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I am blessed to have the opportunity of reviewing some of the best robot vacuums here at TechRadar, and there are honestly no two the same. Each and every robot vacuum that comes through my front door to review in my three-bed home brings something different to the floors, which is refreshing and keeps me on my toes for learning about these fantastic cleaning machines.
It's not going to come as a surprise to learn what a robot vacuum is supposed to do; they perform an automated vacuum of the floors in the home, which has been set on demand. This means that you no longer have to lug a larger vacuum cleaner around and charge it up before or after use. Some robot vacuums even empty and clean themselves, so you don't need to do anything – apart from clearing the way for them because they can't tidy up for you (yet).
Some are more complicated than others; from set-up to maintenance. Sometimes it's worth it, and sometimes it isn't. You also often get what you pay for. The cheaper robot vacuums tend to struggle with transitioning across carpets and hard floors so they prefer just the one-floor type, and they're more likely to get lost around the home because their mapping isn't quite up to scratch.
With that said, the more premium robot vacuums don't always have mapping from the get-go. Some will just be up-and-off the dock without mapping, but that's because they're smart.
A big giveaway about what a robot vacuum cleaner is capable of is to look at the specs. I'm somewhat fearful of a robot vacuum which doesn't empty itself, clean itself and have zone cleaning. The imagination runs wild if it can't do any of this, although I do have high standards. But this does come at a cost.
As an example; I've been reviewing the Dreametech L10s Ultra. On first impression, it was daunting to see the large docking station and large integrated water tanks. Dream is notorious for making big and heavy robot vacuum cleaners, which are a bit of a struggle to lift and get in the house. The set-up of our 'Kevin' was easy with a fill of the water tank, positioning of the cleaning solution, full charge-up and download of the app.
To use it really is a dream. It didn't need to have a maiden voyage as such to map our home out - its first trip out was to vacuum and mop. Whilst there is the option to 'Fast Map,' this isn't essential because the robot vacuum is smart enough to figure out the lay of the land, and return to base without getting lost. Having a map is also useful for setting zone to clean separately with different cleaning modes.
With a price of $999.99 on Amazon US / £1,099 on Amazon UK this sure is one mighty expensive robot vacuum, though. A good benchmark for getting a good robot vacuum would be to spend $400/£500 and upwards, to guarantee the features that'll make a robot vacuum worthwhile.
The things to look out for as a minimum includes suitability for carpets and hard floors with adequate suction to boot, automatic return to base after cleaning, and precise mapping. If your robot vacuum has all this: it is so worth it.