Robot vacuums never get bored or distracted, and they don’t mind cleaning every day. So with very little effort on your part, they’ll keep your floors constantly tidy. We’ve tested dozens of robots, from cheap models that bump around randomly to fancy machines that empty themselves and (usually) steer around dog poop. First, consider the strong, durable, and smart-enough iRobot Roomba i4 EVO.
The iRobot Roomba i4 EVO works well in most homes, large or small, because it drives in orderly, back-and-forth rows, keeping track of where it has or hasn’t been, so that it doesn’t miss any big patches of flooring. It also has smart mapping, so you can tell it to clean or avoid specific rooms.
The Roomba i4 EVO is sturdy and repairable—you can reasonably expect to own it and use it regularly for years.
It’s also better at cleaning rugs than most other bots, and hair doesn’t get tangled in its brushes as quickly.
You can remotely turn the robot on or off and optionally set an automatic cleaning schedule. The downside is that it doesn’t work quite as fast as some competing models.
Another neat option: The iRobot Roomba i4+ EVO adds a charging dock that automatically sucks the debris out of the robot and stores it in a disposable bag.
iRobot also sells a few models that are very similar to the Roomba i4 EVO and are worth buying instead if you find them on sale, including the iRobot Roomba i3 EVO and Roomba i3+ EVO (with dock), which are identical to the i4 EVO and i4+ EVO but have smaller batteries, and the older Roomba 900 series.
Like our top pick, the Roborock Q5 can map multiple levels of your home, so it knows where to clean and where not to clean. Its maps are slightly better than our top pick’s.
The Roborock app is easier to use, and it has a larger dustbin and a battery that runs more than twice as long as that of our pick.
But the Q5 is a slightly weaker cleaner than our pick, especially on carpet.
The Roborock Q5+ performs exactly the same as the Q5 but comes with a charging station that can empty debris from the robot right into a disposable bag.
Cheaper robots usually have semi-random navigation systems. (We like to call them bump-and-run bots.) That’s fine for cleaning three or four rooms per session (or a little more if you’re patient), though the bumbling aimlessness gets on some people’s nerves and makes such models inconsistently effective at tidying larger areas.
The iRobot Roomba 694 is our first budget pick, but really, any model in the Roomba 600 series is a good choice, since they are all strong cleaners, especially on rugs, thanks to the dual-brush and dirt-detection systems. They are also sturdier than any bump-and-run models from any other brand we’ve tested, which more than offsets the Roomba line’s slightly higher sticker price. The Roomba 694 is the most current model with Wi-Fi (for on/off remote control through a smartphone app).
Also consider the Eufy RoboVac 11S, which is so quiet and nimble that it blends into the background like no other robot (apart from the dozen or so clones from Eufy itself and other brands). This basic, bump-and-run bot sounds more like a desk fan than a vacuum—even if you’re home while it works, you’ll barely notice it running. It’s shorter than most bots, which lets it glide under more furniture, picking up plenty of hidden debris. The big downside is that the RoboVac 11S and other bots like it don’t seem to be built to last for more than a couple of years on average, and we’ve heard about plenty of unrepairable breakdowns that happen even sooner.
Senior staff writer Rachel Cericola first started testing smart-home devices more than 20 years ago, when the only smart-home devices were X10. She has been covering smart-home gear for Wirecutter since 2016, and she has had her hands on everything from in-wall light switches, LED bulbs, and water-leak detectors to video doorbells, outdoor security cameras, and security systems. She has also written tech articles for The New York Times, Wired, and Men’s Health, among others.
Wirecutter’s Liam McCabe wrote the previous versions of this guide, evaluating some 200 robots and testing close to 50 models since 2012.
In addition to all the testing, this guide includes feedback from dozens of bot owners who live in all kinds of homes and households. On top of that, we’ve read hundreds of owner reviews on retail websites, expert reviews, posts in enthusiast forums, and other reader or viewer comments anywhere we can find them, including all of the feedback from Wirecutter readers, and we’ve talked to representatives from just about all of the major robot vacuum brands (and plenty of minor ones), including Ecovacs, Electrolux, iLife, iRobot (Roomba), Kyvol, LG, Neato, Roborock, Samsung, and Shark, as well as a few former engineers from some of those companies.
Yes, robot vacuums can actually keep your floors clean. They’re more than a toy or a novelty item, and they can be a valuable floor-care tool in most homes. If you’re short on time, have mobility or dexterity issues, or just hate vacuuming, a robot vacuum is likely to make your life easier.
The key is that bots don’t procrastinate or get bored, so they spend more time cleaning, and they clean more thoroughly, than almost any human. Pet owners and people with young kids in particular seem to gain a lot from bots, but many robot vacuum owners have told us that they are amazed at how clean their floors look and feel after they start using one regularly. If you run your bot a few times per week, or even every day, crumbs and pet hair will never get a chance to pile up; the mess is gone before it becomes a nuisance, with very little effort on your part required.
All you need to do is press the start button, and the robot figures out the rest—though some models let you control which rooms to clean in a given session. (More on how navigation works below.) All bots try to return to their charging dock at the end of a session (and usually succeed). You don’t even have to remember to turn on your bot every time you want to use it: Most of them allow you to set them to run on a schedule, and you can turn many of them on through an app or a voice assistant. Some even empty their own dustbins. And others can (sort of) mop while they vacuum.
Bots work on almost any kind of bare flooring and on most kinds of carpets and rugs—though there are some exceptions, such as high-pile rugs and some very dark flooring (which can impede the bots’ infrared sensors). Bots can reliably pick up most kinds of common floor debris, including hair, crumbs, dust, and cat litter. Some people are comfortable using a robot as their only floor-cleaning vacuum (along with a handheld vacuum for couches, car seats, and the like), though bot owners tend to also own a traditional vacuum that they use to deep-clean their rugs on occasion.
Some caveats: Robots are much weaker than traditional vacuums—the strongest models we’ve tested have less than one-quarter of the raw suction of even an average cordless stick vacuum—so they can’t pick up the finest dust and the most deeply embedded hair in your rugs, and sometimes they even fail to pick up obvious debris. Bots don’t climb stairs, so you need to carry them between levels (they usually weigh between 5 and 10 pounds). Certain kinds of run-of-the-mill household clutter, such as power cords, lightweight floor mats, and stray laundry, can trap or confuse bots, as can tall thresholds, shag rugs, and dark, non-reflective surfaces like black carpets (which can trick a robot’s anti-drop sensors into perceiving that it’s about to fall down a flight of stairs and needs to back away). Errant dog turds pose a hazard, too.
Every bot we’ve tested—even the latest models with sophisticated navigation and smart-home integration—has gotten trapped or tangled at least occasionally. Lots of current robot vacuums let you use a smartphone app to set up invisible barriers around areas where your bot seems to get into trouble (such as around chairs and pet bowls), but you can also make physical adjustments (keeping socks and USB cables off the floor is a big one) or just deal with the occasional failed cleaning session.
In the end, however, some people can’t get comfortable with the limitations. Try to buy from a retailer with a return policy of at least a few weeks in case a robo vac isn’t a fit for your lifestyle.
It’s an excellent time to be a robot vacuum buyer. Prices for robots with sophisticated navigation and smart-home features have fallen by half compared with just a few years ago. The simplest robots cost less, too. Few robots are truly terrible anymore.
We’ve aimed to recommend a handful of robots that should work well in most homes and aren’t wildly expensive. But plenty of models that we don’t explicitly recommend can be good or great, too, and we cite many of them throughout this guide.
Based on years of at-home use and side-by-side testing, as well as an AI-assisted analysis of Amazon customer reviews with a tool called FindOurView, we’ve determined that nimble navigation is the most important element of a great robot vacuum, followed by cleaning performance and then repairability. Smart maps that let you set up barriers and target individual rooms for cleaning can also be especially handy, as can self-emptying docks. And we also consider privacy and security, among other features.
For every robot vacuum, we run at least two regular cleaning cycles across about 1,000 square feet, with lots of obstacles and thresholds. None of the rooms have any wall-to-wall carpet, but the space does have several area rugs, with styles ranging from lightweight doormats to rubber-backed, medium-pile rugs that take up half a room. The test house also has cats, kids, and other family members, all of whom leave plenty for each robot to pick up.
If a vac performs pretty well, we put it through some stress tests. In one, we run the bot in a room with several chairs, stray USB cables, a sock, and a medium-pile area rug. Next, we pour about an eighth of a cup of all-purpose flour across an area rug and bare floor (including some against a baseboard) and let the bot try to suck it up for a couple of minutes. This dust-pickup test gives us a visual gauge of each bot’s raw cleaning power.
Finally, we sprinkle a 2-ounce mixture of cat litter and coffee grounds in a space with a mix of bare wood and a low-pile rug. We run each bot for 25 minutes or until it stops on its own, whichever comes first. When the bot is done, we weigh how much debris it managed to pick up.
The dust- and crumb-pickup stress tests are meant only to give us an idea of each bot’s cleaning power—they don’t tell the whole story, and we don’t place much weight on them when we’re deciding which models to recommend. We’ve found that as long as a robot has a brush roll and a side brush, it’ll pick up crumbs, tufts of pet hair, and other common debris from bare floors and low-pile rugs. That’s enough to keep most homes tidy, and most owners seem happy with those results. If you have thicker rugs, or if you just feel like owning a stronger bot, go ahead and spend a little more on a bot with better brushes or stronger suction.
However, we don’t think chasing the very best cleaning performance is worthwhile. The robot vacuums with the strongest suction and the most-aggressive brushes can cost hundreds extra, yet they’re only marginally better cleaners than the most affordable bots, and they have just a small fraction of the power of a traditional vacuum.
We also look at everything related to the interface or user experience: companion smartphone apps (and all of the features within, such as room or zone labeling, no-go lines, and suction adjustments), compatibility with voice assistants like Alexa, the scheduling system, and, for the bots that still use them, boundary markers, physical remotes, and anything else along those lines.
To test the obstacle-recognition feature on some new high-end robots, we use a variety of objects, including shoes, pet bowls, cat toys, and cords. We’ve even put a fake dog turd (made of a mix of Nutella for the look and texture and oatmeal for bulk) in the path of a robot vac to see if it can avoid smearing the mess all over the floor.
Some robot vacuums, including versions of our pick, the iRobot Roomba i4+ EVO, and our also-great pick, the Roborock Q5+, are self-emptying (or auto-emptying). They each come with a big charging dock that sucks debris out of the robot through a trapdoor in the dustbin and stores the debris in a disposable bag or a bagless bin (it depends on the model). We’ve tested the docks on these and other robot vacs, and they work and prove useful, though they fall a little short of life-changing. Instead of emptying your bot’s bin after every cleaning session, you have to empty the dock only every month or two.
Once we whittle down each test group to arrive at our picks, we keep running those bots, and we examine how loud each one is (using a decibel meter), what replacement parts are available, and what warranties are offered.
source : nytimes
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