All of the deep vacuum cleaners were able to clear messes during our tests, but none cleaned as consistently and quickly as the Shark APEX DuoClean Powered Lift-Away. While the competition was flinging messes out of the way, especially on hardwood flooring, the APEX was quickly cleaning them up. We used kitty litter, flour and breakfast cereal to replicate debris of different shapes and sizes that accumulates in a typical home. APEX was an impressive triple threat – cleaning efficiently on hard surfaces as well as low-profile and medium-profile carpeting.
This vacuum cleaner is different from the others because of its soft roller, right on the front of the cleaning head, which helps draw messes into the path of suction rather than scattering them the way many traditional bristled brushrolls do. We found it did a good job regardless of the type of mess or surface, but you can use controls on the handle to optimize for hard floor, low carpet or thick carpet.
This is one of Shark's designs that pulls apart to give you a separate canister vacuum for stairs and other hard-to-reach areas. Upholstery, crevice and other tools are stored on the body of this vacuum so they are always within reach when you need them.
Prices vary widely for vacuum cleaners. For our comparison of deep cleaning vacuums, we considered machines with an average price of about $350. This is a sweet spot for good suction but still-reasonable prices. There are many vacuums that have somewhat better suction at dramatically higher prices. There are also units with lower prices with much less cleaning power. APEX has that perfect balance of good suction at a reasonable price. It is slightly above the average price of the ones we compared, but it is dramatically better at cleaning than most of them, on many different surfaces.
One of the few drawbacks with this machine is a relatively small, 10-inch cleaning path. Since it cleans most surfaces in very few passes, it will make up for not cleaning as wide a swath as some units. If you prefer a wider cleaning path, consider the Hoover Platinum Collection Bagged Upright.
Maneuverability was another downfall. The smooth-swiveling head was great for getting around table legs, but APEX did not lay as flat as some machines, making vacuuming under low-slung tables difficult. Its body is thicker than many of the bagged models, which are flat enough to reach far under a bed, cleaning the whole way, even when they are lying almost flat against the floor. This Shark has the hose and the tools to help it clean under a bed, too, but sometimes it is nice not to have to stop and reconfigure.
At least it can help you see under furniture with its powerful headlights so you will know where you have cleaned already. Some competitors have weak headlights or have them positioned too high so they are less helpful. This one clearly illuminates the corners and other dark spots for proper cleaning.
Bagless models like this one are convenient because you don't have to buy replacement bags. There is a potential for a major dust cloud when it’s time to empty it, though. There are ways to lessen the impact, but this probably isn’t the best bet for those with allergies. You don’t have to empty it often because it has a fairly large dust bin.
The APEX has the longest warranty of any vacuum we considered with seven years of coverage. Shark also offers lots of customer support options if you have any questions.
The Shark APEX DuoClean Powered Lift-Away seems expensive at first glance, but what you get for the price is very impressive. It cleaned our test messes in fewer passes than any other unit we tested and left us with truly clean floors, whether we were on hardwoods, thick carpet or thin. It also comes with attachments that make cleaning furniture, draperies and really anything else easy.