Gtech AirRam MkII product Launch
What makes a product great rather than simply good? This is a question that is often overlooked in the race to become the best through gimmicks and mediocrity.
Vacuum cleaners have been around since the beginning of the 19th century, with little to no major innovation or design change.
The only real choices being upright, canister or woefully under powered handheld units, with limited charge capacity that leave you recharging batteries after around 15 minutes of usage.
Whilst companies like Dyson have tried to improve the general technology, by using cyclonic suction and miniaturised motors, the products still suffer from short runtimes between charging.
Today I was invited to the launch of the new Gtech range of cleaners and get first hand experience of their latest two products the AirRam Mk II & the Multi, a handheld portable vacuum.
Many of you will be familiar with the original Gtech AirRam, a vacuum that was critically acclaimed by independent reviewers and major tech sites.
Gtech had their fair share of problems, not with the product, but from their main rivals Dyson who took Gtech’s innovation and competition and tried to have it stifled.
Thankfully Gtech stuck to their guns and the AirRam continued to grow and grow, receiving many accolades including winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.
Unlike most products in this market, the original AirRam design has seen a product life cycle of 4 years, something that proves how good the original design was, leaving Gtech with a tough act to follow.
So how do you take an award winning design and make it better? The answer is by listening to real users and finding the little things that made the original product great, whilst working on the things that you feel could be better.
Greatness is achieved as a culmination of the little things that make or break a design, so how have Gtech faired?
The design of the new AirRam MkII takes its design cues from the original AirRam, giving a familiar feel and making it easily able to identifiable as a Gtech product.
But it is the under the hood changes and improvements such as the moving of the power button from the handle to the main body of the AirRam MkII, which has allowed the cable that ran from the handle in the original AirRam to be removed allowing the entire handle to be taken off for convenient stowage in even the smallest of homes.
The AirRam MkII features a removable retractable handle, that easily clicks on to the body, when attached to the AirRam MkII, the handle can be fully laid back horizontally level to the floor, allowing the AirRam MkII to work under sofas and tables with its low clearance.
The body of the AirRam MkII features a modular design with a removable 2200mAh Li-Ion battery (charge time is approximately 4 hours, with a run time of around 40 minutes, which should be enough to clean a good sized four bedroom home), the nice thing about the removable battery is that you can purchase additional batteries separately, giving you the option of continued use if required (something that I feel Dyson and other manufacturers of cordless cleaners could truly benefit from).
Another really great design feature of the AirRam MkII is its dust collection bin, most cleaners are highly inefficient, often forcing dust and particulates to travel large distances through tubes before finally reaching a bag or other storage place.
The Gtech has overcome this waste of energy by integrating the capture bin in to the body of the AirRam MkII, as the dust has such a short distance to travel the motors can be less powerful and yet still achieve higher levels of cleaning efficiency, which in turn puts less demand on the battery.
It is such a simple yet ingenious idea, yet makes such a huge difference in real world usage taking average working times to around 40 minutes per charge as opposed to around 17 minutes with the Dyson V6.
Speaking of the dust bin, if like myself you are a Dyson V6 user, you have probably come to dread the moment you have to remove and empty the contents of its bin.
The first problem with the V6 is trying to use the clip that releases the bin, the force and the angle required for the bowl to be removed, often results in my spilling some of the contents over both myself and the floor, another problem with the V6 is the latch on the bottom of the dust bin, which has an annoying habit of unclipping with even the smallest of knocks dropping the content of the bowl across the floor.
The second issue with the Dyson is that much of the dust and hair that is packed in to the bowl gathers around the top where the cyclonic unit is, this often requires a strategically wiggled Biro to fully remove the build up, again resulting in large amount of mess.
Another bug bear with the V6 (living in a house where both my wife and daughter have long hair), is the effort involved to remove the brush bar for cleaning when it inevitably becomes full of hair.
Finally in my opinion one of the biggest failings of the V6 is the latch on the bottom of the dust bowl, which has an annoying habit of unclipping with even the smallest of knocks.
Thankfully with the new AirRam VII Gtech have managed to alleviate pretty much all of the issues that I have with the Dyson, the dust bin sits in the main body (which allows for a much reduced path for dust to travel), the bin simply (and cleanly) lifts out of the AirRam MkII , allowing the compressed dust, hair and other particulates to be removed.
As a lover of gadgets and gizmos the level of thought that has gone in to the dust bin is awe inspiring, Gtech have added a simple leaver mechanism that slides down the length of the dust bin, to cleanly eject the stored waste without once having to come in to contact with it.
Once emptied the bowl simply clicks back in to place and you are ready to go again.
There are two models of the AirRam MkII, the standard unit and the AirRam K9.
The K9 is aimed at pet owners and includes uprated and toughened cast aluminium internals, a second filter allowing you to keep one clean and one in use, as well as refillable floral scented tabs that fit into the filter to release a pleasant scent whilst the K9 is in operation (the floral scented tabs are available to purchase separately and can also be used with the non K9 version).
Before the presentation I spent some time talking with the design team, I discussed my love hate relationship with my Dyson V6 animal (my wife loves the purple colour, whilst I hate it’s poor charge capacity and woefully inadequate 15 minutes of usage, but mostly the fact that it spits out anything on the floor larger than about 2mm which is not great when the kids decide to make a bowl of rice crispies).
I could see in their eyes and their body language, that they wanted to wax lyrical about the new AirRam MkII, but they advised they could not talk about features until after the presentation.
The conversation then turned to what it was like to work for Gtech and how the company handled growth and promoted ongoing ingenuity.
All of the staff I spoke with seemed genuinely happy and fulfilled in their work, they discussed the freedom to look at new markets and ideas, the constant desire to find a product and see where it might lead, all with the blessing of a forward thinking company owner.
The presentation started with Nick Grey who came on stage, he broke the ice with a classic hoover joke (I just sold my old hoover… It was just gathering dust! Boom Boom), followed by a small video presentation that showed how much Gtech had overcome and how far their determination has brought them.
I was sat in the front row and found it really touching watching Nick as he also watched the video, you could see an honest and sincere emotional reaction to the presentation, you could see in his eyes how proud he was of the journey that he and the Gtech team had been on and what they have achieved together so far.
Nick Spoke about the journey and how the company has had to deal with companies like Dyson who have objected to many of the claims made about the original AirRam.
Nick then went on to thank all of the independent reviewers and press for their support of the original AirRam.
It is not often that you see such an emotional response, it really was great to see how much he cared about the product and the people that have helped Gtech get to where they are today.
Next up on stage was Dallas Campbell (Of gadget show fame), the Gtech team set him a challenge, the challenge was to assemble the separate components of the AirRam MkII and hover up a pile of crumbs that were dropped on the stage within 10 seconds.
I would have to say that I thought his chances of achieving this in 10 seconds were slim as the AirRam was in parts on the stage (but I was basing this on my experience of trying to attach a dust bowl to a Dyson V6), but in just under 10 seconds the AirRam MkII was together and the sand was gone!
Over the next half an hour the features of the new AirRam MkII were highlighted along with the reasoning behind them.
My favourite addition is the patented AirLOC system, this was one of the features that the team had wanted to speak about earlier in the day but were not allowed too.
The AirRam MkII features a hinged rubber flap that opens up when the vacuum is pushed forward allowing larger objects such as rice crispies to be vacuumed and then closes when the AirRam is pulled backwards forming an AirLoc increasing the pick up power and making the removal of dirt from small crevices effortless.
The AirLOC system works to overcome a major problem that I have with the Dyson V6, unlike the Dyson the AirRam MkII easily picks up larger objects rather than throwing them across the floor.
The AirRam weighs in at just 3.5kg (7.7lbs) and it really is amazing how light and manoeuvrable the AirRam feels in use, from the short time that I spent trying out the demo units at the show.
I think that I could quite happily use the AirRam MkII for the full 40 minutes of charge without feeling like I have done a workout.
The AirRam MKII also features led front lighting allowing you to see where you are cleaning, lighting the way under sofas and in to dark corners.
This is another neat little feature that shows the design and engineering team really do care about making the end users job easier.
After the presentation and the time spent with the demo units, I had a chance to speak with Nick Grey about the AirRam and other products from the Gtech range.
Nick is a genuinely down to earth family man, who’s passion drives him to make great products for real people.
The AirRam MKII is available to purchase directly from Gtech for the highly competitive price of just £199
I have been given demo units of the new AirRam MkII and the Multi handheld cleaner and unboxing videos for both should be up soon.
Over the next few weeks I will be testing both models with a full review to follow on both.
Along with the AirRam MkII, Gtech are soon to release a new Mountain Ebike to compliment the City and Sports models currently available.
Nick has said that an Ebike should be available to gadgetz.tv for review soon.
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below