Best Value Robotic Vacuums – A Comparative Review

iRobot's Roomba products dominate the US market for robotic vacuums. However, iRobot failed to transform Roomba into a mass market product as their focus was on a broad array of niche products. Over the years, a number of competitive products have mushroomed. The competition is more intense in the international arena with many familiar companies opting not to market their products in the US. Roomba’s dominance and their intimidating patent portfolio may be a contributing reason for this segregation.

Below is a look at Robotic vacuum manufacturers, their offerings, and availability information:


ManufacturerThumbnailModelsComments
iRobot

An array of Roomba 400 thru 900-series modelsPlease see our review.
O-Cedar
O-Duster Robotic Floor CleanerAvailable for $25 - Outstanding Value! It is a Duster (no vacuum suction) ideal for pet-hair and such on hard floors.
ILIFE (Shenzhen Zhiyi Technology)V3s, V5s, A4, A4s (2017 Update of the A4), and A6 priced between $160 and $280. An up-and-coming Chinese manufacturer whose products command excellent ratings even compared to the much higher priced Roomba and Neato robots.
Neato

There are four current models in the BotVac Connected and D-series lines. Pioneered a laser range finder and a mapping algorithm (SLAM - Simultaneous Localization and Range Finder) in 2010. The Connected functionality (WiFi App, Alexa, & Google Home interfaces) was introduced late last year.
ECOVACS
http://amzn.to/2oMGRXa

The current models are the Deebot N78 (~$170 - wet mop, hardfloor, pet hair), Deebot M82 (~$250 - dry vacuum for both carpet & hard floors), and Deebot M88 (~$450 - wet mop & dry vacuum, smartphone control). The Chinese manufacturer is best known for pioneering the window cleaning robot ECOVACS Winbot (~$250).
EufyHome
http://amzn.to/2nVgVEP

The current model is the RoboVac 11 (~$220 - hard floor and thin carpet, self charging with drop sensing, HEPA style filter for pet fur and allergens)Anker, the parent company launched the EufyHome brand last year with the introduction of the Eufy RoboVac 20.
Xiaomi
http://amzn.to/2nNKJSU

Mi Robot Xiaomi's debut in the US market has a couple of novel features and ships for ~$410: Laser Guidance and LDS path planning. The suction power is a stand-out feature even when compared to products at the top-end. One downside is the Chinese interface. 
Infinuvo

The current models are the QQ 200, QQ6, and the Hovo-700 series models. The original offerings included the following: CleanMate QQ-1, QQ-2, QQ-2L (includes home base), QQ-2 Plus (includes home base & scheduler), QQ-3 (two-stage cleaning, handles pet hair, up to 100min/charge, optional sonic wall ). Available through Internet retailers. Priced between $100 and $300. Please see our comparative review with Roomba products.
bObsweepCurrent models are PetHair Rouge, PetHair Champagne, and oBi. Simultaneously vacuums, sweeps, mops, and UV sterilizes. Pricing varies between $269 and $319. Specialized for homes with pets. Mopping is below par - swiffer rather than a scrubber.
iTouchless

Robotic Intelligent Vacuum Cleaner PROFunctionality similar to Roomba’s low-end line, but the reviews are below par. Pricing starts at around $120.
Pure CleanCurrent model is the Pyle Pure Clean PUCRC15. Works well on hardwood, linoleum, tile, and flat commercial carpets. Value product at $70.
Samsung

The current model is the Samsung VR9000 PowerBot. The VR-series has a few other variants. GTO Hauzen, VC-RE7, and VC-B835R were earlier very high-end models.Korean product for the higher-end ($1000) of the market. Limited availability in the US. Five year limited warranty along with ten year motor warranty makes this product a stand-out.
LG

Roboking and HomBot lines. Features the most powerful motor in the Robotic vacuum world. Also features a Lithium Polymer battery that is superior to Ni-Mh batteries used in the Roomba. Limited availability in the US.
Evolution Robotics

Evolution Robotics Mint series for hard floors. Sweeps and Mops hard floors. Great value for under $200. Large areas can be a problem because the cleaning cloth can get too dirty - it doesn't have memory to know where it left off, if you change it in the middle. 06/2013 Update: iRobot acquired Evolution Robotics and introduced a line of three vacuums for hard floor cleaning. The line includes the original 4200, a vastly improved 5200, and 5200c which includes a charging cradle. Pricing for the 5200 is at $299 and the 5200c is $50 more.
TeleBrands Corporation

RoboMaid/ RoboMopInexpensive product (~$25) available in US, Europe and Asia. A dust-pad and roll-ball at the bottom along with a rechargeable battery forms the product.
Lentek

Intelli-vac Robotic Vacuum Deluxe with rapid charger.A semi-functional robot that was sold in the US through TV marketing for about $40. A deluxe version was later offered for ~$100. Discontinued but still available through e-tailers.
P3 International

V-Bot series robotic vacuums. The current model is the P3 P4960 V-Bot Robotic Vacuum Cleaner. The V-Bot P3 4960 sells for around $90. Good for hardwood floors. Lacks power for most carpets. Good overall value.
Vesture

TrackVacAn RC car and vacuum combo! Priced at $125.
Yujin Robot

The current model is the eX500.South Korean company that successfully penetrated the US market. First place winner in a German cleaning robot performance test. First to introduce camera recognition vision mapping technology. 15-sensors help minimize collisions. eX500 vacuums & mops automatically and sells for ~$400.
Karcher/Siemens

Robocleaner RC3000 Sensor CruiserA fully-functional robot with an innovative two-step (on-board smaller receptacle & a half-gallon receptacle in the base station) dust disposal process. Not available in the US. Expensive at over $1000.
Electrolux

TrilobiteSwedish product categorized as the first commercially available autonomous vacuum cleaner. Considered functionally a lot better than the Roomba with ultrasonic & infrared sensors that allow it to avoid bumps & tripping. Expensive at over $1000 – Not sold in the US, but used ones can sometimes be found on eBay.
Koolatron

KoolvacRoomba won suit against Koolatron alleging Koolvac is a Roomba knock-off. As a result it is not sold in the US. Outside the US it is sold for about $200.
Hanool Robotics

OttoroAnother Korean product – not sold in the US.
Robo Maxx

Robo MaxxGerman product – Bare-bones functionality sold for the equivalent of around $60 in Europe.
Sharper Image

eVacIt featured a powerful motor and conventional suction design. Sold for between $150 and $300 in 2004. Status: Discontinued.
Floorbotics

iVacAn expensive Australian Robot that claimed to have an algorithm that ensured cleaning areas only once. Retailed for above $1500 in 2005. Status: Discontinued.
Zuchetti

OrazioAn Italian combo vacuum (dry), cleaner (wet), polisher product. Not sold in the US. Multi-purpose Robot that also cleans & polishes all types of floors.
  • Note: Several products have periodically entered the market but only a few have succeeded in getting a strong foot-hold in the US. Below are a couple of products vying to penetrate the home robotic vacuuming market: a) Automatic Mini A320 by Amtidy: Sells for $200 and generally have very positive reviews, and b) Moneual RoboMopVac: A hybrid product that can vacuum & mop well and works across most surfaces. The current model is the RYDIS H68 Pro which sells for around $270. Other products generally available in the US include Performance Brands Mark-8, iClebo YCR-M05-10 Arte, Pursonic i7 PRO-G, AGDA B2000, and Techko Maid RV212. A large number of robotic vacuums in different price-ranges have appeared internationally in recent years, but US availability is very limited with most of them.

For a best value comparison, we chose manufacturers that are players in the US and chose four products with a maximum price-tag of $400. Below is our comparison spreadsheet:



ProductiRobot Roomba 650Neato BotVac D3ILIFE A4sO-Duster
Thumbnail

http://amzn.to/2oSON5U


http://amzn.to/2pcW005




List Price$399.99$449.99$299.99$39.99
Best Price$350$400$220$25
Warranty1 year1 year, Battery 6 months. 1 year. Battery 6-months.1 year
Measurements13.4 x 3.6 x 13.4 inches; 11.8 pounds12.7 x 3.9 x 13.2 inches; 16 pounds12.2 x 12.2 x 3 inches; 4.9 pounds 13 x 4 x 13 inches; 1.9 pounds
Battery Type14.4V 3.0Ah NiMHLithium-IonLithium-Ion3.6V 1.0Ah NiMH
Battery Charging Time5 hours2-3 hours3-4 hours8 hours
Self-Charging Home BaseYes - automatically docks & recharges.Yes - returns when battery runs out, recharges, and continues cleaning - complete cleaning is 2 recharges and 3 cleanings.Yes - returns & recharges when battery runs out.No
Voice DemoYesNoNoNo
Dirt Detection – spends more time cleaning dirtier areasYes - Dirt Detect acoustic sensor technology.NoNoNo
Cleaning Timesup to 120 minutes.NA - recharges automatically until the job is finished.120 to 140 minutesTwo modes: a) 30 minute, and b) clean until battery runs out - upwards of 2 hours on a full charge.
Spot CleaningYesYesNoNo
RemoteNoYes - thru WiFi AppYesNo
Boundary MarkingYes. Comes with Virtual Wall that allows blocking off-limit areas.Boundary marker strips.NoNo
Room-to-room navigationNoAutomatic navigation technology.NoNo
On board schedulingYesYesYesNo
UV light based disinfectionNoNoYesNo
Motor Cleaning Movement DesigniAdapt (Responsive Cleaning Technology) three-stage cleaning system.Laser guided sensor navigation & smart sensor technology along with blade-and-brush system with strong suction. Gen-2 Cyclone Power 3-step/stage cleaning system.Auto Random.
Supported Floor TypesNo published limitsNo published limits.Not suitable for plush and long fur carpets.Hard floors only.
Odor RemovalNoneNoneNoneNone
Stair Detection/AvoidanceYesYesYesNo
Motor DetailsRelatively quiet but could use more powerRelatively loud and Powerful.Relatively quiet, good suction, and max mode support.Relatively quiet but no suction.
Auto Resume After RechargeNoYes.No.No.
Under-bed Sensor – Moves out of a dark area when battery is closed to being drained.NoNoNoNo.


Summary:

Between the Roomba 650 and the Neato BotVac D3, Neato BotVac D3 is easily the better pick: The room-to-room navigation along with its ability to recharge and continue where it left off makes it a clear winner in terms of convenience. Also, it has a more powerful motor that picks up more per pass.

iRobot and Neato have clearly left a void in the $100 to $300 price-range and that has allowed competition to latch on to this space. That price-range commands better mass-market appeal than products costing several hundreds more. ILIFE, ECOVACS, Eufy, Infinuvo, and bObsweep have very capable products in this price-range.

In the below $100 price-range, the clear winner is O-Cedar's O-Duster product. It shows how a simplified design along with bare-bones functionality can still produce a very useful product. The $25 pricing is just outstanding for what it does: automatically dusts hard floors - it is a sweeper rather than a vacuum. One caution with this product is that the one-year warranty is really not that useful - as the pricing is very low, it will most likely cost more to ship it for warranty service as compared to investing in a new one.

Overall, if you are one the lookout for a fully functional robotic vacuum cleaner, there are now several products in the $100 to $300 price-range offering great functionality at a fraction of the cost of a Roomba. Among them, the following three products are very good in terms of both features and price: ILIFE A4s, ECOVACS Deebot N78, and Eufy RoboVac 11 (see the first spreadsheet above for details). Our pick for the best value is the ILIFE A4s for $220. If you are located outside California, the ILIFE A4 for around $40 less is an even better alternative. The A4s was introduced earlier this year as a variant of the A4 to meet California's more stringent regulations on power consumption.




A side note on our take on the Roomba:

Having owned the Roomba 535 for a number of years, we believe iRobot went overboard with a few of the technologies that it pioneered:
  1. The lighthouse and virtual wall technology: we tend to use it a room at a time and the door amply serves to keep the Roomba in. Even in an open floor-plan family area, it is easier to block access to certain areas than reaching for the lighthouse. Virtual Wall & the Lighthouse technology were very nice ideas when it was first introduced. Over the years, it has however become clear that the technologies are overkill - basic boundary marking can block off areas while more intelligent software can successfully navigate rooms as competing products have demonstrated
  2. The self-docking capability – Roomba is usually transported to the desired location sans the dock and returned to the dock for charging. In a fully automated robot (whole house navigation with recharging as necessary without manual intervention), this can be a good capability. The newest Roomba 980 is the only fully automated robot from iRobot but the pricing at $899 is a deterrent.
  3. The scheduling interface and the voice demos - The voice demo was used only the first time and its real value is moot. Scheduling is a useful feature but we never use it. At our house (we suspect this to be the case in most other houses that use a robotic vacuum as well), a certain amount of preparatory work is needed before we start the Roomba - clearing out obstacles, taking out bigger debris, dusting furniture (robotic vacuums does not go above floor-level to clean and so this is a periodic necessity), baseboards, etc. 
Having had the experience of owing a Robotic vacuum for several years, our feeling is that cost of ownership is somewhat higher than traditional vacuums, as the batteries need to be replaced periodically ($25 and up) - we get around a year on the average when using it once a week. Other parts also need periodic maintenance/replacement but similar maintenance/replacements are a given with traditional vacuums as well.

A bare-bones product in the 200s price-range is all what most people need. Now, there are several capable products in that price-range and our pick for the best price vs value offering is the ILIFE A4 and the ILIFE A4s.


Related Posts:

  1. Roomba 900, 800, 700, 600, and 500 Series Comparison/Review (980, 960, 880, 870, 790, 780, 770, 760, 650, 630, 620, 610, 595, 585, 580, 572, 570, 564, 562, 560, 555, 550/551, 535/540, 532, 530).
  2. Best Value Robotic Vacuums - A Comparative Review (this post)
  3. Roomba 400 & 500-Series vs Infinuvo CleanMate QQ-1, QQ-2, QQ-2 Plus, QQ-2 LT QQ-3 Comparison/Review
  4. Roomba Parts/Accessories Replacement (Side Brushes, etc).  
  5. Roomba 535 - Our Experience
  6.  Features of the different Roomba-500 series models

Last Updated: 06/2017.

3 comments :

dsmith said...

is the professional series suppose to be more powerful?? The more I read the more confused on which roomba to buy?? 4 guys, myself and all their friends hang out at my house tracking dust. I have all hardwoods with area rugs in about 2000 sq ft downstairs. I dust my floors every morning with a bona kemi duster and still have dust bunnies later that day. Best roomba recommendation??

ks said...

Our recommendation for most users is to go with the Roomba 530 basic model. The professional series (610) has a 2-year warranty compared to the 1-year warranty for the 5-series. Feature wise, there is minimal difference.Please also see our Roomba comparative review: http://www.onefamilysblog.com/2007/12/irobot-roomba-5-series-review-530-535.html

Regards,

Anonymous said...

As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you

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