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Best Robotic Vacuums

By: Kelly Burgess on May 04, 2017

Editor's note:
Robotic vacuums are better than ever, some can even take the place of a regular vacuum. Our top recommendation is the iRobot Roomba 960, which offers the best combination of price, features and performance. For a basic, but great performing robot vacuum, we recommend the $200 Eufy RoboVac II.

iRobot Roomba 960 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Run time - 1 hour Charge time - 2 hours Height - 3.6"

Best robotic vacuum

iRobot's Roomba 960 is a fully-featured, top-performing robotic vacuum, that's moderately priced compared to other high-tech vac bots. With Wi-Fi connectivity, you can control it from your smartphone, so you'll never come home to a dirty house again -- your floors will be clean, anyway -- and they'll be VERY clean. This robot vac earns top scores in expert testing for its performance on carpet and hardwood. It's also a smart navigator that can figure its way out of a wrong turn and find its way back to its home dock when it needs to.

Buy for $599.99
Eufy RoboVac 11 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Run time - 1.5 hrs. Charge time - 6 hours Height - 3"

Basic robotic vacuum

If you just want a robotic vacuum that will take over your floor cleaning chores and tech is not a priority, we recommend the Eufy RoboVac 11. It's a good navigator and a very good cleaner, although you might have to run it more often than pricier vacs -- fortunately, a seven-day scheduler makes that easy to do. This is a bot that's best for smaller square footages, and will be a great choice if you have a lot of low-slung furniture as it's shorter than most other robot vacs.

Buy for $499.99
iRobot Roomba 980 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Run time - 2 hours Charge time - 2 hours Height - 3.6"

Multi-room robot vacuum

The iRobot Roomba 980 offers features that are nearly identical to those of our top choice overall, the Roomba 960 (Est. $600), but with superior navigational features that make it great for larger homes or for cleaning multiple rooms. The included virtual wall lighthouses offer even more precise control. The app allows you to start the 980 from anywhere with your smartphone, and is a top choice of experts and users for its cleaning performance, which is gentle enough to not scratch up your furniture. Yes, it's expensive, but it's also pretty amazing.

Buy for $899.00

These are 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 iRobot Roomba 960 (Est. $600). This robotic vacuum replaced the wildly popular iRobot Roomba 880 (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.

An 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 Eufy RoboVac 11 (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 than that.

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.

The 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 iRobot Roomba 980 (Est. $800) makes that easier with longer battery life, added sensors, and two included virtual lighthouses that give you more control over the navigational process.  

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 Neato Botvac Connected (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.

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