At their inception, even the best robot vacuums were reserved for futurists and the Skymall market. (What up, DJ Roomba?) They were hard to set up, not that effective, and made everyone who entered your living space uncomfortable—especially after they’d been bouncing between the legs of your couch for half an hour. Those bots were somehow more annoying than just vacuuming on your own.
But that was then. Thanks to functional apps, better sensors, and some healthy robo-competition, these vacuums are now a pretty great experience in most homes, regardless of floor type. They still aren’t powerful enough to be the only vacuum you own, but a good robot vacuum will significantly cut down the amount of time you have to spend using a conventional vacuum. If your apartment is a marble sculpture, think of the robot vacuum as your hammer and chisel. It’ll do the vast majority of work needed to get you to the pristine image in your head by picking up the easy debris that just accumulates, like dust, allergens, pet hair, random snacks, dead skin cells. To get things perfect, you’ll still have to take out a more powerful cordless or plug-in upright vacuum, but the robot vacuum will get you 95% of the way there. For most people, a robot vacuum that cleans four days a week automatically will create a much cleaner environment than simply running a spot vacuum whenever you spill enough that you can see.
The best robot vacuums are both decent robots and decent vacuums—a robot that deftly darts around corners and tables is useless if it can’t pick up a Cheerio, and a robot that could pull sand out of carpeting is useless if it keeps threatening to tumble down the stairs. To find our favorites we called in several models from a few reputable companies and tested them in staged home environments (read: our apartments). After setting them up according to their instructions and the included apps (and connecting them with the smart home Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa when possible), we made sure to run the vacuums through several full run time cleaning cycles.
There are two main types of robot vacuums, those with some sort of mapping technology and those which employ a random cleaning movement. The former uses lasers and sensors to map out the space you’re using it in. It then uses that map to navigate more efficiently, avoiding obstacles it knows are present and not going over the same spot too many times. The latter are the kind you’ve probably seen on TV. Sometimes they move in a path that makes no sense at all. The robots with mapping technologies tend to be more expensive and less annoying, but don’t always prove themselves to be better cleaners. What’s more important than how they clean, in our opinion, is whether they actually do it when they tell you to and whether they make it back to their charging base without getting caught on an obstacle.
So we set up obstacles for our robot friends. In each of their runs, we made them navigate around everything from rugs with long fringe, wads of charging cables, small changes in elevation, and spilled water. We also made sure to pay attention to how easy the vacuums are to empty, whether it was easy to find replacement parts for them. Battery life isn’t usually a distinguishing factor for modern robot vacuums—for what it is worth, neither is multiple cleaning modes—but we made sure that the vacuums we ended up recommending wouldn’t regularly die on their way back to their charging base. Below, our favorite robot vacuums below will make your home effortlessly clean.
Best Robot Vacuum Overall
Eufy, the sub-brand of Anker responsible for most of the company’s home gear, was one of the first to crack the budget robot vacuum cleaner equation. Its under-$300 robots were easier to set up and use than most of the competition, and they were effective cleaners to boot. As time has passed, the company has started to add more premium features to its lineup. The result of these developments is the new Eufy G30 Edge, a phenomenal robot vacuum that offers enough actually useful features without anything that you wouldn’t actually use.
The Eufy G30 Edge is a mapping robot. It uses a mixture of sensors and software to move methodically though your space in a back and forth motion, like a game of Snake, instead of bumping randomly through your apartment. Because this prevents the vacuuming from going over the same space twice, it’s a good thing that the vacuum’s motor is one of the more powerful ones we’ve tested. It’s strong suction had no trouble picking up a mixture of pet hair, loose cereal, and bits of cardboard (we had a heckuva time opening boxes that day). And yet, it is one of the more quiet vacuums we’ve tested—you’d be able to watch TV while it’s running without needing to crank up the volume too much.
You control the vacuum with a well-designed smartphone app. That's where you’ll connect the vacuum to Wi-Fi so that you can schedule cleanings and unlock support for control by voice commands. The app is also where you can see the map of your apartment the robot is generating with its sensors, and obsessively track how much of your space it’s actually cleaned. The G30 Edge vacuum also comes with two boundary strips, which let you mark off spots in your apartment that you don’t want the vacuum to go—like a kid’s bedroom or where you keep your pet’s water bowl. These strips are a little awkward, some vacuums let you mark off virtual boundaries in the apps, but they’re easy to hide under a small rug.
Best Robot Vacuum You Don’t Have to Empty
iRobot, the godfather of the robot vacuum, makes a great robot vacuum at just about every price; you could do worse than setting a budget and buying whatever vacuum they offer at it. The i3+ isn’t wildly expensive and delivers on the core promise of a robot vacuum: it cleans really well and doesn’t require you to do much of anything. It has a powerful enough motor to suck up most things that cross its path. But best of all, it has a feature of robot vacuums once limited to vacuums almost twice its price: automatic dirt disposal.
That’s a fancy way of saying that the vacuum has a garbage bin built-in to its base. That charging dock is a bit more obelisk-like than the more low-profile bases of vacuums without automatic dirt disposal. A friend described the resting i3+ as “intimidating.” Regardless, automatic dirt disposal is a game changer. Emptying out your robot vacuum, which you really should do each time you clean, is a pain even on a well-designed robot. But if you forget to do it, which is really easy to do especially if you schedule cleanings in advance, your robot will clean at a portion of its full capacity. Having a self-emptying robot makes living with the robot vacuum easier. The one catch is that the moment the vacuum empties itself into the clean base, it is about as loud as an airplane taking off. It’s a small price to pay for not having to kneel down on your bare floors and turn out (and occasionally scoop out) garbage from your vacuum’s dustbin yourself.
Of course, automatic dirt disposal along does not a great vacuum make. The Roomba i3+ would be a great vacuum even without the bin. It’s as powerful as the G30 Edge and strong enough to pick up debris from any surface. Yes, that includes low-pile carpet, medium pile-carpet, and super shaggy high-pile carpet. It’ll actually detect when an area is particularly dirty, like if someone who definitely wasn’t you spilled SmartFood popcorn last night, and give those areas a more focused clean. It’s a mapping robot, but not one of the company's smart ones. You can’t set smart boundaries within the app, but you can obsessively watch it learn the layout of your apartment. That might sound boring, but it’s weirdly hypnotic. Just try it.
Most Tricked-Out Robot Vacuum
Considering that you probably don’t have a robot vacuum, any one is going to offer an immediate improvement to your life. But the iRobot Roomba s9+ blows all of them out of the water. It has pretty much every bell and whistle you could imagine. It’s got a supremely powerful cleaning system that basically eats dirt for breakfast. It cleans in neat rows, thanks to its navigation system. It supports custom cleaning controls, which allow you to both send it to specific areas of your space and mark off areas where you don’t want it to go. And it’d honestly be a stretch to call any robot vacuum a looker, but the vacuum’s high-end bronze accents make it appear genuinely handsome. In short: this is the vacuum you’re picturing when you’re thinking about buying a robot vacuum.
Best Cheap Robot Vacuum
Not everyone needs a robot with all the most up-to-date technologies. Something like advanced mapping technologies is a lot less useful when you’re in a small studio apartment with very little to actually map. As more and more companies have begun making robot vacuums, the kind of bots without these advancements, that would have been considered higher-end models in the past, have become relatively affordable. These bots are effective cleaners, with powerful motors, easy-to-replace filters, and functional apps, but they’re not as effortless to use as some of the other ones on this list. Still, if you’ve never had the great privilege of ceding the vast majority of your cleaning to a respectful electronic gadget, any robot vac will be a huge improvement.
Our favorite budget vacuums are currently made by Eufy, including this one, the 15C Max. Though it employs a random bump method, we found that the Eufy 15C Max had enough suction power to be a supremely effective cleaner. It had a little trouble getting over an odd 1"-tall hump in our kitchen with hard floors, but otherwise did a great job navigating around the space and cleaning up everything we put in front of its motor. Scheduling cleaning times or manually turning on the bot is really easy to do with the Eufy app, which is well laid-out and simply designed. You’re also able to connect the vacuum with Amazon Echo or the Google Home, if you’d like to schedule cleaning with your voice.
Best Mopping Robot Vacuum
Compared with mapping and surface detection technologies, the latest innovation among robot vacuums is a bit underwhelming. That improvement? Robot vacuums can mop now. Well, okay, calling it “mopping” is a bit of a stretch. It’s more like “robot vacuums have Swiffer pads on the bottom of them now.” If you have mostly hardwood floors, this is actually kind of cool. Giving that wood a once over with clean water every so often will go a long way in keeping them looking as shiny as the day they were finished. But, just because a robot vacuum can mop doesn’t mean it’s a good robot vacuum.
The Roborock S6 Max is a genuinely good robot vacuum that also happens to be a functional robot mop. It has all the functionality of our favorite vacuums, like surface detection, laser navigation, and the ability to set virtual barriers, all in a relatively quiet package with a powerful motor that is capable of sucking up everything that comes in its wake. But it also adds a couple that feel a bit more experimental, like object recognition. That’s right, it can tell you (and show you, thanks to an onboard camera) what it’s running into. The app is a little bit clunky, but setting up the vacuum isn’t that much different than with any other one we’ve tested. Plus, the Roborock is compatible with Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. If you’re interested in a vacuum that can mop, this is the one to get for now.
Robot Vac with the Most Advanced App
The Neato D7 required just a little bit more assistance than other robot vacuums we’ve tested, but it offers a lot of the same features that made us love more premium robots. For one, the app is great: after a few sessions, it delivers a pretty complete floor plan, and you can draw lines where the vacuum shouldn’t go, which is far easier to use than physical sensors or magnetic strips that other vacuums force you to install. It has both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant smart home compatibility. You can also set up “spot cleanings,” which mean you don’t have to send the thing off for an hour when you just want it to circle the area around where you just ate. You can also manually control it like a remote control car, which is impossibly lazy and also very fun.
It’s a powerful robotic vacuum, though it fares less admirably against hair than other vacuums. It also managed to get stuck more often, and you have to be more careful about placing it back down, because it’ll lose its bearings if you set it back down more than a few feet away than where you picked it up. And you have to empty its filter manually, which is a pain, but usually unavoidable at this price. But overall, the extra options and easy app make up for these somewhat typical robot vacuum flaws.
5 More Good Robot Vacuums
While these didn't make our top slots, they're still high-quality robot vacuums that we'd definitely give our stamp of approval.
Eufy 11S Robot Vacuum
The Eufy 11S is basically the same feature-light vacuum as the 15C Max, but with less powerful suction. That means you'll have to run it a little bit more often or for longer periods in order to get the same level of cleanliness. It's still a super effective vacuum that's easy to set up and use, but a bit less efficient. This vacuum is also available in white.
iRobot Roomba i7+
The iRobot Roomba i7+ is basically a robot vacuum with the i3+’s motor and the i9+’s software. If you’re willing to shell out for a vacuum at this price, you might as well get the i9+, whose power allows you to more fully take advantage of the software.
Roborock's vacuums were some of the first to bring premium robot vacuum features down to lower price points. The S4, which has mapping technologies, is a testament to this. At this price it's a bit of an awkward fit: not quite as good as the bots that are a little bit more expensive, not so much better than the cheaper bots. Still, if you want those premium features but can't shell out for them, the S4 is a compromise you should consider.
Samsung Powerbot R7065 Robot Vacuum
This robot's unique design makes it better at tackling corners than many other robots. It also has manual settings that give you control over where it heads and the amount of energy it will spend to accomplish specific tasks. We think our options above are more effective, but if you like the design and are really worried about your corners, this is a good option.
The iRobot Roomba 980, our former top pick, is still an excellent vacuum with a powerful motor. But if you're going to be paying this much for a vacuum, you should get something with all the premium robot vacuum features that this bot doesn't have. At this price, we think you'll get more utility out of something that allows you to set up virtual walls without physical devices and that will empty its own tray when full.
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Originally Appeared on GQ