While Miele’s C3 canister line is an impressive feat of engineering, it’s also a lot of money to spend on a vacuum. Rather than dropping $1,000 on a Marin or $1,500 on the Brilliant, many families decide the sweet spot for German engineering and American household incomes lies with the Compact C2 line. Within this line, vacuums like the Miele Compact C2 Onyx and its slightly higher end sibling, the Electro+, offer a lot of value without putting too much pressure on the wallet. Earlier we reviewed the Onyx and found it to be one of the best Miele canisters under $500. Today we’ll take a look at how to use and maintain the Onyx so you get as many years as possible out of it. We’ll also compare its cleaning strengths and weaknesses to the cheapest C3 canisters, the Alize and Calima, to see how much value the Onyx offers in comparison.
Do you get a starter bag and filter with the Onyx, or do you have to buy them separately? Also, which sizes fit the Onyx?
When you receive your Onyx, it’ll include a dust bag, motor filter, and regular air filter, all pre-installed and ready to use with the vacuum. It’s a good idea to purchase additional bags and filters from the start, though, so you aren’t scrambling to order them later on. Fortunately, they don’t cost much and they do last a good while.
To pick up extra dust bags and motor filters, order the Miele FJM Airclean 3D Efficiency Dust Bag; you’ll get four dust bags and two filters in each box–one for the motor and one for air. The replacement schedule for both the dust bags and filters is very simple: change the bags when they’re full and change the filters every four bag changes. Keep in mind that you can’t use any GN-sized bags with the Compact C2 line; they only fit the full-sized Miele canisters (e.g., the C3s).
To replace the air filter, we recommend you upgrade to a HEPA filter for allergen reduction: this means the Miele HEPA AirClean SF-HA 50. It will last for around 50 hours of vacuuming before needing to be replaced, which is equivalent to around 12 months of typical home use. It also includes a color indicator to let you know when you need to replace it (it changes from green to white).
How does the Onyx compare to the Electro+? Is the electric brush head worth the upgrade cost?
The Onyx is probably the second best vacuum in the Compact C2 line. However, compared to the Electro+, it reveals its limitations. As we noted in our review, the Electro+ has a feature that no other C2-level Miele includes and that you need to spend several hundred more to find in the C3 line: a powered electric brush head. And yes, it’s worth the upgrade cost. It essentially allows you to tackle any kind of carpeting surface, whether low-pile, medium-pile, or high-pile without getting stuck, bogged down, or damaging the carpeting. This is an ability you’ll find in other Mieles, including in the C3-level Cat & Dog, Kona, and Soft Carpet. However, unlike the Electro+, those vacuums cost between $800 and $1,000, while the Electro+ sits comfortably at the $600 price point year after year.
In comparison, the Onyx with its Parquet twister and turbo brush head is comfortable on hardwood surfaces, low-, and even mid-pile carpeting and rugs, but simply can’t handle anything beyond that. Delicate, plush, antique, and general high-pile carpeting is beyond its abilities.
Is it possible to buy an electric brush head for the Onyx to get the same functionality as that in the Electro+ or high-end C3s?
Of course, if you don’t have any such carpeting in your home and have no plans on acquiring it, then you can be perfectly happy with the Onyx, and we know many people who are. But if you have high-pile carpeting or simply would like the option of having it in the future, you’ll be far better off buying the Electro+ once and for all instead of telling yourself you’ll upgrade to it later. This is particularly pertinent when you realize that you can’t buy and connect an electric brush head to the Onyx or any other Compact C2 (aside from the Topaz, which is really just the Onyx under a different name), as none of the other Compact C2s include an outlet on the vacuum to connect an electric head.
Why choose the C2 Onyx over the budget C3 Miele canisters (e.g., the Calima or Alize)?
We’ve established that the Electro+ is most likely a better deal for most families than the Onyx, but what about the Onyx vs the cheapest C3 canisters? The truth is that unless you want the high-end canister features of the Alize and are ready to buy a separate turbo brush head to be able to use it with carpeting, you’re probably better off with the Onyx for most purposes. The Alize is a better vacuum, but it comes with much poorer brush heads, and unless you only have hardwood or tile flooring, you’re going to want to upgrade the heads, which adds to your costs.
In contrast, the Calima is a much better all-around vacuum than the Alize, and is potentially worth the upgrade over the Onyx. It’s larger, which means the accessories fit inside the vacuum and you also get to use larger bags that require changing less frequently. It also has a significantly longer reach than the Onyx, meaning you don’t need to stop and unplug the vacuum quite as often. And like the Onyx, it includes both a turbo brush head for low- and medium-pile carpeting and a Parquet twister for easier cleaning of hardwood floors. However, it does cost a few hundred dollars more, so it depends on how much you want the benefits above.
You can buy the Miele Compact C2 Onyx here on Amazon. If you want the electric brush head, which we highly recommend if you have medium-to high-pile carpeting, you can buy the Electro+ here or buy the Topaz here. If you want a C3-level vacuum, the best bang for the buck is probably the Calima, which you can buy here.
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