The latest addition to the iLife range is the new A4. Focused on robotically cleaning your carpets, it is a sensor-packed robotic vacuum with a chunky battery to provide potentially days of untroubled, automatic cleaning, all you need to do is empty the bin from time to time.
Robotic vacuum cleaners continue to increase in sales, with a growing number of brands led by Roomba and Neato vying for your money. The iLife brand has made modest progress in the market, helped by reducing prices and improving word of mouth, plus better battery and cleaning technology.
The new A4, available in Titanium Grey, will help those with mixed flooring or more carpet than flooring, and represents a major step up from the i3. It offers around double the battery life, depending on your usage, and comes with improved technology in its sleek, oversize puck-like form.
For around $259 as of this writing (see here for latest), a lot less if you shop around, it can check around for obstacles with its sensors, will avoid drops down the stairs and can recharge automatically.
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Key Features of the A4
- Superior Battery: Key to the A4’s potential is a 2600mAh battery that can provide between two and 2.5 hours of use on a single charge, with two power modes (max or economy) to balance battery life. The makers claim it is fade free, so won’t lose power over time, like your typical smartphone battery will. We’ll have to get back to you on if that claim stands up after a good few months of use, but we can definitely get close to two hours of use from it.
- IR Sensors: Helping protect the A4 are a set of IR sensors on the leading side to help it avoid obstacles like chair legs, walls and a drop sensor to prevent it falling down the stairs. There’s also a physical bumper so it will notice any obstacles that the sensors failed to pick up.
- Side Brushes: With rotating side brushes to drag into dust to the vacuum component, there’s a 1000pa of suction to drag dust, dirt and hair into the bin. Cleaning modes include spot, edge and pre-planned modes.
- HEPA Filtration: A HEPA filter will help those with dust or pet allergies, while the home charging dock and easily, low-cost replaceable spares mean it can remain a valuable member of your digital family.
- Remote Control: Rather than having to bend down or pick the 5lb unit, it can be programmed by an infrared remote control.There’s no smart phone app or Bluetooth, but the iLife really doesn’t need it unless you’re really remote. Omissions like that help keep the price down, which is perhaps the biggest key feature of the product, available for under $200 if you find it on sale.
Important Pros and Cons
- Price: The iLife A4 is half the price, if not less, of some models with comparable specifications, like those in the Roomba range. That’s a compelling reason in itself and it doesn’t skimp on power or performance. You can check here for the latest pricing. The replacement parts are also inexpensive, so you can keep the A4 in top condition with brushes bristles and filters, available in a pack for about $15.
- Remote Works Well: It may lack smartphone control, but using the remote you can set it up for regular patrols of a room or floor to keep the place clean, with no fuss. There’s a single on/off button on the top of the unit but generally, it should be left on, unless you want it to stop running.
- Smart Enough? The A4 is smart enough to find its way around a room, with a regular or smart cleaning pattern. It can also navigate home to recharge when it is running low on power, so all the user have to do is empty the bin from time to time. As with all of these cleaners, they are never large enough, but the A4 is capable of cramming in a fair amount of dust, and the low profile means it can get under most furniture.
- Works on Different Flooring: It is also good at moving between different types of surfaces, from some wooden flooring or lino to thicker rugs or carpet. While on the move it will avoid sleeping pets, although the noise should be enough to alert them.
- Not for Heavy Cleaning: In our tests, the iLife A4 doesn’t do brilliantly with heaving soiling or lots of dust and hair, but to be fair few robotic vacuum cleaners do. You really need a traditional cyclone cleaner to clear up a big mess, that has built up over time. However, to prevent daily dust building up, the A4 does just as good a job as other cleaners in the price range. I’ll caveat by saying that the latest Roomba’s and Neato Botvac’s do have some more advanced suction power.
- House Needs to be Robot Proofed: While its sensors can keep it clear of larger obstacles, there’s always the risk – as with other brands and models – of it sucking up wires and trundling off with lighter bits of modern home life in tow, like phone chargers, children’s toys or other bits and bobs.
- Sometimes Gets Off Track: Sometimes it seems that the iLife A4 can get confused and may need to be reset, with no obvious reason why, but this doesn’t seem to be a regular occurrence.
Alternatives to Consider
There are plenty of robots on the market these days. Choices aren’t made in a vacuum (no pun intended). Below are some other robots in a similar price range worth considering.
Older Roombas: If you can find an older model like the Roomba 620, then they can be picked up for a similar price to the new iLife, however, technology has moved on a lot since their heyday. As a next step up, I’d also recommend checking out the Roomba 650 which introduces auto-scheduling features, but is among the most affordable Roomba’s. It’s slightly more expensive than the A4, but iRobot does have a more robust tech platform.
NOTE: I’ve omitted some of the higher end robots because they are generally 3-4x more expensive. BUT, you can check out our resources like our top Roomba buying guide for a sense of the full range of prices and features at different budgets.
UPDATE: You can also review my top robot vacuums for 2017 right here.
Final Call on the A4
For those on a budget, and not worried about the smart bells and whistles like iOS app control, the iLife A4 is a fine standout among the lower cost robot vacuum options on the market. It can do plenty of cleaning, with a good reach and has a very good battery.
With a one year warranty for the unit, and plenty of cheap replacement parts, it is well worth picking up, to see if a robotic vacuum cleaner can play a part in your home, or as a secondary cleaner, for a different floor to your main cleaner.