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Kobalt KWDV 0124B-03 Review

This inexpensive machine performs at the highest level in all areas excluding battery life
Best Buy Award
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Price:   $100 List | $148 at Amazon
Pros:  Powerful suction, relatively lightweight, HEPA filter
Cons:  Short and narrow hose, heavy, relatively noisy
Manufacturer:   Kobalt
By Nick Miley and Austin Palmer  ⋅  Feb 21, 2020
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 9
  • Dry Work - 40% 9
  • Wet Work - 30% 6
  • Battery Life - 20% 4
  • Convenience - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Kobalt KWDV 0124B-03 is a high-performance machine that has a below-average price point and a trim toolbox shape. It has a few shortcomings — most notably in the battery department — but they are far outweighed by the machine's positive features. The unit comes standard with a HEPA filter, and a long, self-retracting hose. Most importantly, the vac has a powerful motor that excels at moving heavy debris.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Kobalt is a great wet/dry vacuum for those that want a machine that is low in price but will nonetheless move dry materials without a struggle. To get these benefits, one will sacrifice a bit in wet work performance, battery life, as well as some convenience features. That said, this machine is at the top of the class for moving heavy debris and cleaning in tight spots.

Performance Comparison



Mountains of sawdust? This vac can handle that!
Mountains of sawdust? This vac can handle that!

Dry Work


Simply put, the Kobalt destroys in the dry work department. There isn't a material that fits into its hose that it didn't easily move into its canister. This model is particularly adroit at sucking up heavy items like hardware. We know this because we had it sucking up everything from wood screws to ⅝ inch machine bolts to 100-gram calibration weights. One after another, the Kobalt shot these items up the tube into the canister.


This model is no slouch at slurping up mountains of sawdust either. We piled 9 cups of the stuff on the floor, and the Kobalt gobbled it up in a mear 13 seconds. That's a rate of inhalation that puts it at the very top of the class. Last but not least, this machine's crevice tool has a good designed and accomplished the tasks it was designed for with little difficulty.

A wet/dry vacuum that doubles as a bilge pump? Above we see the water lifting test that challenges the machine to move 2 gallons of water as quickly as possible.
A wet/dry vacuum that doubles as a bilge pump? Above we see the water lifting test that challenges the machine to move 2 gallons of water as quickly as possible.

Wet Work


To be clear, the kind of wet work we're referring to here is not what you hear about in cloak and dagger novels or Martin Scorsese films. Although. Humm… There may be some crossover. Anyway, getting back on track. What we want to know is how well these machines move liquids in common wet mess scenarios. While the Kobalt is not at the very top of the class in this metric, it performs quite well overall.


First off, we wanted to see how well these machines can move water uphill. The Kobalt can slurp up 2 gallons of water from an elevation of 27 inches in just 13 seconds — just under the class average. This tool can also move wet sawdust and clean up liquids spilt on a hard surface at a decent rate. However, this vacuum is a boss when it comes to sucking water out of carpet. We poured 2 cups of water on a car floorboard mat and let it soak in. Then we sucked the water back out and measured how much water was retrieved in the process. The Kobalt almost got it all!

The water lift gauge testing the Kobalt. Results varied  so a half dozen readings were taken and averaged.
The water lift gauge testing the Kobalt. Results varied, so a half dozen readings were taken and averaged.

As a final assessment, we used a water lift gauge to measure the suction power of this model. At 22 inches of lift, this vacuum was right at average for the group in this evaluation.

The internally stored battery has a battery life meter that reads out when depressed.
The internally stored battery has a battery life meter that reads out when depressed.

Battery


It really doesn't matter how well a vacuum moves liquids and rubbish if its battery runtime is so short that you can't finish the job. With that in mind, we ran a straightforward assessment of battery longevity. We plugged a fully charged battery into the vac in question and ran it without a load (i.e. only pulling air) until the machine died. The elapsed time is what we call runtime.


The Kobalt's runtime is 19 minutes, 35 seconds — which isn't that great. If we look at this performance in terms of minutes of runtime per amp-hour as rated by the manufacturer, it's 4.9 minutes per amp-hour or about a minute below average.

Want a tool that removes dust as opposed to just moving it around? A wet/ dry vacuum will fill the bill.
Want a tool that removes dust as opposed to just moving it around? A wet/ dry vacuum will fill the bill.

Convenience


Let's be honest, vacuums are all about convenience. We look at a ton of different features — such as ease of storage, hose durability, and length, filter type, noise, and weight — to assess convenience. Given the large number of variables, there aren't a lot of machines that can clear all the hurdles to score highly in this metric. While we really like the Kobalt's toolbox shape with its streamline internal storage for the hose and attachments, the machine has some faults as well.


It may seem nitpicky, but this model is relatively loud at 80 dBa. Weighing in at nearly 11 pounds, it's also on the heavier side. Additionally, the vacuum has a rather long hose (96 inches fully stretched), which is fine if you need the length. However, it doesn't retract to a short, easily manageable length like some of its competitors. That said, the Kobalt has a HEPA rated filter that is wet washable. We find that to be a real plus because the HEPA filter addresses one of the few safety concerns posed by these machines.

Compact and self-contained. The modern shop vacuum design is slick as can be.
Compact and self-contained. The modern shop vacuum design is slick as can be.

Value


In a word, the Kobalt has value. Why do we say that? To put it simply, this machine lists for well below the average price of the class, and yet it delivers significantly above-average performance.

Conclusion


The Kobalt KWDV 0124B-03 is a fantastic wet/dry vacuum. The machine eagerly tackles the heaviest debris like machine bolts, as well as heaps of sawdust. It does pretty well with wet work too, particularly when removing liquids from carpets. It could use a bit more battery life, but we think that the convenience of the toolbox-shaped canister with internal hose storage does much to make up for this shortcoming. All and all, this machine is a solid purchase that will make all but the most persnickety consumer quite satisfied.

Nick Miley and Austin Palmer