Best robot vacuum cleaner – 2018 update
We always get overly excited when we get to write an update on the guide on best robot vacuum cleaners. There’s something about robo-vacuums most of us find simply fun, and I’m seriously considering starting an office petition for doing this updates more often.
The market for these little fellows is traditionally without any major fluctuations, and our guides reflected that with every bi-monthly update.
This time around, we have a pure show of strength from the iRobot (more so than usual). Their models reign supreme by occupying four places in our TOP 5 for this update period.
Reference info – the fundamental features of robot vacuum cleaners
Before jumping in and comparing the advantages and disadvantages of each of our top rated models, let’s pause for a moment and quickly look at the fundamental features that your robot vacuum cleaner absolutely needs to have in order to get you a good bang for your buck.
Most robot vacuum cleaners are encased in a durable plastic shell and come in circular shapes, although D-shape models are also provided which are able to clean corners more efficiently.
When it comes to size, manufacturers offer robots ranging between 11-13 inches in diameter, and will usually weigh no more than 5 to 10 pounds – about the weight of an average laptop.
How efficient a robot vacuum cleaner is largely comes down to its sensors. Usually, you will find an infrared sensor at the top of most models, which the tiny robot will use to navigate the rooms and avoid obstacles. More expensive versions even come with the so-called 360-degree vision system that allows the machine to identify and remember key features of your room.
Of course, these tiny cleaning helpers rely on other sensors to do their job as well, namely:
- Bumper-mounted sensors – allow robots to “see” walls, furniture, and other objects;
- Cliff sensors – installed on the bottom, they help robots detect stairs and other edges;
- Optical encoders – attached to the wheels, these gadgets have light sensors that track how many times the wheels have rotated, as well as the distance traveled by the robot.
The robot vacuum cleaners of today are self-programmable machines that often require little to no input on your end. Of course, all of them will need to be connected to a charging station first before they could do anything useful. You will be then able to issue commands to your high-tech companion in any of the following ways, depending on your chosen model:
- Via your home’s Wi-Fi network by using a special smartphone app;
- Via a touchscreen or a button located at the top of the cleaning device;
- Via an automatic cleaning schedule that was set by you in advance;
- A combination of the methods listed above.
Once fully charged, the robot will go about its duties by following certain cleaning patterns that were preprogrammed by the manufacturer. Here is a breakdown of the most common patterns:
- Spiral pattern – the robot moves in a spiral motion until it reaches a dirty area or bumps into something;
- Wall-following pattern – as the name suggests, the machine cleans in close proximity to your walls;
- Straight pattern – the robot moves into a straight path until it encounters an obstacle;
- Random angle pattern – at some point in time, the robot will turn at a random angle and execute any of the patterns listed so far;
- Stuck pattern – to escape from the clutches of an obstacle, the machine will either rotate, back up, or slowly move forward (some models can also notify you when stuck).
- Battery juice – when fully charged, lower-end models will typically offer an hour of continuous cleaning before they need to be recharged. If you live in a small apartment or a single floor home, you really cannot go any lower than this if you want good results. If you live in a bigger property, opt for models that run up to 80 or 90 minutes instead.
- Flooring type – if your property doesn’t feature a single type of flooring, such as hard flooring or carpeting, we advise you to invest a bit extra and obtain a model that is able to automatically switch between carpet and hard floor cleaning modes.
- Noise levels – unless you have a newborn baby, loudness will not be an issue regardless of the robot you get. Almost all models generate anywhere between 55 and 75 decibels of noise, which roughly amounts to the street noise you hear when you open a window.
- Suction power -standard vacuum cleaners usually offer suction power of 20 kPA (2.9 PSI) up to 24 kPA (3.6 PSI), and many mid- to high-range robot models can rival these numbers hands down. Do note though that, by design, robotic cleaners were never made to perform heavy duty cleaning and are unsuitable for vacuuming up larger debris.
- Cleaning brushes – even the fanciest tech under the hood will not help your robot if it uses poor quality brush rolls. Newer models have spinning brushes on each side, whose role is to sweep dirt in the direction of the vacuum cleaning mechanism.
- Dustbin size – budget-friendly models offer dustbins with 200 cm3 in capacity, with more expensive ones offering up to 500 cm3. Some even come with special HEPA filters.
What they are not
For this update we reached out and interviewed a few professionals with a single question, “How do they compare to the more powerful units. The responses we got were pretty uniform.
According to the carpet cleaning specialists at Fantastic Cleaners, this type of units is a great solution for light domestic cleaning, such as getting rid of heavy particles like dust, food debris and etc. but they can’t provide the high-end results achieved with techniques such as hot water extraction cleaning, the specialized dry chem powder treatment or ScotchGard fabric protection that professional carpet cleaners provide.
Now that we have the basic of choosing down and know what you they are (and aren’t), it’s time to see what makes the contestants below so worthy of the “Best Robot Vacuum Cleaner” label.
Best robot vacuum cleaners – 5 top-rated
I think we’ve got an all-time record concerning a sheer number of models on our TOP 5 list coming from the same assembly line, beating the “Bissel rage” (as it is known around our office) from 2012 by one.
First two models just switched places, but they’ve been in this tuggle war, going back and forth for months now; so nothing groundbreaking there. The only spark of something going on comes from our current number three suddenly carving a place in the middle among pretty nasty competitors. Number four and five are exactly where we left them last time.
So, pretty “boring” update I’m afraid, one model away from being called the best iRobot vacuum cleaner. We’ll still get to see some new experiences and hear new info about our two past and future champions, see what the newcomer has under the hood, and revisit some of the things said about the last two models.
Before we go on just remember, the bottom of our list sits on top of thousands of models out there that just didn’t make the cut.
Best robot vacuum cleaner – Rumba 650
- Navigation iAdapt features a full sensor suite to adapt and navigate around the changes in your home
- System separates the cleaning into 3 stages: brushing-agitating-suctioning for perfectly clean floors
- You can use the scheduling mechanism or simply press CLEAN for immediate action
- Docks/recharges automatically
- Avoids all of the drop-offs such as stairs
Current rating of the iRobot Roomba 650
- It did a great job on my apartment faced with scatter rugs, tiles in my bathroom, and wood floors
- We have two dogs, and Roomba 650 is prefect for collecting tons of their hair around the house
- It cleans even under beds and sofas, I love this little guy!
- It’s really quiet and handles the transitions between different surfaces very well
- It’s the best robot vacuum cleaner ever! It’s my first actually, I just never thought I’ll get to say those words without sounding crazy. I love what it does to my apartment, really appreciate the auto-scheduling and how easy it is to empty and clean the bin!
- I just leave it doing his thing, and I always find it perfectly docked and recharging
- I’ve seen a bunch of robot vacuum cleaner reviews on You Tube, and I must say I’m pretty happy with having to do almost no prep work for this guy. Those guys I’ve watched had to clean the whole thing almost completely before their vacuums could do anything
- I set it loose on my “clean”-looking carpet, and it got all sort of debris and stuff! Cleans like there’s no tomorrow
- Maneuvers through a bunch of electrical cords like a boss!
- Won’t do your stairs, windows, and areas that are narrower/shorter than the vacuum
- It did get caught on our rug once. At least it asked for help, so you’ll definitely know when something is up
- You’ll have to make sure it doesn’t close the door behind it and stays trapped in one room
- I only had a problem with one lighter rug Roomba kept on pulling along throughout the house
Few thoughts about the best robot vacuum cleaner
Roomba 650 has no shortage of number 1 material. It finds its way around no matter the surface you put it on and handles things like pet fur, hair, carpet fuzz and lint without “giving it a second thought”.
Improved design of the brushes, AeroVac Technology for optimized airflow and patented 3-stage system of cleaning are, in my opinion, the three main selling points here.
Multiple surface trailing paired with new scheduling options, is what allowed this Roomba to climb to the top of our list.
Looking at the final score, we have a slight increase compared in ratings two months ago. Just enough to tip the scales in its favor and leave our old friend Roomba 560 behind.
Review of the second top-rated vacuum cleaner – Roomba 560
Slightly lower scores in the suction test, but marginally better at containing dust and particles. Now you see why the top 2 contenders have been too close for comfort all this time.
They’re basically the same product from the same manufacturer with some minor differences.
- Vacuuming bot will pick up debris and dirt with the push of a button
- It features a bagless easy-to-empty dustbin; system for fine filtration will also trap allergens
- Technology against tangling; built-in sensors for cliffs; bumper system with gentle touch
- Home base with self-charging mechanism, an additional filter, two auto virtual walls, and much more included
- 16¾” x 21” x 5”
- Warranty of one year
Current rating of the Roomba 560
PROs of the second best robot vacuum cleaner:
- Here’s how it goes: I schedule a vacuuming, it does its thing while I’m at work and gets back to the charging station. All I have to do is empty the dirt when I get back. Perfect!
- I don’t have to take extra time for charging it. It simply charges itself while off-schedule
- I like these cones than can create a “virtual wall” and tell my Roomba 560 to steer clear of a certain area
- It’s pretty compact, so it can vacuum under sitting furniture and tables like it was nothing
- It avoids power cables while still collecting dirt from the near-wall crevasses. None of the robot vacuum cleaner reviews I’ve read told me they can do that!
- You can make it look even cooler by customizing the color plate on the top. Best robot vacuum cleaner ever!
- It handles everything from bare floor to my thick carpets like a champ!
- Very easy for emptying and to carry around thanks to the carry-handle on top of it
- Very easy to use and quieter than our regular vacuum
CONs of the Roomba 560 robot vacuum:
- It fills up pretty fast!
- There’s no indicator that would warn me when the bin gets full
- It would be really nice if the battery lasted somewhat longer. As it stands, it has about an hour, hour and a half of juice
- I have to pick up small toys and stuff that could jam it like that before it starts vacuuming
- It was a real raid on our house budget
Conclusions about the 2nd top-rated robo vac
“The Innovator” among top robo vacs, this is the 3rd generation product in the iRobot family. Also called “souped-up” (2nd generation of iRobots) Discovery, it featured bigger wheels and chassis, paired up with a better suspension.
Back in the day, its main selling point was being the first model ever to feature the anti-tangle technology. Customers obviously appreciate the tradition behind it, giving it a solid backing from our site’s humble beginnings in 2003. It also had the never-before-seen ability to clean up to 4 rooms in one go with 4 lighthouses positioned instead of 2 virtual “walls”.
The only problem with “The Innovator” is the occasional difficulty in finding its docking station. This is an issue most of the users experienced at least once, but it’s a rare occurrence rather than an every-day problem. Other than that, this is one solid piece of hardware that passed the test of time and competition with flying colors.
9.1/10 in overall VT ratings speaks volumes, and it often speaks louder than any other pretender to its place on the market. Until Roomba 650 decides to join the “conversation” once in a while
3rd best-rated robotic vacuum – Roomba 770
- Uses iAdapt navigation featuring a full sensor set for adapting and navigating the ever-changing environment in your home
- 3-stage system of cleaning will brush agitate, and suction your floors clean
- Dirt Detect mechanism (series II) will identify and focus on dirtier areas in your home
- Convenient scheduling can be used up to 7 times a week, or you can just use the CLEAN button on the robot
- Features HEPA filter, which will trap dust and dirt.
Current Overall rating of the Roomba 770
- It handles itself really well around my electrical cords and lamps
- My flat is pretty much all hardwood with some tiny area rugs, and this vacuum became the only one we use over time. Our old upright just sits in the closet feeling outdated
- I have a golden retriever, and this is the best robot vacuum cleaner (I’ve owned three so far) for picking up its hair. It’s feels so good not seeing hair clumps all over the house
- I can set the timer, so it starts cleaning every single day in said time! Even when I’m not around
- I’m a big Roomba fan and have read a lot of online robot vacuum cleaner reviews before getting this guy. The first thing I’ve noticed was that it finds its base without any problems, which could be a minor hiccup with previous models
- The suction is insanely powerful! It sucks all the hairs, dirt, and crumbs out of my carpets in no time!
- Easy to clean and empty
- It manages thresholds just fine
- I think it’s a bit louder than previous models
- It had a tough job with our dinning room. I think the table and a bunch of chair legs confuse it, and it gets stuck
- It won’t pick up any fine debris from the cracks/seams in my wooden floor
- The timer gets all messed up if the battery is dying
Summary and final thoughts about the 3rd top robo vac model
The time of Roomba 770 is definitely upon us. It’s “smarter”, powerful, with a larger dustbin and improved detection of dirt. The battery life is prolonged, and the gear-box is better protected from dirt/dust.
I think the users are also slowly realizing the potential of new revolutionary “Dirt Detect System Series 2”.
“I zero in dirty parts of the floor and go over them ‘til dirt is no more. “
Equipped with two powerful rotating brushes (plus a small side-brush for working the edges), it definitely has the tools to get the job done. Dual HEPA filters are also good news. It’ll trap allergens as “big” as 0.3 micros (insert here: a smirk of content from all the germophobes in our office).
If we pair these new features with battle-tested Roomba-recipe, it doesn’t take a big stretch of imagination to see what caused the big change in this update.
9/10 is the overall VT Rating, threatening to maybe even join the toggle-war going on at the top.
Rated as 4th best robob vacuum – Neato XV Signature Pro
- Works on different types of floors – tile, wood, carpet, vinyl
- Daily cleaning can be either scheduled or initiated with the push of a button
- Allergens and dust reduced due to 2 high-performance filters
- Brush and blade system offers optimal performance will pick up almost anything on any floor type
- the most powerful suction as far as robot vacuums go
Current rating of the Neato Signature PRO
- It’s way cheaper than my old iRobot!
- It really does a number on my room. I have a wood floor with a small rug, and it cleans it all before you know it
- I really like the weekly scheduling option
- It picks up all of my pet’s hair without a problem
- HEPA filters are a blessing for me! Especially since I can’t really afford iRobot vacuum with microbe-filtration
- The indicator for when I need to empty it is really handy
- Ha! A vacuum cleaner with an upgradeable firmware?! That’s new
- It’s pretty loud
- It has a short running time, and takes forever to charge!
- I wish it had a remote in the package
- It can’t really hold all that much dirt before I need to empty it
- I’m not overly impressed with edge cleaning
Why is it among top 5 robot vacuums?
Neato XV wound up with the role of a black sheep in this update, I suppose. But what kept it on our TOP 5 list all this time? In spite of the new product launches from Neato Robotics, but the customers remained loyal to the XV PRO. Why?
It’s because of its performance-price ratio. Sure, this is not the best robot vacuum cleaner in the world by any chance, but it’s excellent at what it does for what it costs. So, you’ll get a good cleaner with HEPA filter that’s pretty “smart” and handles the cleaning surface pretty well. No “revolutionary” technologies here, or “groundbreaking” features, just a plain old work horse that won’t break the bank for getting the job done.
Solid 8.8/10 is the overall VT Rating for this model. Only goes to show that users still know how to appreciate a decent, affordable product. I guess you indeed don’t need bells and whistles when hard work is enough.
5th best robo vac – Roomba 630
Fact sheet of the Roomba 630:
- Will pick up amazing quantities of dirt, debris, pet hair with its 3-stage patented cleaning system
- Acoustic sensor is used within Dirt Detect Technology for identifying dirtier areas in need of special attention
- iAdapt represents an advanced system of sensors and software, ensuring proper vacuuming of every part of the room including hard-to-reach areas
- Virtual wall will keep it focused where you want to, and block all the areas that are off-limits
Current rating of the Roomba 630 robo vac
- The price is really affordable for the performance!
- It does wonders picking up pet hairs
- It also cleans the edges perfectly, something my previous robo vac couldn’t even dream off
- Battery life is more than decent
- It’s very easy for me to clean it and empty the dustbin
- Really easy t disassemble and replace stuff if something breaks
- The suction power is pretty good, and it can reach un underneath my furniture as well
- My main complaint is that it has no scheduling function
- The dustbin is pretty small
- It’ll get lost or stuck once in a while
- I’d like to see at least one more virtual wall in this bundle. One is simply not enough for me
Why is it among 5 best robot vacuums?
Roomba 630 is on par with Neato XV. It’s envisioned as a somewhat cheaper model where the emphasis is balanced between performance and affordability.
It lacks features iRobot’s models are well-known for such as scheduling mechanism or HEPA filter, for example, but cutting the price also means cutting the corners. It does, however, feature a trademark 3-stage system of cleaning, and will do a pretty good job no matter the surface.
Overall, this is a budget model made to satisfy your basic need for cleaning outsourcing, and the users recognize it as such. If you’re in the market for some of the premium options as well, I’d suggest scrolling back to the top of our list.
On the wings of user-ratings the overall VT score for this budget Roomba is 8.8/10.
Future updates to the guide on best robo vacuums
Not much to say expect leave you with one final thought to bear in mind – our reviews and guides are constantly updated to bring you only relevant information.
Stay smart and choose wisely