Best Robot Vacuum: Buyer’s Guide 2018

Electronics & Computers

When iRobot released their Roomba in 2002, it was an immediate and unprecedented success. This set off a wave of innovation and invention that has only heated up more recently. There are now over a dozen companies worldwide producing robot vacuums. With each new generation of vacuums, small improvements have been made to battery life, navigation, object avoidance and overall cleaning power. While we are still quite far from a Rosie robot like many of us dreamed about thanks to The Jetsons, that day is perhaps not as far off as some might believe.

Our robot vacuum buyer’s guide should be a boon to anyone hoping to hop into the robot vacuum marketplace. And, needless say, there are a lot of options to choose from. But as with all new technologies, some of the products on the market are excellent examples of modern engineering, while others are horrendously embarrassing for everyone involved. We’re here to help you sift through all of the technical mumbo jumbo in order to figure out which robot vacuum best suits your needs.

iRobot Roomba 980

Pros

  • Loaded with high tech features
  • Extremely powerful cleaning functionality
  • Automatic adjustment between carpet and hardwood
  • Smart sensors

Cons

  • Few accessories
  • Pricey replacement parts
  • Pricey overall

The Roomba 980 from iRobot mostly lives up to the iRobot name. As the company that single-handedly popularized the robot vacuum, there are some expectations any potential buyer should have. First, that the robot works as intended. Second, that the price is as premium as the device. For the Roomba 980, both of these are stunningly true. Although we rated the Roomba 980 a mere 3.71/5, this rating is a bit misleading. The two areas where the robot failed the most were related to accessories and cost. The Roomba 980 is feature-rich, cleans exceptionally well, and has more technology than you can shake a side whisker at. But Roomba is capitalizing on its position within the industry as a name brand leader. This device is priced higher than it would be if a company with no name had the same exact features and functionality. This is not too surprising, but should be a consideration for those looking for something more cost-effective.

Detailed Review

We looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability

The Roomba 980 truly shines in its cleaning ability. Few robot vacuums are packed with as much high tech cleaning options or abilities as this device. iRobot touts the “3-Stage” cleaning function of this device. This works well, but for the most part the branding is a little over-the-top for what it’s actually doing.

The Roomba 980 bucks the trend for vacuums when it comes to the use of a brush. To say this vacuum is brushless is a bit of a stretch. However, iRobot does away with the typical brush, instead opting for two rotating rubber “extractors”. These extractors spin toward each other. Combined with the powerful suction, it helps to agitate dirt and dust on the floor and pull the material into the device rather powerfully. The design also helps prevent hair and strings from getting tied up on the rotators, which is a common problem with most vacuums. Alongside the unique brush design, the Roomba 980 includes a high-quality filter that catches particles down to 10 microns.

Like most round robot vacuums, the Roomba cannot get all the way up to the wall. However, the spinning side brush is rather large, and helps move the dirt and particles in toward the the brush and suction in the center. The device has a rather methodic cleaning pattern, and utilizes a wide range of sensors, including an acoustic sensor, to help determine the dirty spots and give those areas some extra attention.

The Roomba 980 will indeed keep going until the job is done. It is without a doubt one of the best robot vacuums on the market today, although its price might make you question whether you want it or not. However, if price is no issue for you, and you’re all-in on the idea of a good robot vacuum, the cleaning power here is hard to beat.

Score: 5/5

Object Avoidance

The only thing that can stop a good robot vacuum is how well it can or cannot avoid objects. The Roomba 980 is perhaps the best at getting around one of the worst trouble spots for robot vacs: chair legs. It rarely gets stuck on these, and will actively avoid areas that it can’t fit into.

Dark shaded floors and carpets are a problem for this device. The cliff avoidance system will keep it away from dark carpet, as it will consider this to be a hole or a cliff. There is no actual remedy for this, so that is something to consider for those that have dark floors. Nevertheless, this robot is fantastic at avoiding objects. You may still have the occasional problem with it sucking up loose cords or tassels, but this is a common problem with all robot vacuums. Somehow it is less of a problem with this robot, probably due to the brush design.

Be warned that this robot does run directly into objects. While it has a bump guard that should help mitigate the damage, do expect that over time, any wood furniture it runs into time and time again will show the wear and tear of a 13 pound object repeatedly bumping into it.

Score: 4/5

Features

The Roomba 980 is actually limited on features that are not directly related to specific cleaning functions. It has a nifty Apple and Android app that allows you to schedule cleaning and receive reports if anything goes wrong. The app even includes some handy data readouts, such as how far your robot has actually traveled. Unfortunately, you can’t really do anything with this information, but it’s certainly fun to know.

The sensor loadout on the Roomba 980 is top-of-the-line. It has all of the typical optical sensors and guidance sensors robot vacuums are known for, but also includes a few extras that set it apart. This includes a topside sensor that helps map out the room and create landmarks to help it keep track of its location, and an acoustic sensor that helps it locate dirty areas. There is some indication that the acoustic sensor may not actually make a difference, but this is hard to measure without having a feature that turns off the sensor or without tearing into the machine and voiding the warranty. We’ll just have to take their word for it that it’s working as intended. That the device has a wifi connection (which is obvious from the inclusion of an app) adds to the high-tech features that place it in the top-level among robot vacuums.

Score: 5/5

Charging/Battery Life

Auto-charging comes standard on most robot vacuums these days. iRobot pioneered this function, and this continues with their Roomba 980. The device is designed to return to its docking station to recharge, which it does fairly well. You’ll want to make sure that the docking station is centered well against the wall, and that it’s not in a room where signals are blocked. Otherwise, your Roomba may have trouble finding its base.

The battery life on this device is about as good as it gets for robot vacuums. It will last, at most, 2 hours to a charge. This is assuming you are not using it primarily on carpet. When it hits carpet, it automatically switches to a higher suction power. This will drain the lithium ion battery much faster, and drop that run time down to as low as 30 minutes. The device takes about 90 minutes to recharge, so running longer than it takes to recharge is a good thing. It will keep up the cleaning regimine until its done, so it will just go back to recharge and then return where it left off.

Finally, another knock against it on this end is the lack of a battery meter on the display screen. Seems like a simple oversight, but it’s there, and it’s relevant.

Score: 3/5

Aesthetics

The sleek design on this robot makes it a nice center piece. It’s a bit of a showboat, which is what you want when you’re plopping down so much money. Unfortunately, the basic design hasn’t changed much since the first Roomba, so anyone familiar with a Roomba may not be very impressed at first sight. The device has a nice weight and size to it, which show that it’s not a cheap piece of machinery. At nearly 13 pounds, it’s clear that Roomba uses high-quality materials on their device.
Score: 4/5

Accessories

This is the area where the Roomba is lacking the most. If you take a quick look at the “Accessories” section of iRobot’s website, you’ll find that they don’t offer much in the way of replacement parts. The most important thing to note, which is also rather troubling, is the lack of a replacement battery. If there’s anything you’re going to want to replace, it’s going to be the battery. You can certainly find replacement batteries online,
but this is one replacement part that should be in their accessories store. They do have replacements for filters and the side brush, but little else.

The device does allow the use of an interesting virtual barrier. This little device creates a light barrier that the Roomba will not pass. This is a good way to keep it out of rooms where it might suck up things you don’t want it to. You can program the virtual barrier to turn off when the Roomba finishes cleaning the room its in, which will then allow it to move on to another room. You can buy additional ones from iRobots accessories store. However, they are pricey, as are most items iRobot sells directly.

Score: 3/5

Price

The Roomba 980 is a high-end robot. As such, you can expect to pay some rather high-end prices for it as well. At $899 for the base price, you’re looking at a bit of a wallet-emptying device. The price might be a bit hard to justify. The real question here is whether its benefits are better than some of its competitors and some of the other models that Roomba sells. It’s hard to definitely say yes to this. Many robot vacuums clean just as well as the Roomba 980, even on carpet. It does avoid objects better and it does handle pet hair much better as well. Does that justify having to pay nearly $1000? That’s hard to say. We’re going to have to say no, however.

Score: 2/5

Detailed Summary

In all, the Roomba 980 is a fancy piece of high-tech machinery. That iRobot decided to pack this robot with some of the latest in cleaning technology is a testament to how serious they are as a company. Particularly nice is the inclusion of the phone app, and the use of high quality materials in the design, both inside and out. The battery life is superior on this device, which ultimately is also one of the most important features of any robot vacuum. There are few reports of it dying while doing the job. It returns to its docking station almost without fail, so you can set it and forget it for a long time. The dust bin will only get full quickly if you have a lot of dirt lying around.

The biggest concerns are the ones you should expect from a high-end device. The price tag is without question a head turner, and somewhat difficult to justify. Are the parts and materials used in the construction expensive? Perhaps. But you may be better off buying the Roomba 880 and saving a few bucks, as the two devices are fairly similar. The real reason you may want to invest in the 980 is the upgrade in the cleaning brushes, which do seem to work better than most other robot vacuums. If the money is not an issue for you, it’s a vacuum that’s certainly worth taking a risk on. However, if you have a tight budget, you may want to think twice.

The Roomba 980 is the go-to device for those who want power and functionality out of their robot vacuum. Packed with the latest and greatest vacuuming technology you can imagine for a robot vacuum, the primary limitations on this device are the price and the lack of accessories.

Dyson 360 Eye

Pros

  • Dynamic floor mapping while in operation
  • Typical Dyson product with powerful suction
  • Wi-Fi enabled, iOS and Android support apps

Cons

  • Tall form factor reduces low-access clearance
  • Unimpressive battery life
  • Dirt receptacle is small

The Dyson 360 Eye is one of the more expensive robotic vacuums, deriving mostly from the Dyson name. This is a company that built a reputation on powerful suction and innovative design. As with their mainstream products, the 360 Eye looks different than other robotic vacuums. That, along with the Dyson brand, will draw a certain segment of the robovac market. Certainly, the 360 Eye’s performance and feature set are adequate, until you come to battery life, which is on the short side. However, it also has a small waste collector, so shorter battery life matches dirt collection abilities.

Short battery life is offset by a couple of performance features. The 360 Eye is loud. That famous Dyson suction is probably part of the reason for the short run time. Power needs power. The unit does, though, return to base at the end of a charge, recharges, then resumes where it left off. Remote control via smartphone app is pretty much standard at this price point and the Dyson app delivers. While the 360 Eye is one of the better robovacs, it delivers similar performance to units as much as $300 cheaper. Still, with sci-fi smart looks and a solid manufacturer reputation, it may remain the choice for those who aren’t afraid to spend.

Detailed Review

We looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in, allowing direct comparison between the Dyson 360 Eye and other brands. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability


The key performance factor of any robotic vacuum is, of course, its ability to clean. While the 360 Eye does live up to its Dyson heritage in terms of suction, there are some areas in which it doesn’t stack up with the competition. First is its own stacking up. The 360 Eye is about an inch taller than similar models. While this doesn’t matter for getting under chairs and tables, lower pieces of furniture may prevent access for the 360 Eye, where other brands navigate with ease.

While not necessarily cleaning functions, the double whammy of short battery life and small dirt bin may affect expectations for this, Dyson’s first attempt at a robotic vacuum. Since the bin carries only 0.33 liters – about half that of similar models – the short 45-minute battery life shouldn’t be an issue. However, those with lots of square footage may not get a full clean every time out. It does, however, return to base, charge and resume where it left off. Still, one run/charge/run cycle amounts to four hours with only 90 minutes of vacuum operation. With many other brands offering two hours on a charge, this is somewhat inefficient, if you discount the legendary Dyson power.

That power comes at another cost too. The 360 Eye is loud. It takes over a room while it works. Not an issue when it’s running in a vacant house, but also not conducive to quiet study without noise-cancelling headphones.

Though the 360 doesn’t store room maps, it does an admirable job of route planning on the fly. It provides one of the most complete coverages among units tested. It can’t really be called a coverage pattern, since it’s far more random in appearance than many of the back-and-forth, parallel path devices.

When it comes to actually picking up dirt on various surfaces, the 360 Eye produces solid but unimpressive results. Tested against other high-end robots, the Dyson model places toward the lower performance end of the scale. It’s not bad at dirt collection, it’s just not spectacular at it.
Score: 4 out of 5

Object Avoidance

The Dyson’s wheels raise and lower to adjust for both carpet pile and surface changes, it also uses this action to avoid low obstacles, such as lamp cords, for example. It has no problem with challenges such as an area rug on wall-to-wall carpeting, so winter entry mats aren’t an issue unless they’re of the extremely thick fiber variety.

The 360 Eye does a thorough job of room coverage, and with the accompanying app, you can see where the unit missed, if at all. In terms of reading its space and navigating around objects, the Dyson performs on par with other top of the line robotic vacuums, doing a somewhat better job with vertical challenges than most.
Score: 5 of 5

Features


Round is the shape of choice for most robotic vacuums, which means corners are an issue for the 360 Eye as they are for any cylindrical device. The common solution of adding flexible sweeping brushes was not adopted by Dyson. They rely on a main beater that is almost as wide as the unit itself. Sadly, it’s an almost. Without the extra sweepers, edges and corners are weak spots for the 360 Eye. In animal hair testing in particular, the Dyson did capture most of the test material, while leaving visible clumps and mattes along the edges of the test zone.

The 360 Eye app supports both iOS and Android platforms, but don’t look for multi-task, gimmicky features. The Dyson app sticks to basics, such as remote start and stop and recording coverage. Driving a vacuum cleaner may be a priority for some users. Dyson, however, ascribes to the notion that the purpose of a robot removes manual function. Does anyone really try remote controlling a vacuum more than once, anyway?
Score: 3.5 out of 5

Charging/Battery Life


Dyson publishes 40 minutes of run time in MAX mode and 75 minutes in Quiet mode. As mentioned, this is somewhat shorter than many high-end robotic vacs. It’s somewhat offset by the fact the 360 Eye returns to base, charges and picks up where it left off. The shorter run time perhaps matches the Dyson’s smaller than average waste receptacle. The device simply can’t run as long without being emptied. It really comes down to how practical battery life and unit maintenance are in the way a user incorporates a robot vac. If you’ve never used one before, the shorter battery charge and small bin likely won’t affect your impressions.

Practical recharge time tests at about 2.5 hours from near-fully depleted to fully charged, as gauged by the unit’s battery light. The light pulses to show charging is active. The light turns red when the 360 Eye nears the end of charge and the device returns to its charging base. Occasionally, the unit misses the charging connection, but no more so that other robotic vacs. The pulsating charge indicator makes for easy work of detecting and correcting the condition.
Score: 3.5 out of 5

Aesthetics


If you’re looking for a robotic vac that stands apart from the typical hockey puck design, then the Dyson may be right up your arena. It’s diameter and height break the typical robovac proportions and the nickel body comes accented in blue or fuchsia. The look is high-tech and space-age. The 360 Eye wouldn’t look out of place cleaning the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise, though Kirk and Spock may have to yell over the noise created in MAX mode.

The color-coordinated tank track wheels not only look sharp, but prove practical in manoeuvering the unit between surfaces and over minor obstacles. All told this is a progressively styled device, typical of Dyson’s products.

Since performance is average for its class, the Dyson name and look will be critical to the success of the 360 Eye. Just as luxury auto manufacturers depend on the status of their logos and branding, so too does Dyson. Certainly, there are those who will enter the robotic vacuum world simply because Dyson now offers one. The unique look of the 360 Eye won’t hurt sales to buyers after the Dyson aesthetic appeal.
Score: 5 of 5

Accessories

On the market for about a year at time of publication, accessories for the 360 Eye haven’t yet emerged. The Dyson pages themselves offer only the main units. There’s no mention of replacement parts or consumables online. The test unit did not arrive in consumer packaging, so contents of the box aren’t known. Availability of parts and supplies may or may not be an issue. Potential buyers should query the seller on these points for after market maintenance.
Score: 3 of 5

Price:

Sometimes, you get what you pay for and sometimes you pay for the name. Figure on a value of $150 to $300 for the Dyson name, as other brands of robotic vacs meet or exceed the 360 Eye’s performance for prices that much below the Dyson model.

You’re not purchasing any ground-breaking technology along with the 360 Eye, but you’re not buying an overhyped lemon either. This unit functions admirably, about the middle of the pack, and looks seriously modern and well-built. The tank track wheel system shows creativity and practicality. A good advantage over some designs but whether it’s worth the additional cost on its own is up to you to decide.

If the name and appearance aren’t important to you, there are better values to be had in the contemporary robotic vacuum field.
Score: 3.5 out of 5

Detailed Summary

It can’t be stated enough that the Dyson name and style are critical to the price/performance factor offered by the 360 Eye. Remove the value of these, and this is a well-built robot vac that performs with the middle of the pack, but carries a hefty price tag. Measured on features alone, the 360 Eye would score lower, but Dyson is the Rolls Royce of the vacuum world, and so brand recognition and favorable customer appeal must count. No one will go wrong buying the 360 Eye, but it’s possible to perhaps go a little more right, if you shop beyond brand.

Dyson has a reputation for exceptional small home appliances, but it’s a reputation that comes with exceptional price tags as well. The Dyson 360 Eye doesn’t break the mold. While it has many of the more advanced features that stack up the cost justification, the 360 Eye is among the most expensive robotic vacuums on the market. Other brands with similar features cost substantially less. Dyson has its premium brand name and contemporary styling going for it, and these are important to many consumers. The more pragmatic can find the same features – and better cleaning – at a lower price.

Neato Botvac Connected

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Extra powerful suction power
  • Wi-fi connection
  • Unique design good for getting into corners and close to walls

Cons

  • Tendency to get stuck on chairs and cords
  • Long charging time
  • No automatic adjustment between Eco and Turbo modes
  • Pricey for the features

Perhaps the biggest competitor to industry leader iRobot, Neato creates a unique robot vacuum within their Botvac line. The Botvac Connected is currently their most expensive cleaning device. It comes with a rather impressive array of technology and even more impressive functionality. The Botvac Connected it highlighted by its wireless connectivity and the available application that allows users to remotely control a lot of the features on the bot. The app also provides a data on the bot’s cleaning pattern, schedule and any push notifications when things go wrong. The biggest issues you’ll find with this robot vacuum are its tendency toward getting stuck (a consequence of the shape) and the price. Still, this robot vacuum hit a solid 4/5 average rating.

Detailed Review

We have looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability

The Neato Botvac Connected excels at cleaning. The only problem: If you’re buying it specifically for its cleaning ability, you’re going to spend too much money. The Botvac Connected does not upgrade the cleaning ability over the other Botvac D80/85 models. Instead, it does allow for more brush options and increases the suction strength. However, more brush options and the option for a more powerful suction do not necessarily equate to better cleaning ability over the D80/85 models.

The Botvac Connected, much like the other Botvac models, specialize in getting close to walls and into corners. The base design on the front allows this, as its main brush and suction area can get under an inch up to the wall. The side brush helps move any material on the baseboards out into the open for easy cleaning. Alongside this, the device does not bump into walls or furniture to navigate its way around the room. It will not leave heavy bump marks on your walls, even over the long term.

The bot is loaded with sensors which not only help it navigate the area successfully, but help it clean efficiently. It will give extra special attention to areas that need it, while still cleaning in a very methodic pattern. The ability to control the bot’s movements has been incorporated into the app, giving you a lot more control over where it’s going. You can schedule its cleaning, as well as keep it from sucking up things you don’t want in areas you don’t want it to go to, thanks to the boundary strips.

The biggest problem in its cleaning ability may be the fact that this robot vacuum is a painfully slow cleaner. In one sense this is good, as it helps the Botvac react faster when it’s about to run into an object. However, it takes its sweet time getting the job done. Thankfully, its suction power is strong with Turbo mode, or lighter with Eco mode, so you can either have a trade off of much better battery life (therefore longer cleaning time) or more powerful suction (great for carpets or rugs). As with most robot vacuums, you will need to be concerned with cords, small objects and hair. The .7 liter dustbin will not fill up too fast, but copious amounts of material can get wrapped up in the brush, which does need to be cleaned periodically.

Score: 4/5

Object Avoidance

The Neato Botvac Connected has all of the object avoidance capabilities of every other Neato Botvac version. The device is fully-loaded with with various sensors. The most important of these is Neato’s laser detection system. Operating similarly to radar, this helps the Botvac Connected identify objects around it and helps it map out the room. The Botvac is capable of determining its location in relation to objects in the room, and what areas need a bit of additional attention. However, it still struggles with the same problems as most robot vacuums.

It can (and sometimes will) suck in any loose cords or smaller objects that can tie up the brushes. It’s not particularly good at avoiding these. The inclusion of the boundary strips helps keep it away from areas where it’s more likely going to have issues. The boxy design, which makes it great at getting into corners, also gives it some occasional issues when it comes to chair legs or table legs. While it will generally maneuver around these areas thanks to the laser technology, getting stuck is more a factor of its shape than anything else.

Although it’s good at fitting under any furniture that has a high clearance, it will often find itself stuck under furniture and in gaps that appeared big enough at first. It seems to have a hard time judging heights, and will either bump into things when it thought it could go under them, or get stuck when the front part was able to fit but the backend could not.

On the positive end, the Botvac Connected does have self-correction built into its design. If it gets stuck it will attempt to free itself. Because it moves somewhat slowly, it never really runs into anything at breakneck speed, and more often than not, if it does run into something, it’s more of a soft nudge than a hard bump. Overall, you can get a nice, long cleaning run without much difficulty.

Score: 3/5

Features

The most obvious feature to point out on the Botvac Connected is the wireless connectivity. This is the only Botvac that can be connected via a mobile application. It has a built-in wi-fi adapter so that it can send and receive information. The Botvac connected can be scheduled, started and paused remotely. The app even includes some nice, although not necessarily useful, data on how the robot is cleaning. It will also send push notifications to update you if anything is going wrong, such as a dead battery or if it gets stuck.

Outside of this, the Botvac Connected’ has other features that are not too unique. The large capacity bin (.7 liters) and filters can already be found on most of the other models. The Eco/Turbo modes are certainly unique, but the fact that the Botvac Connected does not switch between the two automatically is disappointing. The boundary markers are still a useful feature, but again, are not unique to the Botvac Connected.

Score: 5/5

Charging/Battery Life

Neato’s battery life effectively runs at the top of the market for robot vacuums. Notably, this is the first of Neato’s robot vacuums to use a Li-ion battery over a NiMH battery. The Eco and Turbo modes have noticeably different battery lives. However, the Eco mode is a bit of a godsend for those that have larger rooms and areas to clean. Eco mode will net you up to 5,000 square feet of cleaning area to a charge. Needless to say, that’s about top-of-the-line as it gets for robot vacuums. Even the Turbo mode, which will take up more power and lead to less area cleaned, can hit around 4,000. Unfortunately, all of that battery power does mean a longer charge time. 3 hours, to be exact. All Botvacs are very good at getting back to their charging bases. Neato changed very few of the main functions when they upgraded to their higher-end robot vacuum, so you can expect the Botvac Connected to perform equally well on this end.

Score: 4/5

Aesthetics

Neato is very consistent with the aesthetic design of their robot vacuums. The Botvac Connected looks just like every other Botvac. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not a good thing either. The Botvac’s design is functional and unique, but not entirely giving any “wow” factors. The size is good however, and the low profile makes it very useful for getting under some furniture. Neato’s eye for design is respectable, but not exactly stunning. It’s hard to argue with practicality over looks, but a wider color palette might be nice. Until robot vacuums become more of a norm, they’re still going to be conversation pieces, and aesthetics are all part of helping a product sell.

Score: 3/5

Accessories

Neato continues to impress with the wide amount of accessories that they offer their users. There is nothing on this end for their Botvac Connected that you can’t find for their other devices, which is a good thing. Neato sells the most important replaceable parts right on their website, including brushes and filters. However, it’s the fact that they also sell a battery replacement that really makes them exceptional among robot vacuum makers. Do note that the battery has a shorter warranty on it than the rest of the Botvac (6 months as opposed to 1 year). This is a bit troubling, but thankfully, the battery can be replaced if it dies on you. You are also able to acquire more of the boundary strips, a helpful addition.

Score: 5/5

Price

The best way to value the Botvac Connected is by comparing it to Neato’s next, most powerful robot vacuum, and its direct competitors. As far as other robot vacuums from Neato, the next best thing is the Botvac D80/85. The D series has almost all of the features you will find on the Botvac Connected, except for a few goodies. Specifically, the enabled app features add a bit more flexibility, the filter is higher quality and easier to remove and the ability to change cleaning power for either longer battery life or more suction. Of these, the biggest, and most important, and perhaps most valuable upgrade is the Eco/Turbo mode switch.

This puts the Botvac more in line with Samsung’s PowerBot VR9000 robot vacuum, for a slightly lower price. Nevertheless, when even expensive Dyson manual vacuums are under $300, it’s hard to justify buying a Botvac Connected at that price, even when you consider the convenience. That said, if you manage to find this Botvac at a discounted price, it’s a good buy.

Score: 3/5

Detailed Summary

The Botvac Connected is all about the the technology upgrades. Neato adds in some rather neat-o wi-fi capabilities, including a fun and useful app that not only lets you schedule the vacuum’s run time and switch cleaning modes, but also lets you take direct control of the robot’s movements. It’s clear that Neato caught on to this particular trend of direct control by including it in their most recent robot upgrade.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to call the Neato Botvac Connected much of an upgrade. While the device is capable of cleaning well, its cleaning ability is not much upgraded from the most recent model. Couple this with the fact that the only difference in design is the color scheme, and it might actually be difficult to tell the Botvac D80/85 from the Connected. That Neato is asking for over $100 more for these new wi-fi and app features seems more than a little silly.

The device as a whole is an excellent piece of robot vacuuming machinery. It cleans well, gets close to baseboards, and does not get stuck on objects too improperly. It does have the ability to self correct when it does get stuck, although it’s not always fully successful in that effort. The battery life is also good, and the ability to switch it between a lighter, and quieter, Eco mode and a tough-cleaning Turbo mode give is some appeal over the previous models. Still, the higher price tag is hard to justify.

The Botvac Connected is perhaps one of the best robot vacuums on the market. That is, if you can manage to get it for a slightly better price.

The Botvac Connected adds in some desirable wi-fi connectivity, with an impressively featured and fun mobile app. However, the cleaning ability is not improved over the previous model, making the large price difference a bit hard to swallow.

Chuwi ILIFE A4

Pros

  • Cleans well
  • Extremely long battery life
  • Very inexpensive

Cons

  • Unimpressive design
  • Cheap construction
  • Inefficient cleaning modes

The Chuwi ILIFE A4 provides a high level of cleaning power for the price. The device uses an a very standard level of cleaning functions, including dual side brushes and a traditional central brush. This device uses a random cleaning pattern, but comes with a relatively long 2-hour battery life, which can be extended to around 180 minutes with lighter cleaning duties. The Chuwi ILIFE A4 uses a mixture of sensors and bumpers to navigate itself around obstacles. Overall, the biggest draw to this device is its powerful motor and long battery life. Although it struggles to get around some areas such as rug tassels and small wires, it is simple to use and overall inexpensive.

Detailed Review

We looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability

The ILIFE Beetle A4 brings in an impressive amount of cleaning power for a device that undercuts the market leaders in price. For all intents and purposes, there is nothing remarkable about this robot vacuum. It has all of the standard pieces of cleaning equipment we’ve come to expect out of a robot vacuum. Yet somehow, Chuwi, the Chinese company behind this robot vacuum, seems to get everything just right.

There are some notable differences about the ILIFE A4 that make its cleaning ability better than your average low-end robot cleaner. The side whiskers are longer than normal. This helps the device get right up to walls and baseboards. The actual design of the side whiskers is not new. Indeed, the only thing that distinguishes them is the length. But that length is what allows them to do a better job of cleaning hard-to-reach areas.

The device is also designed with spring-loaded wheels. This allows it to have better clearance over obstacles, including getting over ridges and onto carpets. And since we’re on carpets: It can clean these well, to a point. The device is fairly quiet, which in the vacuum cleaner world typically means “underpowered”. However, this cleaner is not entirely underpowered and does perform acceptably on low-pile carpets. It will struggle on carpets and rugs that are thick, so don’t expect it to clean everything well.

The included dry mop will help get some of the excess dirt particles. It’s also reusable, giving it added value. This robot vacuum includes two HEPA filters on the inside to help capture smaller dust particles. These are not replaceable and do tend to get dirty themselves. They’ll need to be replaced every 6 months or so, but you’re going to want to get in there and pick off clumps of debris far more often than that, especially if you have pets.

The fact that it only uses a traditional agitator brush means it does particularly poorly with hair. It will suck hair up, but hair will get stuck on the side whiskers and especially the central agitator brush. You’ll need to give the agitator brush its own cleaning every now and then.

Overall, this device has an impressive level of suction power for the price, cleans well, and typically does not miss too many spots. It includes a particulate sensor for spot cleaning and has several cleaning modes. However, it does not map the room and ultimately uses a random cleaning pattern. There are several cleaning modes, however, that will compensate for this particular weakness in the design.

Score: 4/5

Object Avoidance

Avoiding objects should not be as easy as it is for this robot vacuum. However, the ILIFE A4 is extremely well designed when it comes to object avoidance. The device has a front bumper for when it runs into objects, but also possesses forward-facing sensors that help keep it from having to use them at all. It will occasionally run into chair legs that are too thin for the sensors to pick up. However, the objects have to be abnormally thin for this to be a problem. The requisite cliff sensors are also included, as is questionably effective optical dust sensor. You will need to be careful of loose wires and rug tassels. This is not uncommon but something that is worth noting nonetheless.

Score: 3/5

Features

Despite its price, the ILIFE A4 is a very feature-rich robot vacuum. It includes several cleaning modes, including a spot cleaning mode utilizing an optical dust sensor. It features a remote control with a small digital display for scheduling. All of these features combine to create a fairly functional robot. There is little to complain about regarding its features, although the lack of control over suction strength is disappointing. However, the vacuum suction strength, which is neither too weak nor overly powerful, is just right for getting the job done on most surfaces.

Score: 4/5

Charging/Battery Life

The battery life on the ILIFE A4 is wholly impressive. The device is capable of achieving 120 minutes of cleaning power, sometimes as a minimum. Often, it can get up to 180 when it has lighter cleaning duties. This places it at the high end of the market for robot vacuums. Comparatively, most robot vacuum cleaners can only get around 60 minutes at best. The 2600 mAh lithium battery is to thank for this. Unfortunately, recharging can be a pain. It takes around 5-6 hours to fully recharge the robot, so you will likely only get 1 or 2 cleaning cycles out of it per day (unless you’re ok having it clean in the middle of the night).

As with all robot vacuums, this device is able to find its base and take itself on home. Many lower-end robot vacuums struggle to find the base. The ILIFE Beetle A4 is surprisingly adept at finding its base from far away. It rarely struggles to get back, and indeed will only fail if it is for some reason stuck while attempting to make the return. It will begin that return when the battery is close to low, but with enough battery power left to make the trip. As it recharges on the front end, you won’t have to worry about it messing up while backing into the spot. On occasion, it does get misaligned. This can occur if the base is not properly level.

Score: 4/5

Aesthetics

The ILIFE A4, while standard in form and function, is also wholly unremarkable. The device excels in having a thing, sleek frame. However, it’s overall design is mostly unimpressive. Although this is not a shot across the bow as far as functionality goes, it makes the device less desirable to purchase. However, for those who care less about form and more about function, this is an area that will hold little weight. The ILIFE A4 looks ok. Not great, unique or stunning, but acceptable. Its shape is a clear mimic on the standard robot vacuum design so common in today’s market, but it also does little to push that design beyond any known boundaries. For those who want a little more spice out of their robot vacuum’s design, the lack of attention to any interesting physical features may be a significant point against this bot.

Score: 2/5

Accessories

The ILIFE A4 comes with a good set of accessories in the box. As a positive, spare filters, side whiskers, primary agitator brushes, batteries, remotes and charging bases are easy to find and cheap to obtain. This may seem like a smell gesture, but there are many robot vacuum companies for which even this is difficult to find. Beyond providing full replacement parts, the company has one of the most extensive accessories departments on the market for robot vacuum cleaners. However, ILIFE does cover the bare minimum to allow you to keep the robot running without having to purchase a whole new unit.

Score: 4/5

Price:

This robot vacuum is extremely well priced for what you’re getting. It runs well, cleans well, and requires very little maintenance. Despite the overall cheap construction, it has stronger suction power than the sound and the price would suggest and stands up well to a little bit of punishment. The main drawback of this device is the overall inefficiency of its cleaning method, something that is compensated by having a much longer battery life. In all, that makes the ILIFE A4 an extremely good bargain, especially for those looking for something cheap, easy to use and effective.

Score: 5/5

Detailed Summary

Robot vacuums continue to get cheaper and better. The ILIFE A4 is a surprising entry in a very crowded, but overly unimpressive market. In most cases, robot vacuums are either expensive and functional, or cheap and ineffective. The ILIFE A4 is one of the few that manages to be both effective and inexpensive. The highlight of this device is the price, but it combines a fairly powerful motor, an extremely long battery life and impressive cleaning to its list. This makes it one of the best entries on the market for those who are looking for value, or for newcomers looking for something cheap, effective and not too complicated. The ILIFE A4 could certainly improve on the physical design, making a bot that is a bit more attractive or interesting to own. However, for pragmatists, this is going to be the go-to robot vacuum.

Despite being one of the cheaper robot vacuums on the market, the ILIFE A4 still can compete with the much more expensive robot vacuum.

Moneual Rydis H68 Pro

Pros

  • Effective wet mop
  • Fairly inexpensive
  • Replaceable battery

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • Difficulty finding base
  • Misses corners and baseboards
  • Leaves dirt behind often

The Moneual Rydis H68 Pro looks and feels like a robot vacuum that should be fully functional and effective. However, serious design flaws limit this robot’s ability to clean effectively. This robot is marked by poor cleaning functionality, mediocre object avoidance, extremely poor battery life and very limited and almost non-existent accessories. While the device is on the low-end of the price range for robot vacuums, we’ve rated it a 2.1/5 overall due to the severe limitations in its ability to do the primary role one should expect from a robot vacuum.

Detailed Review

We looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability

The Rydis H68 Pro RoboVacMop is a bit of an all-in-one cleaning machine. That is, when you can get it to do what it’s designed to do. Perhaps the biggest draw for some might be the inclusion of a wet/dry mop on the bottom end. Rydis models this design after similar and competing robot brands. However, to their credit, Rydis seems to have mostly hit the mark on this end. The width and the pressure applied to the ground when the wet mop is active makes it more functional than what you’ll find on competing brands. It’s still a far cry from replacing your actual, regular mop, and will still not clean better than a product like a Swiffer.

As it’s unlikely that you’re going to be buying the Rydis H68 just for the wet mop feature, your biggest concern is going to be whether it can or cannot get the cleaning job done. Here you’ll find a bit of a mixed bag. While the device does an adequate job of cleaning, it does not do a stellar job. It’s about as average as it gets regarding its cleaning methods and modes. Moneual touts this robot’s 5-in-1 cleaning technology, but it appears they should have paid a bit more attention to the software side of things. The robot has a tendency to flounder out of the gate when it’s set to certain cleaning modes.

The brush designs are solid, however. When it does get moving, it can and will pick up most loose materials. The two-whisker design has proven effective with other robot vacuums, and it has proven effective for the Rydis H68 Pro as well. As with many other robots with the circular design, it struggles getting into corners and getting as close as possible to baseboards. Also problematic is the fact that the central brush is not very wide. This causes the machine to leave a lot of loose material out if it’s not captured by the side whiskers.

Hair will be a problem, although cords are not likely to be much of a problem. Cleaning the brush is not fun, especially if you wait so long that it’s completely circled by hair. Moneual has a fairly active advertising department. Despite what their advertisements might have you believe, the vacuum is far from perfect. It gets credit for having a wet mop that’s more functional than most others who are incorporating the same feature, but does not win any awards for the functionality of its primary cleaning job. It gets most dirt, but not all, and excels on hardwood floors, but underperforms on carpet. Its suction strength is certainly more powerful than its most immediate competitor, the iClebo, but it has far fewer features than an iClebo.

Score: 3/5

Object Avoidance

Moneual eagerly advertises not only the smart mapping technology on the Rydis H68, but the many sensors on this device. Perhaps the most effective object avoidance feature is the cliff sensor. Depending on your living situation, this may be the most important one as well. The proximity sensors on the front bumper will help keep it from haphazardly slamming into objects such as walls or chair legs, but not all the time. It will occasionally appear to be stuck in corners for no real reason. It also does not perform well when it attempts to run over cords. It typically will not suck cords into the brush. However, it does struggle to roll over them at times. In all, it’s not going to run into everything, but it also fails at avoiding everything as well. The lack of any barrier technology is a gamble on Moneual’s part, and not in their favor.

Score: 3/5

Features

There are few features to talk about for the Rydis H68. The device has a few extra settings that certainly distinguish it from robot vacuums that are similarly priced. It includes a remote control that can be used to hybrid cleaning mode (where it mops and vacuums), mop mode, or vacuuming mode. It cannot be manually controlled with the remote, however. It does include a smart mapping technology to determine its location. The effectiveness of this feature is debatable, however. Given how often it seems to get stuck in corners, it’s hard to imagine why, or even if, it’s actually mapping effectively. The only features of note are the wet mop and the intensive cleaning feature, which causes the robot vac to stick to an area more closely. These work to a reasonable degree but are still nothing spectacular.

Score: 2/5

Charging/Battery Life

The battery on the Rydis is far from exceptional. When utilizing the device for its intended purpose (vacuuming), it will only last for around 40 to 60 minutes before it needs to run back to the charging station. If you’re running it on mop mode, when the vacuum is not running, it can last twice that time. Charging takes about an hour as well. With many vacuums already seeing 1.5 to 2 hours to a charge, the life on this robot vacuum is almost embarrassingly poor. Perhaps even more unfortunate, the Rydis H68 often struggles to find its charging base. If it’s not in the same room as the base when it starts to die, expect that you will have to pick it up and carry it back to its station yourself.

Score: 2/5

Aesthetics

Moneual does not win many awards for creativity. Their robot vacuum design is as plain and derivative as it gets. If you thought the machine looked familiar, it’s likely because the Rydis looks to be trying its best at mimicking a Roomba. It may have a somewhat nicer splash of red than a Roomba, but its overall design is far from impressive. At only 6 pounds, it also very lightweight. However, this weight is a result of very, very cheap construction. All of this points directly to the money troubles that the parent company ran into, and some of their overall shady business dealings with cheaping it out as much as possible to make a quick buck.

Score: 2/5

Accessories

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Aside from the charging station and a remote control, the Moneual is effectively bereft of accessories. If you’re hoping to replace parts, such as the wet mop pad, the main brush or the side whiskers or the battery, you’ll have a hard time finding them. You will have to look somewhere other than Moneual’s website. In fact, nowhere on their website does Moneual sell any accessories. You can still find various parts here or there on their official Amazon store.

Perhaps one of the biggest letdowns is the fact that Moneual did not include any form of barriers for this device. Most other manufacturers use, at the least, magnetic strips that set off the cliff detector and prevent the robot from going into places you don’t want it to. This is not so for the Rydis H68. You might find some success using barrier strips from another robot maker, but then again, why should you have to?

Score: 1/5

Price

For what you’re getting, the Rydis H68 is almost well-priced. The key word here is “almost”. Because the company practically went belly-up due to a $3 billion fraud investigation, it’s currently running on fumes. With little in the way of actual customer service left, it’s a very risky venture if your device stops working properly. And given how cheaply they produce these vacuums, you can be sure that it’s going to fail much sooner than you’d like.

Score: 2/5

Detailed Summary

Here’s the fairest warning we can give you about the Rydis H68: If you don’t like it, don’t expect a refund. A few years back, the parent company, Moneual, was found guilty in a $3 BILLION fraud lawsuit. This related to different products, but the end result should have anyone worried. After receiving a bunch of returned merchandise from overseas due to a product recall, they rebranded and resold the same poor quality products to the Chinese market. This did not end well for them. The company filed for bankruptcy. They’re still scraping along, but just barely. This has had a fairly obvious impact on the overall quality of their current products and particularly on any customer service.

To their credit, the Rydis H68 is not the worst robot vacuum around. However, it is merely a reskinned version of the one they sell in Europe and Asia called the Rydis ME770. One of their promotional videos for the ME770 should help you recognize a few interesting facts. The features for the ME770 are the same as what you’ll find on the HP68. The only difference between the two devices is the name and the skin.

Ultimately, can you trust this device to get the job done? Sure. It will get the job done. But this depends on what “the job” actually is. If you’re trying to simply clean a rather wide, unencumbered hardwood floor, you’re probably going to be well pleased. If you have carpet, this won’t be the vacuum for you. If you have pets that shed, this won’t be the vacuum for you. If you have rooms you don’t want the robot to enter, this won’t be the vacuum for you. If your house is any less clean than a factory test floor, this really isn’t the robot vacuum for you. Unless you can get it at a rock-bottom price. Then the minor headache you may get trying to use it on occasion is worth it.

Despite looking good on paper and a very impressive ad campaign, the Rydis H68 Pro does not live up to expectations. The device has issues in every key area, with its only saving grace a wet mop that only is only occasionally useful.

bObsweep Pethair

Pros

  • Extremely large number of accessories
  • Fun controller
  • Works on all surfaces

Cons

  • Has trouble with dark surfaces
  • Short battery life
  • Long charge time
  • Cheap construction

Getting straight to the point, bObsweep is one of the quirkiest robot vacuum companies around. Unfortunately, character does not make a robot vacuum effective. The bObsweep PetHair has some distinct advantages, and is very usable in some cases. However, it has severe limitations in other areas. The short battery life is one of the most unfortunate aspects of this robot vacuum. Indeed, the battery life is so poor, there is some question as to what bObsweep was thinking during the product testing. On the positive end, this is one of the most enjoyable robot vacuums you can use, especially because of the remote control. The large number of accessories also distinguish this device from its competitors. We gave this device a 3.3 out of 5, which is ultimately a fairly solid score for the vacuum. We’ve provided a more detailed review on this device.

Detailed Review

We looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability

The bObsweep Pethair bills itself as both a vacuum designed for pet hair, and one that has the capability to mop. As for the mopping function: don’t bother. We find that the mopping function is little better than a Swiffer wet mop (and in most cases, not even nearly as good). Many users have found this to be the case as well. The primary problem with the wet mop is that it does not stay wet long enough to be effective, and it does not apply any pressure. It simply glides along the ground, picking up perhaps any excess dirt. It will not replace all of your mopping needs, so you may not want to rest your hopes in that feature.

The actual cleaning ability of the bObsweep Pethair is mixed at best. Positively, the device does indeed do what it says it will on that end. It cleans up hair and dirt rather nicely, although you will need to clean any longer strands of hair out of the brush regularly. Otherwise, the brush will lock up. The side brush is useful, and attaches well with a screw. It helps reach further than the device’s normal reach, but ultimately the device is limited. The bObsweep pethair will not be able to get close to corners or walls, so these areas will remain untouched.

The device does have a fairly long brush that extends almost the entire diameter. Combine this with the oversized, 1 liter dustbin (that is extremely easy to remove and replace), and you’ll find that it certainly cleans dust and dirt better than even some more expensive robot vacuums. However, it is hard to get around one glaring problem: The cliff sensor. No, your device will not go careening off the edge. However, the cliff sensor will misread dark spots on the floor as an edge. This will result in the device not vacuuming dark carpets, rugs or floors. This is mitigated by using the included blinders which cover the sensors. You can of course see how this might be a mitigation that comes with its own risks. A blind bObsweep is prone to falling down stairs.

The fact that this robot has a rather strong motor (7500 RPMs) and a nifty U.V. light for cleaning bacteria and viruses helps save its rating a bit. But really, to achieve more than just a low score, a robot vacuum has a lot of hurdles to jump. The bObsweep simply doesn’t jump enough of them.

Score: 3/5

Object Avoidance

Object avoidance is always a touchy subject for robot vacuums. Almost all robot vacuums are not smart enough to avoid things like rug tassels, small cords and small toys. Some, however, do have the capability of auto-stopping when they’re sucking in something that they shouldn’t. The bObsweep does not appear to have this capability, which certainly hurts its functionality. If it sucks in a loose end of a tablecloth, you can believe it will keep on going, likely pulling everything off the table in the process. This does speak well of its suction power, but negatively of its safety features.

The bObsweep also does not do so wonderfully when it comes to chairs. It will get stuck between the legs, which means it will either keep trying until it does, or until you navigate it out of its sticky situation. It will emit an error message in case it gets stuck. However, if you have it on an automated schedule, you can expect to find a dead, stuck bObsweep when you get home.

The inability to distinguish between dark areas on the floor and cliff edges is perhaps the biggest point of concern. This counts against the bObsweep in both the object avoidance category and the cleaning ability. It should not be avoiding objects that aren’t actually areas of concern. These issues result in a rather low score for the device on this end.

Score: 2/5

Features

The bObsweep is somewhat limited on features. The U.V. light is extremely interesting, although the jury is out on how effective it is at actually killing bacteria and viruses. The device does come with an air intake that helps clear the air through its 3-layered HEPA filter, which does add a positive benefit for its features.

Perhaps the most interesting (and fun) aspect of the bObsweep Pethair is the remote. While its look and size are a bit ungainly, the bObsweep is one of the few robot vacs out there that is not 100% automatic. If you so choose, you can treat the bObsweep like a radio controlled toy, moving it around wherever you want it to go. This could certainly help with some of its object avoidance and cleaning issues. However, the device is ultimately low on features. While there are different cleaning profiles and settings, these are not the most intuitive to set. And unfortunately, bObsweep may be futuristic mechanically, but its controls are very 1990s.

Score: 3/5

Charging/Battery Life

The bObsweep Pethair is a cheap robot vacuum cleaner. Nowhere is this more evident than in the battery. Batteries can be one of the most expensive pieces of any device. This one certainly cheaps it out perhaps a bit too much. The lithium-ion battery only runs for 1 hour and 15 minutes. This is 45 minutes less than many competitors. Couple this with extremely long charging times, and you can expect that you won’t be doing a lot of regular cleaning with this device. Other robot vacuum companies place separate warranties on the device and the battery. Not so for bObsweep. You can certainly purchase a spare battery from the company, but it won’t help with the long charging times. The overly-powerful motor comes at a cost, and that cost is longevity.

Unfortunately, the bObsweep also has a habit of not returning to its charging port. The ability to return automatically to the charging station is standard among robot vacuums. If this ability fails, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of any consumer. The bObsweep has a nasty habit of not finding its charging station, or leaving too little time to return to it. A fully dead battery takes even longer to charge, and may need to be charged via the secondary port on the side, and not the charging station.

Score: 2/5

Aesthetics

This device looks both good and bad. Aesthetically, it’s very appealing. The red color gives it an appealing look, and the circular design has the right, futuristic appeal that made the Roomba so popular. However, up close, the device shows its limitations. Its light weight (only 7.7 lbs) is a result of rather cheap materials used on the outer casing. And while you certainly don’t want a device that’s overly heavy, cheap materials certainly mean disaster for a device that needs blinders to get over dark floors.

Score: 3/5

Accessories

The accessory situation from bObsweep is one of the most impressive you will see. The company’s online store offers almost everything imaginable. The only thing you can’t buy from them is a motherboard to run the thing. But purchase your own arduino board, and you could easily build your own Bobsweep if you wanted to. The company sells replacement parts for every major component, inside and out. It’s hard not to admire them for that, and impossible to not give them the best possible score on that end as well.

Score: 5/5

Price

The term “you get what you pay for” applies to the bObsweep. As one of the cheapest robot vacuums on the market, you do indeed get what you pay for. However, its price is just high enough to where you’ll get a workable product, just not the best product you could possibly get. But if you want better, you’re going to have to spend no less than $100 more, which for many consumers may be a bit too much of an asking price. The bObsweep is a good bet for those who are interested in getting in on the robot vacuum craze, without having to spend an arm and a leg to do it.

Score: 5/5

Detailed Summary

As far as robot vacuums go, the bObsweep Pethair is neither the best, nor the worst device you can buy. It certainly does come with a few noticeable advantages, most namely the lower price. However, the unique features on this device could also be a significant draw for some people. It’s rare to see a device that takes cleaning so seriously, as is evidenced by the U.V. light for killing bacteria and viruses, and the HEPA filtration system for cleaning the air. And few devices provide a remote control that actually lets you have fun with your device by taking full control of its movements. Most will only allow you to watch in awe, and sometimes shock, as they suck up your power cords and get stuck between chair legs.

The fact that the battery life is so poor, however, is hard to overcome. This alone makes the bObsweep Pethair feel like it’s still stuck in the first generation of robot vacuums. And perhaps it is. Nevertheless, it’s 2016, and the first robot vacuum emerged in 2002 with the Roomba. We can excuse bObsweep a little on this, however. It is clear that this device was made for the masses, with affordability in mind. It’s also one of the most open-ended devices. That bObsweep provides almost every single replacement part conceivable shows they don’t mind a bit of tinkering with the insides. If anything, this device is a great purchase for those who are a fan of robotics and who want to play around with the inside of the device.

While it does its core acceptably, the bObsweep Pethair fails in a significant number of ways. The battery life is extremely poor in comparison to its competitors, while its object avoidance leaves a lot to be desired. The bObsweep is primarily a good device if you can obtain it for a low price. Otherwise, you may want to spring for a slightly more expensive brand.

iRobot Roomba 650

Pros

  • Powerful cleaning
  • Efficient cleaning pattern
  • Wide array of accessories

Cons

  • Limited features
  • Comparatively pricey
  • Poor battery life

As the lowest-end robot vacuum from iRobot, the Roomba 650 has a lot to offer, while still coming short on quite a few areas. iRobot packs this device with its core basics, including dual brushes, a standard, high-quality motor and a limited suite of sensors to help the robot avoid objects and clean effectively. However, it does not include any mapping technology, and is extremely lacking when it comes to offering any advanced features. The battery life can be a bit lacking as well at only 45-60 minutes to charge, which is reasonable for some jobs, but can result in other rooms taking multiple times to clean. On a positive end, iRobot has started to increase the number of accessories you can purchase with their devices. This means the iRobot Roomba 650 can be highly accessorized and fixed up. Aside from the motor dying, this is likely to be a robot that will last you a good, long time before you need to find a replacement. We gave this device a 3.14/5.

Detailed Review

We looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability

The Roomba 650 uses primary two brushes in order to clean: a separate agitator brush and traditional brush. Combined with the powerful suction, it creates an overall powerful cleaning method. In common iRobot fashion, this robot includes only one side brush. The device works well on carpeted floors. It is capable of reaching walls with the single side brush and pulling in most dirt and debris, but struggles to get into corners.
The Roomba 650 is the has the limited cleaning ability and features of iRobot’s line of robot vacuums. The small dust bin means that it reaches max capacity much sooner than usual. This is an unfortunate result for those with a lot of pets or small children. The device is also known to miss spots, especially in some corners where the side brush does not reach.

iRobot advertises the Roomba 650’s “high-efficiency cleaning pattern”. This means it does not clean in a random pattern. However, it does not map the room like many competitors or higher-end models from Roomba. However, the device does have a dirt detector (optical and acoustic sensors to detect these areas), and will go over spots multiple times. Bumper sensors will help it push past certain objects instead of stop at them (furniture skirts and sleeves).

Score: 4/5

Object Avoidance

The Roomba 650 has a good level of object avoidance. It occasionally gets stuck on rug tassels. However, it can move up onto carpets, rugs or room dividers within a slight, 1-inch rise. The device will typically avoid getting stuck on or wound up in electrical cords as long as they are not too thin (i.e., phone charger cords, headphone cords). The Roomba 650 has several sensors, including Roomba’s common bumper sensor. The standard cliff sensor will keep it from falling off the edge. However, it still has the problem of not working on dark carpets or surfaces due to the cliff sensor misreading dark areas as a cliff. Although not a part of the robot itself, the Roomba 650 can be used with Roomba’s stationary Virtual Wall Barrier that helps keep it in one room or out of specific rooms or locations.

Score: 4/5

Features

This lower-end Roomba model is extremely limited on features. Beyond the cleaning and object avoidance functions, it has few bonus features to speak of. Users can be preset the device to clean for a specific time of day. This feature can be utilized up to 7 times per week. It can also be set to spot clean instead of cleaning on a schedule. Cleaning can begin with just the touch of the main button as well. Additionally, you can utilize this device with the Virtual Wall to keep it in or out of a single room, or use the device with an additionally-purchased remote control.

Score: 2/5

Charging/Battery Life

 

As with all iRobot vacuum cleaners, this device will return to its base. There are few examples of it failing to do so. The device uses a single lithium battery that must be recharged after each use. The battery typically only lasts around 45 minutes to 60 minutes to a charge, depending on how much work the device needs to put in. Heavily carpeted rooms or rooms with thick rugs, dirt and debris will drive that use down before the need to recharge. With very light use, the battery life can be extended up to 1.5 hours.

Score: 2/5

Aesthetics

The iRobot Roomba 650 maintains the Roomba’s well-known and often-mimicked aesthetic. The design is much slimmer than early designs. The color scheme is pleasing, but may not be preferable to others. Buyers are also limited to just one color scheme for this device. As the Roomba’s design has become an industry standard, it’s hard to fault them for anything aesthetically except for failing to innovative the design in many years.

Score: 3/5

Accessories

iRobot has started offering a larger number of accessories for its devices, including an array of different replacement parts. You can purchase replacement wheels, side brushes, main brush and agitator brushes. You can also purchase brush cleaning tools, a replacement dust bin, spare batteries, a remote control, and the Virtual Wall devices. Also available is an enhanced cleaning head that can be put in place of the central brush assembly. This provides a better cleaning method for those who need heavy duty dust, dirt and hair cleaning.

Score: 5/5

Price

At $374.99, the Roomba 650 may be a little too expensive for what you’re getting. As the cheapest Roomba on the market, it comes with the quality and name of the Roomba, but the price point is an extremely high asking price for the extremely pared down features. This is particularly evident when the Roomba 650 is compared to similar devices from other popular brands, such as the much more feature-rich, and similarly priced, Neato Botvac D3 Connected.

Score: 2/5

Detailed Summary

The Roomba 650 is a good cleaning robot, although not the best on the market. Those looking for the safety and security that often comes with a name brand, but are unwilling to pay exorbitantly high prices will likely be drawn to this device. It does clean well, and it can get into some of those hard-to-reach areas under beds, couches and other furniture. However, at just around $350, the device maintains a rather high asking price for what you’re getting overall.

Specifically, this device is pared down when it comes to features. You can buy a remote control for it as an accessory, but you will not find any of the new and interesting features common among the newest robot vacuums. That means no app integration, no wifi connectivity, and no room mapping technology. Nevertheless, that simplicity is exactly what many individuals may be looking for. And given the Roomba name is so well received and respected in the industry, there is a lot of comfort being purchasing a device from the brand.

Overall, this device proves effective at cleaning, while it is limited in what it can do to aid in the cleaning efforts. It also uses up battery power fast, so any large jobs will require the device to have multiple runs before it effectively cleans a room. Positively, it can be scheduled, and as with all Roomba devices, it returns to its recharging base almost without fail. Most maintenance will simply be dumping out the dust bin, which may need to happen more frequently than some users would prefer.

The Roomba 650 is the cheapest Roomba on the market. It provides a good amount of cleaning power, but is severely limited on features when compared to similarly-priced devices.

Neato Botvac D80

Pros

  • Good battery life
  • Extra powerful suction power
  • Works on all surfaces
  • Unique design good for getting into corners and close to walls.

Cons

  • Tendency to get stuck on chair legs
  • Sucks up rug tassels
  • Hair can get stuck inside the bearings
  • Long charge time
  • Struggles to avoid some larger objects

All of Neato’s robot vacuums follow very similar designs. The only differences you’ll find among their products are in the technology they include and the features. The Neato Botvac D80/D85 is a step down from the Botvac connected. The only real thing missing between the two devices is a lack of wireless connectivity and a partner application. This also means that the primary issues with the Botvac D80 are the same as what you’ll find with the Botvac Connected: long charging times, tendency to get stuck, issues with hair in the brush. The battery life continues to be a draw for the Botvac, and the physical design can easily be stressed as a benefit. The price is also in a good spot for this device, making it a good alternative for the Botvac Connected. We gave this device a 4.07, among the highest we’ve rated.

Detailed Review

We have looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability

The Botvac D80 has an excellent level of cleaning power, most of the time. The key difference between the Botvac D80 and most of its competitors is the width and placement of its cleaning mechanism. The Botvac D80 places the cleaning brush in the very front of the machine. This helps avoid the problem other robot vacuums have where a lot of dirt and dust gets attached to the bottom before it hits the brushes. The brushes are also much wider than what can be found on most other robot vacuums. At 14mm, these brushes go right up to the edge.

Combine this with the squared shape on the Botvac, and you get a machine that’s perfectly designed to hit corners and near walls with ease. The Botvac D80 is louder than most other robot vacuums (to its detriment), but this is a result of having a stronger suction power. The vacuum can switch surfaces easily, although it performs noticeably better on hard surfaces than on carpets or rugs.

You will have to be concerned with area rugs that have tassels. These will get sucked into the brush and stop the vacuum in its tracks. Additionally, because the bearings are unsealed, hairs get stuck in them quite easily (despite what Neato would have us believe), also leading to more instances where the vacuum may be running, but not properly cleaning due to the brushes not moving at all.

The sensors under the brush area are prone to getting dirty. Combine this with the unsealed bearings, and you’re looking at a lot more regular maintenance for your Botvac than you might experience with many other robot vacuums. That said, the .7 liter dustbin, strong suction, tight cornering and powerful brushes make this Botvac a good option.

Score: 4/5

Object Avoidance

Object avoidance is both the Botvac D80’s strength and its weakness. The design helps the vacuum reach corners much better than any of the round robot vacuums on the market, hands down. The placement of the brush and its width add to the effectiveness. But the Botvac suffers from a few object avoidance issues. It uses a 360 degree laser sight that helps it decide on an effective path and detect objects to avoid. Yet it will still suck up objects that one would think its object avoidance should have ruled out.

Sure, the included magnetic boundary strips help (Neato does not actually include enough of them to be entirely useful), but they’re mostly mitigating an obvious problem. The Botvac does very well with larger objects such as tables, couches, desks, beds, etc. However, it has a

Sure, the included magnetic boundary strips help (Neato does not actually include enough of them to be entirely useful), but they’re mostly mitigating an obvious problem. The Botvac does very well with larger objects such as tables, couches, desks, beds, etc. However, it has a bit of a problem with chair legs. For reasons we’re not entirely sure of, it will often get stuck on these if you do not remove get them out of the way. When it gets stuck, it may sit there for a time, crying out for help. Part of this is because of the design. Since it does not use obstacle detection bumpers, it makes getting stuck on things like chair legs more of a problem. This is also compounded by the square top.

with chair legs. For reasons we’re not entirely sure of, it will often get stuck on these if you do not remove get them out of the way. When it gets stuck, it may sit there for a time, crying out for help. Part of this is because of the design. Since it does not use obstacle detection bumpers, it makes getting stuck on things like chair legs more of a problem. This is also compounded by the square top.

Score: 3/5

Features

The Botvac D80 is feature-rich for a lower-end robot vacuum. The dust bin is easy to remove and holds a rather large .7 liters of dirt. The ability to navigate back to the charging station on its own is extremely useful, even if it’s almost a required feature among robot vacuums at this point. Nevertheless, the Botvac D80 does have a core set of features, with little to complain about on that end.

Score: 5/5

Charging/Battery Life

The Neato Botvac utilizes a rechargeable NiMH battery. This helps give the Botvac its somewhat long 2 hours of battery life, but also adds to the device’s overall weight. Like most robot vacuums, the Botvac D80 will only run until its battery starts getting low, at which point it will return itself to the charging station. Charging takes half an hour longer than the battery runs, however, so if you do intend to use the Botvac to actually clean more than one room, you’re looking at hours and hours of cleaning time. This is perfectly fine if you’re out of the house all day or if you have a smaller space. However, the Botvac D80 has been known to get stuck, cry out for help and die, leaving its activities undone. Nevertheless, for a cheaper Botvac, the battery life is fantastic for the amount of power it has to put out.

Score: 4.5/5

Aesthetics

It may seem a bit unfair to rate the Botvac D80 on its aesthetic appeal. However, one has to acknowledge that form factor is always a consideration when it comes to new technology. Anyone buying a robot vacuum is buying it as much for what it looks like as what it can do. This tends to work negatively for devices that are built more for function than form. Neato even explains as much. Getting rid of the clean circular shape of most other robot vacuums was their way of doing just that. Unfortunately, it gives the device a less clean, futuristic look. It’s certainly no knock against the device’s functionality, but the Botvac D80 does look a bit less interesting than its competitors as it looks more like a regular vacuum that’s missing a handle and body.

Score: 3/5

Accessories

You probably won’t be looking to add flowers and a bough onto your Botvac. More likely than not, you’ll be hoping to upgrade or replace a few of the parts. Neato sells all of the necessary accessories to help make your Botvac useful in the long run. None of them are particularly stunning, but they are useful. This includes spare NiMH battery packs, upgrades to your brush and more magnetic boundary strips. We can’t fault Neato much on their accessories. They don’t deliver any that are extraneous, while also offering all of the ones you might be considering as essential items.

Score: 5/5

Price

Price is always a touchy subject for new technology. Although robot vacuums have been on the market for some time, they are still relatively new. Few people have them, and most companies currently producing these products only hopped into the market within the last decade. Neato is one of those rather new companies, and the Botvac D80 is their lowest-end model. Most buyers might see the $499 price tag and decide this is really not the object for them.

There are certainly much cheaper robot vacuums available on Amazon, and many are under $100. However, keep in mind that you do get what you pay for. The Botvac D80 is pricey. However, it is equivalent to its nearest competitor, the iRobot Roomba 680, which is also $499. For the price, you’re getting some of the best customer service around should anything go wrong, and a device that is jam packed with modern technology, great engineering and design.

Still, these devices are a tough sell, and their limited capabilities and usefulness put them in a niche market. The nearly $500 price tag further limits the pool of potential buyers. If Neato and other similar companies could find a way to bring that price down without harming quality, the score would go up dramatically.

Score: 4/5

Detailed Summary

Although their line of robot vacuums may be on the small side, Neato Robotics enters the market with a few powerful contenders. This includes their lower-end model, the Neato Botvac D80. Neato takes several takes several unique design and engineering directions with all of their Botvacs, the D80 included. Users will find the D80 a competitive and desirable Botvac, but must be warned: It is not for every home. While the Botvac D80 has excellent suction power, interesting features and an undoubtedly useful shape, many of the same features that make it unique and useful also create a few challenges that might not exist otherwise. The squared off front edge makes it good for corners, but actually causes more difficulty for getting around objects such as chairs and table legs. Meanwhile, the laser navigation system is useful, but seems to result in the Botvac missing items on the floor and accidentally trying to suck up things it shouldn’t.

On the positive end, the vacuum holds a lot more than many other robovacs, is much faster due to its cleaning pattern and has an exceptionally long battery life. Finally, should your Botvac go haywire or stop working (as the Botvac seems to be somewhat prone to do on occasion), Neato’s customer care is extremely responsive, and will often deliver new bots to you in exchange for your current one. The 1-year warranty on the bot and the 6 month warrant on the battery are both honored rather quickly, adding a lot of peace of mind given the general beta-testing feel of robot technology.

With a few limitations on its effectiveness that arise mostly due to its shape and its navigation method, the Botvac D80 is one of the most unique and useful Botvacs around. The price is good for a low-end robot vacuum while still maintaining a high level of usability.

Ecovacs Deebot D35

Pros

  • Low profile
  • Decent battery life
  • Will not suck up cords or tassels
  • Extremely inexpensive
  • Sleek design

Cons

  • Gets stuck far too easily
  • Few features
  • Lack of accessories
  • Wholly random cleaning pattern
  • Misses large areas
  • Overall lack of sensor technology

Ecovacs cannot be faulted for their attempts at making friendly, inexpensive robot vacuums. Therein lies the problem, however. Effective robot vacuums need to be more powerful, with more features and technology than Ecovacs is generally willing to invest. This leads the Ecovacs Deebot D35 into the dark zone. As Ecovacs typically does not include high-quality parts on their machine, it struggles to clean properly. The only really positives of this device are that it’s very cheap with a good battery life. As such, it’s a fairly decent robot vacuum for those who are just getting their feet wet in the robot vacuum market, and would like something inexpensive to give it a try. We gave the Deebot D35 a 3 out of 5, which for this robot vacuum is more than acceptable. The lack of higher quality technology would have improved the score, but also raised the price.

Detailed Review

We looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability

Ecovacs combines a few elements common to most robot vacuums with their Deebot D35, while also blazing a few trails all their own. This most common, basic cleaning element on the Deebot D35 is the spinning “whiskers” or side brushes. The side brushes help robot vacuums get closer to walls, while also aiding in the movement of dirt, hair and other particulates inward toward the center of the device. The Deebot D35 has two of these, one on either side, which not only gives it a unique look but make it very different from other robot vacuums.

Part of this two-whisker design is to help the robot’s primary suction function, which itself is a separate take on robot vacuuming. Most robot vacuums go for a very traditional agitator brush style that spins and helps pull material into the device and right up to the suction area. The Deebot D35 instead has only a suction device, which is designed to only allow loose material inside. There are a few advantages to this. First, it helps avoid the issue of cords, wires and tassels getting sucked into the device. Secondly, it actually allows for a thinner device with a lower profile, which also equates to a lower overall cost.

Unfortunately, the design does leave out a lot of functionality. The lack of an agitator brush and a wide suction area means that the Deebot D35 struggles to pick up everything. The side brushes help tremendously in getting material toward the center, but the device underperforms on carpets. Ecovacs is honest in not marketing this device for carpets. However, when most people buy it, they’re assuming it will act similarly on carpet as it does on hardwood or tile. A lot of unhappy customers have realized soon after purchasing their Ecovacs Deebot D35 that it’s not exactly carpet and rug friendly.

The squared off design with rounded edges makes it look like an offspring of an iRobot Roomba and a Neato Botvac. Its cleaning ability is unfortunately not on par with either device. It can get to walls better than a Roomba, but it fails at picking up material with its haphazard cleaning pattern and suction design. And while it certainly gets close to walls, it seems to struggle with corners, which the Neato Botvac specializes in.

Can you get a clean floor if you use this device? Sure. But don’t expect perfection. If you have the time, you’d honestly be better with a broom and dustpan. However, if you can handle a few crumbs left here or there, and time a luxury you simply don’t have, this little guy might do the trick.

Score: 2/5

Object Avoidance

If you’re looking for a robot vacuum that’s not going to run into things, you may need to look elsewhere. Unlike other robot vacuums on the market, the Deebot D35 has no sensors that help it position itself in relation to walls and other objects. Instead, it utilizes a bumper sensor that lets it know if it’s run into an object. Roombas operate similarly, however even Roombas have some sensors to help them navigate the room. The Deebot D35 is cheaper than most other bots for many reasons, one being they lack most of the latest and greatest in laser positioning sensor tech.

Unlike the Roomba, which will sometimes slam into objects fairly hard, the Deebot D35 does touch lightly against objects when it hits them. This ram-and-move cleaning pattern is the only trick it has. It cleans the entire room and house primarily by bumbling around blindly, running into things until it feels like it’s cleaned a whole room. It does have the requisite cliff sensor, however, as this is effectively a necessity for robot vacuums.

That said, the object avoidance on the Deebot D35 is fairly good. It runs into objects, but backs away fairly quickly when it hits something it shouldn’t. It unfortunately has a tendency to get stuck. Often, in fact. So often that you may find yourself simply pulling out a regular vacuum and doing the job yourself. The Deebot D35 is like a child playing “pin the tail on the donkey” in a large and crowded room. It might get there…eventually. But it’s going to trip over everything in the way before it does.

Score: 2/5

Features

It’s hard to imagine a robot vacuum being as featureless as the Deebot D35. This is part of its appeal, but it’s also a huge Achilles’ heel. The device is a bit of a one-trick pony. It can be scheduled to clean at the same time every day but holding down the start/pause button for three seconds. It will then clean every day at the time you pushed the button. Fancy. But that’s literally the only real feature it has.

Don’t buy it looking for integrated apps, wi-fi connectivity, push notifications, battery meters or anything that might actually make you go “wow.” The Deebot D35 is a shrug and a yawn on 3 wheels.

Score: 2/5

Charging/Battery Life

The Ecovacs Deebot D35 recovers some of its lost cleaning and object avoidance luster with its battery. The battery life is on the high-end for robot vacuums. You’ll find that you can usually squeeze around 90 minutes of runtime out of this device. Recharging usually takes around the same amount of time, if not more, which is typical. Nevertheless, with fewer parts and sensors to operate it raises a big question as to why the battery life isn’t better. The answer may be that Ecovacs kept the price down by including a smaller battery. The device could have really shined if it included a larger battery that allowed it to run for over 2 hours. However, the current battery life is still acceptable.

The device does have the requisite “return to sender” feature that helps it find its base and recharge itself. However, it sometimes has issues actually locating its base, and may run out of battery if it’s too far away from its base to return on time. Although it has no battery meter indicating that the battery is dying, you’ll notice a low battery based on how it’s performing. If you hear it getting quieter, or see that the side brushes aren’t turning fast, or at all, you’ll know its battery is low.

Score: 4/5

Aesthetics

The Deebot D35 is one of a few robot vacuums that have a definitively “futuristic” look . Its clean lines and colors help give it a very high-tech feel. The dual spinning side brushes somehow enhance that aspect of it as well. The fact that this bot is more lightweight and slimmer than most bots is definitely to its advantage. It has a significant “cute” factor to it, which is partially why it finds a lot of popularity in Asia where “small” and “cute” tech is highly favored. The good looks only partially make up for the limited functionality, but they do add to the curb appeal.

Score: 5/5

Accessories

The accessory department for the Ecovacs Deebot D35 is so painfully small, it’s almost shameful. You can purchase spare side brushes and a space filter. That’s it. No spare batteries, no spare wheels. Nothing. It’s understandable that many companies are very protective of their tech, but a lack of selling any spare items beyond a filter and side brushes is embarrassingly overprotective. It also shows that company wants you to physically return the device in order to get it serviced in any way. Which of course costs money. It doesn’t help that their customer service department is notably difficult to work with or even get in contact with.

Score: 1/5

Price

Price is the Deebot D35’s real saving grace. This robot vacuum is about as cheap as it gets. And for the price you’re paying, you’re actually getting something that performs, in many ways, equivalent to a device that might be $100 more expensive. The low asking price actually makes the Deebot D35 worth a try for those interested in getting their feet wet within this market. It’s definitely a good starter robot for new buyers. Just don’t get your hopes up too high.

Score: 5/5

Detailed Summary

It’s hard to give a definitive thumbs up or down for the Ecovacs Deebot D35. In some ways, this device is a godsend for those who love robot vacuums. In others, it’s a painfully ill-performing device. For all intents and purposes, however, the low asking price of $149 makes it a worthy purchase for some. It will do a cleaning job for you, although you may have to hold its hand, so to speak, throughout the entire process.

The Deebot D35 is effective at what it can do, while struggling to do some things we might consider basic for robot vacuums at this point. It will pick up dirt that it passes over, but it struggles to get itself to all of the dirt that it can. It will make its way back to the charging station for a battery recharge, but it occasionally can’t seem to remember where the charging station actually is. It can operate well without sucking up cords, tassels and other objects, but this is at the rather hefty cost of functionality on carpets and rugs.

The battery life is about on par with the higher end robot vacuums, while the actual cleaning ability is noticeably weaker. It will get the job done to a minimal degree, and may even get most of it done if your house is clutter free. However, expect to spend long hours helping it get free from places it shouldn’t be getting stuck, including entryway ridges and separators. Nevertheless, for $149, it’s cheap enough to justify a little bit of a headache.

The Ecovacs Deebot D35 is fun to look at and is definitely a quirky conversation piece. However, this little robot fails at doing what a robot vacuum should do: hands-free automated cleaning. The device far too often finds itself stuck in locations that most robot vacuums can get out of, while still having the ability to avoid some common robot vac issues. Its saving grace is the extremely low price, which might just make it worth the purchase, but just barely.

iClebo Arte

Pros

  • Loaded with high tech features
  • Good aesthetic appeal
  • Replaceable battery
  • Quiet
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Poor suction strength
  • Fails to get walls and corners
  • Leaves too much material behind

A high-end contender with some rather noticeable faults, the iClebo Arte is a good robot vacuum for those willing to spend a good bit of money on extra features and good battery life. iClebo makes a wide range of robot vacuums. The Arte is one of their more expensive ones, justifying the cost by including many state-of-the-art features that are difficult to find on other robot vacuums. The failings on this robot vacuum unfortunately reside in the area that is most important: cleaning ability. The iClebo Arte has all of the right trimmings, but lacks the powerful suction ability to make it a true cleaning machine. It gets a 3.14/5 from us, mostly due to the failings of its cleaning power.

Detailed Review

We looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability

Looking at just the on-paper stats, the iClebo Arte should be one of the best robot vacuums on the market. It boasts almost all of the most advanced and useful cleaning features and functionalities that you’ll find on many other robot vacuum cleaners. Much like the Ecovac brand, it sports dual side whiskers intended to help get in close to baseboards. Like the robots from Neato Robotics, it uses a very methodic cleaning pattern. Like the Bobsweep Bob, it includes a wet mop attachment on the back. And much like the higher end robots from iRobot, it uses several cleaning modes as well as uses infrared mapping technology to help determine where it’s been and where it’s going.

Yet the biggest problem this robot vacuum has its lack suction power. There simply isn’t enough of it to really get the job done. This is highly noticeable when it encounters large clumps of dirt or fallen debris, and is particularly noticeable on carpets. While it does include all of the features that make it highly desirable as a piece of modern cleaning technology, it struggles to do the one, main job that it was supposed designed to actually do.

This is not to say that it cannot clean at all. On the contrary, the iClebo Arte does perform well in very perfect lab conditions. If you’re using it only on a hardwood floor and only to get up the occasional dirty spots or small amounts of dust and hair, you’re likely going to be very satisfied. However, you may start questioning that satisfaction after two months or so. The iClebo Arte appears to have a design flaw that causes dirt and dust to collect near several of its sensors. This causes it to believe it is coming close to running into an object. If you notice that it’s spinning in circles after leaving its base, you’ve fallen prey to this consistent flaw. Cleaning the dust away from the sensors might help, but many other users have equally identified that this does not seem to always fix the problem.

Adding on those troubles is iClebo’s somewhat shoddy customer service. They may get back to you. They may not. It seems to be a bit of a lottery with that one. The one shining factor on this robot vacuum is perhaps its mixture of cleaning modes the fact that it is one of the fastest robot vacuums on the market today. That said, it simply underperforms the competition at the same price point, and even performs worse than some robot vacuums that cost less.

Score: 2/5

Object Avoidance

To its credit, the iClebo Arte is mostly good at getting around objects. The sensor technology that it comes with helps it map out the room. The more you use it, the better it learns the area. It becomes less likely to get stuck on different objects. It has low profile and is able to get over room barriers and high rugs fairly easily. However, it tends to overestimate how much it is capable of rolling over. Chairs and tables that have use a continuous bar across the floor for support can be a hazard. Cords are also a danger to this bot, as it can easily run into them and then get stuck on them.

It rarely sucks in cords, but it does have a tendency to get stuck on them. In most cases, it will not run into walls, chair legs, or other objects too often. This is a plus, considering how fast this robot vacuum moves. It is also capable of avoiding falling down stairs, which is at this point an industry standard. However, we’re unsure of whether the known flaw related to dust covering the sensors impacts the cliff sensor. If it does, you could be looking at a very expensive fall if your iClebo Arte takes a tumble down the stairs.

Score: 4/5

Features

The core, and somewhat impressive features on this robot vacuum relate to its cleaning ability. While most robot vacuums only include one cleaning mode, the Yujin Robot’s iClebo Arte has several. On “Auto Mode” the vacuum will act similarly to some of the other high-end robots. It will map out the area and do a methodical, side-to-side cleaning method. You can also turn on a “Mop Mode” which will turn off the section and instead focus on using the wet/dry mop attachment. This has been found to be mostly useless, however, as it suffers from the same flaw as other robot vacuums that have tried it: lack of applied force. The third mode sets the robot into a random cleaning pattern. The last mode allows the robot to climb over up to 20mm barriers, particularly between rooms and over high rug edges.

All of these modes can be controlled via the included remote controller. The on-board screen also displays a fair amount of information, something that other robot vacuums lack. This includes a battery meter. It is unfortunate that the cleaning strength of this robot vacuum does not match the impressive display of features, however.

Score: 4/5

Charging/Battery Life

Yujin Robot ups the battery power on their robot by having a very low suction strength. You can potentially get up to 2.5 hours of battery life from your iClebo Arte, far more than the majority of even high-end robot vacuums. The standard battery life, at 2 hours, is still on the high end and extremely impressive. Charging times are only around 90 minutes, meaning you’ll almost always get more usage time out of each charge than how long you’re waiting for it recharge. Nevertheless, the iClebo Arte sacrifices cleaning strength in order to accomplish this task.

Score: 5/5

Aesthetics

If you’re looking to make a showpiece out of your iClebo, you may want to simply leave it turned off. It’s an extremely attractive looking device. Yujin Robot gave special attention to design, and it shows through the outer frame on this robot. Unfortunately, a robot is more than just its looks. The iClebo scores good points for have a design that makes it look like it should matter, but inevitably loses a lot of points for overall functionality.

Score: 4/5

Accessories

There are just two replacement items you can purchase for this robot: a spare battery and a spare filter. That’s it. Yujin Robots does a good job of showing us the different parts and pieces of their robot, but does little to offer us replacement parts. While it’s commendable that you can buy spare batteries from them (although only from Amazon), the lack of anything more significant is troubling. Even the most stingy of robot vacuum companies offer a larger collection of accessories. Yujin may indeed be the stingiest.

Score: 1/5

Price

Prices for the iClebo Arte can vary, depending on where you’re looking and the time of the year. At the price range, it has far more features than most robot vacuums that are of an equivalent price. However, its cleaning ability is more similar to less expensive robot vacuums. This makes the iClebo Arte a bit of a conundrum for buyers. Ultimately, what you gain in features, you don’t make up in cleaning power. If you’re looking into a starter robot, the iClebo is going to be too expensive for your tastes. If you’re looking to upgrade to something fancier, it’s price point might seem attractive, but you’ll quickly be disappointed by what it can do (or can’t do).

Score: 2/5

Detailed Summary

Ultimately, we cannot recommend purchasing the iClebo Arte — unless you are able to find it for a rock-bottom price. At present, it’s loaded with features that are actually useful. For all intents and purposes, the features that it boasts of having — multiple sensors, multiple cleaning modes, etc., — all work as advertised. What does not work as advertised is the cleaning power. Yujin Robot gives us some fairly solid propaganda videos to look. All are of their robot performing different tasks in head-to-head competitions with other robots. However, note what robots they are not showing themselves against: Roomba. Neato. Ecovacs. Even Bobsweep. The reason here should be obvious. The robots from those companies are superior in their cleaning ability.

The lack of cleaning ability comes down to design. Yujin oddly bucks convention, putting the suction area and the spinning brush at the back of the machine. This immediately makes it impossible for the robot to actually pick up material close to walls and baseboards. It cannot get corners at all. There’s just no way, by design, for it to do so. Having the suction area at the back end also means the device is collecting more dirt and dust on the underbelly than it should be. This may be part of the design flaw that impacts the sensors.

Overall, Yujin makes a good showing in physical design, and has an admirable attempt at a robot vacuum. However, the strength of the suction does not go far enough, and the overall design seems somewhat ill-conceived.

The iClebo Arte from Yujin Robot makes an admirable attempt at convincing us that all you need are features to win the game. However, its limited suction power and odd brush and suction placement ultimately fail at delivering on the advertised promise of superior performance.

Ecovacs Deebot DM85

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Functional remote control
  • Great with walls
  • Good object avoidance
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Useless wet mop
  • Struggles to return to its base
  • Price a bit too high for overall value

Ecovacs presents rather respectable robot vacuums into the marketplace, with equally respectable features and functionality. Their Deebot DM85 is among their highest priced robot vacuums, although admittedly not their best. Despite its lightweight features and excellent battery life, this robot vacuum has several issues that limit its usefulness. The included wet mop, which is highly touted by Ecovacs, and adds to the product’s price, is effectively useless in doing more than adding a wet layer to the floor. Most importantly, this bot is known to have issues returning to its base. These issues effectively complicate the automation factor that buyers expect from their robot vacuums. Given those issues, the price is a bit high. We gave this vacuum an overall rating of 3.14/5 due to those significant limitations. There were some good aspects to the device that might make it a worthy purchase, however.

Detailed Review

We looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability

The Ecovacs Deebot DM85 does its job…mostly. It excels on hardwood floors or tiles, which is the primary location that most robot vacuums excel at. Interestingly, this device can actually suck in a limited amount of liquids. Part of this is because the Deebot DM85 slightly doubles as a mop and a vacuum. Unfortunately, the mop feature on this robot vacuum does not work as advertised. It will slightly clean up dirty spots, but the lack of pressure applied to the wet pad will not clean up any real trouble areas. Still, the device has a water basin included that does help keep the wet mop area wet. If anything, it will help pick up any dirt that might get left behind.

The Deebot DM85 excels at walls. The two side whiskers help it get in close to the walls and get any dirt and dust that is right up against the wall as well. However, its shape makes getting into the corners a bit difficult, if not impossible. You’ll find more often than not that if you leave it alone consistently, it will leave a large amount of dirt and dust and other filth in the corner untouched.

Perhaps one of the best benefits on this device is just how easy it is to empty. The dust bin, which holds more than .5 liters, is very easy to remove, very easy to clean and very easy to replace. This is a huge benefit, as many other robot vacuums place the bin in a location that is just not conducive to easy removal.

Finally, this vacuum is extremely quiet in comparison to other robot vacuums. Its sound production is under 60 decibels. This is of course because the suction strength is less than you’ll find on most other vacuums. It certainly helps avoid a battery drain, but it will mean that it performs less favorably on carpets and rugs.

Score: 3/5

Object Avoidance

If you treasure your walls and furniture, the Ecovacs Deebot DM85 is a fairly good option for you. Ecovacs upgraded the sensors over their cheaper models by including a proximity sensor on the front. Now the device will slow down right before it hits walls, helping to preserve your sanity a little bit. This doesn’t mean it will never run into walls. Occasionally it will still hit them. But it won’t navigate its way around the room using its bump guard. As with most of these devices, cords are still a problem. There is also a bit of a problem when you have the mop attachment on. Normally it has no problem getting into rugs, but the mop attachment will get stuck, making the device get stuck on rugs.

Score: 3/5

Features

The Ecovacs DM85 is extremely rich with features. Not all of the features are actually useful, but they’re certainly there. The most valuable feature is likely going to be the remote. A feature suite in one small package, the remote allows for cleaning scheduling and also allows you to take control of your DM85. Those who find their Deebot is missing areas due to the randomized cleaning method may indeed find the ability to take full control a lot more useful.

The most useless feature continues to be the wet mop. This isn’t the first time Ecovacs has attempted to include a wet mop. That they include a water basin to keep the pad wet this time around is a plus, but as with their previous bots, the pad doesn’t really add in pressure to the ground, making it more useless than useful.

Score: 4/5

Charging/Battery Life

Ecovacs has put a lot into making sure their battery power is top of the line. The battery on the Deebot DM85 lasts for a rather impressive 2 hours, topping even the most expensive robots on the market. Part of this is because the Deebot DM85 has a less powerful suction ability, does not switch suction strengths between hardwood and carpet, and has only a limited suite of sensors that are draining the battery power. In true Ecovacs fashion, the bot also shuns a digital display screen, which also helps keep the battery power up.

The biggest problem is something that Ecovacs still hasn’t quite solved correct: returning to the base. The Ecovacs Deebot DM85 struggles to return to the base if it’s in a different room. Furthermore, Ecovacs has admitted that there is a design flaw in which the side brushes can block the sensor that helps it locate its charging base. A strong battery life helps save the score, but it’s not exactly a winning the robot wars when it can’t return to its own base effectively.

Score: 4/5

Aesthetics

The Ecovacs Deebot DM85 has a sleek design, but does not break into any new territory with the design either. While the lower-end Deebot series go for a unique robot vacuum design, the Deebot DM85 does the unfortunate: mimicking the Roomba. They stick to their two-whisker design, which is unique to them and adds an interesting flair, but certainly don’t win any awards for originality on the overall design. Nevertheless, the overall design gives it a futuristic look. The weight and size are right in line for what most users will want, but unlike some other robot vacuums, the light weight is not the result of higher quality materials in the design, but cheaper plastic ones.

Score: 3/5

Accessories

Ecovac continues to be fairly effective at delivering a good number of accessories. This is a bit of a necessity given the large number of moving parts on this robot vacuum. Consider this: The device has two moving side brushes, a regular central brush, a filter, and a wet mop. All of these are parts that could easily get broken or ruined and need to be replaced. Unfortunately, Ecovacs’ accessories section on their website is horribly laid out and a pain to navigate. Furthermore, they may be refreshingly transparent on the quality of their materials, but they limit the accessories you can purchase to the cleaning-related items. There are no replacements for the remote, battery or any other parts that that might get broken, like the wheels. They earn a better-than-usual score here, but a few simple changes would make their accessory offering shine.

Score: 3/5

Price

There’s just one word to say when it comes to the Deebot DM85: Overpriced. Despite the small upgrades that Ecovacs included on this bot over the D35, the actual cleaning ability is hardly any better. The wet mop function is, yet again, more of a gimmick than actually useful. You might get a few dirty spots off the floor with it, but ultimately you’re not going to see many results. If you think about what robot vacuums are out there that Ecovacs is competing with in this price point, it almost makes the price more of an insult than anything else. If Ecovacs brings the price down around $100, it would make this robot vacuum much more fairly priced for what it can do.

Score: 2/5

Detailed Summary

Ecovacs continues their effort to make quality robot vacuums at a lower cost than the more popular branded makers. In some respect, they do this with the Deebot DM85. The DM85 does a fair job at doing the basic functions that we expect out of a robot vacuum. It cleans hardwood floors excellently, which is almost a given. It gets right up close and personal to walls fairly well, and the side whiskers help get most dirt that against the wall right into the waiting central suction and brush.

The wet mop feature, while interesting, is overall a useless venture. Until Ecovacs can figure out a way to get their robot vacuum to apply pressure to the ground, the wet mop will be little better than a regular wet mop, maybe even less so. It will clean up some messes better than other robot vacuums, and Ecovacs markets it as being able to suck in some wet spills as well, but the advantages are limited at best.

The battery life is perhaps one of the best selling points, as you will be able to get a lot of cleaning done in the time that it cleans. However, the random cleaning pattern will result in a lot of missed areas and a very inefficient clean, meaning that the longer battery life is more of a compensation for the fact that it isn’t cleaning in the most efficient way possible. It struggles to get back to its charging base when it’s not in the same room as the base, and even has a flaw that allows the side brushes to get in the way of the sensor that guides it on home.

Overall, this is a good middle-of-the-road device. It has more features than the cheapest brands, but is not quite up to standard for a more expensive device. At $400, the device does not perform well enough to justify the expense. $100 less would be a much fairer value for what you’re actually getting.

Ecovacs comes in strong with their Deebot DM85, making a good all-around vacuum for the robot vacuum lovers. The cleaning strength leaves a bit to be desired, while the wet mop function is more or less a useless expense. If Ecovacs can bring the price down a bit, it may make the slightly updated features a more worthwhile purchase.

Samsung POWERbot VR9000

Pros

  • Extremely strong suction
  • Fun and effective remote control
  • Large capacity dust bin
  • Good battery life
  • Great object avoidance

Cons

  • Overpriced
  • Struggles getting onto some carpeted areas and rugs
  • Misses dirt and dust near walls and in corners
  • Extremely loud without the quiet mode

Technology powerhouse Samsung entered the robot vacuum market hard and fast. Out of the gate they came into the market with the full force of their international research and development team behind them. The POWERbot VR9000 is fully representative of what we can expect from Samsung: Loads of high-tech features at a very high price. Samsung’s robot vacuum has the chops, that we can attest to. The suction strength on this robot vacuum is among the best you’ll see — perhaps the best. Its battery life is solid, and its cleaning ability more than capable. However, it is not without its faults, some of which are surprising. This includes the fact that the bot has difficulty climbing small ridges, and does not get into corners and walls as well as the design might indicate. We gave this bot a 3.8/5, primarily for the price. However, it earned this because of several other areas of weakness.

Detailed Review

We looked at 7 factors that will likely influence which robot vacuum you decide to invest in. These areas were Cleaning Ability, Objective Avoidance, Features, Charging/Battery Life, Aesthetics and Price. Each category is scored individually, with the final score reflecting the average of each of the 7 categories.

Cleaning Ability

One has to hand it to Samsung. If any robot vacuum comes closer to an actual, traditional vacuum, we haven’t seen it. The Samsung POWERbot VR9000 is perhaps one of the strongest cleaning robot vacuums on the market today. This does not mean that is cleans the best. It simply means that it has the most powerful suction ability we have seen.

Samsung pulled out all of the stops on this one in order to create the highest-end vacuum cleaner they could make. They include the same cyclone technology that exists in their normal vacuums, which they term “Cyclone Force”. With it, the VR9000 is capable of sucking up pretty much anything. Combine this with the extra long 12.4 inch agitator brush, and you’ll find that this device pretty much leaves no stone unturned. That is, as long as it can get to the stone.

The biggest problem with the Samsung POWERbot is the fact that it struggles with walls and corners. Part of this is because of its design. The device (positively) avoids running into walls and other objects. Unlike the bots we see from iRobot or Ecovac, the POWERbot does not navigate its way around through feel. It navigates through sensors and a digital mapping camera. This makes its cleaning pattern very similar to the Botvac from Neato Robotics. Its physical design also makes it similar to the Botvac. However, because it is wholly adverse to bumping into objects, it will sometimes leave areas of dirt and dust in sitting in corners and along walls. The lack of a spinning side brush, which is common on most other robot vacuums, aids in this inability to really get to those corner areas.

While it does not run into objects during its cleaning process, it will get right up close to them and touch them lightly. It approaches things rather quickly, then screeches to a halt, backs up slightly, then slowly approaches walls and objects until it is right against them. If you notice that the vacuum is missing a spot, you can use the included remote to point a laser spot on the floor. It will then clean that area. It’s not quite the same as using the remote control, but it’s a good compensation.

There is automatic adjustment between hardwood floors or tiles and carpeted areas or rugs. This should help save battery. However, expect that this vacuum will be loud. The increased suction power puts it on par with a regular vacuum in terms of how loud it is. Even still, its first few times around, it may not clean effectively. It “learns” the room and routes, so it may take some time before it really gets going effectively. Round this off with a rather large and easy to empty dust bin capacity with a .7 liters capacity, and you have a fairly solid cleaning robot. Despite all of that power, it does not clean much better than the Botvac or the Roomba, which may make you question why you bought it in the first place.

Score: 4/5

Object Avoidance

This vacuum does not run into objects. Mostly, anyway. The only way it runs into objects is by slowly approaching and then ever so lightly touching against the object. This is aided by its proximity sensors, which also help make sure it does not get stuck inbetween chair legs or on other objects. The large wheels and somewhat large body also help prevent getting stuck when it transitions between rooms or surfaces.

It still struggles with some objects, however. For example, dark carpets with a high edge will appear like either cliffs (which it won’t go over) or objects that it’s just not supposed to run into. It is over 5 inches tall, which is what too high. It cannot pass under most couches. It includes the requisite cliff edge sensor to prevent long falls, but this is a given among robot vacuums. Nevertheless, the fact that it is gentle with walls and furniture and that it tends to avoid getting stuck in places gives it a definite edge.

Score: 4/5

Features

The Samsung POWERbot VR9000 includes a fully-featured and highly desirable remote control. The remote allows you to control the robot through a spot-checking laser pointer, or directly with left, right and forward buttons. There are also buttons for turning on a silence mode, which reduces the suction strength and therefore the noise, as well as a “dust” mode that seems to turn on some kind of dust-detecting sensor.

The digital display is a rare treat for a robot vacuum. You can schedule different cleaning times, although it is a bit featureless regarding cleaning modes. Nevertheless, the digital display carries a load of different data points, including a battery meter and an indicator that tells you if there are any clogs, jams, or if the dustbin is full. Samsung went all out on the features for this robot vacuum, which should come as no surprise considering the brand.

Score: 5/5

Charging/Battery Life

Samsung does not give too many details about their battery life or charging function for this device. There is only one way to charge it, which is through the included remote charging station. The device will automatically return to its charging station when the battery starts getting low, and will return to its uncompleted tasks until it is finished. The charging time is around 2.5 hours, while you can expect to see about 100 minutes of life out of the vacuum.

Keep in mind of course that your battery life will vary. Because this vacuum uses extra powerful suction via cyclonic technology found on a regular vacuum, it can be a battery hog, especially on carpets. Combine this with the large number of sensors this device has, as well as the digital display, and you’re looking at run times that can dip below 1 hour. Still, the max battery life is on the high end for robot vacuums, and the charging time is to be expected.

Score: 4/5

Aesthetics

Samsung whipped up one of the clearest winners for futuristic look and appeal when they designed the POWERbot VR9000. The only negative is the cyclone area, which, with the copper color on the side, makes it look like it has a giant Energizer battery sitting on the top. The side profile and the top profile are all you need to know about why this product is so expensive. It’s a top-of-the-line Samsung product, and they have obviously poured a good amount of money into designing something that is both powerful and fun to look at. The biggest problem is probably how large it is. The device is extremely bulky, with the look of a futuristic vacuuming tank roaming around the floor. It still manages to be extremely lightweight, a testament more likely related to higher-quality, lightweight materials than cheap ones.

Score: 5/5

Accessories

Unsurprisingly, Samsung offers little in the way of accessories. You can purchase extra filters, extra charging stations, or spare brushes. Otherwise, you’re out of luck. The company really does not want you tampering on the inside, which includes changing out the battery. The sponge filter, however, is reusable and washable. Its not as effective as the HEPA filters you might find in other vacuums, but it does the job. It’s hard to be kind to Samsung on this end, as they do not give users much leeway to fixing their own machine beyond returning them through the mail, which can be costly.

Score: 2/5

Price

The price was originally $1,000. Samsung wisened up and dropped the price by about $250 dollars. Still, the price tag might be a bit too high when compared to the Roomba and Neato models on the higher end. If Samsung really wants to push these, they’ll need to drop the price by at least another $200, if not a little bit more. It simply does not perform at a level high enough above its peers to justify the cost, even with the extra features and stronger suction strength. We score them a little better than we would have due to the more recent price drop, but the high price is still painfully unjustified based on the actual performance of the machine.

Score: 2/5

Detailed Summary

Samsung makes a powerful entry into the robot vacuum market with the POWERbot VR9000. In some ways, they help justify the existence of robot vacuums with their bot. In other ways, they help to prove that the technology is either too expensive to make the product a good alternative to a vacuum for most people, or that they as a company are charging to much for their own name brand. Either way, the VR9000 is a good example of great machinery at too high a price.

As stated, the cleaning ability on the Samsung POWERbot VR9000 is top of the line. It’s hard to match the cyclonic suction power that Samsung puts in this robot vacuum, as evidenced by side-to-side comparisons between it and other vacuums. However, that suction power only goes so far when the vacuum still leaves noticeable areas uncleaned, particularly close to walls and in corners. Its cleaning pattern is methodical and common sense, which helps it avoid missing the most obvious areas, but its limitations in both physical design and features help make it little better at cleaning than its significantly cheaper rivals.

The biggest draw for this device is likely going to be its features and design as a whole and not any one thing. It’s great at cleaning, but not the best. It does have some of the best features available, however, with some hints that Samsung may be bringing it up to digital integration with other products as part of their wider “Smart Home” initiative.

At $759 (which is probably the best you’ll find anywhere online, as prices vary), this vac just doesn’t prove itself worth the price. If Samsung can swallow its pride in its own brand name and bring the price down at least $200, it may have a winning device on its hands.

The Samsung POWERbot VR9000 is about as close to a real vacuum as robot vacuums can get. Samsung’s inclusion of their regular vacuum suction power in the robot vacuum is ambitious, but does not justify the extremely high price. Commendation can be given for Samsung lowering the price from what it was when they initially introduced the device. However, the POWERbot VR9000 does not perform better than its primary competitors in many ways, making the price totally unjustified.

Robot Vacuum Buyer’s Guide

With such a large number of robot cleaners available on the market, it’s easy to get lost in the numerous features that each one might have. However, there are certain technologies and features that future buyers should be aware of before diving in. Some of these features come standard in almost every robot vacuum. Others are tacked on as bonuses, or as methods of trying to make the product more useful, efficient, and ultimately more attractive to buyers. What you’re looking for will depend on what you’re willing to pay, as well as what is actually useful to you.

It’s best to keep in mind that no robot vacuum comes with everything on this list, although some of the highest-cost models from the top brand names may come close. It’s best to keep in mind, however, that you may not need everything in order to get the best benefit out of your robot vacuum, and that simply having all of the latest bells and whistles does not make a robot vacuum effective. For evidence of this, check out our individual reviews of different robot vacuums. This should help you sift through the details better as well.

Avoidance Technology

One of the primary features in all robot vacuums is known as “avoidance technology”. This is a combination of sensors all over the robot’s body that help it to avoid different obstacles. At a bare minimum, a robot vacuum will, and should, include these two avoidance technologies:

  • Cliff Sensors
  • Bumpers

Every robot vacuum maker includes cliff sensors as a standard practice now. These sensors, which are placed on the underbelly of the bot, are located near the front and sometimes back end of the machine. The cliff sensor is usually an optical sensor that determines height — similar to the optical laser sensor on a digital mouse. The sensor will determine how far the robot is from the nearest surface. If the robot is about to go over a cliff (example: stairs), it flips a switch or impacts the software and causes the robot to reverse immediately. Most robot vacuums have a cliff sensor tuned to within a few inches. This allows the machine to still go over small bumps, but avoids disastrous falls down stairs.

Bumpers are often included on the front side of a robot vacuum that allow it to recognize when it has hit an object. Usually padded, this lets the robot know it needs to move in another direction. The bumper sensors are mechanical, activating only when the machine has physically run into something. These are also some of the cheapest types of sensor to include on robot vacuum. The most effective bumper sensors are combined with mapping technology.

There are additional kinds of sensors you may find on a robot vacuum beyond these. This includes other infrared sensors that help determine what objects in the room that should be avoided, and digital and infrared cameras that take actual images and photographs of the room for the same purposes. Some very high-end robots may even use ultrasonic frequency technology to map rooms and avoid objects.

Mapping Technology

Joined with the avoidance technology on robot vacuums is the mapping technology. It is important to note that while all robot vacuums have avoidance technology, not all robot vacuums include mapping technology. There are significant benefits to purchasing a vacuum with mapping technology, including:

  • Increased cleaning efficiency
  • Better object avoidance
  • More advanced cleaning patterns

Mapping technology is typically a combination between hardware and software. The hardware used to map the room is often the same as that which is used for object avoidance. Joined with software that creates a digital map of each room, the robot vacuum will remember the room’s layout and create regular cleaning patterns. If a room’s layout changes, the maps are updating or renewed for continued efficiency. Note, however, that robots with mapping technology often come at a higher price.

There are two, primary methods for mapping technology used in robot vacuums:

  • Laser mapping
  • Digital cameras (visual mapping)

There are differences between how these two forms of mapping technology work, and with their overall effectiveness. Laser mapping, while effective in most cases, has an issue with shadows. It can also give false indications of obstacles, and is not always entirely accurate regarding the size of objects in the room, or distance from those objects. Viewed on a screen, one may see why. The presentation shows that the image created is not entirely clean.

Digital cameras offer an advantage in that they give real-life positioning for the robot. The newest, and perhaps best, mapping technology using visual means is known as VSLAM, or Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping. The benefit of this is that the robot can keep track of where it is, while also mapping out new terrain, using real, digital imagery. This allows the robot to avoid objects much better, remember where it has been much better, and clean much faster and more efficiently. Robots that use digital visual mapping are more expensive purchases.

Cleaning Features

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The second most important feature of a robot vacuum is its ability to clean. We call this the second most important, given that a robot vacuum needs to be able to move around effectively without destroying itself first and foremost. After that, a robot vacuum is measured on how effectively it can actually clean.

This is also the area that most robot vacuum companies pour the majority of their features and their money. It is also the aspect of robot vacuums that receives the most attention during marketing campaigns, as it is the function most consumers are likely to care about. Here you will find all of the tiny details regarding what can and does go into robot vacuums.

The most common cleaning features on a robot vacuum include, but are not limited to, the following:

Traditional brushes (bristle): Most robot vacuums will include a brush that is very similar in design to what you will find with a traditional vacuum. That is, a central dowel with plastic or nylon hairs inserted into it that help sweep up dust, dirt and other loose materials into the receiving basin. Most lower end robot vacuums will utilize a traditional brush style.

Bladed brush: Bladed brushes shirk the traditional bristle design, which mimics a regular broom in place of angled rows of rubber “blades”. These blades are usually designed to help clean up pet hair, which commonly gets stuck within bristle brushes, but will not stick inside of blade brushes by design.

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Combination brush: A combination brush combines the rubber bladed design with traditional bristle design. This design is meant to bring in the best of both worlds, as the common bristle design is much better at sweeping in smaller dirt and dust particles.

Brushless design: Although rare, the brushless design works on an interesting principal. Essentially operating like a suction hose attachment on a regular vacuum, robot vacuums with this design include no main brush. The suction area is comprised of a small hole. Typically, these designs will include side whiskers to help move material in toward the hole, which is usually centrally located. The primary flaw of this design is that it does not work well on rugs or carpets, as it lacks the agitation of a main brush.

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Brush location: The location of the primary brush is easily overlooked. However, where this brush is located can make a difference in the overall effectiveness of the robot vacuum. There are three potential locations for the primary brush: the front, the middle or the back. The most common location on the majority of robot vacuums front area placement. Frequently, you may find the brush and suction area in the center of the machine. On very rare occasions, robot vacuum designers have placed the brush on the back.

The key flaw to placing the brush directly center or in the back is the fact that the machine will roll over a significant amount of material before anything gets to the brush. Problems arise in which dust and other material will collect on the underside, and will need cleaning after a time. On some occasions, this has caused the dust and other materials to actually block sensors located on the bottom. This can lead to a malfunction in operation.

Suction Strength: If a robot vacuum company is downplaying its vacuum’s suction strength, the likely reason is that the suction strength is poor. Suction strength can be determined by the strength of the motor and the design of the air chamber and fan. These can influence how strong of a suction is created. Many of the lower-end robot vacuums will use smaller, low-powered and cheaper motors. Low-powered motors tend to be passable on hard surfaces, but mostly ineffective or poorly effective on carpets and rugs where stronger suction is needed. They will also have issues getting dirt and other materials in one pass, and will need to make multiple passes before everything is collected. Meanwhile, stronger suction robot vacuums will be noticeably louder and may be overly disruptive. The higher-end robot vacuums have several strength settings, letting you change how strong the motor is pulling in air.

Dry/Wet mop functions: Many robot vacuums include what is known as a “dry mop”. This is typically a cloth attachment on the back of the machine (or front/center for machines with a central of back suction area). Often a microfiber cloth, the purpose is to sweep up extra loose dirt and dust that the suction misses. Some include a “wet mop”, a moistened version of the dry mop that is intended to help clean the area more thoroughly. In essence, this treats the robot vacuum like a Swiffer.

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Unfortunately, no robot vacuum maker has created a robot vacuum where the wet mop is entirely useful. The reason for this is the lack of applied pressure. In order for a wet mop to be effective, downward force must be applied. In today’s market, no robot vacuum that includes a wet mop also has the ability to apply this downward force to the wet mop area. This may change in the near future. However, if you are considering a robot vacuum that is touting its wet mop feature, take this advertisement lightly.

Storage bin: All vacuums need a location to store material that is sucked into the machine. All robot vacuums are bagless, and typically include a detachable storage bin. Because robot vacuums are bagless, they will usually include a filter (often a HEPA filter) for catching very fine dirt particles on the exhaust section. Some robot vacuums have a reusable filter. Others do not. If you are not looking for a machine that needs new filters ordered every so often, invest in one with a reusable filter.

Side brushes/whiskers/dust brushes: The side brushes, also known as “whiskers” on a robot vacuum, are a relatively new invention. However, they have become standard on almost all robot vacuums due to their effectiveness. These additions often sit on the front side of a robot vacuum, and spin inward toward the center of the machine. They extend outward toward the side and front, with the purpose of pushing dirt and loose material into the machine’s brush area. Additionally, the side whiskers help robot vacuums overcome a severe limitation: Getting close to baseboards and walls. This has always been an issue with regular vacuums, which overcome this with attachments. However, robot vacuums must overcome this issue without added attachments. Side whiskers were the solution and have proven mostly effective.

Connectivity

One of the interesting updates to robot vacuums is the inclusion of wireless connectivity. Many high-end robot vacuums will include their own phone or tablet applications that can connect mobile devices directly to the robot vacuum through an internet connection. This allows for a range of mobile connectivity solutions, including scheduling, monitoring, push notifications and even remote control. Although rare, it is realistically possible to get a live video feed from some robot vacuums that include digital cameras for navigational purposes.

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Many other robot vacuums include a very basic radio frequency connection. These robots will come with a simple remote control and several buttons for stopping, starting, and scheduling. Many users go for this option to avoid having to constantly get up and down to move the robot around. Robots that allow for limited remote control also add a certain fun factor to the mix, while also allowing the user to take control when the robot’s programming can’t seem to overcome certain obstacles. The remote control function also helps for when the cleaning pattern fails to effectively clean an area.

Vacuum Shape

The size and the shape of a robot vacuum can have a significant impact on how effectively that robot can clean. There are several factors to consider when choosing a robot vacuum based on its size and shape.

Round robots. This design is the most common, popularized by the industry-leading maker, iRobot. iRobot’s Roomba vacuum was not the first robot vacuum on the market, but proved to be the most commercially viable one. Most other companies entering the market followed suit on this design scheme. Round robots benefit from being able to get around areas well, and with the inclusion of bumper sensors, can avoid making too many hard impacts to furniture. They are extremely limited, however, in their ability to get to corners and walls. Without the aid of side whiskers, their physical shape makes getting to walls and corners a physical impossibility.

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Squared robots. The squared robot design is very uncommon, but extremely effective. This design is more closely associated with Neato Robotics and their Botvac. This design makes getting into corners and close to walls easy for the robot. The inclusion of side whiskers means that squared robot vacuums can get within millimeters of baseboards and into corners in ways round robots cannot. The limitation on these bots is that the squared design is more likely to get stuck between chair legs.

Charging and Auto-Return

One of the primary selling points for the Roomba was its ability to return to its base on its own. This feature alone is what helped make the robot vacuum a hot-ticket item. Currently, this is a standard for robot vacuums. Ones that do not include this feature typically will not sell, for good reason. The auto-return feature on a robot vacuum is often achieved through a radio frequency signal. The robot will locate its base with this signal, and guide itself back to the base when the battery begins to lose power. The percentage battery power that triggers this function depends on the robot. However, it is typically somewhere between 5-15%. The base should always be located somewhere unobstructed by other objects, and not influenced by other radio signals that would cause interference with the vacuum’s ability to locate its base.

The range which a vacuum can locate its base varies. Some robot vacuums have a range that is only a 5-foot radius outside of the base. Others can locate their base at much wider areas. Some higher end robot vacuums will include features that allow the vacuum to locate the base from any location. Typically, the bots will slowly back onto the base and onto the charger. Most are designed to finish the cleaning task they were assigned after the charging cycle is complete, and will go through a charge-clean-charge process until the cleaning task is done.

Battery Power

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Battery power on a robot vacuum is extremely important. How much power your robot vacuum consumes to get the job done can be very limiting. Despite advances in battery technology, the reality is that robot vacuums are extremely power-hungry. Most average anywhere between 1 hour to 1.5 hours per charge. While this may sound like a lot of time for a traditional vacuum, a robot vacuum typically operates much slower than a human operator, and often much less efficiently. Likewise, most robot vacuums have limited suction power in order to avoid using up battery too quickly.

The best robot vacuums on the market can manage 2 hours of battery life. Buyers will be hard-pressed to find a robot vacuum that can manage over 2 hours. Those that can often sacrifice cleaning power to achieve this. This is a sacrifice many buyers are unwilling to make, especially if their house or apartment is carpeted or contains numerous rugs, where stronger suction is necessary for better results.

Accessories

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The amount, and type of accessories vary by robot vacuum. In most cases, the accessories available for a vacuum are primarily replacement parts, such as spare batteries, filters and side whiskers. Some robot vacuums also include barriers that will prevent the robot vacuum from entering certain areas.

Barriers will come in two forms: Barrier strips and light barriers. Barrier strips sit on the ground and prevent the vacuum from driving over them. When the vacuum hits the strips, it triggers the cliff sensor. This will force the vacuum to reverse direction and avoid going over the strip. It is simple, cheap and effective. Light barriers are uncommon, but effective. This are placed in a doorway, and send a light signal straight across. The robot vacuum’s navigational sensors will “see” the light barrier and will not cross into the room or area guarded by the barrier.

Most companies that sell accessories sell only replacement filters and side whiskers. A small handful sell batteries. Based on our research, only one company, bObsweep, sells almost every single piece of technology in the robot vacuum except the motherboard. This makes the bObsweep a tinkerer’s dream. Most other robot vacuum companies are extremely protective of their equipment and technology.

 

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