We put each of the vacuums through a series of rigorous tests to assess how they would do with debris types you may encounter in your home. Our tests included Fruity Cheerios, a sand-and-sawdust mixture (to mimic fine particulate debris), pet hair, and human hair, collected from a hair extension kit. We performed every test three times each on three different surface types: low-pile carpet, mid-pile carpet, and hardwood/laminate floors. We also conducted a torture test, scattering 1.25 ounces of bobby pins and small nuts on the low-pile carpet.
In addition to these performance tests, I also tested each vacuum's suction power at the floor, via a sealed homemade box with a one-by-six-inch slot on top and a a two inch diameter PVC pipe connected to the side. Placing the vacuum's cleaning head over the slot on the lid, we used an anemometer at the PVC opening to record suction power in CFM, or cubic feet per minute.
These measurements represent the raw suction power for each vacuum. The design of the roller brush and cleaning head, as well as how well that brush seals to the carpet will also have an impact on overall performance, but the suction power measurement gives us an idea about raw cleaning power each vacuum can muster. The Shark's default power setting created nearly as much suction as the DC59 in boosted mode. This is largely attributable to the motor receiving more power from an outlet than it would from a battery, but the number is nevertheless impressive. The Shark's brushroll design made it a knockout with pet hair on both carpet types.
On low-pile carpet, the Rocket collected 87 percent of the Fruity Cheerios, 100 percent of the pet hair, and 55 percent of the sand/sawdust blend. Pet hair on low-pile carpet has, historically, been a bit of a "gimme" test. Vacuums tend to pick up a reasonable amount, if not all, of the hair. As such, that test didn't really prove the Rocket's credentials. It wasn't a top performer with either fine particulate debris or Cheerios, though I think this is as much a function of nozzle design as anything.
The Rocket's floor nozzle sits directly on the ground without adjustable wheel height like the DC59's floor attachment. This means that it has more trouble getting on top of large debris, though 87 percent is still not a shabby amount. I was disappointed with the low percentage of sand mix collected, though I blame the brushroll again. The bristles are short and spaced farther apart, meaning that on this type of carpet, they likely won't be able to sweep fine debris into the vacuum as effectively as brushes with longer or closer bristles.The bristles on both the Electrolux
On mid-pile carpet, the Rocket picked up 57 percent of the Fruity Cheerios, 100 percent of the pet hair, and 65 percent of the sand/sawdust mixture. Mid-pile carpet, unlike low-pile, seems to be more of a proving ground for vacuums. Fewer vacuums collected all of the pet hair. In addition, more of the fine particulates in the sand/sawdust mixture can sink further into the carpet, presenting a greater challenge. That the Rocket was a very close second place with fine particulates is a testament to its strong suction.
Hard floors have been the most challenging test surface for vacuums. If a vacuum has good suction, the fine particles shouldn't be a problem. But what about larger debris? Or an aggressive distribution of fine particulate debris? In our hard floor tests, the Rocket collected 75 percent of the Fruity Cheerios, 100 percent of the pet hair, and 95 percent of the sand/sawdust blend. I wasn't unhappy with the Rocket's performance with the sand/sawdust and Cheerios, as it was average. It picked up the majority in both cases. Pet hair, however, which tripped up even some of the best upright vacuums, was no match for the Rocket. It was one of two to collect 100 percent and one of only three to collect more than half of the hair.
The Rocket's floor nozzle wasn't the best with large debris such as Cheerios. When I used the combination tool attachment, however, it made short work of them. Granted, it's not as easily employed for quick spot cleaning as cordless models, but it would still be a good option for daily maintenance, even if you have a family member leaving a Cheerio trail all over the house.
Human hair was challenging for lightweight and full-size vacuums alike, no matter what surface we tested. The Rocket struggled as much as any of them, with only half of the hair making its way into the bin and the other half tangling around the brushroll. I was able to clear the tangles without too much trouble, but it still took time. If you don't have long-haired inhabitants or pets in your home, this won't be a concern. If you do, however, this will be worth noting. Though, it's also worth noting that none of these lightweight vacuums handled long hair with nearly the skill as larger models like the Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean.
Finally, we scattered the bobby pins and nuts. This is an assessment of ruggedness rather than suction performance, and it was designed to see if the vacuum would break if you accidentally ran over some spare change or bobby pins. We grade this test on a pass/fail scale: if the vacuum survives the test without breaking, it passes. The Rocket collected only one of the extra-small nuts, but it was able to complete the entire run without jamming. Don't expect it to do well with large debris like this, but if you accidentally bump into some, it looks as if the Rocket will survive to vacuum another day.
Maintenance and support
The Rocket's support page includes a section where you can buy additional accessories or replacement parts. Shark doesn't have licensed service centers as do many larger appliance brands, but it does have a dedicated customer service group that you can reach via chat or phone. This is a pain, perhaps, but the Rocket does come with a five-year limited warranty, which is incredibly generous compared to the two-year warranties of the other lightweight vacuums we tested in this group. You can (and should) perform routine maintenance on your vacuum yourself, however. This means regularly emptying the bin as well as rinsing the filter monthly, according to the manufacturer's directions.
The Shark Rocket is a great option if you love the look and functionality of the DC59 but don't want to pay the Dyson price. For $179, the Rocket gives you lots of options for customization, ranging from floors to upholstery to car detailing. In addition, you can expect better-than-average performance. I love almost everything about the Shark except for the cord, which you may also find to be a nuisance. It's not a hand-held model, but the equally-priced Hoover Platinum Collection LiNX offers comparable performance without the cord. You won't be able to detail your car with it, but you can rest assured that it will keep your floors just as clean.
If you're absolutely wedded to the in-hand design but want nothing to do with a power cord, you'll need to make the investment in the DC59. It's spendy, like all Dyson products, but its performance, functionality, and ease of use might make it worth your dollar. If you're not concerned about the cord, however, the Shark Rocket will clean any surface in your home with aplomb.