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Robot vacuum cleaners: What are they and which should you buy?

Looking for a way to keep your house clean with minimal work? A robot vacuum is right for you.
The Best
August 29, 2021
Roborock S7 robot vacuum mop docked medium
Kris Carlon / Android Authority

One of the most tedious cleaning jobs is vacuuming your entire house. Fortunately, multiple companies have nearly perfected robot vacuums that do all of the work for you. Instead of grabbing your large vacuum for occasional messes or even whole-home cleanups, tell your robot vacuum to do it. Automation is vital in keeping your home clean with minimal work on your part.

Here’s what you need to know about robot vacuums and which you should buy.

How do robot vacuums work?

iRobot Roomba Vacuum Dog in Livingroom

Most robot vacuums consist of one or two spinning brushes and a rolling brush or two. These work in conjunction to bring large and small debris inwards to the center, where the vacuum mechanism sucks it up into the waste bin of the device.

Dirt, fur, food, hair, and everything else the vacuum collects gets stored in a removable section. Once this is filled, the owner will typically have to remove the tray and dump everything into the trash. 

The best autonomous robot vacuums also include various types of sensors. Downward-facing sensors are the most common and help the device from driving over a ledge such as stairs. More expensive models have sensors on top that can map rooms as they clean.

Read also: Save big with these great robot vacuum deals

Basic robot vacuums can be programmed to run on a schedule using controls on the device itself. Higher-end models can be managed by basic controllers as well as smartphone apps or even a smart speaker.

No matter which device you end up owning, you can be sure that it will pick up debris from all over your residence. As these vacuums can be programmed to run when you are not home, you can come back to a clean house every day of the week.

The limitations of robot vacuums

Shark Robot Vacuum

Before you start thinking that autonomous vacuums are the secret ingredient to an always clean home, we should go over several limitations. Let’s say that robot vacuums won’t be replacing your stand-up vacuum anytime soon.

First, robot vacuums don’t have the same cleaning power and maneuverability that you find with a traditional upright unit. While most units have a varying amount of suction, most designs do not allow the vacuum to reach every inch of floor in your home.

Second, robot vacuums have sensors to make sure they don’t roll down the stairs, but there isn’t much stopping them from sucking up small items in cluttered environments. The biggest casualties in my experience are cables. While most vacuums will move right over thicker cords for lights, USB-C and Lightning cables can get mangled and destroyed.

There are day-to-day hassles with robot vacuum cleaners too. For one, the smaller design doesn’t allow for that large of a collection bin. While it might take a couple of days to fill up if used regularly, homes with pets might need to empty the bin a lot more consistently, which can be a pain over the long term. 

The best robot vacuum cleaners:

For users comfortable dishing out a significant amount of money on a robot vacuum, we’d recommend the excellent Roborock S7. On the other hand, for those frugal cleaners out there we recommend the versatile Eufy Robovac G30 Hybrid. 

Roborock S7: Mopping up the competition

Roborock S7 robot vacuum mop side view right
Kris Carlon / Android Authority

If you want a powerful robot vacuum that packs some serious mopping prowess as well, look no further than the Roborock S7. The $649.99 price tag is no joke, but the benefits cement the S7 as a premium smart home gadget.

The Roborock S7 has a fairly typical design for a robot vacuum, packing one spin brush and a large roller. It also packs a 297mL water tank for all of your mopping needs. This powerful beast can tackle up to three hours of cleaning or 2,150 square feet, whichever it manages first.

Another great thing about the Roborock is that it’s flat-out smart. It boasts the ability to identify carpets and avoid them while mopping, thanks to the VibraRise bracket. You can also schedule cleaning with the power of your voice, thanks to your Amazon Echo. Of course, you can also control the vacuum through the companion app or with included the remote. You can schedule a cleaning, spot clean certain areas that are more likely to be dirty, and create multi-floor maps of your home.

Battery life is impressive at around 180 minutes, which should be sufficient for most apartments and one-story houses. However, you’ll have to be ready to carry your S7 up and down the stairs — or buy one for each floor. Now, with the recent release of the Roborock auto-empty dock, you’ll only need to check up on the S7 to fill the water tank. 

Check out our full review to learn more about Roborock S7.

iRobot Roomba i3: A great mid-tier option

robot vacuum roomba i3

It is hard not to include two vacuums from the pioneer that started it all. The Roomba i3 is our first pick from iRobot, and it’s a great way to jump into the system at just $399.99.

Like others on the list, the iRobot Roomba i3 comes with a companion app. However, it also works with Alexa, making it easy to incorporate it into your smart home ecosystem. However, what truly makes it stand out from the competition is its compatibility with iRobot’s Clean Base. The Roomba i3 will clean your home in organized rows and automatically return to empty its bin whenever it reaches capacity. Its side brush will also take care of sweeping along corners and furniture legs.

To top it all off, the iRobot vacuum packs many advanced sensors that help it identify areas that need more attention even when on automatic mode. It even mapping navigation, which lets you craft a careful plan of how to clean your home.

In terms of battery life, the Roomba i3 is solid at between 90 minutes and two hours. Unfortunately, there’s no mopping feature with the Roomba i3, so you’ll have to grab the Braava M6 to complete your clean.

Related: The best robot vacuum deals right now

Neato Botvac D8: Unique shape makes for great cleaning

neato robovac d8 on hardwood floor in corner 1
Best Buy

It’s immediately clear that the Neato Botvac D8 doesn’t look like other robot vacuum cleaners. Unlike the other circular entries on this list, Neato uses a sort of “D” shaped design which allows the D8 to clean corners far more thoroughly.

While the unique shape of this vacuum is probably its most appealing feature, the D8 has a solid 100-minute battery life, a 0.7-liter dirt bin, and uses LIDAR technology to map out the rooms in your home. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a built-in mop or a dock that allows it to empty its dust bin. 

If you’re looking for a robot vacuum that can get into all sorts of corners, the Neato Botvac D8 is an excellent option; however, the lack of some key features and its hefty $699.99 price tag hold it back from being an automatic recommendation.

See more: Forget vacuum cleaners, Xiaomi just launched its first robotic dog

iRobot Roomba i9 Plus: Premium price, premium cleaning

irobot roomba i9 in charging base

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line robot vacuum, look no further than iRobot’s brand new Roomba i9+. This Wi-Fi-connected vacuum comes with almost every cleaning mode and feature that you might want. 

Just like other vacuums, the Roomba i9+ has a rotating brush that sweeps debris inward towards the device’s dual rubber brushes. The vacuum can adjust its 40X suction to pick up dirt, hair, and any other minor messes based on the floor type. Like other high-end vacuums, the i9+ maps your home which allows you to select which areas you would like cleaned. On top of that, this robot vacuum is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant. 

What really stops this robot vacuum from being our favorite is its incredibly high price. The Roomba i9 Plus comes with a self-emptying dock and costs a whopping $1,299.99. If you want mopping capabilities as well, you’ll need to invest another $450 in the Braava M6 combo.

Related: What is a smart home, and why should you want one?

Eufy Robovac G30 Hybrid: Affordable and effective

eufy robovac g30 hybrid
The Register

Eufy is where affordability meets functionality. Let’s be real: many of the other vacuums on this list cost a pretty penny, but this is definitely the most versatile robot on the list for its price. The Eufy G30 Hybrid has vacuum and mopping capabilities, 88 minutes of battery life, and 2000PA of suction.

While none of this is industry-leading, considering the $362.99 price, it’s pretty darn good.

This Eufy product also comes with smart detection strips so you can set your preferred cleaning areas in the app. On top of that, you can even manually control the vacuum from your phone like a remote control car. Also, if you’re lazy like us, just connect Eufy with your smart home assistant of choice (either Alexa or Google Assistant), and don’t even bother touching your phone when you need a mess cleaned up.

Read more: The vacuums announced at CES 2021

Honorable mentions

That’s it for our list of the best X product you can buy, but it’s only a fraction of what’s out there. We also want to give an honorable mention to the following products:

  • iRobot Roomba i7: This iRobot vacuum provides great cleaning, and can be upgraded to come with an auto-emptying dock. Still, it’s definitely pricey and doesn’t include mopping.
  • Shark AI RV2001: Got pets that constantly leave a mess of hair or worse? Then the Shark AI RV2001 might be one of your best choices. This vacuum might not have the best app on the market, but it has impressive AI Laser Vision technology.