Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away Review
Small and maneuverable, but feels cheap and has a hard time cleaning carpets
Despite what you may have heard on a late night infomercial, the $170 Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away has subpar cleaning performance, especially on carpets, and feels cheaply built. Though it's more compact than many of its competitors, that doesn't excuse how poorly it picks up dirt and debris and how difficult it can be to wrangle around the house. We expected a lot more from a vacuum that costs this much.
Design & Usability
Though the NV352 Navigator Lift-Away has some thoughtful features, the dirt holder is especially clunky, and the pet brush kept falling apart.
The Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away is a compact upright vacuum with a removable handle that doubles as an extension wand. It's especially unique in that the top half of the vacuum can detach from the floor brush for portable cleaning. It weighs just under 14 pounds, too, easily gliding across bare floors and short carpets. It doesn't offer any manual carpet height adjustment, though, so it can get a little bogged down in high-pile rugs. Even after proper assembly, the handle still had some play where it was supposed to connect to the cleaner, giving the appearance of flimsiness. Adding to that appearance: a single, red, three-position rocker switch that controls whether the vacuum is on and whether the brushroll is powered. Even when it's powered on, the brushroll only activates automatically when the vacuum is lowered from the stored position.
The 24-foot power cord can be wrapped up on board the unit. The cord hook at the top of the handle is a nice touch that keeps things out of the way while cleaning. There's no elegance to the dirt holder, though, which snaps onto the vacuum body with two plastic hooks on either side. They require some effort to get unlatched, and constantly felt like they were in danger of snapping off. Once removed, the dirt holder can be opened at both the bottom and top. The NV352 Navigator Lift-Away has three filters—two pre-filters and one exhaust filter—offering allergen filtration. Shark claims they're "lifetime filters," requiring cleaning only every three months... we're not sure if that's a mark of optimism, or a prediction of sudden demise for the vacuum itself.
Features & Performance
Shark advertises the Navigator as "never losing suction." That may be true, but it never had much suction to begin with.
The Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away's overall cleaning performance was poor, despite the motorized brushroll and cyclonic suction. Debris pickup was awful, long carpet performance was abysmal, and we'd ignore the five-second rule if we dropped food on any bare floors in this Shark's charge. Short carpet wasn't much better, and hardwood floors ended up only passably clean, at best. As far as debris pickup on hardwood floors, this vacuum is too weak to lift anything very heavy, pushing most items around, rather than sucking them up.
A removable hose that allows for 80 inches of extended cleaning may be the Shark's greatest feature. When you're finished with the hose, it firmly snaps back into the cleaner body, doubling as the handle. The hose can also be used when the main vacuum unit is detached from the floor brush.
Altogether, the NV352 Navigator Lift-Away comes with four tools. You've got a nearly three-foot long crevice tool for hard-to-reach places, a regular crevice tool for getting between sofa cushions and the like, an upholstery brush for delicate surfaces, and a turbine-powered pet brush. The pet brush (which turned out to be the only one of these four tools that didn't work well) is designed to come apart for easy cleaning; what this translates to for consumers is that it repeatedly disassembles itself, driving you crazy. Even when properly working, it preferred to wrap pet hair around the brush rather than send it into the dirt chamber.
Though the Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away makes a lot of promises, many of them on late-night television, it largely fails to deliver. The lightweight and maneuverable vacuum has a very ergonomically-friendly extension wand, but the whole setup gave the impression that it was poorly constructed from inexpensive materials. This was especially apparent when emptying the contents of the twice-latched dirt holder, or pushing it with a rickety handle. It barely lifted any dirt from long carpet, and performance on short carpets and bare floors lagged behind other models.
Though it's small, at $170 for a new Navigator Lift-Off, it's in the same price class as many better vacuums, and therefore such poor performance is unacceptable.
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