How the test was made
We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. We have retained the robot vacuum cleaners that perform best for long-term tests; some models for more than a year. We continuously add updates to our reviews. In this test we have focused on examining the following parameters:
Function and dust removal ability: How do the robot vacuum cleaners deal with different types of hard floors and carpets? Can they cope with hair and sand as well as they clean up gravel and crumbs? What type of room mapping does the robot use? How effective is the motor, the suction nozzle and the brush?
Navigation and accessibility: How does the robot cope with orienting itself and cleaning around furniture, under furniture and in several different rooms? How kind is it on furniture? Can it cope with climbing over thresholds, deep carpets and other obstacles? How do the manoeuvring algorithms deal with particularly difficult situations where there is a risk that the robot will get stuck; for example tangles of cables?
Use: Is the robot vacuum cleaner easy to handle and program? How does it communicate? Which accessories are included to make cleaning easier? How long does vacuuming take and how noisy is the motor? Is the brush easy to clean?
The robot vacuum cleaners' value for money is based on how well the models fulfill expectations for the above parameters in relation to price. We have also assessed the finish on the robot vacuum cleaner after it has been used for a period, together with access to spare parts – but this has no decisive effect on the final score.
Neato's Botvac D85 robot vacuum cleaner is undoubtedly the model providing the best value for money in the test. Our test example has vacuumed a large detached house several days a week for more than a year and still works as well as it did when it was new. The robot is as easy to use as it is effective at vacuuming. The D-shaped design is functional but doesn't feel particularly luxurious like some other models in this price class. But apart from the outside, there's not much to complain about. Essentially, it's like Neato's simpler models, but everything about the Botvac D85 is a little better. The brush on the underneath is broader, the dust container is more spacious and the filter is bigger. In addition, the Botvac D85 has a small but excellent side spinning brush, for cleaning along skirting boards and furniture. The Botvac D85 is noisier than many other robot vacuum cleaners, but we prefer efficient suction over quieter operation. You don't need any prior knowledge to start the Botvac D85. This can be done intuitively by the user regardless of age. One press of the button to turn it on, and another to start cleaning. The Botvac D85 handles the rest, and quite brilliantly too. Simple and productive.
The vacuum cleaner mapped the room with a rapidly rotating and invisible laser in a small tower (which also slightly increases the height of the vacuum cleaner). The room is divided into zones which are treated one by one in a systematic pattern of straight lines before the Botvac D85 continues onto the next room. If the robot has to break off to charge its battery, it remembers where it stopped vacuuming and starts again in the same place when it has recharged. The robot vacuum cleaner navigates carefully around furniture and obstacles but is at the same time mercilessly effective on dust, gravel, long strands of hair and pet fur, both on hard floors and thick carpets. This makes it excellent for homes with pets or for people with allergies. The Botvac D85 always works counterclockwise, because the right-hand corner is the point on the vacuum cleaner where the suction is closest to the edge and where the side spinning brush is located. Simplicity and robustness in combination with careful cleaning makes it easy for us to name the Neato Botvac D85 as best in test.
iRobot's premium Roomba 880 model is a high-class robot vacuum cleaner which is as easy to use as it is merciless on dust, hair, crumbs and dirt in your home. The design is exclusive, bordering on luxurious. However, the high-gloss finish has a tendency to develop small scratches over time. But the edges are rubber covered so marks on both vacuum cleaner and furniture are completely avoided. Underneath, the Roomba 880 has two rubber rollers that rotate against each other, concentrating the suction force between them. This is a unique technical innovation that makes the vacuum cleaner both effective and in principle maintenance free compared to many competitors with normal brushes, which require a pair of scissors to remove the hair. People with allergies and pet owners will appreciate the fact that the vacuum cleaner is equipped with an E11 class HEPA filter. It's also clever at extricating itself from tangles of cable. Initially, the Roomba 880's movement patterns can be baffling as it apparently orients itself by means of organised chaos. However, both the software and sensors are extremely sophisticated and the result is that the vacuum cleaner never misses any areas; the job is performed with almost pedantic attention.
The Roomba 880 rushes around over open surfaces at high speed, but moves more thoughtfully in furnished areas and taps against chair and table legs before doing a circuit around them. On the right hand side there is a brush which is particularly effective along furniture and skirting boards, so the robot always runs with the right-hand side towards these. When the sensors perceive an area as particularly dirty, the robot will move jerkily backwards and forwards – a good imitation of manual vacuuming. In comparison with a number of other robot vacuum cleaners, the Roomba 880 works for a relatively long time as it covers the same area several times. However the battery life is good and the job will be properly done, but sometimes the robot has problems climbing up onto carpets with a pile height in excess of 30 mm. If you’re vacuuming several rooms at the same time, the infrared "lighthouse" included with the vacuum cleaner should be positioned in the door openings. This functions as a guide for the robot and the rooms will be vacuumed one at a time before it moves onto the next. The unit also works as a divider; a virtual wall to block off sensitive areas such as hanging plants. The iRobot Roomba 880 is without doubt a highly effective vacuum cleaner, and we’d go so far as to say that it's one of the world's best robot vacuum cleaners right now. However, the price is extremely high and competition at the top is very tough.
With its quick movements and voice instructions, the Cleanmate S900 is sure to impress. The voice instructions make it easy to use. If necessary, they explain what it's doing and how you need to look after it – for example, "I'm charging". The robotic vacuum cleaner is also easy to program, both because of the voice instructions but also the user-friendly interface. The noise level is also very acceptable. It's no problem having the S900 cleaning while you're in the room with it. The robotic vacuum cleaner is also easy to start and reacts immediately to commands, although sometimes it has difficulty finding its way back to the charging station. The S900 comes with a wet cleaning kit. Unfortunately the results this produces are rather disappointing – there's pretty much no difference at all afterwards. But we do like the "wall" that comes with the cleaner, which is a type of transmitter you set out so that the robotic vacuum cleaner keeps away from a selected area. The machine also gets a plus point for the included remote control which makes the S 900 easy to operate.
When it comes to the robotic vacuum cleaner's most important point – actual cleaning – we find both positive and negative aspects. It moves relatively quickly over the floor and so it also cleans quite quickly. The low height means that it can easily get underneath things like sofas. However the movement pattern seems rather unstructured. The Cleanmate S900 has a tendency to miss particular areas, and moves between different rooms in a significantly more random way than many of its competitors. It also has difficulties hoovering up dirt near corners and other more complicated areas. In a more complicated home, this means that the cleaning won't be very effective, but in a simple home without obstacles and corridors it will be very effective as a result of its size and speed. When it comes to height differences such as thresholds, we find that it can cope with some of them while it has to approach from the right angle to get over other, sometimes lower, thresholds. We couldn't find any logic in why it sometimes gets stuck and sometimes doesn't. Overall this is a really good robotic vacuum cleaner for simple homes with large open spaces, but a slightly worse choice if you have lots of furniture and more enclosed spaces.
The LG HomBot Square is a persistent and effective robot vacuum cleaner. It's also extremely communicative and talks happily about itself in the third person when particular events occur. For example, it proudly declares in an excited voice and with a little tune when it's finished. This is fun and gives the robot a bit more character. The design is stylish with a glossy top surface and discreet buttons. There's an intelligent button lock to use if your family contains children with inquisitive fingers. The LG HomBot is an unusually quiet robot vacuum cleaner, and neither the vacuuming nor the wheels make much noise. The HomBot rarely runs into table legs, but ours developed a number of scratches, as it was low enough to just fit under – and scrape against – a radiator. It hits some objects relatively hard, for example causing a floorstanding mirror to almost topple over. It divides the room into zones using a ceiling camera and side sensors, and this results in careful cleaning where we rarely noted any areas that it had missed. The HomBot was actually the only model in the test that every time dared to enter a long, narrow passage in one of our test rooms. Overall this is a zealous robot vacuum cleaner that goes into high gear on thick carpets to really remove crumbs, hair and dust particles.
The LG HomBot doesn't have any problems finding its way home, returning obediently to the charging station after every session. The charging time is relatively long compared with its competitors. It copes with thick carpets well and can escape from individual electric cables efficiently. Inside the HomBot is a small brush to facilitate cleaning the robot vacuum cleaner, although you’ll need to use scissors to remove long hairs that easily get stuck in the brushes on the underside. We found the LG HomBot to be a reliable companion for everyday cleaning – the job it’s intended for – and thanks to the low noise level you can also have it running while you're at home yourself. The cleaning process is structured, the machine copes well with corners due to its side spinning brushes, and if it wasn't for the relatively high price the LG HomBot would have had an even better position in the test.
The Dyson 360 is a breath of fresh air in the quickly growing market for robot vacuum cleaners. The design is eye-catching with its characteristic caterpillar tracks and high-gloss finish. Even the docking station is attractive. The idea with the robot's compact footprint is that it should be able to navigate unhindered between table legs and through narrow passages. On the other hand, the Dyson 360 is taller than many similar vacuum cleaners so it doesn't fit under low furniture. It just squeezes underneath the lowest stair of a normal staircase. On the top of the chassis is a small plastic dome with a camera that gives the robot a 360° panorama view. The robot navigates systematically around the room in a concentric pattern divided into several smaller zones, in roughly the same way that you use a floor mop but with 90° turns. This means that it turns quite often. In fact it actually turns so often that turning takes up a lot of its cleaning time. This has a direct impact on the battery life and so the robot has to recharge relatively often.
You can start, stop and program the robot via an attractive smartphone app. A detailed map of the route covered is shown when the vacuuming is finished. This works well, but we'd rather have seen the app telling us if the robot got stuck. The noise level is relatively high as the motor is without doubt one of the strongest we tested. Even the filter is impressive and doesn't need to be cleaned very often. However a lot of hair gets stuck in the brushes and the dust container is small and has to be emptied quite regularly. The cleaning result is very good on hard floors, but on carpets with coarser structures the brushes don't pick up crumbs that other robot vacuum cleaners in the test can cope with. Missed areas are particularly common around table and chair legs as the robot doesn't run around close to them but passes in a half circle. There are also sometimes narrow missed gaps on the floor as the overlapping navigation isn't always 100%. The caterpillar tracks are undoubtedly powerful and force the robot vacuum cleaner up onto long pile carpets. However, it can’t cope with normal bevelled thresholds. The hardware in the Dyson 360 has great potential, but currently the high price in relation to its performance isn't really justified. With an updated, more intelligent cleaning algorithm and better brushes, the Dyson 360 might be able to wipe the floor with its competitors – but that's simply not the case yet.
In terms of function, the iRobot Roomba 772 is a slimmed down version of the top of the range Roomba 880 model. Both robot vacuum cleaners are based on the same platform and the undersides look identical except for the brushes. Where the Roomba 880 has two rubber rollers rotating towards each other and overlapping, the 772 has a brush with synthetic nylon bristles and a rubber scraper. These also rotate toward each other, but don't overlap. Other differences are the motor technology, the battery capacity and the type of filter, as the 772 has a HEPA style filter instead of an E11 class HEPA filter. The sides have a rubberised shock absorber which keeps the robot scratch-free while simultaneously avoiding impact marks on walls and furniture. Operating the Roomba 772 is simple; after the machine has been switched on you can press the cleaning button or program it for regular vacuuming according to a weekly schedule. An infrared room divider is included. This is very useful for protecting your pets' food dishes or in the children's rooms so that the robot doesn't vacuum areas with Lego and other toys.
The robot moves quickly and works energetically and a side spinning brush on the right helps it clean along skirting boards. The sensors for reading the room are also good and cope well with staircases and where furniture is located, and the robot vacuum cleaner is careful when working around these. The Roomba 772 is intelligent, but not quite as intelligent as the Roomba 880. Nor is its dust removal ability quite as good. This means that the Roomba 772 takes longer to vacuum the same area. In households with several rooms, you need to use the included "virtual wall" unit to achieve the best results, as the Roomba 772 vacuums one room at a time. The wheels sometimes have difficulties rolling up onto very thick carpets such as long-pile rugs. Because the robot works for a very long time, it usually copes with these surfaces in the end after a number of attempts, but not always. One very positive feature is that the brushes require very little maintenance. Overall, the Roomba 772 made a good impression on us, but in comparison with the Roomba 880 it comes up a little short.
Miele's Scout RX1 is one of the market's most popular robot vacuum cleaners and aesthetically one of the few models in the test that could double as a piece of interior decor. The top is shiny with an attractive finish and a rubberised edge means that it avoids scratches – both on the Scout RX1 and on furniture and skirting boards in your home. The ceiling camera, seven infrared side sensors and three additional sensors help the robot orient itself in the room. It zigzags over long stretches and then turns when it runs into a bigger obstacle. After a minor collision it runs in a half circle around chair and table legs before continuing on the other side. This strategy mostly works quite well, but sometimes the vacuum cleaner gets stuck in a pattern, particularly in bigger rooms. For example, it can run a large number of times between a chair leg and a floor lamp. The unusually low profile means that the Miele Scout RX1 can fit under the majority of sofas and it's also one of the better models in the test at climbing over high thresholds. Cleaning is carried out with two side spinning brushes together with a broad brush underneath which requires regular maintenance as a lot of hair gets stuck in it.
The Scout RX1 is robustly constructed while also being the lightest vacuum cleaner in the test at barely 3 kg; an advantage for those who want to alternate between vacuuming the ground and first floor in their homes. However, there is no carrying handle and some of the Scout RX1's technical functions are troublesome. For example, you need the manual to interpret error codes and you need the remote control to wake it up from an error or to program it. We’d have preferred to see a clear, intuitive display or for the robot to be controllable from a smartphone, as you don't always have the remote control to hand in a large house. Another major problem is that the battery rapidly discharges completely if you don't turn off the robot manually when it isn't in the charger. On hard floors like parquet, laminate and tiles, the Scout RX1 vacuums well, but on dense Persian rugs and long-pile carpets it struggles and the result is variable. The Miele Scout RX1 is low in height and weight, making it easy to handle and enabling it to easily get under sofas and other low furniture. This, together with perhaps the most attractive design in the test, constitutes the robot vacuum cleaner's strongest side.