SAT flashback time: Remember the annoying analogies? We’ve got a new one for you: Moneual Rydis is to iRobot Roomba as PC is to Mac. It’s an apt analogy for a lot of reasons; Korean manufacturer Moneual, best known for making high-end home theater PC cases, has branched into robot vacuums. Their first effort, the Rydis, is pretty cool, if maybe a bit wonkier and less intuitive than those produced by robot vac juggernaut iRobot.
Meet Your New Robot
For the most part, the Rydis ($299) sticks pretty closely to the robot vacuum formula made popular by the Roomba. It has the same familiar disk shape with top-mounted controls, a front bumper and infrared sensor visor, with a pair of outboard drive wheels underneath. Moneual made a few tweaks to the usual design, though. They’ve opted for a pair of spinning corner brushes (one on each side), compared to the Roomba’s one, and a single soft rubber pickup roller in the vacuum unit where most Roombas have both a bristle brush and rubber roller. The dirt box with included HEPA filter is mounted inside, hidden under a removable circular plate.
We see the Rydis appealing mostly to PC people.
Beyond the shape of the bot itself, Moneual’s thrown plenty of goodies in with the standard Rydis that are upgrades or just plain not available on the competition. Included in the box is a radio-frequency remote control (which means no line-of-sight to the unit is required), a drive-on charging dock, a multi-function beacon unit (similar to Roomba’s virtual wall, but with significant differences), and a detachable microfiber dry-mop for hard floors. Under the hood, the Rydis sports an ample 2800mAh lithium iron phosphate battery good for about 100 minutes of cleaning time and over a thousand charge cycles; a nice upgrade from the bulky and temperamental NiMh batteries used in most Roombas.
The on-device controls consist of three buttons on top: power, mode select, and start/stop. There’s a fairly complex indicator system to support all the different operating modes, many of which are only accessible via the included remote. Moneual’s made a couple of welcome additions here, though: a battery meter, and an actual power switch on the back of the unit; the only way to truly power off a Roomba is to dismantle it and remove the battery.
So, How Does It Perform?
Features and goodies aside, a robot vacuum’s useless if it doesn’t clean well. In most situations, the Rydis doesn’t disappoint. The basic automatic cleaning mode works pretty much the same as a Roomba; just turn it on and hit the start button. We were once again amazed at how much dust and dirt a little robot vacuum can pick up. The cylindrical dirt bin holds about the same amount of dirt as a Roomba AeroVac bin. Like the Roomba, the Rydis doesn’t have any fancy room-mapping technology to do its work, instead relying on bumbling around in a somewhat random fashion to get adequate coverage on the floor. As such, it’s not terribly speedy when cleaning large areas, so don’t expect it to save you in emergency cleaning situations. The single rubber pickup roller does a decent job on small dirt, but not very well on bigger things like cereal, small rocks, and candy wrappers. This is one area where the Roomba’s dual brush and rubber pickup rollers really do a significantly better job (though the brush roller collects hair and dust, requiring extra maintenance).
While most Roombas only have auto and spot cleaning modes, the Rydis has no less than eight: auto, intensive (spot), shadow, dry-mop, corner, multi-room, manual, and motion-control manual. Auto and intensive are pretty self-explanatory, but several of the other modes are notably clever. Shadow mode uses the bot’s light sensor to focus on dark areas under furniture (you’ll need the lights on for this one to work). Dry-mop mode is for cleaning large expanses of hardwood or tile (the bot will automatically avoid thresholds and carpeted areas); it’s triggered automatically when the included microfiber dust-mop attachment is plugged into the bottom. Corner clean just makes a pass around the edge of the room, while manual control lets you cover problem areas by driving around with the d-pad on the included remote. The real surprise, however, was the motion-control manual cleaning mode. We expected it to be somewhat cheesy, but it’s actually surprisingly responsive and intuitive to drive the bot around just by tilting the remote. If toddlers and pets are a little unnerved by an autonomous robot vacuum going about its business, they’ll be positively terrified when you have it follow them around.
The Rydis is quiet enough to watch TV or have a conversation in the room while it’s working, though a bit louder than, say, a Roomba 650. We had no trouble running it in an adjacent room while sleeping. There’s a curious option to turn down the vacuum speed; this increases battery life somewhat, but we’re not sure why you’d want less suction on such a tiny vacuum.
Routine maintenance on the Rydis is pretty easy. The rubber pickup roller is easily removed and cleaned with no tools, and the side brushes are held on with a single screw. You shouldn’t need to clean these items often unless there’s a lot of long hair in your home. Emptying the dirt bin is a little more fiddly than it should be, since you have to first remove a cover that really should be spring-loaded (but isn’t). Once the cover’s off, just pull up the dirt box handle, pop out the filter and dump the dirt.
Cool Functions, If You Can Figure Them Out
You’ll inevitably want to confine the Rydis to a particular area at some point. Moneual includes a complex device they call the Indicator for this purpose; it can use its Clean Area mode to act as a virtual wall (to keep the bot from crossing the invisible beams it sends out), or Room Indicator mode to act as a room beacon, signaling a particular room to clean. We found the Indicator to be a bit of a low point in Rydis’s suite of functions; it’s definitely something you’ll need to study the manual to fully understand. Clean Area mode emits three infrared beams at 90 degree angles to each other, and there are no markings on the Indicator itself to show where they come from, so it can be a bit of a puzzle to place it correctly and get the results you expect.
If toddlers and pets are unnerved by a robot vacuum going about its business, they’ll be terrified when you have it follow them around.
Room Indicator mode has a number 1-5 selection (you can buy more Indicators to denote multiple rooms for the multi-room cleaning mode), and both modes have a distance adjustment, presumably to conserve power in smaller rooms. While having a single device is nice when compared to Roomba’s separate Virtual Wall and Room Beacons, it’s very easy to misconfigure the Indicator with unexpected results. Even once we had it set up correctly, we had several issues with the Rydis sneaking past the beams in Clean Area mode, and it behaves oddly near the Indicator – really oddly. Like, poor little Rydis seems terrified of the Indicator and will try to quickly back up if it gets too close. In one instance, this meant backing straight into a wall and – because the Rydis has no rear sensor to say, “Hey, wall here!” – it actually started crawling up the wall a few inches before figuring out a new way around the Indicator. Amusing? Yes. Efficient? Nope. Also, you won’t want to use the Indicator if you’re trying to watch TV nearby; the infrared beams showering the room interfered with our TV’s remote.
The Rydis has many other standard robot vacuum features: Cliff sensors keep it from falling off stairs and ledges, and object detection keeps it from ramming into things at high speed. These sensors work quite well; we actually found the Rydis to be much gentler on furniture and baseboards than Roombas; it approaches objects and walls much more carefully. It will automatically return home to the charging dock when its battery is low. Average charging time is a very snappy two hours, much quicker than the Roomba 650’s extended 4-8 hour charging sessions. Not everything’s perfect with the Rydis’ charging dock, though; the “Charging Completed!” voice prompt will scare the hell out of you in the middle of the night, and the little dance it does to find and mount the charger borders on ridiculous. The Rydis has a very basic “Reservation” scheduling function: it can be configured for a one hour delay, or set to clean every day at a specified time. There’s no clock, so you have to hit the Reserve button when you want it to clean, and it will clean every 24 hours at that time.
Not to suggest that you, dear DT reader, are the type of person who needs one, but the Rydis’ instruction manual is somewhat lacking. The more advanced features are complex enough that the manual is actually a necessity to fully understand them, and it took a bit of experimentation beyond the manual to figure everything out. Similarly, the remote control is a small array of poorly labeled buttons. It’s functional once you know how everything works, but the layout on the remote wasn’t given the same degree of thought and care as many other aspects of the Rydis.
Should You Buy One?
We see the Rydis appealing mostly to PC people. More flexibility and features than a Mac, er, Roomba, at the cost of a little polish on some things. A greater investment of time to figure out how to use all that flexibility is required, but your efforts will be rewarded. It’s on pretty even footing with a Roomba in most areas, and surpasses it in some; all the more impressive since it’s less than three hundred bucks. The motion-control is just plain fun, and all the various operating modes make it a versatile device with something for everyone. If the intended user is a little less technical but still wants a robot vacuum, it might be best to stick with a Roomba.
- Fast charge, good battery life
- Motion-sensing manual clean
- Many cleaning modes
- Good value
- Indicator feature is difficult to use
- Steep learning curve on advanced features
- Can’t pick up large debris