A lot has changed in the past year with robot vacuums. They are becoming more popular, moving beyond the “early adopter” phase and into the mainstream.
Across the board, performance levels have increased along with overall customer satisfaction. Having been here in the early days of robots (I started this blog in 2011), it’s AMAZING how quickly things have changed.
Why Should you Listen to Me?
- First and foremost, I’m a geek. I’m passionate about robots. I’ve been testing robots and writing reviews for over 4 years.
- Second, I now have a team who help me test robots out. Between all of us, we can cover all the angles.
- Finally, I rely on readers to comment and email me directly about their experiences. When I hear of a problem, I personally try and replicate the conditions to see the problem myself.
I frequently get asked the question:
“Patrick, so what is the best robot vacuum RIGHT NOW?”
Because the market changes quickly, my answer has varied over time. There are certainly some models that are better than others. BUT, the best robot vacuum for YOU, might be different than for ME. In this guide, I break out the various use cases and criteria to evaluate.
This page is updated frequently as we update reviews and new products are released. This is not a page we put up once and then forgot about. If you want to know when the last update was, just check the top of the page to see.
Contents (Jump to)
- 1 Bottom Line up Front – Our Favorite Robots for 2018!
- 2 Find YOUR Perfect Match
- 3 Best Inexpensive Robot Vacuums – Budget Robots
- 4 What is the Best Robot Vacuum for Large Homes? – Roomba 980
- 5 What is the Best Robot Vacuum for Apartments? – Roomba 860
- 6 What is the Best Robot Vacuum for Pet Hair & Dander? – Dyson 360 Eye
- 7 What is the Best Robot Vacuum for Hardwood Floors? – Botvac D3
- 8 What is the Best Robot Mop for Hardwood Floors? –Braava 380t
- 9 What is the Best Robot Vacuum for Thick Carpets? – Roomba 980
- 10 What is the Best Robot Cleaner for Tiles? – Braava Jet 240
- 11 Confused by All the Options? Take This Quiz!
- 12 How to Evaluate a Good Robot Vacuum
- 13 Improvements That AHR Wants for Robovacs (as a whole)
- 14 Final Thoughts on the Best Robot Vacuum
Bottom Line up Front – Our Favorite Robots for 2018!
The following table summarizes the top options (in general), without eliminating for specific unique factors. This is based ONLY on performance, price notwithstanding. Be sure to check the price link for live data below:
|Model||How Smart and Automated?||Clean Rating (1-10)||Overall Rating (1-10)||Price|
|Roomba 980||Very Highly||9||9.5||Check here|
|Botvac Connected||Very Highly||9||9||Check here|
|Botvac D5||Highly||8.5||8.5||Check here|
|Roomba 960||Highly||8||8.5||Check here|
|Samsung POWERbot Wifi||Moderately||8||8||Check here|
|Dyson 360 Eye||Moderately||9.5||8||Check here|
|Botvac D3||Highly||8||8||Check here|
|Roomba 890||Moderately||7||7.5||Check here|
|Roomba 690||Moderately||7.5||7.5||Check here|
|Roomba 770||Below Average||6.5||6.5||Check here|
Find YOUR Perfect Match
This quiz helps match you with the perfect robot for your needs:
Best Inexpensive Robot Vacuums – Budget Robots
If you are like many people, the above robots might be priced out of your budget. Not to worry, if you sacrifice some performance for VALUE, you can still find a good option. In the sub-sections below, I’ve broken out my favorites by budget range:
Top Robot Vacuum Under $400 – Botvac D3
While this still might seem like a lot, for robots $400 seems to be the differentiating line between the devices competing on value and the rest.
My top recommendation right now is definitely the Botvac D3. Here’s why:
- Currently the cheapest robot w/Wifi App control (that actually works well)
- Very recent cleaning technology, without the premium price.
- Self-charging and can resume where it left off
- Multi-room navigation (ideal for up to 1800 square feet)
- Full Review: read my full take here.
Drawbacks? It doesn’t have the “extras” that more expensive Botvac’s offer. Namely, it doesn’t have a side brush, HEPA filter (just regular), and a standard lithium-ion battery. Other Botvac’s also are rated for at least 2x the square footage.
Overall, this is a GREAT entry-level mid-priced robot (check the latest prices here) with the latest technology.
Runner-Up? For my runner up, I like the Roomba 690. It DOES have WiFi control, but it’s also generally cheaper (see this listing). In fact, it’s the cheapest offering from iRobot that still is app compatible.
Top Robot Vacuum Under $300 – Roomba 650
Once you get into the “budget” range, the cheaper robots tend to be very much “hit or miss”. Don’t necessarily be swayed by cheap prices.
This is why I prefer to go with a tried and true option at this price point, namely the Roomba 650. They usually can be had for about $300 (sometimes a tad over). It’s kind of like buying a “pre-owned” high end car. Lots of cost savings, if you don’t mind that it isn’t brand new. Here’s why I like the 650:
- Automatic scheduling (cheapest Roomba with this option)
- Reliable brand name (iRobot is THE industry leader)
- Excellent market for replacement secondary parts (better than any of the competition)
- Smart boundary control (virtual walls, extendable if you need more)
- Full Review: You can read my review of the 650 here.
Drawbacks? Not the latest cleaning technology (best for maintenance cleans), not ideal for larger homes, can’t recharge and resume automatically, no app feature, no extras/frills (tangle free extractors, etc…). Many people also dislike the random (bouncing around) pattern. While it gets the job done, it’s a bit disconcerting and doesn’t leave that clean “manicured lawn” tracks on your carpeting.
Overall, this is literally the best priced Roomba you can find today (check this listing for details). If you are turned off by some of the high priced Roomba’s, this might be a great option to get started.
Runner-Up? For a runner up, I like the Bobi Classic. It features the added benefit of having a built in MOP functionality in addition to vacuuming, which is nice. It’s not really a true mop replacement (think more of a wet swiffer), but it IS a good value for the price (see this listing for live pricing). They also have really good customer service, should you need to return/replace.
Top Robot Vacuum Under $200 – iLIFE A4s
The big surprise contenders in the budget market over the past year is by FAR the iLIFE series. For years, the best we could expect from Chinese imports was cheap knock-offs of Roomba. While the iLIFE series certainly leverages things that work, they are one of the few sub-$300 robots that I have tested that actually perform to an acceptable standard.
The iLIFE A4s is a very solid offering, albeit without the high end features.
- Surprisingly decent navigation (for not having any boundary control)
- Programmable schedule (just like higher tier offerings)
- Really good run time (about 150 minutes of battery capacity)
- Low profile, good for getting under furniture
- Full Review: Read the full review here.
Drawbacks? Not ideal for larger homes and complex floor plans, due to lack of boundary markers. It requires some regular maintenance that is more involved than some robots (cleaning bristles is the most frequent duty, but also the wheel housing, etc…). No WiFi app control. Relatively new to the market, no established secondary market for parts. Less brand recognition and permanence than iRobot, Neato, Dyson.
Overall, this is a solid option if you are on a tight budget and/or are looking for a lower cost “first robot” experience. Be sure to check this listing, as there are sometimes active discounts.
Runner-Up? The iLIFE V5s is almost identical to the A4s, BUT comes with a standard mopping feature (with water tank reservoir – so not just a cloth that you have to manually wet). Again, I’m not a huge fan of mop/vacuum combos (because the “mops” tend to be worse than stand-alone robot mops), BUT at this price it’s a good value (check here for the live pricing).
UPDATE: Runner-Up #2? I’d call it an even “tie” with the V5s, but I recently tested the Ecovacs Deebot N79 and found it to be quite comparable at this price range. You can find it for less than $200 over at this Amazon listing.
NOTE: The sub $200 space is getting quite crowded, but – buyer beware – lots of cheap knock-offs!
What is the Best Robot Vacuum for Large Homes? – Roomba 980
If you have a larger home, there are definitely a few robots that are better suited to your needs. By “large” I generally am referring to 5+ rooms per level. Larger homes generally require superior navigation systems (look for “multi-room” navigation) and smart boundary systems.
It’s no surprise that my favorite multi-room cleaner is the Roomba 980 right now. While you can debate the merits of Neato vs Dyson vs Smasung vs iRobot when it comes to cleaning technology (suction, etc…), iRobot is the definitive leader when it comes to boundary control. Here’s why I like the Roomba 980:
- Smart boundary mapping using Virtual Lighthouse technology (invisible beam)
- Expertly navigates multiple rooms
- Smart app control via WiFi
- Carpet boost mode (great for houses with some carpeting)
- Industry leading cleaning technology (iRobot IS the industry leader right now, with decades of robotics experience)
- Strong secondary market for replacement parts
- NEW organized cleaning pattern
- Full Review: you can check out my comprehensive review here.
Drawbacks? The main drawback is that the 980 is very expensive. In fact, it is among the most expensive robots right now. However, be sure to check this listing for the latest deals.
Overall, if money is not the primary concern and you want one of the best home robot experiences, you really can’t go wrong with the 980. It’s built for larger homes and is really the only fully capable robot on the market for this.
Runner-Up? The Botvac Connected is the next best option for multi-room cleaning. While you have to manually set boundary marking tap, once you have it setup it’s set and forget. For a comparison between the 980 and Connected, see this article. You can check out this latest prices here.
What is the Best Robot Vacuum for Apartments? – Roomba 860
For apartments, you can generally get away with significantly lower prices. Boundary marking systems are less important, leaving smart navigation (getting around tighter floor plans) and cleaning performance as the top criteria.
For this category, you can go with many different options. However, my top pick is the Roomba 860. Here’s why:
- It has recent technology (not the latest, but also not the oldest)
- No frills, but you can always add accessories later (think virtual walls if you need them later)
- Reliable, iRobot is the market leader when it comes to performance over time (they have the largest budget for R&D)
- Strong secondary market for replacement parts
- Full Review: Check it out here (if needed).
Drawbacks? The 860 doesn’t come with all the extras like multiple virtual walls, but this is why it’s a good option. Apartment owners might not need this to start and can always buy them later. The 800 series technology isn’t the latest, but is still pretty new (relatively speaking). Some people don’t like the zig-zag cleaning patterns.
Runner-Up? I like the Botvac D80 (full review here) as an alternative here. If you prefer an organized cleaning pattern (as opposed to the Roomba’s random pattern), you’ll want this option. Sometimes for smaller quarters it also makes more sense to use the boundary marking. It’s certainly more feasible for smaller living spaces. Prices are very comparable to the 860, but check this listing for the latest.
What is the Best Robot Vacuum for Pet Hair & Dander? – Dyson 360 Eye
Almost all the robot cleaners brag that they are “pet-friendly”. The truth is, the best robots for pet hair have the best suction power. This is true not just for collecting hair, but also getting those smaller particles of dander that become lodged in carpets and floorboard crevices.
With this in mind, my top pick is the new Dyson 360 Eye. It has the BEST suction power on the market. Here’s why I like it:
- Hands down, the most powerful robot vacuum on the market
- From Dyson, an industry leading vacuum company
- Intelligent mapping sysem
- iOS and Android App control (including a cool “analyze clean” feature for historical cleaning data)
- The ultimate pet dander collector
- Full Review: Read my full review here.
Drawbacks? It’s bulky, almost 3X taller than competitors (meaning it will be harder to get under furniture). It has a great mapping system, but doesn’t have any boundary control. The more rooms you have to clean, the more likely it is for the Dyson to get lost. And – of course – it is THE most expensive robot on the market right now (but check here for details).
Runner-Up? A less expensive – but also very impressive – alternative is the new Botvac D5. It features ultra HEPA filtration and the latest cleaning technology. It’s also almost half the price of the Dyson (check here for pricing data).
What is the Best Robot Vacuum for Hardwood Floors? – Botvac D3
If you remove carpets from the equation, a robots job becomes a lot easier. You can get away with less expensive options. It’s usually the carpets which give robots trouble (“shag” carpets being the worst offender).
I like the new Botvac D3 for this category. Here’s why:
- The least expensive robot WITH WiFi app control
- Unique D-Shape design (better for corner cleaning)
- Versatile across all hardwoods
- Self-charging / auto resume feature
- Good battery life (lithium-ion battery)
- Full Review: Check it out here.
Drawbacks? No side brush included, still need to put down boundary tape, only 1800 square feet cleaning capacity (for one cycle). The “cons” aren’t bad, unless you have a very large floor-plan with hardwoods. The D3 also can carpets (it’s not “bad” on carpets, just a better value for hardwoods).
Runner Up? The Roomba 890 is also a great option here. The 890 essentially is an 800 series Roomba WITH WiFi app control technology. The only 800 series that has it. You can check out the pricing options here.
Alternatively, you may want to opt for a damp mop option (see below).
What is the Best Robot Mop for Hardwood Floors? –Braava 380t
Hardwood floors need a delicate balance of something not TOO aggressive that harms the wood, but something competent enough to get a good clean.
For this purpose, I really like the Braava 380t. Here’s why:
- Dry + “Damp” mop mode (which isn’t overly aggressive, but is perfect for hardwoods)
- Can cover a larger area (up to about 350-400 square feet for mopping)
- Can cover up to 1,000 square feet in dry mop mode
- Full Review: Read it here.
Drawbacks? No full on “wet” mop (but you likely don’t want this too frequently on hardwoods). There is also no app control available. Generally more expensive than the Braava Jet 240.
Runner-Up? The Braava Jet 240 is the main alternative here (see below). It can do the same as the Braava 380t + wet mop mode (should you need it).
What is the Best Robot Vacuum for Thick Carpets? – Roomba 980
If most of your floors are carpeted and/or you have some longer haired carpets that need extra TLC, some vacuums are better than others.
The top of line option that I’ve found is definitely the Roomba 980. Here’s why:
- Only robot to specifically offer a “carpet boost” cleaning mode (more powerful suction – actually works in my experience)
- Covers the entire floor plan with smart navigation and multiple virtual walls
- Ideal for homes with over 50% carpeting
- Excellent at picking up pet dander and other allergens
- Industry leading navigation and suction technology (literally the market leader)
- Excellent service and support (iRobot is a trusted robot brand)
- Good market for secondary parts (lower “cost of ownership”)
- Minimal maintenance required (automatically returns to base)
Drawbacks? The only real complaints are 1) Price: the Roomba 980 is a high end robot and 2) Noise: when in carpet boost mode, the 980 is considerably more noisy. That said, it’s probably less noisy than most traditional vacuums most folks are accustomed to.
Runner-Up: While it doesn’t specifically have a “carpet boost” mode, the comparable Neato Botvac Connected available here does a good job on carpets as well. It’s considered the equivalent “Botvac” to the Roomba 980, but is generally at least $200 cheaper (depending on the retailer). I bought mine here for a similar discount.
What is the Best Robot Cleaner for Tiles? – Braava Jet 240
Some people make the mistake of thinking that all hard surfaces are fine for just any old robot mop. While a good robomop for tiles will also be more than capable for hardwood floors, the opposite is NOT true. This is because tiles have grooves (or grout lines) that might get missed with a cursory damp mop (that may be sufficient for hardwood flooring).
My top recommendation for the best tile cleaning robot is the Braava Jet 240. Here are the main reasons to like it:
- 3 different clean mops (dry, damp, and wet)
- Compatible with Swiffer brand disposable cleaning cloths
- Really good price (check this listing), less than the 380t
- Can automatically avoid rugs
- New precision “jet spray” technology with vibrating cleaning head (better cleaning results than previous generations)
- Full Review: See it here.
NOTE: The Jet 240 will ALSO work well on hardwoods, in “damp” mop or dry mop modes.
Drawbacks? Limited cleaning area (about 150 square feet vs 350 for the 380t), can only cover up to 200 square feet in dry mop mode. In short, the Jet 240 is perfect for kitchens and bathrooms. These also happen to be the most commonly “tiled” surfaces. Unless you have an abnormally large tiled area, the Jet 240 should be sufficient.
Runner-Up? There really are no other “good” alternatives for tiles. The Braava 380t will do a decent job, but can’t do the deep “wet” mop that the Jet can do.
Confused by All the Options? Take This Quiz!
While many prospective owners fit one of the “use cases” above, sometimes you are stuck in the middle between a few categories. I get that! Because I’ve experienced this problem before, we created a relatively complex (but easy to take) quiz below. It comprehensively weights your answers and delivers the BEST MATCH for you.
How to Evaluate a Good Robot Vacuum
So how do we generally evaluate our robots? For me, it comes down to 5 simple factors.
- Suction Power: Robovacs run the gambit from glorified dusters to hardcore cleaners. In the past, you could only rely on these robots for light maintenance cleaning. Today, the leading and latest models are coming VERY close to replicating traditional vacuums in terms of performance.
- Navigation Capability: A robot might be GREAT at cleaning, but without the right navigation technology, it might be as useful as your old upright. That’s an exaggeration, no doubt, but an important point! In terms of industry leading, iRobot and their Roomba series takes the cake. Their on-board technology is similar to Neato’s Botvac, BUT they are masters of geo-fencing. Using invisible (to us) lasers, iRobot’s “virtual walls” and “lighthouses” define the boundaries of where to clean. Neato relies on boundary marking tape which 1) takes time to set up properly and 2) marks up your floors. Most other brands just rely on the on-board navigation system which – when used in isolation – leads to some issues (getting stuck, lost, etc…).
- Level of Automation: Put simply, how “hands-off” is the robot? Not all robots are the same in this area. In fact, it can vary WILDLY. For example, the Roomba 980 rarely needs attention and can be monitored remotely. Most robots above $300 have some form of auto-scheduling, but the devil is in the details! Be sure to check before you buy. For example, the Roomba 650 HAS auto-scheduling, but Roomba 630 and below does NOT. Similarly, older models tent to require more “hands on” ownership (changing filters more frequently, can’t “return to base”). The latest models generally require less.
- Price: For many, the ultimate criteria. Know your budget and stick to it. Robots range from about $150 to $1000. A low budget means you may have to go without a few conveniences and performance enhancements, but even the low end of this range can lead to significant time savings for the home owner.
In general, the combination of suction power + navigation ability = overall cleaning effectiveness.
Pro Tip: Also consider the “cost of ownership”. The market for quality replacement parts for a Roomba is far more extensive and diverse than – say – a new Dyson 360 Eye. In every case, calculate what the cost of filters, batteries, brushes, etc.. are AHEAD of time.
Improvements That AHR Wants for Robovacs (as a whole)
A boy can dream. Here are the things that I think could move the industry forward in 2017 and beyond!
- Automated Dust Bin: It wouldn’t be too hard to figure out, but the ability for a robot vacuum to automatically dump debris in a designated location or receptacle would be a game changer! Currently, this is the main area where ALL robots still require human interaction.
- Better Smart Home Integrations: This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. The proliferation of “smart” devices is great, but getting them all to TALK TO EACH OTHER is the hard part. Robot vacuums have been particularly slow to release apps (finally doing so in the last year). And even still, it would be nice to be able to control all smart home devices from ONE central hub and app interface. Also, I can envision scenarios where you “smart” security system gets triggered by your “smart” robot, leading to many complicated scenarios.
- Better Suction: This is clearly improving and likely will continue to improve. This year, the long awaited release of the Dyson 360 Eye massively increased the standard for suction. Similarly, strong entries from Samsung (PowerBot series) also upped the ante. While both Roomba and Botvac made minor improvements, clearly the new competition has raised the bar. Keep raising it! In the end, I fully expect robots to be as powerful as their upright manual counterparts.
- A Good Vacuum + Mop Combo: Many lesser brands have tried, but all of the current options leave a lot to be desired. The best robot mop/vacuum combo is the Bobsweep line, but it generally does just an “okay” job at both. As it stands now, the best results are still from having a robot mop and vacuum separately. For example, combining the Braava with a Roomba collectively leads to a better end result than any combo currently on the market. Maybe this is the way it SHOULD be. The new 3-stage wet, dry, damp mopping feature on the Braava Jet means that you can probably get away with just a Braava in the kitchen (no need to vacuum in most cases). NOTE: If you are looking for a good round-up of the top robot mops, check out my companion article here on the top options for 2017.
- Affordability: While robots have gradually been becoming more accessible to the masses, they are still a “Middle Class” and up type solution. ILIFE has been the most aggressive in terms of balancing performance with attractive pricing. They have arguably undercut Botvac and Roomba’s lowest offerings, while not necessarily sacrificing very much in terms of performance (although they still have a ways to go).
Final Thoughts on the Best Robot Vacuum
Years ago, robots were a thing to be dreamed of. Today they are a reality. They are quickly becoming mainstays in homes around the world. Yet, they are still pricey acquisitions. Decisions should not be taken lightly. Hopefully you found this guide helpful. I DO update it frequently and would LOVE to hear your comments and personal experiences below.