Cleaning Robot Reviews - The Lazy Vacuum Revolution

Well people, we are finally living in the future. Nothing says you are living in a Sci-Fi world like the existence of household cleaning robots. Unfortunately, these don’t resemble Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons in any way. For the most part they are just sort of round things that scuttle across the floor, but if it means that I don’t have to get my lazy behind off the coach they could literally be rolling garbage cans for all I’d care.

Luckily companies have made their cleaning robots a bit more attractive than that and, in general, they actually look pretty good. Cleaning robots like the first generation Roomba came out as far back as 2002, so it’s no surprise that the latest generation of robots are already quite refined.

I’ve collected the most popular specimens that you can buy online here and have tried to decide which are worthy of cleaning dirty floors and which are more likely to knock over grandma’s ashes and terrify the cat. My favorites are listed right at the top and the reviews that didn’t quite make the cut sort of hang around below them in order.

If you don’t see anything you like here, be sure to check out my cleaning robot buyer’s guide for some tips on what to look out for.

Best Overall: Anker RoboVac 10

I have become a bit of an Anker convert. A company that was almost completely unknown to me has become one of my favorite companies. Anker’s electronic stuff is never flashy, always well priced, and reliably does what it promises to do. It is very hard to criticize Anker’s products in general. Although they are not innovators really, they do refine what others have thought up.

The RoboVac 10 appears to continue the pattern. It is very well priced and addresses some of the common complaints people have about cleaning robots in general.

One of the main issues is how long the bots can go before needing a recharge. Anker claims fully 100 minutes of operation at full suction power. It uses the same three-point cleaning design as you’d find on robots double the price and comes with an excellent 18-month warranty. It is low, so it can get under furniture, but can also climb over objects that leave many other robots stumped or stuck.

Based on customer feedback it is clear that this little guy just does its job with little if any effort needed on your part. It really cleans thoroughly, which is a nice change from the weak suction many robot vacuums have. It works well, is affordable, and has been sensibly designed. Once again Anker has provided a product that I actually want and so should you.

Top Mid-range Pick: iRobot Roomba 650

iRobot’s Roomba series is the product line that got the whole robot vacuum thing started. This 650 model falls somewhere in the middle of the price range, and the looks of it are nothing special. Some cheaper brands do go all-out garish, but it’s better to get something more muted that won’t draw attention to itself for the wrong reasons.

The 650 uses the iAdapt system specific to iRobot to figure out where it can and cannot go. It charges and docks itself like a good robot and cleans using a 3-stage system. It also doesn’t need you to do anything when tackling different floor surfaces. It knows when it is on carpet or tiles and will adjust accordingly.

One of the best features is the ability to schedule cleanings over the week. If you don’t want to do that you can simply hit the “clean” button and let it do its thing.

So where has iRobot cut corners? You don’t get multi-room navigation, for one thing. It also doesn’t have enough juice to completely clean an entire level. This is more a one-room deal. It also doesn’t support the “recharge and resume” function of some of the higher-end models, and it won’t work with the Roomba app, something reserved for the insanely expensive flagship model.

It is a bit of a downer when a company seems to remove features that could have been in a product so that they can separate their product range a bit more, but at this price what the 650 does do is already pretty impressive.

This is one of iRobot’s best selling models and there are thousands of user feedback pieces singing the praises of the 650. It is probably the most no-nonsense “just does the job” products in the robot cleaner space. This is a real sweet spot product that has all the features that really matter and puts them together in a way that gets the job done.

While there is nothing particularly notable about the 650, it also doesn’t lack any features that are a dealbreaker and I feel at this price more people would be willing to make the shift, especially in the case of apartment-dwellers. If you live in a large home, then of course you are going to have to spring for something more expensive, but for most of us the 650 is going to be just fine.

Best Multifunction Cleaner: bObi Robotic Vacuum Cleaner and Mop

I have become a bit of an Anker convert. A company that was almost completely unknown to me has become one of my favorite companies. Anker’s electronic stuff is never flashy, always well priced, and reliably does what it promises to do. It is very hard to criticize Anker’s products in general. Although they are not innovators really, they do refine what others have thought up.

The RoboVac 10 appears to continue the pattern. It is very well priced and addresses some of the common complaints people have about cleaning robots in general.

One of the main issues is how long the bots can go before needing a recharge. Anker claims fully 100 minutes of operation at full suction power. It uses the same three-point cleaning design as you’d find on robots double the price and comes with an excellent 18-month warranty. It is low, so it can get under furniture, but can also climb over objects that leave many other robots stumped or stuck.

Based on customer feedback it is clear that this little guy just does its job with little if any effort needed on your part. It really cleans thoroughly, which is a nice change from the weak suction many robot vacuums have. It works well, is affordable, and has been sensibly designed. Once again Anker has provided a product that I actually want and so should you.

Moneybags Pick: iRobot Roomba 980

This is it, the crazy almost-a-thousand-dollars flagship robot vacuum cleaner from iRobot. What could you possible get for something that’s about double the price of the perfectly adequate 650? The first change is the introduction of iAdapt 2.0 that has visual localization, which I assume means that this Roomba can see. The other big feature is that this Roomba can go charge itself and then return to finish the job. That’s a big deal, since half the point of these things is to save you from having to do tedious stuff; pushing a restart button every time the vacuum runs out of juice is the very epitome of tedium.

The most important feature, though, is the further increase in suction power. Specifically, when the 980 senses that it is running over carpet it really ramps up the suction and the tangle-free extractors lower the chances that muck and hair in your carpet will clog the system.

This is also, as far as I can see, the only Roomba that is also app-controlled, which qualifies it for full home-automation status.

In isolation these are of course great features, but I find it hard to swallow that only the most expensive models have something as simple as WiFi app control. This is like Apple only putting Siri on certain phones, even though the older models could run it just fine. It’s normal and good that a company differentiates its products into segments for different markets, but iRobot has a situation where there just aren’t that many features to shuffle around, so short of putting useless bells and whistles on the top-end, they are forced to gimp basic features from cheaper models.

Unfortunately, that’s the way it is and the fact is that the 980 is probably not only the best robotic vacuum that iRobot makes, but one of the best period. I just can’t get over how expensive it is. So my advice is this: If the price doesn’t bother you buy the 980, if it DOES bother you, buy the 880 instead (see my review further down below).

Best for the Money: BISSELL SmartClean 1605

Bissel is a name in the vacuum business that should need no introduction. It is one of the largest homecare companies in the world and was founded just under one and a half centuries ago. I doubt there are many companies in the world that know as much about making home cleaning equipment as Bissel.

My first thoughts about the SmartClean is that it looks great and that it’s really cheap. You can pick these guys up for well under three hundred bucks, so this is definitely at the low-end of the market.

What I expect from Bissel is a no-nonsense machine that just does its one job well.

Simple is indeed right in this case. It has beefy side brushes and one strong roller brush that directly feeds, as well as strong suction. All the vacuum parts are a product of Bissel’s century and a half of practice. It would be crazy to think that they haven’t got the basics of vacuum technology down by now.

The part that does concern me is the “smart” in SmartClean. Clearly the quality of the unit’s components is more than decent, but the software that drives it all seems a bit simplistic. This robot only does what I consider to be the most basic functions. It can find its own charge dock. It has a few preset cleaning patterns and it won’t fall off a cliff edge.

We can spin that into a strength though. If the space you need cleaned is uncomplicated, then why spend more for features you don’t need. What the SmartClean is, in the end, is an affordable robot vacuum that doesn’t suck. OK, that came out wrong, but you know what I mean.

It has the minimum features to make it useful, you don’t need a degree in robotics to work the thing, and it cleans pretty well.

Top Labor Saving Choice: iRobot Scooba 450 Floor Scrubbing Robot

Not content to build robots that sweep, suck, and mop, iRobot has also decided to build a floor scrubbing robot. And praise be to them for doing this, because few household cleaning chores are as back-breaking and demeaning as scrubbing a floor. At least when you sweep or vacuum you get to do it standing up. In fact, I personally think that they should have started with the floor scrubbing robot and done the vacuums later.

In other words, if this robot actually works as advertised, I’ll buy two.

The Scooba, as it has been unfortunately named, cleans in a three-step process. It pre-soaks, scrubs, and finally squeegees the floor.

It has two tanks – one for clean water and one for dirty water. This means that the dirty water does not make it back to your floor. There are also two duty cycles. One cycle is 40 minutes long and is meant for larger spaces, such as kitchens. There is also a shorter cycle that’s good for small spaces like bathrooms.

The price of the Scooba is, admittedly, a little steep. Still, what it does is pretty much unique among cleaning robots so there isn’t much in the way of competition to bring the price down.

The feedback from users is mostly positive. There are minor problems. Floors with significant gaps in them, like between hardwood planks, make it hard to suck up all the water, and rooms that are more than 300 square feet are out of the Scooba’s reach, it seems. It is also a bit noisy.

It does, however, scrub and clean floors, so none of this matters. Your willingness to spend hundreds of dollars on this robot will be directly proportional to how much you hate scrubbing floors.

ILIFE V5 Automatic Robot Vacuum

It’s hard to be interested in modern technology without at some point suffering from i-fatigue; iPad, iRobot, i-just don’t care anymore.

So here we have another “i” company who has decided to call themselves ILIFE. Fine, whatever. Let’s see if their V5 robot is any good.

Design wise you definitely won’t mistake the V5 for a Roomba. Sure, they are all circular pucks, but the V5 uses a white and pearl color scheme that iRobot probably would avoid. Yeah, you better believe that this white vacuum is going to look like a bride at a farm wedding who slipped in horse manure.

Price-wise it is in the same ballpark as the Roomba 880, although I have seen it steeply discounted a few times. My thoughts here are based on the full retail price, but if you can find it at a mega-discount then obviously that may make some of the negatives less painful.

One of the main selling points of the V5 is a low noise level of 55dB. For context, this is a little quieter than a normal conversation, so the V5 should not be too disturbing. I have no idea what the Roombas are rated at since I have found it surprisingly hard to get official noise figures published, but it seems that the Roombas can get noisy. Not problematically noisy, but not exactly silent either.

The V5 is also a combination mop and vacuum, you’d need to buy two separate products from iRobot in order to get the same functionality.

The V5 does not skimp on the sensor suite either. It can tell if it’s about to take a suicidal dive off a cliff. It has object sensors, a wall sensor, and IR receivers to detect the barriers you set up. A lot is packed into this guy.

So, based on what people who have bought this guy have to say, it’s really good! This is an import from the Far East and so you may be worried about after-market service. A 12-month warranty. I’m really surprised at this left-field that really competes with the likes of the Roomba 880.

iRobot Roomba 880

The Roomba 880 is the last Roomba before you start hitting Bill Gates levels of home appliance spending. This is the one that even well-heeled people are likely to go for, since it’s hard to justify the massive leap in price from the 880 to the top of the range. It’s almost as if iRobot wants to discourage people from buying the 980 and have priced the (still-expensive) 880 in such a way that it looks very appealing in comparison. It’s the same thing restaurants do by putting the most expensive thing that almost no one buys next to another popular money maker that is still overpriced, but looks like a bargain next to $100 lobster.

Looks-wise we have seen this all before. At a glance you would have a hard time telling this apart from any of the other Roombas, so don’t expect the extra outlay over something like the 650 to get you anything fancy design-wise.

The main reason you would want to buy the 880 rather than its little brother is the fact that it sucks so much more. Literally.

The 660 is really for people who live in smaller homes and mostly have light cleaning needs and hard floors. Once you start bringing things like shedding animals and many carpets into the equation you may find yourself unclogging filters and brushes far too often.

Other advantages it has over the 650 includes multi-room cleaning which you can set up with the included beacons. The 650 can only do one room at once in comparison.

The most important difference is however the 50% increase in cleaning power and the addition of features to stop hair from clogging the system.

If your use-case demands the extra cleaning power of the 880 then obviously this is the one to go for. If not, it’s hard to recommend spending the extra money.

iRobot Braava 380t Review

The Braava is, as you probably figured out, not a vacuum cleaner. It is instead a robot whose sole purpose is to mop floors. This actually addresses one of the major limitations of the Roombas, especially when cleaning hard floor surfaces. Although they would brush and vacuum, you would have to mop the surface afterwards anyway. So, yeah it saves you time, but it doesn’t actually finish the job.

The Braava looks to finish what the Roomba started. It can perform both dry sweeping and damp mopping, which is what you would want on, for example, kitchen tiles. The microfiber cloths that the Braava uses are reusable and pretty inexpensive to replace. This is also one of the fastest charging robots from iRobot, going from empty to full in only two hours.

The best use case for the Braava is to do daily mopping or sweeping in an area with a tile or wooden floor. If you leave it for too long the resulting grime may be too much for this little guy to handle.

In fact, I’d say that if you live in a place that mostly has hard surfaces or no carpets at all you could get away with only a Braava and skip the Roomba altogether.

The Braava is also very well priced, especially compared to the Roomba line of products. Customers are generally very happy, but a handful of people report issues after a few months that have required warranty returns. No big deal really, and most people get years of service out of this little droid.

Neato XV Signature Pro Review

Neato! Yeah, not what I was thinking when I saw this for the same time. It looks like someone used the insides of an old Sega Genesis. It is ugly man, straight up ugly.

Price-wise this is squarely in the middle of the range. It is meant it is meant to work on multiple surfaces, including vinyl. Like most of the vacuums here it can have a schedule and do spot cleans at the press of a button.

Neato claims that this robot has the strongest suction in any robot vacuum. I don’t know if that’s true or how exactly they have measured that though.

The claims of top-class performance continue on the front of pet hair. The scourge of robot vacuums everywhere.

It turns out the non-round “D” shape actually had a purpose. Apparently it lets the Neato get closer to the wall.

All in all this vacuum looks great on paper, but in practice it isn’t quite so well refined. Apparently it can pull in rug fringes and electrical cords from time to time. It does, however, live up to its suction power claims.

If you like the extra power and want an alternate to the Roomba series, the Neato is definitely one to watch.

Pure Clean PUCRC15 Robotic Cleaner

Pucker up for the PUCRC15. Yes, that is what it spells. No, I don’t know why.

This is, by far, the cheapest cleaning robot I have seen. At less than $100 you’ll be hard pressed to find anything new for less. It is, as you’d expect, a basic sweeper and it “self-programs”, which I guess it means that it uses trial and error. Yes, I said sweeper. It doesn’t actually suck anything up, it just sweeps. Which is one of the reasons it is so cheap.

It’s also lime-green which is not personally something I like, but that’s just an opinion. It can do ten and twenty minute cleanings as well as a “max” mode, which gives you 90 minutes of cleaning. Not bad.

There are some complaints about poor navigation and I can’t find anything about automatic recharging or even remote control. This thing is very basic, but maybe if you have a small apartment that can do with a bit of sweeping every now and then this may work.

Haier Robot Vacuum Cleaner

I’m not usually one for gold-colored gadgets. I feel they are sort of cheap-looking, ironically. Sometimes, however, it is done right. For example, I really like the rose-gold color scheme that some Apple devices have. This bot from Haier also has a shade of gold that doesn’t offend me. The white option is also quite lovely, but once again a white cleaning robot is not the brightest idea, unless you want to spend as much time cleaning it as it does cleaning your home.

This is rated at 5db, less than the bObi, and is also billed as vacuum, mop, and UV sterilizer. It basically has all the main features that the bObi does and costs a hair less. Unfortunately I see quite a few complaints about non-functional sensors, poor build quality, and non-performance. I’m not very confident of this one, to be honest.

Surprise, Surprise

The last time I checked in on the robot vacuum market they were nothing more than very expensive curiosities. Now it’s about fifteen years later and they have turned into products that are actually ready for mainstream use. I was pleasantly surprised that not even the cheapest robot was junk. What was once an advanced thinking machine that could only be built by one company is now something knocked out by every second home appliance maker.

This is of course fantastic for all of us. For one thing, it makes it pretty hard to buy a bad one, but just in case you should check out my buyer’s guide.

Now if only they would make robots to iron my clothes and pack the dishwasher.