Whether you just like the idea of home automation, or you physically can't do the same level of cleaning as you used to, a robot vacuum is there to help you pick up. While the Roomba name is nearly synonymous with robot vacuums, there's a wider variety of choices out there than you might think, which can make picking the one that's right for you that much harder.
Luckily, we make sure to put every robot vacuum that comes into our labs through their paces in a grueling test of their navigation, ability to clean, and ease of use. Our current favorite is the iRobot Roomba i7+(available at Amazon for $999.00), but we have picks for all needs and budgets.
Here are our favorite robot vacuums ranked in order:
iRobot Roomba i7+
Eufy Robovac 11S
Neato Botvac Connected
Neato Botvac Connected D7
EcoVacs Deebot Ozmo 930
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The iRobot Roomba i7+ is the first robot vacuum that can empty itself. A vacuum in the charging base suctions everything out of the bin into a sealable bag. That means you don't have to see, touch, or smell what your robot vacuum picks up. Also for your convenience, the i7+ has a whole host of smart features. Plus, it’s Alexa and Google Home compatible. The i7+ can even make virtual maps that can track cleaning cycles and even keep it out of individual rooms.
Fancy tech aside, the i7+ picks up quite a bit. On average, it picked up 10 grams of debris, so in a week, it can keep up with a mild manual cleaning. The i7+ is expensive, but every penny is accounted for in the large number of features and excellent performance.
The Eufy Robovac 11S is the heir to the much-loved Robovac 11. This robot vacuum does its predecessor proud, offering excellent suction and improved navigation. The slimmer design allows the S to get its brushes into more places.
When we tested, the 11S picked up around 11.6 grams of dirt per run, more than what most iRobot models manage. We also noted that during operation, the 11S was quiet, rarely making enough noise to interrupt a conversation. The combination of good dirt pickup and quiet operation make the 11S one of our favorite robot vacuums.
Hey, I'm Jon Chan, the Senior Lab Technician at Reviewed. If you clean with it—whether it’s laundry detergents or dishwashers—I oversee its testing. This expertise extends to vacuums: upright, canister, handheld, and robotic.
Over the years, I’ve gotten my hands on hundreds of vacuums and this article is about the best of every type I’ve tested. When it comes to the absolute pinnacle, it’s all about well each model can clean up a mess.
Most of the tests involve our robot obstacle course. The area contains analogs for furniture legs, shelves, and thresholds. Each robot vacuum has three chances to prove itself. The first two runs, we placed cork pellets under the shelves and between the furniture legs. When we let the robot vacuum loose, we look for how long a cleaning cycle takes, what obstacles it was able to clean thoroughly, and overall debris pickup. For the final test run, we replaced the cork with pet hair and run another test run.
What You Need to Know about Robot Vacuums
After testing dozens and dozens of robot vacuums, we think the name is a bit of a misnomer. A robot vacuum’s ability to pick up dirt pales in comparison to that of a full-sized vacuum and can only really compete over the course of a week. We found that consumers experience the most satisfaction with their robot vacuums when they view them as floor maintainers in between manual cleanings.
We should also point out that most robot vacuums are designed for bare floors and medium carpet. If you have throw rugs taller than ½ inch, your robot vacuum might not be able to climb atop it or may get stuck if it gets up there. This fact is vital for pet owners because it means pet beds are a point of contention.
Avoiding Robot Vacuum Pet Mishaps
Over the years, three technologies have developed to help keep robot vacuums from running amok: magnetic strips, virtual barriers, and app-based barriers. All three of these methods have their pros and cons.
Magnetic strips are the simplest. You lay them on the floor and they create a barrier that designated robot vacuums will not cross. While they don’t require batteries, magnetic strips are cumbersome. Most robot vacuums that included them only ship with one, so you have to cut them if you want to cover multiple entryways.
The next step up is virtual barriers. These battery-powered devices emit an infrared line that tells robot vacuums to turn back. Some specialized barriers, like iRobot’s lighthouse, can create a “halo” or a circle barrier to encompass a piece of furniture or a pet bowl.
The final method, aside from shutting doors, involves specialized apps. New mapping technologies allow robot vacuums to have a better understanding of their surroundings. They can then send that information to your phone. Companies like iRobot, Neato, and Ecovacs all produce robot vacuums were you can draw lines on virtual maps to denote where the robots can and cannot go.
Robot vs. Vacuum
Whenever you have a device that’s battery powered, you’re going to have to deal with a series of tradeoffs. With robot vacuums, it’s a balancing act between being a good robot and a good vacuum.
A good robot navigates well by not bumping into furniture and getting over thresholds. But a robot vacuum’s worst downfall is when it gets stuck and requires a helping hand, defeating the purpose of an automated floor cleaner. However, being a good robot means drawing power away from the brushes and to the wheels, sensors, and circuit board.
A robot vacuum that cleans well tends to ram itself into furniture. A robot vacuum can’t clean where its brushes haven’t been. They also tend to be noisier as more power is drawn to the suction motor.
The basic rule of thumb is that the more a robot vacuum costs, the better robot it is and the less dirt it will pick up. We’re talking about a 20 percent difference between the best navigators that never get close to a chair leg and a robot vacuum that scuffs everything in your house. The most exceptional robot vacuums do both and they tend to win our Editor’s Choice and Best of Year awards.
Different Types of Navigation
Robot vacuums tend to have two different types of navigation, infrared and optical, or a combination of both. Infrared sensors shoot out beams that give information about distance. Optical navigation involves cameras, usually mounted on the top of the unit. Typically, these cameras utilize contrast and landmarks to decipher where they are. Robot vacuums that rely on optical navigation cannot work in a pitch black room.
How long do robot vacuums last?
This is a very tricky question. However, we find that the battery is the shortest-lived part of a robot vacuum. Both nickel and lithium batteries have hard limits on the number of times they can recharge. Nickel batteries suffer from a limitation known as memory loss—basically, over time, they lose the ability to recharge fully. The cathodes of lithium batteries tend to wear after a few years. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to buy a new battery pack for your robot vacuum after two to four years of use, depending on how often you run your device.
Are robot vacuums worth the money?
If you’re a pet owner, a robot vacuum helps get at balls of fur that are everywhere. As a floor maintainer between manual cleanings, they can save a lot of time and energy. The way to get your money’s worth is to set a robot vacuum to automatically run every day. Getting one with an app is also a bonus for those times you need to give your floors a once-over before coming home to any last-minute surprise guests.
Other Robot Vacuums We Tested
Neato Botvac Connected
The Neato Botvac Connected has both brains and brawn. In addition to a navigation system that lets it find dirt, and powerful brushes that clean it up, the Connected can be controlled remotely via an app for your smartphone. This app can set cleaning schedules and even directly control the unit. All in all, the Neato Botvac Connected presents high-end technology in a relatively affordable package. Read full review.
The Neato Botvac D7 Connected stands as a milestone in robot vacuums. It's the first robot vacuum you can tell when, how, and where to clean–all from your smartphone. With its innovative No-go lines feature, you can draw lines on virtual maps, that the D7 creates, to prevent the unit from going near sensitive areas. While the No-go feature is cool, Neato also made a robot vacuum that cleans well. Read full review.
The iLife A4s is an affordable robot vacuum that gets the job done. With a retail price of around $199, the iLife is one of the best affordable robot vacuums on the market. In fact, it has a similar design to our top affordable cleaner, the Eufy RoboVac 11. What gives the A4s an advantage is its low, three-inch profile. Its cleaning cycles were long but effective. With a vacuum like this, dirt has nowhere to hide. Read full review.
We think the EcoVacs DeeBot Ozmo 930 sits ahead of most of the competition. Most smart vacuums let you start, stop, and schedule from your phone. You can create virtual barriers–lines you don’t want the 930 to cross. The opposite is also possible. With a single swipe, the app tells the 930 to go over a certain area multiple times. This feature works really well with high-traffic locations in your home. Read full review.
The Reviewed staff is based in the heart of Cambridge, MA. Backed by our knowledgeable writers and rigorous test labs, we're working hard to make sure you can make the right decisions about what to buy.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.