The $199 Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away vacuum cleaner really had a lot to prove at the outset of this review. It claims to "clean carpets better than the Dyson DC41" on the box. So I tested it against the $649 DC41 (and the $499 DC50 for good measure). To diversify a bit more, I also compared it to the $399 Oreck Touch and the $309 Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean.
The $200 Shark is the least expensive of the five models and makes pretty lofty performance claims. So, is it really better than a Dyson? Well, yes and no. I would recommend it over either Dyson because it is a more well-rounded machine. It offers good design, usability, and performance, and it has excellent features. Both Dysons struggled in the design department, while the more expensive DC41 outperformed the Shark (on carpet and everywhere else) and the less expensive DC50 performed on par with the Shark.
And in comparison to the Oreck and the Electrolux, it's much more a matter of preference. The Shark is a fantastic budget vacuum that holds its own against these two in usability and features, albeit with slightly lower performance marks. Still, I would highly recommend this vacuum. It offers the best value of any of the models and its multitude of accessories will delight the more thorough cleaners among you.
This is a fine-looking vacuum, but it isn't trying to appear high-end like the other models. It's a glossy white machine with red accents that belie its more modern functionality. Fortunately, its slightly dated design doesn't seem to hurt its construction in the least. It's a solidly built vacuum with strong components.
The wand feels sturdy and secure, the transparent bin isn't flimsy (as was observed in both Dyson models), and the vacuum is comfortable to carry around in canister mode. Just don't expect this $200 budget buy to have the same design features as a more expensive model, and you won't be disappointed. I do kind of wish there was a way to get all of the various Shark attachments and accessories to fit on the vacuum, though. The different parts would likely end up scattered around my house.
I gave the Shark the highest possible rating in this category. You really can't get better than this, especially when you consider price and value. Using it as a upright model, it has a pivoting head and headlights. It also comes with a wand accessory like the other models and suction adjustment like the Electrolux.
To the wand, you can add a flexible crevice tool for vacuuming corners, a multipurpose tool that does well on upholstery and hard surfaces, a straight suction floor nozzle for picking up stuff big and small from bare floors and area rugs, a power brush to take on pet hair and dirt from carpeted stairs and upholstery, a wide upholstery tool for getting pet hair and dust from fabrics, and a dusting brush. It can also switch between an upright and a canister vacuum so you can carry it around while using the cleaning wand, or set it on top of the canister caddy, which rolls around while you're in wand mode. The Dyson DC41 gets the closest to this number of brush accessories, but still can't really compete with the Shark on features.
The Shark gets a very good usability score. Considering the number of accessories offered on this incredibly modular machine, there was a chance that it would seem cumbersome and awkward. However, that just isn't the case. It couldn't be easier to convert the vacuum from upright to canister, set the canister on the caddy, or extend the wand and add various brush attachments. The bin, too, is easy to open and put back in place, although not quite as easy as the Electrolux. Also, its pivoting head makes for one maneuverable model that can go anywhere and do pretty much anything. It's also 15.5 pounds, which is lighter than the 17.2-pound Electrolux model I like so much.
In order to deliver a comprehensive review of this vacuum, I tested it on thin low-pile carpet, thicker midpile carpet, and hardwood. On each surface, I scattered fruity Cheerios, sand and sawdust, pet hair, human hair, and washers, nuts, and bobby pins to test different types of functionality. And I learned that the Shark does very well, although not as well as the Dyson DC41, the Oreck, or the Electrolux. Still, it really impressed me -- it's only $200, folks.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The Dyson DC41, the Oreck, and the Electrolux all did consistently well on this test, removing 88 percent or more of the Fruity Cheerios from thin carpet, thick carpet, and hardwood. That's good news for parents with young kids or really anyone dealing with larger things that need to be dust-busted. The Shark remained competitive on the carpeted surfaces, but on hardwood, it picked up only 73 percent of the cereal dropped. That's not terrible, but it isn't as good as the other three. The Dyson DC50 performed pretty well on carpets, but didn't collect any Cheerios on the hardwood.