Versatile Shark vacuum makes Consumer Reports' list of top picks

Consumer Reports
The Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away NV501

(The Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away NV501)

Want an upright that’s also a canister vacuum? You’ll find one rated by Consumer Reports, along with an upright that steam-cleans floors. But as multitasking vacs become a trend, the tests show that some skimp on the cleaning that counts.

Lower prices and freedom from bag changes help make bagless uprights the hottest sellers. Shark’s Rotator Professional Lift-Away NV501, $250, has a canister component that lifts out onto a wheeled base and doubles as a handheld vac. Strong carpet cleaning, a swiveling head for easier steering, and an arsenal of tools helped it join the winners’ list. But you’ll find even better vacs for as little as $120, especially for pet hair. And using this model in the handheld mode takes some muscle.


You’ll also find Samsung among your canister choices after a long absence from the U.S. market. Consumer Reports tested the Electric Blue VCC88P0H1B, $350, and Champagne VCC96P0H1G, $450, which has more dust-separating chambers inside. But both had dismal suction for tools and were just mediocre at carpet cleaning, still a vacuum’s top task. And small bins make dust capacity minimal for both models.

The tests with almost 700 pounds of sand, wood, flour, cat fur, and other messes found other models that put features before performance. Here are the details:

Oreck’s VersaVac upright

(Oreck’s VersaVac upright)

A combo that doesn’t cut it.

Oreck’s VersaVac upright, $250, has two pads and a plastic frame that convert it to a steam mop. It’s also the brand’s first bagless vacuum and, at 13 pounds, one of the lightest we’ve tested. But it was only middling on carpets and worked better on bare floors with the brush on. Doing that with this model didn’t scatter dirt, but Consumer Reports usually recommends turning the brush off on bare floors, if possible, to reduce that risk. What’s more, the Oreck doesn’t accept tools and lacks suction control and other features you’d expect for the price.

(See also: Dishwasher features that didn't pan out in CR tests)

A name that doesn’t deliver.

Eureka’s AirExcel NLS upright, $100, aced the pet-hair tests and maintained suction as claimed. But don’t take its “excel” moniker too seriously: The bagless vac was subpar at carpet cleaning and emissions, and it ended up far below the humbler Eureka AirSpeed AS1000A, a CR best buy at $120.

A smart feature on a so-so vac.

The Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean EL8807A, $300, has a built-in comb that skims hair from the brush roll when you press a foot-controlled lever. The feature worked flawlessly in the tests; too bad this bagless upright was less than stellar at cleaning carpets and delivering the airflow needed for tools.


Start by matching the type of vacuum to the cleaning you usually do. Uprights, especially those with a bag, do better overall on carpets. Canisters are easier to maneuver, especially on stairs. Here’s what else to consider before you buy:

For allergies, stick with bags.

Emptying a bagless vac’s bin tends to be a messy, dusty process, though changing bags can also raise dust if you aren’t careful. Consider wearing a dust mask and clearing the bin or bag outside if you have allergies, asthma, or other respiratory problems.

Check the features.

A brush on/off switch protects bare floors and avoids scattering debris. A motorized brush deep-cleans carpets far better than suction alone. Other smart features include manual pile-height adjustment and suction control for cleaning drapes with tools.

Try it out.

Even if you order online, go to a store first. Push, pull, turn, and lift models you’re considering. Check controls and features. And see whether the store will match a lower price you get online.

Copyright © 2006-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Doctors thought he just had jock itch. Then it spread.

      Late Friday afternoon on Dec. 4, 2014, Stephen Schroeder was waiting to board his packed flight from Philadelphia to Las Vegas for a much anticipated long weekend with his son when his cellphone rang. On the line was an unexpected caller: his doctor, reporting test results sooner than Schroeder had expected. Listening intently, Schroeder was flooded with disbelief as he struggled to comprehend what he was hearing. Using the lip of a trash can as a writing surface, he scribbled notes on the back of his boarding pass, making the doctor spell out each unfamiliar word. Then he sent a terse text to his wife, who was at their home in the Philadelphia suburbs, and got on the plane. Onboard, Schroeder,

      Washington Post q
    • Donald Trump rejects polls as inaccurate: ‘All the fair polls have us winning’

      Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who once boasted about his robust poll numbers, has turned to criticizing them as ineffective and “rigged” now that most show his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, with a commanding lead. Trump made the dubious claim in a morning tweet –– the latest example of his pattern of messages of mistrust and skepticism aimed at all things that portray his campaign efforts in a negative light. Monday morning on “The Chad Adams Show,” a conservative radio program in North Carolina, Trump said that pollsters focused on Democrats when asking about which candidate won the second and third debates.

      Yahoo News
    • Dear Abby: Should I report a baby with bruises?

      DEAR ABBY: I’m a 20-year-old college student and have had a job at the same retail store for two years. A few weeks ago, a mother walked in holding a baby that appeared to be about 6 months old. The first thing I noticed was that he had numerous bruises. There were pronounced bruises under both eyes, another large one on his temple, and several more visible on his arms and legs. I have heard horror stories about parents whose infants have a medical condition that causes them to bruise easily, but the parents are accused of child abuse. This mother seemed attentive to her baby, and I saw nothing in her behavior to make me think her child was in any danger. I didn’t say anything, but I keep wondering

      Chicago Sun-Times q
    • Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says replay decision was the ‘worst call he’s ever seen’

      Jim Harbaugh has been known for using a bit of hyperbole from time to time but it sounds as though he was really, really, really upset at a call in the final few minutes of No. 2 Michigan’s 41-8 win over Illinois on Saturday. Wolverines quarterback John O’Korn had completed a third-and-nine pass to Drake Harris that officials […]

      NBC Sports q
    • Woman groped on plane turns to an unexpected source for help

      During a recent flight, a passenger by the name of Ariana Lenarsky used Twitter to call attention to a serious issue. Lenarsky, a Los Angeles-based performer and podcast producer, opened up to her thousands of followers on Oct. 22 to share a harrowing personal experience that occurred mid-air as she was flying from Austin, Texas. As Lenarsky was walking down the aisle of the airplane, a male passenger allegedly "grabbed and stroked" her calf. The incident greatly upset Lenarsky, and she decided to turn to her Twitter followers for comfort and advice. SEE ALSO: This code word will help you when you feel unsafe on a date Since the incident occurred while Lenarsky was in the air, the ways in which

      Mashable q
    • When the ‘love of your life’ is no longer interested in making love

      Carolyn Hax is on leave. This column originally ran March 18, 2013. Dear Carolyn: Although we’ve had sex before, my boyfriend of two years has zero interest in sex with me or anyone else. He just doesn’t feel the need (we used to have sex often, before the relationship was committed). This makes me feel unwanted, unloved and incredibly self-conscious and paranoid. He’s been to therapy (I am also in therapy), but his psychiatrist flat-out told him she didn’t know how to help him (!), so he stopped going. He turns down every other suggestion I make to try to overcome this issue, and talking about it leads to his anxiety and my tears. Yet, he says he loves me and he would spend the rest of his life

      Washington Post q
    • Parent punches student in the stomach in a school hallway, then just walks away

      (CNN)It happens so fast you almost miss it. A man walks down the hallway of a school, crossing paths with a young boy. Suddenly, without provocation, the man reaches down and punches the boy in his stomach. He then casually walks toward the door. The boy falls to his knees, doubled over in obvious pain. The man pauses, just for a second, to look over his shoulder at the boy, before walking out. Surveillance video captured this shocking encounter, which happened last week at the KIPP DC Spring Academy in Washington DC. The boy in the video, 7-year-old John Mclean, told CNN affiliate WJLA that the punch to the gut was "real painful." It was painful for John's mother to see as well. She says the

      CNN q
    • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Is Losing Its Showrunner

      It can be hard to pinpoint what makes a late-night show work so well with audiences, but The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon seems to have cracked the code. Over the last few years, the series has become one of the most popular late-night offerings, consistently dominating in the ratings season after season. While much of this has to do with the charisma of the man in front of the camera, it's important to remember those behind the scenes as well. With that in mind, it now seems The Tonight Show has suffered a major loss, as showrunner Josh Lieb has officially left the series. After serving as the late-night series' showrunner for several years, Josh Lieb has decided to step down from The

    • Road raging driver survives brake checking a heavy duty truck

      A video showing a driver 'brake checkin'g a heavy truck on a freeway in Wisconsin last week sparked a conversation about road rage and risky driving maneuvers. The dashcam video, which was posted on October 18, shows an SUV cutting directly in front of a heavy-duty concrete pouring truck and slamming on the brakes. The concrete pouring truck then locks up its brakes and lays down a long stretch of rubber as it tries to avoid demolishing the aggressive SUV. Fox 6 showed the video to John Mueller, a driving instructor at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, WI, to get his insight on the dangers of brake checking. "Oh my gosh. That's life and death right there," he told the station. "You've

      Autoblog q
    • 12 Lies American Evangelicals Believe

      Evangelical Christians are supposedly united in their belief that only those who believe the gospel — that Jesus Christ died on the cross for humanity's sins and rose from the dead three days later — will be saved. But not all who identify as evangelicals even believe this. According to a September study by LifeWay Research, Americans don't know much about theology. While most Americans identify as Christians, they seem confused about the details of their faith. "Contradictory and incompatible beliefs are OK for most people," explained Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. Even those who identify as evangelicals often fell into some of the worst theological errors. Here are

      Faith q
    • Donald Trump just got some of his best polling news in weeks

      A CNN poll released on Monday showed Donald Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by five points...

      Business Insider
    • 'Walking Dead' Actor Danai Gurira on Season 7 Premiere: 'It Was Horrifying'

      Danai Gurira, aka Michonne, stopped by "Good Morning America" today to discuss the shocking outcome, plus the aftermath of saying goodbye two beloved cast members on the show. Glenn (Steven Yeun) was next after Daryl reacted to Abraham's death by punching Negan in the face.

      Good Morning America
    • Ben Volin: Patriots didn’t run from Steelers’ defensive dare

      Bill Belichick spent all last week talking about the Steelers’ consistency, noting they have had a similar defensive scheme for the last quarter-century. Except the Blitzburg Steelers didn’t show up to Sunday’s game, a 27-16 road win for the Patriots. Instead, Mike Tomlin’s crew came armed with a game plan that was downright Belichickian. And it worked pretty well. The Steelers have played a 3-4 defensive front for as long as anyone can remember. Except on Sunday, they played almost exclusively a four-man front. The Steelers also have been known to play a lot of Cover 3, a zone defense with three deep defenders. On Sunday, they were primarily a Cover 2 team, looking a lot like the old Tampa Bay q
    • T-Mobile CEO John Legere says AT&T is 'bleeding'

      Legere told CNBC he believes that AT&T is "bleeding" and also claimed also claimed that in five years T-Mobile would surpass AT&T. q
    • Teen indicted in death of stepmother; report says boyfriend committed suicide

      Jenna Oakley, the 15-year-old girl who went missing the day her stepmother was found dead, has been indicted as an adult on a charge of murder in connection with the death. A Boyle County grand jury returned the indictment Thursday. Jenna is also indicted on a charge of theft by unlawful taking of more than $10,000. She’s accused of taking a vehicle owned by her stepmother. Rhonda Oakley, 52, was found slain Sept. 1 inside her home in Danville. Her 13-year-old stepson found her body when he came home from school. Each count says Jenna committed the offense “or that another person did so by acting in complicity with the defendant to commit this crime.” Jenna and her boyfriend, Kenneth Nigh, 21,

      Miami Herald q
    • Cosmopolitan
    • Mariah Carey Kicks Off Halloween 2016 (3 photos)

      From the hottest Halloween parties of the year to the best A-list Instagrams, check back as we round up the best celebrity costumes of 2016. From Harper's BAZAAR

      Harper's Bazaar
    • Benenson: No One Has 'Rose Colored Glasses' About Uniting Country After Election

      Clinton campaign chief strategist weighs in on state of the race with just over two weeks until Election Day.

      ABC News Videos