In our experience testing various cleaning devices, there's Miele…and then there are other vacuums. Plenty of us love Miele's understated design and German engineering, but the price one has to pay to join the Miele team can be prohibitively steep. Steep enough that we've been content using an old model Hoover from the era of June Cleaver, all the while daydreaming we'd one day be cleaning the house with something more aspirational like Aaron over at Apartment Therapy. We fell in love with the performance of the Miele Callisto a year ago, when we used an airborne laser particle reader to verify the company's high standards in real world testing. But our love was to be unrequited, thanks to a price tag that kept these vacuums far out of reach.
Recently, we met with Miele representatives at the 2010 Dwell on Design Show to discuss their latest offerings, including one of their newest upright vacuums catering to the US market. Many oohs and ahhs later, we were asked whether we used a Miele at home. We sort of gushed about our affinity for Miele vacs, but admitted they were "priced out of our budget", not knowing Miele had updated their line last year with entry level models more attuned to our bank accounts.
A few weeks later, Miele sent out a review unit S2 Olympus for us to put to the tests, their lowest priced model ($299 on Amazon); still not a "budget" category model by any means, but well within the realm of reason for anyone looking to step up from cheaply constructed Made In China models, and certainly lower priced than any other Mieles we've eyed. The snow white Olympus offers many of the design characteristics and cleaning options one expects from Miele, but with some corners and features cut to meet the lower price category. Does the Olympus retain enough of the qualities that established Miele as an aspirational and heralded brand? We think so.
First off is the characteristic Miele design, an understated sleek hatchback-shaped canister in a "Lotus White" finish. The plastic shell up top and protective bumpers are not as durably thick as the Olympus' higher priced brethren in comparison, but the trade-off is this canister vacuum is possibly the lightest model we've used this side of an Oreck. Anyone looking for a back-saving vacuum should seriously consider the Olympus; at 9.4lbs, the vacuum quickly proved to be an easy to carry and maneuver cleaning companion in tight spots all throughout the apartment. The small size also makes it easy to store away in a closet while not in use.
Inside a 1,200-watt, German-made Vortex Motor System powers the exceptional cleaning prowess of the Olympus. We're not exaggerating, this thing sucks in a very good way, whether used on short pile carpet or tile or hardwood floor. A small step button switches the floor head from carpet to hard floor easily, while six different settings allow for further fine tuning depending upon task at hand. We had to dial it back a few times, with the Vortex creating too much suction before we became acquainted with all the settings. They might have skimped on the plastic, but the mechanical innards were left mostly intact, and to good results!
What is different is the filtration system within; while upper tier Miele vacuums come fully certified and sealed, the entry-level Olympus offers a less stringent combination of an electrostatically-charged filter bag and filter cartridges compared to the zero-particle output of the S5 models. A dustbag change indicator alerts when it's time to switch out the 4.76 quart bags. If you're an extremely sensitive allergy sufferer, we'd recommend stepping up to one of Miele's sealed system, as there's nothing better out there (scan allergy sufferer sites and you'll quickly realize this isn't hyperbole). But even in our household where one of us is an allergy sufferer, we've noted no adverse effects from exhaust from the Olympus and its filtration system, so for us "good" has been more than "good enough".
Using the vacuum, small details remind you why users aspire to own a Miele: the excellent rotational head operation during use, the simple to understand controls, the absence of easy-to-break accessories sticking out willy-nilly, and an operational noise level which can almost be described as "quiet" (at least for a vacuum). The vacuum doesn't ever intrude or impose itself like other canister models, going where you want to go, but somehow always stopping short of banging into you or nearby furniture. We can't stress enough that this might be a lower priced model, but never did it seem budget in operation.
Now for some features we didn't quite love like previous Miele models. The Olympus is leashed to a shorter operational radius, thanks to a slightly shorter power cord (it does retract automatically, and very smoothly at that), while the additional cleaning tool attachments come with an awkward clip-style accessory holder which felt like a design afterthought (higher models stow away their tools inside, but trade in the weight department). You'll also trade down to harder bristle brushes and you'll lose the steel plating bottom of the floor tool with this entry model. The wand attachment comes with what initially seemed like an awkward J-shape handle, but we quickly became acclimated to the design (it took our partner a little longer to get used to using it).
As an entry level vacuum in the Miele lineup, the Miele S2 Olympus hits a sweet spot between price and performance and might make you seriously consider spending money on the plasticky-cheap counterparts. Think of it as an Audi A3 compared to an RS8: great engineering inside with a slightly downscaled but sophisticated and understated exterior for everyday budgets. You're still covered with a 7-year warranty on its Vortex motor, a 7 year casing warranty which covers the upper and lower housings, so Miele is putting their money where their mouth is. It might be an entry level Miele, but the Olympus is most remarkably still everything what a Miele is known for.
Pros: Quiet operation, smart understated design, extremely light and mobile, excellent filtration despite non-sealed design, 6 variable power settings for both hard and carpeted surfaces
Cons: Plastic casing is couple notches below other Miele models, tool varioclip seems like an afterthought, shorter cleaning radius
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.