The idea of a robotic vacuum cleaner is awesome: imagine never having to vacuum again.
In reality we’re not yet at the stage where we can leave all the cleaning to robots, since they’re not able to take themselves up the stairs, tidy up around themselves or empty their own dustboxes. The truth is you will still want to resort to a proper vacuum cleaner every once in a while. Nevertheless, they take the pain out of a daily flick over, and are desperately cool gadgets to show off to guests.
The trouble with automatic vacuum cleaners is they tend to be rather expensive, and it’s very difficult to justify spending that money when you probably don’t know what to look out for. After all, few of us will have tested a robot vacuum cleaner before.
The cheapest models will be circular in design with two brushes at the front that can drag in dust from the corners and edge of a room in order that the vacuum can pick it up. The most basic models will most likely omit a rotating brush, which means they are likely to be able to navigate carpet well but not to clean it well. Typically they will have small dust boxes (that will need to be regularly emptied), and will be operated either by a selection of buttons on top or a bundled remote control.
Pay a little more and you’ll get a rotating brush that makes it easier for the vacuum cleaner to pick up hair and remove dirt from carpets. You should also expect to see filters that keep small particles from escaping the dust box and, potentially, a polishing pad that can be attached to the bottom to help deal with wooden- and laminate floors. We recommend you look for a model with a full length brush (often found in models that are squared at one end), which will make it easier for the robot to get right into the corners.
Mid-range robot cleaners are also likely to come with some method of blocking their access to certain rooms of the house. Some favour magnetic strips or discs, while others use battery-operated towers that emit a ‘do not pass’ beam.
The next step up will get you Wi-Fi connectivity, which enables you to operate the automatic vacuum cleaner via a mobile app. You can set up scheduling and even remotely trigger cleaning when you are away from home, while some also let you use the app to set areas for the vacuum to ignore.
At the top of the range you’ll find cylindrical (or cyclonic) drums that offer very good suction no matter how full is the dustbox.
If you’re paying full-whack it’s possible that your robot cleaner will also feature a camera. While some, such as the Jisiwei S+, use this to turn the vacuum cleaner into a home-security device, others such as the Dyson 360 Eye use it to more effectively plan cleaning routes and dodge obstacles.
Below you'll find the best robot hoovers that we've reviewed so far, with links to our full reviews in case you want to read more.
Best robot vacuum cleaners 2018
- Reviewed on: 25 May 2018
While a robot vacuum cleaner is still a luxurious purchase in 2018, the Neato Botvac D7 Connected is one of the best you can buy. At £799 it’s an expensive purchase, but the performance and convenience are enough to justify it if you really want one – despite the frustrations we found with the app.
If you don’t need all the bells and whistles of the D7, Neato makes cheaper Botvacs in its range that might tempt you.
Read our Neato Botvac D7 Connected review.
- Reviewed on: 11 April 2018
The Kobold VR200 offers powerful cleaning than can (almost) match a regular upright vacuum, backed up by good maneuverability and and solid smart support - albeit minus a couple of big features, like Alexa support or an in-app floor plan.
It's just a shame to see big downsides - the noise, the missing smart features - in a device with such a high price, which might make it hard to justify the jump from some of the cheaper alternatives.
Read our Vorwerk Kobold VR200 review.
3. iLife V8s
- Reviewed on: 28 June 2018
A great buy at £299.99/US$259.99 the iLife V8s has chunky wheels that enable it to get over door thresholds and other obstacles in your home, a large 750ml dust box that keeps it sucking up that dirt more efficiently for longer, and anti-tangle side brushes that let it get right into the corners without you having to regularly unpick hairs and other nasties that would otherwise jam them up.
There's no roller bar, which means it is best suited to hard floors, where it will also mop or at least wipe clean your floors. Stuck-on dirt will still require more welly than this robot vacuum can provide, and you'll need to physically block it from entering carpeted areas.
Battery life is pretty decent and the controls are simplistic, enabling you to easily switch between programmed, spot and edge modes, standard- and max suction, and even schedule cleaning at different times on each day of the week.
It's not the smartest robot vacuum we've tested, with no app or smart-home integration, but in what this cleaner does know it's something of a genius.
Read our iLife V8s review.
- Reviewed on: 13 June 2016
With an onboard camera, the Jisiwei Smart Vacuum Cleaning Robot is much more than just a futuristic robot vacuum cleaner. It's said to be the first of its kind to also operate as a home-security device, which you can monitor through the free app - which also lets you trigger cleaning remotely.
It will never replace either your main vacuum cleaner or your security camera, but it certainly takes the pain out of cleaning the whole house.
- Reviewed on: 6 April 2017
The Iiutec R-Cruiser is a very good robot vacuum cleaner with long battery life for use on hard floors, and its low profile means it can easily get under furniture. The down side of that is a tiny dustbox and an inability to get over obstacles and deal with carpets. We like the ability to charge it over USB, but if you’re likely to forget to recharge it look instead to a model with a charging base.
6. iLife X5
- Reviewed on: 29 August 2016
The iLife X5 is a budget-friendly robot vacuum that can both vacuum and mop, though you have to manually switch between the two modes. It does a good job of vacuuming and mopping flat surfaces, but performs less well on carpeted or uneven floors.
It’s incredibly easy to set up and great value, in part because it doesn't include any Wi-Fi features or app support, but if you want a cheap robot vacuum that will still get the job done, this isn't a bad choice at all.
Read our iLife X5 review.