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Here at Robovac, we always seek to make it as easy as possible for our readers to find the perfect robotic vacuum cleaner for their needs. However, if you have never owned a robovac before, or are unaware of the potential of different models as you head upwards through the different price ranges, you could benefit from an introduction to what is out there in the form of a robot vacuum buyer’s guide.
In this feature, we aim to make sense of the features and characteristics of different robot vacuums. With this information, you can make better use of our focused buyers guides, such as our special feature on the best Eufy RoboVac, our reviews of individual models and the various robot vacuum comparisons featured throughout the site.
Weigh-Up the Floor Types in Your Home
Nobody knows your home better than you do, and the types of flooring throughout your home will drive your buying decision. The cheapest robovacs, such as the Amazonbasics Slim Robot Vacuum, tend to be more than capable of handling hard floors, such as wood, lino and tiles, along with thin carpets. If you have medium-pile carpets, you’ll need to move on to a more mid-range model like the Eufy RoboVac 15C MAX.
The thicker the carpet, the more robust a robot vacuum you’ll need for effective cleaning and the more you will need to spend. Many of the names that can be considered mainstream in robot vacuum cleaning aim for mass-market appeal – at the time of writing this feature, Eufy does not even boast a RoboVac that can cope with thick carpets and rugs. For that, you will need to set your sights on something like the Neato Robotics D7 (pictured), which has a couple of different cleaning programs and a price-tag to match.
Essentially, you may be happy to spend more for a better product, but if you have a budget in mind, you can make savings without compromising on cleaning by only getting the suction power and cleaning technology you require.
Decide if you Require Mapping
Again, the more functionality you need, the more you can expect to spend. Mapping involves directing your robotic vacuum cleaner to specific rooms and space and taking steps to prevent it from reaching areas that you would prefer left untouched. It may never need cleaning, have cables everywhere – which are the enemies of robot vacuums no matter how much you spend – or need excluding temporarily.
At the lower end of pricing, robot vacuums detect walls and obstacles in the best case or run into them and refocus their direction in the worst. As you go for superior models, you will start to unlock the potential of virtual walls. Eufy provides the perfect example here once again. Of the most popular models, the RoboVac 11S and RoboVac 15C deal with objects as they encounter them. If you go with the RoboVac 30C, you open up access to virtual walls of sorts, as boundary strips can be affixed to the floor as needed and may as well be walls in the eyes of your robot cleaner.
From there, you can start to consider the likes of the iRobot Roomba 960 (pictured). This model is among the higher tiers of the Roomba range and has a price tag to match, but its navigation abilities are bound to impress. No further hardware or boundary strips are required – the 960 can ‘see’ where it’s going and will avoid any rooms or areas that you have told it to with the Roomba app.
If you are new to robot vacuums, we would be inclined to suggest you give mapping a miss on your first robovac – at most, the RoboVac 30C will provide you with an idea of what to expect, so it helps that you receive 13 feet of boundary strip tape in the box. In the meantime, you can go for the free option – closing doors. Don’t worry about your robot vacuum falling down the stairs either; even the cheapest models come with drop sensors as standard.
Pets Require More Power
Among the best reasons to purchase a robot vacuum is that they can deal with a build-up of pet hair daily without the need to get your primary vacuum cleaner out so often. If you do go for daily cleaning, then there should not be so much accumulated pet hair that you need to spend too much for increased cleaning power. However, if you prefer not to clean so often or have multiple pets shedding hair everywhere, it can be worth looking into more powerful models. There are even specialised robot vacuums for pet owners that can be worthy of consideration.
Neato Robotics, already featured here for the qualities of the D7, sit above the likes of Eufy in pricing and adopt a premium approach. Special pet editions of the D750 (pictured) and D450 take the already potent abilities of the standard Neato models and adapt them specifically for pet owners. You’ll notice that both models deviate from the usual round design to ensure that these robot vacuums get well into the corners of your home, so no hair is missed. They also come with spare filters and brushes, specially designed for pet hair removal so that no clogging can slow you down.
Neither model is what we would call cheap, and we do not claim that more affordable robot vacuums are of no use to pet owners. In these cases, great suction should be a focus, and the 2,000 Pa of the 11S MAX and 15C MAX in the Eufy RoboVac range are capable machines at more novice-friendly price points.
As with upright and cordless vacuums, your robot vacuum will boast a filtration system of sorts. However, the quality of these filters varies, and you need to ensure that you take the time to decide which best suits your needs. The filtration system is responsible for removing odours from the air, cleaning up dander from pet fur and enhancing the air quality for allergy sufferers.
You will have noticed a trend developing throughout these sections, as better quality tends to mean a higher price, and filters are no different. Robot vacuums at all pricing levels tend to use double filtration, each included in the robovac with a specific purpose in mind. Generally, the primary filter takes care of making sure that dirt and dust go into the dust box and not back onto the floor. The secondary filter then concentrates on smaller particles, and a good filter can be a godsend for allergy sufferers and pet owners. Indeed, these secondary filters are often as impactful on the air as the floor.
Those with any experience with filters will already be thinking about HEPA filters. While other elements of robot vacuums like mapping, suction and connectivity are continually improving, HEPA filters are so good that further refinement will take much longer. Even then, robot vacuum manufacturers are probably not best-placed to make those improvements.
Nevertheless, a HEPA filter is worth looking out for if you are among the aforementioned allergy sufferers and pet owners, and robot vacuums come in three distinct varieties: those with no HEPA filter, models with true HEPA filters and robovacs with HEPA-like filters. HEPA is a standard, and if your filters meet the standard, you can use the True HEPA name. That applies to the Eufy RoboVac 15C. If your filters are good but do not meet the standard, they will do the job but not carry the name, like the filters in the Roomba 671 (pictured), which uses AeroVac filters instead. The performance of the latter is not quite as good, but it is worth considering that Roomba replacement filters tend to be cheaper than their HEPA equivalents. Given that it is advisable to change your filters every three to six months depending on cleaning frequency, those replacements can potentially add up.
Suction Power Isn’t Everything
Some manufacturers rely on suction power to enhance their cleaning proposition, while others combine alternative technologies for the same result. While we do make a point of mentioning suction in our robot vacuum reviews, this is down to the fact that it is the best way to compare the power of different models side-by-side.
If we consider Eufy’s range, the RoboVac 11S clocks in at 1,300 Pa, while the 11S MAX is practically identical albeit with the suction power increased to 2,000 Pa, matching the RoboVac 15C. The Eufy comparison is an easy one to make, as the cleaning technology is the same throughout the range, so increased suction directly correlates with better cleaning.
To put things into perspective, the Roomba 671 comes in at a relatively modest 600 Pa, which might be expected of a model that was released quite a bit earlier. It sits around the same price point at the RoboVac 15C, and has been designed to cater to the same market, so are you getting less than a third of the suction? Technically yes, but this does not tell the whole story. Eufy robot vacuums rely heavily on their suction for their cleaning, while iRobot engineers their Roombas to make the most of less suction power with a unique brush setup.
Both models provide an outstanding clean, just in different ways. More suction power is generally a good thing – if it wasn’t iRobot would have stuck with the 600 Pa of the 671. The Roomba i7, which ranks among the best Roomba robot vacuums that money can buy, boasts 1,700 Pa suction and can clean just about anything effectively. You’ll notice that it still clocks in at less than the midrange Eufy RoboVac but beats it on performance. So, take suction power as a guideline, but do not let it drive your buying strategy too much.
Investigate Cleaning Modes and Controls
Only the cheapest robot vacuums stick to a single cleaning mode. These models are nothing fancy – you turn them on, they zoom about and pick up dirt as they go, to varying degrees of success. As you find yourself heading more towards the midrange with the Eufys and Roombas of the world, you’ll find that these devices can adapt their cleaning to the job at hand.
This is another area in which different companies adopt different approaches. Looking at the Roomba i7 once again, three types of cleaning are possible, comprising auto, spot and carpet boost settings. That might not sound like many for the price, but that is all the device needs to cleanse any surface in your home effectively.
Conversely, the Eufy models are cheaper but have more modes to them, including the same auto and spot cleaning as the Roomba, along with dedicated edge and single room cleaning. As with measuring suction power, it is essential to look slightly deeper into your robovac’s capabilities. While the i7 does not specify single room cleaning as a feature, the app enables users to map routes, and so the feature is available, just under a different name. We then also consider the fact that the Roomba i7 can decide on the most appropriate cleaning mode as it does the job, so you are not missing out.
Regarding controls on the unit, they are worth checking before purchase to ensure that your robot vacuum does what you need it to do. If there is only one cleaning mode, there is probably only going to be one button, undoubtedly adorned with something along the lines of ‘start’. Other models will have more control buttons on the unit, such as ‘spot’ for intense cleaning in the immediate area. A ‘dock’ button is also handy, as it will get the robot cleaner to head back to base without you having to pick it up and carry it.
With the most highly recommended robot vacuums on our site generally coming complete with a remote control at a minimum and often supporting mobile apps too, the on-board buttons can be redundant. Nevertheless, if the batteries in the remote go or you don’t have your phone to hand, it is nice to know that you can still enjoy the bulk of your robotic assistant’s functionality.
Choose Remote Control Capabilities
If you have read any of our robot vacuum reviews, you’ll know that we strive always to mention connectivity. At the same time, we can acknowledge that the greatest connections are not always essential, depending on what you have in mind. At the lowest end of the scale, you’ll have nothing at all. Bend over hit the ‘start’ button on your robotic vacuum cleaner, and it will be on its way. The Eyugle KK290A clocks in at under £70 and you know that you’re not getting much robot vacuum for that price – it does the job, but you know you’ll need to start it manually.
In the next tier up, we start to gain infra-red remote controls. They are hardly ground-breaking but can be just the improvement that people are looking for, especially those with limited mobility. With a range of around five metres and a clear line of sight required, they can be ideal for anyone with limited mobility or those that do not own a smartphone. There is clearly a market for this kind of connectivity, as even Eufy with the RoboVac 11S and Amazon itself with the Amazonbasics Slim Robot Vacuum (pictured) have opted for infra-red remotes on relatively inexpensive but high-quality units.
From there, we move on to Wi-Fi connectivity and mobile apps. The best robot vacuum brands all have their own mobile apps with varying levels of functionality, but what they can all do is turn on your robovac. Unlike an infra-red remote, a cleaning cycle can be triggered not only from within the same room or even anywhere in the house, but anywhere in the world. You could be on the train home from work or lying on a beach on the other side of the world, panicking that the floor has not been cleaned for ten days. Open up the app, hit ‘clean’ and your smart cleaner will not care where you are – it will just get on with the job.
Wi-Fi enabled robot vacuum cleaners are not expensive, and there are plenty of options at all price points. The fantastic Eufy RoboVac 15C boasts a decent app with scheduling and cleaning histories, as does the Roomba 671. We consider both as midrange models, and anything over and above this in price, like the iRobot Roomba i7 and Neato Robotics D450, will come with mobile app support as standard.
Another minor consideration is what the app can do. Robovac mobile apps are not exactly the most advanced examples of mobile phone software in the world, and much of their functionality aligns with what the robot vacuum in question can do. On a model with automatic mapping, the app will be what facilitates user input, so potential buyers should consider the quality of the app alongside other factors that influence their decision.
Future-Proof with Amazon Alexa and Google Home
First things first, you may well have noticed that Siri and Apple’s HomeKit connectivity framework do not get much of a look in anywhere on the site. The reason is simple: as of the latest revision of this article, no robot vacuum is compatible with HomeKit. The reasons could be numerous – the technology may be cost-prohibitive on models with smaller margins, or Apple might even have plans to release their own robot vacuum. Either way, while you will hear of any developments in this area right here at Robovac.co.uk, voice activation and associated features remain the realm of Alexa and Google Home users exclusively, at least for the time being.
That’s enough about what we cannot use; let’s talk about the good stuff. You’ll have noticed that Amazon is the robot vacuum retailer of choice in these parts, and they are more than happy to note that a specific smart vacuum is compatible with Alexa on the sales listing. The reasons are obvious, just as they are for Google Home not receiving such a prominent mention on the same listings. However, when browsing the range on Amazon, if a model is compatible with Alexa, the chances are that it will work with Google Home too.
We must admit that we mentioned futureproofing intentionally, as the mainstream robot vacuum Alexa skills are currently not overly exciting. Let’s take the official iRobot Home Alexa skill as an example. You can start, pause and stop cleaning, get the Roomba to play a sound when lost, send it back to base, set a schedule and get it to clean specific rooms on compatible models like the i7 (pictured). That is some decent functionality and will surely enter the thoughts of some potential buyers. However, we’d love to see skills that make your robovac dance to the music, chase the dog and preferably make the tea. In buying a compatible model today, you’ll be in the right place, at the right time when some of these commands become possible.
Incidentally, the current official Eufy skill for Amazon Alexa is even more limited, as its range does not extend to functionality that involves cleaning specific rooms, while the Neato skill is somewhere in the middle of the two. Regardless, we stand by the future-proofing aspect and the skills are free and so worth exploring if your model is compatible.
Pick a Battery and Dust Capacity based on the Size of Your Home
The more you spend, the better the battery is likely to be. This is another of those considerations where you can potentially pay more than you need to without factoring in the capabilities that you really need.
Power ratings, battery capacity and whether the battery itself is Nickel-Metal Hydride or Lithium-Ion are all easy to find, but they do not do much to push a buyer in one direction or another when settling on a robot vacuum. Instead, we prefer to think in practical terms so run time and charge time are far more likely to inform our decision on which robot vacuum to buy.
In the spirit of avoiding excess and ramping the price up, we would hope to achieve a run time of around 70 minutes at a minimum. This should be enough to clean both floors of most homes, although cleaning capabilities, brushes and the sheer speed of the robovac will all play their part.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a worthwhile robot vacuum that clocks in at less than this and can mostly base your buying decision on other factors. Of some of the smart vacuums mentioned frequently throughout this buyer’s guide, the Eufy RoboVac 15C lasts for 100 minutes on a single charge, the iRobot Roomba 671 lasts for 90 minutes, the Amazonbasics Slim Robot Vacuum keeps going for 80 minutes and the Neato Robotics D650 (pictured) will keep going for a hugely impressive 2 hours.
Higher prices do not necessarily mean longer battery life – quite the opposite in many cases. The more features a robovac has, the more battery drain takes place. The Roomba i7 is among the most fully-featured robot vacuums on the market, yet its 75 minutes of runtime on a single charge is weaker than many cheaper models. It is a worthy trade-off for those that splash the cash, however, as that means 75 minutes of more functionality than most.
Charge time is less of a concern, especially if you choose a robot vacuum that can clean the whole house on a single charge. We would suggest expecting anywhere from 3 to 6 hours on average, but the differences are minor unless you need to clean your carpets multiple times each day.
Think Ahead to Replacement Robot Vacuum Parts
Robot vacuums are not delicate little gadgets that need to be handled with kid gloves. Until you reach a price point where they have cameras and top-end sensors, most models are explicitly created with the intention of them bumping into things before correcting themselves. They are rugged, durable and built to last, but they are still electronic devices, and so it is not out of the question that things can go wrong.
If the fault is mechanical, your first stop is often the warranty. Eufy offers 12 months on its models as standard, and the same can be said of most other manufacturers. In particularly short periods following delivery, we would be inclined to mention Amazon’s service once again – they are our robot vacuum retailer of choice and part of that is down to the quality of their customer service.
If you do run into issues, consider trying our robot vacuum troubleshooting tips before seeking out a repair or replacement, as units can get flustered, but do not need anything more than a nudge in the right direction to get back on track.
In all honesty, we have never encountered mechanical failure with any robot vacuum we have tested. With that said, we rarely keep them, or at least keep them in active service, for the full warranty period. Nevertheless, we can appreciate that things happen, so it is a good idea to know what to do when they do.
Far more common in upkeep are replacement parts, and it is worth considering the price and availability of such components on your robovac of choice. Eufy and Roomba are great options, as replacements often fit all models and are easy to come by. The more specialised and less common your cleaner, the harder spares will be to come by. Unsurprisingly, Amazon would be our first port of call for new filters and brushes, but if you have a more obscure robot vacuum, you should be prepared to look further afield.
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