In this review, we’ll take a look at the Shark AI Self-Empty Robot Vacuum (AV2501AE). It’s the first robot vacuum from Shark that employed a top-mounted LiDAR system for its smart navigation. After testing it over a couple of weeks in various ways, we think there’s a lot to like with only a few minor issues to nitpick.
Shark AI AV2501AE Review
With its large auto-empty bin and a good base set of features, the Shark AV2501AE robot vacuum slots into Sharks’ robot vacuum line as a lower-priced LiDAR alternative to more recently released and more advanced, higher-end Shark robot vacuum models.
- Laser-based navigation
- Large, bagless auto-empty dock
- Low price (and often discounted)
- App could be improved
- Can tend to get stuck
What we like
Starting off with the pros, let’s get right to the big difference here, which is the LiDAR-based navigation. Every other robot vacuum from Shark before this, with the exception of the VacMop Pro AI, used V-SLAM, which means they used a top-mounted camera to navigate around. This was the first Shark robot vacuum to use LiDAR.
Both LiDAR navigation and camera-based V-SLAM will map your house and help the robot navigate systematically room by room in more or less straight lines and they’re both premium features only found on more expensive robot vacuums.
Top Robot Vacuums
Both systems have their pros and cons and are really quite similar, but in this case, we think the more precise laser-based system is a big step up from Shark’s previous system in terms of navigation. In our tests, it had nearly 100% coverage of both the small and large rooms. It also did well in the real-world navigation tests of our house, avoiding obstacles better than their previous versions, which we think relied too much on their bump sensors.
NEWER SHARK ALTERNATIVE: See our review of the Shark Matrix robot vacuum. It’s newer and also features LiDAR navigation and a self-emptying bin.
Improved No-Go Zones
One of the big advantages of using a LiDAR over the previous Sharks is the much more accurate no-go zones, which are zones that you can draw on the map in the app to keep the robot from going where you don’t want it to go. This is a feature we consider very important, and it did really well with this in the tests.
Auto Empty Bin
Another big pro for the Shark AI is a feature that we’re starting to consider a must-have, at least for premium robot vacuums, which is the auto-empty bin. When it finishes its cleaning job, it automatically returns to its bin, where a motor on the base kicks in and it sucks the debris out of the bin and into the base. This auto-empty bin on this model is one of the larger capacity bins offered by Shark.
Shark says it can hold up to 60 days’ worth of debris. Being on the larger side isn’t the only thing that makes it unique, however; it’s also one of only a few bagless auto-empty bins on the market, so there are no bags to buy either.
You just empty the bin directly into the trash. It’s also a complete HEPA bin, which is only offered by premium manufacturers. The bin is relatively compact, slimmer and shorter than on the S8 Pro Ultra we recently reviewed.
We tested this regularly at our house, and in almost every case, it completely emptied the bin of pet hair from our two cats. Well, that was except for the very first run, where we intentionally left our house unvacuumed for two weeks to see if it could empty all the cat hair that built up in that time. It didn’t, but we hadn’t seen another robot vacuum pull that off either. We had no trouble with it emptying the bin after that day, though.
Also, Shark is one of the only manufacturers to include an app setting where you can tell it to return to the base every 30 minutes if you want to, which you would use if you have multiple large pets that shed a lot. In any case, the bin is one of the best Shark had designed at the time, and it holds up well today.
Power and Performance
Another pro is power. The Shark AI AV2501AE was above average with airflow, and that power showed up on the deep clean test. In that test, we embed sand into medium pile carpet and weigh the bin before and after a five-minute run. Again, the Shark AI was above average, getting the same score as some much more expensive robot vacuums.
In terms of its main job, which is picking stuff up from the surfaces of carpets and hard floors, it was again above average. We really like Shark’s dual brush design, and all of its brushes worked well together on hard floors, where it had a nice clean pickup even on its lower power settings and impressively even with heavy debris like kitty litter. It had no problems with larger debris either on carpets or hard floors, and it also did perfectly with pet hair. Basically, in terms of pickup, it was all good.
Anti-Hair Tangle Technology
Another feature that was new when the AV2501AE was released was its redesigned main brush. Shark says it is better than their previous anti-hair tangle technology. We did find it to be good but not perfect. You will still need to regularly keep it clean, in our opinion, if you have longer hair.
The biggest pro for the Shark AI Robot Vacuum, though, is the price. Shark seems to be engineering robot vacuums that are good enough at incredibly low prices. They’re usually not the best robots in every respect, but Shark robot vacuums have consistently been the best in terms of bang for the buck, in our opinion. The same is true here, and since the model has been out for a while now, you catch it on sale often.
Related: Shopping for a robot that empties its own bin? Check out our Ecovacs T10 Omni Review. It’s on the premium end of the spectrum, but its features might win you over!
AI and Obstacle Avoidance
Before we get to the negative stuff, we did want to make one quick note on the Shark’s use of AI in the robot’s name. As far as we can tell, this is more or less marketing speak. It’s not AI in the sense that it has machine learning based obstacle avoidance, which can be found in some high-end robot vacuums. It won’t, for example, avoid obstacles that are too low for its LiDAR or too light for its bump sensors to detect.
The Shark AI does avoid obstacles of a certain height and without using its bump sensor, but it does so with a combination of its top-mounted laser and front-mounted infrared sensors, which is common to most laser and LiDAR-based robot vacuums. Regardless, if you’re looking for true obstacle avoidance, do be aware that this model does not have it.
What could be improved
One of the main negative things we felt about this robot was the app. It’s not the worst app in the world, but it’s far from the best either. It’s kind of buggy; we often had to restart it to get it to do something or another we wanted. It doesn’t have real-time monitoring of the robot on the map, which is a minor thing but a feature that is noticeably absent.
It also took two runs to map our house, which is not all that uncommon and something which we attributed to the app. Some of these things may have been addressed with software updates (we reviewed it when it was first released). And, while we did have some challenges, the app did include all the premium app features you would want. And, those features do work well – things like on-demand cleaning to target specific rooms and advanced scheduling options.
Algorithm and Battery Life
Another thing is its algorithm. It’s just a little too persistent when it gets into a tight spot, meaning that if there’s a place for it to get stuck, it’s probably going to find it. So, you really need to make use of those no-go zones and put small barriers around problem areas in the app in order to make sure it has a nice clean run every time.
Also, the battery life, which Shark says can get 80 minutes on low power, is below average. It’s not that big of a deal, as it has the ability to recharge and resume cleaning exactly where it left off. That works for most houses, but if you have a larger floor plan, you’ll probably find that it will take two runs to complete one job, depending on the power setting you’re using.
Our takeaways are that the AV2501AE’s navigation is a major improvement for Shark robot vacuums, making them more valuable overall. Of course, subsequent Shark models have embraced LiDAR-based navigation, but this is the Shark robot vacuum that brought LiDAR into the picture.
Everything else on this model is what you need to get the most out of a robot vacuum. It cleans both hard floors and carpets really well. When you combine all the navigation and scheduling features with its high-quality auto-empty bin, you have an incredibly good value robot vacuum, which is hard to beat.
Shark AV2501AE Specs
|Google Assistant Compatible
|Max battery run time
|Self-empty base capacity
|Robot Length x Width
|13.7 in x 13.7 in