Story last updated: 24 June 2020
Over the past few years, US brand Shark has been doing its best to take a bite out of Dyson’s slice of the competitive UK vacuum cleaner market.
And it’s certainly made waves. We’ve spotted regular debates on sites such as Mumsnet considering the merits of a Shark over a Dyson, and a recent cordless vacuums feature on Watchdog’s ‘Life Lab’ saw some volunteer families rave about the Shark they tried out.
So is one brand a better bet than the other? We’ve tested pretty much every model there is from both, and have found some brilliant options – and some less exceptional ones – from both brands.
Which one is right for you depends on lots of factors, such as your budget, the type of home you have and what features matter most to you.
Read on to find out more about what each brand brings to the table (or carpet).
Shark vs Dyson: how do they compare?
Cordless vacuum cleaners
Both brands focus on the premium end of the cordless vacs spectrum. Models tend to cost £200 or more, are packed with features and claim to be great for zapping dust.
This is the kind of cordless vacuum that aims to replace your traditional upright, so they will convert to handheld cleaning mode and come with mini tools for tackling crevices and upholstery as standard.
Here’s an overview of key specs compared:
|Dyson cordless vacuums||Shark cordless vacuums|
|Max runtime||1hr 16 mins||2hrs 22 mins (two batteries)|
|Max dust capacity||0.9 litres||1.6 litres|
|Weight||Average (approx. 2.54kg)||Heavy weight (approx. 4.87kg)|
|Length of warranty||Two years||Five years (two for the battery)|
|Key features||Auto-clean mode (top model only), dust-ejecting bin, power trigger, digital display with real-time battery countdown (V11 only)||Flexible hinge, lift-away unit, swappable batteries, LED headlights, dual brush floor head, anti-hair floor head|
You’ll get more flashy features on even the lower-priced Shark cordless models, such as LED headlights to show up stray dirt, a hinged cleaning tube, swappable batteries, and the new anti-hair-wrap feature that detangles the brush bar for you. They have a longer warranty, too.
They tend to be heavier, but some of this weight is in the bulky floor head, so you won’t necessarily feel the effects.
But, on the higher-priced models, Dyson will give you the latest tech, including:
- Digital control display – tells you exactly how much battery life you have left, in minutes, and updates depending on the cleaning mode selected
- Automatic cleaning mode – means you don’t need to worry about switching settings when you move from carpets to hard floors.
It also has a dust-ejection system designed to minimise dust-clouds and a larger capacity, so less trips to the bin.
These features can make a difference to how pleasant the vacuum is to use, but which brand you prefer depends on what your biggest vacuuming bugbears are, the size and shape of your home, and how big your budget is.
Some things to consider are:
- Capacity and emptying – if you have a larger home or are prone to allergies, you may be grateful for a bigger or easier-to-empty bin. If you find your vac easily gets tangled with hair, an simple-to-clean brush bar is key for maintaining good suction.
- Storage – do you have a space where you could install a wall mount, or would you rather a vacuum that self-stands or folds down for storage?
- Battery life – if you have a larger home or lots of carpets, you’ll want more battery life so you don’t get caught short.
- Accessories – if you have carpeted stairs or pets, a mini turbo tool is a handy extra to have.
- Power trigger – all Dyson models require you to hold down a power trigger while cleaning. This is to save battery, but if you have lots of floor space to cover it could get tiring.
It’s worth thinking about what matters most to you, and then ensuring you also choose a model that cleans brilliantly.
So, which brand is better?
Both brands offer some user-friendly features, but when it comes to cleaning power, our tests show there’s one clear winner. See our list of the best cordless vacuums to see which brand takes most of the top spots.
Shark vs Dyson: corded vacuum cleaners
Dyson says it’s no longer developing new corded vacuum cleaners, as it has switched its focus to cordless technology.
These usually cost around £200, so they’re a cheaper option than the cordless equivalents.
Shark, on the other hand, focuses exclusively on bagless upright corded models. It has one of the most extensive ranges around, as many other manufacturers have followed Dyson’s lead and dialled back on corded vacuum development.
Here’s an overview of how key specs compare:
|Dyson vacuums||Shark vacuums|
|Weight||Average (approx. 7.5kg)||Average to light (approx. 6.65kg, though some stick models are 4kg or less)|
|Capacity||Average (approx. 1.68 litres)||Average to large (approx. 2.2 litres)|
|Warranty||Two years||Five years|
|Key features||Ball design, anti-topple cylinder, cyclone technology, claims around quietness and allergy filtration||Lift-away canister, dual brush floor head, LED headlights, anti-hair-wrap floor head, claims around allergen filtration|
Again, you’re more likely to get flash features on the Shark range.
The ‘Lift-away’ canister found on most upright models means you can hold the dust canister while using the flexible tube to vacuum the stairs, making it less of an awkward balancing act, while the anti-hair-wrap can help reduce the amount of brush bar detangling you have to do.
Shark also produces some corded stick vacuums. These are slim and versatile, like a cordless vac, but cheaper as they still plug in rather than running off a battery.
This could be a good compromise if you’re after a more compact vacuum, but your budget doesn’t stretch to cordless tech.
Dyson keeps things simpler, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of tech under the hood designed to make life easier.
Which brand is better?
When it comes to cleaning power, both brands have achieved Best Buys in our testing, meaning they have both produced some top-notch vacuum cleaners, but one definitely has the edge.
Both have turned out some less brilliant vacs, too, so make sure you check our reviews to avoid paying out for a less-than-excellent option
- Best cordless Dyson deals – we reveal how to spot the best prices for Dyson vacuums
- Best Shark vacuum deals – how to make sense of Shark vacuum prices
Shark and Dyson vs Gtech, Hoover, Vax and more
Not sure where to start when choosing a vacuum cleaner? Here’s an overview of what the other big brands offer:
Gtech’s original Air Ram model was one of the early cordless cleaners. It’s now got a range of bagless and bagged cordless stick vacuums, including an ultra light and compact model – the Gtech Hylite.
See our Gtech cordless vacuum cleaner reviews to find out how this brand measures up in our tests.
Vax still makes a range of corded vacuum cleaners, mostly pretty cheap (£50-£200), but it’s gone big on cordless too. Its Blade range is popular and offers a good compromise between price and specs.
Models hover around the £80 to £250 mark, but the top-end ones, such as the Vax Blade 2 Max and the Vax Blade 4, have decent battery life for the price, and handy extras such as a side-emptying bin and LED headlights.
In our tests, some models have impressed, while others have been really poor, so it’s worth checking our reviews before you buy.
Hoover is another brand that tends to price its vacuums at the value end of the market, but that hasn’t stopped them dabbling with some wacky new features in recent years.
Some Hoovers are wi-fi-enabled, so that you can connect them to an app on your smartphone, and get updates and reminders about how much you’ve cleaned, calories burned (!) and maintenance alerts.
It’s another brand that’s produced a real mix of results in our tests, with some great-value Best Buys and some truly awful models.
Miele is one of the most prolific cylinder vacuum cleaner manufacturers. It’s pretty traditional, only embracing bagless technology a few years ago.
It’s been similarly slow to develop a cordless vacuum, but released its first cordless range, the Miele Triflex, in early 2020. There’s the top-end models, the Miele Triflex HX1 Pro and the Miele Triflex Cat & Dog, and the entry level Miele Triflex HX1.
Or see how Miele vacuum cleaners fare in our tough tests.
The classic Numatic bagged cylinder vacuum remains largely unchanged, and is a good-value option (around £130), particularly if you want large capacity and minimal maintenance.
He’s moved with the times, though. There’s now a cordless version with a rechargeable battery and an Allergy version, which comes in pale blue.
New kids on the block: Tineco and Samsung
Just like Dyson, and Shark before them, there’s a constant stream of new vacuum cleaner brands looking to crack the UK market.
The tech giant, Samsung, and new brand Tineco (part of the Eco Vac robotics group), are showing signs of making a concerted effort to challenge the big brands, with a handful of premium cordless vacuum launches in 2019.
Samsung’s Powerstick Jet cordless vacuum has a telescopic cleaning tube, so you can adjust the height to suit you, as well as a floor mopping attachment and some big claims about airflow that spins faster than a tornado.
We’ve also tested models from brands that aren’t always well known for vacuum cleaners, such as AEG and Beko – both better known for their big kitchen appliances.
Some are well worth considering, and have beaten the established brands at their own game in our tests.
Choosing a vacuum cleaner that will last
As well as testing how good each individual vacuum cleaner is at getting your home clean, we also conduct large owner surveys every year to get a picture of how well your new vacuum cleaner will last with everyday use.
Our unique survey helps us uncover which brands are the most reliable and make their customers happy, and the ones that are prone to breaking down early.
See how Dyson, Shark and the other brands stack up in our guides to the most reliable vacuum brands:
Not sure where to start? See our handy vacuum cleaner choosing guide.