Carries attachments onboard
Worked well on pet hair
Hard to carry up stairs
Brush head and wand fall over all the time
First, some background: Reviewed.com has strongly recommended most Kenmore canister vacuums that we've tested, and we're not alone. The classic vacuums are great at cleaning, and an affordable alternative to the likes of Miele and Dyson.
The 81614 is basically an updated version of the popular 21614, and we think the new model is even better than the old one.
They made it like they used to
I tested the 81614 on everything from bare floors to throw rugs, and this purple canister vac did a great job cleaning each of them. In fact, it cleaned just as well as its excellent predecessors.
What gives this Kenmore an advantage over other, similarly priced machines is power. The powerful motor sucks up dirt, a powered pet hair brush scrubs fur off upholstery, and the main powered brush head agitates dirt out of deep carpets with a motorized brushroll.
All that power translates into great dirt pickup. We should know: In our testing labs, we clean up a mixture of dirt that contains grain sizes from coarse sand to talcum powder, which mimics everything from sand from the beach to stuff your dog tracked in.
On normal carpet, the 81416 suctioned up about 44 percent of that dirt per pass—which is above average for a vacuum. That drops down to just 19 percent on high-pile carpet. It might not sound like much, but it's better than canisters that cost twice as much.
For example, consider the Pet PowerMate, a powered attachment for cleaning pet hair. I tried it on a dozen cubic inches of cat hair, and not a strand remained on the roll. It stores onboard the machine underneath a clear cover, along with other attachments.
You can also take off the powered brushroll and gently clean dust and debris off bare floors, or use the long hose and wand to clean drapery or behind furniture.
Some things should've changed
The 81614 has a few of the same quirks as the old lineup. For one thing, the whole unit tips the scales at about 23 pounds. Yes, it comes in two parts—which makes it easier to balance than an upright vacuum. But lugging it up the stairs still isn't pleasant.
We also found the 81614 has some of the same issues as the 21614 when it comes to stability: A thick handle means the wand topples easily when left alone. That same unwieldiness permeates through the rest of the machine: The brushroll is hard to get around sharp corners, and the tiny piece of plastic that keeps the wand standing upright is prone to breakage.
The Kenmore is also excessively loud. Our sound meters picked up an average of 81 dBA during operation. To put that into context, that's loud enough to drown out conversation and wake up the whole house. Unlike its predecessors, it lacks a light on its brushhead.
It's still our value pick
Quirks aside, if you liked Kenmore's canister vacuums in the past, you should love the 81614. This new Kenmore vacuum does as advertised, cleaning everything from bare floors to upholstery.
It is a good choice for a consumer who wants a traditional vacuum that's flexible for cleaning multiple surfaces. It does a great job picking up dirt and debris, and it costs less than its higher-end competitors.
While we wish Kenmore had fixed some of our longstanding complaints, we're glad the company didn't make any drastic changes. When it comes to vacuums, Kenmore remains a great value.
Meet the tester
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email