We loved Shark’s original Lift-Away NV680UKT cleaner with its high feature count and combined upright / cylinder cleaner versatility. Yet its gutsy motor has recently fallen foul of tighter EU noise and power legislation. Enter the 2018 Shark Lift-Away NV681UKT. Updated, quieter and smoother, but is it as effective?
Not quite. Yet we can forgive marginal reduction in suction power thanks to a very effective floorhead and solid Pet Power Brush. We do miss the dedicated hard floor tool of its predecessor although the main head is good for most hard surfaces. Otherwise, the versatility is unrivalled and if you are looking for just one cleaner to do it all, the NC681UKT is a great deal.
Open the Shark’s compact box and you are greeted with a cleaner body and array of accessories packed in like Dr Who’s TARDIS. “Well, it’s not all going back in there,” declared Jackie looking at a piece of internal packaging larger than the box.
The NV681UKT’s main part is the Lift-Away section. This incorporates the motor, filtration and bagless bin assembly. The idea is that this section can be used just like a cylinder cleaner with hose and tools attached. A sculpted top handle makes it easy to carry and the flat base means it stands up on its own. There are no wheels to tow it around but at 3kg without cable or hose, it’s easy to carry. The cable itself is a lengthy 8m, giving excellent reach.
The motor is an EU-complaint 750Watts and revised design and insulation means it’s a whole lot quieter than its slightly more powerful predecessor. The energy label states a reasonably hushed 80dB noise output. There are quieter cleaners out there but not ones with the Shark’s versatility.
Filtration is equally comprehensive. Using four washable filters and Shark’s Anti-Allergen Complete Seal design, it comfortably gets an A rating for dust emissions. The Complete Seal means all parts exposed to dust have a rubber gasket. The gaskets are a bit ‘sticky’ to start but loosen up once they get a little dusty.
As with all Shark cleaners, clips, buttons and feature labelling is superb. It isn’t tricky to piece together and everything snaps into place with solid precision. The hose clips on to the upper part of the Lift-Away section. That affords maximum reach when you are carrying the cleaner but will tip the Lift-Away section if unsupported. The hose itself is super-flexible and extends to 1.6m comfortably.
The NV681UKT’s chunky floor head can be used in either upright or Lift-Away mode. As an upright, the Lift-Away section simply drops onto the head and clips in place. Used more like a cylinder cleaner, the floor head attaches to the extension tube or directly to the handle. That sounds and looks odd but having the full-size floorhead directly on the handle is great for carpeted stairs.
The head tilts and swivels with ease and features a powered brush bar. That is switchable from a carpet/hard floor labelled slide switch on the handle. A green light on the head illuminates when it’s running. On the underside of the head, a bottom plate pops off on key-turn clips for cleaning and detangling.
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Fancy a bit of night time cleaning or need to get in those darkest corners? No problem. At the front of the Shark’s head is an array of LED lights that wouldn’t look out of place on a family saloon. These are super bright for seeing into dark, dusty corners or under furniture. We were only marginally disappointed that they didn’t automatically dip for oncoming traffic.
A trio of detail cleaning tools is provided. Shark’s chunky crevice tool with slide-down dusting brush and the upholstery tool have storage pins on the back of the main body. That makes them handy whether you are using the cleaner as an upright or a cylinder. The small turbo-brush is a nice addition. It’s a standard part across a lot of cleaners and, as usual, head is not articulated. That makes it a little trickier to use but it does split in two for easy cleaning.
The bin is easy to unclip and empty but is rather smaller than its boxy looks suggest. Most of the area is taken up with the cyclone assembly so the area for actual dirt is compact. Frequent emptying will be the order of the day.
Shark Lift-Away NV681UKT – How does it clean carpets and hard floors
Fully assembled as an upright, the NV681UKT tipped our scales at 6.7kg. It is certainly no featherweight for an 750W upright, but the floor head’s wheels and flexible neck make navigating a breeze. There is marginal suction stick-down on deeper carpet, but the brush bar keeps things moving. Unlike some of Shark’s twin brush bar models we have tested, the Lift-Away doesn’t try to drive itself off across the room. It’s just as easy to pull back as it is to push forward.
With the floorhead attached to the extension tube it will go very low under furniture. We eked out dust from beneath the sofa, that had been there since the last robot vac test, with ease. For sheer flexibility in where and how you can clean, the NV681UKT is outstanding.
It is successfully a few dB quieter than its predecessor too. It measured nearer 78dB than its claimed 80dB in our tests over a carpeted floor. That is not super-quiet by modern cleaner standards but is no jet-engine either.
The LED lights really made their presence seen wherever we went. They provide serious illumination for chasing dust and fluff on the floor and are outstanding at highlighting pet hair fur balls.
On our red-carpet test, the Shark did a very good job of cleaning our usual talc, baking powder and carpet freshener mix in a single forward/back motion. The surface was nicely groomed, and the carpet cleaned properly right up to the edge of the skirting.
On close inspection we could see some of the heavier baking powder and carpet freshener granules could still be seen. It wasn’t a massive amount and they were removed in a couple of further passes. Sadly, that is not unusual with modern cleaners complying with new EU restricted power regulations and means you will need to go over areas a few times. (…increasing your cleaning time and ergo using more power… go figure.)
No such issues out on open hard floor. The Shark glided along with those headlights picking out grime and fur-balls alike.
The NV681UKT has no shortage of suck and the well-designed floorhead pulls in debris with aplomb. Our oats test was a 99% success with only a couple of fine grains resisting the Sharks cleaning prowess on a single forward stroke. Not quite perfect but pretty good. Nor were they flicked out by the brush so easily scooped up on the backstroke. The result was a very good hard floor cleaning performance with most debris pulled from the grouting grooves.
Removing the Lift-Away section and roaming, the Shark is much more convenient than a traditional upright and hose combo. You can lift the central body to reach high cobwebs and wander around to the maximum reach of the cable.
The combined dusting brush and crevice tool was our spot-cleaning implement of choice. It worked very well for high up cobwebs although the crevice too was just a little too chunky for some smaller gaps. With its chunky handle, metal tubes and long reach, this set up is quite heavy in the hand though.
The upholstery tool we have seen on many Shark cleaners and always give it thumbs up. The curved base makes it easy to use, the suction is effective and the cut-outs at the sides resist sticking to the fabric. We tried the Pet Power Brush turbo-brush tool too… mostly for pets and stairs. Not on the actual pets…
Shark Lift-Away NV681UKT – How easy is it to use on stairs?
With the Lift-Away in hand and Pet Power Brush attached, this Shark is a wiz for carpeted stairs. You can easily carry the section in one hand and clean with the other. Or you can place the cleaner down and vacuum step by step. We found we were even leaning on it for a bit of support as we cleaned.
Trying to clean stairs in its fully assembled upright mode isn’t too bad thanks to the stretchy hose. The high mounting point of the hose on the body gives some extra reach too, so we managed to get halfway up our stairs.
Cleaning results were very good with the turbo brush, with the usual caveat that you need flexible wrists. The tool has no articulation or pivoting action of its own. As such it’s not as good for turning or spiral stairs but is fine for straight flights. You can push the tool hard into the pile without stopping the brush and it can be flipped around to clean step uprights.
The Shark is a little confounded by wooden or hard-flooring covered steps simply because there is no dedicated tool. Both the turbo brush and upholstery tools are hard plastic and might scratch more delicate surfaces. You can use the main floor head attached directly to the handle if you are strong enough to wield it.
Shark NV681UKT: How does it cope with pet hair?
Powered brush bars in the main floorhead and Pet Power Brush tick all the boxes when it comes to cleaning up behind moulting animals. As an upright, the Shark does a superb job on hard floors and those headlights help chasing down pet hair tumbleweed.
On carpet, the results were good although several wound-in hairs required a couple of passes. Again, the headlamps really picked out the pet hairs well and the NV682UKT delivers solid pet hair cleaning results with the main floor head.
Switching to the Pet Power Brush and attacking the dog’s bed and sofa, the Shark got another paws-up from our resident pooches. The brush removed hairs from the fabric well without sucking in loose fabric too badly. If you do start to get the fabric pulling, you can use the slide control on the handle to releases some suction pressure.
We gave the machine to our octogenarian tester (another Stevenson) who was suffering from ‘visitor’s dog syndrome’. It’s amazing how you don’t notice the piquant odour and hair-balls when you are a dog ‘owner’. She was very impressed with the pet-hair cleaning abilities of the main floorhead and the smaller air-powered turbo brush. This from a woman with a near OCD level fastidiousness for a clean house is praise indeed for the Shark’s ‘pet’ credentials.
Should I buy the Shark Lift-Away NV681UKT?
A little quieter and little less powerful than before but the updated Shark NV681UKT remains an effective and incredibly versatile cleaner. A fully-fledged upright, Lift-Away cylinder and a hybrid of the two mean that few vacuuming tasks are left wanting although we miss the dedicated hard floor tool of the original. Cleaning power is solid throughout and the ergonomics faultless save a slightly heavy extension tube. That compact bin will need emptying rather frequently too but the super-powerful headlights, low noise and outstanding filtration more than make up for the minor gripes. Yet another solid performer from Shark.