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A robotic vacuum.

Best Robotic Vacuums for Under the Tree

With much-improved cleaning power, today's models appeal to more than just gadget geeks

It wasn’t so long ago that a robotic vacuum you might have given as a gift would quickly end up collecting dust instead of sucking it up. That’s because though these mini cleaning machines were fun to watch, they were often lousy at keeping floors clean.

The latest robotics have come a long way, however, thanks to stronger suction, better edge-cleaning capabilities, and improved programming. They’re still not ready to replace a full-sized upright or canister vacuum, but for daily cleaning of surface debris, a robotic vacuum can work wonders—if you choose one of our top-rated models. Even better, you no longer have to spend $1,000 to get top performance. 

"Though robotic vacuum suction power can't compare to upright vacuums, they go a long way to help with cleaning maintenance," says Susan Booth, the CR test engineer who oversees our vacuum lab.

How We Test Robotic Vacs
Each robotic vacuum CR buys and tests is evaluated on how well it removes surface debris on a low-pile carpet and on bare floors, whether it can get into tight corners created by walls and furniture, and the exact length of time it takes to clean a designated area. That’s right: Our engineers sit and watch each robot perform a full cycle, carefully tracking every minute of its obsessive odyssey.

For each of these tests, measured amounts of Maine Coon cat fur,  Cheerios, rice, and more are distributed in a test area meant to resemble the typical layout of a bedroom and living room. Then our test engineers record what the robot detects and cleans, and what it misses—or redistributes.

So when you're thinking of getting one of these little machines for someone special, consider what their flooring is like, and whether they have pets or small children, or just don't like pushing around a full-sized vacuum. Below is a sampling of robovacs that won't disappoint.

Best in Class
Samsung POWERbot SR20H9051 Series

Samsung POWERbot SR20H9051 Series

This sleek little sucker rolled right to the top of our ratings because of its superb cleaning of carpets and bare floors. A couple of key design details helped make the difference. First, the Samsung’s ability to clean along walls is enhanced by well-designed edge brushes, which emerge and rotate only when needed. Second, the robot’s squared-off front enables it to clean corners better than its rounded counterparts. As for power, the $1,000 Samsung Powerbot was able to suck embedded pet hair and fine grains of sand from carpets better than much of the competition.

    iRobot Roomba 890

    iRobot Roomba 890

    iRobot has been building robotic vacuums since the early 2000s. The Roomba 890 is one of the top-rated models in our ratings for good reason. It delivers super cleaning of carpets as well as bare floors. It has also lost half an inch in height, from 4 inches to 3.5 inches, from its Roomba 880 predecessor—allowing for greater clearance under your sofa and side tables. This model allows the user to schedule its cleaning times from an app and see the Roomba's cleaning maps after it's finished. At $475, it's not the lowest-priced model we have, but it costs less than half the price of the Samsung above.

      Ecovacs Deebot M88

      Ecovacs Deebot M88

      For $370, the Ecovacs Deebot M88 is a good deal, as this vac covers both carpet and bare floors well. The M88 can be scheduled to clean your home at a time of your choosing, and comes with an app that maps your rooms. You do have to manually clean the brushes, but it's such an easy task that it doesn't amount to much of a chore. This bot also has cliff sensors, meaning it won't crash down stairs—a nice reassurance if your gift recipient's home has multiple floors.

        A Bare-Floor Champ
        Neato Botvac D5 Connected

        Neato Botvac D5 Connected

        Know someone with only bare floors in their home? The Neato Botvac D5 Connected excels at getting down and dirty—without carpet to slow it while cleaning. It has an app that you can use to schedule cleaning while you're out of the house. Notice that it's not as round as some of its competitors. Our test experts say that its edges help it get into corners that other bots have more difficulty with. One downside? This model doesn't come with a remote control.

          Budget Buy
          Eufy RoboVac 11

          Eufy RoboVac 11

          Don't think you need to shell out hundreds of dollars for a robotic vacuum. At $250, the Eufy RoboVac 11 cleans carpets well but also does a satisfactory job at cleaning bare floors. This vac does the job quietly and won't tumble down your stairs, but it's not the most efficient cleaner; our tests show that it left debris under furniture.

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            Haniya Rae

            I​’m interested in the intersection between design and technology​—whether for ​drywall or robotic vacuums—and how the resulting combination affects consumers. I’ve written about consumer advocacy issues for publications like The Atlantic, PC Magazine, and Popular Science, and now I’m happy to be tackling the topic for CR. For updates, feel free to follow me on Twitter (@haniyarae).