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Double duty: The best and worst multifunction appliances

Appliances that do more than on job might be great space savers but do they deliver on their promise? 

illustration of several different multifunction appliances
Last updated: 05 June 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Need to know

  • We are testing more multifunction appliances in our labs and our experts find that they’re not all great performers
  • Multi-cookers have become much more sophisticated and can be a great investment
  • We've seen leading brands like Dyson fail when trying to combine multiple functions in a single appliance

An appliance that performs more than one function is great if it works. In our increasingly smaller homes, saving space (and potentially money) by combining two or more products seems like a no-brainer – and we've seen some great examples of multifunction appliances that are genuinely good buys.

An air purifier that doubles as a fan, a mop that doubles as a vacuum cleaner and an oven that is also an air fryer can all be great ways to combine the functions of two or more appliances into one stand-alone product. 

On the other hand, our experience has shown us that sometimes a great idea fails when it comes to execution. Our CHOICE testers too often encounter products that try to do too much, and end up falling short. 

Here's what you need to know to ensure that your whizz-bang new buy doesn't disappoint.

Kitchen multi-function winners and losers

As the name suggests, a multi-cooker is an appliance that can cook food in different ways, combining multiple appliances and cooking functions in one unit. These products have evolved since we first began testing them. Earlier versions of this appliance usually only combined a slow cooker with a pressure cooker, but the latest models include many more cooking functions, including everything from cooking rice and air frying, to steaming, dehydrating, searing and more. But are they any good? 

Our kitchen experts have tested many multi-cookers since we first looked at them in 2014, and have seen them improve markedly.  

"In the last few years we've seen multi-cookers become super multifunctional, with some having an air fryer function. Having this mode with a fan and element allows the user to grill and roast," says CHOICE kitchen expert, Fiona Mair

Whereas early multi-cookers required a lot of trial and error to get the best result, modern appliances make them much easier to use with step-by-step instructions and prompts. 

They're also getting safer, with better positioning of steam releases to reduce the risk of injury. 

"Pressure cooking was always a bit frightening for some, but multi-cookers have made pressure cooking easy," says Fiona.

Pressure cooking was always a bit frightening for some, but multi-cookers have made pressure cooking easy

CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair

Fiona says it is definitely worth getting a multi-cooker rather than a separate appliance for each function. 

"Depending on what you like to cook, a multi-cooker with an air fryer is a great option. Combining an air fryer and pressure cooker will save you time in the kitchen and enable you to cook meals fast," she says. 

Air fryer fails

Unfortunately, the addition of air fryer functionality isn't always a win. Over the years we've seen manufacturers adding air fryer modes to many appliances and the results aren't always impressive.

"We have tested benchtop ovens, microwaves and wall ovens that have air fryer functions and I find that they just don't perform that well," says Fiona. 

"They may have a pre-programmed air-fryer setting and come with the wire basket, but this doesn't change the fact that it is just using the same element and fan as the standalone appliance," cautions Fiona, who warns against paying extra for this kind of gimmicky marketing.

Two microwave convection ovens with air fryer modes we've tested – the LG Infrared Convection MC3967ABC microwave and the Kmart Anko Air Fryer Convection Microwave – are prime examples of appliances with disappointing air fryer functionality.

We have tested benchtop ovens, microwaves and wall ovens that have air fryer functions and I find that they just don't perform that well

CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair

"The air fryer mode uses an element and fan at the top of the unit which is no different to what you would use when cooking on convection mode. They rarely perform well when cooking chips or foods that require shaking," she says.

Are ovens with air fryer modes any good?

CHOICE experts have also found that ovens with an air fryer mode can be disappointing, and they advise against paying more for an oven with this function. These appliances use the top element and the fan-forced mode, which is similar to the fan grill mode. They may come with a separate shelf support that the air fryer basket sits in and they can be difficult to clean.

inside of wall oven showing air frying trays

The air fryer mode in an oven rarely performs well when cooking foods such as chips.

"You need to have a tray under these baskets to catch the drips and crumbs falling through the basket, so you are doubling up on cleaning," says Fiona. 

"They rarely perform well when cooking foods such as chips, as the instructions state that shaking or turning the food is not necessary as the air flows under and around the food evenly. We found that this is not the case as the food was unevenly cooked."

Multifunction floor fails

Gone are the days when a humble upright vacuum cleaner, a mop and a broom were the only tools we had to keep our floors clean. 

Nowadays, stick vacuums come with attachments for everything from picking up pet hair to eliminating cobwebs from crevices and ceilings. Then there are the hard floor cleaners, which are part steam mop, and part vacuum. These relatively new products aim to combine mopping and sweeping and look similar to a stick vacuum, though are often slightly larger and bulkier. 

Given the trend towards combining similar appliances, you won't be surprised to know that a combination stick vacuum and hard floor cleaner is now available, from none other than Dyson.

While our review found the Dyson V15s Detect Submarine performed well as a stick vacuum, it fell short as a hard floor cleaner. Not only that, its price, an eye-watering $1649, means you'll be paying substantially more than a regular Dyson stick vac for something that doesn't deliver on the promise of a combination vacuum/hard floor cleaner.

CHOICE tester Matthew Tung checking dust canister in a robot vacuum

CHOICE expert Matthew Tung tests robot vacuums in our labs.

Robot floor cleaning fails

How about a robot vacuum that also mops the floor? Most new models of robot vacuums now include this added capability. However, we've seen mixed results and these combination appliances don't always perform well in our testing.

Some robot vacs are better at mopping than others (some only have incredibly basic pads you just stick to the bottom), so it's important to check our reviews if you're after a robot vacuum with this functionality.

The Ecovacs Deebot T20 Omni promises a lot, claiming to auto-charge, self-empty, hot mop and auto-dry, though it will cost you a staggering $1799.

If the thought of never having to lift a vacuum cleaner or wield a mop ever again has you reaching for the credit card, pause and consider that, while this is an appliance that promises a lot, our experts advise that they are really only suitable for people who have hard floors and are diligent about keeping floors clear.

We found it did a decent job of cleaning hard floors, but it disappointed on carpet. And while the mopping function was very good at removing stains from the floor, it then went on to make a dirty mark on our test carpet. Bad robot!

Double-duty air purifiers

When air purifiers exploded in popularity post-COVID, many manufacturers were keen to jump on the trend with a variety of products that span from the useful to the outright ridiculous. 

The Dyson Zone Absolute+ air purifying headphones double as a personal air purifier, using built-in filters and a detachable visor to clean the air around you, all while delivering clean sound.

That's the theory, at least. In reality, the air-purifying mechanism is noisy, with the fans audible even when the noise-cancelling feature is active. We also found they were heavier than most over-ear headphones, and at more than a thousand dollars they were substantially more expensive than any other over-ear headphones we've tested. 

Perhaps a more logical combination than headphones that double as an air purifier is a fan that is also an air purifier. Dyson has attempted this innovation, with mixed results. 

There are many cheaper heaters and pedestal fans that have superior cooling and heating capabilities and other air purifiers that perform better in our reviews

Our CHOICE experts have tested three Dyson fans that boast air purifying capability along with a heating and/or cooling function. Unfortunately, while they may perform adequately as fans or heaters, we found that they didn't match the performance of other air purifiers in our tests and you'll be paying a premium for the fan and heater function.  

CHOICE home appliance expert Chris Barnes says that if you're looking for an appliance that combines a tower fan or heater with air purification these models are worth considering since few other options combine these capabilities. 

"However, there are many cheaper heaters and pedestal fans that have superior cooling and heating capabilities and other air purifiers that perform better in our reviews," he says.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.