Ever try to spot-clean your car's interior or a carpeted floor in your home with an old Dustbuster? It couldn't suck up a straw wrapper, let alone real dirt. But times have changed: Thanks to high-wattage motors and smaller, more powerful batteries, the latest cordless, rechargeable vacuums clean almost as well as their plugged-in counterparts. Plus, they're still able to sneak into the hard-to-reach crevices. We attacked several apartments' worth of dirt and pet hair, spending time with each vacuum over a few weeks. During all tests, a decibel meter read each machine's volume, and battery life was recorded.
Dyson DC59 Animal
It's expensive and quite loud (90 decibels), but the DC59 sucks the hardest and, unless you've got wide expanses of carpeting, could credibly replace your primary unit (especially when using the included wand attachment). The motorized head eradicated all dirt and even left clear tracks on a floor covered in baking soda – a test that required other models to make multiple passes. And it was the only unit that showed no leaks. [$500; dyson.com]