the droids you're looking for
Robotic vacuum cleaners are hands-free, battery-powered
gadgets that seek out and suck up dirt, debris and dust from carpeting and hard
floors. They make daily vacuuming very convenient, and are especially popular
with pet owners, allergy sufferers, those with very busy households, or just
picky people who want the feeling of a clean house every time they walk in the
door. While robotic vacuums are initially pricey, they have almost no ongoing
costs, and, seriously, who can put a cost on magically having a robot do the
vacuuming for them?
For the best combination of price and features, we highly recommend the (Est. $600). This robotic vacuum replaced the wildly popular (Est. $600), which was our former Best Reviewed vacuum.
The 880 is also still available at retail, though and you might be able to get
a great deal on it while supplies last. The Roomba 880 package we link to is
especially nice, as it includes enough replacement parts (brushes, filters,
etc.) to last for a couple of years at least.
You might not want to go that route, though, as the Roomba 960
represents a pretty giant leap in technology over the 880. Although the 960 has
the same motor as the 880, it also adds Wi-Fi connectivity, which means you can
control it from your smart phone. An improved navigation system gives it the
ability to clean multiple rooms without getting lost or confused. Best of all,
if the job's not done, the 960 returns to its docking station, recharges, and
then finishes its task. Then it returns to the docking station to recharge
until it's needed again.
The Roomba 960 was just introduced in mid-2016, so it doesn't have quite
as many expert reviews as older models, but those who have looked at it are
impressed. At ConsumerReports.org, it's the second highest rated robotic
vacuum, earning a Recommended nod and scores of Excellent for carpets, bare
floors, navigation and noise; Very Good scores for ease of use. It's the
upgrade pick at TheSweethome.com, where tester Liam McCabe says, " The
Roomba 960 has the best of what bots can offer: better carpet cleaning, smarter
navigation for larger spaces, and smartphone control."
Owners like this Roomba a lot too. They praise its great navigational
abilities, superior cleaning performance and, although some say there is a
learning curve, it's mostly intuitive controls. And don't be afraid to
anthropomorphize your new robot -- we saw lots of affectionate nicknames for
the Roomba 960. We did see a few complaints, of course, but there seems to be
no unifying theme: some say they had trouble syncing it, a few wish it was even
more technologically advanced (such as adding compatibility with Alexa), and
others say it seems to just move around randomly, but all of these quibbles are
the minority opinion.
Out of the box the Roomba 960 includes the vacuum with charging station,
an extra filter and side brush, and a dual mode virtual wall (for blocking off
areas you don't want the vacuum to go or for more specifically guiding its
route). It takes about two hours for a full charge and will run for about an
hour. It's 3.6-inches tall.
affordable, but effective, alternative robot vac
Many people don't really need the high-tech bells and whistles that jack
up the price of most robotic vacuums, for them, we recommend the (Est. $220), but only if you can find it for $220 or less (MSRP is $500).
Even the experts who really like this robot vac say it's not worth paying more
Now that we have that out of the way, here's why the Eufy RoboVac 11 is
a good robotic vacuum -- because it works very well to help out with keeping
the floor clean on a weekly basis. No, it's not the best, most thorough vacuum-er ever. In testing at Reviewed.com it was above average
compared to other vacuums, but it also tended to throw itself against
obstacles. That means it's not as gentle on those things (think: furniture and
walls) as robotic vacuums with more sensitive navigational systems, like all of
the other vacs profiled in this report, so it picks up debris that's closer to
those obstacles, but may also bang them up.
At TheSweethome.com, the Eufy RoboVac 11 left some debris on the floor, but,
as both testing sites point out, you can program the Eufy to run daily and over
a couple of days' time it will do a thorough job -- which is as much vacuuming
help as most people need. One great feature of the Eufy RoboVac 11 is its low
profile, it's only 3 inches tall, so it fits under more low-slung furniture
than other robot vacs. This is important because the most high-tech, fully
featured, amazing robot isn't much help if you come home to find that it's been
stuck under your dresser all day. However, unlike most other robotic vacuums,
the Eufy doesn't include virtual walls to help you control its path or block it
from areas you don't want it in -- a deal-breaker for some.
Perhaps because it doesn't have a lot of high-tech features to suck out
battery life, the Eufy RoboVac 11 has a generous runtime considering its price
-- 1.5 hours. However, both experts and owners (and Eufy itself) agree that
this vacuum is best for low-pile carpet and hardwood floors -- if you have
high-pile carpet you need to look elsewhere.
vacuum you need for a larger, multi-room home
Although they're getting better, one area where robotic vacuums have
always struggled is in cleaning larger homes with multiple rooms; however, the (Est. $800) makes that easier with longer battery life, added sensors, and
two included virtual lighthouses that give you more control over the
In expert testing it's not the top cleaner -- although it's not bad
either. It earns an Excellent for bare floors at ConsumerReports.org, a Very
Good for carpet. It also earns an Excellent for navigation, the area where this
robot really shines. At Reviewed.com, tester Jonathan Chan found that it picked
up less debris than more aggressive models, however, that makes it a better
choice for those who want their robot vac to be a bit more gentle on their
furniture and walls. Overall, he makes it the top-rated robotic vacuum in their
roundup, with a perfect 10 score.
Like its less expensive sibling, the Roomba 960, the Roomba 980 has an
app that earns unanimous praise from experts for its simple interface and
convenience. Owners agree, saying it's very easy to sync; although there are a
few outliers who couldn't get it to work, as there always are. Most also say it
does an amazing job of cleaning, and people with larger homes who upgraded to
this Roomba from an earlier model say the difference in performance is amazing.
As with all of the robots in this report, you can schedule it to clean
whenever you want it to. In addition to the virtual lighthouse walls, it
includes an extra filter and side brush. It's 3.6 inches tall with a run time
of about two hours on a two-hour charge.
Another robotic vacuum that gets great feedback from experts, but not so
much from owners is the (Est. $600).
Ry Crist as CNET gives it 4.5 stars, saying it's "better at cleaning
floors than any other robot vacuum on the market," and comparing it
favorably for both performance and connectibility to the more expensive Roomba
980. At Reviewed.com it earns an overall score of 9.4 and Editors' Choice and
Best of Year honors, with Chan saying it's currently the "best connected robot vacuum you can get." In testing
there it was a thorough cleaner but gentle on furniture, although, as with the
900 series Roombas that means it can miss a few spots, too. Still, the Neato
has some other useful features, including an exhaust that helps blow dust out
of corners and off of things like chair legs and risers, so the robot can
better access that debris, most robots just rely on spinning brushes for those
nooks and crannies.
The Neato's large, rugged wheels enabled it to
do better in testing than the 980 in transitioning from flooring to high pile
carpet -- something many robot vacs struggle with. That resulted in it picking
up more debris overall that the iRobots did in testing. However, those big
wheels also add height to the Neato, it's 3.9 inches to the 980's 3.6 inches,
which makes it more apt to get stuck under furniture. And, indeed, that's what
keeps the Neato from earning a recommendation at TheSweethome.com – it
got stuck more frequently than the other robots they tested.
Still, if that's not an issue in your home, this is one of the most
high-tech robot vacuums around, with an app that allows you to both schedule
the Neato remotely or to use it to take control of the unit to guide it around
tough spots. And, instead of virtual walls, the Neato just has a strip you lay
in front of wherever you don't want it to be. It only includes one, though.
What keeps the Neato Botvac out of our top spot is its relatively low
owner ratings compared to those of the iRobot's. The main issues seem to be
centered around durability -- we saw quite a few reports of units that failed
out of the box or within a year. The other issue is, as the testing sites
found, that it gets stuck fairly easily, so you may want to measure your
furniture clearance before selecting this particular vacuum.
Expert & User Review Sources
As the robotic vacuum market has grown, so has the number of sites that
review them. This includes the usual roundup of vacuum reviewers, like ConsumerReports.org (which requires a subscription), Reviewed.com, TopTenReviews.com and TheSweethome.com, but these high-tech machines have also attracted
the attention of those sites that don't usually review floor care products,
such as CNET and PCMag.com. We used those expert insights, as
well as hundreds -- sometimes thousands -- of owner reviews from retail sites
such as Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and Target.com to help us
find the best robotic vacuums for any home or budget.