The idea of a robotic vacuum cleaner is awesome: imagine never having to vacuum again.
In reality we’re not yet at the stage where we can leave all the cleaning to robots, since they’re not able to take themselves up the stairs, tidy up around themselves or empty their own dustboxes. The truth is you will still want to resort to a proper vacuum cleaner every once in a while. Nevertheless, they take the pain out of a daily flick over, and are desperately cool gadgets to show off to guests.
The trouble with automatic vacuum cleaners is they tend to be rather expensive, and it’s very difficult to justify spending that money when you probably don’t know what to look out for. After all, few of us will have tested a robot vacuum cleaner before.
The cheapest models will be circular in design with two spinning brushes at the front that can drag in dust from the corners and edge of a room in order that the vacuum can pick it up. The most basic models will most likely omit a rotating brush, which means they are likely to be able to navigate carpet well but not to clean it well. Typically they will have small dust boxes (that will need to be regularly emptied), and will be operated either by a selection of buttons on top or a bundled remote control.
Pay a little more and you’ll get a rotating brush that makes it easier for the vacuum cleaner to pick up hair and remove dirt from carpets. You should also expect to see filters that keep small particles from escaping the dust box and, potentially, a polishing pad that can be attached to the bottom to help deal with wooden- and laminate floors. We recommend you look for a model with a full length brush (often found in models that are squared at one end), which will make it easier for the robot to get right into the corners.
Mid-range robot cleaners are also likely to come with some method of blocking their access to certain rooms of the house. Some favour magnetic strips or discs, while others use battery-operated towers that emit a ‘do not pass’ beam.
The next step up will get you Wi-Fi connectivity, which enables you to operate the automatic vacuum cleaner via a mobile app. You can set up scheduling and even remotely trigger cleaning when you are away from home.
At the top of the range you’ll find cylindrical (or cyclonic) drums that offer very good suction no matter how full is the dustbox.
If you’re paying full-whack it’s possible that your robot cleaner will also feature a camera. While some, such as the Jisiwei S+, use this to turn the vacuum cleaner into a home-security device, others such as the Dyson use it to more effectively plan cleaning routes and dodge obstacles.
Below you’ll find our pick of some fantastic robot vacuum cleaners to get you started.
Best robot vacuum cleaners 2018
Dyson 360 eye
The Dyson 360 eye is one of the best robot vacuum cleaners you can buy and offers outstanding cleaning, but it is expensive. It offers powerful suction with a high-speed (78,000rpm) motor and cyclonic drum, which is paired with a full size rotating brush bar. You’ll notice there are no spinning brushes at the front, which are useful for edge cleaning, but the brush stretches across the full width of the vacuum. Advanced filtration allows the Dyson to capture allergens and expell cleaner air.
The 360 eye can intelligently navigate its environment thanks to a live-vision camera, allowing it to avoid obstacles and drops, though there is no way to block it from certain areas. Something we haven’t seen on a robot vacuum cleaner before is tank-like tracks for dealing with any type of surface. It’s also very compact in size, yet the 360 eye is still too tall to fit under certain furniture.
Rather than a dedicated remote the 360 eye is controlled by a mobile app, the Dyson Link App. It will show you exactly where in the house the Dyson has cleaned and automatically downloads system updates.
Samsung Powerbot VR9000
Samsung claims that thanks to Digital Inverter tech its Powerbot V9000 is 60 times more powerful than the average vacuum cleaner, and its wide brush allows it to sweep up dust just like a broom. A cyclonic drum helps prevent the filters clogging, which enables the Powerbot to maintain strong suction for longer, but it adds to the height and makes the Samsung too tall to get under some furniture.
An array of sensors help the Powerbot VR9000 to avoid obstacles and minimise blind spots. Unlike many of the automatic vacuums here it is squared on one side with a wide rolling brush below, which means it should do a better job of cleaning into the corners than fully circular cleaners, but also increases its size.
The Powerbot VR has auto, spot, max, manual and point modes, and is easily controlled via a remote. There’s a 700ml bin capacity, and the Samsung should keep going for around 80 minutes before needing a recharge. A Virtual Guard emitter can be used to stop the Samsung entering specific rooms of the house.
Neato Botvac Connected
Just like the Samsung Powerbot the Neato Botvac Connected is squared on one edge to make it easier to get into corners and edges, so you won’t see any spinning brushes sticking out the front. There’s a full-length rotating bristle brush, a large 700ml dust box, and a pair of large wheels that will help it to get wherever it needs to go. LaserSmart Mapping and Navigation technology help it to plan its route, and if the battery runs out mid-clean (it should last around 120 minutes) it will return to where it left off once it is powered up.
This is a Wi-Fi-connected robot vacuum, which means you can pair it with a mobile app in order to receive notifications, and to schedule- and manually control cleaning. For the latter you will need to be on the same Wi-Fi network, though, which rules out vacuuming from afar.
Boundary markers let you block the Neato cleaning a given area.
Vorwerk Kobold VR200
The Kobold VR200 offers powerful cleaning than can (almost) match a regular upright vacuum, backed up by good maneuverability and and solid smart support - albeit minus a couple of big features, like Alexa support or an in-app floor plan.
It's just a shame to see big downsides - the noise, the missing smart features - in a device with such a high price, which might make it hard to justify the jump from some of the cheaper alternatives.
iRobot Roomba 980
Another pricey option comes from iRobot, with its range-topping Roomba 980 still costing close to its £799 RRP. In common with the Dyson 360 eye it uses a camera to avoid obstacles and map floors, and it can connect to the iRobot Home mobile app over Wi-Fi to simplify setup and scheduled cleaning.
In common with many of the robot vacuum cleaners here it has a circular, low-profile design that allows it to fit under most furniture, but underneath things look a little different. There’s no rotating bristle brush, but two AeroForce extractors with HEPA filters. It can still make a decent enough job of cleaning carpets, though, thanks to the ability to sense when it is over carpet and turn up the suction power, and you won’t find yourself having to cut hair out the brush.
Miele Scout RX1 Robot
The Miele Scout RX1 looks much more like a traditional robot vacuum cleaner than the Samsung Powerbot, a circular device with two spinning brushes visible from the front end. Below is a rotating brush, which should do a better job of cleaning carpet than suction alone. It’s reasonably slim, so getting under most furniture shouldn’t be a problem.
The spinning brushes, combined with its circular design, make it easy for the Miele to reach wherever it needs to. Its navigation system makes it well suited to cleaning along edges and in corners. In Corner mode it will first vacuum the room, and then pay particular attention to the corners. And once it’s done, even the smallest particles of dust are trapped inside the 600ml dust box thanks to an air filter.
Battery life is strong, at around two hours, and in Auto mode the Scout RX1 can take it upon itself to vacuum the floors and then return to its base for charging. A Turbo mode is also available, getting the house cleaned faster. In common with most automatic vacuums you can control it via a remote, plus there are some buttons found on the device’s top. A magnetic strip can be used to restrict certain areas of the house.
Hoover’s Robo.com3 is much like the Miele Scout above, but Wi-Fi-enabled so you can control it via a mobile app (or use the bundeled remote). It uses a rotating bristle brush to suck in dirt to its 500ml dust box, but unlike the Samsung and Dyson it is not a full-width brush. Two spinning brushes at the front pull dirt and dust particles into its path, while there’s also a polishing pad for wooden and laminate floors.
At around 7cm height this automatic Hoover is slim enough to fit under most furniture, and it uses infrared sensors to navigate the home. There is no way to block access to specific areas, but we do like the Hoover’s built-in carrying cable.
Nine cleaning modes cover everything through spot cleaning to turbo vacuuming. The battery should last for around 120 minutes, and when it’s running low the Robo.com3 will automatically return to its base for charging.
Jisiwei S+ Smart Vacuum Cleaning Robot
A problem with robot vacuum cleaners is that for many people they are priced out of their range. The Jisiwei S+ is a more affordable automatic vacuum cleaner from China that is available via Amazon for just £279.99. With its full-length rotating brush, two front spinning brushes and attachable polishing pads it’s a cross between the Miele Scout RX1 and Hoover Robo.com3, but with some extra features.
In common with the Dyson the Jisiwei includes a camera, but here it is used for more than avoiding obstacles and combined with motion detection can turn the Jisiwei into a home security device. Connect the S+ to Wi-Fi and you can control it via a mobile app remotely (or the bundled remote), and also follow the camera’s feed and take photos.
We found the Jisiwei S+ does a good job, but it’s not fantastic for cleaning right into the corners and edges, which it tends to avoid. There’s no way to block its access to certain rooms, and the dust box is small. In common with its rivals runtime is around 120 minutes, at which point it will automatically return to its base for charging.
Iiutec R-Cruiser Smart Robotic Vacuum Cleaner
Iiutec’s R-Cruiser, which costs just £107.33 with free delivery from Geekbuying, is quite different to other smart vacuum cleaners we’ve seen in a number of ways.
Its key selling points are an ultra-slim design that means it should be able to get under most furniture, plus the ability to charge over USB rather than a base charging station – and that means you can charge it from a power bank too. Of course there are some compromises.
Though it has very long battery life and does a good job on hard floors, the R-Cruiser has a tiny dustbox and is unable to get over obstacles and deal with carpets. It can also manage only ‘dry’ cleaning.
We like the ability to charge it over USB, but if you’re likely to forget to recharge it look instead to a model with a charging base.
A second and much more affordable Chinese option is the iLife X5. It’s available for around £100 from GearBest (prices can fluctuate) with free shipping to the UK, but note that you may have to pay import duty (read our advice on buying grey market tech).
Unlike the other automatic vacuum cleaners here the iLife can be either a vacuum cleaner or a mop, with interchangeable 300ml dust- and water boxes and a mopping pad that affixes below. We were pleasantly surprised by how well it was able to mop the floor once this pad was sufficiently wet, though it is of course never going to fully replace an actual mop.
Part of the reason the iLife is so cheap is that it is more basic than the other automatic vacuum cleaners here, with no rotating bristle brush but two spinning brushes at the front and a powerful suction motor. It will not do a good job of carpeted floors, though it can slide over them with ease, and is much better suited to wooden- and laminated floors. It’s got no fear when it comes to corners and edges.
We rather like its simplicity, though, and with operation entirely controlled through four buttons on the top and a bundled remote control it is incredibly easy to use.
Vileda Robot Cleaner
The Robot Cleaner is a wallet-friendly option from Vileda that we’ve also seen advertised as the Vileda Cleaning Robot. At around £120 it’s a no-frills option that doesn’t come with a dedicated remote control and doesn’t connect to a mobile app, but it’s very easy to use. Three buttons on top let you choose whether you wish to clean a small, medium or large room. Simply press the button and cleaning will commence.
The Vileda has spinning brushes at the front and a rotating brush bar. It detects obstacles by bumping into them, but will quickly recalculate its route, and has drop sensors to prevent it falling down the stairs. Battery life is around 80 minutes, though it can take 5 hours to recharge.
Read next: How to turn your home into a smart home