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If you’ve been browsing for a robotic vacuum cleaner to join you in the never-ending fight against dirt and dust on the floor, you may have noticed that the vast majority share one thing in common: they’re almost always round. The simple answer to why comes down to moving throughout your home – robot vacuums work, in part, due to the fact that they can turn in any direction, including a full 360 degrees, without too much chance of banging into anything.

I’ve never designed a robot vacuum myself, but I know of plenty of companies that have. It’s fair to say that even though the chasing pack continue to catch up, Roomba still sits at the top of the tree in terms of brand awareness. Every Roomba robovac we’ve ever reviewed here at Robovac has been round. In fairness, there hasn’t been much by way of innovation in styling and design since the early days.

Take a look at the Roomba 671 and the Roomba 981, two robot vacuums that stand out in the crowd and maintain positions on our list of the best robot vacuums at the time of writing. While there are undoubtedly noticeable differences, you’ll see that there isn’t much of a change between shapes and styles. Indeed, the same can be said of the Eufy RoboVac 15C MAX and the 30C, two other robot vacuums on the same list. It’s almost like manufacturers decide how a robot vacuum will look and stick with that going forward. In fairness, as long as it’s not an eyesore in the home, we’d rather they spent the time, money and effort fixing up the insides anyway!

Are All Robot Vacuums Round?

While circular robovacs represent the vast majority, they’re not the only style you’ll find. The brand that bucks the trend more so than just about any other is Neato. Both the Neato Robotics D701 and the Botvac D402 buck the trend. They’re rounded on the back, just like Roombas, Eufy Robovacs and the rest, but they opt instead for a flattened front end.

There are pros and cons to this approach. In the pros column is the fact that these Neato robot vacuums can get closer than their rounded counterparts to walls and edges. Many robot vacuum owners, myself included, point out than when they use their regular vacuum cleaner every couple of weeks or once a month, they need to focus on the edges.

This is because round robot vacuums rely on side brushes to reach those parts. With no flat edges, they’re never flush against the wall. While side brushes are great and do an excellent job of drawing the dirt out of corners and similar areas, there is only so much they can do when not backed by the suction power of the main motor.

As for the negatives of this design, it can lead to the robovac in question struggling with tight spaces. My Eufy is pretty agile, all things considered, but my Roomba has massive difficulty with dining chairs. I don’t do anything special in terms of arranging furniture when my robot vacuum gets to work, and I can imagine trying to get under the dining table being akin to a maze or assault course. A robot vacuum designed in the same shape as the Neato D701 would end up continually banging into one of the legs as it tried to turn to escape.

Are Round Robot Vacuums Better?

Just as there are pros and cons, the answer to this question depends on the layout of your home. Neato Botvacs and other models are highly regarded among pet owners, as the edges of their floors tend to get dirtier than those that don’t spend much time along those edges. If you have dogs that shed a lot or other pets that can happily contribute to the mess in a room, then a D-shaped robot vacuum may work better for you.

However, if you have a lot of furniture, especially some that can be tricky to navigate like a table and chairs, the rounded versions win out. In a way, it’s like comparing the turning circle of a sports car and a cruise ship. If you want your robovac to be able to dart in and out of spaces, presumably covering more floor area in the process, then the rounded option is better. If the majority of the dirt in your home tends to collect along the edge of the carpet or hard floor, then the D-shaped variants can come out on top.

As a compromise, I’d recommend a round robot vacuum with particularly robust side brushes. I’ve already mentioned the 15C MAX from Eufy, and I find the side brush to be tough, durable and, most importantly, better than the Roomba equivalents for pulling dirt from the edges of a room. The suction power is more than enough to suck up anything it pulls into its path so if you’re in the market for a new cleaning buddy and want the best of both worlds, I’d suggest it as the best bet – just as it is in many different categories.

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