The Shark Navigator Zero-M Lift Away Speed is a bagless upright vacuum with an interesting technology Shark calls “Zero-M”. This technology is designed to automatically remove tangled hair from the brushroll. In this review we test the claim. The vacuum is also capable of cleaning both carpet and bare floors, and it has HEPA level filtration as well as Shark’s famous lift-away system. Most owners seem very pleased with the vacuum and cite powerful suction, light weight, and the Zero-M technology as reasons. However, the power cord is a bit short and while there are several tools, only one stores on-board.
Hard Floors & Carpet
Pet Hair Features
HEPA Level Filtration
Power Cord Length
Motor Driven Brushbar
Disclosure: We recently approached Shark and asked for the Shark Navigator Zero-M Lift Away so we could do a review. They agreed and sent this one over. Thanks Shark! Also, please note that this in no way affects how we review the vacuum.
There are 4 popular Shark Navigator Zero-M Lift-Away Speed models and they come in two colors. The vacuums appear to be the same (besides the colors) and the models are predominantly differentiated by the tool set.
• Duster Crevice Tool • Hair Removal Multi-Tool • Pet Power Brush
We have the ZU561 and it is the model we are reviewing. We’ve also seen reference to a model ZU561A but it does not seem particularly popular and it is not clear if it is any different from the ZU561.
There are very few of what we would call verified owner consumer ratings at this time as the table below shows. This vacuum is also still relatively new.
5 stars out of 5
4.5 stars out of 5
We will revisit consumer ratings when there are more reviews to assess. We usually create a score for each vacuum based on the average of the consumer ratings, but in this case we will create our own Vacuum Cleaner Advisor score for the Navigator Zero-M (adjusted carefully to ensure it fits in approximately where we feel it should with respect to the other vacuums scores on the site).
Vacuum Cleaner Advisor scoring:
Value for money = 5/5 Cleaning - bare floors = 4/5 Cleaning - carpet = 4.5/5 Cleaning - pet hair = 5/5 Ease of use = 4.5/5 Level of Filtration = 5/5 Noise Level = 4/5
We’ve reviewed well over 200 vacuum cleaners over the past 10 years and we have a pretty good idea where a vacuum will sit with respect to its consumer scores. 90/100 (or 4.5 stars out of 5) feels about right for this machine, and it may even be a little conservative.
What Are Owners Saying?
A review of owner comments combined with our own experience working with and testing the Shark Navigator Zero-M has provided the following pros and cons:
PROS - Strong suction power - Easy to use - Lightweight - HEPA filtration & sealed system - Washable filters - Lift-Away feature - Ability to remove hair wrap - Not too expensive
CONS - No headlight - Can only hold one accessory on-board - Hose is short - Power cord is a bit short - No height controls
Many people report being pleasantly surprised at just how effective Zero-M Technology is. This is something of a stand-out feature on this vacuum so the fact that it works - and works fairly well - is important. Much of the hair that gets picked up by this vacuum gets sent directly to the dust canister, however hair that gets tangled in the brushroll is slowly removed as you continue to vacuum. Some owners report that the system isn’t perfect but that it is still much more effective than machines without the technology. Folks with pets are particularly happy with the Navigator Zero-M.
Probably the next most popular characteristic of the vacuum is the Lift-Away feature. People really like the ability to walk around while vacuuming with the wand and tools. This feature is something found on quite a few Shark vacuums these days mostly because of its effectiveness and popularity.
Owners like the light weight feel of the vacuum and highlight that it is very easy to maneuver and move. In addition, folks like the strong suction, the rinsable filters, and, for the most part, people are pleased with the pickup on both carpet and smooth flooring (linoleum, tile, wood, concrete, etc.).
Noise level is a bit of a mixed bag with some owners saying that it is relatively quiet while others stating that it is a bit loud. In our opinion the vacuum is actually about average when it comes to noise. It is not as loud as some of the Dyson uprights, but it is louder than some of the other Shark uprights we have (like the NV752, the APEX, and the NV682). Although it is marginally quieter than the NV801.
There is some consternation with respect to the power cord being short. Again, some are ok with it while others complain. In our opinion it is short, and it is shorter than the power cord on most of our other Shark vacuums.
Other areas in which we see some owner grumbling include the lack of a headlight, the ability to only carry one tool (despite the unit coming with 3 tools), and the shortish hose.
The duster crevice tool is the kind of tool you get with many vacuums today. It is essentially a crevice tool with a slide that allows you to push a brush to the end of the crevice tool. It works well and does what it is supposed to do.
The wide upholstery tool can be used on surfaces like mattresses, curtains, sofas, etc. It is designed to pick up pet hair, dust, and other debris.
The hair removal multi-tool is actually another 2-in-1 tool (like the duster crevice tool). In this case the tool has a brush face with thick rubber bristles that can be removed to reveal an upholstery tool brush face beneath. The rubber bristles can be used to remove stubbornly stuck pet hair from carpet, while the upholstery tool is for upholstery and bedding (it is simply a smaller version of the wide upholstery tool).
All three tools use the compression fit method of attaching them to the end of the vacuum handle or vacuum wand. Compression fit means that you push the tool ON and pull it OFF. This is an inelegant solution and while it works it can sometimes be hard to remove the tool if you have pushed it ON too hard. And if you haven’t pushed it ON hard enough it may fall OFF while you are working. A “click fit” means of attaching tools is better. A ‘click fit” system is one with a button that allows the tool to click securely into place and it can only be removed by pressing the button. Having said that, we haven’t had these tools fall OFF on us and they do work well.
We also notice that while there are 3 tools, there is only room aboard the vacuum for 1 tool. So you may find yourself heading back to the closet or storage area to fetch a tool if you need it.
We always like to see a vacuum have at least a 30 foot power cord. The Shark Navigator Zero-M has a 25 foot power cord and we have seen some grumbling from owners about this. It’s not a huge deal but a longer power cord is always nice.
We also find the hose a bit short and not too easy to stretch out. The specs indicate the hose is 6.6 feet long. This is fairly common for several of the Shark vacuums we own. However, one of the reasons for this may be that you really don’t need to stretch the hose too far as you have the lift away feature. If you are doing a set of stairs, for example, you can carry the lift away pod and use the hose/wand/tool with the other hand. No long hose needed.
Zero-M Technology & Cleaner Head
According to Shark, Zero-M Technology removes hair wrap from the brushroll and it works on both long and short hair and pet hair. The image below shows the underside of the cleaner head with the Zero-M Technology.
So, does it work? The short answer is “Yes”. In our tests it undoubtedly worked. We tried it on long black hair and pet hair. In each case it started by wrapping the hair around the brushroll – as expected. But as we continued to move the cleaner head back and forth the Zero-M Technology slowly pulled the pet hair off the brushroll and sent it to the dust canister.
We’ve got a host of vacuums and none of them do this. We often have to clean the brushrolls of these vacuums, especially when we are dealing with pet hair. When the brushroll is easily accessed or removed this isn’t too much bother, but when you have a brushroll that is not easy to get at then it is a pain. Frankly, we really like this feature.
You may occasionally have to clean the brushroll on this vacuum despite the Zero-M Technology (it isn’t perfect). There are three locks on the bottom of the cleaner head that you simply turn (clockwise) with a screwdriver or a coin and a door/flap on the bottom swings open (see image below). If you look carefully you will also see the yellow comb-like structure near the top of the brushroll. You can see how the bristles move through the comb which I assume is, at least in part, related to the ability of the brushroll to remove the hair.
The cleaner head is capable on both bare floors and carpet. It is about 12 inches wide and the suction channel (where the brushroll resides) is about 10.5 inches. This is narrower than vacuums like the Dyson Ball Animal 2 (12.75 inch suction channel). A smaller cleaner head helps with maneuverability but it does result in more passes to clean a large open area.
We sometimes see the vacuum advertised as having “variable suction”. The ability to vary the suction is provided via a simple suction release slider near the vacuum handle (image below). The vacuum does not have some kind of control over the motor speed – which is more often what variable suction refers to. Nevertheless, the suction release slider does work and if you find the unit sticking to an area rug or difficult to push on carpet, or even just too powerful when using one of the tools, you can open the valve and reduce the suction. We wish all uprights had this feature as it is handy. Many do not.
With some vacuums there is a height adjustment dial on the carpet cleaner head which lifts and lowers the cleaner head, providing better movement on deeper carpet. In the case of the Navigator Zero-M there is no height adjustment. The suction slider may help to some degree with better movement on deep pile carpet.
A switch near the top of the lift away pod turns the vacuum on and off and also has two cleaning settings (image below). For bare floors and delicate area rugs Shark suggests setting I (brushroll spins slowly) and for carpet and other area rugs, setting II (brushroll spins quickly). We note that there is no ability turn the brushroll off entirely.
Cleaning – Carpet
We compared carpet cleaning with that of one of our favorite vacuums, the Shark TruePet NV752. We placed 20 grams of small/medium/large debris on low pile carpet and ran the machines concurrently (see video below). Debris was composed of ground cheerios (powdery), chili flakes, flax seeds, split green peas, and full size Froot Loops. This wasn't a particularly scientific test but more one of visual inspection. Performance for both machines appeared to be pretty close.
Cleaning – Bare Floor
Again we compare the Navigator Zero-M to the TruePet NV752. Results were similar although we noticed that on the pullback the Zero-M did drag a small amount of material with it - the NV752 did not. Not really a huge issue and we've seen this on quite a few machines.
Cleaning – Hair
We placed long black hair on medium pile carpet and ran the vacuum over the hair. We then continued to move the vacuum back and forth as this motion is supposed to help the brushroll actively remove the hair and send it to the dust canister. Did it work? Yes – see video below.
We haven’t seen this kind of capability on any vacuum we’ve tested before.
Cleaning – Edges
We placed red chili flakes against a baseboard and ran the vacuum up tight against the baseboard. It did the job but it also took several passes. We’ve run quite a few machines through the same test and while some perform poorly (they do not pick up all the chili flakes) others have picked up all the debris in one pass (one forward stroke and one back stroke).
The Lift-Away feature is something you see on a number of Shark vacuums and there is a reason for this. It works well and people like it. This approach provides cleaning ability not typically found with an upright vacuum.
Lift-Away mode allows you to detach the motor/dust-canister assembly (called the “pod”) from the vacuum and carry it with one hand, while you use the hose/wand/tools with the other hand. Using the pod you can access areas you simply cannot with the upright – behind furniture or cramped areas. It is also great for doing a set of stairs and for above floor cleaning.
It is fairly easy to detach the pod and wand or handle. It also pops back onto the vacuum easily. We really like this feature and it definitely increases the versatility and cleaning ability of the vacuum.
You can also attach the tools directly to the end of the handle, without the wand if you wish. See image below:
There are three filters in the vacuum: Two pre-motor filters (1 foam and 1 felt), and one post-motor filter (this is the HEPA filter). The HEPA filter is the key to removing allergens from the air. You can read more about this in our article on HEPA filtration if you like.
HEPA filtration is most effective when it is combined with a sealed system. Fortunately the Navigator Zero-M has a sealed system and Shark calls it “Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology”. This approach ensures that no unfiltered air escapes from the vacuum. All of the air entering the vacuum is forced through the filters before it is exhausted back into the room. Some “unsealed” vacuums will leak unfiltered air back into the room.
The pre-motor filters are rinsable in water and typically need to be cleaned about every three months. The HEPA filter only needs to be cleaned about once per year. Of course, these are guidelines based on average usage (4 to 6 hours per week). If you use the vacuum quite a lot you may have to clean the filters more frequently.
We tested the peak noise level of the Navigator Zero-M against the Shark APEX, the Shark TruePet NV752, and the Dyson Ball Animal 2. We placed a digital sound meter 3 feet in front of the cleaner head of each machine and recorded the peak decibels with the brushroll on. The results are in the table below:
Noise Level (peak decibels)
Shark APEX AX952
Shark TruePet NV752
Shark Navigator Zero-M
Dyson Ball Animal 2
Our initial thoughts were that the vacuum sounds louder than several of our other Shark uprights but not quite a loud as our Dyson uprights. The tests show this to be a fairly accurate assessment.
The dust canister is a reasonable size and we didn’t find the need to empty it too often. The canister has a capacity (to the max fill like) of 2.2 quarts. It is easy to detach, to empty, and to reattach. It is bottom empty and you simply press a button near the bottom of the canister to open the debris door (see image to right).
Weight & Maneuverability
The Navigator Zero-M is reasonably lightweight for a full size upright. It weighs in at 13.4 lbs. The average weight for an upright these days is probably 14-16 lbs (at least for the ones we’ve reviewed) but we do notice that machines are tending to get lighter and lighter. A light vacuum is nice when you have to carry it from room to room or up and down a set of stairs. It can also help with basic maneuverability.
The vacuum has swivel steering and it does maneuver well. We found that you can change the direction of the cleaner head very easily by simply twisting your wrist. It moves equally well on carpet and bare floors.
We even tried the vacuum on a very deep pile carpet (about 1 inch) and movement was not bad - not brilliant, but not bad. We’ve tried other full size uprights on this carpet and some have been more difficult to move, although those with height controls typically fare better.
We should point out however that we have seen a few comments from owners who said the machine struggles to move on their deep pile carpet.
The Shark Navigator Zero-M Lift Away Speed carries a Manufacturer's 5-year limited warranty. You can view a copy of the warranty here.
Vacuum Cleaner Manual
The manual for this machine is rather short at only 9 pages but the graphics and instructions are accurate and easy to understand. It covers the basics such as assembly, different cleaning modes, emptying the dust canister, cleaning the filters, maintenance, troubleshooting, and warranty. You can see a copy of the manual if you like: Shark Navigator Zero-M manual
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I'm Nigel Russco, a 50 year old professional engineer originally from the west coast of Canada. I love to review vacuums and I’ve been doing just that since 2008.
I make every effort to write unbiased, intelligent vacuum cleaner reviews and I provide average consumer ratings for each and every vacuum cleaner I investigate. My ultimate goal is to ensure you find the best vacuum for your cleaning needs.
I also like to help when I can so feel free to send comments.
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