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.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
For this test, I mixed together sand and sawdust and spread it across each floor type. The Shark had some issues with consistency, here. It picked up only 59 percent of the mixture from the low-pile carpet, 86 percent from the midpile and 92 percent from the hardwood. Averaged together, that's a fine score, but what went wrong on the low-pile carpet?
To be fair, the top-performing Dyson DC41 only got 60 percent of the mixture from the low-pile carpet, the Oreck 67 percent, and the Dyson DC50 77 percent. The Electrolux did the best by far, picking up 91 percent of the sand and sawdust. Unfortunately, a lot of people probably need top performance in this category. Low-pile carpets are more common in high-traffic areas where small particles like dirt thrive. Going over the same spot multiple times would take care of this issue. Per our test design, I only rolled over each material twice.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
CNET's own Katie Pilkington shaved her Labradoodle Lola so we could perform this test. I spread hair clumps of various sizes across both carpets and the hardwood. The Shark picked up 100 percent of Lola's hair from both carpeted surfaces and none from the hardwood. That's because you're supposed to turn off the brush when you're vacuuming on a bare floor. Without that spinning brush to help drive debris inside, you're at a disadvantage. If you decide to be a rebel and use the brush on your hardwood anyway, you run the risk of scratching your floor, but it will pick up everything like it did on the carpets. Say you aren't interested in harming your bare floors -- you might want to opt for one of the Shark's many brush attachments or just use a broom instead.
Ah, the human hair test. I scattered strands of hair from a long weave across each of the three floor surfaces to see how the Shark would react. Turns out, it responded like the other vacuums. It pulled all of hair off the floor, but some was in the bin itself and the rest was coiled around the brush. Fortunately, it was easy to remove from the brush manually.
The Shark vacuum picked up about two bobby pins and a washer per test. Otherwise, it simply left everything on the carpet or hardwood and the rest got jammed inside the brush. The Electrolux and the Dyson DC50 performed in much the same way. The Oreck excelled here, collecting about a third of the contents and the DC41 also did well. Honestly, though, I was kind of glad to know that if I accidentally vacuum over something that really belongs in a toolbox that it will probably ignore it completely, thereby reducing the chance of harming the machine. The Shark didn't show any signs that it was distressed during this test, but hey, we were vacuuming nuts, washers, and bobby pins -- I was distressed watching it try.
Nuts, washers, bobby pins
Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away vacuum preys on dirt (pictures) See full gallery
I highly recommend the Shark vacuum to anyone looking for a budget option with very good performance and optimal versatility. It's also a great choice for, how shall I put this, more meticulous cleaners. Since it has so many accessories, you never have to worry about having "that perfect attachment." There's bound to be a brush for nearly every home vacuuming situation. That's quite a feat for a $200 machine. None of the others come close to this level of choice, not even the $649 Dyson DC41 Animal Complete. I think the Shark has earned some bragging rights in that respect.
As nice as that is, I have a feeling that most of those Shark attachments would end up collecting dust in my closet rather than making regular or even semiregular appearances when I'm vacuuming. So, if you too are a more straightforward vacuumer who doesn't want all that extra stuff, the $300 Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean is also an excellent option. It's a more traditional upright that still offers a wand and a couple of brush attachments to suit various tasks -- and it performed a bit better than the Shark. Still, the Shark is a very good vacuum that stood up to the competition, and when you factor in its $200 price, it's hard not to be impressed.