Shark Stratos Vacuum Review
Avg. consumer rating = 93/100
Move over Vertex. The Shark Stratos is the new kid on the block and this feature-rich vacuum also includes odor neutralizer technology. The Stratos sports two brushrolls, anti-wrap technology, a powered lift-away pod, HEPA-level air filtration, LED headlights and more. This is a large, full size upright so it is a bit on the hefty side, but it is also powerful. In this review we run it through a host of tests including carpet pickup, hard floor pickup, noise level, hair tangling, edge cleaning, etc.
|Good pickup on carpet||Loud|
|Good pickup on hard floors||A bit on the heavy side|
|Powered Lift-Away feature||Sluggish movement on hard floors|
|Reusable, rinsable filters||Movement on deep pile carpet is an effort|
|HEPA level air filtration||Average tool set|
|Self-cleaning brushroll limits tangling|
|Good on large debris|
|Controls at your finger tips|
|Good edge cleaning|
|Best for...||Hard Floors & Carpet|
|Pet Hair Features||Yes|
|Approx. Weight||16.4 lbs|
|HEPA Level Filtration||Yes|
|Power Cord Length||30 ft|
|Motor Driven Brushbar||Yes|
Disclosure: We approached Shark and requested the Stratos so we could do a review. Shark sent one over. Please note that this in no way affects our review.
BASIC OR PREMIUM SHARK UPRIGHT?
Shark sells a host of upright vacuums ranging from very basic units to more powerful machines with many features. Which ones are best? Ultimately, the right vacuum is the one that meets your cleaning needs while fitting your budget.
Some examples of the more basic and affordable Shark uprights include the NV360, the NV501, and the NV70. The premier uprights include the likes of the APEX, the Vertex, and the Stratos. These more expensive vacuums are more versatile and powerful, and are better for larger, more difficult cleaning jobs.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
We have the Shark Stratos model AZ3002 and it came with the following:
- Stratos upright vacuum (with all filters)
- Odor neutralizer cartridge
- Upholstery tool
- Crevice tool
- Self-cleaning pet power brush
- Operating manual
We found over 600 owner ratings online and they are provided in the table below. We applied a weighted average to the figures to get an overall score or 93/100 for the vacuum. This is a very good score. We have noticed however that a significant number of owner ratings are the result of a free product provided in return for a review. This may or may not affect the score.
|Amazon||4.6 stars out of 5||32|
|Bed, Bath & Beyond||4.8 stars out of 5||340|
|Best Buy||4.9 stars out of 5||25|
|Walmart||4.5 stars out of 5||287|
For a premium vacuum the tool set is a bit underwhelming. They are all functional and they work but three tools is kind of the minimum to cover different cleaning tasks and we had hoped there would be more. In addition, the tools are all compression fit – meaning they are pushed on and pulled off the end of the handle or wand. The better system uses a button with the tools clicking securely into place.
The upholstery tool and crevice tool are generic but the self-cleaning pet power brush is worth further discussion. This tool, despite the word “power” in the name, is actually run by vacuum suction. There is no motor. It has a turbine that spins the brushroll. The brushroll has fins and is designed to limit hair wrap. We tested the tool in the video below and found that it works fairly well.
Suction driven tools often bog down but in this case there seems to be so much suction driving the brushroll that the tool operated just fine.
There is also space on the back of the vacuum to store 2 tools (see image below).
ODOR NEUTRALIZER TECHNOLOGY
Shark says that Odor Neutralizer Technology “guards against bad odors inside your vacuum”. Our vacuum came with one odor cartridge. It installs easily in the cleaner head. It also has an intensity setting so if you want more odor neutralizing you can crank it up. If you want less you can turn it down. In addition, the vacuum operates just fine without the odor cartridge, but the odor dial cover must be installed for the vacuum to run.
Some folks have asked if odor cartridges with different scents are available. I checked out Shark and was unable to find anything other than the one generic odor cartridge. If this technology proves to be popular I would not be surprised if a wider array of scents become available.
You can smell the scent of the odor cartridge while you are vacuuming. You can also smell it for quite a while after you have finished cleaning. We don’t have pets or any real need for odor neutralization so for us the feature really isn’t necessary, but it may be in some busier households. Also continued use of the same vacuum may build up an odor so the cartridge may be helpful there as well.
Probably the most striking thing about the cleaner head is that it has two brushrolls (something Shark calls DuoClean technology). There is a soft brushroll at the front of the cleaner head and a main brushroll behind it (center of the cleaner head). The main brushroll has fins and some half-rows of bristles. It is designed to be self-cleaning (resistant to hair/thread/string tangle). We test all of these features in the cleaning tests section below.
There is also a row of 5 LED lights positioned at the front of the cleaner head. This is a nice feature and is useful when vacuuming in darker corners or other dimly lit areas. The LED lights turn on when the vacuum is on.
There are several controls at your fingertips on the vacuum handle. There is a vacuum power on/off button as well as a floor settings slider. The floor settings slider includes “Hard Floor”, “Carpet / Low Pile”, and “Thick Carpet / Area Rugs”. These settings actually regulate a suction opening on the front of the handle. In “Hard Floor” mode no suction is bled off through the suction opening so the cleaner head has full suction power. In “Carpet / Low Pile” mode some suction is bled off, and in “Thick Carpet / Area Rugs” mode the most suction is bled off (leaving the least suction at the cleaner head).
Other key controls include a handle release tab, a wand release tab, a powered lift-away button, and a dust cup release button. These are all labelled and easy to use.
The lift-away feature allows you to “lift away” and carry the dust canister and motor assembly. You carry this assembly with one hand while using the hose/wand/tools/etc with the other hand. It is a very good features and it increases the versatility of the vacuum substantially.
Lift-away technology comes in two formats: Normal Lift-Away and Powered Lift Away. The Stratos has powered lift-away. This means there is power to the end of the handle and the wand (normal lift-away has no power at the end of handle or wand). The Stratos does not come with a powered tool so it doesn’t really help with this, but you can use the powered cleaner head. This is a good configuration if you need to get under low furniture. See image below.
The hose on this machine is quite short but that is typical of units with the Lift-Away feature. We measured the power cord at 30 feet. This is a respectable length. Anything less than 30 feet tends to limit your ability to clean a room without having to search for another electrical outlet and, in our experience, this almost always draws criticism from owners.
It’s always nice to see a power cord of 35 feet (like the Dyson Ball Animal 3) but 30 feet or more is ok in our books.
WEIGHT & MANEUVERABILITY
We weighed the vacuum at 16.44 lbs although most literature puts it at about 16.7 lbs. In either case it is a little on the heavy side – but not too bad. Compared to many Dyson uprights it is reasonable. For example, both the Dyson Ball Animal 2 and the Dyson Ball Animal 3 are over 17lbs.
In terms of movement, we found that the Stratos moved quite well on our low pile carpet. The two spinning brushrolls pull the machine forward which helps, but it takes extra effort on the pullback. We also found that the vacuum turned quite well on our low pile carpet. The only mobility issue we had on our low pile carpet was that the vacuum feels a little heavy and is a bit of a workout for longer cleaning jobs.
The vacuum still felt a little heavy on our hard flooring. Typically uprights move a lot easier on a hard floor but with the Stratos you can still feel the heft of the vacuum and movement is a little sluggish. Perhaps it is due to the brushrolls no longer pulling the vacuum along (on carpet the brushrolls grip the carpet whereas this doesn’t happen on a hard surface). In any case, moving the vacuum on a hard floor is still a bit of a chore.
We also tested the vacuum on deep pile carpet (1-inch deep pile). Pickup was good and everything worked ok but, movement wasn’t that easy and it required some muscle to move the machine around.
The Stratos has 2 pre-motor filters and 1 post motor filter. The pre-motor filters sit under the dust canister (you remove the dust canister to access them). There is a foam pre-motor filter and a felt pre-motor filter. Both are rinsable in water and reusable. Shark says you should clean them monthly.
The post-motor filter is a HEPA filter. It can be found behind a panel on the bottom front of the vacuum. This filter is also rinsable in water and Shark says you should clean it about once per year.
The vacuum has a sealed system which means that no unfiltered air escapes the vacuum while you are vacuuming. All the air entering the vacuum is passed through the filters before leaving the vacuum. This is a key feature if you want proper air filtration. Shark sometimes refers to a HEPA filter and a sealed system as “Anti-allergen complete seal”.
The dust canister is quite large and should hold a fair bit of debris before it needs to be emptied. This is a nice feature, especially when doing larger cleaning jobs.
Shark indicates that this is an “Anti-wrap” dust canister and it is designed to eject all debris without you ever having to touch it. We haven’t seen this particular feature before and I suppose “Anti-wrap” in this case means hair/string/thread doesn’t get tangled up in the dust cup and hard to remove. We tried it and while debris does indeed fall out of the canister easier than most, we still had to pull some out by hand. So it helps, but it isn’t perfect.
NOISE LEVEL TEST
We performed a noise test by placing a digital noise level meter 3 ft in front of the cleaner head on low pile carpet and turning the vacuum on (and engaging the brushroll). The meter picks up the maximum decibel level over a 10 second period.
We’ve been doing this test for years and have lots of data on uprights. Following is a sample table that includes the Stratos results:
||Peak Noise Level (decibels)
|Shark Pet Pro ZU62||74.7|
|Shark TruePet NV752||75.2|
|Dyson Ball Animal 3||75.7|
|Shark APEX AZ1002||76.1|
|Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal||76.2|
|Shark Navigator ZU561||77.6|
|Dyson Ball Animal 2||78.1|
|Hoover ONEPWR Evolve (in Max power)||78.3|
As you can see the Stratos is a fairly loud vacuum cleaner.
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Carpet - low pile carpet, fine/small/medium size debris
We created our own debris of ground cheerios, chili flakes, flax seeds and split green peas. This is designed to mimic fine/small/medium size debris. The debris is then weighed with a very sensitive scale and it is placed in a 5 ft long line on low pile carpet. The vacuum is passed over it (10-15 second pass) and the percentage pickup is determined. In this test the floor setting was “Carpet / Low Pile”.
We calculated pickup at 99.7%. This is a very good result. For some perspective, in this test we have seen other upright results vary from 95/96% up to the more rare 99.9+%
Hard Floor – tile, fine/small/medium size debris
We repeated the same test as above but on a hard floor (tile). The floor setting was “Hard Floor”.
The vacuum performed flawlessly in this test and there was no discernible debris left behind whatsoever.
Carpet - low pile carpet, large debris
In this test we placed fruit loops on low pile carpet to see how the vacuum would handle the larger debris. The floor setting was “Carpet / Low Pile”.
This is a good result. It isn’t perfect but we’ve seen many vacuums that have a tendency to push the fruit loops forward thereby reducing pickup. The soft brushroll at the front of the cleaner head helped with large debris pickup in this test.
Hair – low pile carpet, human and pet hair
We placed long black human hair and short white pet hair on low pile carpet and ran the vacuum over it. This is not a pickup test but rather a test to see the level of tangling in the brushroll.
While there was still some tangling, there is no doubt that the self-cleaning brushroll helped to reduce tangling. The remaining hair on the main brushroll was easily pulled off. We’ve done this test on vacuums without anti-tangle technology or self-cleaning brushrolls and it always results in substantially more hair tangle.
Edge Cleaning – low pile carpet, chili flakes
Chili flakes were placed up tight along the baseboard of a wall and the vacuum is run up tight against the wall to see how much of the chili flakes it will pick up. A good result is when all of the chili flakes are removed. A poor result is when there is a swath of chili flakes left against the wall.
The Stratos performed very well in the edge cleaning test.
The Shark Stratos carries a 5-year warranty.
The Stratos performed very well in our cleaning tests. It is a capable vacuum on hard flooring, carpet, hair, and edges. The Powered Lift-Away adds all sorts of cleaning versatility and the vacuum is also very powerful.
The Odor Neutralizer Technology isn’t something we need much so it’s hard to determine its usefulness. You can smell that it is working but it may be more beneficial in some instances than others.
The downside of the Stratos is that it feels hefty and while overall movement isn't bad, it sometimes isn't easy and it requires some muscle. The unit moves fairly well on low pile carpet but requires more effort on deep pile carpet, and while movement was fair on hard flooring, it was still a little more difficult than expected. The other potential issue for some people may be that the vacuum is rather loud.
So, if you don’t mind the muscle needed to move the Stratos on some flooring, and if noise isn’t that big a deal, then this powerful vacuum provides excellent cleaning ability and cleaning versatility.
See Stratos pricing at Shark.com
See Stratos pricing at Amazon.com
The manual is provided in English, Spanish and French. It covers assembly, Odor Neutralizer Technology, floor settings, PoweredLift-Away Technology, emptying the dust canister, cleaning the filters, maintenance, troubleshooting, registering your vacuum, and warranty. You can see a copy of the manual here: Shark Stratos Manual
Nigel Russco has been reviewing and testing vacuums for over 14 years. He is a professional engineer and uses his review platforms to help consumers determine which vacuum cleaners are the best for their cleaning needs. Follow Nigel on facebook or view his vacuum review videos on the Vacuum Cleaner Advisor YouTube Channel.