Vacuuming, hoovering, dusting, mopping… bending down, squatting, scrubbing… wouldn’t it be nice to have someone do this for us? Well, if you can’t afford someone to do it, how about having a domestic robot vacuum cleaner perform these mundane chores? Especially, for urban living. If you live in a capsule apartment – these tireless little robots are perfect for navigating small spaces and keeping your capsule pad tidy.
Robot vacuum cleaners have become more plentiful lately, so I thought it was time to scout around the Internet and find out what’s available and what people think of them.
First of all, let’s set some expectations. Robot vacuum cleaners will behave like geriatric, short-sighted housekeepers. They will bump into everything and not clean as thoroughly as a careful human being. They can also take awhile to clean a room, so if they are in a high-traffic area expect to spend time dodging it when you pass by. That said, they are probably perfect for people who live in smaller lateral spaces who come home, trash the place, then go out for the day and hope to come back to a tidier apartment – e.g. students, bedsit owners, people with pets that shed regularly, people who are allergic to cleaning and anyone else who can afford a $2-300 vacuum but not a part-time cleaner.
Based on other users’ comments, here are the salient features to consider when considering a robot vacuum cleaner:
- operational time (before battery runs down)
- navigational ability
- multiple floor types
- operational modes: vacuum vs mopping
- noise level
- ability to dock and recharge itself
- easy to empty and clean
There are a lot of vacuum robots and robot vacuum reviews on the Internet, so there’s plenty of material to trawl through. However, it seems that there are only two brands worth considering: Roomba and Neato. Samsung has something on the horizon that is both a vacuum and a wireless video sentry surveillance system but we’ll leave that out of the equation. They do, however, also make the NaviBot robot vacuum, which is popular in Europe.
Roomba has been in the business the longest, having benefitted (and suffered) from first-mover advantage. They have steadily improved the battery life, cleaning efficiency and navigational capabilities of their products and even include floor mopping models.
The Neato is the new kid on the block and that has given it the advantage of seeing where Roomba has failed and tackling those problems head on. Initial reports are very favourable – particularly when it comes to navigational ability and suction.
When looking at both brands, the most highly respected models are as follows:
Roomba iRobot 560
Roomba iRobot 330/350/380 Scooba
Roomba iRobot 610 Professional
The Neato XV-11 generally gets highest marks as a vaccum. Most people praise its navigational ability, which means that it cleans effectively and finds its way around your property more efficiently. Battery life is acceptable – roughly 90 minutes – but it can dock itself, recharge, then go back to where it last left off and continue. Customer service, however, is rated poorly. There is also concern of inconsistent manufacturing with defective units in the market. Make sure you purchase it from a reputable vendor in case you need to have it returned, repaired or replaced. At just under $400 US, it’s not the cheapest, nor the most expensive.
The Roomba 560 is well respected, especially for its long battery life and operational time (roughly 2 hours on a charge). There are concerns about cleaning – many people find it difficult to clean this unit – and it sometimes has difficulty getting back to its dock to recharge. However, it seems to have trouble cleaning up bits of paper.
The Roomba 610 Professional is meant to go for longer on a charge and needs cleaning less often. It also comes with more replacement parts options, as it is targeting the commercial sector and is expected to do heavier duty. At nearly $600, it is the most expensive of the bunch.
The iRobot 330/350/380 Scooba are floor mopping devices for hard flooring. The primary difference between them is the amount of square footage of flooring they can clean on a charge 250/500/850 sq feet, respectively. They won’t vacuum the floor but do a first pass to remove dust and debris, before actually mopping and scrubbing. They can be filled with water and vinegar, or a Clorox Scooba solution (this is where Roomba makes extra cash). Users claim it isn’t safe on hardwood laminate floors – presumably because they want to use the Clorox solution. It also doesn’t work well on non-smooth floors, such as tiling with deep grouting.
Note to UK customers:
The Neato is not, sadly, available in the UK and there are different Roomba models for the European market – although the 560 is available. However, Samsung seems to have a foothold in Europe and offers a couple of robot vacuum cleaners for sale. Reviews are few and far between, though. We would be grateful for your feedback, if you should buy one.
New models of the Roomba and Scooba have just been announced at CES 2011. They claim to have improved the dirt sensor technology, better hoovering and mopping capabilities, 50% more battery life and the units have been made even smaller, which helps them navigate tight corners and hard-to-reach places. Check out this CNET article for more information.
UPDATE June 2011:
First looks at the Samsung Navibot Silencio are positive. It operates at 62dB, which is supposed to be just above normal conversational level, so it professes to be very quiet (hence the name). It uses a built-in camera to navigate the room and operates in two mode: ‘Auto’ (straight line) and ‘Edge’ (cleans in nooks and crannies). It will search for its base and recharge itself when the battery gets low. We’ll get more information when the product hits the stores.
Where to Buy:
Here are some useful robot vacuum cleaner reviews…
Review of the Neato XV-11 from Robotreviews
Review of the Roomba 500 series at Scottycentral
Review of the Roomba 560 from AllVacuumReviews
Samsung SR8845 Navibot review on Stuff.tv
Samsung Navibot video on YouTube