Some years back, we had just moved into an enormous, 2800 square foot house in California--in many respects, a middle class dream home, with a 9 1/2 feet deep heated inground pool. This was twice the size of our previous house, and we needed a better vacuum cleaner. A couple from church we knew were trying desperately to get out of their financial hole, and as a favor, we let him come over and do the sales pitch on a Kirby vacuum cleaner.
If you have ever owned one, you know that Kirby's are solid, industrial grade vacuum cleaners. And they are priced accordingly. I was feeling pretty darn rich at the time, so I spent the $1000 to buy it. We used that vacuum cleaner for six years in that house, and for another five years in our house in Boise, after we left California. At our new house in the mountains, the Kirby had one great failing: it was so heavy that it was beginning to make us nervous when it went over the tiles that make up most of our current house. So we reluctantly sold it (even though it still worked great) and bought a typical consumer bag vacuum cleaner--something that only cost $100 or so, and like most vacuum cleaners in that range, it never really worked all that well, and then gave up the ghost after a couple of years, and we bought another one.
Of course, none of the cheap vacuum cleaners are spectacular, and a year or so ago, we bought a Hoover Wind Tunnel. My wife was interested in one of those Dyson vacuum cleaners, which are very cleverly marketed--but by that point, I was a state employee, and she had the good sense to not spend the pretty hefty money required for the Dyson. The Hoover Wind Tunnel is a bagless machine, and it worked pretty well--but it still has two serious defects:
1. It does not pick up a lot of small pieces, especially on the tile floors.
2. It often seems to throw dust behind the vacuum cleaner, for no apparent reason.
So I started doing some digging, and I found that the Shark vacuum cleaner was enjoying similarly positive reviews to the Dyson, and at a much more reasonable price. Worse, some of the complaints about Dyson warranty repair made me wonder if the warranty was worth much.
We bought a Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional NV356, largely because the next step down, the NV22, seemed to have a small number of very serious complaints from consumers at Amazon, while the NV356, with similarly high average reviews, did not have any of the very serious complaints. It seems like spending an extra $50 was probably worth it.
My wife had vacuumed the family room and kitchen on Thursday with the Hoover. While we had not vacuumed the dining room and living room recently enough to remember exactly when, they were not particularly dirty. So you can imagine my surprise when we did those four rooms with the Shark.
Ooooh! Yes, we should have named the cat "Dander." But look at how much the Hoover failed to get, but the Shark picked up! The Shark is aptly named; it has powerful suction, indeed, so much that on carpet, you can actually feel it being somewhat propelled forward by the suction.
Some other interesting aspects of it: they have a single switch that controls on, off, and whether you are on hard floors or carpet. It turns out that at least some of why stuff was not being picked up by the Hoover, or was being thrown behind it, appears to be that the carpet beater parts of the Hoover's head grabbed stuff from hard floors and threw it. On carpet, small particles and dust are sufficiently anchored that this is not a problem, but on hard floors, they just go flying. Switching the Shark from carpet to hard floor seems to solve this problem.
One of the selling points of the Dyson Ball models is that they are apparently easier to maneuver than conventional vacuum cleaners. The Shark seems to have a pivoting or steering mechanism that while not as elegant looking as Dyson's spherical approach, works very well indeed--much better than conventional vacuum cleaners.
A criticism of some reviewers of the Shark Navigator was how small the cleaning head is. Indeed, it is very narrow compared to most other vacuums. In practice, this is not a big problem, and it is actually something of an advantage. One pass is all it takes on carpet, and the narrower head means that I can get into places that are ordinarily difficult to reach. The head also pulls up dirt right to the front of the head--something that many other vacuums that I have owned can't do.