As much as we’d like to live in a world where robots clean our homes as well as we do, we realize we’re probably a few decades away from such technology (and the ability to afford it on non-Wall Street salaries). It’s true that robotic vacuums and mops can do more than ever before, and if you’re simply sick of vacuuming and mopping, they’ll do a far better job than not cleaning at all. But if you want to deal with stairs, sofas, countertops, car interiors, and pretty much anywhere besides bare floors and carpets, you’re going to need a vacuum you can push around.
Fortunately, between Shark and Dyson, there’s a solution for just about every vacuuming philosophy and budget. If you’re looking for as much power as possible in an upright vacuum, the two best on the market are the Shark APEX DuoClean AX951 and the Dyson Ball Animal 2. But if you want more portability than what you’ll find with a full-sized vacuum and more power than what you’ll get from a handheld like the V7 Car+Boat, you’re going to want a stick vacuum. Dyson’s flagship is the V8 Absolute. It’s amazing, but it’s also expensive. Shark’s top ultralight, the Shark IONFlex 2x DuoClean IF251, is every bit as good and substantially cheaper, but still more than many are willing to spend. Besides that, you can get the same features minus the battery by buying the Shark IONFlex IF201 instead.
Today we’re going to review an even cheaper cordless Shark, the Shark ION Rocket Ultra-Light IR101 Vacuum, and see how it compares to the IF201 in power and value. If you’re short on time, our thoughts in ten seconds are to buy the IF201 for more power, better brush heads, and the flexible extension hose, and to buy the IR101 if you simply want a straightforward, yet capable, cordless vacuum. Our full review is below and you can buy the IR101 here.
Where does the Shark ION Rocket IR101 stand compared to other Shark cordless vacuums?
The ION Rocket IR101 is part of a veritable feeding frenzy of Shark ultralights and cordless vacuums. While it’s hard to pin down just how many closely-named and featured vacuums Shark has put on the market in recent years, here’s how the Rocket IR101 compares to its fellow high-end ultralights.
The highest-ranking Shark ultralight is the IONFlex 2x DuoClean IF251, followed by the IONFlex DuoClean IF201. IONFlex is Shark-speak for a cordless vacuum with a hose that can bend for easy cleaning beneath furniture and bedding; DuoClean is what they call their double brushroll cleaning heads. The ION Rocket IR101 includes a Lithium-ion battery but does not have a flex hose or dual brush heads, although you can turn the motorized head off and use it in suction mode. There are also corded ultralights that flex and don’t flex like the FLEX HV391, HV382, and HV322. Overall, we’d call it a mid-range ultralight offering by the company that offers a good balance between price and performance.
Pros, cons, and key features of the Shark ION Rocket IR101 Vacuum
Key features of the ION Rocket IR101 include its 30 minute runtime from the included Lithium-ion battery and the fact that you can swap the battery to keep cleaning when you run out of juice–or in the long term when the battery’s capacity decreases. By comparing it to the V8 Absolute and V6 Absolute, we estimate the IR101 generates up to 100 airwatts of suction at maximum power. The IR101 can clean bare floors, upholstery, and low-pile carpeting, and features a motorized head that can be turned on and off for more aggressive or gentler cleaning modes.
The IR101 includes LED lights for cleaning visibility, weighs 7.2 pounds on our scale, is 45.6 inches tall, and has a cleaning path 10.3 inches wide. The dirt cup has a .07 gallon capacity when full. The IR101 includes three cleaning tools: a duster crevice tool, an anti-allergen dust brush, and a pet multi-tool. In the box, you’ll also find a user manual, quick start guide, and the papers documenting Shark’s 5 year vacuum and 2 year battery warranties. The battery itself recharges in 3 hours, and can be charged by being plugged into the vacuum or by direct connection to an outlet.
What’s the difference between the Shark ION Rocket IR101 and the IONFlex IF201?
The main differences between the ION Rocket IR101 and the IONFlex DuoClean IF201 involve suction, brush heads, and extension hose flexibility–all of which are better on the IF201. Specifically, the IF201 appeared to have greater suction, which was noticeable when pulling pet hair and dirt out of sofas and carpeted stairs. However, because the vacuums have different heads and the DuoClean head on the IF251 is also a better designed one than the regular motorized head on the IR101, it’s possible that the suction differences weren’t due to different levels of power between the vacuums but due to a more efficient cleaning head in the IF251. At any rate, we needed fewer passes to clean carpets using the IF251 than with the IR101; we did not notice a difference on bare floors, which makes sense since bare floors have far less resistance and surface area than carpets. That said, we found both vacuums plenty strong for most tasks.
The extension hose was the third significant difference. As noted above, the IF201 includes a flexible head while the IR101 does not. The flexible head made a world of difference when cleaning beneath beds, sofas, and tables, as it allowed us to clean without stooping, bending, or kneeling, and our backs and knees were thankful. That said, if you’re willing and flexible enough to bend or strong enough to move furniture about to clean beneath them, this isn’t a notable advantage. But if you’re buying a stick vacuum for convenience, this is a major convenience you get with the IF201 that you don’t with the IR101.
How well will the Shark ION Rocket IR101 keep a home, apartment, or townhouse clean?
Despite the greater power and convenience of the IF201, we want to emphasize that the ION Rocket IR101 is a perfectly capable vacuum in its own right and is still one of the best ultralights Shark has yet brought to the market. It’s not a Dyson, but it’s just as powerful as one and includes a rather nifty feature that you won’t find in any–the ability to change batteries to keep cleaning. And clean it will; bare floors (e.g., hardwood, vinyl, ceramic tiles, marble, bamboo, etc) and most residential carpets (e.g., Saxonies, berbers, and cut and loops) will be within your reach, as will dirt, dust, pet hair, and grime everywhere, and that includes in car interiors and kids’ car seats. We’d just recommend considering the IF201 to take advantage of the boosts in suction, cleaning head efficiency, and, most importantly, hose flexibility. Your body might not appreciate the difference now, but as you move from your 20s into 30s into 40s and beyond, it might.
Canadians can buy the Shark IONFlex IF201 or IF201C vacuum here on Amazon or skip the extra features and save some money with the ION Rocket IR101 here instead.
If you find our research on PMC helpful, you can follow our efforts to keep maniacally reviewing home cleaning tools by shopping through our links above. We promise to keep fighting the good fight against every horror children, animals, and grown, yet messy humans can inflict upon a clean home.