Best Roomba Alternative – Cheaper Options To iRobot That Perform

When it comes to robotic vacuums there’s one brand that a lot of people trust – iRobot.

They’re one of the few pioneers in this niche and have been in the business for decades.

There’s no doubt that their products perform well thanks a combination of a well thought out design, decently motor, acoustic sensors that detect dirt and WiFi connectivity.

The downside to an iRobot is the price. Their top spec Roomba 980 sells for close to $800 in Amazon. Even the cheaper 960 is close to $600 so it’s a premium to pay for a robot cleaner.

But here’s the good news, you don’t have to pay such amount to buy a decent vacuum cleaner. In fact you can buy one for a fifth of the price thanks to these new manufacturers that came to the scene just a year ago.

We’ll talk about the 5 different Roomba alternatives that’ll perform almost as well but without you having to pay a premium.

Don’t let the label “Made in China” discourage you from buying these because quality has improved!

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How to choose a good Roomba alternative?

Before buying the first Chinese made product that you find online, there are some guidelines that you need to take into account.

Brand

Not all Chinese brands are bad. In fact there are a few that really standout based on my tests. Two of these brands are Xiaomi and ILIFE.

Call me crazy but I say that these products are really close to iRobot in terms of quality and cleaning.

I recently compared Xiaomi and the Samsung PowerBot R9040 that is almost $200 more expensive.

And not only did Xiaomi performed better than the PowerBot in terms of pick up, it was much efficient.

Budget

This is the most important factor to consider before even shopping for one. Setting a budget will eliminate options that are out of your price range.

For the purpose of this article, you don’t need to spend over $350 to buy something decent. I’ve already talked about Xiaomi a while ago. And this is a good sample of why you don’t need to spend gobbles of money for a robot cleaner.

You can get a decent robot vacuum for less than $90. But it won’t have a charging base and remote. Performance should not be an issue. I’m talking about the ILIFE V1 robot that performs almost as well as a Roomba 650.

Decent Navigation

Navigation can be the difference between a good robot and a bad one. A robot with a lousy navigation system will take forever to clean and may not return to the dock.

Part of having a good navigation is the ability to avoid obstacles and not bump them. This will prevent scuff marks on furniture and make the robot more efficient in cleaning a room.

Now most of the products I’ll feature here won’t be able to clean more than 2 rooms at a time because it utilizes IR navigation.

But even a Roomba 650 can’t clean multiple rooms so this isn’t a deal breaker.

Higher-end robots utilize advanced software and navigation sensors capable of tracking their position and cleaning multiple rooms. But these will cost upwards of $500.

Some of these robots include the Neato BotVac, Roomba and Dyson.

If this is a huge concern for you then expect to pay a little bit more.

WiFi Connectivity

In this era of smartphones having WiFi connectivity is a must have. That’s the speed of which technology is advancing and robot vacuums aren’t far behind.

The big three already has added this to their feature list. I’m talking about Dyson, Neato and Roomba and expect more to follow suite.

Having WiFi connectivity will allow you to have access to the robot even if you’re not physically present. All you need is a router and internet connectivity to access this.

It’s more of a convenience play in which you have the ability to schedule or turn on the robot even when your busy at the office.

The app also shows you important information about the robot such as battery life. In some brands you’ll even see a log of the previous cleaning cycles and the lifespan of consumables such as the filter, battery and side brush.

Cleaning Performance

A good robot must have a good enough suction and agitation to clean up surface dirt even on carpet.

Don’t expect deep cleaning from a robot because that is simply impossible. These machines use small motors that have limited suction but power is enough for day to day cleaning tasks.

Our Pick: ILIFE A6

ILIFE is a Chinese startup company that specializes in robotic vacuums. It’s one of many Chinese products that have sprouted out of nowhere.

And I’ve tested several of those – Jisiwei, Alfawise, Xiaomi, Minsu and ILIFE. And out of the 5, the ILIFE and Xiaomi standout because of its performance and quality that can match more expensive brands such as Neato, Samsung and iRobot.

The A6 is the latest ILIFE robot vacuum that uses the latest motor, brush and battery that has resulted in better overall performance and quieter operation.

This in fact it’s quieter than the V5S Pro and A4S with the ear test.

New Extractors

One of the biggest upgrades it made was moving away from the bristled brush and replacing it with this…

This new design uses rubber that has long squeegee like contraptions that push dirt towards the suction chamber.

The layout underneath remain the same. It has 2 side brushes that make A6’s edge and corner cleaning above average.

It still uses the same IR-based navigation as the older A-series robots A4 and A4S. But ILIFE has improved the collision detection to a point where the robot will avoid bumping into the object.

As long as robot “sees” the obstacle through the sensors on the bumper it will not bump into it hard.

In terms of how it moves around, it still goes in a random direction. But efficiency has improved compared to the A4S based on initial tests.

To see the features of this robot, please watch this video…

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=E_wMj5HNVYk

Other improvements include a better run time and motor. This robot comes with a larger lithium ion battery that will run for close to 3 hours.

It also uses the second generation brushless motor that should last longer than the gen 1 motor.

Virtual Wall

One thing that the A6 has over the Roomba 650 and other robots priced at that range is the addition of a virtual wall.

This device basically blocks the robot from going into areas that are off limits. These include the garage, bathroom, laundry room and the likes. It provides an added feature that isn’t present in the more expensive iRobot.

Improved bumper sensor

Another big improvement would be how this robot avoids colliding with furniture. The sensors located inside the bumper do a much better job in detecting obstacles.

In the older A4, it still had a tendency to bump into furniture hard. But this is no longer an issue in the A6. The upgraded sensors will tell the robot to slow down and not bump into solid objects.

Take note that there are instances where the robot will still bump into objects. But these are cases where the sensor “does not see” the obstacle because it’s tool low or narrow.

For larger furniture, you don’t have to worry about scuff marks.

But all these upgrades come at a cost – around $230 in GearBest and $250 in Amazon.

Note: You’ll get a better deal if you use the coupon code “GB9%” in GearBest.

Bottom line: We picked the A6 because it’s like getting a Roomba 800 but for a fraction of the price. The new motorized brush does away with bristles so it won’t be a pain to clean. And performance isn’t far off thanks to the powerful motor and twin side brushes.

High Tech: Xiaomi Robot Vacuum

Xiaomi is another tech startup who’s challenging iRobot and Neato.

In fact it has copied most of the features of the Neato BotVac and then some.

Both of these robots use the same laser guided navigation system and the S.L.A.M. algorithm to help tract its location.

Another similarity would be the smartphone application and WiFi connectivity.

This allows consumers remote access as long as they have a router and WiFi connectivity at home and a smartphone.

But in my opinion Xiaomi has the better app with more features that include better scheduling, real time updates during the cleaning cycle, log of the previous cleaning cycles and much more.

The Neato BotVac has a much simpler app with fewer features.

Biggest downer for me would be you can only schedule it once a day. Being simpler though makes it a lot more stable and faster. But I’d take the feature richness of the Xiaomi app any day.

Motor

Cleaning performance won’t be far off as well. Both use the same style cleaning brush and Engadget says that Xiaomi sourced the motor from the same supplier as the Roomba 980.

It uses a brushless DC motor that has more power than the Roomba 980 and BotVac D8500. So this robot packs a punch and will clean as well as a Neato in the least.

One negative I see though is the narrow beater bar that may make it less efficient than the BotVac. But when you consider the price difference, this can be a deal maker for some of you leaning towards Xiaomi.

Efficient

One of reasons why I like this product is its efficient navigation that cleans a room in a fraction of a time compared to a robot equipped with an IR sensor.

It will go around the perimeter of the room first. It then work its way towards the middle in a predictable back and forth pattern the same way a Neato BotVac does its cleaning.

Bottom line: If want a robot that’s efficient, having all the bells and whistles but can’t afford or don’t want to spend over $600 for such then the Xiaomi robot vacuum is a great option. It has basically the same features as the Neato BotVac Connected but with a more advanced app. But it’ll cost less than $320.

For Hard Floors: ILIFE V5S Pro

If your home does not have any carpet, there’s very little reason to buy a vacuum with a motorized brush. Having a beater bar is great but it takes time to clean it.

And based on the cleaning tests I’ve done, having a motorized brush doesn’t necessarily mean better performance on bare floor.

The ILIFE V5S Pro is a great option for homes that has mostly hard floors because it does not have any motorized brush. And if you’re looking for something to mop up your tiled flooring, it also comes with a mop and water tank for that purpose.

In essence, you’ll be getting two products in one – a vacuum cleaner and mop. Considering that the cost of an iRobot Braava, you’ll easily save a few hundred dollars.

It does not have the advanced mopping motion of a Braava but it will do a decent job for maintenance cleaning tasks like wet mopping.

If you buy this from GearBest, price will be the same as the iRobot Braava Jet and it’ll give you more functionality.

Watch this video to see what this product is all about. Make sure to watch it till the end because I’ve included a cleaning test…

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=dPaPERGseGM

If you’ve watched the cleaning test, it was pretty efficient and did a very good job picking up 48 grams out of the 50 grams of dirt I scattered on the floor.

It did a slightly better job than the A6 which I did a few days earlier.

Improved water tank

This variant is an upgraded version of the V5S. And one of the biggest improvements made by ILIFE would be the water tank.

The new design now has a built-in valve that stops it from leaking when the robot is off. So there’s less risk of it creating a puddle of water.

This helps a lot in terms of usability and preventing from accidental drips that could potentially damage the robot if water seeps inside the electric parts.

Long run time

Another improvement with the V5S Pro is the battery. This new variant is equipped with 4 lithium ion batteries that improved the run time to up to 150 minutes or around 2.5 hours.

It has a longer run time compared to the Botvac Connected and Roomba 980 that runs for 120 mins max.

Twin side brushes

Like the ILIFE A6 and A4S, this variant also comes with twin side brushes that really show its worth when cleaning edges and corners.

These two brushes funnel dirt towards the suction chamber and increase cleaning efficiency.

Bottom line: The ILIFE V5S Pro is a great option for homes with only bare floors. It does not have any motorized brush which means one less item to maintain. Power is more than enough for cleaning any hard floor surface such as hardwood or tile plus you get a mopping functionality for your mopping needs on tile. However, it lacks the complex back and forth mopping motion found in the Braava.

Cheaper Roomba 650: Eufy RoboVac 11

A quick check at Amazon reveals that the Roomba 650 costs around $275 and the next robot I’m about to show you will perform comparably but cost around $60 less!

Eufy is a spinoff of Anker that is a popular electronics company that specializes in power banks and USB charging ports.

This version is the upgraded version of the Anker RoboVac 10 and called the “best affordable vacuum for 2016” by Reviewed.com.

What improvements does this version have over the old RoboVac 10?

While cleaning performance remains the same.

The main upgrades include a larger battery (longer run time), larger dust bin and an upgraded motorized brush that now has the “double-V” design which means it has a squeegee and bristle as opposed to the bristle only design.

Speaking of cleaning performance and navigation, watch this video to see how it goes around and how it cleans…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YJ6ow8DlNI

The amount of dirt scattered is a lot but it shows you that this robot is capable of cleaning such messes at least on bare floor.

It does bump into objects and there is a risk of scuffing. Take note of this if you have easily scratched furniture.

Similar design to the ILIFE A4S

When I first saw this product, I noticed it look very similar to another Chinese branded product – the ILIFE A4S.

Both have similar bin placement which is at the back and a similar layout. The biggest difference would be the motorized brush design where the Eufy has a slight advantage by having the combo design whereas the A4S only has the bristled design.

Could scuff furniture

One potential issue that hampers Eufy would be its propensity to bump into furniture and potentially damage it.

This is one area ILIFE (especially the newer variants) has an advantage with its upgraded sensors that prevents the robot from bumping hard into furniture.

Bottom line: Eufy is another budget option that performs almost as well as a Roomba 650 but it will not cost as much. Unfortunately like the 650, Eufy does not slow down and may cause some scuff marks on your furniture. And it does not have any virtual wall to stop it from going into areas you don’t want it to. If you don’t mind these limitations this variant is a good alternative.

Pet Hair Sweeper: Bobsweep Bobi Pet

Bobsweep is another brand that has set its sights to challenge iRobot’s dominance in this field.

There are a few different variants available but I feel that this one is the best because of it’s cleaning performance.

This variant is called “Bobi Pet” because it was designed to clean pet hair but does it differently compared to the others in this list.

Instead of using a single motorized brush, it utilizes two of them, one squeegee and another bristled brush that work together to pull pet hair off hard floor and carpet.

To attract more interest from buyers, it added a UV light that they claim disinfects and a dry mop as added features.

The dry mop is actually a good add-on because it helps pick up statically charged dirt on bare floor that the sweepers may miss. But the UV light I feel is just a gimmick and it does not sterilize as well it Bobsweep claims it does.

Cleaning performance

While it does a decent job on hard floors, it will not do as well on carpet because it lacks power. In fact, in a cleaning test done by Reviewed.com it failed to climb up a thick rug.

This robot would be best suited in a home that has only bare floor. It does a pretty good job when it comes to picking up pet hair thanks to the brush roll design but you’ll have to be diligent in cleaning the brushes to maintain performance.

Battery and run time

Unlike the other robots here that use a lithium ion battery, Bobi uses a Nickel Cadmium battery that will take a full 5 hours to charge and will run for about an hour and a half.

This is a concern for me in terms of the long term viability of this machine because NiCad batteries do not age very well. This type of battery is prone to losing its charge when left unused and will not last as long as a lithium battery.

Bobi Block

One advantage the Bobi has over the Roomba 650 would be the presence of a virtual wall that they call a “Bobi Block”.

In terms of functionality it works like a wall where it will block a robot’s path so it does not go into certain areas.

Remote

Another advantage it has over the 650 would be a remote that allows you to turn on the robot without bending, schedule and manually control this robot like an RC.

Bottom line: If you have a multitude of pets, this is another good option to look at because of the dual brush roll design designed to pick up such. It won’t do well on carpet because it lacks power but it does the job well on bare floor.

To Wrap It Up

There you have it, 5 different robot cleaners that are good alternatives to a Roomba just in case you cannot afford one.

Each of these products offers something different at a price point that won’t break the bank.

The A6 is the latest ILIFE that uses the latest Gen 2 motor that has more power and produces less noise.

ILIFE also has upgraded the lithium ion batteries so this robot will run for close to 3 hours!

Something not a lot of brands can boast about. It also has a virtual wall that blocks the robot from going into areas it shouldn’t go into. Scuffing is also something you shouldn’t worry about with the A6 because it’ll slow down and avoid hitting objects that the sensors can detect.

Xiaomi is hands-down is the most high-tech robot in this list. It has laser guided navigation and the S.L.A.M. algorithm.

At its current price in GearBest, this could be the best bargain in this industry.

The app alone wallops Neato’s app in sheer features. It has more options like the ability to schedule multiple times a day, real time updates, cleaning log and much more.

And while it does not have any acoustic sensors that detect dirt, it’s way more efficient and in my opinion these sensors have a potential to get in the way in terms of how the robot cleans.

For homes that only has bare floor, the ILIFE V5S Pro is a great option because it doesn’t have any motorized brush.

It has enough power to clean any hard floor surface. And it can cover more ground because it’ll run for close to 3 hours.

Eufy is another good option that will work well on carpet and bare floor. However it lacks polish when it comes to collision avoidance. Unlike the latest ILIFE robots that will slow down and avoid hard bumps, Eufy does not slow down and may scuff your furniture.

In essense, it is similar to the Roomba 650 with the aggressive cleaning algorithm only cheaper.

Lastly, the Bobi Pet is an intriguing option for pet owners looking for a robot to help them keep up with their shedding pets. But it does not clean carpet well because it lacks power.

The best option in Amazon would be the white (or snow) because it’s available brand new for less than $250.

Garrick Dee
 

Garrick is the founder of the Cordless Vacuum Guide that originally focused on cordless vacuums but he has now expanded to reviewing corded vacuums and carpet cleaners to be able to provide a more complete guide in terms of choosing the right cleaner.

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