I searched through so many options, dumb ones, cheap ones, AI ones... and settled on the Deebot Ecovacs T8+. Why? Because it represents a good robot with all the features at a central price-point. It also has an optional self-emptying mechanism, and it was on sale.
Am I happy with the decision? Yes. It's amazing. Forget for a moment all of the clever technical stuff (the websites are definitely built for intrigued geeks and not practical home-tidiers). Here's why:
- It cleans, it cleans well and it cleans everywhere.
- It's tireless, and will clean again tomorrow if you spill something.
That is all. I am not those things. I spend as long as it does cleaning, but I do it very badly (hoovering around the bed nine in ten times), I do it infrequently (weekly at best) and I get bored and have better things to do.
By contrast, it always goes under the bed (and the vast majority of furniture) and it completes the room methodically.
I would definitely recommend one. It's a big lump sum, even for the cheaper ones, but divide that out over time and you're spending nothing per-clean - and you have all that time back to do something more valuable with.
Maybe this is where we'll differ. In my mind, we only live once. Time cannot be regained. I value time, enjoyment and experience very highly over money, distractions and frustrations. If this is not you, don't spend the equivalent of ten good meals out for two on a vacuum cleaner.
If you're still reading, what follows is my breakdown of what's available. I have watched too many YouTube videos about vacuum cleaners, and read a lot of comparison sites. I would add, though, that this market is evolving quickly, so please do read around yourself before buying.
These hoovers are dumb. They drive around the house and bump into things before turning around and going off in a random direction. By doing this over and over, they eventually clean most of the floor. They hoover about as well as lazy-you does, and they are cheap.
There are a lot of these available, from a large number of small and large brands.
- A basic clean
- For a low price
- They don't know where they are (they can't "go home")
- They may miss spots / do other spots repetitively
- They will get tangled into cables, chargers, shoes
For me, this is the bracket where you've spent money, but for no huge gain. Not worth it in my mind, but you might not want to stretch your budget, you might be afraid of childrens/pets breaking it, or you are happy enough with the added convenience.
Typical units might be from Miele, Coredy, iLife, Ecovacs Deebot 600/700 series, iRobot 600 & e-Series.
Middle of the Road
These hoovers have the minimum features necessary to ensure a good clean. As a result of their intelligence, they manage battery life better, they clean the floor methodically, and they return themselves to charge.
This is where most of the big-brand competition sits. In some cases, the brands create competition where there is none (multiple, similar robots to pack out the market. I still haven't worked out why you'd go for one over the other).
You're spending a lot of money here, there's no question about it. But you are getting all of the contemporary and useful features. What are those features?
Main advantages over a low-end bot:
- Methodical cleaning, because the rooms are mapped and planned out by the robot using a multitude of sensors
- The robot sends itself home to charge between/during cleans as necessary (and can finish the job from where it left off, because it knows where it was)
- They often mop too (may or may not be an advantage)
- They avoid wires, shoes, clothes and other things they'll get tangled up by (using a camera and machine learning)
- How well the mechanical elements are designed for cleaning and avoiding entanglement
- Software updates improve their abilities (where offered)
Typical units might be from Roborock, Eufy, Xiaomi, Ecovacs Deebot 900 series or T8, iRobot i-Series.
High Class Bots
You can spend a lot of money on a robot vacuum. I'm not going to suggest you do, as they offer relativily minimal gains over the middle of the road ones.
You're mainly paying for:
- The brand (mainly iRobot Roomba)
- A specific feature that some people can't do without, like self-emptying.
That's it. All the comparisons show that the middle of the road ones are as good at cleaning (sometimes better) and otherwise generally on-par. Roomba, for example, do often win on specific cleaning challenges, but the others make up for it in other ways and often cost only half as much.
Typical units might be Ecovacs, iRobot s-Series.
On the self-emptying front, I feel like this is a useful featureL robots need to be emptied every 1-3 runs, self-emptying means you're only involved monthly. Try and look for a brand where the self-emptying bit is a separate add-on, if you can't make your mind up.
The mapping robots capture details about your house, and then have to store that somewhere. They store one or more maps, photos of things they've had to identify, the bits they've cleaned, the names you've given rooms and more.
Companies look after data with differing levels of professionalism and success. Both Ecovacs and iRobot have recognised certification for their systems (I didn't look at others, once I'd got to this part). There's probably nothing stopping them from changing their code or processes after they get the certification; and even then most regulatory environments allow governments to snoop in at some data provided.
So, the bottom line is that somebody may be able to see a map of your house, and perhaps photos of the insides, or a photo of you naked going from the shower to the bedroom. Only you know if that matters to you - then you're choosing between US (iRobot) regulated companies, Chinese (Ecovacs) or others. I don't believe there are any smart robots regulated in the EU or New Zealand, but these would probably offer the best consumer protection.
So what did I do?
I got the Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo T8+ AP. A catchy name, but it's a vacuum cleaner so who cares. In many regards its the same as their other robots, but it does allow a self-emptying system to be bundled/added later - and this swung it for me. Altogether I spent $1299 (£730 / NZ$1380) - $899 (£500 / NZ$958) for the robot; and the rest on the self-emptying system. Amazon are still offering this, by providing a coupon discount.
It was chosen becuase it was much cheaper than iRobot systems, but offered all the same features (and some extra). It has multi-floor mapping, a mop, a great clean and a ton of smaller but useful features. It can also be integrated into the HomeKit system with ease.
So far it has been way better than I had imagined. It copes with everything: shoes, troublesome wires, and cleans right up to and even under the little 2mm gap between the floor and the skirting boards. The house was mapped out on my phone - and I could then divide it into areas, prioritise them, block them off (like the toilet), and otherwise customise the map how I wanted. Once that's done, you can set it off to clean specific rooms, set up schedules for cleaning (auto or specific areas - as many as you like) and leave it to sort it out for you.