Until robots can clean house as well as human beings, we’re probably still going to have to push around a vacuum now and then. It’s true that robotic vacuums and mops are better than ever; if you simply don’t want to do either of those chores any more, the machines will do a respectable job while still allowing you to have company over. But we’ve yet to find a robot that’ll clean our sofas, stairs, the tops of our counters, the insides of our cars, or, well, just about anywhere beyond bare floors and carpets. If you want a thorough cleaning job, you’re going to have to do it yourself (or hire someone, but that’s not nearly as cheap).
Fortunately, companies like Shark and Dyson are ready to sell you whatever you need to make cleaning a bit more fun and a bit less work. If you simply want as much power as you can find in an upright vacuum, you can choose between the Shark APEX DuoClean AX951 and the Dyson Ball Animal 2. But if you want something lighter than an upright but more powerful than a handheld, you’re a better candidate for a stick vacuum. Dyson’s best option is the V8 Absolute. We can confirm its quality, but it’s also more expensive than most people are willing to spend on a vacuum. Shark’s best offering, the Shark IONFlex 2x DuoClean IF251, is just as good and a bit cheaper. Today we’re going to review its sibling, the Shark IONFlex DuoClean Cordless Ultra-Light IF201 Vacuum, and see which offers more for the money. Our thoughts in ten seconds are to buy the IONFlex IF251 for the dual battery system and to buy the IONFlex IF201 to save money if you can live with one battery; the vacuums are the same. We fully review it below, and you can buy the IONFlex IF201 here.
How does the Shark IONFlex DuoClean IF201 rank compared to other Shark cordless vacuums?
The IONFlex DuoClean IF201 is one of an ever-increasing number of ultralight and cordless vacuums released by Shark to challenge Dyson–and the entire vacuum market–in the last few years. While no one but Shark truly knows just how many identically-named vacuums the company has on the market, here’s where the IF201 stands compared to its fellow Sharks.
The IF201 is the second-highest ranking ultralight on the Shark totem pole. The only higher-end model is the IF251, which is distinguished by the inclusion of an extra battery; the vacuums themselves are the same. The ION in IONFlex refers to the included Lithium-ion battery; the Flex refers to the ability to bend the extension hose, letting you clean beneath furniture and beds without stooping or kneeling. DuoClean is Shark’s term for their double brushroll cleaning heads; they make it easy to tackle both bare floors and carpets at once, instead of in the separate head system found in vacuums like the Dyson V8 Absolute.
Beyond the IF201, other notable ultralights with DuoClean include the FLEX HV391, which flexes but is corded. You can also buy the Rockets, which are corded and don’t flex; two examples include HV382 and HV322. A final notable addition is the ION Rocket IR101, which doesn’t flex or include DuoClean but is cordless.
Pros, cons, and key features of the Shark IONFlex DuoClean IF201 Vacuum
The IONFlex IF201’s key features include the battery, flex, and dual brush systems described above, as well as a Lithium-ion battery that provides a 30 minute runtime and recharges in 3 hours. We estimate it delivers up to 115 airwatts of maximum suction based on a comparison to the V8 Absolute. The IF201 is designed to clean bare floors, low-pile carpeting, and upholstery, and includes an adjustable cleaning head. Unlike nearly any other cordless vacuum, it can stand independently. It weighs 8.7 pounds on our scales, it’s 45.9 inches tall, and cleans in a path 10.2 inches wide. Its dirt cup can hold .07 gallons when full. The IF201 ships with 4 cleaning tools: a duster crevice tool, an anti-allergen brush, a dusting brush, and a wide upholstery tool. Inside the box, you’ll also find a quick start guide, user manual, and the paperwork for Shark’s 5 year vacuum and 2 year battery warranties.
What’s the difference between the Shark IONFlex IF201 and the IONFlex IF251?
There’s only one meaningful difference between the IF201 and IF251: the extra battery included with the IF251. Technically, you also get a charging dock. However, considering the fact that you can charge the ION batteries directly via a wall outlet or indirectly through the vacuum, a third method via charging dock seems superfluous. At any rate, the additional battery boosts your cleaning range from 30 minutes to 60, and is a huge upgrade if you plan on using a cordless vacuum as your only vacuum, which is quite feasible given the power of these machines.
Aside from the battery, it’s worth mentioning that the accessories are slightly different across both vacuums. Both ship with the anti-allergen dust brush and duster crevice tool, but with the IF201, you’ll also get a dusting brush and wide upholstery tool, while the IF251 will give you a pet multi tool instead. When actually using the vacuums, if you’re anything like us, you’ll probably spend most of your time just using the main cleaning head and the handheld mode for touching up areas; the differences in the accessories are minor compared to the functionality of the vacuums themselves.
How well will the Shark IONFlex IF201 clean floors, furniture, and pet hair?
To bring out thoughts and this review to a close, the IONFlex IF201 is easily as good of a vacuum as the IF251 is, which is high praise considering that the IF251 is the best ultralight vacuum Shark has made so far. The IF201 isn’t a perfect vacuum; compared to a Dyson V8 Animal, it weighs more, it’s bulkier, it’s not as easy to hold or maneuver, it holds only half as much dirt and pet hair in the dirt bin, and it comes with far fewer accessories.
That said, it’ll match any Dyson cordless in suction and pure power, and if you choose to buy an additional battery, you’ll be able to spend more time cleaning and less time admiring your vacuum while waiting for it to recharge. You’ll easily clean bare floors (e.g., hardwood, vinyl, ceramic tiles, marble, bamboo, etc) or most residential carpets (e.g., Saxonies, berbers, and cut and loops) without breaking a sweat. You’ll be able to switch from stick mode to handheld mode on the fly and make quick work of dirt, dust, grime, and pet hair everywhere (including in car seats). Our main recommendation would be to consider the IF251 for the additional battery that can literally double your cleaning productivity. If you know you’re not going to have the time or interest to do more than 30 minutes of cleaning at a time, however, just get the IF201. You can always buy an extra battery later.
Canadians can buy the Shark IONFlex IF251 vacuum here on Amazon or skip the extra battery and save some money with the IONFlex IF201 or IF201C 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.