Vax, Dyson or Shark: which cordless vacuum should you choose?

We put leading brands of cordless vacuum to the test to reveal which is best value for money

We put cordless vacuums to the test
(Image credit: Vax)

Thinking of swapping your corded vacuum for a cordless model? It can be tough knowing which brand and model to go for. Do you spent £199 or £400? What are you actually getting for your money? As part of the Real Homes Show, our online TV show, we've put the latest stick vacuums from Shark, Vax and Dyson to the test to see how they perform.

For the best prices on all three of these vacuums, take a look at our best cordless vacuums buying guide. 

Buying a vacuum this Black Friday?

We've had the vacuums we tested below for a year now and the good news is, they're all still going strong. With so many new models available, which you'll pay a premium for, we'd say use Black Friday vacuum deals to invest in one of these slightly older models, which work well and cost a lot less.

The one thing that's become apparent is that all three models need to be maintained to keep them operating at peak performance. To keep them functioning properly, you'll need to remove, wash and carefully dry the filters every few months. The Dyson V11 Absolute is great in this regard because it tells you when it needs cleaning or emptying on the digital screen. We'd also recommend always emptying the bins before they're completely full. Finally, we've had to cut long hair that had become wrapped around the brush heads of all three models (carefully with sharp scissors) to keep it working properly. However, Shark now have a range of Anti Hair Wrap models that stop this from being an issue, so we recommend getting the Shark Anti Hair Wrap Cordless with True Pet that is on offer on Shark today. It have DuoClean and Flexology like the model we tested and is perfect for homes with long haired inhabitants.

The contenders

Cordless stick vacuums put to the test: Vax, Dyson, Shark

(Image credit: Vax, Dyson, Shark)
  • Dyson V11 Absolute – a lightweight, high-tech cordless vacuum with digital display and suction that automatically adjusts to the surface (above left). RRP £499.99.
  • Vax Blade 2 Max –  a great-value, lightweight cordless vacuum that promises no loss of suction (above middle). RRP £199.
  • Shark DuoClean with Flexology & TruePet – the only cordless vacuum that folds in half for easy storage without needing wall mounting. This model also flexes to clean under furniture and has anti-allergen seal (above right). RRP £479.99.

The results

We wanted to know how the vacuums perform on hard floors and carpets; how easy they are to empty; how long their batteries actually last; and how much they weigh. Here's how they compare:

1. Performance on different floors

All of the vacuums come with different heads for different surfaces but, let's be honest, who really bothers switching? We sprinkled breadcrumbs and crushed cornflakes on hard floor and carpet and set the vacuums loose using the standard heads. The Shark DuoClean is the heaviest of the bunch and that's partly due to its huge head, which had really impressive suction on both surfaces, but does make it a little tricker to manoeuvre.  The Vax Blade 2 Max is the easiest to move around but has the least sophisticated brush system, which we found didn't pick up as many bits on hard floors as it did on carpets. The Dyson V11 Absolute has the smartest tech here, automatically adjusting its suction as you move from hard floors to carpets when it's on Auto mode.

Winner = We love how the Dyson V11 Absolute automatically adjusts its suction levels depending on the surface

3. How long does the battery actually last?

If you're replacing your corded vacuum, then you want to know you can clean the whole house without having to stop and recharge. Here's how they performed in our test:

Cordless vacuum actual run times vs. stated run times
Quoted run timeActual run time
Dyson V11 Absolute60 minutes65 minutes
Vax Blade 2 Max45 minutes47 minutes
Shark DuoClean60 minutes53 minutes (on carpet)

Joint winners = The Dyson V11 Absolute and Vax Blade 2 Max both exceeded their stated run times

2. Ease of emptying

There's nothing more frustrating then vacuuming the whole house then emptying the vacuum and spreading dust everywhere!  We found all three models easy to empty, once you'd got used to how they work. With the Shark DuoClean and Dyson V11, the handle and collection bin are attached to one another, so you have to remove the whole top half of the vacuum before you can empty them. This means they're harder to direct into the rubbish. The Vax Blade 2 Max is the only model where you can remove just the collection bin, which makes it the easiest to empty.

The winner = Being able to remove just the bin on the Vax Blade 2 Max makes it the easiest to empty

4. Weight and size

Two of the most important features of any cordless vacuum is that it is lightweight and easy to store. Here's how the Vax, Shark and Dyson weigh up:

Dyson V11 Absolute2.7kgWall-mounted charging point. Simply connect to the nearest plug and it'll charge whenever it's stored on the mount.
Vax Blade 2 Max3.1kgWall-mounted charging point. Simply connect to the nearest plug and it'll charge whenever it's stored on the mount.
Shark DuoClean4kgFolds in half and is freestanding, which makes it easier to store and means you don't need to mount it on a wall.

The winner: The Dyson V11 Absolute is the lightest of the bunch and the wall-mounted charger is super convenient

Which should you choose?

  • It's the priciest of the bunch, but for great runtime, ease of use and lightweight design, the Dyson V11 Absolute is definitely worth the investment.
  • If you're on a tight budget then you can't go wrong with the Vax Blade 2 Max, which has consistent suction, exceeds its stated run time and is the easiest to empty.
  • If you don't want to mount your cordless vacuum on a wall and the idea of a flexible neck that makes it easier to clean underneath furniture appeals, then go for the Shark DuoClean with Flexology.

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Laura Crombie
Laura Crombie

Laura is Brand Development Editor for Real Homes, focusing on video and events. She has written about homes and interiors for the last 12 years and was Deputy Editor and Editor of Real Homes before taking on her current position. She's currently deciding whether to extend the kitchen of her family home in Worcestershire or relocate for a renovation project and bigger garden.