If you’re in the market for a Shark upright vacuum, chances are that you’ll want to get familiar with the Shark Navigator vs. Rotator.
These are two of Shark’s most popular models in the upright vacuum class.
This guide will compare similarities and differences of these two models to help you decide which is right for you.
Let’s dive in!
The overall body style of both of these vacuums is pretty similar. They are both full-size uprights with a wide cleaning head, large see-through dust bin, upright cord wrap, and on-board accessories.
As an upright, the Shark Navigator weighs about 13.7 pounds. As a handheld canister, it weighs only 8 pounds.
As an upright, the Shark Rotator is slightly heavier, at 15.5 pounds. As a handheld canister, it is about the same as the Navigator, coming in around 8.4 pounds.
DESIGNED IN PARTS | Both the Shark Navigator and the Shark Rotator are designed in parts, for versatile assembly options. Each vacuum has four basic points:
- Cleaning head
- Upright wand
The Navigator and the Rotator both have two cleaning head option; one brushroll for carpeted floors and one for hard surface flooring.
They also both have large capacity dust bins. The Navigator can hold 2.2 quarts of dry debris, while the Rotator can only hold 1.3 quarts of dry debris.
The Rotator comes with a few more advanced accessories, while the Navigator’s accessories are more basic.
BELLS AND WHISTLES | The Shark Navigator is a bit more of a “base model” than the Rotator, in my opinion. The Rotator is designed with some added features like a brushroll indicator light, LED headlights, more advanced accessories, and a modern color scheme with pops of red and gray text at various locations that helps with usability.
How It Cleans
Both the Navigator and Rotator clean using brushrolls and suction, with a separate cleaning head for hard floor cleaning. The brushrolls help to agitate dirt and debris from high-pile carpet and strong suction forces the debris up into the dust bin.
CLEANING HEADS | Shark manufactures two main styles of cleaning heads:
- Traditional brushroll for cleaning carpeted floors
- Hard surface cleaning head for hardwoods and tile
The exact style of hard floor cleaning head varies by model. In the case of our Modern Castle reviews, we were looking at the Shark Navigator Pro NV356E and the Shark Rotator Pro NV501.
These models use two different cleaning heads for hardwoods. The Navigator comes with a sleeker looking head that matches the body style of the rest of the vacuum, a modern white. It also includes a microfiber cleaning head wrap that helps it to capture debris.
By comparison, the hard floor cleaning head for the Shark Rotator is a solid gray, which does not match the body of the vacuum. This cleaning head also does not include any microfiber cleaning pads.
Size & Dimensions
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro is 45” tall, 12” wide (with a 9.5” wide cleaning path) and 15” deep. The Navigator weighs 13.7” as an upright, and about 8 pounds as a handheld canister vacuum.
Shark Rotator Lift-Away is 45.7” tall, 12” wide (with a 9.5” cleaning path), and 12” deep. The Rotator is slightly heavier, weighing in around 15.5 pounds as an upright and 8.4 pounds as a handheld canister.
Accessories & Parts
The table below documents all of the parts and accessories that were included with each model at the time of purchase. Depending on when you purchase each model and through which retailer, exact accessories may vary.
In this comparison, we’re looking at the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro (NV356E) and the Shark Rotator Lift-Away Pro (NV501).
|Accessory||Shark Navigator||Shark Rotator|
|Hard floor cleaning head|
|Dust away genie cleaning head|
|Pet power brush|
The Shark Navigator and the Shark Rotator include the following accessories:
Hard floor cleaning head: Used when cleaning hard floors, like hardwoods, tile, or a hard composite flooring. The Shark Navigator hard floor cleaning head includes two microfiber cleaning clothes for a deeper clean.
Dust Away genie cleaning head: Used on hardwood floors and other hard surfaces to remove ultra fine dirt, dust, and debris that might otherwise be used with the traditional brushroll
Crevice tool: A long narrow tool used to get in hard-to-reach spaces
Dusting brush: A brush with soft bristles, used for dusting furniture, fans, or other finishes you don’t want to scratch
Pet power brush: A motorized brush with rotating bristles, specifically designed to clean pet hair, without excessive tangling
Upholstery brush: Used to clean upholstery, like sofas, chairs, love seats, or bedding.
We mostly featured images of the Shark Rotator’s accessories above. However, they are functionally the same as the Shark Navigator.
The following vacuum cleaner tests are designed to show how the Shark Navigator vs. Shark Rotator perform on different surfaces, picking up a variety of debris types.
We test on three different floor types, including hardwood floors, low pile carpet, and high pile carpet.
Total Cleaning Scores
- Shark Navigator Cleaning 93%
- Shark Rotator Cleaning 93%
For each floor type we test the vacuum cleaner against:
- Rice – 3 ounces
- Dry Cereal – 1 ounce
- Kitty Litter – 3 ounces
- Sugar – 3 ounces
Each of the aforementioned debris types was spread across our testing lane. The base surface of our testing lane is an engineered hardwood floor. For our carpet tests, we slide in a low pile and high pile carpet insert on top of the hardwood floor.
The graphs below summarize the cleaning performance for both the Shark Navigator and Shark Rotator for each floor type. Please see our complete Shark Navigator Review and Shark Rotator Review for our full cleaning performance data.
- Hardwood – Navigator 93%
- Low Carpet – Navigator 98%
- High Carpet – Navigator 86%
- Hardwood – Rotator 92%
- Low Carpet – Rotator 95%
- High Carpet – Navigator 73%
While cleaning hardwoods, both the Navigator and the Rotator performed well. They did struggle a bit with the large debris cereal test— Navigator only captured 83% of the cereal while the Rotator only captured 77%.
That being said, we only used the large cleaning heads for these tests. Using the wide mouth hose you could clean the larger debris more easily (if you desire).
Cleaning Low Pile Carpet
These Sharks really excelled on low pile carpet, with each model capturing at least 95% of the debris. On low carpet, the Navigator and Rotator both struggled the most with the ultra-fine sugar test, where the Navigator picked up 91% and the Rotator picked up 84%.
Cleaning High Pile Carpet
On high pile carpet, the Shark Rotator shot to the lead in cleaning performance. The Shark Navigator seemed to struggle a bit with all debris types, never capturing more than 80% on any given test.
By comparison, the Shark Rotator captured 99% of the rice, 92% of kitty litter, and 78% of the sugar. The Rotator had the hardest time with the cereal, like the Navigator, where it captured less than a quarter of the cereal pieces tested.
UNBOXING | Initial unboxing between the two is equally as daunting. Both of these models have a large number of parts and setup isn’t completely obvious upon unboxing. That being said, you only have to unpack these vacuums once.
SETUP | Setting up these vacuums is pretty straight-forward. The Navigator and the Rotator both have similar connections and body styles. I will say that the Rotator has more user-friendly connections. Bright red accents on the vacuum highlight important connections or special features.
DAILY USE | For daily use, both of these models take the user into consideration with pretty good swivel steering and maneuverability. There are also inclusions-like text labels and quick snap connections- that make it easy to swap accessories, hoses, or wands.
The Shark Navigator and the Rotator both have a wand with a comfort handle. This is a nice feature when using the vacuum as a handheld, as it keeps your hand from holding the vacuum at awkward angles.
In addition to the handle, the Shark Rotator includes other bells and whistles, like a cord hook, brushroll indicator light, LED headlamps, and more text direction than the Navigator.
2-IN-1 | Both of these models also have the ability to go from a powerful upright to a lightweight handheld canister vacuum. Included accessories, like the dusting brush and crevice tool can be used with either style of vacuum.
EMPTYING THE DUST BIN | Comparing Shark Navigator vs. Rotator, the dust bin is similar between the two models. On each vacuum, there is a latch that, when unclasped, swings the dust bin door open and allows debris to fall into the trash can below.
I will note that the dust bin on the Shark Navigator (2.2 quarts) is almost twice the capacity of the Shark Rotator (1.3 quarts). If you’re looking for a model that can store more debris, this may be something to consider.
Considering maneuverability, once again, the Shark Navigator and Shark Rotator are neck and neck.
CLEANING HEADS | Both vacuum models have a cleaning head that is 12” wide with a 9.5” cleaning path with a 3” height. They are about equal in their ability to get into tight spaces.
ACCESSORIES | The Shark Rotator does have better accessories for maneuverability, in my opinion. The crevice tool is longer, the comfort handle on the hose is redesigned for better grip, and it includes an upholstery tool.
MAX REACH | Both of these models are corded upright vacuums with a 30’ cord.
The maintenance tasks for both the Shark Navigator and Shark Rotator are basically identical. Each of these vacuums has the same number of filters, a central brushroll, and the optional ‘Dust-Away Genie” pad. Overall, the maintenance costs for these models are relatively low.
|Accessory / Part||Replacement Frequency||Shark Navigator||Shark Rotator|
|Foam & Felt Filters (washable)||12 months||Check Price||Check Price|
|HEPA Filter||24 months||Check Price||Check Price|
|Brushroll||24 months||Check Price||Check Price|
|'Dust-Away Genie' pad||12 months||Check Price||NA|
Annual maintenance costs on the Shark Navigator is around $20 / year.
This includes a new foam filter set and new dust Genie pad every year, with a new brushroll and HEPA filter every other year.
Annual maintenance costs on the Shark Rotator is around $17 / year.
Just like with the Shark Rotator, this includes a new foam filter set and a new brushroll and HEPA filter every other year.
Overall, the maintenance schedules and costs between the Navigator vs. Rotator are similar, so for the sake of this comparison, we’re going to call maintenance a “draw.”
All vacuum cleaner reviews on Modern Castle are put through our standard noise test. For this test, we use a sound meter to measure noise in terms of decibel level approximately 3′ away from the vacuum.
The Shark Navigator generates 77 decibels of noise from 3′ away.
The Rotator is slightly louder, generating 80 decibels of noise (also at 3′ away.)
Shark Navigator Value
Concerning value, is the Shark Navigator worth the cost?
Let’s look at the overall performance. The Shark Navigator has a similar body style as the Shark Rotator. It comes with various accessories, a large dust bin and pretty good cleaning performance.
It performed best on our low carpet test, second best on the hardwood floor test, and struggled the most with high pile carpet. Compared to the Shark Rotator Pro, the Navigator Pro outperformed in cleaning performance on both hardwood floors and low pile carpet.
Depending on the type of flooring you have in your home, the overall value of the Shark may vary. Prices can fluctuate, but the Shark Navigator is generally around $20 less expensive than the Shark Rotator.
Shark Rotator Value
The value of the Shark Rotator was pretty good as well.
This vacuum feels a bit higher end, but you do give up quite a bit of the dust bin canister to have the sleeker look. As for cleaning performance, the Rotator still did a solid job. The results of the Rotator on hardwood floors and low pile carpet was within 1-3% of the Navigator results.
The results of the high pile carpet were over 10% better than the cleaning performance of the Navigator on high pile carpet. It’s biggest struggle was with cereal, where it only captured 21% of cereal from the floor test.
Below is a complete list of important specifications and features included on both the Shark Navigator and Shark Rotator.
|Specifications||Shark Navigator||Shark Rotator|
|Type||2-in-1 (Upright & Handheld)||2-in-1 (Upright & Handheld)|
|Model||Navigator Lift-Away Pro NV356E||Rotator Lift-Away NV501|
|Floor Type||All (indoor)||All (indoor)|
|Dust Bin||2.2 quarts||1.3 quarts|
|Cordless||No - 30' cord||No - 30' cord|
|Returns||30 days via Amazon. Varies by retailer||30 days via Amazon. Varies by retailer|
|Warranty||1-Year limited||1-Year limited|
|Buy||Check Price||Check Price|
Shark Navigator vs. Rotator Differences
The dust bin to the Shark Navigator is nearly twice the capacity of the Shark Rotator dust bin. The Navigator can hold 2.2 dry quarts, while the Shark Rotator can only hold 1.3 dry quarts. If you’ve got a lot of debris to clean, this could be an important difference between these two models.
Bells & Whistles
The Shark Rotator comes with a few more bells and whistles, like LED headlamps, a cord wrap, text notations, the redesigned comfort hose handle, and an advanced collection of accessories, like the upholstery brush.
The price on the Shark Navigator is usually around $20 less than the Shark Rotator.
Should You Buy the Shark Navigator?
The Shark Navigator comes with a wide range of included accessories, an XL Dust bin, swivel steering, and the 2-in-1 ability to run as an upright or a handheld canister vacuum.
I would recommend the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro to people who:
- Want a lower price tag – While the difference is not significant, the Shark Navigator does generally fall at a lower price than the Shark Rotator Pro. While both are generally under $200, the Navigator Pro will leave a little extra in your pocketbook.
- Want a larger dust bin capacity – If you want a larger dust bin, the Shark Navigator Pro is the vacuum to go with, as the dust bin has almost twice the capacity of the Shark Rotator Pro.
Should You Buy the Shark Rotator?
The Shark Rotator Lift-Away Pro is only slightly more expensive than the Shark Navigator. If you prefer the sleeker design and improved usability, and won’t miss the larger dust bin of the Navigator, the Rotator Pro could be a great option for you.
I would recommend the Shark Rotator Lift-Away Pro to people who:
- Want a sleeker look – If you’re concerned with aesthetics, the Shark Rotator Pro is a sleeker model. It comes with accessories that match the white style of the body of the vacuum and bright red accents help to highlight special areas and features.
- Want more accessories – The Shark Rotator comes with all of the same accessories as the Shark Navigator, but also includes an upholstery brush. Depending on the type of cleaning you do, this could be an important feature for you.
Derek Hales is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of ModernCastle.com. He is a passionate perfectionist when it comes to testing and reviewing products for the home. When he is not testing new products, Derek enjoys golf, tennis, and PC gaming. Derek lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife, Samantha, and poodle, Tibbers.