The original AirRam first came out in 2013 when cordless vacuum cleaners weren’t as fully established as they are today. It was lightweight, compact and, in many ways, a big improvement over more conventional cleaners. However, unlike Dyson’s popular handheld cleaners, for instance, the AirRam kept things simple with its traditional upright design.
The new Gtech AirRam K9 is an upgraded version of that original model. On the surface, it looks practically identical, but inside it’s been decked out with more durable metal components. There are also built-in fragrance inserts to banish bad smells, plus a redesigned brush to better handle pet hair. Gtech reckons its pretty tough and gives it a two-year warranty to support that claim.
The AirRam is very simple to use. There’s one button halfway down the device for on-and-off and that’s pretty much it. However, I do wish there were a few more controls to make it more practical. For instance, there aren’t any additional power settings to help conserve battery life or reduce the amount of noise it makes.
The latter would have been particularly useful, as the K9 is pretty noisy. It doesn’t make the shrill whistle that some cordless designs make, but the throaty, slightly mechanical roar definitely isn’t very subtle. In terms of battery life, you’ll get around 40 minutes of cleaning out of it, but it then takes four hours to fully recharge the battery, equating to roughly an hour for each 10 minutes of use.
It charges from a compact plug-socket charger. The cable isn’t terribly long, but you can always remove the battery from the bottom of the vacuum and charge it separately if you prefer. This is a nice touch, as it means you carry on vacuuming with a spare battery, which costs around £40.
The design means it stands up unassisted like a regular upright, and you put your foot on the top and pull the ergonomic handle back to move it into the right position for vacuuming the floor. However, vacuuming floors is about the only thing you can really use the AirRam for, as Gtech doesn’t make or supply any additional accessories.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is strange when most cordless devices are designed for spot-cleaning and flexibility. To be fair, it does a pretty good job of getting into the edges of your floor, but there’s no attachment to get into nooks and crannies, no way of vacuuming upholstery or curtains, and you definitely can’t use it in the car to give it a quick spring clean.
If you’re only looking for good carpet cleaner, though, the AirRam K9 does a pretty good job. I gave it a serious test both at home and in our labs, and it picked up hair and fluff without a problem, rarely requiring more than a single sweep. If this covers your vacuuming needs, then you’ll be more than pleased with the K9, but it’s worth noting that it did have a horrible tendency to belch out dust as it began reaching full capacity. In a way, it’s a useful indicator of when you need to empty the K9, but it’s still rather alarming all the same.
However, the K9’s lack of flexibility showed up in our more demanding tests. These involve fine powder and cat litter to really put a vacuum through its paces. On a hard surface, the AirRam K9 tended to push the powder around as much as it sucked it up. It’s not an easy test, but other cordless devices we’ve seen have coped better than this.
^ Before (above) our hard surface powder test, and after (below)
The cat litter test was equally taxing for the K9. This test takes place on a carpeted floor, and while most of the litter went in – after quite a bit of effort on my part, mind – some was kicked out the back of the vacuum while I was moving it. Then, more fell out when I put the K9 away, which isn’t great.
Due to the design of the vacuum, I wasn’t able to perform our usual suction test, which measures the level of suction when the vacuum is full and empty. However, it was clear that the K9 had plenty of power during our tests, and this didn’t seem to diminish as it filled up.
At just 3.8kg, the AirRam K9 is a lightweight compared to other upright-replacements, which are often 5kg or more, but it’s still considerably heavier than a typical Dyson cordless, which are usually nearer 2.2kg depending on the model.
In terms of handling, the K9 was a bit of a mixed bag. It’s very light and there aren’t any cords to contend with, but I found it really likes to glide and shoot forward, with the powerful brush gently pulling it along as you go. Likewise, when you try and move it back and forth over a tricky spot, it can often feeling like there’s too much resistance. It’s not a big deal, but it just felt a bit unpredictable at times.
The base part of the vacuum is around 100mm high, so it won’t fit under anything lower than that, but its flexible handle, which almost tilts right back down to floor level, means you should be able to get the K9 under most sofas. To lie it completely flat, you’ll need to twist the handle to one side, but this makes using the K9 much more awkward than it needs to be.
The AirRam is very easy to empty. Lift off the top panel and you’ll immediately see the dust tray underneath. You then simply take that tray out, tip it in the bin, and put it back again. There aren’t any clips or catches either, as everything just pushes firmly into place. The capacity isn’t huge, so you might find yourself emptying it a lot if your carpets are very fluffy, but the same could be said about many smaller cordless devices.
The filters sit in the top panel, and these can be removed and washed when needed. The vacuum also comes equipped with a fragranced filter, that can be topped up with scented refills, which are also supplied in the box. It’s a nice touch for those who like a bit of air freshener, but personally I wasn’t that keen.
Like the original AirRam, the K9 is a rather specialised device. It works just like a regular upright, but it’s much lighter and it’s great at cleaning carpets. It’s also easy to empty as well. Many people will consider it a huge upgrade over their ageing, socket-bound upright, but it doesn’t provide the same flexibility you’ll find on a handheld cordless. Other devices are better on hard floors and with grittier substances, and we’re also not entirely convinced by its handling either. It will no doubt be good for some, it simply isn’t a good all-rounder.