5 of the Best Robot Vacuums
Autonomous Helpers That Clean Your Home For You
Robotic vacuums have evolved since it was introduced to the scene more than a decade ago.
First generation robots suffered from reliability issues and couldn’t not seem to hold up for more than a few months.
But as technology got better that is no longer the case.
New robots are better than ever
Newer robots are light years better in terms of reliability, navigation and cleaning performance.
However, these machines will not replace a traditional vacuum in terms of deep cleaning performance and power.
Smartphones also plays a huge part in technological advances.
The latest robots have WiFi connectivity and smartphone apps. These features allow you more control and access, even if you’re not physically present. All you need is a router to connect your phone and robot.
To help you navigating through this guide, I’ve created a “table of contents” section
- Comparison Chart
- Budget and Need, Before Buying One…
- How Do You Choose The Right One?
- New Champ: Neato BotVac Connected
- More Efficient: Roomba 980
- Tangle-Free Brushroll: Roomba 880
- A Neato For Less: Xiaomi Robot Vacuum
- The Old Reliable: Roomba 650
- Other Options
- To Wrap It Up
These robots will help busy folks with hectic schedules to outsource their cleaning task and prevent dirt from piling up.
Great as a maintenance type vacuum
But don’t rely on this to be your primary cleaner. These machines are at their best as maintenance tools that’ll dirt from piling up.
If you expect it to do more, you’re just setting up yourself for disappointment.
You’ll appreciate these robots because they don’t complain. And will even clean difficult areas such as areas under the bed.
Without further ado here’s the list, five of the best robotic cleaners that will help your home stay clean even if you are busy doing other things.
Neato BotVac Connected
Xiaomi Robot Vacuum
|Battery type||Lithium Ion||Lithium Ion||Nickel Metal Hydride||Lithium Ion||Nickel Metal Hydride|
|Charging time||2 hours||N/A||3 hours||N/A||3 hours|
|Run time||Eco mode: 120 minutes|
Turbo mode: 90 minutes
|Up to 120 mins.||approx. 60 minus||2.5 hours||60-90 minutes (based on reviews)|
|Full bin indicator|
|Cleaning sessions per week||7||7||7||More than once a day||7|
|Weight||9 pounds||8.7 pounds||8.4 pounds||8.4 pounds||7.9 pounds|
|Warranty||1-year on robot|
6 months on battery
|1-year on robot|
6 months on battery
|1-year on robot|
6 months on battery
|1-year||1-year on robot|
6 months on battery
Since prices in amazon change frequently because of promotions, availability and various other reasons, we will not list the prices. Refer to these instead – $ = $300 and below, $$ = $301 – $400, $$$ = $401 to $500, $$$$ = $501 and up
…Know what to expect. Consumer reports says that types types of vacuums will not replace a traditional vacuum. Heck, it won’t replace a cordless vacuum. And while I agree with them, that’s not the main point of buying a robot vacuum.
Great for monotonous tasks
These machines are great because they will do a monotonous task over and over without getting tired.
With the proper setup, you will not even need to vacuum every day. If your home has carpet, autonomous cleaners will clean high traffic areas and prevent dirt from piling up.
Not a deep cleaner
Do not expect deep cleaning performance from a robot because it isn’t possible. Even the Dyson 360 Eye will not deep clean carpet. So let’s just set that expectation from the get go. You will still need a decent upright or canister vacuum for deep cleaning tasks.
Don’t forget to check our review on the best carpet cleaners while you’re at it. These tools will go well together in keeping your carpet clean.
Yes these products are expensive but this guide will help you get the best bang for your buck.
Before I go to the list, you must know what a good robot vacuum should have. And here are some of the features it must have and why.
These sensors prevent robots from falling down stairs or any “cliff” points like stairs and damaging itself permanently.
When battery is low, it tells the robot to go back to the charging base to recharge and continue its task without your help.
This will dictate how efficient a robot is in cleaning a room, the less time it needs to clean the more efficient it is. There are two types of navigation – random and predictable.
Robots that use IR sensors will navigate in a random direction. These products are usually cheaper and more thorough but not efficient.
Newer robots that have a more efficient navigation system will either use a camera or laser sensor. These will be more expensive because of the tech involved. But be careful some of brands aren’t as thorough in cleaning which defeats the purpose of a robot vacuum.
The main point of having a robotic vacuum is automation, without this feature what’s the point in getting one?
Robots with WiFi and app will allow you more flexibility like scheduling different times with the option of cleaning on specific days only.
Now with a side brush
When they unveiled the BotVac series a few years ago, they’ve a side brush to match Roomba’s side brush to help their product clean edges better.
In addition to the side brush, they also upgraded their navigation system. And increased the width of the main motorized brush to reach all the way to the edge.
While cleaning performance was not an issue, the lack of a remote was.
And with the Roomba 980 now adding an app to their product, Neato had to step up their game thus the BotVac Connected was born.
Control the robot remotely
The addition of the app changes the way we look at these appliances and what the future holds. This app uses the WiFi signal of the robot and router that will allow you to control it remotely as long as you have internet connectivity.
Neato has also put in a new Lithium Ion battery that is less prone to power fading. Older BotVacs use NiCad batteries that are heavy, have a short run time and doesn’t hold its charge well.
This means less power fade and more cleaning but unfortunately it does not translate to longer running times.
Editor’s note: If you want a cheaper alternative, you can have a look at the MI robot vacuum. This robot comes from the MI Echo System and has basically the same features. It also has an app and boasts of a 2.5 hour run time thanks to the 5,200 mAH lithium ion battery.
Why is it number 1?
The main reason is two-fold, first is the price.
The Roomba 980 is a very good product but it’s pretty darn expensive. Another competitor, the Dyson 360 Eye boasts of a more powerful motor, larger bin and high tech navigation. But all that will set you back close to $1,000!!!
Second is the performance. Neato still uses the same brush roll that performs. And still one of the best in the market.
Here’s a video of it in action…
And the BotVac Connected is no different. Ryan Crist says that it is the best performing cleaning robot in the market right now and that includes the Roomba 980 and 880, though the 360 Eye was not part of the test.
One big improvement would be the navigation that’s more thorough.
Older Neato robots, particularly the XV series would only do a single pass. This new robot will do two passes in both directions – horizontal and vertical. So this is better in terms of thoroughness and you’ll have a cleaner home.
This lessens the chance of it missing anything because it goes in rows and columns – a more thorough approach to cleaning.
The brush roll design is still high maintenance, especially if you have a lot of pets at home. Make sure to clean it up after every 2 uses depending on how much hair gets in there.
Also the app does not show you other details like how long it took the robot to clean or the battery status.
It doesn’t show details of the errors. For example if the robot stops in the middle of a cleaning cycle, it will only flash and error code. You’ll have to check the manual and decode the error code yourself.
As with all new technology, these types of quirks are normal and hopefully will be ironed out in future updates.
In their previous generation robot vacuums, the Roomba used IR-sensors that pretty much resulted in a random cleaning pattern.
If you are curious, the biggest difference between the 880 and 650 was the motorized brush and how it navigates around furniture.
650 more aggressive
The 650 was pretty aggressive tackling edges and corners which resulted in a better cleaning performance.
But at the cost of scrapes and scratches on furniture. So when they did their R&D with the 880, they decided to dial it back.
Cleaning performance did suffer a bit but it resulted in less damage to furniture.
Sorry for the long intro but I had to share it so you can understand the evolution of this product.
The 980 totally scrapped the IR-based navigation and now uses a brand new system that combines infrared sensors and a camera on top to help map its location and the areas it has cleaned.
Why is it number 2?
Whereas previous Roomba robots wander aimlessly until battery is low, the 980 actually remembers areas it has cleaned thanks to the camera and avoids obstacles through the IR-sensors located up front the bumper.
This change enables this robot to have a much more efficient navigation compared to previous Roombas and allows this robot to clean a larger area (yes multiple rooms) without getting lost and trapped so there is less baby-sitting involved.
Here’s short video to show you the newfound efficiency of the 980…
All these features are brought together by the iAdapt 2.0 navigation system and visual localization software that keeps track of its location. And even when it goes to recharge it will go back exactly to the area where it last cleaned and continue from there.
More powerful motor
Another improvement would be the stronger motor that iRobot says is 10 times more powerful than the Roomba 650.
This is the only Roomba with a carpet boost feature that’s a fancy term that means variable suction. Turn this feature on if you’re cleaning carpet and turn it off on bare floor.
Turning on this feature however cuts the run time from 120 minutes in normal mode down to 90 minutes.
Longer run time
Neato was able to increase run time because of the Li-Ion batteries. Not only will this run longer, it’ll hold its charge better. Power will be more consistent throughout the cleaning cycle.
iRobot also ditched the traditional remote with the 980. In its place is an App compatible for both IoS and Android devices.
What does this mean?
It simply means more convenience and flexibility.
No longer will you need to be in the same vicinity as the robot to use the remote, as long as you have internet connection. You can turn on the robot just about anywhere. And you can also schedule it to clean on its own at different times each day of the week.
What are the potential issues?
As with any camera-based navigation system, it is highly dependent on light. In total pitch darkness, it may have issues navigating and may not function as it was designed to.
If $900 is too much, you may want to have a look at the Roomba 960.
It has almost the same features as the 980. But with a weaker motor and smaller battery.
This means a shorter but it retains the same navigation and WiFi features.
Even though the Roomba 770 was a bestselling robot cleaner in Amazon, iRobot wasn’t satisfied.
They set out to create a new robotic vacuum with brand new counter rotating bristle-less rubber “extractors”. And a new XLife battery that according to iRobot will last twice as long.
Why is it number 3?
The biggest problem with bristles is that over time hair, dander and dirt gets wrap around it.
You will need special cleaning tools to clean and untangle hair.
If you’ve ever used a vacuum with a motorized brush, you’ll understand this problem.
No more bristles
Roomba 880 solves this by completely removing the bristle from the brush. And instead used a specially designed “extractor” to agitate and pick up dirt and hair.
In terms of performance, it did not disappoint as it did well on CNet’s rice grain test.
It also got the best score in terms of picking up saw dust on hardwood. But it did struggle though with pet hair compared to the BotVac.
So the later would be a better choice if you have a lot of pets at home. You can find the results of the test here.
What are the potential issues?
Even with the tangle free extractors, long hair still tends to wrap around these extractors, just look at the photos below…
So there is still some maintenance involved here but not as much compared to the old style bristle brushes.
Another issue for me is the price. Even though this looks better, has more bells and whistles (virtual wall, remote, etc.) the price is a little bit too high for me.
The performance againts Neato is virtually even. But the Roomba is less efficient and will take longer to clean a room.
This would be great for the techy home owner who likes to fiddle with technology as the 880 has an IR remote and a couple of lighthouses that act as a wall or door depending on the settings. A bit pricey but it’ll still do the job.
If you’d tell me five years ago that a Chinese brand can complete with a big named brand like a Neato, I would have laughed at your face. But Xiaomi has stepped up their game with their product simply known as the MI robot vacuum.
Based on my tests and research this product copied a lot of its features from the Neato BotVac Connected which isn’t all bad because more competition means better things for us consumers.
At least they didn’t copy the D-shaped feature of Neato but everything else under the hood both of these robots are pretty much the same.
Same navigation as Neato
The biggest similarity would be navigation both Xiaomi and Neato use a LDS or Laser Distance Sensor that scans its surroundings 1,800 per second.
This sensor builds a 360 degree map of the environment it is cleaning and basically helps it avoid colliding with furniture.
Along with the LDS it also uses the Simultaneous Localization and Mapping algorithm found in the Neato.
This is basically helps the robot keep track its position without needing a camera to do so.
This allows this robot to run even in pitch dark conditions – this is a huge advantage over the camera based navigation used by other brands like Samsung and iRobot.
Why is it number 4?
One of the things I like most about this product is the navigation especially after downloading the firmware update.
Watch this video to see what I mean…
You will notice that it goes through its cleaning cycle twice!
This increases cleaning performance two fold!
I also like that the robot remembers exactly where the charging station is without any guess work – that’s the SLAM algorithm in action here.
Large capacity battery
To go with the efficient cleaning pattern Xiaomi also equipped this cleaning tool with a large 5,200 MaH lithium ion battery that will run for around 2.5 hours!
That’s around half an hour longer than the Neato.
When you combine that with the efficient cleaning, this robot can clean up to 250 square meters in one charge.
When battery runs low, it goes back to the charging base, refuels and then goes back where it left off and finish the job.
WiFi and App
Like the Neato BotVac Connected and Roomba 980, this robot also comes with an app that allows you to schedule cleaning, monitor and turn on this robot remotely anywhere as long as you have internet connectivity.
As for the scheduling feature you can actually set it to clean at multiple times each day. You can ask it to clean once in the morning, afternoon and evening.
The downside though is that the core functionality is only available in Chinese and it lacks a bit in terms of responsiveness but it is a very good first step for Xiaomi. Perhaps their future products will have an even better and faster app.
The biggest issue for me would be the size of the bin. Despite its size, the bin could have been a little bit bigger instead it has a capacity of roughly 0.45 liters with a narrow opening that can be a bit messy to empty.
The motorized brush also is a bit narrow compared to the full-width brush found in the BotVac Connected. This means it will be less efficient and compared to the Neato.
Last issue would be corner cleaning or a lack thereof. Make no mistake this robot does a good job on straight edges but when it comes to cleaning corners the round shape hurts it. Makes me wonder why they did not adapt the D-shape of Neato.
The Roomba 650 was one of the first Roomba’s to be equipped with a scheduling feature.
Cheaper alternative to the Roomba 700 series
This would be a cheaper but worthy alternative to the more expensive 700-series that costs as much as $700.
It has practically the same brush system and navigation that’ll perform up to par based on reviews.
If you look at the reviews, a lot of consumers who owned 700-series Roombas also bought and they said it performed as well as a 700-series!
This model is exactly the same as the 630. The difference is that the 630 does not have the scheduling feature. If you don’t mind not having this, then get the 630 which is $70 cheaper.
What are the downsides?
It has a rather small dirt container that needs to be emptied often. The counter rotating brushes need to be cleaned often to maintain performance because debris in particular hair tends to get stuck on the bristles of the brush, the side brush and wheels. These 3 areas need frequent cleaning.
Overall this is a good product that isn’t as expensive as the newer 700 series models but will perform close to it. You just have to be mindful that it needs frequent TLC so it does not wear out too quickly.
An Amazon Best Seller But – iRobot Roomba 770
The Roomba 770 is the bestseller in Amazon but why didn’t make it number 1?
Well a combination of two things – price and navigation.
It costs $100 more than the XV-21 and the navigation system of a Roomba is not up to part with a Neato.
Have a look at it here.
Looks like a mess right?
Well that’s because iRobot uses a random algorithm. Let me explain, when it starts up it goes towards the middle of the room in an outward-moving spiral motion then goes to the perimeter.
When it bumps into an object (let’s say a wall), it goes in a random direction, then goes in and bumps another object and goes again in a random direction. It does this over and over again until it covers the whole room.
Primitive but still effective
It sounds primitive but this random algorithm seems to work as it is able to cover an entire room thoroughly because it will go over certain areas over and over again but it will also miss some spots.
The downside to this randomness is it takes very long to clean a room, expect around 20 minutes or more for an average sized room.
Cleaning wise, this is actually more of a sweeper because it has two counter rotating brushes that pull up dirt rather than using suction. Its vacuum motor is significantly weaker but this has a benefit, it isn’t as loud as a Neato.
Not very loud
Based on tests done by robot shop, it’ll hover around 70 decibels which still isn’t whisper-quite but not as loud as a Neato.
It comes with an IR-remote that can be used to start the robot and schedule as well. Scheduling can be done once a day, 7 days a week (all Roomba 700-series vacuums have this feature).
This product would be great for…
…Homeowners looking for a quiet robot cleaner that will still do the job. But remember that it’ll take much longer for this to clean a room. It costs $100 more than an XV-21 but you’ll get a more stylish product that has a remote and two virtual walls.
Back to Basics – Neato XV-11
If you’re looking for a quality product that will not break the budget, look no further than the XV-11.
Of the robots in this list, this is the cheapest (Neato does not make this robot anymore).
I’m not going into how the navigation works or how it cleans because I’ve covered that already with the XV-21.
Neato XV-11 and XV-21 are the same
The XV-11 and XV-21 is basically the same robot, the difference lies in the design of the motorized brush and filtration. The XV-11 has a motorized brush that looks like a squeegee and does not have any bristles. This has some advantages over something with bristles. For one, it’ll be easier to clean hair off and it does not wear out as fast as a bristled brush would.
The downside is that it won’t be as good in picking up dust and light debris on hard wood surfaces and struggle with heavier stuff like coins and bolts as you’ll see in this video.
On carpet though it’ll perform better, picking up pet hair, dust, cobwebs, etc.
I placed this on the third spot because it is only $20 bucks cheaper than the XV-21 though it didn’t have the HEPA filter or the Pet and Allergy brush which is worth more than the price difference.
Close But Not Yet There: LG HomBot 3.0
LG is a newcomer in this field but the HomBot 3.0 surely turned some heads with its sleek low profile design.
It comes with high tech features like an on-board camera for navigation and a voice system that tells you if something goes wrong.
Unfortunately all this comes at a price.
If you buy this in Amazon, it’ll cost close to $750.
And even if it costs 3 times as much a Neato, the cleaning performance is not up to par hence the low raking here.
It has the lowest profile among the 5 here. But the downside to this is it gets stuck quite often between floors and rugs.
It is the quietest of the 5 producing only 50 decibels but won’t pick up as well as the other 4 robots above.
Why the Roomba 980?
It has a wider side brush than the 980 which translates to a wider cleaning path, the same predictable cleaning pattern that made it so popular with consumers and here’s the clincher – it is cheaper than the Roomba.
In terms of cleaning performance, you can flip and coin between the two and there wouldn’t be much of a difference. Both have the same efficient pattern but goes about it differently.
How Neato and Roomba’s Navigation Differ
The Neato relies on a laser guided sensor while the Roomba does so with a camera. Both are good at what it does and you cannot go wrong with either of the two but if you feel that spending close to $900 on a vacuum is too much then you can opt for their cheaper variants like the Roomba 960 or the BotVac D5.
A true budget option at least comparatively speaking to both the Roomba and Neato would be the Xiaomi or MI robot vacuum.
It has similar features as the Neato in terms of navigation but it has a round body and a narrower cleaning path and the price difference will make you pause and think. Check out the videos I recorded for the MI robot vacuum and see for yourself.