After a little more than 18 months, our previous Editors' Choice award winner — the Shark Rotator with DuoClean — has finally been toppled by a new product. The newest offering from Shark, the APEX DuoClean with Zero-M ousted the old Rotator by being just a bit better at cleaning carpets and handling pet hair without getting tangled up, earning it the title of Best Overall Vacuum Cleaner. The Zero-M did exceptionally well in all of our tests, earning the highest score in three of five metrics and the second highest score in the remaining ones. All in all, if you want the best when it comes to floor cleaning solutions, then the APEX should be your first choice.
Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M Review
Pros: Fantastic cleaning performance, excellent at picking up pet hair
Cons: Not the best with stairs, reach is a little short
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Shark APEX DuoClean finished right at the top of the entire group, ousting its predecessor, the Shark Rotator with DuoClean. While the Rotator and the APEX scored the same in our ease of use, handling, and hard surface cleaning metrics, the APEX has a slight edge when it comes to picking up pet hair and cleaning carpets, though it does cost about $20 more.
In our quest to find the best vacuum cleaner of them all, we have spent the better part of the past two years buying and testing all of the most promising products, updating our review as newer models are released. We rank and score each vacuum side-by-side in five weighted rating metrics, with the APEX's top-notch results discussed below.
Comprised of our most important set of assessments, our carpet cleaning metric accounts for 35% of the final score for each vacuum. We used four different types of messes — rice, oats, Cheerios, and flour — to score the cleaning performance of each vacuum, testing them out on both flat, low-pile carpet and on the fluffier, medium-pile carpet. The Shark APEX delivered an absolutely phenomenal performance, earning an 8 out of 10 — tying for the top score we have seen to date.
The APEX did an absolutely phenomenal job with the rice on the low-pile carpet, getting the majority of the rice with a single pass and getting the remainder on the second, leaving absolutely no rice behind at all. However, it did a little worse on the fluffier carpet, taking three passes to suitably clean it and we still found a few grains lodged deep with the carpet fibers. It performed very similarly in our flour test, getting practically all of it with two passes over the low-pile carpet and only leaving trace amounts behind on the fluffy carpet.
It finished out this metric with two more stellar results. The APEX did an absolutely awesome job sucking up Cheerios from both types of carpet, largely due to its front roller, and leaving none behind. It did almost as well cleaning oats from the low-pile carpet, although it did leave a few fragments behind. The APEX cleaned about the same on the medium-pile carpet, though it took a few more passes to get to the same point.
Ease of Use
Next, we moved on to comparing and scoring how easy it is to use each of these vacuums to clean your floor. Responsible for a quarter of the overall score, we focused in particular on how easy it is to clean under furniture, along the walls and in the corners of a room, and the maximum reach of each vacuum. Additionally, we also measured the noise level and compared how easy it is to switch the vacuum between different floor types, such as low-pile carpet, medium-pile carpet, and hard floors. The APEX did very well, earning a 7 out of 10.
There is a slider switch right on the handle that lets you switch between flat, fluffy, and hard floors. The rotating brush doesn't stop completely on the hard floor setting, but it does rotate much slower.
The APEX does an excellent job at cleaning right up to an edge, but it does struggle a bit in the corners of a room. It would usually leave behind a handful of rice right in front of the vacuum when it approached head-on.
However, its Lift-Away features make it exceptionally easy to clean under furniture, earning it top marks in that test. This vacuum reached slightly farther than average under our simulated sofa without using the Lift-Away feature and went well past it when we did use it.
The APEX is relatively quiet for an upright vacuum, earning it a few extra points, but it only has a average reach, measuring in at 32'.
In this round of tests, we ranked and scored each vacuum on how easy it is to push or pull and how maneuverable it is, as well as the amount of effort required to clean a flight of stairs with it. This trio of evaluations accounts for 20% of the final score, with the Shark APEX meriting another 7 out of 10.
The APEX weights in at just under 17 lbs. — about average for an upright vacuum cleaner.
This makes it fairly easy to clean a flight of stairs, helped by the fact that you can usually reach 6-7 steps with the hose. Additionally, you can always use the vacuum in Lift-Away mode, which makes it exceptionally easy to clean stairs.
It has a swivel head that makes it highly maneuverable and can glide over carpet and hard floors with little to no effort at all.
Hard Surface Cleaning
Similar to our carpet cleaning metric, we used the same four types of messes in our hard floor cleaning metric. These four tests account for 10% of the overall score, with the Shark APEX delivering a fantastic set of results and earning a 9 out of 10.
It did an essentially perfect job when it came to cleaning flour or rice off of our sample of laminate flooring. It didn't fling the rice around at all and even cleaned flour out of the tiny cracks between boards.
It continued its perfect performance into our cereal and oatmeal tests, collecting all of the Cheerios and oats without any issues at all.
For the remaining 10% of the final score, we evaluated how well each vacuum did at cleaning up pet hair. We distributed five grams of pet hair on a section of medium-pile carpet, then scored each vacuum on the percentage of hair successfully picked up. The APEX finished with another phenomenal performance, earning a 9 out of 10.
This vacuum gave an almost perfect performance, collecting 97% of the hair we laid out.
While this $300 vacuum might not be the best option if you are shopping on a tight budget, it is the best of the best and retails at a fairly reasonable price.
Delivering top-notch cleaning performance with all kinds of messes in an extremely convenient and easy to use package, it is easy to see why the Shark APEX claimed the top spot overall, earning the title of Best Overall Vacuum and the Editors' Choice award. It's our all-time favorite vacuum cleaner that we have tested so far and we highly recommend it.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer