Many robot vacuums have passed through our labs at Reviewed, and we tend to find the same issue with the best affordable models—they are constantly getting where they don’t belong. The iLife A9 solves this problem by having advanced optical navigation and an included virtual wall. If you’re frustrated with your cheap robot vacuum but don’t want to spend a lot on something else, this model is worth checking out.
About the iLife A9 robot vacuum
• Compatible with Amazon Alexa
• Weighs 5.58 pounds
• Smart App lets you start, stop, schedule, and locate your robot
• About two-hour battery life
What we like about this robot vacuum
The slim and sleek design help it navigate smaller places
At just three inches tall, the iLife A9 is about half an inch shorter than most models. This slim design allows it to get under toe kicks and shelves more easily. Having a lower profile also means this robot vacuum won’t get caught as often, so fewer headaches for you.
Aside from the practical aspects of the design, we also liked the general aesthetics of the A9. Many of the more affordable models look kind of chintzy, but the iLife put some thought into making this model look good and not out of place in even a high-end home.
It’s easy enough for everyone to use
In a multigenerational household, it can be tough to introduce new technology. The iLife A9 caters to all different levels of familiarity with robot vacuums. On one end of the spectrum, you can download the free app and schedule cleanings, start and stop the A9 from anywhere, or even have it make a noise when you’ve lost it. However, that can be confusing for some people, so iLife also includes a remote that works just like the one that goes with a DVD player.
It navigates like a pro
One of the worst moments of owning a robot vacuum is setting it to run, only to come back and find that it has wedged itself in a corner. The iLife A9 has over a dozen sensors, including optical ones, to help keep it out of trouble. We ran the A9 through our robot vacuum obstacle course half-a-dozen times and it never got tripped up.
Plenty of affordable robot vacuums can avoid running into a wall, but few can stop themselves from entering a room. iLife solved this problem by including a virtual wall. The small device works by emitting an infrared beam that the A9 won’t cross. It’s easy to move and turn on. Just note that it does not come with batteries.
What we don’t like
Less-than-stellar dirt pickup
There’s an equation when it comes to robot vacuum: The better they are at navigating, the worse they are at dirt pickup. The iLife A9 is pretty good at navigating obstacles and avoiding ramming to furniture. Because of that, it had below average pickup. On average, the A9 picked up around 7.25 grams of dirt and debris. You should run your robot vacuum every day to help maintain your floors, so A9 should pick up around 51 grams a week. We think a good robot vacuum should pick up around 70 grams a week.
Throw rugs are out of the question
The low-to-the-ground design means the A9 can get under stuff easily, but getting over proved to be a challenge. During its time on our obstacle course, we never saw the A9 surmount our throw rug or our two-thirds inch riser.
What users are saying
At the time of testing, the iLife A9 is still at the beginning of its lifecycle. It has a 4.4 out of 5-star rating on Amazon at the moment, with users citing how they like the A9’s ability to deal with pet hair.
Should you buy this robot vacuum?
In the sub-$300 category, the iLife A9 stacks up well against the competition. Just the fact that it comes with a virtual wall puts it at the front of the pack. The major downfall comes with people who live in small apartments with good amount of furniture. You need an open space with hardwood floors or low-pile carpet to get the most out of the iLife A9.
Meet the testers
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager 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.
Kyle Hamilton is a product tester at Reviewed, specializing in home appliances and technology.
Checking our work.
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.Shoot us an email