Shark IQ Robot R101AE Self-Emptying Robot Vacuum review

The Shark IQ robot vacuum empties itself, and it won't cost you a fortune

Shark IQ Robot R101AE Self-Emptying Robot Vacuum

“The IQ Robot’s self-emptying capability combined with its ability to only clean certain areas make it possible for me to set 30 days of scheduling and have a truly automated cleaning experience.”
  • Empties itself
  • Excellent suction
  • Useful home mapping
  • Reasonable price
  • Loud operation
  • Robot takes a week to learn surroundings

Sometimes I’m too lazy to robot vacuum (yeah, that sounds a lot worse now that I’ve written it down than it did in my head). I don’t feel like making sure the dog bowl isn’t in the way, moving the shoes out of the middle of the entryway, and moving my laptop cord and cellphone chargers so the robot doesn’t eat them. I also don’t feel like emptying the dustbin after I robot vacuum. It feels like too much work.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to review a new robot vacuum by Shark called the IQ Robot. What does the Shark IQ Robot have over the gazillion other robot vacuums on the market? Is it prettier? Smarter? Will it fold my laundry? What makes it so special? Well, like the Roomba i7 plus, the Shark IQ R101AE is an auto-emptying robot vacuum. It’s also supposed to have exceptional suction power, a self-cleaning brush roll, advanced mapping capabilities, and a relatively affordable price tag. If this robot vacuum does what it claims, I won’t have to empty the thing for a month.

So, let’s see if this self-emptying robot is really as great as it sounds.

Getting started

shark iq robot vacuum review underside
Erika Rawes/Digital Trends

When I opened the box, I found the Shark IQ robot, which already had the self-cleaning brush roll, wheels, and main components installed. To complete the robot’s assembly, all I had to do was snap on the two front side brushes, which are single prong. I also found the self-emptying base, which serves as the charging dock as well. Lastly, there’s an included mat in case I wanted to setup the IQ robot on a carpeted area. I didn’t use the mat since I set the unit up on a hard floor surface.

The setup process was very simple. It took less than five minutes. After I charged the robot fully, which took six hours to go through its first full battery charge, I installed the Shark Clean app, and connected the device to Alexa for voice control.

Yes, it empties itself, and it’s pretty sweet

shark iq robot vacuum review 2
Erika Rawes/Digital Trends

I can hear the dirt being sucked out of the robot each time the robot interacts with the docking station. The emptying station is bagless too, so I don’t have to worry about replacement bags or damage to the environment with plastic.

The self-emptying bagless technology makes it so I can leave the vacuum alone for about a month, and when it’s finally time to empty the dirt, I just lift up the bin and press a button to release the dust and debris into a trash can.

Much better mapping than previous Shark robots

Past Shark robot vacuums, like the ION R85, didn’t exactly excel in mapping technology. The R85 has smart sensor navigation, which helps it avoid objects and get around the house, but it doesn’t have visual mapping.

The new Shark IQ Robot is way ahead of the ION R85 in this regard. It doesn’t repeatedly travel over areas where it’s already cleaned, and it creates a map of your home in the app, which allows you to select specific areas where you want the robot to clean. You can tell the robot to clean only the master bedroom or the living room for instance, and it knows exactly where to go.

Powerful Shark suction

shark iq robot vacuum review sharkiq on carpet

This vacuum has amazing suction. The suction power is better than most upright units I’ve encountered. It left my floors completely free of dust, debris, and dog hair. What really impressed me about the IQ robot, however, was its ability to grab up large debris. We have a lot of trees on our property, so my family and I track in a lot of dried leaves. The robot picked up every last leaf, crumb, and food particle left on the floor from the day.

The IQ Robot comes with 8 feet of magnetic strips I can use to block off areas where I absolutely don’t want the robot to travel. I cut the magnetic strips into smaller pieces, and placed the strips in front of my dog’s crate, around her food area, and in front of an area where there’s a lot of cords and charging cables. This way, I don’t have to move anything before I vacuum or cleanup beforehand, which defeats the purpose of automated cleaning.

Scheduling, auto-charge, and more

shark iq robot vacuum review app

I can set the IQ robot to clean on a schedule. Typically, robot vacuum scheduling features are not all that useful because the user has to empty the dustbin and prepare the cleaning area between cleanings. The IQ Robot’s self-emptying capability combined with its ability to only clean certain areas make it possible for me to set a schedule for 30 days and have a truly automated cleaning experience. The robot has a 90-minute battery life on a single charge, but if the robot runs out of battery juice or the dust bin fills up during cleaning, it returns to the station for more battery power or to empty itself, and then it resumes cleaning.

The robot talks too, letting me know if it’s experiencing any issues. If I can’t find the robot, there’s a “find my robot” feature in the app that will make the robot beep so I can locate the device if it gets stuck under a couch or in a closet. Also, because it’s compatible with Alexa and Google Home, I can also use voice commands to control the IQ robot.

The robot is a little loud

shark iq robot vacuum review 6
Erika Rawes/Digital Trends

This vacuum makes a lot of noise. It’s louder during operation than any other robot vacuum I’ve used. It’s also extremely loud when it’s emptying the dirt from the robot into the self-emptying base. When it’s emptying, it kind of sounds like one of those vacuums at the car wash. It startled my dog the first few times, and now she looks at the robot every time it approaches the docking station waiting for it to make the loud noise.

For me, the loudness of the unit wasn’t too much of a problem, as I can just pause my Hulu show whenever the vacuum approaches. But for those who have young children or any home situation where they require a robot vacuum that operates quietly, this could be an issue.

There’s a learning curve

Most robot vacuums take some time to learn your home. This unit had to vacuum my home for eight days (14 separate cleaning cycles) before it created a full map of my house. For that first week before the map was ready, I couldn’t set the robot to clean only specific rooms.

The robot also couldn’t find the dock while it it was still learning my home. It searched for about 45 seconds, and then the robot said out loud that it couldn’t locate the dock and asked that I place it on the dock manually. It still functioned normally and emptied itself after I placed it on the dock, but I was a bit surprised that it couldn’t find it on its own. After about five days, the robot began to locate the dock without issue.

Warranty info

The Shark IQ robot comes with a one-year limited warranty.

Our take

Practical and powerful, the Shark IQ robot solves most of the problems customers have with robot vacuums. There are a few drawbacks — the robot is loud, and it takes a week or so to learn the home and unlock all of the features — but considering the IQ Robot is more affordable than other robots in its category, I am still pleased with the unit overall.

Are there any better alternatives?

The main competition to the IQ Robot is the iRobot Roomba i7 Plus, which is an excellent piece of machinery with stellar mapping capabilities and exceptional cleaning performance. The two major differences between the IQ Robot and the i7 Plus are the price, and the fact that the IQ robot is bagless.

You can buy the IQ Robot for $450 during the promotional period, and the retail price is around $600. The i7 Plus will cost you around $1,000. The i7 Plus is also self-emptying, but the emptying station contains disposable bags. The customer has to replace the bag after the dustbin is emptied 30 times. The IQ Robot is ahead of the i7 Plus in that regard, as its bagless design still allows the user to go 30 days without emptying — and there’s no need to purchase any bags.

How long will it last?

With visual mapping and smart home compatibility, this robot is technologically right where it should be. Features like self-emptying and the ability to select specific cleaning areas take it up a notch, bringing it slightly ahead of the curve. There’s no reason to believe the companion app (Shark Clean) would discontinue support for the IQ Robot anytime soon, nor should you have to worry about the quality of the robot. All of the parts and components feel sturdy and well-made.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you don’t want to worry about vacuuming at all, this robot is a good investment. It cleans your floors for 30 days, and you don’t have to lift a finger.

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