Vacuuming the Easiest Way!
Let’s talk robotic vacuums! These devices have come a long way since first entering the market in 1996. After a shaky start, these incredible time savers really came into their own following iRobot's introduction of the first Roomba model in 2002—the rest is history, with numerous great choices by various manufacturers now available for surprisingly affordable prices. To help guide your selection process, we've reviewed some of the most popular models on the market for different budgets and household applications. YOU DECIDE!
- OUR TAKEPROSCONS
- OUR TAKE
- This high end unit hits the spot by including everything you need and leaving out the unnecessary frills (think BMW as opposed to Ferrari). Our top pick due to its great virtual mapping technology, powerful suction, edge cleaning tech and versatility across surfaces.
- Best mapping tech in our comparison—camera and software can map an entire level of your home.
- Great suction and dirt detection tech to focus on dirty areas.
- Edge cleaning mode for close-in cleans.
- Extractors avert particle and hair jams.
- Highest list price in our comparison.
- On the louder side (65 db when 3' away—still much quieter than a typical vacuum).
- Does not have standalone remote (must use smartphone or voice control).
- OUR TAKE
- A very affordable device with powerful suction, edge cleaning capability and numerous control methods (remote, mobile and voice). The navigation is a bit clumsy, but on the whole this great vacuum offers tremendous value making it our "budget" runner up.
- Competitive price point (can be purchased for under $200 when on sale).
- Includes standalone remote; can also be operated via mobile application or an Alexa speaker.
- Includes standard and max suction modes.
- Includes an edge cleaning mode.
- No virtual mapping tech—instead it travels in a straight line and uses sensors to turn and avoid obstacles (unit will automatically return to docking station though).
- On the louder side, especially in max mode.
- Not the best choice for high pile carpets.
- OUR TAKE
- A great device with strong cleaning performance across carpeted as well as hard surfaces and mapping technology. It is a bit pricier than the Deebot N79S yet still cost effective when considering all its features, making it our "performance" runner up.
- LaserSmart mapping tech is the second best in our comparison
- The “D” shapes help to access hard-to-reach areas such as corners and edges.
- Can be controlled using Google Assistant, Alexa and smartphone/tablet apps.
- Works well on carpet, hardwood and tile floors.
- Filter quality is relatively poor and requires frequent replacement according to manufacturer guidelines (every 1-2 months).
- Set-up, and especially connecting to Wi-Fi, can be a bit finicky.
- Somewhat loud (noise levels are comparable to our top pick).
- OUR TAKE
- This unit is in something of a "no mans land" in terms of price and capability—it is quite expensive but lacks the same mapping and edge cleaning found in other models. We recommend shelling out the extra $100 or so for the Roomba 960 OR going with the cheaper Botvac D3.
- Great suction and dirt detection tech (just like our top pick).
- Include a virtual wall barrier (our top pick does as well).
- Comes with mapping tech (although rather clumsy).
- Unit will not return to dirty areas to re-clean—unlike our top pick, this unit cleans for one cycle and returns to its docking station to await further instructions.
- Does not have edge cleaning capability.
- Slightly louder than our top picks (68 db vs 64-65 db at 3').
Features to Focus On
Cleaning Capability, Navigation, Battery Life and Controls
Now let us delve further into the factors that were relevant to our review of each of the models listed above. As we discuss each factor, keep in mind that the primary benefit of purchasing a robotic vacuum is to minimize manual labor and human effort, while still achieving optimal cleaning results. Each of the following key features contributes to this primary objective (i.e. making your life EASIER!).
Cleaning System, Performance, and Filtration – As you might expect, a high performance and effective robotic vacuum should be made up of a top quality cleaning system. The system should provide high suction power in order to readily pick up dust and dirt. It should also have the ability to clean hard-to-reach areas, such as edges and corners. When shopping for a robotic vacuum, be sure to look into the quality of the brushes and vacuum motors. Motor quality helps to determine suction power while the quality of the brushes, including their bristles, helps to determine cleaning efficiency.
In addition to the motor and cleaning brush, a high quality filtration system is another hallmark of a quality robotic vacuum. Having a seamless and easy-to-clean filtration system allows your vacuum to operate smoothly and reduces the need for repetitive cleaning.
Navigation Software and Sensors – A good navigation system is a very important feature of an effective robotic vacuum. The navigation system is what scans the desired cleaning areas; therefore, it needs to be both reliable and intelligent. When discussing effectiveness in this section, we are primarily focused on factors like the ability of the navigation and sensors to map your home, return to dirty areas and remembers those areas that have already been cleaned (and conversely those areas that still require cleaning). At the most basic level, this includes the ability detect and/or safely circumvent stairs, furniture and other objects in order to keep the vacuum from jamming or becoming damaged.
Battery Life – An efficient robotic vacuum should have a battery life that lasts at least one hour and it should have the ability to automatically recharge itself. Premium models should also be able to automatically resume cleaning once the battery has finished recharging, which maximizes efficiency and contributes to our primary goal (i.e. making your life EASIER). For example, if you are not home and have set up a cleaning session, ideally you expect the session to be complete when you return home. Therefore, the vacuum should clean your specified area from start to finish without a dead battery interrupting the process.
Remote Access and Scheduling – Last but not least, a good robotic vacuum is capable of remote accessibility, meaning you can set it to operate from other devices, such as a smart phone or smart watch. Top tier robotic vacuums on the market include features that allow consumers to control their vacuums using voice applications such Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. They also give consumers the opportunity to schedule cleaning sessions and choose precise cleaning instructions. For example, by allowing you to set weekly schedules with specific cleaning days and times.
How We Chose
Our Selection Process
Now that we have explored the key features of a high quality robotic vacuum, let us further explain how we selected our line-up:
We chose the iRobot Roomba 960 as our top pick because it grades highly in all of the four major components discussed in the section above. It also boasts a 75 minute battery life, comes with a Dual Mode Virtual Wall Barrier (this blocks no-go areas), has edge cleaning capability, a full bin indicator and is designed to clean an entire level of a home.
Our "budget" runner up, the Deebot N79S, is the least expensive model in our comparison and, with the exception of its navigation ability, rates strongly in the areas identified above. Aside from its price, other noteworthy features for this model include its long battery life of 2 hours, standalone remote and edge cleaning capability.
Our "performance" runner up, the Botvac D3, is a great choice that offers outstanding cleaning performance because of its high-grade navigational system and sensors as well as its practical D-shape, which facilitates cleaning in hard-to-reach spaces. Poor filter quality and a battery life of only 60 minutes are the main reason this model did not make it to the top of our list. Importantly and helping with the relatively short battery life, is this model ability to automatically return to its cleaning cycle after recharging.
The Roomba 890 didn't make our top spots because it is pricey and not quite as capable as the Roomba 960 or Botvac D3. We'd recommend either spending a bit more for the 960 or saving some dough and going with the D3.
More Important Points to Keep in Mind
Ultimately, the robotic vacuum that you decide to purchase will depend on your specific needs. In addition to the core features that we have already discussed, here are some additional factors to consider when shopping for your vacuum:
Know Your Dimensions – Be mindful of the living areas and other spaces, such as offices, that you intend to use the vacuum in. Are they large, mid-size, or small spaces? Understanding the size and dimensions of those spaces will help give you a better idea of which vacuum is best for your home or office. For example, larger spaces that have high traffic areas typically require frequent cleanings in order to minimize dust and reduce pet dander, therefore a vacuum with higher power suction will better for you than a lower power one.
Account for Corners and Other Obstacles – Be sure to scope out these areas and take note of whether you have a lot of furniture, cornered areas, and other obstacles that can influence the effectiveness of your vacuum. For example, a D-shaped vacuum is more ideal than a round-shaped one if your space consists of many cornered areas or edged spaces.
Pets and Allergies – If you have a pet/s or suffer from allergies, we recommend zoning in on robotic vacuums that include allergen filters. As we mentioned earlier, filters are an important part of any good-quality robotic vacuum, so naturally those who suffer from allergies and/or have pets should pay extra close attention to filter quality. Additionally, you may want to avoid vacuums with filtration systems that are difficult to clean, require arduous dismantling, or require cleanings after each use.
Flooring Type – Take note of the type of flooring in your spaces. Are they hardwood, carpeted, tiled, etc.? This is important to consider since different robotic vacuums specialize in different floor types. For example, some are not suitable for hardwood floors and others work best on carpeted areas. If you live in a space that consists of hardwood floors as well as carpet, then selecting a robotic vacuum that caters to a variety of floor types is ideal. The Neato Botvac D3 is a model that works well on tiles, hardwood floors and carpets.
Warranties – Be sure to review the warranty that comes with each vacuum that you are considering purchasing. You should know exactly what the warranty covers and how long it lasts. Most warranties will cover any defective parts. Of course, some manufacturers will have longer warranties than others, but the majority of them cover at least 90 days and the longest ones usually cover up to 2 years (all of the models in our comparison come with a 1 year warranty). Keep in mind that many online retailers and manufacturers offer extended warranties and that these are fairly inexpensive for robotic vacuums.
Seriously . . .
We started ReviewDECIDE on the premise that a great deal of the information required to properly evaluate a given product is already right in front of your (and our) eyes. In fact there is too much information! A crucial skill necessary to picking the best products is instead the ability to cull through the available information, focusing on what should really drive a purchase decision.
To make those crucial determinations as to what matters and what doesn’t, we begin by thinking through what really matters to us when we use a particular product. We then use the that type of product to further refine the features we care about and that we think you will care about too. Next we search the web, looking to manufacturer’s websites, product specifications, consumer reports, expert blogs, research reports and the like to obtain crucial insights and the facts.
Finally, we distill the results of our research and combine it with our own experiences as consumers, professionals, techies, mothers, fathers, hobbyists, designers, software engineers, attorneys (sorry) and more. Ultimately, this process results in the reviews we present to you. We hope you enjoy!
- Background photo of flooring choices from iStock.
- Photo of bottom of robotic vacuum from iStock.
- Photo of person assembling robotic vacuum from iStock.
- Photo of woman and child watching robotic vacuum from iStock.
- Photo of woman controlling robotic vacuum from couch from iStock.
- Photo of group jumping in office from iStock.
*Images have been cropped and/or resized.