam?
The AirRam is a simple stick vacuum that doesn’t have any attachments and is only meant to vacuum a floor. All of the other options in the table above are 2-in-1 vacuums that have a variety of attachments and can be used to clean above the floor or even vehicle interiors. If you’re looking for a small vacuum that’s ready to go at any time that you can use to touch up your floor or clean small messes, then the AirRam is a reasonable choice.
If you like the versatility of a 2-in-1, then consider the other options. As we’ve mentioned, the AirRam is under-powered compared to the Shark IF251 and Dyson V10. From our testing, it seems to be closer in power to the Bissell Adapt XRT Pet. We feel the price tag of the AirRam is too high for what it offers, so if you’re willing to spend the extra cash on the Shark then go for it, but if you’re looking to save a little then consider the Bissell Adapt.