Robot vacuum cleaners

Not so far ago robot vacuum cleaners were in a realm of science fiction. Now things have changed rapidly. I dare to say that nowadays there are many of them to choose from if you are determined to get one to make your life easier.

Are they successful? Well, we live in a market economy. At least most of us do. The fuel of this economy, as you know, is demand. If different robot vacuum sales go up and other companies are getting into the business it must mean that there is a demand. If so, it seems that people are generally happy with the idea.

So how many are they, what can they do and which one to choose? When I needed information on this topic I had a pretty hard time finding it. So, I'll give you what I have found out about robot vacuums in one place - here. So you don't have to search all over the net like I did.

iRobot Roomba

irobot roomba 560

This is probably the most popular robot vacuum cleaner on this day. Ther's much to say about roombas so I made a separate article on them. If you want to know more about these devices please go to my article on iRobot Roomba.

Neato XV-11

Neato XV-11
Neato XV-11 robotic vacuum, photo courtesy of Neato Robotics.

Neato XV-11 is a robot vacuum designed by Neato Robotics, a Silicon Valley based company. The company was founded with smart, intelligent household robots in mind that could ease our daily chores. The XV-11 is their first product.

At the time I'm writing this it is warmly anticipated as many hope that this robot will be a major competitor of the above mentioned Roomba. Something everyone should be happy about as competition is healthy and eventually improve products available to consumers.

So, what can it do and why it's different? As you can see in the picture it's not round. This is one distinctive trait of this robot vacuum. The manufacturer says that this design makes this robot more effective when cleaning corners.

But more importantly - this robot has a different approach at vacuuming if compared with other popular vacuum cleaners (with some exceptions). If most of them (including Roomba) wanders around the room randomly, this one clearly knows where exactly it is in the room in any given moment.

This is achieved with a laser-vision system and room mapping ability. So, this robot vacuum cleaner basically creates a map of its environment and cleans it systematically. Another notable improvement over other similar devices is its LCD display. The display itself isn't anything that cool, it's the information it provides. Basically, this robot can be pretty informative about everything that isn't right.

This is not all, of course. There are other functions that have become something like industry standard for robot vacuum cleaners too. For example - it can be scheduled to clean at predefined times, it can return to its home base, recharge, and resume work by itself.

It, obviously, has drop detection sensors so it won't fall of stairs. And there are ways how to define "taboo" areas where it can't go. Regarding this - you don't have to set and later lift boundaries at doorways, as the robot detects them by himself and cleans rooms consecutively.

Comparison with the Roomba

I feel a bit bad about this... I mean, how can you compare one breed of dogs with another? They're both dogs, both have four legs, they bark and are nice. Yet, this vacuum cleaner is both marketed and perceived as a direct competitor to Roombas, so you have to compare them.

So, this is what I've found out:

  • Neato does a better job when it comes to cleaning in corners and along walls because of its shape. Yet you'd still have to clean tight areas and corners from time to time by yourself as with Roomba.
  • Roomba usually goes over any given place 3-4 times. Yet there will be places where it has cleaned more than that and places where it has cleaned less than that. Neato on the other hand goes exactly one time over each place in the room.
  • Because of the above point, Neato cleans the room considerably faster.
  • Even if you don't use boundaries, Neato won't go into other rooms before it has cleaned the previous one. Roomba, on the other hand, will wander into other rooms if you don't use lighthouses. So, Neato should do a better job when cleaning numerous rooms unattended without additional equipment and setup.
  • Because of its room mapping technology, Neato knows exactly where its home base is. It will find it easier and spend less time doing so.
  • Some reviews state that Roomba does a better job when cleaning carpets and especially pet hair.
  • Yet maintenance is considerably easier in Neato's case as hair don't stuck into inner workings as much as in Roomba's case.
  • Price is not really comparable as there are many Roombas and only one Neato (for now).

Generally, as I understand, if you have an apartment with two rooms and a cat, Roomba could be a better bargain. If, on the other hand, you want your robot to clean many rooms, Neato could be a better robot vacuum cleaner as it does the cleaning considerably faster and can clean one room at a time without additional setup.

Keep in mind, in both cases you'll still have to do some manual vacuuming from time to time to keep your place really clean. If you disagree with me on something, or have something to add - let me know!

You can get Neato XV-11 robotic vacuum cleaner at Hammacher Schlemmer. (This is an affiliate link - thank you)

Samsung Navibot

Samsung Navibot
Samsung Navibot © Samsung

Samsung make pretty decent vacuum cleaners. I mean, I have one, it does its job pretty well. No wonder they decided to enter the robot vacuum cleaner market. After all, the brand is well known and trusted, the market is growing (supposedly) and there's place for improvements.

To be honest, I have to say that this is not actually Samsung's entry in robotic cleaner market. Well, it is but only for certain locations, as Samsung robot vacuum cleaners are around for quite a while now. Only, they were restricted to Asian markets and named differently.

Now with the Navibot series they entry such markets as Europe and Australia. An earlier entry was made in the Canadian market with a robot designated as VCR8830T1R. Basically, it's the same robot as European and Australian Navibots with few minor differences - one rotating brush instead of two, different input power required, etc. I haven't heard yet of any US entrants.

In my opinion, all Samsung robot vacuums are more or less the same. My two cents is that their basic functions and approaches to doing things are equal no matter how they're called in different places of the world. And some cleaners could even be the same robot with a different name.

However, I'm talking about Navibots here, so let me explain you what models there are, how Navibots differ from other robot vacuum cleaners, and what differences there are between different Navibot models.

Samsung Navibot models

All Navibots (and all Samsung robot vacuums as far as I'm aware) use so called Visionary mapping system. This means that these robots map their environment using a camera. The camera gives a view of the ceiling at a rate of 30 fps. Using these images the robot can determine the layout of the room and its position in it and act accordingly.

So, it cleans in a methodical manner as other robots that map their environment. This means it will clean the room faster than random cleaners (Roomba, CleanMate, others) yet it will cross each place of the room once as opposed to several times in case of random cleaners.

Other important and distinct features include a HEPA filter that's very important to some people, a remote, and the manual control mode in which you can control the Navibot using the remote. Also, it won't bump recklessly into furniture and other objects it detects, it will stop just before them. However, it's possible it will bump into table legs and other thin objects.

Other available functions have become something of an industry standard as I like to call them. These include cliff sensors, different cleaning modes, Virtual guards that can form invisible (infrared) walls to separate taboo areas or indicate doorways, and ability to autonomously find its charging base and resume work after it's done recharging.

All Navibots have following cleaning modes - automatic cleaning mode (duh), spot mode for especially dirty areas, delayed start mode, max mode in which the robot will vacuum until its battery is nearly depleted, the above mentioned manual mode, and the edge mode designed to clean corners and areas near walls.

There are some other minor functions, such as ability to adjust to different surfaces such as wooden floors and carpets, ability to traverse over cords, ability to pick up pet hair. As far as I'm aware, all Navibots have these and other above mentioned functions.

So, there are three Navibot models I'm aware of. Well, four models if we count the Canadian one. These are SR8830 (or Canadian VCR8830T1R), SR8845, SR8855, and SR9630. I believe I've told almost everything about SR8845 above.

SR8830 is basically the same robot as SR8845 with continent specific differences and the quick dust empty option - an ability to clean the dustbin using a conventional vacuum cleaner. This possibility could be quite handy and is a novelty in the robotic vacuum cleaner market.

Navibot SR8855 is a fancier version of SR8845. It arguably looks a bit fancier, it also has the above mentioned quick dust empty option. It has touch buttons as opposed to conventional ones in SR8455, and one more cleaning mode. It's possible to schedule this robot, so it can autonomously clean your place every day at a predefined time. I've also heard that you get two Virtual guards with this model.

SR9630 is a model found only in Italian market. Before any Navibot was released to European market they were tested in Italian market, so this robot is either a robot that will be introduced to other markets later, a robot that didn't make it, or an experiment.

In either case, it has a bit different design, a bit smaller dustbin and most notably its taboo areas can be defined using a magnetic tape, not a Virtual guard as in other Navibots. From other aspects it has similar functions as SR8845. I may be wrong on this model, as my Italian is not very good.

Some criticisms

Apart from criticisms that are frequently addressed to robot vacuum cleaners as a kind, there are some Navibot-specific. First of all, I've heard from different sources that it leaves a significant area uncleaned near walls when cleaning in automatic mode. I suppose that's why they have the edge cleaning mode.

Also, although it supposedly does a good job cleaning pet hair, it seems that pet hair clogs one of its wheels - the front one. This is not such a big deal as pet hair is more or less a maintenance problem for every robot vacuum. Still, it seems that in this case it's not meant to take that particular wheel out so it could get nasty later.

Also, it's possible it will refuse to clean confusing areas with lots of closely placed furniture legs, as it tries not to bump into anything. Well, you can see these criticisms in this hands-on video:

As I understand it's SR8855 in this video because it has touch buttons and a quick dust empty port.

Despite these criticisms I'm very glad Samsung chose to introduce this robot. They've brought some valuable innovations into this field, and people in test markets were happy enough with this device. So, I'm pretty confident it will get a permanent place in robot vacuum cleaner market.

CleanMate

infinuvo CleanMate, metapo I did not add a brand name deliberately. Usually, these are known as Infinuvo CleanMate in different internet stores. As I understand, the reseller in the US is a company called Metapo. So it's possible that they are called Metapo CleanMate too.

That is not all though regarding the brands. Essentially the same robot vacuum is known also as Picabot. It has few additions over the standard CleanMate or so they say. However, I'm not sure if these are sold in the western world.

Why I am talking about brands so much? Well, I am not really sure who does design and development for this device but they are manufactured by numerous factories in China and Taiwan. Basically, you can order them unbranded, put your label on it and sell as your own.

But do not worry about it’s rather mysterious origins. If you are going to buy one for yourself, you will probably get one branded as Infinuvo CleanMate. They have a one year warranty and in most cases you will be able to buy accessories for it in the same shop you bought the robot vacuum itself.

So what can they do? These robots can be quick-charged in 3,5 hours. They will run 60 minutes on one charge. They are small enough to get under furniture. They can avoid falling off the stairs. They can move in numerous movement patterns to cover the room completely.

There are some quite unique functions also. They have a slot where a fragrance can be inserted. They will come out of the dark if the battery is going to end. They use UV light to disinfect. I am not sure how effective this is though. Overall. it's a quite good vacuum cleaner for its price.

At the moment on the market there are QQ-2 and QQ-2L models. The main difference between these and the QQ-1 model is a self-rechargeable home base. In other words QQ-2 versions have a home base where they will return to recharge. Oh, and they will resume the job when recharged.

QQ-2L version has an LCD display. You can see its operation mode and other stuff on it. Also, these vacuum robots have a remote control. So you can operate the robot using it.

Are there any downsides? Of course there are. Some users complain that the suction hole is too small. It is around 1 cm in diameter, so larger things can stuck into it. Also, lots of pet hair can cause some problems to this robot vacuum.

It's also not recommended to use them on long pile carpets. Still, it seems that they are effective enough on hard floors. Also it seems that you'll still have to do some deep cleaning from time to time. But CleanMate will surely help you to maintain this cleanliness.

The bottom line? If you don't have a long pile carpet and lots of pets and if you are OK with doing deep cleaning by yourself once in a while then the CleanMate can be the right solution for you. Oh, it's cheap enough too.

P4920

P4920

Is a CleanMate still too expensive? Well there's also a robot vacuum cleaner called P4920 by P3 International. Sometimes it is also called only as P3. As far as I know, this is the cheapest robotic vacuuming solution on the market.

What it can do? It can vacuum automatically and choose between different modes of movement for different spaces. The battery lasts for up to 45 minutes and it takes 12 hours to charge it completely. If you want to mop wooden floors you can attach a paper to the robot.

That is basically all. No virtual walls - you can close the door, no self-recharging, no home base, no untangling features, no stair avoidance system, nothing else.

Also, you should be ready to watch over it when it operates, it can get stuck somewhere from time to time. And you'll still have to do some deep cleaning occasionally. Also it does not work well on long pile carpets.

But, as I said, this is probably the cheapest robot vacuum you can get.

Microrobot Ubot

microrobot ubot Microrobot is a Korea based company that produces different home appliances. It has developed two robotic vacuums MR-UB01K and MR-UB02K. The difference between these two is that the second one can map a room using a two dimensional barcode navigation system.

It has a stair avoidance system, soft bumpers, intelligent movement patterns and other neat functions. The vacuum itself seems to be rather powerful. The battery can be charged in 4 hours and will last for 100 minutes.

These robots have some unique features also. Besides vacuuming it also mops the floor using an antibacterial cloth cartridge. It has antibacterial filters too. The downside of these features is its inability to clean carpets. So it can be used only on hard floors.

I am not aware if it's possible to buy these devices in the western world. As I understand, if you live in eastern countries then you should be able to find where to buy them.

Yujin robots

iClebo

These are iClebo free and plus alpha. The manufacturer tells that they provide a formidable suction power, long lasting battery, sturdy construction, three level filtering of dust. Also, stair detection function is present and others.

The unit can be scheduled using a remote controller. Three-filter system includes an antibacterial filter. On the downside - it has no virtual walls or something like that. Also, it is rather costly in my opinion.

I did not find them on ebay or amazon, but is said that they're quite popular in France. You can do a google search in french if you like. Maybe if you search in your local language you get something too.

The distrubutors for UK can be found here and for Australia, here.

Update!

A visitor of allonrobots.com who owns a Yujin Plus alpha honored me with an e-mail. In his opinion I've under valuated this robot heavily. As he puts it the price (500+ USD) is justified by features that places this robot a cut above others (CleanMate, Roombas).

These features are - formidable suction power (30/60W), three level filtering system, a soft bumper that doesn't leave marks on furniture and most importantly - newer, better and more expensive battery technology.

Plus alpha has a Li-ion battery which is more advanced than NiMH batteries used in other vacuum cleaners. This means that plus alphas has a longer lasting battery with a longer battery lifetime.

As I think of it, he is right. The 500+ USD price falls perfectly in the middle of robot vacuum price range, considering that prices of robot vacuum cleaners usually fall in a broad 100 - 1000+ USD range.

The bottom line of this is following - if you feel that I'm WRONG on something on this site or if you feel that something important should be told or if you have an experience with something I've written about you want to share - please contact me! I really appreciate any insights I get because that enables me to enhance this site and provide you with higher quality information.

Electrolux Trilobite

This was the first robot vacuum ever made and sold commercially. This would already be enough to give it a place in the hall of fame. But that is not the only reason why. It also does its job well and has some nice functions.

The main difference between the trilobite and the majority of other robotic vacuums is that the trilobite maps the room using ultrasound sensors. This means that it will not touch your furniture at all. Also it has no problems detecting black furniture.

Other functions that were a break-through when the first trilobite was released seems pretty common now. It detects stairs and it has virtual walls. A scheduling capability is also present. Also, if it is low on battery it will return to the home base and recharge itself. When it’s done recharging it will resume the cleaning job in the same place it left it.

The second generation has some improvements. Electrolux website states that the second version has over 200 improvements that results in better cleaning capability.

Are there any downsides? Yes there are. First of all if you live in the USA it's not available for you. It is discontinued in US. Occasionally you can get some used models on ebay. If you live in Europe it should be easy enough to buy one. Only they are quite expensive.

Karcher RC 3000

Karcher is a well known vacuum cleaner manufacturer from Germany. And they made a vacuuming robot. This one also has the "usual" functions as stair avoidance, obstacle detection, scheduling, self-recharging home base and others.

However, there are some quite unique functions too. The most interesting one is that the home base will clean the robot. So you don't have to clean the robot's debris compartment often. The home base does it for you. You only have to change the home base's dust bag from time to time.

Because of the above mentioned functions, Karcher RC 3000 can be considered one of the most autonomous robot vacuums on the market. It also avoids being stuck underneath the furniture well because of its unique design. So, this robot can really be left at home to do the work without any supervision.

Some people say that the suction is weaker compared to Roombas. This has some pros and cons. It is possible that it will not be effective enough on carpets but it is quiet enough to run at night. As with other vacuum robots, you still have to do some occasional manual deep-cleaning.

And again, there's bad news for US residents. This model is discontinued in the US. You can occasionally find it on ebay. If you live in Europe you should search for it in your local language and I am pretty sure you will find where to buy one.

If I understand it correctly, Siemens VSR 8000 is basically the same robot. Siemens just bought a license on it so they can manufacture it under its label.

LG Roboking

A robot made by a well known home appliances company - LG. A good robot vacuum cleaner with many functions such as a remote controller, numerous cleaning modes, etc. The main advantages are the HEPA filter and a powerful vacuum.

I'm not aware if it is possible to buy these in the western world. As I understand, it is possible to get them in Korea but I am not really sure about this either because I can't really read Korean.

Samsung Hauzen

At the moment two models have been released - Hauzen VC-RE70V and Hauzen VC-RE72V. Both were originally released for Korean market only but you can buy them internationally too. This one also has HEPA filters.

This is also one of the rare robots that can map the environment. If a Trilobite uses ultrasound sensors this one uses a camera to create a map. Because of this, cleaning times are considerably shorter than those of Roomba and other robots that use statistic approach to the job.

A short note - recently news about a new samsung robot vacuum cleaner, samsung furot, sweeped all over the net. It seems that it's another iteration of Hauzen and it should be released to general public in 2010. The difference - it will be available outside Korea as well.

unbranded Chinese models

I won't count all of them here and all their possibilities and functions. I'll just say that there are many factories in China, Taiwan and other countries that produce robot vacuum cleaners without any brands. If you're willing you can order some, put your brand on it and sell them off as yours. Some factories even include printing of a one colored logo in the price.

You may find some of these on the market branded with various brands. If I am not mistaken iTouchless is one of them. Anyway if you are really interested about this you can see a lot of Chinese robot vacuum cleaners here. You will notice that you can find CleanMates there too.

Did i write everything about robotic vacuum cleaners? No, there are models I did not review. For example - Ottoro made in Korea for Korean market or Orazio made by Zuccheti. I only reviewed robots you can possibly buy or robots that seemed interesting to me from different aspects.

If you came to this site thinking that roombas are the only robot vacuum cleaners then I hope you have more options to choose from now!

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