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Shark Navigator Freestyle Review
Price: $120 List | $89.99 at Amazon
Pros: Great value, good at cleaning hard floors
Cons: Not terribly convenient, more difficult to use
Bottom line: The Shark Navigator Freestyle is an excellent value, offering a solid performance at a fraction of the price of the top models
While this model didn't take home the top score of the test, the Shark Navigator scored near the top of the pack and cost significantly less than all of the models that beat it, earning it our Best Buy award. It does well at cleaning all types of floors, though concessions were made to its convenience and ease of use to keep the cost down. For those searching for a solid stick vacuum and don't want to break the bank, you can't go wrong with the Shark Navigator.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Stick Vacuums of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
While this vacuum isn't quite as versatile and convenient as its sibling and our top scorer, the Shark Rocket, the Navigator didn't disappoint throughout the course of our testing. It's a solid performer and a fantastic overall value, with no major drawbacks, definitely making it the correct choice if you want a stick vacuum for cleaning up small messes in between deep cleans of your home and don't want to spend a ton of cash.
To rank these vacuums, we devised a comprehensive set of side-by-side tests, ranging from Cheerio collection to cleaning under a sofa. These tests were divided among four rating metrics, each weighted based on their significance. These metrics are Ease of Use, Convenience, Hard Surface Cleaning, and Carpet Cleaning, with the following sections detailing how the Navigator stacked up against the competition and why it deserved our Best Buy award.
Earning the highest weight out of all the different testing metrics, Convenience is of paramount importance for these products, thus accounting for 35% of the final score for each vacuum. We compared the weight, storage method, whether or not the vacuum was corded or cordless, its maximum reach or battery life, and how adept it was at cleaning non-floor surfaces. The Navigator gave us an average performance, earning it a 5 out of 10 for its efforts. The chart below shows how this stacked up against the rest of the vacuums in the group.
The Shark Navigator fell a little short when it came to cleaning anywhere off the floor, lacking the attachments or the versatility of other models. The Navigator can only be an upright model and doesn't transform into a handheld vacuum cleaner like the Shark Rocket or Dyson V8. The Shark is about average when we compared weight between each model, as shown in the chart below.
The Navigator did redeem itself slightly, as it is a cordless model with a decent battery life. It lasted for just shy of 14 minutes on its carpet cleaning mode, with about 6 hours to fully recharge. The chart below shows how the battery life of the Navigator compares with the other cordless models that we reviewed.
The Navigator is stable enough to stand on its own, an often overlooked feature of these products that is exceptionally convenient, rather than relying solely on a wall mount for storage.
Hard Surface Cleaning
Moving on to our second group of tests, the ability of each product to clean hard surfaces made up 30% of the total score for each stick vacuum. We assessed the performance of each vacuum by spreading out oatmeal, flour, rice, pet hair, and Cheerios on a section of hardwood floor, then rating each vacuum on how much residual debris was left over and the number of passes it took to get the floor visually clean. The Navigator scored very well, earning a 7 out of 10 and tying for the runner-up position, as shown in the chart below.
The Shark Navigator did an excellent job at cleaning up rice, only taking a single pass to clean up the rice in its totality. We used the bare floor mode and this model didn't fling any rice to the side, even when the brush was spinning. This model's performance dropped a little when it came to cleaning up flour. It took 2-4 passes to get the area visually clean, with additional passes needed to get residual flour out of the cracks between boards.
This model would also collect a bunch of flour on its roller wheels, which would usually fall off later in an inconvenient location. All in all, this model was about average at collecting flour, rivaled by top model, such as the Rocket or V8, as well as lower scoring models, like the Eufy. The Navigator improved a bit in our cereal test, doing a slightly above average job at collecting Cheerios — performing roughly the same as the Hoover Linx or the BLACK+DECKER. The Navigator's performance continued to improve in our final two tests of this metric: oats and pet hair. It took about 1.5 passes to collect the oats, though there were a few straggling oats left behind — in contrast to the Navigator's flawless performance at collecting rice. However, it did collect all of the pet hair we laid out, tying with about half of the group for a perfect score.
Ease of Use
Ranking next in terms of significance, Ease of Use accounts for 20% of the total score for these products.To compare these products for this rating metrics, we evaluated how easy it was for each vacuum to clean under furniture and close to edges, the different cleaning power levels available to use, as well as the level of noise produced by each vacuum while in operation. The Shark Navigator Freestyle delivered an alright performance, earning a 5 out of 10, with the following graphic showing how this stacks up to the rest of the group.
The Navigator did a decent job at cleaning up debris along the edge of a wall, collecting all of the material that we laid out, though it did take a few more passes to achieve this than the top performing models in our test.
The performance of this model did drop when it came to cleaning under furniture, with this model finishing in the lower half of the pack. The Shark only reached just shy of 11" under our test sofa, putting it on par with the Eufy.
This model does have both a high and low power cleaning mode, with a foot switch to swap between hard floor and carpet mode. This doesn't totally stop the brush from rotating, just slows it down. The Navigator Freestyle is about average in terms of noise level, as shown in the chart below.
This model does have a swivel steering head, but it is somewhat limited — substantially less nimble than the Rocket or the V8.
For the final metric of our testing process, we evaluated how well each stick vacuum did at cleaning carpeted floors. Once again, we broke out the flour, oats, rice, cereal, and donated pet hair, spreading them out on both low-pile, flat carpet, and medium-pile, fluffy carpet and based our scores off how well each type of debris was cleaned and how many cleaning passes it took. The Shark Navigator did decently well, earning a 6 out of 10 in this metric, which accounted for the remaining 15% of the total score. The chart below shows how this performance stacks up against the rest of the group.
The Shark Navigator started off with a strong showing in this test, doing a good job at collecting the rice on both types of carpet. It took about two passes on both types to get them visually clean, with its performance slightly rivaling that of the Dyson V6 on the fluffier carpet. Unfortunately, the Navigator couldn't maintain its performance when we moved on to the flour test.
This model took a few passes and failed to impress, performing comparably to the Hoover Linx or the BLACK+DECKER model — essentially performing worse than every other vacuum in the test, excepting the Dirt Devil. The Shark did redeem itself in the next test: Cheerio collection. This stick vacuum got all of the cereal on the flat carpet without any effort. However, it was on the fluffy carpet version of this test where it truly shined. This model scooped up the cereal without any difficulties, only pushing a few of them around before promptly scooping them up. This performance put the Navigator Freestyle on par with the Dyson V8. Continuing its upward trend, the Navigator tied for the top score when it came to collecting pet hair and delivered a decent showing at collecting oats. It performed slightly worse than the Dyson V8 and the Rocket, matching the performance of the Eufy — an overall above average one.
Earning our Best Buy award, the Shark Navigator Freestyle gives you the best bang for the buck when it comes to these products, offering a solid performance for a great price.
While the Shark Navigator Freestyle lacks some of the additional features and versatility that other models have, it is a solid, dependable cleaning machine at a decent price. It's a great option for cleaning small messes between deep cleans, all without cleaning out your bank account.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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