Neato has a new competitor called the MI Robot Vacuum that has most of the features found in it at a few hundred dollars less!
When I first laid my eyes on this robot in the flesh, my first reaction was WOW, from the packaging down to the actual product inside.
The design is almost at par with brands that cost a few hundred dollars more.
It has a sleek, minimalist but fully functional design that isn’t common for a Chinese brand.
But Xiaomi isn’t just your run-the-mind brand, and this is a global brand that plans to dominate the connected world.
This brand is a step up from the ILIFE robot vacuum series because of the improved navigation and battery.
It also comes with an app compatible with Android and iOS devices called the MI Home App.
This app allows you to schedule, start or stop, recharge, and even track the robot’s progress as it cleans your home even when you’re not there.
Here’s the packaging…
Unlike the ILIFE series, which uses infrared sensors, the MI uses laser-guided sensors (they call this Laser Distance Sensor or the LDS) located under the top round shell on top.
This is the same navigation system used in the nearly $600 Neato BotVac Connected.
In terms of accessories that come in the box, this one has no extra filters or side brushes.
It does not have any remote (you have to download the app – more on that later). The only extras it gives you are a cleaning brush and the lovely mac-like charging station.
It is disappointing that this product does not have extra filters or side brushes.
But that’s just a minor omission. The main goal here is to find out how intelligent this robot is and how it performs.
A quick look at the features
- It uses 12 different sensors to map out an efficient cleaning pattern, avoid dropping off stairs and remember the areas it has cleaned
- The primary sensor is the Laser Distance (or LDS) sensor that scans the location 360 degrees (1,800 times per second) to form a virtual map in its memory of your home’s interior layout
- Helping out in creating this virtual map is the Simultaneous Localization and Mapping Algorithm (or SLAM)
- It uses three processors to save this virtual map and then calculate the most efficient route possible
- It has a 5,200 mAH lithium-ion battery that will last for 2.5 hours on a single charge
- Powering the vacuum is a powerful and efficient Nidec DC Motor that produces 1,800Pa of suction power
- 10 mm edge cleaning – the robot will stay without 10mm of the wall and will make use of the side brush to clean the edges
- It does not come with a remote, but you can use the MI Home App that you can use to schedule, clean, and track its progress remotely since it uses a WiFi signal
- A few hundred dollars cheaper than the Neato BotVac that uses the same SLAM algorithm and WiFi-enabled app
- Extended run time thanks to the 5,200 mAH battery
- WiFi app allows you to control and track remotely
- You can schedule to clean more than once a day
- It uses an efficient cleaning pattern
- Has HEPA filtration
- It does not come with anything extra, like an extra side brush or filter
- This robot struggles a bit in terms of edge cleaning
- No English manual (so far, it’s only in Chinese)
- The app needs more refinement (plus better instructions)
While they did not add a lot in terms of extra tools or accessories, it has many features that make this a worthy competitor to other premium brands like the Roomba 980 and BotVac Connected.
Let’s start with the brain as the navigation system
The MI Robot uses 12 sensors to avoid hitting objects and going in a random direction. It scans a room to give it a bird’s eye view of what it has to work on before establishing a cleaning path.
Below are the sensors on the robot’s top, sides, and bottom, plus the other components.
On top of the robot is a circular dome that houses the LDS or Laser Distance Sensor, which uses a laser to scan obstacles and map out the room’s layout 360 degrees.
On the left side of the robot is a wall sensor that detects anything solid so the robot can maintain a 10-millimeter distance between itself and the wall.
The Ultrasonic Sonic Sensor in front of the robot is the “eyes” of the robot.
Underneath are four cliff sensors that tell the robot to stop when there are drop-offs.
In front of the robot is a bumper that recoils upon impact. Inside are collision sensors that detect, so it tells the robot to stop when it detects an object.
Inside are three processors:
- ARM Cortex A7 quad-core processor from All Winner Tech
- Digital Signal Processor from Texas Instruments
- ARM Cortex M3 Microcontroller
These processors gather data from sensors to track movement in real time, calculate the location and determine the most efficient route.
There is a massive improvement in terms of sophistication and refinement here.
Simultaneous Localization and Mapping
The SLAM, or Simultaneous Localization and Mapping, is software used by the world’s leading robotics manufacturers.
Brands like Dyson, iRobot, and Neato use this in their products to help their products navigate.
This technology is also found inside Waymo, a.k.a. the Google self-driving car.
It draws a map of your home inside the robot’s internal memory that helps it remember the areas it has cleaned and those that aren’t.
I’m unsure if the MI uses the same algorithm as those three brands I mentioned, but the foundation is similar. This system allows it to track its exact position and remember the areas it has cleaned.
In layman’s terms, the MI robot cleans in a more efficient back-and-forth pattern and does not go into the same area more than once.
This means that it will clean a larger area and is fully capable of cleaning multiple rooms (up to 250 square meters, according to the info on the GearBest site), equivalent to a small to medium-sized home.
Thanks to the SLAM algorithm built into the system, this robot builds an internal map of your home and methodically cleans it one room at a time without the need for any virtual wall or lighthouses.
Check out this video by MI Hong Kong to see the difference between this and a robot that navigates in a random pattern…
I’ve also recorded a video showing how this robot will work inside a small home.
I’ve also tested this if it could clean two rooms and a hallway in our small townhouse.
Here’s the layout of my home…
This is perhaps my favorite feature of this product.
It has WiFi connectivity which means you can start or stop this from anywhere as long as you’ve set it up and connected it through a router.
Take note that the app will not work without the router.
You don’t have to pay upwards of $600 have access to this feature.
Before I continue, I’ll share with you how I connected the MI Home App to the robot…
Downloading the app is easy; if you own an android device, you can download it through the play store by searching for the “MI Home App.” Do the same process in the App Store for iPhone or iPad users.
Once you fire the app, this window will appear, asking you to select a locale – make sure to click on Mainland China.
Create an account…
After signing up and logging into your account, you will probably see something like this on the screen.
Click on “My Devices,” and you should see this window…
Click on the “+” button on the upper right to add the robot vacuum, and these windows will appear…
You will first see the screen on the left. Just tap the “add manually” button to bring up the screen on the right.
Once you see the right screen, please tap on the icon that looks like the MI Robot (red arrow pointing to it).
Ensure the robot is attached to the dock and the WIFI is blinking.
When the app detects the robot’s WiFi signal, it asks you to connect to your router’s username and password.
Once you’ve connected to the app, that’s where the fun begins. You can use this tool to control the robot remotely but keep the router on because this will be the gateway to the robot.
This is the main interface once you’ve connected the app to the robot…
The map above is the blueprint of the third floor of our townhouse. Yup, the SLAM algorithm, and laser distance sensor are working together to create the map above.
I read on GearBest’s product page that you can remotely view the real-time progress of the robot, but so far, I wasn’t able to do so.
Some neat features…
You can schedule cleaning more than once per day.
This is one of my favorite app features- you can set it to clean more than once per day.
The screen on the left shows you the times I’ve scheduled the robot to clean – 13:04 (or 1:04 pm) and 5:50 pm (or 5:50 pm).
You’ll notice that the software uses military time, so setting it a 1:00 means that the robot will clean at 1 am.
The screen on the right is the interface where you schedule. To save, tap on the icon on the upper right.
Xiaomi added even more flexibility by allowing you to schedule on weekdays, weekends, or every day. It also has a custom option where you can schedule on certain days.
The robot logs every cleaning session it has made. This includes the time it took to clean, the size of the cleaned area and the duration.
Since the app is only available in Chinese, I could not explore it any further, but it is a step in the right direction when you talk about China-branded robot vacuums.
I’ve recorded a video to show you the app’s different features.
It still lacks some polish, but Xiaomi has dramatically improved the app. The latest version added real-time updates – you can track the robot’s location in real-time.
Update (May 19, 2017): The MI Home App is now in English. Watch this video to find out more…
MI didn’t hold back here – this robot vacuum uses a Nidec brushless DC motor from the same supplier that supplies the motor for the Roomba 980.
Torture tested for 2,000 hours, this motor is built to last.
The 5,200 mAH lithium battery gives this robot 2.5 hours of run time. Since there is minimal power fade, it will provide consistent suction.
When you combine this much run time with an efficient navigation pattern, this robot will cover a lot of ground – 250 square meters on a single charge!
Xiaomi or GearBest did not specify exactly what the charging time is. It would be best if you charge this overnight before the first use.
Not only will this battery give you a longer run time, but it also has a specially designed CC and CV charging system and several systems that protect it from overcharging, over-discharging and overheating. It also has protection against short-circuiting, over-current, and over-voltage.
Covering the battery is a stainless steel cover and PTC/CID protection.
All these systems ensure that the battery will last up to 2 years.
Unlike the several ILIFE robot vacuums that use two side brushes, this one only comes with a single side brush that helps it reach the edges when it cleans the perimeter.
And also it automatically adjusts the rotating speed depending on the surface it is cleaning.
Here’s what the Neato’s brush looks like…
Now compare it to the MI…
Aside from the color, the design is almost the same.
In terms of design, it is similar to the brush inside the Neato Botvac. This design is proven in tests to pick up pet hair very well.
Underneath the robot is three wheels.
A single caster wheel up front steers the robot. Two large rubber wheels at the back help it moves through different terrain inside your home – carpet, tile, hardwood, or linoleum.
These wheels are self-adjustable, meaning they will automatically adjust their height depending on the surface they clean.
Opening the top cover will reveal the transparent dirt bin that has a 420ml capacity.
It’s a bit smaller from a robot this size, but I guess with the size of the battery and the DC motor, you can only cram so much inside.
I noticed the lack of a mesh filter that protects the paper element filter.
Also, it does not come with any cleaning brush that you can use to scrap away dust bunnies off the filter and bin.
I asked GearBest whether this robot has HEPA filtration, and they said yes, it does have HEPA filtration, so the filter isn’t washable.
When you compare this to the Neato charging base, it looks the same.
As you can see in the photo above, it has space on the back to store part of the cord.
When the robot detects its battery level at 20%, it stops what it’s doing and goes back to the base.
If there are areas it wasn’t able to clean, it goes back and resumes precisely on the area it left when it docked.
The MI robot vacuum uses a virtual wall, but it is a magnetic tape strip similar to a Neato BotVac.
For this to work, you will have to lay it out in an off-limits area. A good example would be the pet area of the kitchen, where there are puppies that this robot might scare away.
Take note that the virtual wall isn’t available out of the box, and you will need to purchase it separately. These are available in GearBest for around $16 for a 78″ long strip of magnet.
It has more than enough suction to tackle bare floor. When you compare it to the ILIFE A4, it almost doubles the suction. Also, the A4 didn’t have problems cleaning large messes.
Having more suction does not hurt, especially if your home has old-school hardwood with lots of deep cracks.
Here’s a video I recorded testing the MI Robot against a huge mess like this…
To show you how big a mess I created for this test, just look at these photos…
Having 1,800 at its disposal, I was expecting Xiaomi to inhale this mess, but it didn’t.
When it came to cleaning fine baby powder, it struggled. It looks like it does not like cleaning really fine stuff like that.
Here are the after photos…
You will notice that it left a trail of powder but managed to pick up most of the cut paper and rolled oats.
Despite the predictable pattern, it missed some spots (watch the whole video to see).
To clean up the trail of the mess, I used the ILIFE V7 with the mop attached, and it cleaned up almost everything.
These are the instances where having a mop helps.
Ever since I published this review, Xiaomi has since released updated firmware that improved cleaning performance.
I mentioned previously that this robot may be too efficient but with the update. It goes through the room twice, around the perimeter and inner parts of the room, thus improving its cleaning performance.
Here are some before photos…
Some after photos…
I must say that the firmware update did a lot to improve how this robot cleans. It added a level of thoroughness that was not present before.
Now if they could only come up with an English app…
We don’t have any carpet so I used a large rug to simulate low-pile carpet cleaning.
The rug had two black stripes and floral designs on both sides, so this isn’t your typical carpet.
This robot seems to hate patterns and does not go over anything black. If you have black carpet or rugs, don’t buy this as it will not go over those.
Also, I noticed that the MI Home App made significant upgrades to the app.
The biggest improvement would be real-time updates that allow you to monitor the robot’s location.
Again the downside is the core function of the app is Chinese.
This was a big concern, but it shouldn’t be anymore because these are available for sale.
Update: GearBest is selling these accessories as a set.
But what if I only need the filter and not the side brushes? The only reason why I recommend this is you can get is that you can use the coupon code “11nov329” to save around $8. Without the coupon, just buy these separately.
|Battery type||5,200 mAH
|Charger type||Charging dock|
|Charge time||Not specified|
|Water tank capacity||None|
|Dirt capacity (dry)||approx. 0.45 liters|
|Run Time||2.5 hours|
|Net weight (with battery)||8.4 pounds|
|Shipping weight||15.32 pounds|
|Full bin indicator|
|Cleaning sessions per week||Unlimited|
|Brush cleaning tools||1|
|Accessories included||Charging base
Brush cleaning tool
|Warranty||1 year (learn more)|
Check the links below to see the latest prices and coupon codes for additional savings…
- White International Version – $279.99 *Flash Sale (33% OFF)
- QY2R47P8702V9 White Version (HK Warehouse) – $259.99 *Flash Sale
You can also buy this in Amazon for around $400.
- RBROCKPL (Poland warehouse) – $429.99 *Ships to most EU contries within 7 days
- QY2X6624IP702 (S55 EU Plug) – $419.99 *Price with coupon code
- International Version White – $459.99 *Flash Sale (20% OFF)
- White CN Plug – $549.89
- Black version – S55 – $546.35
This algorithm is responsible for this product’s efficient cleaning and multi-room cleaning capabilities.
The best part is you don’t have to spend $700 on it.
It will run for around 2.5 hours before needing a charge, thanks to the large capacity of 5,200 mAH lithium battery.
Suction power is also above the competing brands I mentioned at 1,800 Pa. This machine can clean low to mid-pile carpet but do not expect it to deep clean.
It will miss some spots here and there in terms of cleaning performance. My biggest concern would be edge cleaning because it didn’t perform as well as the ILIFE.
The app is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t a finished product because it lacks crispness.
Xiaomi has updated the app, and now you can monitor the robot’s location in real-time!
Remember, as with all robot vacuums. This will not deep clean carpet as it lacks suction.
This robot would be best utilized as an everyday cleaner that keeps dirt from piling up. In homes with only bare floors, you can use this as the primary cleaner complemented by a handheld vacuum.