iLife A9 full review

iLife has moved things up a notch with the latest model in its robot vacuum cleaner series. Smarter, more efficient and better-looking than ever, it's an ideal device for helping to keep your home pristine when you have more pressing things to do.

Sadly, the A9 is currently available only in the US, where it retails at $279.99. We'll update this article when it becomes available in the UK. In the meantime, you'll find robot vacuum cleaners available in the UK in our guide to the best robot vacuums.

iLife A9: Build & Design

iLife A9 review

The first thing you'll notice when you take the iLife A9 out of the box is its design: this is a premium robot that looks to be in a very different league to some of the cheaper models that have hailed from the company previously. The main body is high-gloss black vinyl, with a shiny metallic outer ring and a central metal disc. It seems a shame to get it dirty, yet that is literally its job.

On top of the device is what looks like a camera, and is one of many sensors built into the A9 to help it avoid obstacles and deliver efficient cleaning. This particular sensor is a component of the Gen 2 PanoView Navigation Technology, which enables the iLife to scan its surroundings and ensure it leaves no stone unturned, but also no stone turned twice.

iLife A9 review

Even the remote control has had an upgrade, and rather than the same old simplistic handset that ships with all iLife robot cleaners this one has an LCD screen that makes it easier to work out what you're doing. Fancy.

Some reasonably chunky wheels are found on the bottom, and these allow the iLife to climb up to 2cm, such as over door thresholds. Nevertheless, it retains a low profile and a slim body for getting under the furniture, standing 7.6cm high.

iLife A9: Cleaning Features

The headline feature for the iLife A9 is a new 600ml cellular dustbin. Whereas many upright or 'proper' vacuum cleaners promise to capture fine dust and debris, it's not often a feature associated with these smaller robot cleaners. These are designed more for interim cleans than full deep cleans, and will typically pump out some amount of dust along with the air.

Not so with the A9, according to iLife. It uses something called Gen 4 CyclonePower to trap all the little nasties, which means it pumps out clean air and nothing more. It uses centrifugal force to filter out small particles, dragging them to the bottom of a series of conical cylinders and retaining them inside the dustbox.

iLife A9 review

Its vacuuming skills are further enhanced by a proper roller bar - there's a bristle brush that's ideal for pulling up any grime entwined in your carpets, and a rubber brush primed for tougher dirt. The obligatory pair of side brushes, which enable its circular body to get right into the corners, is joined by powerful 1,000pa suction.

iLife A9 review

As with most robot vacuums there are the standard auto, edge, spot and max cleaning modes, while a virtual wall is enabled using a battery-powered gadget included in the box, preventing the A9 from venturing into unwanted territories.

Our problem with the latter is the same as with all such devices: it presumes you want to block off cleaning at only one end of the room, and if you have to keep moving the device it undoes the convenience of automated cleaning.

iLife A9 review

When it's finished cleaning the iLife returns to its dock for recharging, and we were pleased to find that it doesn't simply keep going until the battery depletes but rather when it has finished cleaning a given area. It can keep going up to 2 hours, then takes up to 5 hours to recharge. 

So we can be fairly trusting of the iLife's cleaning power, and in our tests it performed very well, but what about its other smarts?

iLife A9: Smart Features

iLife A9 review

The A9 has a built-in i-Voice assistant, which you are either going to love or hate. At various points during the process it will pipe up, signalling to you that cleaning will begin soon, that you have entered the Max cleaning mode or that the battery is running low, for example.

More useful, we think, is its support for Alexa, which enables you to control cleaning using your voice and an Amazon Echo smart speaker (if you don't already own one there are some great deals on Echo). Sadly, we're a Google Assistant home, and that's not supported.

iLife has yet to update it for the latest versions of iOS and Android (13 and 10 respectively), but if you've not yet updated there is also an iLife app you can use for scheduling cleans, tracking the progress and checking whether filters and other parts are in need of replacing.

In our experience, however, the smartest feature of all is the A9's ability to just get on with it and work out for itself using smart mapping where to clean. The whole point of these devices is automated cleaning, so the easier it is to set and forget the better.

iLife A9: Conclusion

A cellular dustbin, a roller bar, an electrowall and a handful of smart features including smart mapping mark out this premium-looking robot vacuum cleaner against some cheaper competition, and it should do a better job of keeping the dirt and grime inside than most. We'd like to see support for Google Assistant, plus an updated app to sort the latest mobile operating systems. That aside, iLife is on to a winner here.

Specs

iLife A9: Specs

  • Robot vacuum cleaner
  • 600ml cellular dustbin
  • 2x side brushes
  • rubber/bristle roller brush, suitable for wooden/tiled/carpeted floors
  • auto/manual/path/spot/edge/max cleaning modes
  • 15-degree grade-ability
  • climbs 2cm obstacles
  • charges in 5 hours, battery lasts up to 2 hours
  • 330x320x76cm
  • 3.1kg
  • 12-month warranty