The all-new Samsung Powerbot VR9000 has more features than any robot vacuum on the market. Yes, advances like laser-guided spot cleaning and camera-aided room-mapping make the VR9000 more sophisticated than many of its competitors. But the VR9000 is also practical: tall wheels and a powerful motor mean that it can get get on top of most carpets, and a good navigation system will keep it from bumping into things.
That is, if it can fit under your furniture, and into your budget. See, all those features make for one tall vacuum, and it had trouble getting under some of the items in our test course. It also costs more than many of its competitors. On sale now, the VR9000's MSRP of $999 will be about twice what the highly competent iRobot Roomba 770 sells for.
But if money isn't an issue, and you want an automated cleaning helper that can do more than its competitors, the Samsung VR9000 is the best you can get.
A traditional vacuum, downsized and automated.
The VR9000 doesn't look like any other robot vacuum on the market. Instead, it looks more like one of Samsung's traditional uprights. You can see where the motor is located, and underneath it's got the same V-sync wheels found in uprights like the VU7000. Samsung also opted for the VR9000 to have a brush head similar to those found on full-sized vacuums.
On the robot side of things, there are three big features of note: To map the room and avoid obstacles, the VR9000 uses a system that Samsung calls Visionary Mapping Plus, which relies on a camera pointed at the ceiling. It's similar to the system used by Miele on the Scout RX-1.
While it's out there picking up dirt, you can also use the Point Cleaning tool, a little laser pointer that directs the VR9000 wherever you command it. As long as you keep the beam in front of the vacuum, it will follow. Finally, there's the dirt bin. It's way bigger than any other on the market–0.6 liters, in fact. That's worth noting because emptying the bin is one of the few major interactions you should have with your robot vacuums. The less you have to do it, the better.
Of course, there's more to this robot vacuum than the unit itself. Inside the box you'll find a charging dock, a comb for keeping the brush clean, and a remote (batteries included). There's also a Virtual Guard, used for blocking off a room or an area. It has a 8-foot range–which gives it more coverage than the Roomba's Virtual Wall.
After you set all that up, you still have one last task before you can get the most out of the Powerbot's scheduling. See, even the best robot vacuum can't pick up as much dirt as its full-sized cousins, but it can do maintenance cleaning everyday.
With the remote, you can set the VR9000 to clean every day at the same time or at a different time each day. Again, the VR9000 one-ups its competitors. Where other scheduling features only let you schedule a default cleaning mode, this robot vacuum even lets you schedule for Max Clean, which tells the robot to keep working until it runs out of battery.
What's the Over-Under?
The most important thing about the VR9000 is that it's five inches tall, with massive wheels. That means it's clearly designed to go over things, not under them. This became apparent when the Samsung underwent our testing regimen, which consists of four categories of obstacles: carpets, risers and thresholds, table legs, and a clearance test meant to mimic sofas and bed frames.
First, the good news: Obstacles were no problem for the VR9000. We use three types of carpet to determine if a robot vacuum can transition from a hardwood floor onto carpeting and back onto hardwood again without a hitch. Doormats and normal carpet presented no problems for the VR9000. However, high-pile carpet proved to be insurmountable. An inch-tall black area rug might as well have been a wall, as the VR9000 scurried away before trying to clean it. In fact, only the Miele and the Neato we tested even attempted this task. Whether or not this is a major flaw depends on how your home is decorated.
We also test whether a vacuum can get over a threshold or uneven floors, and found that the VR9000 had no problem getting over a low threshold or a dip of 2/3"—which is not bad for a robot vacuum. However, it refused to climb over anything taller than 1 1/3". Make sure you pick up any large debris before you set the VR9000 to work.
The Samsung also shied away from tight quarters, avoiding any area it couldn't fit the entirety of its 13-inch wide body. You might think that's a good thing, but a robot vacuum works best when it can clean difficult-to-reach places. To do that, sometimes an automated vacuum needs to try and wedge its brushes into a tight spot.
It's likely that you'll want your robot to clean underneath your furniture, where it's hard for humans to reach. The VR9000's five inches of height prevented it from going under any furniture shorter than six inches.
The inability to go under furniture notwithstanding, the Powerbot did mostly impress us with its pickup ability. It sucked up all the dirt it could reach, and when all was all said and done, the VR9000 collected 10 grams of dirt. That might not sound like much, but the proof is in the repeated use: If set to a once-a-day schedule, that means on average, this Samsung will pickup about 70 grams a week–comparable to a regular upright.
The VR9000 didn't do as well in our pet hair tests, as it left behind 25 percent of the pet hair we left out for it. If you have pets, the Neato we tested may be a better bet.
An investment in technology
The Samsung Powerbot VR9000 robot vacuum is a grand showcase in an emerging technology.
We'd argue that no robot vacuum is as good as its human-powered counterpart. But the VR9000 goes beyond novelty with unique features that make it easier to use.
And although it has plenty of cutting-edge gadgetry, the Powerbot has no problem getting around a room while suctioning dirt—providing that dirt isn't under a low couch or in the form of pet hair.
If you just want a robot vacuum to help maintain your floors, there are cheaper models out there that clean almost as well. And if you only care about pet hair cleanup, the Samsung is outclassed by its competitors. But if you want the most advanced robot vacuum on the market, and don't want it banging into your furniture, the Samsung Powerbot VR9000 is the way to go.
Meet the testers
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Senior Lab Technician at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.See all of Jonathan Chan's reviews
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