✔ Robot vacuum prices range from £200 to nearly £1,000
✔ The iRobot Roomba 980 is our favourite model
✔ Robot vacuums can be especially useful for older or handicapped people
A voice rings out as the front door closes: “Can you do the hoovering while I’m out?”
“Sure,” you sigh.
Little does your parent/partner/housemate know, however, that you have a Jetsons-like robot to take care of this menial chore for you. You see, robots now exist which are perfectly capable of vacuum cleaning your floors by themselves – requiring almost no physical exertion on your part.
But, of course, keeping your home clean is the kind of thing you want to get right – so it’s worth getting the best robo vac for your budget. However, with prices ranging from £200 to nearly £1,000, it can be tricky to identify the best models for the job when they all ostensibly do the same thing.
Robot vacuum cleaners are, essentially, vacuum cleaners that can sense the space around them – either through sophisticated sensors, or by virtually creating a map of your house – and which go round hoovering up crumbs, dust, and other unwelcome odds and ends.
However, they’re unlikely to completely take over from traditional upright or cylinder vacuum cleaners, at least for the moment. They’re typically a little bit less powerful than the traditional models, and needless to say, stairs tend to be an issue.
However, robo vacs can take the mundanity out of weekends, opening up time for you to enjoy long lie-ins or big days out.
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What are robot vacuum cleaners?
Robot vacuum cleaners are basically vacuum cleaners that you don’t need to push around. Instead, they’re self-propelled, driven by motors and wheels and directed by computers.
Typically, robot vacuum cleaners are small, flat discs similar in diameter to a football – so they’re unlikely to take up too much space around the house. Some models, such as Dyson’s expensive Robot 360eye, are slightly larger, standing at almost 9-and-a-half inches tall – almost as tall as an iPad, for example – but even then, you’re hardly letting an autonomous leviathan into your home.
|Best for||Regular light cleans and people who want to save time||Almost everyone, provided you have the time||Again, almost everyone||Small houses looking for a quick clean|
|Pros||Saves time; Can be scheduled||Powerful suction; Works across all surfaces||Easier to manoeuvre than upright; Small nozzle can get into tight spaces||Easy to carry around; Good for getting into small spaces|
|Cons||Best models are expensive; Lack power compared to conventional hoovers||Have to do it yourself; Not as versatile as cylinder||Can be annoying to store; Sometimes irritating dragging the cylinder around||Limited battery; Might lack suction|
How do robot vacuum cleaners work?
We’re guessing you’ve probably got a decent handle on how vacuums actually, you know, vacuum – so we’re going to talk about the navigation side of robot vacuum cleaners. Most robot vacuums use a combination of cameras, infrared sensors, and digital mapping to navigate around your home.
For example, the 360eye uses a 360-degree camera system (hence the name) and infrared sensors to map your house and navigate around it. The infrared sensors allow it to measure distances to points, while the cameras allow it to visualise objects. The 360eye creates a digital map of the inside of your house to remember where it’s cleaned and where it hasn’t, and how to return to its base station.
What is the best robot vacuum cleaner?
There are plenty of great options on the market, but for our money, the best robot vacuum cleaner you can buy is the iRobot Roomba 980.
1. iRobot Roomba 980
The iRobot Roomba 980 is our favourite robot vacuum cleaner. However, you’ll need to have some fairly deep pockets to get one – it costs £799.99.
Sometimes, though, you really do get what you pay for, and the Roomba 980 is replete with advanced features and excellent cleaning performance. It has virtual wall barriers which can cordon off rooms or areas, and a great mapping system that allows you to actually see a top-down view of your house – perfect for planning cleaning routes.
It charges quickly as well, giving you about an hour and a half’s battery from a three-hour charge time.
It can even detect dirt and debris in real time, sometimes making multiple passes at particularly dirty areas to make sure nothing is left behind. It also has a large 0.6-litre bin capacity, which means it should be able to cover most of a large home without stopping.
Of course, £799.99 is a lot of money – especially for a vacuum. However, in this case, if you really want the best robo vac, you’ll need to pay for it.
Top seven robot vacuum cleaners
So, the iRobot Roomba 980 is our favourite robo vac on the market. However, there are still loads of great options if you don’t fancy spending almost £800 on a vacuum cleaner.
2. Miele Scout RX1
At the cheaper end of the spectrum is the Miele Scout RX1. It costs £450, and uses ceiling-based cameras to guide it around your home. It has four cleaning modes for picking up different types of dirt and debris, including corner modes for dealing with walls and doorways.
The Scout RX1 also boasts a 0.6-litre bin, and can run for two hours.
Best robot vacuum cleaner for carpet cleaning
Low-pile carpets are rarely perceived as insurmountable obstacles, but for robot vacuum cleaners, they often are. Most models have small wheels, which struggle to find traction in soft, pillowy carpets. However, the Dyson 360eye takes a different approach, which makes it perfect for carpeted houses.
3. Dyson 360eye
Costing £799.99, the Dyson 360eye is another expensive model, but it has an incredible set of features.
For a start, the 360eye uses caterpillar tracks rather than wheels to get around, meaning that it can mount large rugs (for example) and glide across them with ease. The 360eye also uses Dyson’s cyclone tech for class-leading suction. However, it only has a smaller 0.3-litre bin, and runs for 40 minutes at a time.
Some people may have complained about the 360eye’s low speed and short running time, but overall, its cleaning is hard to beat.
4. Neato Botvac D7 Connected
The Botvac D7 costs around £700, and has great performance – which, to be honest, you should expect at this price.
However, the Botvac D7’s party piece is its app. You can use it to cordon off areas of your home that you don’t want it to go into – a child’s playroom that you haven’t tidied up yet, for example – while also using it to schedule cleaning sessions.
Best robot vacuum cleaners on a budget
If you don’t fancy spending a small fortune on a robot vacuum cleaner, here are some of the best cheap models you can buy. Admittedly, we’re pushing the definition of ‘cheap’ here, but you’re not going to get a decent robot vacuum cleaner for less than £250.
5. Roborock S5
Typically costing around £400, the Roborock S5 is one of the best value robot vacs on sale. It’s a speedy navigator, starting at the edge of rooms before filling in the middle. The cleaning is strong, but not the best on the market.
Roborock’s app, though, is very good. Users are able to program no-go areas, and it’s always being updated with new features and bug fixes.
6. Ecovacs Deebot N79s
At around £230, the Deebot N79s might seem like a deal that’s too good to be true. However, its suction is pretty strong for a robo vac at this price.
It doesn’t have some of the advanced features you’ll find on more expensive models, but it covers the basics well. It also doesn’t really plan routes around the house – instead, it heads in one direction until it hits an object, then turns and heads in a different direction. It repeats the process ad nauseam until it runs out of power, or until you turn it off.
7. Roborock E2
The Roborock E2 costs £330, has a large 0.64-litre bin, and can even do a bit of mopping as well as hoovering.
It’s app-controlled, and has a variety of cleaning modes and mapping features that aren’t always found on vacs of this price. When it comes to mopping, it uses a microfibre cloth and water from a refillable tank. It’s not the last word in cleaning, but for less than £350, its versatility shouldn’t be sniffed at.
Pros and cons of robot vacuum cleaners
- Save you time
- Make sure that all areas of your house are cleaned
- Good for entertaining pets and small children
- Scheduling can ensure your house is always clean
- Could be useful for disabled people
- Can’t replicate the cleaning of a traditional vacuum
- The best models tend to be expensive
How much do robot vacuum cleaners cost?
We’re in ‘how long is a piece of string’ territory, here. Robot vacs can cost as little as £250, but can run all the way to over £1,000 for the top models on the market.
So, why the price difference? Let’s take a look at two models from the market leader, iRobot: the £250 Roomba 606 and the £1,499 Roomba s9+.
The Roomba 606 uses a fairly typical setup, with two sets of brushes spinning in opposing directions to shovel up debris into the vacuum. The s9+, by contrast, uses wider brushes which suck dirt and dust into a spinning vortex for even more suction.
When the s9+ has finished its rounds, it returns to its base station, empties itself (the base station can hold up to 30 loads), and charges itself before heading out for more. The 606, however, simply returns to its base.
What’s more, the s9+ gets a boatload more computing power than the 606, meaning it can more accurately map and clean your home. It can also detect what type of surface it’s on to increase sucking power or increase efficiency.
It’s probably best to think of buying a robot vacuum cleaner like buying a car. Sure, any new car you buy today will be able to get you to work – but if you spend more money on a new car, you’ll likely get a nicer, more relaxed drive to work. And better still, it’ll be quicker and more fuel efficient, and boast more high tech entertainment gizmos.
Are robot vacuum cleaners any good?
A robot vacuum cleaner won’t be able to completely replace a traditional cylinder or upright vacuum cleaner. However, they are able to carry out most of the day-to-day cleaning that you’d manually be doing yourself. Robot vacuum cleaners are designed to work little-and-often, rather than do all the cleaning in one go.
However, not all robot vacuum cleaners are created equal. If you want the best robot vacuum cleaner, you’ll have to pay more money.
It’s also worth noting that some robot vacuum cleaners struggle in some areas. For example, most have a hard time getting right to the corners of rooms, and most struggle with carpets.
What should I look for when buying a robot vacuum cleaner?
There are a few key things to consider when buying a robot vacuum cleaner. First, you need to think about budget – if you’re on really limited funds, it might be better to stick with a regular vacuum cleaner for the moment. Prices are dropping, however, so you might be able to get a robot helper for less in a couple of years.
If you are going to buy a robo vac, you should think about the size of your home. If you live in a large, capacious abode, it’s worth paying attention to the battery life and bin size of the vacuum to ensure it can actually get around your home.
You should also think about the flooring in your home. If you have hard floors, most robot vacuum cleaners will be fine. However, if you have lots of carpeting or rugs, it might be worth checking how well robot vacs can navigate this more challenging terrain.
If you have pets or children, they might break the robot vacuum while it’s doing its rounds. Make sure you keep an eye on them, or make sure they know not to touch the vacuum!
Do robot vacuum cleaners work on carpet?
Some of them do. However, a lot of robot vacuum cleaners have small wheels which can struggle to find traction on carpets.
Some, like the Dyson 360eye above, have caterpillar tracks which can help them navigate carpets. It’s definitely worth checking the undercarriage of any robot vacuum cleaner before buying one.
Can robot vacuum cleaners go from hardwood to carpet?
Again, some can, and some can’t. Models which lack ground clearance will struggle, but the Dyson 360eye will sail through.
Make sure you check – in person, if possible – whether the model you’re after is able to go from carpets to hardwood floors.
How do robot vacuum cleaners know when it’s clean?
It depends how you define ‘know’. Most robot vacs won’t be able to tell if all the dirt has been lifted from your floors.
However, they will know, thanks to their mapping software, which areas of your house they have and haven’t covered. If your robo vac is a good cleaner, and it covers everywhere, then your house will be clean by the time you come home.
How do robot vacuum cleaners know when to stop?
Good question – either when they’ve run out of battery, they’re full, or they’ve cleaned everywhere.
Most robot vacs have a base station which they use for charging, so when their work is finished, they’ll head home and start charging.