Who really has time for household chores? Not only are they unenjoyable, but you’re often left fighting with unwieldy appliances, like massive and finicky vacuum cleaners, that make the irritating task of cleaning all the worse.
Domestic vacuum cleaners have had a strange trajectory. When they were first launched, they went through an amazing transformation that consistently improved their practicality and efficiency. That being said, since the digital revolution, not much has actually changed in the way of design and functionality — at least not until robotic vacuum cleaners came on the scene.
The invention of fully autonomous robotic vacuum cleaners has been a game changer for many people and one of the real breakthroughs in the smart home revolution. Although, if you’re still yet to use one, the idea may still seem rather futuristic and a little like science fiction.
Andy Knight, Head of Global Brand at Roborock, told us how “robots have the perception of being a gadget due to the reputation created by early robot vacuums,” but that’s changing rapidly. He expects that it’ll be some time before robovacs are spoken about in the same breath as other timesaving devices like dishwashers, but Knight believes they “are making strides in that direction already.”
It’s estimated that between 15 and 17 million US households owned a robotic vacuum cleaner in 2019, but the machines are increasingly growing in popularity. The issue though, is this: how do you choose the best robotic vacuum cleaner for your home?
For every company like Roborock that has schemes like the Roborock Stars Program in order to create products that align with customers’ needs, there is a gamut of companies simply trying to make the cheapest robotic vacuum possible. This means there’s often a gulf in quality between robovacs — something that can be tricky to navigate if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
So, in this piece, we’re going to let you in on the secrets of finding the best robotic vacuum cleaners — and what to look out for when you want to buy one.
This is one of the most important things to keep in mind. While robotic vacuum cleaners generally do not match the suction of an upright one, the better models can hold their own and are good enough to pick up dust and debris across different surfaces throughout the house.
Choosing a model that’s able to collect both fine dust from hard surfaces and provide a deep clean across soft carpeted surfaces is vital. Being able to easily identify the difference and easily transition between the two, increasing the suction on carpet for a deeper clean, is the best option to get the most out of your robotic vacuum.
For maximum convenience and efficiency, the best robotic vacuum cleaners can be controlled via a mobile app.
This allows you to program everything using your phone. From creating a cleaning schedule with different suction levels for different rooms, to building virtual walls for no-go-zones, it all should be easily accessed from your pocket. It’s best to choose a model that creates a stored map, otherwise additional products like magnetic tape will be required to control where the vacuum cleaner goes.
Taking things one step further, some apps even allow you to access the camera on the vacuum cleaner so you can see what it’s up to as it’s working. Viewing the room remotely, you are able to see any obstacles blocking the route and actively change the course of the vacuum cleaner if necessary.
While lower-end models may sometimes have navigation problems — think about randomly bumping into things, falling down the stairs or draining the battery — the best robotic vacuum cleaners have infinitely better spatial awareness and avoid such hiccups.
When speaking with Knight, he explained that “there are two main types of navigation [systems] on the market: LiDAR (lasers) and VSlam (cameras).” He believes the former is more effective at home, because it can measure “the angle and distance of obstacles with better accuracy. It also doesn’t need light to work, so you can expect the same level of navigation precision, light or dark, night or day.”
Ideally, go for a robovac with LiDAR navigation and depth perception that’s optimized for obstacle recognition and avoidance. The most sophisticated of these technologies can even recognize items like cables, saving you the hassle of having to frantically run around clearing the path for the vacuum.
Knight told us: “as a dad with a toddler and three cats, I honestly think obstacle recognition is a critical feature for genuine peace of mind when using a robot vacuum away from home. Instead of coming home to spilled drinks or a robot stuck in the middle of the floor with an iPhone charger wrapped around its brush, the ReactiveAI obstacle recognition system of our S6 MaxV keeps it away from things that’ll trap it. It also marks where obstacles were on the map, so it’s easy enough for me to send the robot back to tackle those areas when I get home.”
In other words, make sure you take care when you’re searching for the best robotic vacuum cleaner for your home: you don’t want to buy a cheap device that ends up costing you much more in repairs.
The average battery life of a robotic vacuum is around one hour, but with the top quality models you can get up to three hours of runtime — depending on the settings chosen, of course.
Buying a model that comes with a docking station that allows the vacuum to self-charge is something else to look out for. The best kind enables the vacuum cleaner to automatically drive to the docking station when it is low on battery, remembering where it left off so it can return to the same spot and continue the job once it has enough power.
Everyone’s had a chilled out moment disrupted by the ruckus of a vacuum cleaner — and no one likes it.
The great thing about robovacs is that they make infinitely less noise than other vacuums. Although they’re not silent, the better models out there have reduced the humming to a minimum, causing as little disruption possible. This way, you’re able to continue working or relaxing while your cute robotic vacuum cleans around you inconspicuously.
It’s natural to worry about your data and privacy with smart devices — especially when the robovac has a map of your home and captures everything by camera. But there is a solution.
The best robotic vacuum cleaners have built-protection for users, meaning that the vacuum simply reacts to the images captured in real-time by the camera, but it has no memory or storage capabilities. In the case of the S6 MaxV, for example, every image captured for obstacle recognition and avoidance is deleted right after use, so none of it can ever be sent to the cloud or duplicated.
If you’re really looking for the crème de la crème of robotic vacuum cleaners, there are some features above and beyond those we’ve already mentioned that can elevate the device.
For example, some have a mop function. Yes, a mop function. You can schedule this for specific rooms only, as well as controlling the water flow per room. Another hated job when it comes to vacuuming is the emptying of the bag – but the top quality robotic cleaners have you covered with a self-emptying function. Some will automatically empty themselves after cleaning and a notification via the app will remind you to replace the dust bag. I love the future.
A final useful feature to look out for is the ability for spot-cleaning and edge-cleaning, so you can target specifically hard to reach areas. The best robotic vacuum cleaners are able to squeeze in and out of zones that are usually tough to reach, can differentiate between different stories in the house, and also follow the corresponding map and route according to which floor it is on and which room it is in.
So there you have it! A whole load of information that should help you find the best robotic vacuum for your home.
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.Follow @thenextweb
This post is brought to you by Roborock.