For a long time, if you wanted to buy a robot vacuum, you had to choose from among brands whose names hardly communicate the idea of clean carpets. Unlike the Roombas of the world, Shark is in the business of selling traditional vacuum cleaners.
Once you use its Ion Robot vacuum ($343 as tested), however, it becomes apparent that this is the company's first stab at the robot-vacuum market. The Shark Ion Robot 750 is pretty good at cleaning up messes; it does a nice job avoiding obstacles, and we like its app. However, competing robot vacs perform even better and cost less.
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Design: Where's the innovation?
We've reached peak robot vacuum design here, and I'm screaming for some innovation. I guarantee that when your friends come over, they'll call the Shark Ion Robot 750 a Roomba.
At least, at 12.6-inches in diameter and 2.6-inches in height, the Ion Robot is smaller than the Roomba. That means it's easier for the device to clean under large furniture. Much of the competition starts at the 3-inch mark for height.
Like most of the circular robot vacuums, the Ion Robot 750's main component is an 11-inch brush with self-cleaning bristles. There are also two rotating brushes, one on each side, to help capture any stray bits and pieces.
The Ion Robot is smaller than the Roomba, so it's easier for the device to clean under large furniture.
The 380-mL dustbin also empties like the competition's; press a button to slide the bin out, and then open it up to dump the contents into the nearest trash. The dustbin is small compared to those of other robot vacuums, though, and I found that I often had to empty it out in the middle of cleaning.
To control the Ion Robot 750, you can use one of three hardware buttons located on top of the device: one for docking, one for cleaning and one for spot cleaning. Or you can download the Shark companion app for your iOS or Android device; this app offers more-robust controls and aggregates data on your cleaning cycles. There's also Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration available so that you can use a voice command to start a cleaning cycle.
Performance: Could be better
The Shark Ion Robot 750 isn't the robot vacuum to buy if you're a stickler for a tidy floor. It's not that this vacuum is incapable of cleaning — the Ion Robot picked up more than 90 percent of debris on wood and vinyl flooring in our lab tests — but it's not particularly reliable. Toward the end of my time with the device, I still didn't trust the robot to get the job done without either my husband or me nearby to tend to it.
Like the Roomba 650, the Ion Robot 750 utilizes infrared sensors to help navigate among rooms, furniture and walls. It cleans in a random pattern, however, and in several instances, I'd start a cleaning only to return nearly an hour later and find that the Ion Robot hadn't moved on from that room. I had to regularly move the device to another location for it to clean elsewhere in the house.
On average, the Ion Robot 750 cleans for a full hour before calling it quits. If its 2,600-mAh battery is running out of juice in the middle of a job, it docks itself and then returns to cleaning once it powers up again. The Ion Robot 750 is a delicate cleaner; it's quieter than the Roomba 650 and not as aggressive around furniture. But it has trouble under beds and futons, where it often gets stuck.
The Shark Ion Robot 750 excels at avoiding cords and other stray obstacles. I was impressed by its ability to go around shoes, charging cables and even piles of clothing on the floor. It also did well with picking up clunky messes like spilled cereal; on vinyl, carpet and wood flooring, the Ion Robot managed to pick up nearly every errant Cheerio laid before it in our lab tests.
The Shark robot vacuum is less efficient with smaller particles such as sawdust and flour. In our lab tests, the Ion Robot 750 sucked up a mere 62 percent of sawdust from the carpet, and that was after the robot caked the material around where it was cleaning. Still, that was better than what we got with the Roomba 650 (44 percent) and the Eufy RoboVac 11 (52 percent).
Toward the end of my time with the Ion Robot 750, I still didn't trust the device to get the job done without either my husband or me nearby to tend to it.
The Ion did better picking up flour on vinyl flooring (a stronger 88 percent), though the robot also tracked that substance around wherever it roamed. Cat litter is another doozy to clean up; often I'd dump out the dustbin, only to find those litter crystals had accumulated elsewhere inside the vacuum. A few times, I'd have to grab my separate hand vacuum to pick up what had spilled out of the Ion Robot 750.
The Ion Robot 750 picked up a paltry 43 percent of pet hair on the carpet in our lab tests, and 64 percent on vinyl. Still, its total Pet Hair score of 60.3 percent was much higher than the Roomba 650's score of 42 percent. Eufy's RoboVac 11 also had a lower Pet Hair score (38.3 percent), owing mainly to that device's poor showing on vinyl.
For all its other faults, the iLife V3s picked up 81 percent and 100 percent of pet hair on carpet and vinyl, by comparison, with an overall score of 93.7. And that vacuum costs less than half the price of the Ion.
For other debris, such as sawdust, kitty litter and Cheerios, the Shark performed on a par, or below that of the Roomba and Eufy.
Some of the hair we used in our lab tests got tangled up in the side brushes of the device. I even had to extract my own hair after a few cleanings with the Ion Robot 750 at my house.
App: More maps, please
Like most companion mobile apps for robot vacuums, the Shark Ion Robot app offers a few basic controls for the device. You can quickly start a cleaning job from the main screen of the app, as well as check on battery life and see whether the unit is charging. The Schedule tab lets you schedule your vacuum by day of the week, and then there's the History tab, which offers a glance at how many times the robot vac has cleaned in a 30-day period.
The History tab is the best part of the Ion Robot 750's app. It offers a complete readout for each session, including whether the robot had to recharge in the middle of a cleaning job. You can expand each day to see a thorough rundown of the robot's actions, too, like whether it responded to a command.
There are quick links for more settings, troubleshooting and every manual associated with the Ion Robot 750 available in the overflow menu. But there's no map to indicate where the Ion cleaned or how much ground the device covered. As I mentioned earlier, the robot sometimes becomes fixated on a particular part of the house, and there's no way to indicate whether the Ion cleaned the entire downstairs or just a portion of it.
The Shark Ion Robot 750 cleans obvious messes just fine, and its app offers the kind of control everyone wants from their "home of the future." But for helpers around the house, there are cheaper alternatives that clean just as well. The Eufy RoboVac 11, for instance, costs $50 less, though that device doesn't offer app control. Or there's the Roomba 650; though not as good on pet hair, this robot was more reliable at moving around my house.
The Ion 750 is a good first effort from Shark, but if the company wants to become as much of a household name in the robot vacuum space as it is with upright vacuums, it needs to make some improvements.
Credit: Florence Ion/Tom's Guide