Can this $259 Shark vacuum clean better than a $600 Dyson?
Our tests show whether it's worth jumping for this Shark
Upright vacuums are easy to store and push, but canister vacuums are better for cleaning hard-to-reach spaces. But what if someone made a vacuum that combined the best aspects of both styles?
Cue the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed (MSRP $259), a popular upright vacuum with a removable canister and hose. You can use it as an upright to clean carpets, or take the canister away to clean behind a couch.
However, that's not the only reason why the Shark is a best seller. In its ubiquitous ad campaign, Shark claims the Lift-Away Speed has more suction and is lighter than the $599 Dyson Cinetic Big Ball.
We've tested the Dyson and know that Shark is making a pretty big claim—especially considering that the Big Ball costs twice as much as the popular Shark NV682. So we decided to put the Shark through the same battery of lab tests and find out which vacuum is the better value.
First off, the Shark is indeed lighter than the Dyson, but just barely: The Lift-Away tips the scales at a little under 15 pounds, while the Dyson is closer to 16 pounds. Neither vacuum is as light as the 11-pound Oreck Elevate. Still, the claim holds true—and it's a point in favor of the Shark.
We thought the claim about "more suction" was a bit misleading. After all, it's how much dirt a vacuum picks up that matters—not how much air it moves. Still, the Shark came out victorious in our test labs: After multiple tests on low-pile carpet, the Shark picked up 23% more dirt than the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball. On thicker carpet and on bare floors, the two were tied for both dirt and debris pickup. That's another point for Shark.
The Shark also excelled at getting under furniture, and LED lights lit up dark corners and the undersides of couches. You only need about four inches of clearance to get the whole brush head (the part of a vacuum that actually cleans the floor) under a couch. We liked the Shark's unique mop attachment, too—which promises to pick up any dirt left behind on hard floors.
So why would anyone in their right mind pay and extra $340 for a Dyson—or any other vacuum, for that matter?
Well, there are a few reasons. Let's start with the filter. While Dyson's vacuums don't require a single filter, the Shark Lift-Away Speed has three: one foam, one felt, and one HEPA. Even though Shark says the filters should last the lifetime of the vacuum, you still have to wash them every three months.
The Shark is also harder to handle than the Dyson, particularly when it comes to cleaning upholstery and drapery. That's mostly because the Shark comes with a short, heavy hose without much reach, but it also has to do with the cleaner's unique form factor.
While the Lift-Away is designed to work as both an upright and canister, it remains a master at neither. The canister does detach easily, but it also lacks wheels—so the Lift-Away function unfortunately lives up to its name, leaving the user to carry it around the house.
Even when it's attached, the heavy canister sits high off the ground. That throws off the Shark's weight distribution, and makes the whole package harder to maneuver than most upright cleaners.
Finally, the Shark just feels cheaper than a Dyson or Miele. For example, every time we changed attachments, trapped dirt fell out of the hose and onto the floor. Rule one: vacuums shouldn't make the floor dirtier.
We noticed small things, too: the handle creaked, some of the seams didn't line up perfectly, and the motor was quite loud. Overall, the fit and finish on this vacuum isn't top notch. For its part, Shark backs up the Lift-Away with an industry-leading 5-year warranty, but so does Dyson.
With all that in mind, that brings us to the $340 question: is the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed a better value than a Dyson Cinetic Big Ball?
When it comes to the numbers, the answer is an unequivocal "yes." After all, the Shark costs less and cleans up at least as much dirt and debris—if not more. But when it comes to actually using the vacuum, things get a bit murky: We didn't like how the Shark handled, we didn't like its filters, and we didn't like how unrefined it was.
Still, $340 is a lot of money. If you think you can handle the Shark's quirks and don't want to spend a fortune on an upright vacuum, we think it's worth checking out.
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