Best robotic vacuums from Consumer Reports' tests

Put your feet up and watch a robovac zoom around the room

Published: May 22, 2015 08:00 AM
This time-lapsed photo shows how a robotic vacuum zigs and zags to clean a floor.

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Who wouldn’t appreciate some extra help with the vacuuming before the guests arrive? Robotic vacuums such as the six we’ve tested won’t clean carpets as well as your average upright or canister, but those vacuums can’t push themselves around. And the $700 iRobot Roomba 880 topped our chart with great pickup and smart navigation.

Multitasking doesn’t have to cost so much. The iClebo Arte YCR-M05, a CR Best Buy at $450, took almost 2 hours to clean our 12x16-foot test room and did almost as well on carpets as the Roomba. But it had its quirks, as did most of the other models.

Robotic vacuums return to their bases to recharge once they’re finished or the battery runs down. But the iClebo muscled its charging base around while cleaning. The iClebo and the $900 Miele Scout RX1 also wobbled back and forth for several seconds after transitioning from bare floor to carpet. What’s more, the Ecovacs Deebot D77, $700, and the Miele had some trouble getting past carpet fringes and power cords—a problem dating back to the earliest robotics.

Only two we tested, the iClebo and the Miele, were easy to program, but some were more flexible than others in varying daily cleaning. And if you detest bending, avoid the Neato models, which lack a remote control.

Keep your robovac running

Your robovac may take some getting used to. Although they’re designed to work on their own, they do need occasional attention to keep them running well.

Give it a trial run. On your first day with your new vac, forget about unattended operation. Learn how it handles its territory—including chairs, cords, and floor coverings.

Expect to clean it. All of the robotics needed manual clearing of hair and debris. The Ecovacs Deebot D77 is supposed to empty what it picks up into a detachable canister on the base, yet it transferred only part of its contents. Several vacs had full-bin indicators, but only one worked.

Store it with care. If you’ll be away for a week or two, shut the vac off after a charge. But the otherwise top-notch Roomba won’t completely power down—you’ll have to unscrew a hatch and remove the battery.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the July 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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