Robot vacuums are more affordable
than ever before
Robot vacuum cleaners are hands-free, battery-powered gadgets that seek
out and suck up dirt, debris and dust from carpeting and hard floors. (And a mopping robot can put the finish on your floor care.) Robot vacs make daily
vacuuming very convenient; even the cheapest robot vacuums have scheduling
capabilities, while higher-end models allow you to control the vacuum from your
smart phone or other connected device.
get to those Wi-Fi connected wonders in a bit. We'd like to start this report
with a recommendation for a solid, basic, very affordable robot vac, the (Est. $200). It's a good choice for anyone who
just wants to see if a robot vacuum will work for them before forking over too
much cash -- or who just want a basic hands-free vacuum to save them some time
and effort. The iLife is the highest-rated basic robot vac we saw, both in
testing and in owners' opinions. It's a top budget pick at both Reviewed and
PCMag, coming in second in testing at both places, just behind the Eufy RoboVac
11, which we discuss below.
found for less than $200, you can't go wrong with the iLife A4S. Jonathan Chan
at Reviewed gives it an overall score of 8.9 with both Editors' Choice and Best
of Year awards. It excelled in their robot vacuum obstacle course, picking up
an impressive 12.9 grams of dirt. At PCMag it earns four circles and an overall
score of Excellent. There, testers praise its compact size
that make it "ideal for low-clearance furniture." In fact,
they say its small size means it's more gentle on
furniture than other robot vacs that clean randomly and can ding walls and
run into a couple of glitches, though. The iLife A4S sometimes struggled to get
back to its dock, especially when it was in a room with a lot of obstacles.
This is not unusual with robot vacuums that lack more sophisticated mapping
abilities, but it does mean that you may come home to
a vacuum that died in some random area of your home, such as under a bed. In
addition, like all robot vacuums that use infrared sensors, it can struggle
with dark-colored rugs, mistakenly identifying them as drop-offs. It also takes
a long time to complete its cleaning chores, but, fortunately, has a long, 90-minute
run time, too.
note that they've also experienced those glitches, although it doesn't seem to
bother them very much, with thousands of reviewers making the iLife A4S one of
the highest rated robot vacuums on Amazon. Pet owners and allergy sufferers are
particularly pleased, saying the iLife A4S really helps keep their floors clear of pet hair, and they love the HEPA filter. We did spot a
few complaints that the cleaning action is a bit too random, and that the iLife
misses spots, but not very many. There are also a few durability complaints,
but iLife's customer service is reported as
responsive and helpful. The A4S is covered by a one-year warranty.
We have two
runners up in this category, but they require a bit of explanation. The (Est. $250) is by far the most-recommended basic robot vacuum by experts, but
there's a caveat -- we think it's going to be discontinued and replaced by the (Est. $230). We say we "think" because
it's not really clear what's going on with these two vacuums. Some sites are
reporting that the 11+ is "replacing" the 11, but when we called Eufy
to verify they waffled a bit, leaving it unclear as to whether or not they are,
indeed, going to continue manufacturing both robot vacs. Our impression is that
they probably are not.
while the RoboVac 11 gets high praise from every expert site that tests it (including
Reviewed, Consumer Reports, PCMag, Life Hacker and Tom's Guide), only the first
generation of the RoboVac 11+ has been tested, and
only by one site, Wired, which said it simply did not do a good job at
cleaning. Since then, the second generation of the RoboVac 11+ has been released with upgraded suction that customer service assured us
makes it as good of a cleaner as the original RoboVac 11, but there's no testing as yet to back that up.
you buy, you should be happy. In testing, the Eufy RoboVac 11 (and, presumably, the second generation RoboVac 11+ as well) does a good job with helping to keep
the floor clean between deeper vacuuming sessions -- however, it's not as good
of a cleaner as pricier robot vacs, so it probably can't replace your
full-sized vacuum the way many of those can. Testers find that it does a good
job picking up dirt and grime, and find that it's easy to use as well. The
remote comes in for a lot of praise, and the vacuum's low profile means it
doesn't get stuck as often as taller robot vacuums.
because it doesn't have a lot of high-tech features to drain 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.
These Wi-Fi connected robot vacs are
There are a
ton of super pricey, super fancy robot vacuums out there now, and if you can
afford one we think you should get one. However, as much as we love technology
(and vacuums!), we find that shelling out $500 or more for a vacuum is just a
hard sell. The good news is that the (Est. $375) offers the
technology upgrades that make a robot vacuum very convenient, without the
stratospheric price point. Most important, it does a good job at cleaning, as
expert testing at Wirecutter, Consumer Reports, Wired and PCMag all discover.
690 is the runner up pick at Wirecutter, which notes its durability and the
fact that you can replace almost any part -- making it a robot vac for the long
haul. At Consumer Reports the Roomba 690 is both Recommended and a Best Buy,
with Excellent scores for cleaning both carpet and
hard floors, as well as for navigation and noise. Ease of use earns only a Good
score, with editors noting that it has no remote and you have to manually clean
the cat hair from the brush (which they also note as an issue with every
robotic vacuum they review, so don't specifically hold that against the 690).
the iRobot Roomba 690 four circles and a score of Excellent after their
testing, calling out its "powerful suction." They also give an
approving nod to iRobot's high-end robot vacs, but say the Roomba 690
"offers a lot of value for about half the price." Wired agrees,
giving the Roomba 690 an 8 out of 10. Tester Adrienne So is very impressed with
the amount of dirt the Roomba picked up, especially the Dirt Detect feature
that gives an extra deep clean to areas where it detects more debris.
iLife, the Roomba 690 occasionally struggles to find its dock when it's done
cleaning, especially if it finishes in a remote room far from its dock -- a not
unusual occurrence with non-mapping robot vacuums. It also
can become confused by dark-colored rugs, perceiving them as drop-offs and
is a popular, entry level, Wi-Fi enabled robot vacuum, and owners are pretty happy,
giving the iRobot Roomba 690 above-average ratings in thousands of reviews.
Almost all say that it cleans very well and is easy to set up and use. Pet
owners say it wrangles pet hair very well, and even puts a shine on their wood
floors. A few do note that it's noisy, but, as we see with all products that
make any noise at all, that's highly subjective.
690 comes with a dual-mode virtual wall; you can use it to emit a long, 10 foot barrier to keep the robot vac out of specific areas
or rooms, or to create a circular barrier to protect, for example, pet bowls.
In addition to being able to control the Roomba 690 via the well-reviewed
iRobot Home app, you can control it with your Google or Alexa virtual
assistants. The Roomba 690 is covered by a one-year warranty and iRobot's
customer service gets very good reviews.
list price of the Roomba 690 is $375, it's often found on sale for around $300.
If your budget is a bit tighter you might want to consider the (Est. $230). It's the top pick at Wirecutter, where testers praise
its nimble, persistent style, saying it rarely gets stuck, thanks, in part, to
its ability to try to disentangle itself from things like rug fringe. They also
found it very easy to use and say the app is simple to set up. You can sync it
with your smart phone and control it remotely. The Deebot N79 is not perfect, of course, and Wirecutter does note that it's best for
smaller homes with low-pile carpet and without long-haired pets.
also a fan of the Ecovacs Deebot N79, giving it a score of 7.7 and an Editors' Choice award. Tester Jonathan
Chan finds pretty much the same positives and negatives as Wirecutter does --
it's a good cleaner and doesn't get stuck easily, but takes a long time to
clean, which shouldn't be a problem since it has a 100 minute run time. It does
not include any virtual walls, so you can't contain its movements as you can
with the Roomba 690.
is not as impressed with the Ecovacs Deebot N79. They give it 3 stars out of 5, saying, "It
does a barely acceptable job at cleaning hard floors and definitely falls flat
when it comes to cleaning carpet or picking up pet hair, but it can be an
alright choice in certain circumstances." Those circumstances are a small
house with mostly hard floors, something both Reviewed and Wirecutter also
more in tune with Wirecutter and Reviewed's opinions,
making the Ecovacs Deebot N79 one of the highest-rated robot vacuums on Amazon. And plenty who have
multiple pets say they use it daily and it works great. Some even run it twice
a day. We did see the odd complaint about durability issues, and there is no
option to buy individual replacement parts like there is with the Roomba 690
(you have to buy all the brushes as a kit), but most don't care. There are also
quite a few comments about how quiet the Deebot is
compared to Roombas that users have owned in the past.
Robot vacuums for larger homes
Most of the
robot vacuums we've recommended so far, while very affordable, are also best
for smaller homes, fewer pets, and less challenging terrain. If you have a
larger home, lots of obstacles, many rooms, or lots of pets and foot traffic,
you're gonna need a bigger bot.
The best in
this category, expert testers say, is the (Est. $700). This robot
vacuum is Wi-Fi enabled, of course, which means you can control it from your smart phone. This updated version is also compatible
with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The 960 has mapping technology, which gives it the ability to clean multiple rooms without missing
anything or getting lost or confused. Best of all, if the job's not done, the
960 returns to its docking station, recharges, and then finishes vacuuming. Then
it returns to the docking station to recharge until it's needed again.
impressed with the performance of the Roomba 960 At Consumer Reports it earns a
Recommended nod and scores of Very Good for carpets, Excellent for bare floors,
navigation and noise; although just a Good score for ease of use. The 960 is the
upgrade pick at Wirecutter, where testers say, "The Roomba 960 has the
best of what bots can offer: better carpet cleaning, smarter navigation for
larger spaces, and smartphone control." They particularly note its ability
to dig pet hair out of carpets.
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. We did see a few complaints, of course; some say
they had trouble syncing it, others say it seems to just move around randomly,
but all of these quibbles are the minority opinion. The only consistent
complaint we did note was that it's loud, but most people seem to run it when
they're not home, so that wouldn't be a problem in those cases.
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 75 minutes. It's
other robot vac we spotted in this category that's liked by both experts and
owners is the (Est. $900). It's an upgrade
over the 960 with longer battery life, added sensors, and two included virtual walls
that give you more control over the navigational process. At Reviewed, tester
Jonathan Chan found that it picked up slightly less debris than more aggressive
models, however, that makes it a better choice for those who want their robot
vac to be a bit gentler on their furniture and walls. Overall, he makes it the
top-rated robot vacuum in their roundup, with a perfect 10 score and both
Editors' Choice and Best of Year awards.
Reports, while the Roomba 980 is not a recommended model, it does earn scores
of Excellent for bare floors and Very Good for carpet. It also earns an
Excellent for navigation, the area where this robot really shines. Top Ten
Reviews makes the Roomba 980 their number three pick, dubbing it the one with
the Best Agility. Wired, however, makes the 980 their top pick, calling it out
for its superior ability to dig pet hair out of carpet. Both Life Hacker and
TechGearLab also make the Roomba 980 runners up, again, with both praising it's navigational abilities in more challenging -- or
larger -- homes.
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
robot vacuum that gets great feedback from experts, but slightly less love from
owners is the (Est. $600). While
expert testing at most of these sites is a couple of years old (the Neato
Botvac Connected was released in late 2015 and most of the expert testing was
done in 2016), it's still valid. However, since most these reviews were done
the Botvac Connected has added compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Home
as well as with the Apple Watch and some Android Wear Smartwatches. Unlike the
virtual walls most robot vacs use, the Neato Botvac has boundary strips that
you lay on the ground. It includes one, but others can be purchased separately.
Ry Crist at
CNET gives the Neato Botvac Connected 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 Wirecutter –
it got stuck more frequently than the other robots they tested. That's what testers at PCMag found as well,
although they end up giving the Neato four circles out of five and an
overall rating of Excellent for its good cleaning performance.
more recent test we found of the Neato Botvac Connected, from late 2017, was at
Tom's Guide, where it earns at 8 out of 10. Again, tester Florence Ion notes an
annoying tendency to get stuck under furniture (which means it also can't clean
under furniture, something many people specifically buy a robot vacuum for). In
general, though she says it does a great job not only of cleaning -- especially
kitty litter, which is a challenge for all vacuums -- but also of mapping to
clean the entire home more efficiently. She, like most reviewers, also praises
its "D" shape which most agree is more efficient than the more
traditional round robot vacuums.
noted, though, owners are a bit less enamored of the Neato Botvac Connected and
most of those complaints can be traced directly to the same downside that the
experts found: it's simply too tall to get underneath a lot of furniture. Many
owners, expecting a "set-and-forget" vacuuming experience, got fed up
with coming home to the Neato stuck under a piece of low-hanging furniture. And
many others are disappointed that they still have to haul out their full-sized
vacuum to clean under their beds. We also saw complaints of difficulty setting
up the app, although we see that with all robot vacs. Still, plenty of others
who don't have those issues love the Neato Botvac and say it does a great job.
Other vacuums you might need for
We love our
robot vacuum (we have an old, basic Roomba that's still doing a great job), but
we find that we still need some occasional assistance with other vacuuming
tasks. If you do too, be sure to check out our separate reports on upright vacuums and canister vacuums that can deep clean carpets and also have useful
attachments for cleaning above your head. Our stick vacuums report not
only names a few stick vacs that can replace your upright, there are also a few
good, inexpensive choices for quick touch ups -- and many convert to a handheld
as well. However, if you just need a handheld vacuum for dust busting
spot messes, we cover those too.
Last, but not least, we're madly in love with our (Est. $300) mopping robot.
It's a hard-working lady who has saved us many hours of slaving away over a wet
mop. Check out how the whole story of how we chose it in this blog post.
Expert & User Review Sources
As the robot
vacuum market has grown, so has the sheer number of robot vacs that are
available, as well as sites that review them. This includes the usual roundup
of vacuum reviewers, like Consumer Reports (which requires a
subscription), Reviewed, Wirecutter and Top Ten Reviews. These
high-tech machines have also attracted the attention of those sites that don't
usually review floor care products, such as PCMag, CNET, Wired, TechGearLab, Tom's Guide and Life Hacker. 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 robot vacuums for any home or