Narrowly missing out on the top spot overall, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional is one of our all-time favorite vacuums that we have tested, earning a Best Buy Award for being such a great value option. This model does an exceptional job at cleaning up all types of messed from soft flooring, even picking up pet hair with ease. This vacuum is particularly easy to use, handles great, and is extremely convenient to clean with, especially due to its Lift-Away feature. This vacuum didn't quite do as well as some of the top models on the hard floors, but still delivered a solid performance that was above average compared to the rest of the group. All in all, this is an excellent choice if you want a vacuum that does a great job across the board and are shopping on a budget.
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional Review
Pros: Inexpensive, cleans carpet very well, picks up pet hair with ease
Cons: Not particularly impressive at cleaning hard floors
Bottom line: If you are searching for a new vacuum on a budget, then the Navigator Lift-Away is your best bet
Model Number: NV356E
Bag Type:: Bagless
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This model finished just a few points behind the top performer, the Shark Rotator with DuoClean. These vacuums both performed quite similarly, doing equally fantastic jobs at cleaning soft floors and picking up pet hair. This pair is also some of the easiest to use and easiest to handle vacuums that we have encountered. However, the Rotator does quite a bit better at cleaning hard floors, but does cost about a hundred bucks more. If you are shopping on a budget or mainly focused on soft floors, then the Navigator is a better option.
To determine which vacuum truly deserved an award, we bought all the best and most promising products that are currently available, then tested all of these floor cleaners with a series of head-to-head cleaning challenges, as well as ranking and scoring their performance when it comes to handling and ease of use. We grouped these into five weighted testing metrics, with the results of the Navigator Lift-Away described below.
Accounting for the highest weight of all our metrics — easily explainable, as this is the first thing that most people think of when they hear vacuum cleaner — is our Carpet Cleaning metric, which is responsible for 35% of the overall score. We used a handful of different types of debris — flour, Cheerios, rice, and oats — on both low-pile and medium-pile carpets to test the carpet cleaning competency of each vacuum. The Navigator Professional did extremely well, earning a 7 out of 10 — one of the top performance of the entire group.
For the first assessment — rice — the Navigator delivered an excellent performance, really only outmatched by the Kenmore, the Dyson Ball Animal 2, or the Shark Rotator. The Navigator collected almost all of the rice, including the fragments and the dust, from the low-pile carpet with only two passes. We did notice that the brush head isn't quite as wide as some of the other models, so it would take slightly longer to clean an entire room.
This vacuum also did very well with the fluffier carpet, though it did take 3 or 4 passes to adequately clean all of the rice from the carpet.
The Shark Navigator continued its awesome performance into our flour collection challenge. It got the vast majority of the flour from both the flat and fluffy carpet, leaving it visually clean. However, we discovered a decent amount of residual flour left in the carpet on closer inspection, especially on the flat, low-pile carpet.
The Navigator finished out this metric with a solid performance in our final two cleaning tests: cereal and oatmeal. The Navigator got most of the Cheerios with two passes over the flat carpet, but did require a third pass to get a handful of leftover fragments from when it crushed up the cereal. It did a bit worse on the fluffier carpets, taking multiple passes to successfully clean up all of the Cheerios, mainly due to the fact that it kept pushing them around, rather than actually sucking them up. The Navigator did very similarly in the oatmeal collection challenge, but it did push them around less on the fluffy carpet.
Ease of Use
Next, we ranked and scored how easy it is to actually use these floor cleaning appliances. We scored each vacuum on how easy it is to use to clean under furniture and along the edges of a room, as well as its maximum reach and noise levels. Additionally, we also awarded points if the vacuum had different modes for different types of flooring. The Navigator Lift-Away again delivered an exceptional performance, earning a 7 out of 10 for its performance in this metric, worth 25% of the total score, which is actually one of the highest scores of the group.
This appliance clean is very close to the edges and corners of a room, only leaving a tiny bit of debris behind in areas that it can't reach. It also can clean decently well under furniture, reaching about 9" under our simulated sofa.
This model has an average reach, being able to clean roughly 31' away from the outlet where it is plugged in, but it is on the quiet side for these products, only registering about 73 dBa on our SPL meter. It also doesn't emit any particularly high-pitched or other irritating tones.
Unfortunately, this vacuum lacks different modes for different types of floors that other models have, allowing you to select between flat carpet, fluffy carpet, and hard floors.
However, it does allow you to turn the rotating brush on and off, for switching between hard floors and carpet.
For our handling metric, we evaluated how maneuverable each product is, as well as how easy it is to push or pull. We also looked at the ease of cleaning a flight of stairs. Together, this trio of tests accounts for 20% of the overall score for each product, with the Shark again delivering an excellent showing and earning one of the top scores, a 7 out of 10.
This vacuum has an accessory hose that you can detach and use to clean a flight of stairs, though it doesn't have the longest reach, only able to clean about 7 steps at a time. However, this isn't a huge issue, as the Shark Navigator isn't particularly heavy, weighing in at 14.4 lbs.
This vacuum is exceptionally maneuverable, having a swivel head that makes it very easy to navigate quickly and easily around obstacles while cleaning. It also only takes a mild effort to push or pull, allowing you to clean your floors quickly and easily, without adding in an unwanted workout!
Hard Surface Cleaning
Similar to our Carpet Cleaning metric, we used a variety of different debris types to quantify the cleaning performance of each product. However, this metric is only worth 10% of the final score, as the vast majority of users will primarily clean carpet with a vacuum. The Navigator again did very well, though not quite as well as it did at cleaning carpet, only earning a 6 out of 10.
This vacuum started off with a strong performance in our rice collection test, collecting all of the rice in a single pass. We used the bare floor option for all of these tests, so the main brush does not spin. It did almost as well at collecting oatmeal, though it did require a quick cleanup pass to get a few stragglers. However, weren't terribly impressed with the Navigator's ability at cleaning up flour from hard floors.
It got most of the flour in two passes, but the wheels collected a decent amount of that and tracked it across the floors as we continued to vacuum. It also failed to extract any of the flour that fell in the cracks between boards, even after a multitude of passes. This model also struggled a bit at collecting the Cheerios, tending to push them around when going forward and crushing them up when going backward, even making a bigger mess in the process on occasion.
For the remaining 10% of the total score, we evaluated and ranked how each vacuum did when it was tasked with collecting pet hair. We used hair donated by a local groomer for this test, spreading out 5 grams of hair on a section of medium-pile carpet and pressing it in. We then measured how much hair each vacuum collected. The Navigator dominated this test, collecting just a fraction under the entire amount, earning it a 9 out of 10 for its superb efforts.
The Navigator Lift-Away Professional by Shark is an all-around excellent vacuum that retails at an even better price, making it one of the best values that you can get when shopping for a new upright vacuum.
Overall, there were very few flaws that we found with this product. While it doesn't do amazing at cleaning up fine debris from hard floors, it still performed above average compared to the rest of the vacuums we reviewed. Apart from this minor flaw, this vacuum delivered a top-notch performance in practically every other test, making it a great choice on its performance merits alone. On top of that, it retails for a great price — significantly less than some of the other top models — making it our top pick when shopping on a budget and earning it a Best Buy Award.