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Shark Rocket review: Versatile cleaning from the lightweight Shark Rocket

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It's not as sleek or streamlined as the wireless Dyson DC59, but the corded, $179 Shark Rocket features similar attachment options and adequate performance for less than half the price.

The Good

Useful attachments and decent performance make the <b>Shark Rocket</b> a contender in the field of lightweight vacuums.

The Bad

The Rocket's cord is inconvenient and means that you likely won't use it for quick clean-up.

The Bottom Line

The Shark Rocket combines adequate cleaning power with a broad array of cleaning extensions into a recommendable, affordable, lightweight vacuum. Only its cord holds it back.

While the Rocket never won any of our cleaning tests, it never came in last, either. You might find the cord a nuisance (I'll admit it annoyed me), but Shark tries to make it as easy as possible for you to manage. If you like the look of this handheld-to-stick-vacuum but want to ditch the cord and make more of an investment, you can't go wrong with the DC59. More traditional stick vacuums like the Hoover Platinum Collection LiNX also impressed us, however, and you might appreciate the LiNX's simplicity and consistent performance which was equal to, if not better than, the Shark's.

Design and features
The Shark Rocket is a lightweight, corded, in-hand vacuum. The handheld portion, which weighs 4.2 pounds, includes the bin, the primary motor, and the power cord. The attachments add weight, naturally, but even with the floor nozzle and extension tube connected (arguably the heaviest setup), I still found the Rocket light and easy to handle. The fact that it has a cord is a bit of a nuisance, especially if you're used to a cordless vacuum.

We performed all of our primary performance tests with the floor nozzle and extension tube attachments. The nozzle is 10.5 inches wide and 3 inches tall. This low profile, coupled with the fact that the Rocket will recline almost completely, means that it can reach under furniture easily.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

The Rocket has two cleaning modes and a button to switch between them. Mode I is designed for bare floors or delicate rugs while Mode II is best for carpets. The second mode activates the brushroll in the floor nozzle, which agitates the carpet for a deeper clean.

I mentioned the cord being an inconvenience, particularly when compared to vacuums like the Dyson DC59, which features the same basic body style without the cord. Even still, the Rocket's cord is 27 feet long, giving you plenty of lead to vacuum a large room or two smaller rooms. As with full-size upright vacuums, you will have to unplug and replug to move from place to place. On the other hand, you'll never have to worry about draining the battery as you would with a cordless model.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Doubtless an attempt to make the cord less of a nuisance, Shark gives you two options for storing the Rocket: with the hand-held portion detached and hooked onto the base of the extension tube and floor nozzle, or locked into the wall dock. The problem with the wall dock is that it limits your attachment options as you'll still have to contend with the cord. The prongs around which you wrap the cord are located on the extension hose. This means that, if you want to stow the cord neatly with the Rocket in its dock, you'll also need to attach the extension wand. It's not a deal-breaker by any means, but it does make the Rocket more high-maintenance than similar models such as the DC59, which docks neatly no matter what attachment is in place.

Though this cord may feel clumsy and outdated, you'll appreciate other elements of the Rocket's overall design, namely the wealth of included attachments. You'll find the extension tube, which can be used with different attachments, as well as a floor nozzle, dusting brush, pet upholstery tool, crevice tool, and the Dust-Away tool, which includes a removable, washable microfiber pad. A storage bag keeps everything in one place. The Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away vacuum also came with a wide variety of extras, and we appreciated the ability to use one vacuum for all of our specific cleaning needs. The Rocket takes this concept to a higher level because of its portability.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

This variety of tools is comparable to the Dyson DC59's, but that unit lacks a dusting tool. Shark's Web site also gives you the option to purchase other attachments, such as a car detailing kit or an extension hose specifically designed to fit and reach under appliances.

Usability
When considering the usability of a particular vacuum, bin and filter maintenance factor heavily in our assessment. A latch on the side of the Shark Rocket opens the hatch door to the dustbin. You'll need to manually close it, but the process is anything but difficult. Truly, with regard to emptying the bin, the Rocket's cord causes the most inconvenience. After all, you have to carry the cord with you wherever you take the vacuum, including the trash can.

The cord proved to be the only real annoyance while using the Rocket. That said, the cord's placement, coupled with the vacuum's overall ergonomics, ensures that it will stay behind you, provided you aren't slaloming around your living room. If slaloming is your thing, the Rocket is certainly maneuverable enough for it. When you're using the floor cleaning nozzle and extension tube, the attachment pivots. This makes turning and moving around furniture a breeze. If you're using the vacuum without the extension hose, you'll appreciate the ease with which the attachments snap into place.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Performance
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.

Stick vacuum suction test (cubic ft/min)

Electrolux Ultra Power (Booster mode) 57Dyson DC59 (Max power) 51Shark Rocket (Mode II power) 49Electrolux Ultra Power (Normal speed) 48Electrolux Ergorapido (Normal speed) 44Dyson DC59 (Default power) 41Electrolux Ultra Power (Silent mode) 37Hoover Linx (Default mode) 37Electrolux Ergorapido (High speed) 33Gtech AirRam (High-power mode) 25
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

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.

Cherrios, 1 oz. (percentage picked up)

Hoover LiNX 100 100 100Gtech AirRam 90 97 98Dyson DC59 68 78 97Shark Rocket 75 57 87Electrolux Ergorapido Power 57 73 77Electrolux UltraPower Studio 47 47 53
  • Hardwood
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

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 UltraPower Studio and Ergorapido Power are spaced much like the Shark's but are longer, which seems to help.

Pet hair, 1 oz. (percentage picked up)

Shark Rocket 100 100 100Hoover LiNX 100 100 100Dyson DC59 67 92 100Electrolux Ergorapido Power 25 100 100Electrolux UltraPower Studio N/A 100 100Gtech AirRam N/A 75 67
  • Hardwood
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

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.

Sand/sawdust, 1 oz. (percentage picked up)

Dyson DC59 100 63 81Electrolux Ergorapido Power 99 62 64Hoover LiNX 98 58 58Electrolux UltraPower Studio 96 66 72Shark Rocket 95 65 55Gtech AirRam 85 60 47
  • Hardwood
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

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 bristles are quite stiff. They were dynamite at grabbing pet hair but didn't do too much to aid the vacuum with fine debris. Colin West McDonald/CNET

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.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

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.

Conclusion
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.

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7.4

Shark Rocket

Score Breakdown

Performance 7Features 8Design 7Usability 8