Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away review: Hunt dirt with Shark's powerful and versatile cleaner

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The Good The Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away lets you switch among its many functions to clean every surface in a room without ever breaking stride or turning off the vacuum. Especially on carpets, it performs on par with high end uprights for a mid-range price.

The Bad It's not great at hardwood floors. Even the dedicated hard-floor genie couldn't help it grab large particles off of hard surfaces.

The Bottom Line With a remarkable amount of flexibility afforded by its well-implemented features, the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away is as easy to use as any full-size upright we've tested. To top it off, it cleans almost as well as vacuums that cost twice as much.

8.4 Overall
  • Performance 7
  • Features 10
  • Design 9
  • Usability 9

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your Dyson, along comes the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away to put the premium vac brand to the test. Shark often compares its products to Dyson's, and tries to bite into Dyson's hold of the high-end vac market by claiming superior performance and selling for about half the price. It's a move that's gotten Shark caught up in some trouble, but we did think the $200 Rotator Pro compared favorably to the $650 Dyson DC41 and $500 DC65 (now called the Dyson Ball Allergy ).

Dyson upped its game with its Cinetic models, improving fine-particle performance and doing away with the need for the filter. The Rotator Powered model starts off feeling like any other vacuum, but when I started using the attachments and taking advantage of the Lift-Away feature, I understood the charm of Shark's versatile machine. It's more chameleon than shark. Lots of vacs can transform to an extent -- say from a stick to a handheld -- but few make it as easy to shift to as many different configurations as the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away.

It has smartly designed features that actually make the chore of vacuuming less tedious. It's definitely not perfect -- it performs quite well on carpets, but I was disappointed in its ability to adapt to hardwood floors. Still, it provides a fitting counterpunch to the Dyson Cinetic. Given that the Cinetic costs $700 and the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away is only $350, I'd recommend this Shark over that Dyson upright. It's well worth your consideration as a high powered vacuum at a midrange price.

Coming around for seconds

A lot of the transformative qualities that I found so appealing in the Rotator Powered Lift-Away aren't new to this specific vacuum. In fact, this Shark is quite similar in many ways to its predecessor, the Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away.

Similar builds between Sharks. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Both have a button letting you lift the canister free from the wand and motorized head. Both include a caddy with wheels for that canister so you can turn the machine from an upright to a rolling canister vac. Both have a button to release the wand from the motorized head as well, giving the hose that much extra reach. You can secure any attachment to the end of the wand, or press a button to set the wand aside as well and use the handle to maneuver the hose.

Most pieces snap together securely. Three prongs act as plugs beneath each connecting cylinder, so you can send power from the engine through to the motorized head via the wand, or through to the mini motorized tool via the wand or the handle. The smaller attachments that don't use power don't have the prongs, and don't have that satisfying click when you put them in place. Still, they each fit securely enough.

The prongs snap into place and run power from one piece to the next. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Which attachments you get depends on which version of the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away you buy. Head here for a breakdown of what each model includes. The price of the whole set varies from $299 to $349, and the only difference from one to the next is coloring and number of accessories.

We tested the $350 NV752, and I found the maroon base with silver accents quite appealing. The overall aesthetic has a more modern sheen than the white with red of the Shark Rotator Pro. Even when the Rotator Pro was released, it looked dated. The Rotator Powered vac has no such trouble and looks the part of a high end, stylish machine.

Other than the coloring, though, the two vacs are practically twins. The wheels, the brushroll, even the dustbin, the filter and the mechanic for cleaning both are the same from the older Shark to its younger sibling. That said, we quite liked the older Shark, so the fact that a lot of the mechanics have been brought back is a good thing.


Emptying the roomy dustbin requires you to pull a small trigger at the back of the canister's handle. It'll then pull free from the rest of the engine, and you can push a button once it's over your trash can to flip open the bottom and let the dust dump out. Another button at the top of the container lets you open its lid for further cleaning when necessary.

With the dustbin removed, the main vac filter sits exposed on the remaining part of the vac's canister. You can pull the foam cylinder free via the small handle that juts from its top. Shark recommends hand-washing both the foam filter and the felt disc beneath it every three months, then letting them air dry before vacuuming again. If needed, you can tap the foam filter over a trash can for day-to-day maintenance.

Since the Dyson Cinetic successfully did away with filters, you'll spend longer maintaining the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away than its pricey competitor, but not much longer. As a whole, emptying the dust bin and cleaning the filter feels pretty painless, and I like how easy it is to get into the top of the dust bin, letting you get at dirt that might stick near the lid. The process is simple and quick, just like it was on the Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away.

A Shark of a different color

Of course, Shark's new vac would be pretty disappointing if it was exactly the same as its predecessor, especially since it costs $100 to $150 more. Thankfully, that's not the case. As noted above, the coloring looks more modern, and there are a few other aesthetic and logistical tweaks. The canister is squared off instead of rounded, the handle is bigger and the power button and height controls now rest on it.

All the buttons you'll use frequently sit on the handle. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Having the buttons at your fingertips adds a small but noticeable convenience over the course of long cleaning jobs. The brushroll also gets tied into a slider that adjusts the height of the vac, instead of having its own button. The Rotator Powered vac has three height settings, one for thick carpet, one for low pile, and one for hard floors. Push the slider to that lowest point, and the brushroll automatically turns off to prevent it from scratching your bare floors.

The front of the main vacuum head also has bright LED headlights now, helping you see into dark corners. The old machine had small lights in the same spot, but these are bigger and better. And going along with the theme of making things brighter, the handle now has a small light as well, helping to keep things illuminated even when using attachments.

The bright headlights keep things lit. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Together, those changes hardly feel worth $150 to me. The big one, though, just might be, as it does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to making this vac the most flexible one I've ever tested.

Adapting anew

As noted, both vacs have the Lift-Away button, letting you carry the canister to reach upper corners or set the canister on its caddy to have a whole new type of vac, but the new model lets you keep the wand attached to the powered vacuum head even after you've removed the canister. On the old vac, once you detached the canister, you had to use the attachments, on this one, you can still have the full power of the upright with the motorized brushroll while its as thin as a stick vac.

Lift the canister away... Tyler Lizenby/CNET