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February 5, 2018

The best robot vacuums

by John_A

By Liam McCabe

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, where you can find reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After running more than 90 cleaning cycles with 14 of the most promising robot vacuums in 2017, we think the EcoVacs Deebot N79 is the best choice for most people who want a basic, affordable bot that can actually keep their floors tidy.

How we picked and tested

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Our 2017 finalists (starting at the top, left to right): iLife A4s, Monoprice Strata Smartvac 2.0, Samsung Powerbot R7070, LG Hom-Bot Turbo+, iRobot Roomba 690, iRobot Roomba 960, EcoVacs Deebot N79, Eufy RoboVac 11. Photo: Liam McCabe

Since 2013, we’ve tracked 121 robot vacuum models, though many are now discontinued. We prioritize bots with these baseline specs:

  • A brush roll. Robot vacuums don’t have much suction, so they need a brush roll to boost their cleaning performance.
  • An edge-cleaning brush to collect debris around the bot.
  • Reliable customer support.
  • An average customer rating of four out of five stars or better.

The most important trait we looked for was continuous navigation—no getting stuck on cords, carpet fringe, or other obstacles. Over years of testing, we’ve found that as long as a robot keeps moving, it will do a good job keeping your floors tidy. We also looked for bots that offered the most powerful cleaning abilities or covered lots of ground on a single charge.

Beyond that, we favored quieter bots, simpler control schemes, Wi-Fi connectivity and smartphone-app control, availability of replacement parts, expected reliability based on the brand’s reputation and customer reviews, and the quality of customer service.

To test the bots, we closely monitored each vacuum for at least three whole-house cleaning sessions in a 1,000-square-foot condo with numerous area rugs, cords, and other obstructions. For the best bots, we repeated this test up to a dozen times, using different cleaning modes, obstacles, and dock positions.

We also enclosed each bot in a small area cluttered with obstacles and debris to give us an idea of how well it handled specific types of challenges. To learn about our testing process in detail, please see our full guide to robot vacuums.

Our pick: EcoVacs Deebot N79

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Photo: Liam McCabe

The EcoVacs Deebot N79 is the most basic, affordable robot vacuum that actually works well. In our testing and research, the Deebot N79 was the most likely to complete a cleaning cycle on its own without getting stuck and waiting for a human to rescue it. It’s also one of the quietest robots we’ve tested, and we liked that you can control it via a smartphone app.

It’s not a particularly strong cleaner, especially when tasked with plush carpeting or long pet hairs. Also, its semi-random navigation system might miss patches of floor in larger homes. However, the two-hour battery life (among the longest we’ve seen) helps to offset those limitations through sheer persistence— if run a few times per week, we think the Deebot N79 is good enough to keep the floors tidy in most homes.

Runner-up: Eufy RoboVac 11

Photo: Liam McCabe

If the EcoVacs Deebot N79 goes out of stock or the price jumps, check out the Eufy RoboVac 11 instead. They are almost exactly the same robots, but the Eufy doesn’t have Wi-Fi or smartphone-app control, and it usually costs extra.

Apart from the connectivity, the same pros and cons to our main pick also apply to this Eufy. We’re more familiar with Eufy as a brand than with EcoVacs. Eufy is an offshoot of Anker, one of the more reliable and value-minded mobile-accessories brands of the past few years. In our experience, Anker offers great customer service.

Pricier but more durable: iRobot Roomba 690

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Photo: Liam McCabe

The iRobot Roomba 690 costs a lot more than our main pick and performs about the same, but its extreme durability might save you some money in the long run. It’s a new bot with slick features like Wi-Fi connectivity and integration with Alexa voice commands, but it’s based on a tried-and-true design that we know will hold up over many years of use. It also comes from a brand with a reputation for supporting their products indefinitely.

In most homes, the Roomba 690 should work about as well as our main pick and runner-up. It uses a similar bump-and-run navigation system, though we’ve found that it’s slightly more prone to getting stuck on cords and area rugs. It also has a shorter battery life—just 90 minutes. But because it packs more cleaning power, it sucks up more debris with each pass, leaving you with a very clean floor.

Upgrade pick: iRobot Roomba 960

Photo: Liam McCabe

If you want the best of what robot vacuums have to offer, check out the iRobot Roomba 960. Given enough time, it can methodically clean an entire level of a house, no matter how large or small, without missing any patches of flooring. Thanks to its tangle-resistant brush rolls and agile trap-escaping tricks, it’s less likely to get stuck mid-cycle, and it’s a strong cleaner. The control scheme is simple, and it works with a smartphone app and Alexa voice commands.

The feature that sets the Roomba 960 apart from almost all of its competitors (at any price) is the navigation system. It’s built on the same base as the lower-priced Roomba models, but also uses a camera and an optical sensor to create a digital blueprint of your floorplan. This map allows the Roomba 960 to clean your floor in a logical, orderly fashion. And when the battery gets low, the bot can find its way to its dock, recharge itself, and then pick up exactly where it left off.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

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