Ryobi P3240 Review
Pros: Great for hard surfaces, great with heavy/ dense debris, compact
Cons: Lacks HEPA filter, limited runtime, whiny motor
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Two things set the Ryobi P3240 apart from the other models in the class of cordless wet/dry vacs. One, it delivers on the implied promise that it will efficiently and effectively clean both wet and dry messes. Two, it's competitively priced. While the vacuum is compact, we prefer models that store their attachments and hose internally as they are more streamline and easier to store. More disappointing though is the machine's lack of a long-lasting battery and a HEPA filter. That said, while it's running, there isn't much that this machine can't suck up in a hurry.
Generally speaking, the primary use of a shop vacuum is to clean-up dry materials. As such, it's good that the Ryobi is so proficient at this kind of work. This machine showed no signs of weakness when put to task sucking up heavy items ranging from wood screws to machine nuts, washers, and bolts. Heck, it even moved a 100-gram calibration weight up the hose like a bullet through a rifle barrel, depositing it in the canister with an audible thunk!
While this machine didn't set any records in the sawdust clean-up test, it did keep with the class average by sucking up 9 cups of the stuff in 15 seconds. Additionally, the P3240 achieved average results in our crevice test. Its crevice tool has a good reach at 8 ¼ inches, and the additional ¾ inch of suction reach isn't too bad either.
While some folks don't think about all the wet messes that a vac can tackle, we've found that a well designed wet/dry vac will beat the mop in many scenarios. The Ryobi is a wizard with wet work. It will suck 2 gallons of standing water in 9 seconds, a rate that sets the bar for the class.
As not all wet messes are purely liquid, but rather a combo of liquids and whatever they happened to land on, we tested this machine's mettle on 9 cups of wet sawdust as well. The Ryobi will swallow this soggy pile in 42 seconds. In the process, the tube didn't clog, and the motor didn't appear to be strained by the demanding work.
Spills in cars are frequent and difficult to clean as well. So, we tested the vacuum for this, too. We poured 2 cups of water onto an auto floorboard mat and let it settle into the carpet fibers. We then sucked as much of the water out as possible and measured the water accumulated in the canister when we were done. The P3420 retrieved almost all of the 2 cups though they were muddied by the process. Finally, we measured the machine's suction with a water lift gauge. It registered at 22 inches of water lift — just below average for the group.
Batteries are critical components to cordless tools, and wet/dry vacs are no exception. While this power source is essential, the quality is easy to test. Having been run through our test, we can say with confidence that the Ryobi's battery could use some serious improvement.
We know that the battery is a weak point in the P3420's otherwise stellar performance because we measured the amount of time it took for a fully charged cell to run itself down while the vac was pulling air. We call this interval the runtime. This model's runtime is 19 mins. As not all the models here reviewed have the same battery, we divide the runtime by the amp-hour battery rating to make direct comparisons. The Ryobi runtime per amp-hour is 4 minutes, 45 seconds, a full minute below the group average.
This metric is an assessment of features that make the vacuum more enjoyable to use. We measure the space required to store the machine, the reach of the hose, and the hose's resistance to collapsing when stepped on. We also take the machine's weight and check to see its filter meets HEPA standards. Finally, we measure the noise produced by the machine. Overall, the Ryobi comes in about average in this assessment.
The P3420 is a relatively compact machine which makes it easy to store on a shelf or in a closet. Unfortunately, its hose is on the stubby end of the class, but it isn't prone to being crushed when weighted. At 8 lbs, 6 ounces, it has a below-average weight. Much to our dismay, this machine lacks a HEPA filter, and one doesn't appear to be available for aftermarket purchase. Finally, the slightly whiny motor registers at 79 dBa, which is also average for the review group.
Simply put, the Ryobi P3420 is a great value. The machine performs at the highest levels overall, and particularly well in wet and dry work, yet it's priced well below the average. You can't do much better than the Ryobi as far as we're concerned.
Given the very reasonable cost of the Ryobi P3420, it's quite impressive that it performs at such a high level. In a word, this machine sucks! Seriously. You name it, wet messes, heavy hardware, sawdust, gallons of water — no problem. The only complaints we have are that the battery runtime is shorter than we'd like, and it lacks a HEPA filter. Aside from that, this machine is at the top of the class.
— Nick Miley and Austin Palmer