Shark ZU561 Navigator Upright Vacuum Review

We are excited to start off reviewing the brand new Shark Navigator Lift Away, Zero M model number ZU561. We’ve been using the old Shark Navigator Lift Away for a long time and we think they’re one of, if not the best, vacuums in their price range and we can’t wait to see what’s changed with the new Zero M versions.

Let’s start off with the main difference between the old and new versions. The brand new Zero M technology, which we assume stands for zero maintenance. Basically, it’s a completely redesigned brush roll system which uses little protrusions to actively remove pet hair and other materials that start to wind around the brush roll. We tried our best to get it wrapped in pet hair with our tests and it never did, while the old style navigator did in fact get wrapped in hair.

So even though it was a limited test, we would have to say that the Zero M really works and is therefore yet another game-changing technology from Shark, which solves a pretty nasty and totally universal problem. So that’s a reason to upgrade from your old Navigator right there.

Like the older version, it’s a sealed system with HEPA filtration and so the Shark Navigators remain one of the cheapest sealed HEPA systems on the market as most vacuums in its price range are leaky, even if they do have HEPA filters. We found its weight to be nearly identical, lighter than the NV355, for example, but just about a pound heavier than the NV352, but it had the same ultra-lightweight feel as well as the exact same swivel steering mechanism.

We’ll get to the power and suction test in a minute, but before we do, we should talk about the cleaning ability. On carpet, it has the same very good agitation and deep cleaning ability as the previous generation. After testing cordless vacuums for the last few weeks, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a good deep cleaning vacuum for carpets. It performed well with pet hair and larger debris up to a certain limit, even seeming to do a little bit better than the old Navigator in the big mess test, but did require the easy to access hose to get to the extra large debris.

For hard floors, like the previous generation, you flip a switch which slows the brush roll and it does very good. And here is where the other main difference between the Zero M and older Navigators shows up. The ZU561 has a way better seal on floors meaning that it has more airflow to suck up more stuff. That’s because they added a little strip on the bottom of the floor nozzle which keeps it sealed to the floor on the back. You can see how much longer it took the older NV352 to pick up the debris from the crevice pick up test. This also means that the newer version can pick up things, like sand, which the older version struggled with so that’s a very nice upgrade.

The Shark Navigators have never been that great with extra-large debris on hard floors and require the wand for most jobs and that doesn’t seem to have changed with the new Zero M version. We did have to use the wand to get anything over a certain size with hard floors.

We wanted to get into the superior performance of the new ZU561 before we got to the airflow and suction tests since the new Zero M navigators actually have a slightly smaller motor than the older version. For example, we measured the suction of the ZU561 at 78 inches of water lift and at 81 on the older version. Either way, it’s very high but there was a decrease with the Zero M. Also, with the airflow numbers, you can see a very slight decrease from the older version to the newer version. I’m guessing that Shark figured that a smaller motor would be more than enough power considering the new floor nozzle design and based on what we saw on the tests we have to agree.

The attachment set was better than average as it included a turbo brush which we love for stairs and pet hair, a combo crevice tool dusting brush, a combo upholstery tool with a non-tangle brush, and an on-board tool holder. The lift away feature was the same meaning you can detach the canister from the floor nozzle to use in a variety of suction only applications. But as with the previous version, it’s not a powered lift away meaning you can’t attach the wand to the floor nozzle like you can with the more expensive powered lift aways, like the new APEX which we’ll be reviewing in a few days.

The adjustable suction design was changed slightly but it’s basically the same. The hose was changed. It seemed a bit more sturdy than the previous models but not as sturdy as the premium models like the APEX. Also, the bins are now removed by a release switch as opposed to the clunky, locking levers of the previous models. The bins, which are slightly redesigned, have the same easy to empty release in a very open layout which makes it very easy to keep clean.

Shark ZU561 Navigator Upright Vacuum Review

So the new Zero M Shark Navigator is a major upgrade from the previous generations as the Zero M technology is something that has the potential to change the whole industry as it eliminates all the tedious cleaning of hair on the brush roll, an age-old problem which seems to finally have been solved. The performance on hard floors is much improved without sacrificing the lightweight and maneuverability that made the Shark Navigators one of the best-selling vacuums of recent years.

2018-12-06T20:08:39+00:00