The Dyson DC41 Animal (Est. $550) is consistently recognized as a top performer in professional tests. We also read thousands of positive owner-written reviews across multiple sites like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com and Target.com. With Dyson's well-known ball technology -- which experts say really works -- the Dyson DC41 is easy to navigate around chair legs and other furniture obstacles. Beyond its maneuverability, its powerful suction removes dirt and stubborn pet hair from both bare floors and carpets.
The Dyson DC41 Animal is included in the thorough vacuum cleaner testing programs at both ConsumerReports.org and Which? magazine. Editors at Wired magazine compare the DC41 Animal in a head-to-head test against three other vacuum cleaners. Editors say, "The oversize ball hinge works as advertised, allowing the vac to move nimbly in any direction." They also point out that this Dyson model includes 12 cyclones, which generate the centrifugal force that removes particles from the air as it's sucked into the container. This technology lightens the load on the filter by removing more particles before they reach the HEPA filter, allowing the HEPA filter to focus on removing tinier allergens.
Editors at Wired say the DC41 is, "… as agile as a nimble dragonfly, which it resembles," a reference to the sophisticated look of the Dyson. The filters are washable and should be cleaned approximately every three months, which means there are no ongoing costs of ownership with this model -- somewhat negating the sting of its relatively high initial price tag.
However, the Dyson doesn't skimp on accessories, including a mini power brush head for upholstery that tackles stubborn, ground-in pet hair. There's also a dusting brush and debris nozzle combination tool, and a tool designed for use on stairs. Thanks to the Dyson DC41 Animal's lightweight, 17.4-pound design and long 35-foot cord, users say it's easy to use on stairs.
Owners posting feedback to Amazon.com, Walmart.com and other review websites praise the Dyson DC41 Animal's exceptional performance, but some complain that the cord isn't retractable. There are also a few complaints that it doesn't feel sturdy. Among the customer service issues, most users are pleased with the outcome of working with Dyson's customer service department.
For about half the price, depending upon the package, the Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away ($260) offers comparable performance to the Dyson DC41 Animal. It's also more versatile than the Dyson, doubling as a canister vacuum simply by lifting the canister unit out of the main unit. In one professional test by a popular consumer testing organization, the Shark Rotator gets a higher overall score than the Dyson DC41 Animal, although it earns a lower rating for pet-hair performance. Several owners posting to sites like Kohls.com and Target.com say they've owned Dyson models in the past, or have considered purchasing Dyson models, and feel that the Shark is a better buy.
Owners say that both the Dyson DC41 Animal and Shark Rotator are ultra-quiet. Users even report that their cats, which normally take off when the vacuum cleaner is turned on, don't seem to notice when these machines are running.
Editors at CNET compare the Shark Rotator NV352 and the Dyson DC41 Animal in direct, head-to-head testing. Editors say the Shark doesn't perform quite as well as the Dyson in some tests, but it's still an adequate performer and it offers incredible value considering its low price. "There's bound to be a brush for nearly every home vacuuming situation. That's quite a feat for a $200 machine," editors say. Attachments include a powered pet brush, a straight suction nozzle, two different brushes, one with an angled design, and a crevice tool.
Like the Dyson DC41 Animal, the Shark Rotator offers HEPA filtration with washable, lifetime filters. Both are backed by a five-year warranty, but the Dyson's 35-foot cord is longer than the Shark's 30-foot cord. Both upright vacuums require manual cord rewind, with onboard storage for the wrapped cords. If you're looking for versatile cleaning options, or you're simply willing to sacrifice a little performance for the price, the Shark Rotator Lift-Away is a strong contender to consider.
If you're looking for a bagless upright vacuum cleaner for under $200, there are a few options available. When it comes to performance, however, it's tough to beat the Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV350 (Est. $180) . The NV350 also doubles as a canister vacuum using the Shark's Lift-Away process to simply detach it from the main vacuum unit.
The NV350 has a 12.5-inch cleaning path, which is narrow compared to many upright vacuum cleaners. However, some owners posting feedback to sites like Amazon.com and Walmart.com say the narrow power head just adds to this model's exceptional maneuverability. It's also only an inch smaller than the top-rated Dyson DC41 Animal (Est. $550) with its 13.5-inch cleaning path.
When it comes to performance, the Shark NV350 gets top marks, with the NV350 getting slightly lower ratings for noise in professional tests. However, owners rave about its quiet operation.
Another option among less-expensive bagless upright vacuum cleaners is the Hoover T-Series WindTunnel Rewind Plus ($100) . It's about half the price of the Shark Rotator models, but there are some trade-offs. The Hoover scores better in one test conducted by a popular consumer magazine, earning better ratings for pet-hair pickup, but owners posting reviews to Amazon.com, Walmart.com and BestBuy.com gripe about belts that constantly slip off or break, which are a pain to replace.
The Hoover WindTunnel also has washable HEPA filters, but it doesn't convert to a canister vacuum, and it doesn't compare in the attachment department. The Shark Navigator NV350 comes with a pet power brush, a dusting brush, an extra-long 24-inch crevice tool as well as a standard crevice tool, and a dusting brush. However, it's worth mentioning that the Shark Navigator NV350 series is sold under multiple model numbers, ranging between NV351 and NV356. The models are identical in form and function, but include different attachment packages based on the retailer. Additionally, the original NV350, sold only through Shark's website, has a 30-foot power cord while those sold by other retailers have a 25-foot cord.
In comparison, the Hoover WindTunnel includes a crevice tool, powered hand tool, extension wand and combination upholstery tool/dusting brush. While the WindTunnel offers a good number of versatile attachments compared to some bagless upright vacuum cleaners, it still falls short of the Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV350's versatile offerings.
Editors at Good Housekeeping say the lack of a brushroll shut-off is a big problem with the Hoover WindTunnel, causing dust and debris to scatter across the floor rather than get sucked up into the vacuum. It has a longer 27-foot cord that is retractable, but owners say the retraction function stops functioning after just a few uses. The dirt cup is on the small side, owners say, and pet fur tends to accumulate and get stuck in the bottom of the cup, requiring manual cleaning or using your fingers to remove the packed-in fur. There are other durability concerns, such as detached or malfunctioning power cords, failed motors and loss of suction. The Hoover WindTunnel is backed by a two-year warranty, but owners say dealing with the customer service department is a hassle. In many cases, owners must take their vacuums to an authorized service repair center, the closest of which can be more than 100 miles away for some owners.
At the same price point as the Hoover, the Bissell CleanView with OnePass 9595 ($100) offers comparable performance along with HEPA filtration for allergen reduction. It's not included in professional tests, but nearly 480 owners weigh in with feedback at Amazon.com. The Bissell features a unique brush design that reaches deeper into carpet pile to shake out ground-in dust and dirt for a more thorough clean with a single pass.
The Bissell boasts an easy-empty dirt canister, with a push-button release similar to most bagless upright vacuum cleaners. It includes a TurboBrush tool, a crevice tool, extension wand, dusting brush and a hose that expands to 6 feet long for greater reach. Its lifetime HEPA filters are washable, like the Hoover and Shark models, and it's backed by a two-year warranty.
Owners love its powerful suction and washable filter, although one owner says the filter feels pretty flimsy and she thinks it will require replacing during the lifetime of the vacuum. Several owners say it's not ideal for fine dust particles, which may clog the hose and the filter. One user eventually called customer service, who told him the dust he was vacuuming was too fine and would cause the filter to clog. To rectify this issue, they suggested he wash the filter after every use.
Most owners love this vacuum, however, praising its lightweight, 16-pound design, easy transition between flooring types and quiet operation.