Smart Robot Vacuums
Whether you love having the latest tech, hate cleaning or you’re not as mobile as you once were, robot vacuum cleaners are a fun way to get a rather boring household chore done. And they certainly look impressive but with the most expensive one we tested costing eight hundred quid, it’s worth knowing exactly what you’re getting for your money before you invest. They don’t claim to be as good as your standard household vacuum cleaner when it comes to suction and dust capacity, so if that’s all you care about it may be better to buy a good upright vacuum cleaner. But they are a convenient way of keeping your floors looking spick and span with minimal effort. Most come with apps too, so you can control them outside the home.
Different robot vacs have different approaches to cleaning; some take a methodical approach while others may look like they’re moving randomly around your home but are still mapping out the room with in-built cameras or other smart sensor technology – although it can be a little frustrating to watch. Some come with remote controls, so you can direct them to the exact spot you want them to clean from the comfort of the sofa, and generally the more expensive they are, the more cleaning modes they have. The priciest robots have up to six modes, including auto, where you can programme it to move around a space until it runs out of battery; turbo, which is the most powerful mode and picks up the most dirt and dust; and spot cleaning, where you can get it to focus on a particular area.
Each robot vacuum cleaner will also come with an array of accessories. A virtual wall is a small device that you can place around the home and use to block off areas you don’t want to be cleaned, while they also come with different types of cleaning brushes. Sweeper brushes stick out from the side and sweep in dust and dirt to be sucked up, whereas brush bars live underneath and work to suck up dirt from floor surfaces. So before you buy, think about what your priorities are – do you want good suction, have lots of tight spots around your home that need cleaning, or obstacles that will need avoiding? Then you can pick the best one for you and have fun watching it clean your home, or have it work its magic while you’re at work.
We tried and tested a range of robot vacs in our test room, with obstacles like chairs, tables and rugs to content with. We also covered the carpet with dust, fluff and dirt to find out just how much mess each one could vacuum, while also testing different cleaning modes and accessories. Here are the ones we think are worth investing in.
One Less Chore
Vacuums have come a long way. You no longer have to suffer the indignity of dragging around an unwieldy plastic hose connected to a clumsy, wheeled canister the size of a Galapagos tortoise. In fact, you don’t even need to get off of the couch. Though it still feels like a relatively new product category, there are several good robot vacuums available to help you dispose of dust, pet hair, and other debris in your home—without needing to lift a finger. Which is the right one for you? We’ve rounded up our highest-rated robot vacuums, and provided a few pointers to help you find just the bot you’re looking for.
Why Go Robo?
Unlike more traditional canister or stick models, robot vacuums are autonomous and (for the most part) intelligent. The vacuums we’ve tested are equipped with lasers, motherboards, sensors, and even Wi-Fi to navigate around your home without the need for assistance. With a few exceptions, you barely have to interact with them at all.
Most robot vacuums come with charging docks and can even charge themselves. Just pick a robot-accessible spot for the dock, and the bot will return on its own before it runs out of juice. When it does, it will sit there until it has enough energy to go back out and continue to bust dust from where it left off. You can also set schedules for most bots to wake up and start a cleaning job, so it can take place while you’re out of the house. That means you can potentially avoid all physical interaction until the vacuum needs to be emptied—you still can’t take that step out of the equation.
Also unlike many traditional vacuums, all of the robots included here don’t use bags to hold the dust, hair, and other debris they suck up. Instead, they use an easy-to-remove dust bin you can simply eject and empty into the nearest garbage can. And many come equipped with HEPA filters that prevent allergens from spreading through the air.
Also worth noting: Floor-cleaning robots like the iRobot Braava Jetspecialize in mopping and sweeping. They aren’t eligible for this list because they don’t vacuum up dirt and debris, but they will get your hardwood floors nice and shiny. Some vacuums, like the Bobsweep PetHair Plus and Bobi Petcome with mop attachments, but they’re not as effective overall.
Convenience vs. Cost
A robot vacuum is usually higher in price than a traditional vacuum (though not always; the Dyson Cinetic Animal + Allergy costs $700). The models listed here range from $220 to $1,000. That’s a pretty sizable investment, even on the lower end. Let’s consider just what you get for the price.
Unless you really love to vacuum, the task itself is pretty mundane. Depending on the size of your house, a robot vacuum can save you anywhere from minutes to hours of your time every week by taking care of a pretty thankless chore. That alone is reason enough for some people to consider one.
In addition, robot vacuums have reached the point where they’re basically just as effective and powerful as regular vacuums. The robots rounded up here use filters, side brushes, and spinning brushes that will do an equally good job of cleaning your home as their upright equivalents. They’re also fairly compact, so they won’t take up much space in your storage closet. And they’re able to travel underneath most couches and tables, so you don’t have to rearrange furniture. Even if you do, the more advanced robots on this list use memory banks to note where furniture is placed, so as not to bump into anything on a future pass.
Also worth mentioning: Connected robot vacuums are much more affordable now. For instance, Eufy’s RoboVac 11c supports Wi-Fi and comes in at just under $300. What are the benefits of connectivity? Most Wi-Fi vacuums can be programmed and controlled remotely using your smartphone. Some can even be activated with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands.
Premium connected bots like the Roomba 960 and Dyson 360 Eye can generate statistics and maps of the areas they’ve cleaned. The upcoming Neato Botvac D7 Connected even creates personalized floor plans that eliminate the need for you to use physical “virtual walls” to cordon off sections of your home. Meanwhile, the Samsung Powerbot R7070 can easily integrate into existing routines with other smart home devices if you have a SmartThings Hub. So while connected bots are generally pricier, they do come with some nice perks.
How We Test Robovacs
We test robot vacuums in PC Labs and in our actual homes, with the following categories in mind: battery life, navigation, setup, suction, and if it supports Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, the app experience.
Chances are you don’t want to babysit your vacuum. That means you’re looking for a robot that can traverse different floor types or maneuver around furniture without needing help. This is especially true if you have dark flooring, as infrared sensors might confuse a black carpet with a ledge, and refuse to pass over it. We test vacuums on hardwood, tile, and darkly colored rugs to see how well they manage the transitions across various surfaces.
Battery life is also an important factor to consider based on the size of your home. In general, most robot vacuums can run for at least 60 to 70 minutes, which should be enough to tackle many apartments and single-floor homes. If you have a bigger living area, you’ll want to look for something in the 90-minute range so it can hit every room in the house before requiring a recharge. To test this, we charge the battery to full, start a cleaning cycle, and time how long the robot runs before it needs to be docked. And if a robot says it can automatically dock, we check to see if it can easily find its way home.
Another note on battery life: The number you see listed in the chart above is our tested result in normal mode. High-power or other modes often bring that number down a bit.
Most robot vacuums are reliable when it comes to getting rid of standard household detritus, so you don’t really have to worry about whether or not they’ll be able to suck up lint, dirt, or hair. Since we test all the robot vacuums in the same home environment, we check how full dustbins get and whether obvious debris like food particles and visible dust bunnies are picked up. We also note whether the robot uses a random or methodical cleaning pattern. Random cleaners often run across the same space multiple times but take a longer time to get everything. Methodical cleaners don’t take as long, but may only pass through a room once unless programmed otherwise.
Finally, we test how easy it is to set up, program, and control the robot. Some only require an initial battery charge, while others ask you to install side brushes and batteries. For connected bots, app design and reliable Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity are major factors that impact your experience. We provide a detailed analysis of our experience in each review.
AirCraft Vacuums Pilot Max Robotic Vacuum Cleaner
We think this one wins when it comes to looks. The sleek and compact white design would fit perfectly in modern homes and shouldn’t take up a lot of space either. It comes with sweeping brushes that stick out the side to sweep in and suck up dirt in corners, which is fairly effective. And it’s very quiet, so won’t disturb you if you’re watching TV. It also comes with a virtual wall, so you can block off areas you don’t want cleaning and a remote control. Our only annoyance was having to charge and put the battery pack in ourselves, which we found a little bit fiddly. For the price though, it does a decent job of vacuuming and is worth considering.
Samsung VR9300K Connected Robot Vacuum, 42.9W
This robo vac is the largest of the bunch and looks like something you’ve probably seen avoiding Sir Killalot on Robot Wars. But it does a good job of sucking up dust and fluff from carpet, and so it should for the price. It’s robust, so will bounce off walls with no damage done to itself (or the wall) and is good at navigating around furniture. There are an impressive six cleaning modes to pick from – auto, manual, spot, point cleaning, turbo and dust sensor – and a remote so you can steer it to a particularly dirty spot. There’s an app too, so you can control it even when you’re not in your home. This robot is worth considering, although it doesn’t quite match the Dyson 360 Eye on suction.
iRobot Roomba 980
iRobot’s Roomba is probably the best known name in the robot vacuum cleaner market, and this is the best model in the range (with a price to reflect it, over £500 more expensive than the entry level Roomba). It methodically navigates multiple rooms, increasing or decreasing suction power depending on which surface it’s cleaning – we found it picked up large pieces of fluff as easily as it did embedded dust. If the machine runs out of battery mid-clean, it will return to the docking station and then complete the cycle. It also works with Google Home so you can now tell your Google Assistant when to start, stop or dock the robot. And if you want to avoid a certain room or area, the two virtual walls form an effective barrier. Download the app to set up cleaning schedules on your phone, and keep an eye on the progress of the Roomba when you’re not around.