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Dyson V12 Vs. Shark Stratos: Which Cordless Vacuum Cleans Better?

Spoiler alert: They both make vacuuming a lot more fun.

two cordless vacuum cleaners cleaning

A good vacuum can be hard to find, and once you do find one, it can be a pretty hefty purchase. While Dyson has long been held as the gold standard in vacuuming (and other products, like air purifiers and even hair dryers), there are a lot of vacuums on the market that could give the brand a run for its money, one of them being Shark. Shark incidentally also dabbles in hair care, air purifiers and other cleaning solutions. But like Dyson, it's best known for its powerful (and often, more affordable) vacuums.

To put these two brands to the test, I tried out a cordless stick vacuum from each, the Dyson V12 Detect Slim and the Shark Stratos Cordless with Clean Sense IQ, to see which model would win out in a battle with the dirt on my floor.

Let’s Talk Lasers: Shark Vs. Dyson

The use of lasers for better detecting hard-to-see dust has become a recent trend in the world of vacuums, and one that Dyson has mastered. Now other brands are following suit, including Shark as the Stratos Cordless with Clean Sense IQ has a light at the front for the purpose of detecting unseen dirt.

In addition to the light show, both of these models employ a few other examples of nifty tech. Both have some type of automatic mechanism that adjusts power depending on the amount of dirt the vacuum is encountering, and they both have a screen that displays relevant stats, like power level and battery life.

dyson vacuum laser
shark cordless vacuum battery percentage screen on handle

Vacuum #1: The Shark Stratos

I started by testing the Shark vacuum out at my boyfriend’s apartment. For reference, he has not owned a vacuum for the entire year he’s lived there, but I still love him (I think). The Shark made it through two thorough deep cleans of a living room, kitchen and dining area, hallway and bathroom with a few minutes of charge to spare, so the 60-minute runtime seems fairly accurate. I immediately loved how powerful the vacuum was, and at 8.9 pounds, it feels very sturdy yet is easy to maneuver.

What I Liked

Not only was the vacuum powerful, but the auto-adjusting power tech (a.k.a. the Clean Sense IQ) really seemed to work effectively and efficiently to pick up dirt.

Despite being sturdier and heavier than the Dyson, I found the Shark to be much more flexible. For instance, instead of mounting it somewhere when done cleaning, the vacuum actually has a hinge in the middle of the stick that allows it to fold over onto itself and stand on its own. This makes it much more compact and easier to store than the full-length vacuum. While in use, that same hinge actually allows the front part of the vacuum to be parallel with the floor, allowing you to easily vacuum under furniture without kneeling on the ground.

shark stratos cordless with clean sense iq

A small but not insignificant detail unique to the Shark is that it came with an odor neutralizer that you install into the top of the head of the vacuum. While I vacuumed, I was actually able to smell the fresh scent of the neutralizer, which made the cleaning experience that much more pleasant. (You do have to replace the cartridge about every six months, and a two-pack is $15.) Furthermore, I found that the 0.18-gallon dustbin was very easy to empty with just a push of a button that ejects all of the collected debris.

shark vacuum scent neutralizer

What I Could Do Without

The Shark's "laser" is actually a set of white LED headlights, and they did not seem quite as effective as the setup on the Dyson. I felt like small particles were a little harder to see, and I couldn't really identify anything on textured carpeting. However, I do like the idea behind the feature, and it certainly did reveal unseen dirt, just perhaps not as clearly as the Dyson did.

shark vacuum laser
shark vacuum accessories

The LED screen on the Stratos was helpful for viewing quick stats like the battery life and suction level, but its placement on the front of the vac doesn't make it very easy to read while in use. (For reference, the V12's screen is on the top of the vacuum, facing you as you clean.)

I also didn't find much use for the attachments: the Duster Crevice Tool and the Anti-Allergen Dusting Brush. The crevice tool is pretty standard, but the dusting brush didn't seem very effective at removing dust — or at least any more so than the regular vacuum head. Additionally, both of these attachments convert the vacuum into a handheld, and I found the body a bit heavy to be used this way for a very long time without wrist pain.

Vacuum #2: The Dyson

If you’ve never had a Dyson, I'm here to tell you that right out of the box, the vibrantly-colored vacuum is polished and stunning. I was blown away by its sleek design and crystal-clear LCD screen. As I expected, the vacuum has powerful suction that can stand up to pretty much any mess, and the automatically adjusting power is a game changer.

What I Liked

Among its many admirable qualities, the showstopper of the V12 is the laser. When I heard that this vacuum could detect unseen particles and dirt, I was skeptical. But sure enough, Dyson delivers. I had a love/hate relationship with the laser in the beginning, but only because it revealed the hidden dirt I'd been living with. But now I love cleaning sessions with the V12 because not only does it feel like a video game, but at the end of my chore, I am actually 100 percent positive that my floor is completely clean. The laser feels slightly less effective on carpeting compared to hard flooring — or perhaps it's my eyes that are less effective at identifying dirt on a textured surface — but it still reveals things I wouldn't otherwise see.

dyson vacuum laser
dyson vacuum cleaning a dog bed

If we're going to talk about unseen dirt, then we have to talk about the vacuum's other hallmark feature, the self-adjusting power. Basically, the V12 knows when it needs to amp up the suction because as it vacuums, it's counting and measuring the particles it comes across and displays all this and more on the LCD screen at the top of the vacuum. TL;DR: it does the work for you.

If you're wondering what sets the Dyson V12 apart from the brand's V15 model, which also has a laser, the answer would mainly be weight. At only 5.2 pounds, the V12 is smaller and lighter than the V15 by 1.6 pounds, it has half the dustbin capacity (a tenth of a gallon vs. two-tenths) and it's also $100 less. The V12 is by far the lightest vacuum I've ever used (save a dustbuster), which made it perfect for navigating tricky furniture setups and carrying around the apartment when not in use. Plus, it has an on/off button, rather than the controversial trigger that's on some other Dyson models.

What I Could Do Without

This may sound silly — and maybe it is — but hear me out. At times, the Dyson feels almost too lightweight. As someone who's used to upright vacuums (my parents have a Dyson DC65), I loved the weightiness of the Shark. It made me feel like I was really getting at the dirt, whether or not that actually meant I was.

When using the V12, if I started going too fast, I found that the vacuum had a tendency to skip over spots unless I slowed down. It's not a dealbreaker by any means, but just something I noticed and had to adjust to. The V12 easily empties with just the push of a lever, but I did find that I sometimes had to get my hands in there to pull out particles that get stuck at the top of the dustbin.

Something I didn't realize at first, but is obvious in hindsight, is that the laser function of the V12 is only baked into one of its attachments: the Laser Slim Fluffy Cleaner Head (officially my favorite vacuum attachment name of all time). In all honesty, I didn't find much use for the other attachments — which include the Motorbar Cleaner Head, Hair Screw Tool, Crevice Tool and Combination Tool — that couldn't be handled by the laser head attachment (which can be washed, by the way).

That said, they did work just as well, and I appreciated how lightweight the vacuum was when converted to a handheld with the Hair Screw Tool. Additionally, the Hair Screw Tool and the Motorbar Cleaner Head are specifically designed to pick up and detangle hair along with other dirt and debris, and they did so quite well. However, if you're like me and live alone without a pet, you may not find these attachments as necessary (or fun) as the laser head.

The Verdict: It's Surprisingly Close

two vacuums
Grace Cooper

Let’s start with the obvious: These are both fantastic vacuums. And in the end, the choice between them comes down to personal preference.

Both the Shark and the Dyson clean extraordinarily well. They both have 60 minutes of runtime, a light at the front of the vacuum (although Dyson's is slightly more effective), digital displays and automatic power adjustments. At only 5.2 pounds, the Dyson is really lightweight, making it easy to maneuver around tight corners. The Shark is heavier (at 8.9 pounds) but has a unique hinge feature in the wand of the vacuum that allows you to reach under and around furniture without bringing yourself to the ground.

The Dyson comes with a wall mount and the Shark folds neatly to stand by itself. Both can convert to handheld vacuums, but I found the Shark a little too heavy to do this for very long. The Shark has almost twice the dustbin capacity of the Dyson (0.18 gallon vs. 0.1 gallon), which makes it the better option for larger homes.

It’s hard to think that any vacuum could top a Dyson, but the Shark puts up a good fight — and it’s about $150 cheaper. For my purposes, the handheld versatility of the Dyson and its superior dirt-seeking laser pushed it across the finish line first. The verdict: If you have the extra $150 and want a Dyson V12 Detect Slim, it won't disappoint. But if you're looking for a more affordable alternative that's just as effective (with bonus unique features), you shouldn't overlook Shark's Stratos Cordless with Clean Sense IQ.

Best Overall Stick Vacuum

Dyson V12 Detect Slim (Yellow/Nickel)

Best Affordable Stick Vacuum

Shark Stratos Cordless with Clean Sense IQ

Grace Cooper is a Commerce Writer at Gear Patrol, covering deals on everything from home to hiking.
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