A robot vacuum cleaner can make your life much easier. Say goodbye to spending hours vacuuming your home, and hello to sitting on the couch with your feet up while a robot does all the work. These little machines can be an amazing way to nix chores, but it’s important to choose the right one for your needs and your budget. Here’s what you need to consider when you shop for a robot vacuum, including the different features, brands, and price points.
How to shop for a robot vacuum
Before you choose your robot vacuum, it’s good to understand the range of different features available. There are so many impressive things these little robots can do, but with that said, you may not need all of them. Take stock of the features you’ll actually use, since opting out of pricey upgrades can save you a substantial amount of money. This is the best affordable robot vacuum you can buy, but you can find a variety of good options for under $200.
Features to consider in a robot vacuum
Sensory sophistication and virtual mapping
All robot vacuums use sensor technology to navigate around a room, but some models are more advanced than others. Basic robots have infrared sensors to stop them bumping into things and changing direction when they collide with something, whereas more sophisticated models will map out a room using laser-guided scanners or a combination of cameras and sensors. These high-tech robots also sometimes have “dirt sensors” to be sure they have cleaned properly, and can add additional cleaning passes to dirty or high-traffic areas.
Most robot vacuums have a scheduling function, so you can set it to work at specific times of the day or week — when you’re at work, for example. Most of this scheduling is done via a companion app on your smartphone that makes changes and updates easy. With some models, however, you’ll need to manually program this schedule into the bot using buttons. If that sounds like about as much fun as setting the clock on your car radio, make sure to check in advance how the calendar interface works on your chosen robot vacuum.
Some robot vacs also combine high-tech mapping with that scheduling feature (Roomba’s i7 and s9 vacuums have this) and let you program certain rooms to be cleaned on certain days, giving you amazing flexibility and freedom.
Automatic dirt disposal
With most bots, they may do the sweeping up, but you’ll have to empty it just like any regular vacuum cleaner. However, some models will automatically dispose of dirt into their own bin (and in hermetically sealed bags) located inside the home base, and they will remind you when this bin needs to be emptied. These models tend to be more expensive, however. With the majority of robot vacuums, you simply pop out the dustbin, open a flap or door, and pour it into the garbage. Not a big deal, but if you’re dirt-phobic, the automatic disposal into a sealed bag might be just what you need.
Which are the best robot vacuum brands?
There are loads of great robot vacuum brands out there, all with varying price points and levels of functionality. Before purchasing a vacuum cleaner, it’s a good idea to do a little research on the brand and check reviews, as well as customer comments. These are some of the biggest brands:
Although it’s one of the more expensive brands, iRobot makes some of the best and most well-reviewed robot vacuums on the market. Their most recent model, the Roomba S9+, for example, has a 3D sensor allowing it to move around your home with incredible intuition. Conveniently, iRobot has also introduced vacuums at all price points, from budget to premium, so there’s likely to be a model that’s right for you.
Neato may be seen as a snappy little upstart compared to iRobot, but it’s got a reputation for making solid, hardworking bots. The latest Neato models are D-shaped vacuums with incredible cleaning power and superbly long battery life.
Ecovacs models are extremely sophisticated, with the latest comprising a Wi-Fi-enabled camera, a mop plus the vacuum, and the ability to create highly complex virtual maps of your rooms. It even gives you the ability to move the bot around your home remotely, and use the camera to see what’s going on.
These robot vacuums are great budget-friendly options with fewer fancy features but a focus on strong suction power. The latest Eufy model has an easy-to-use app and is one of the slimmest on the market, meaning it can get into lots of hard-to-reach areas.
Another affordable brand, iLife makes powerful vacuums with a good range of features such as voice control and room mapping. It also offers several different cleaning modes and dirt sensors.
It may not get all the press of some other Dyson gadgets, but Dyson makes Heurist, a plump robot vacuum. Dyson invests a lot in technology, and that’s represented in the sale price, but their vacuums have excellent reputations, get great reviews, and tend to last a long time.
Should you get a round robot or a D-shaped robot vacuum?
Most robot vacuums are designed with a round shape, as this makes it easy for them to move around independently and not get snagged; however, that lack of corners can make it difficult to get into narrow spaces or angles. D-shaped robots have a range of sensors and the added bonus of being able to get closer to wall edges and corners than their circular counterparts.
D-shaped robot vacuums also tend to have wider roller brushes that span the length of their flat edge, making them more efficient than round models, giving them a bigger cleaning footprint and seemingly cutting down on overall cleaning and run time.
As well as operating as a vacuum cleaner, some robot vacuums also have mopping functions. Although they are not as effective on stubborn stains as a regular mop, or even a dedicated single-purpose robot mop (yes, that’s a thing too), they do work on light messes or day-to-day cleaning. The mop function works by way of a small water tank inside the bot, which moistens a microfiber or disposable cloth that is clipped under the robot.
You will have to look after your robot vacuum just as you would a regular vacuum — perhaps more so since these smaller dustbins need more frequent emptying. You’ll also need to dust the sensors, empty and clean the dustbin, and keep the filter clean — all weekly essentials to make sure your vacuum runs smoothly. As with most machines, maintaining it will keep it running better and for longer. You’ll also want to check the brushes regularly to make sure they are not blocked, check the rollers for threads or fibers that can get wrapped around the roller and cut into it, as well as clean the wheels and remove hair or tangled threads that may be impeding their movement.
As previously mentioned, the different brands of robot vacuum have varying price points, and they can range from around a hundred bucks to upwards of $1,000. Of course, it’s natural to pay more for trusted, high-quality brands such as iRobot and Dyson. If you can afford the upfront investment, these models are extremely sophisticated and powerful. However, if you are operating on a budget, you can find some great options that are way more affordable. RoboGeek and Eufy have some superb, inexpensive models that may not come with all the intelligent functions as a more expensive vacuum but are nonetheless effective and responsive machines. Make sure to do your research before buying.
It’s definitely a domestic dream to imagine never having to vacuum again, but with a robot cleaner, this is actually possible. With a host of brands sporting lots of cool capabilities and accessible price ranges, this dream can easily become a reality in your home.
- The best robot vacuums for 2020
- The best vacuums for 2020
- iRobot Roomba i3 Plus review: Self-emptying that makes life easier
- Bissell SpinWave Robot Vacuum Review: A basic bot that cleans well
- The best Black Friday Roomba deals for 2020