It’s 2019, and connected robot vacuums aren’t a new product category or device anymore. Rather these these small circular vacuums on wheels have twirled their way into the mainstream. Yep, after plenty of testing with many robots running around my house, I can say these smart vacuums are good at grabbing dirt, dust and hair, while also being more connected than ever. It’s a great feeling to tell Alexa or Google to start the vacuum. It’s really the future of cleaning, since you can sit back with your feet up while the vacuum does the dirty work.
With Amazon Alexa, the Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and SmartThings fighting to be the smart home ecosystem in your house, it’s important to know that these vacuums generally don’t play favorites. Across the industry, big names like iRobot and Neato do an excellent job of supporting multiple ecosystems. Plus, if you opt for a Samsung PowerBot, thanks to SmartThings integrating with Google Home, you can get around walled gardens.
Each company uses its own technology, but almost all of them feature lasers for mapping, wheels for moving, plenty of brushes, and suction for cleaning on all surfaces.
Ahead we’ve outlined our top picks across the best of the best, most value, and the smartest. Stay tuned to CNN Underscored in the coming weeks for in-depth reviews on each of these.
iRobot isn’t messing around anymore. The $1,099 Roomba i7+ does virtually everything on its own. With plenty of sensors, cameras, lasers and antennas on board, it can map out your home (yes, it can handle multiple floors). It will auto-dock itself when it needs to charge or gets full. And don’t worry about getting a notification to empty the i7+; it will self-empty into a larger bag that’s built into the base. That explains the high price, but you get an ultimate cleaning machine. It’s great for pet hair, with a proprietary high-efficiency filter to capture more. Dual brushes at different heights let it handle any floor from hardwood to carpet. To ensure it can clean all the surfaces, it has 10 times stronger suction than previous models.
Even better, the iRobot app can link with Amazon Alexa or Google Home for voice control. The app holds the digital maps and will notify you if the i7+ gets stuck. More importantly, the i7+ supports multiple maps which allows you to use the device on several floors. You can name each room, like a kitchen or bathroom, so you can tell the Roomba to clean just one room at a time if you want.
Neato may not have the name recognition of iRobot, but the top of the line D7 has almost all the same features for $799. Yes, it’s lacking the self-emptying, but it cleans just as well and lasts a bit longer, at about 120 minutes of battery life depending on the mode. Designwise, it has two main wheels and a third one for turning; but unlike circular vacuums which need an additional brush for corners, the D7 has a “letter D” design allowing it to attack corners with ease.
The companion app allows you to see a map of your home and to name the rooms. It also will let you block off certain areas, both in-app or with physical boundary tape that’s included. Without connecting it to a smart home ecosystem, Neato allows you to schedule cleanings and customize settings. Additionally, an Apple Watch app for easy control will appear after you set up the iOS app. For those with an Apple Watch, it’s a very easy way to start and stop the vacuum.
Samsung – yes, the tech giant that makes phones and TVs – is also in the smart vacuum space. While it did offer a “Star Wars”-themed Powerbot, we’re not talking about that model here. Instead, I’ve been testing the $699 Powerbot R7070, which combines a circular design with a rectangle head on the front. The design is well thought out, with two large main wheels and a small circular one for turning and rotating. The rectangular brush head gives it a wider frame for cleaning, and it will auto-remove pet hairs that get stuck.
It integrates quite nicely with the SmartThings app (in addition to Amazon Alexa or Google Home ecosystems), but you can also use an included physical remote to start and stop cleanings. At $699, it’s a lot cheaper than the iRobot i7+ and performs well, but its height caused it to get stuck under cabinets and couches, which can be a pain.
The $499 Roomba E5 is the most affordable robot vacuum that I’ve tested. It’s also one of the most affordable options from a reliable brand. Like the high-end i7+ from iRobot, the E5 has a smaller circular design with a dedicated brush for corners. It also has the same proprietary high-efficiency filter for getting all the dirt and pet hair you can imagine.
It can still clean very well with a few modes, but it lacks smart mapping; you won’t be able to see a map of your home or apartment, but it still will clean throughout the floor it is on. You still get control in the app and the ability to hook it up with Alexa or Google Assistant.
Last but not least, Shark’s ION S87 combines a robot vacuum with battery-powered handheld that plugs into the top for $499.99. When not in use, it looks like a toy vacuum, but it packs some nice features. The single charging dock will charge both the robot vacuum and cordless handle as well. Since the handheld detaches, you can use both at the same time.
Like the iRobot and Samsung models, it has a self-cleaning brush that makes it ideal for vacuuming pet hair. While it won’t self-empty, it does have a large and easy-to-remove receptacle. You can control it through an iOS or Android app and link it to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for voice control.