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So you're in the market for a cylinder bagged vacuum cleaner since the demise of your old one. As a buyer you've either read up through Which, Dooyoo and other testing fields as to what the best brand is, or what best model on the market gets a "best buy." Out of all the brands, SEBO and Miele rule where reliability is concerned according to Which magazine 2010 (and then voted Bosch as the best appliance producer in 2011!). But what if you have your heart set on a SEBO or Miele but can't afford the steep prices at cost? This is where "the other German" brand Bosch comes in - because when they brought out their latest range of cylinder vacuums last year under the "Free'e" model name, it is clear from the offset with the features that these new models bring, they are out to snatch Miele or SEBO buyers who can't afford the new vacuums, especially when you consider that models like the BSGL5PROBG usually costs £195-00 but has somehow managed to fall in price to a much better £129-95. My Xmas gift to me from me then! It does pay to shop around and it was this price that got me interested from Amazon online. For the most part as a company with two large appliances in our kitchen that have lasted 13 and 23 years without servicing, the Bosch name in our household is a well respected and trusted brand.
Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec
** 2012 Bosch BSGL5 models carry the same spec albeit different motor power **
4.5 litre dust bag and 10.5 metre cord.
1800 watt, electronic suction control with 1.5m hose.
Size: 45cm by 30cm by 23cm
Pricing on average - £129, £177 to £249.95
5.3kg weight, £12-95 for 4 bags plus one extra microfilter
HEPA filter and 5 litre dust bag capacity
2 years free warranty then 5 years cost optional extra warranty.
The Product, The Price & The Promise
The "new" Free'e series comprise of three bagged vacuums with varying power ratings and they have been designed to pull in buyers that would otherwise need a large cylinder vacuum cleaner with a longer amount of cord than the standard that Miele and others have set with 6 or 7 metres on offer. The Bosch has 10 metres of cable compared to the Miele S5. This was of course until SEBO brought out their D series with 12 metres of cable in 2011 but didn't stop Which UK consumer testers slapping a "best buy" award on the Bosch vacuums as well as Miele and SEBO rivals which makes choosing even harder. The prices range from £129-99 to £249-99 and shopping around like I did got me the first price for a "top of the range" BSGL5PROBG model that otherwise costs £249 at Argos putting it into direct competition with Miele's S5 model and the SEBO D2 Storm. Put simply, if you need a vacuum that has a long power cord and a larger turbo brush fitted as standard compared to the other two that don't come with a turbo brush, the Bosch BSGL5PROBG Professional is mighty worth considering on tools alone for pet lovers! On paper at least...
It is clear to see where Bosch have taken inspiration from. They've looked at professional rivals Miele for inspiration creating a curvy, soft to the touch tactile model right down to grey Titanium speckled paint, smooth to the feel on the body, a silver dial with pre-selected 6 notched variable suction power levels similar to the Miele S4 series and a LED bag fill light copied from the SEBO K cylinder vacuums to show when the bag needs emptying. Elsewhere as much as Bosch have tried to make the new BSGL5PROGB Professional look "professional," they've even copied SEBO's Airbelt bumper patent by offering a similar design that acts as a bumper and slapping the title "Air Protection" on it which looks suspiciously like Nike's famous Air design from a distance right down to the cheap acrylic clear plastic on offer. It may stop the machine from bumping off corners in the home, but my grey model already has scratches off the top where the top of the so-called "Protection" bumper has done little to
Tools you get, but no dusting brush.
protect the actual machine and shows a white plastic underneath all that "Titanium," grey paint work. One is not amused!
Comfort & Weight
The Bosch BSGL5PROBG Home Professional looks like a rather large computer mouse from a distance and it is indeed quite unusual looking thanks to its black/red/grey material covered hose that harks back to Bosch's fancy retro "Move" vacuums, the company made a couple of years ago. Why they persist in putting material compared to a ribbed hose is beyond me - it doesn't stretch out like a conventional ribbed hose, making it useless for cleaning stairs unless you always take the Bosch body with you.
In this regard, the vacuum is quite comfortable to lift up thanks to its elevated handle at the front and being around 5kg at the most in weight means it isn't as heavy as it looks. Whilst the vacuum has an obvious design of not falling backwards thanks to two feet on the rear where the cord point is, the vacuum can fall over onto its front too easily which is another disappointment early on and its rear sloping activation pedal means it immediately switches the vacuum off if it falls. Good fail safe is nothing else, there! There are four castors on the base, which give the Bosch easy movement, but they're not as kind to carpets as Miele or SEBO and leave horrible trail marks when digging into thick pile.
From the first couple of uses its not hard to get lulled into a sense of false identity mapped by the look of the actual vacuum which Bosch may like to think points to quality. For the full price of £250, Bosch needs to improve drastically. Certainly the look of its professional home computer mouse like design to its coloured plastic adorns the whole of the vacuum whilst its novel design features include a 360° connection hose mount in silver paint that moves in 4 precise angles instead of manually having to turn the hose with your free hand or expect the vacuum to do it naturally, hence the rather silly "Free'e" name. It isn't a function, which I find particularly useful, or better than Miele or SEBO's more conventional - and simpler designs where the hose on the door just turns around anyway without the owners involvement!
The pipes, handle and floor head are less thought out too on this Bosch. Having no locks and only friction fit tools that measure 35mm in diameter means, in theory you can use any of Miele's smaller cleaning tools that don't have locks on them on any Bosch model - but the downside is that Bosch's own pedal floor head constantly moves out of angle if you haven't tightened the plastic floor head to the bottom of the pipe properly, and if it has a loose fitting to begin with, the tool or floorhead in question simply falls off! Try a larger Miele better quality made floor head on the metal pipes and the floor head won't stick due to the thinner metal Bosch pipes, so you'll be stuck with the Bosch head regardless.
Bosch's cheaper rendition of fitting tools comes down to the strength of the owner who will need muscles to loosen the tools when not required or when simply trying to take the handle out of the hose for quick cleaning above the floor line. This would be all very well in a budget priced cylinder vacuum cleaner but from a company who prides their place on engineering and quality, I feel positively disappointed. When it comes down to it, Bosch haven't done their engineering homework well here and if you have to keep adjusting pipes, making sure the floor head is jammed on, plus all the while checking on the shortness of the hose whilst the Bosch bumps into you because of its shorter length hose, it doesn't sum up "cleaning like a Pro," to me. Like a lot of vacuums on the market, the Bosch has two park positions but the floor head doesn't always engage unless its firmly stuck in and even then there are times when the floor head just falls to the side, comes off the slide lock and brings the hose and handle crashing to the floor. There are other surprises in store too.
The 1800 watt motor has 6 settings of pre-selected programmed suction and the lowest band offers a good strength of power and feels quieter than Miele's own vacuums which have the same motor rating. I like this but then this is purely because it is impossible to clean carpeting otherwise unless you use the full size turbo brush for a bit of light gliding. Once that is tagged on, the floor head has two settings - one for hard floors whilst the other controls the beater bar for carpets. By sliding the slider over, you effectively stop the brush from moving. Quite neat until you discover that the floor head is impossible to clean without the brush moving as it sticks to the floor!
The problem with the Bosch is that the suction control dial has too many large gaps between suction settings. The second setting provides too much power, thus allows the suction only floor head to stick to carpets and whilst the floor head is all plastic, the dirt channels have been made to fit flush and jut out, scraping carpets rather than treating the pile with kindness. The turbo brush is too big and bulky to be as successful as Miele or SEBO heads and is made of shiny plastic that scratches and dents too easily - granted it has a massive rear door at the back where you can clean out the turbine if it clogs but the door is flimsy and the hooks that snap in can break off, rendering the door useless and the turbo brush defunct. It cleans flat to the floor but the hood of the head is also too high and gets stuck under low furniture whilst all the while thanks to the smaller wheels at the top, constant squealing occurs.
However, if you need more suction, the higher you turn the "softly engineered" suction dial, the louder the motor starts to get and thanks to the pre-selective nodes, with a near enough new bag on board, when asked to suck up deep trodden in dirt that refuses to come up the first time with the suction only floor head, the floor head itself becomes heavier to push and pull backwards. Unlike Miele, the Bosch doesn't have any user relief in terms of an air outlet hole on the handle or turbo brush floor head, so when full power is applied and with the turbo brush tagged onto the end of the bottom pipe, slow performance is required for light gliding - otherwise excessive force of pushing the brush against the carpet will have to be applied. All the while you're then compromised by the loose fitting on the pipes plus the strong force of the suction coming from the vacuum motor and the Bosch banging into me every couple of passes I make as I step forwards to clean more carpet. Professional? I don't even get half the stress with the industry's favourite vacuum, a Numatic Henry!
The build quality of the handle is even worse! When the hose is bent at awkward angles, the back of it slips out of double lock hole on the back of the handle because of thinly poorly made lock holes whilst the handle isn't very well made despite its plastic speckled grab parts. Bosch claim the handle is "Ergonomic," and that it certainly is, but it is in no way any different to the cheap handles you'd find on many a budget cylinder vacuum cleaner and in long term use it isn't as comfortable to hold onto or as precise as the rubberised Miele S5 or SEBO D2, both of which have anti-static rods fitted whereas nothing on the Bosch, so you'll be liable to constantly receiving static shocks when cleaning curtains and other static material when not using the tubes and floor head. I'm not the only one who finds the problem of the slipping hose-out-of-the-handle as several owners of Bosch vacuums relay similar findings - it may have the Bosch name on it - but with several of their models, it seems the hose fittings and plastics are just not up to the same quality expected. This is a great pity as the weight of the vacuum is very impressive to lift up (at 5kg) as are the metal telescopic height adjustable suction tubes which are lighter than Miele's in this respect.
There are other downsides too. Those owners fed up with uprights and manually reeling the cord in may well welcome the Bosch because there's so little else to recommend it other than its bigger dust capacity and its longer amount of power cord - which by the way - isn't as "automatically retracting," as Bosch claim. There is only one pedal on this machine and that activates the motor. When you've pulled out all of the 10 metres of cable, once you're done cleaning you pull on the cord to have it retract automatically back into the back of the Bosch. The Bosch hesitates every couple of metres before it realizes that it has to pull the cord back in and unless you stand at the back of the vacuum with the cord in your hand, bit by bit pulling on the cord as the rest of it tries to rewind back in, it makes a very trying time of it - begging me to ask what the hell Bosch are thinking by fitting such a poor quality design element when a pedal rewind would have been far more efficient?
Four months into ownership, the stair rests on the back of the vacuum also fell off - this made the BSGL5 prone to falling over backwards when made to clean stairs. Bosch UK were not sympathetic and took a care free approach, only sending out a replacement hose, which still suffered the same problem of slipping out the back of the handle when in use.
Dust Bags & Filtration
Fitting a bag in or taking it out is simple and quick to do and they mimic the style of Miele's older Intensive Clean bags where a sealing strip pulls over the dust hole to seal the dust in once the bag needs to be emptied. The dust bags are 4.5 litres in capacity, high filtration by design and can last up to 2 to 3 months before needing to be emptied. Made of similar high strength cloth/disposable synthetics, the bags are well made and do what they are designed to do. It is a pity though that whilst Comet sells bags for Bosch's smaller vacuum cleaner, bags for the BSGL5PROBG Professional are extremely hard to get.
Argos, Currys and other high street stockists don't sell the large Bosch dust bags and unless you are prepared to shop online for them, about the only stockists that does sell Bosch bags is John Lewis. A box of bags therefore costs a whopping £12-95 for just four of the large bags and you get a free micro filter replacement - only the BSGL5PROBG Professional comes with a yearly replacement HEPA filter cartridge and no other holder that would keep this "free" filter in place. The cartridge isn't washable either and the cost of the actual filter grid to hold the free filters you'll need instead? £12-95. Cost of the replacement HEPA filter from Bosch if you don't want to use the microfilter? £24-95.
At the end of the day, the Bosch BSGL5PROBG Home Professional is out of its depth compared to its rivals from other German brands.