Shark Rotator Lift Away Speed NV682 review

Shark’s Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed may actually have you looking forward to doing housework

Shark’s Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed makes reaching those hard-to-vacuum areas a snap.
Shark’s Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed makes reaching those hard-to-vacuum areas a snap.
Shark’s Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed makes reaching those hard-to-vacuum areas a snap.

Highs

  • Powerful cleaning
  • Extremely versatile
  • Comes with a variety of useful attachments
  • Won’t break the bank

Lows

  • Efficient only when pushed forward
  • Power-on button located low on the vacuum

A proper vacuum has the ability to make tidying up a mere walk in the park, especially with the right attachments and an ability to easily transition from hard floor to carpet. Shark’s Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed vacuum is one floor-to-ceiling-capable rig that’s compact and dependable, while packing a mean cleaning punch.

But should you rush out to your nearest vacuum purveyor — or Amazon — to swoop this up as your new home-cleaning companion?

To help find a true answer to whether Shark’s latest offering is up to snuff or not, we recently took it to task around our office in Portland, Oregon. From how well it handled on carpet to its ability to sufficiently clean up a mess, we pulled no punches regarding the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed. Here’s what we found during our time with the unit.

Design

It’s clear Shark designed its Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed with supreme flexibility in mind. In addition to functioning like a typical vacuum, the Speed’s handle clicks completely out of the unit itself, granting the ability to slide it under bookcases, across the ceiling, behind chairs, and so on. Thanks in part to its comfortable grip, handling the vacuum in this way never caused much strain. It weighs just over 13 pounds, which adds to its maneuverability.

Other attachments include one made specifically for cleaning upholstery, another designed for removing clingy pet hair and dander, and a third dubbed the Dust Away — an attachment adept at, what else, dusting hardwood floors with its attached towel-like duster.

During our time with the rig, we put these attachments to the test by vacuuming on hard floors and both thick and thin carpet. Due to the fact we don’t have a shop dog or cat running around the office, the attachment we were unable to test in its rightful element was the TruePet brush, though it still proved efficient at picking up flour, salt, or dirt from our tested surfaces.

It’s clear Shark designed its Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed with supreme flexibility in mind.

Aside from attachments, the Speed also gives users the ability to choose between Hardwood or Carpet mode, which either turns on the assistive push motor when on carpet or allows the vacuum to move freely when on hardwood.

Construction-wise, Shark primarily built the Speed out of ABS and PP plastic; this includes the handle, dust bin, the vacuum port, hose, etc. Adorned in forest green for much of the unit, the vacuum also features silver accents and a clear plastic dust bin. Outside of the body, the removable vacuum wand’s neck is the only part of the unit constructed out of metal, which bodes well for the longevity of the Speed’s durability. Additionally, the handle’s grip (as well as the handle on the dust bin) features a rubberized material geared toward making it easy to maneuver the vacuum – while also reducing the risk of dropping the dust bin once it’s discharged.

When vacuuming in Carpet mode, the Speed turns on a set of useful LED lights – on the handle and the nozzle – which helped us spot any missed debris. Featuring five LED lights to the right and left of the nozzle (for a total of 10), it’s almost possible to use the Speed as a flashlight – or vacuum with the lights off, if that’s your sort of thing.

Handling

Like any good vacuum, Shark’s Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed maneuvers and glides so smoothly that reaching those hard-to-vacuum areas (such as under the coffee table, behind the couch, etc.) is done with ease. When fully-assembled, the unit’s handle rested comfortably in our hand during use, never feeling as if it wanted to either click back into its upright state or go crashing to the floor. Furthermore, releasing the handle from its locked position required a simple step on the foot symbol printed on the vacuum’s base before you pull it toward yourself. While free from the base, the handle can be extended to clean drapes or other high-up areas.

Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed (NV681)
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The dust bin holds 0.9 liters of debris and releasing it requires nothing more than a simple press of a button on the body of the Speed. Once removed, a simple push of a button near the bin’s top opens it, allowing for easy disposal in a trash can or bag – on paper, that is. During our time with the Speed, we didn’t find it terribly hard to empty the bin but like any vacuum, it’s a bit hard to avoid getting an entire bin of dust (or in our case, rice) into a trash can or bag without completely submerging the dust bin itself.

Making use of the Speed’s versatility is easily one of the model’s bright spots. Removing the vacuum’s wand is done easily at the press of a release button while inserting attachments need little else than simply sliding them onto the rig – and hearing them click on, of course. Once released, the Speed’s hose extends and retracts with ease which help when trying to reach those pesky ceiling cobwebs or for getting behind cabinets, under chairs, on drapes, etc. Though the fully constructed vacuum boasts the ability to easily slide under chairs or credenzas, removing the wand and using it by itself allows it to get to those incredibly hard to reach areas.

Perhaps the lone gripe we had with the design of the Speed was the placement of the power-on button, which was located on top of the waste container. While the power button’s position allows the vacuum to maintain its flexibility, we couldn’t help but think some people may grow frustrated having to bend down to push the button so often.

Vacuum performance

Aesthetics and comfort aside, a vacuum’s true barometer is how well the thing actually cleans. In the case of Shark’s Speed, it consistently performed admirably — that is, when pushed forward. During our tests — of which we poured 100 grams of salt, potting soil, flour, rice, and oatmeal onto our various surfaces — the Speed routinely vacuumed around 97 to 98 percent of the test waste, constantly leaving each surface mostly clean.

Versatile, packed with attachments, and incredibly easy to handle, the Speed is a fantastic all-in-one vacuum.

On both carpeted and hard surfaces, the Speed excelled at quickly sucking up the oatmeal, rice, potting soil, flour, and salt. After vacuuming for no longer than a minute, it proved capable of cleaning up nearly the entire 100-gram mess of each sample. Of the tested waste materials, the potting soil proved the to be the most difficult for the Speed to completely clean, leaving a touch more behind than it did the others. All told, however, it still managed to clean a large majority of each sample we tested.

Though it scored high marks in terms of its proficiency vacuuming stubborn messes, the Speed didn’t do so well while being pulled backward. Nearly flawless when pushed forward, any mess on a carpet or hard surface was merely pushed into a pile behind the vacuum when it traveled back. Additionally, it’s hard to notice when the Speed’s doing this until it’s pushed forward again — the unit sort of blocks the mess, which essentially makes you think it’s working before having those hopes dashed as soon as it’s pushed forward again.

While it didn’t necessarily muck things up too bad on carpet, this flaw was a bit of a pain while we tested the Speed on harder surfaces. Instead of merely pushing a pile of debris a few inches away from the vacuum, the Speed tended to scatter some waste (i.e. salt, rice, potting soil) into an even bigger mess than it already was.

Warranty information

Shark offers owners of its vacuums a variety of warranty coverage options, ranging from one-, two-, five-, seven-, and 10-year warranties, along with a VIP Limited Lifetime Warranty. Each option boasts the stipulation that people must buy the vacuum via Shark’s website to become eligible to add these warranties to their product.

Our Take

Compared to Dyson’s steep, $600 V8, the mere $300 price tag for Shark’s Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed feels like pocket change. Sure, it’s still not the cheapest vacuum on the market but for its cleaning performance and range of attachments, it’s well worth the entry fee. Several of the attachments proved to be more useful than gimmicky, and the Speed is capable of handling carpet and hardwood floors with ease. In other words, it’s a reliable vacuum that won’t have you back in the market for a new model for a long time.

What are the alternatives?

The Dyson Ball series has similar steering capabilities and lots of attachments. The Small version is only 12 pounds but lacks some of the attachments that the larger, 19-pound pet version has. Both are more expensive by $75 or more on Amazon.

Will it last?

Manufactured primarily out of sturdy plastic – save its comfortable gripping on its main handle and on top of the waste bin – Shark’s Speed looks like a vacuum fit for the long haul. Capable of handling the normal wear and tear like a pro – as it should for $300 – the only real risk of sustaining damage would come down to how well you treat it. Don’t suck up pennies and other vacuuming no-nos, and it should be pretty durable.

Should you buy it?

A solid vacuum across the board, the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed packs a lot of bang for a decent amount of buck. As mentioned previously, it’s not as expensive as other industry leaders but does a great job making owners feel comfortable with the price tag. Versatile, packed with attachments, and incredibly easy to handle, the Speed is a fantastic all-in-one vacuum that’ll have you wondering how it doesn’t pack the same name recognition as Dyson or Hoover. If $300 doesn’t steer you away, this is the vacuum you absolutely want in your house-cleaning arsenal.

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