Robot vacuums are all the rage—and why not!? Vacuuming is one of the most loathed household chores. While it doesn’t come with the ick factor of cleaning the toilet or the tedium of dusting, pushing and dragging a noisy, cumbersome vacuum is its own kind of torture.
Robot vacuums don’t have unwieldy cords or hoses to contend with, and they require little effort from you: You can run one from your couch using a physical remote or smartphone app, and the higher-end models can be programmed to wake up and start cleaning without any intervention at all. Robot vacs easily dispose of the most common household detritus—food crumbs, pet hair, dust—making them ideal for routine maintenance and quick cleanings when you’re expecting company.
Our top pick isn’t the most expensive model on the market, though it’s price tag is up there. If you’re working with a more modest budget, we have a strong recommendation in that category as well.
Updated June 22, 2022 with our Yeedi Vac Max review. The Yeedi Vac Max offers solid features, but its tendency to get stuck on obstacles hampers its performance.
Best robot vacuums for every budget
iRobot Roomba j7+ — Best robot vacuum overall
- Category-leading obstacle detection/avoidance
- Excellent mapping capabilities, with definable rooms and no-go zones
- Top-notch cleaning performance
- Precision Navigation feature depends on ambient light
- Self-emptying dock adds $200 to the Roomba j7 model (which comes with a conventional charging dock)
The Roomba j7+’s excellent cleaning performance and sophisticated obstacle recognition makes it an excellent option for most households, particularly if your pet is prone to accidents. Yes, this robot vacuum is smart enough to recognize pet poop on the floor. It won’t pick it up for you, but it will navigate around it instead of making a regrettable mess an unmitigated disaster.
Read our full
iRobot Roomba j7+ review
Roborock S6 Max V — Best robot vacuum overall, runner-up
- Can recognize, identify, and avoid common obstacles
- Vacuums as well as mops
- Can create multi-floor maps
- Its onboard camera can’t detect very small objects
- Can struggle to “see” objects in low light
When a manufacturer builds one device that’s designed to perform more than one function, you all too often end up with a product that’s a jack of all trades, but a master of none. That wasn’t the case with Roborock’s vacuum/mop hybrid, and this update version features stereo cameras that enable the device to avoid obstacles like shoes and power strips that will trip up robots with simpler navigation systems.
Read our full
Roborock S6 MaxV review
iLife A4s Pro — Best budget-priced robot vacuum
- Simple controls
- Multiple cleaning modes
- Powerful suction
- Budget price
- No advanced navigation features
- Doesn’t create maps of your home’s interior
This robot vacuum blends powerful suction with straightforward controls, an approach that kept its price tag less than $200 when we first reviewed it. It’s current street price is now less than $150. This vac doesn’t create sophisticated maps of your home’s floorplan, so you’ll need to deploy its battery-powered ElectroWall to prevent it from going into rooms where it could get in trouble. But one person’s perks are another person’s pain points, and if you prize simplicity and competence in your technology, the iLife A4s Pro will make you very happy.
Read our full
iLife A4s Pro review
Wyze Robot Vacuum — Best budget robot vacuum, runner-up
- Includes laser mapping and room customization
- Three suction levels
- Advanced features at a budget price
- Easily gets stuck under low-slung furniture
- Can’t be controlled with voice commands (Alexa or Hey Google)
- No specialty cleaning modes
$249.99 when reviewed March, 2021. Price as of May 3, 2022: $274.99 (plus shipping)
Wyze delivers a raft of top-shelf features not typically available in budget robot vacuums. Its LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor, for example, enables it to build an editable floor map of your space. That’s typically a perk of robot vacuums in the $400 to $800 range. Same goes for its ability to section that map into multiple rooms and dispatch the vacuum to any one of them. Yes, it costs more than the iLife A4s Pro, but you get a whole lot more vacuum for the money.
Read our full
Wyze Robot Vacuum review
Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra — Most sophisticated robot vacuum
- Vacuums and mops, switching between the two modes without much human intervention
- Empties its own dustbin and dirty water tank, refills its own water tank
- Creates detailed 2D and 3D maps of your home’s interior
- Its onboard camera can be used like a roaming security cam
- Oversized base station consumes a lot of space
- Some of the app’s advanced mapping options are available only on late-model iPhones
iRobot got there first with the Roomba S9+, but Roborock’s S7 MaxV Ultra delivers everything that vacuum/mop hybrid offers, plus a whole lot more. It not only empties its own dustbin–an increasing common feature on high-end robot vacs, but it also cleans itself and its mopping cloth, refills its water tank when needed, and creates 2D and 3D maps of your home’s interior. You can even use its onboard camera as roaming security camera to see and hear what’s going on inside your home while you’re away.
Read our full
Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra review
iRobot Roomba s9+ — Most sophisticated robot vacuum, runner-up
- Self-emptying dustbin
- Excellent navigation and cleaning
- Can create and store up to 10 floor plans
- Base requires more floor space than a conventional dock
- The competition has copied all of this vac’s tricks and added a bunch more
iRobot’s Roomba s9+ blew our minds with its self-emptying dustbin and sophisticated navigation, but that was way back in late 2019 and the competition has mastered all the Roomba s9+’s tricks and added a bunch of their own. On the upside, this robot vacuum is still plenty sophisticated, and iRobot has had time to recoup their R&D expenses. You can buy the Roomba s9+ for hundreds less than when it first hit the market.
Read our full
iRobot Roomba s9+ review
Yeedi K650 — Best robot vacuum for pet hair
- Includes a tangle-free rolling brush for pet hair
- Extra large dustbin
- Quiet mode allows you to vacuum while working from home
- No mapping capability
- No physcial or virtual boundaries included
We’ve been impressed with several of Yeedi’s inexpensive robot vacuums, but the Yeedi K650 bowled us over with its ability to pull pet hair off the floor using the silicone rolling brush you can swap out for its regular bristle brush. The silicone brush eliminates the problem of tangled hair impeding the vacuum’s cleaning.
Read our full
Yeedi K650 review
A shopper’s guide to the robot vacuum market
How much does a robot vacuum cleaner cost?
The convenience robot vacuums provide come at a cost: As much as $1,400 at the high end, with many of the best models running no less than half that. To help you determine which ones are worth the expense, we tested models from some of the most popular brands in a real-world lab: my home, where the floors are punished daily by two kids, three cats, and a dog. I tasked each one with vacuuming a 400-plus square-foot space that includes low-pile carpet, hardwood flooring, and linoleum that was regularly littered with food crumbs, pet hair, tracked-in dirt, stray cat litter, and other debris. To maintain the real-world environment, each model also had to contend with random floor clutter during several cleanings.
Be aware even the most premium robot vacuums are a supplement, not a substitute, for your stand-up vacuum. Despite manufacturer claims, most just don’t have the same suction power of an upright. Think of them as an easy way to maintain your floors in between deeper cleanings with your current vacuum.
How do robot vacuums operate?
Fundamentally, the robot vacuums in our guide all operate the same way: They autonomously maneuver around your home on a couple of wheels suctioning debris from your floors. Two to four brushes on the bottom—both rolling-style agitators and spinning side brushes—grab dirt from the floor and wall edges respectively, and guide it into the suction area or direct it straight to a small, filtered dustbin. When cleaning is complete, or their battery is running low, they return themselves to their charging dock.
But just how they get the job done can differ across manufacturers and models. Here are some features and functions to consider beyond the basics.
Autonomy puts the “robot” in “robot vacuum.” Virtually all models include an “automatic” mode that requires you to do nothing more than press a button on a remote, in an app, or on the vacuum itself to clean a room. This is great for ad-hoc cleaning, but most models can also be programmed to clean on a schedule. The latter scenario is great if you want them to work when you’re not home or to create a regular cleaning routine. Some higher-end models also integrate with smart speakers, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, which allows to control them using voice commands.
Just as your stand-up vacuum can be adjusted to clean either carpet and hard flooring, so to can a robot vac. Most feature the ability to change suction and other cleaning functions to adapt to different floor surfaces, either automatically or with input from you. They may also have a spot mode for more concentrated cleaning on a small area (cleaning up a spill, for example), include options for single- and double-passes of a room, or offer an option to focus just on cleaning along wall edges and baseboards.
The allure of robot vacuums is their promise to complete their task with minimal management from you. In order to do that, they must be able to navigate a room’s unique layout, maneuver around furniture and other obstacles, and avoid hazards such as falling down stairs and getting tangled in electrical cords.
Robot vacuums “see” the world through a combination of sensors. Cliff sensors let it know when there is an increase in distance to the floor—e.g., stairs or a sunken living room—so it doesn’t tip over the edge. Other sensors tell it when it has bumped into an object, so it can change direction, or is near a wall, so it can follow it. Still other sensors help the robot vacuum track how far it has travelled. Depending on the manufacturer and model, a robot vac might also include sensors that determine the amount of dirt present so it can adjust its cleaning mode accordingly.
Manufacturers are increasingly including mapping capabilities in some of their robot vacuums. These models use an onboard camera or laser reflections to produce a 360-degree view of the room. This allows the robot vac to create a map of the space and locate itself within that map.
The advantage of mapping is the vacuum will know which areas it has already cleaned and which it hasn’t, to avoid going over the same spot unnecessarily. It also lets it know where to resume cleaning if it must stop and recharge midway through the task. This makes it ideal for larger rooms and—because it’s still something of a premium feature—larger budgets.
In an ideal world, you’d clear all your floors of clutter before using your robot vacuum. But we live in the real one and that’s not always possible or desirable. Knowing this, many robot vacuums include some way to block off areas you don’t want it venturing into, whether it’s a pet’s area, your kids’ room, or a cluster of device cords in the corner. Often it’s just a length of magnetic tape you stretch in front of or on a forbidden area that the vacuum’s sensors will detect and tell it to avoid. But some models employ virtual barriers, such as the ability to designate boundaries on a floor plan that signal the robot to steer clear.
The dimensions of a robot vacuum matter for a couple of reasons. First, they will determine how well it can get into tight spots, such as under your kitchen cabinets and low-clearance furniture (couches and recliners). If it’s too tall, it won’t be able reach into these spots, or worse, it will get in and get stuck until you physically free it. Second, the bigger the robot vacuum, the larger the dustbin. Robot vacuums don’t use expandable bags like many of their stand-up brethren do, so when it comes to debris capacity, what you see is what you get.
There is no sweet spot for robot vacuum dimensions that we could determine—it really depends on your particular room layout—but a diameter of 13- to 14 inches and a height of 3.5 to 4 inches are the most common measurements we encountered.
Wi-Fi-enabled robot vacuums allow you to control them with a smartphone app instead of, or in addition to, a physical remote. That convenience alone doesn’t really warrant the extra cost these models command, but some model’s apps also provide other perks, such as detailed cleaning histories and the ability to save and edit floor maps for better navigation. Those models are worth considering if you’re cleaning large, intricate spaces.
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