Best Robot Vacuums of 2018

Angela Parkinson ·
Updated
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The Neato Botvac Connected is your best bet if you are ready to invest in a robot vacuum. How do we know? We crafted a custom vacuum track in our lab that allowed us to test robot vacuum cleaners on carpeting, vinyl and wood flooring, spreading debris like kitty litter, breakfast cereal, flour and sawdust in their path to see how they would perform. We then took them into a real home to see which ones could navigate around chair legs, under couches and over flooring transitions on their own. We also considered how easy they were to set up and use. Hundreds of hours of testing later, we had a winner. The Botvac combines excellent suction with great agility – an efficient cleaning partner for your home.   

Best Overall

Neato Botvac Connected

This is the robot vacuum with the best combination of features overall. It strikes a healthy balance between good suction and agility for vacuuming around obstacles like chair legs and flooring thresholds.
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Best Suction

Samsung POWERbot

The suction power behind this automatic vacuum is truly impressive. It swept up more debris than any other unit in our comparison. It had a little trouble getting around furniture but was still impressive for movement overall.
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Best Agility

iRobot Roomba 980

This unit was unbeatable for agility. One of the reasons you buy a robot vacuum is to get out of a few cleaning tasks, so having one that can move throughout your house unattended is helpful.
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Our Test Results

Product
Price
591.95Amazon
529.00-
897.88Amazon
399.00Amazon
284.97Amazon
249.99Amazon
374.99-
Overall Rating
9.9
9.7
9.6
9.4
8.9
8.8
8.3
Performance
10
9.8
9.5
9.3
8
8.8
8.8
Convenience
10
9.5
9.5
9.5
9.3
9.8
10
Design Extras
10
10
10
10
10
6.8
3.3
Warranty & Support
9
9
10
9
10
9
9
Climbing Height (inches)
1
1
0.625
1
1
0.5
0.55
Cleaning Performance-Hard
100%
95%
90%
80%
85%
85%
90%
Multiple Passes
Charge Time (hours: minutes)
3
2:40
2:40
:40
4
2:30
2:40
Hybrid
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Multi-Room Navigation
Cleaning Performance-Carpet
95%
100%
95%
95%
80%
95%
85%
Run Time (hours: minutes)
2
1:30
2
1
1:30
1:20
1
Returns to Dock
Scheduled Cleanings
Dirt Sensor
N/A
Movement
95%
90%
100%
100%
35%
85%
95%
Flexible Brush
N/A
Soft Bumper
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Maintenance (minutes)
1:03
2:37
4:07
2:03
2:01
3:15
1:45
Bristle Brush
N/A
N/A
Side Spinning Brush
N/A
N/A
Ease of Use
100%
80%
95%
100%
80%
80%
90%
Height (inches)
3.9
3.8
3.6
3.9
3.5
3.5
3.62
Full Bin Indicator
N/A
N/A
Diameter (inches)
13.2
13.7
13.9
13
12
14
13.39
Weight (pounds)
9
9.5
12.9
7.5
7.5
6
7.9
Noise (dB)
72
71
70
70
67
72
73
Boundary Markers
N/A
N/A
N/A
Carrying Handle
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Virtual Wall
N/A
N/A
N/A
Remote Control
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Smartphone App
N/A
N/A
N/A
Online User Manual
Warranty
1 Year
1 Year
2 Years
1 Year
2 Years
1 Year
1 Year
Manufacturer Support
Online Tutorials
Best Overall

Neato Botvac Connected

The Neato Botvac represents the ideal combination of features for sturdy and steady performance. It collected more debris from hard flooring than any other vacuum we tested and was second to only one in carpeting suction tests.
It was almost unstoppable, too. We were amazed at some of the obstacles it would climb over in order to keep cleaning. It rolled right over a dramatic transition from one type of flooring to another in the test house that stopped most competitors. Many avoided it the same way they avoided walls, and some that attempted to go over got stuck and required human intervention to get going again. The Botvac Connected got over the top of that threshold, and in and out of other obstacles with equal ease to keep cleaning an entire floor of our test house. This robotic vacuum also plays well with humans. The interface is the easiest by far to understand. It features menus that you can scroll through and error messages that you don't have to look up – something that got annoying fast with other units. And you can control it from anywhere using its phone app, so you can run it from your desk at work if you want to return to a cleaner home. It was also the fastest and easiest for basic maintenance tasks.
Pros
  • Cleaning power on hard floors was unsurpassed
  • You can run it remotely using an app on your phone
  • It is the fastest and easiest for basic maintenance
Cons
  • It tied for the second loudest in our reviews at 72 dB
  • There is no mopping function
  • Lacks an actual remote control
$591.95Amazon
Best Suction

Samsung POWERbot

We spent hours watching these robotic vacuum cleaners pick up breakfast cereal, sawdust, pet hair, kitty litter and flour on different flooring surfaces. When we tallied the total grams for all tests, the Samsung POWERbot collected the most overall. It even has a cool see-through window on top that lets you see everything it is removing from your floors.
This one struggled at times to maneuver around the test house. It required human help to get unstuck from atop a transition between tile and hardwood flooring, and again when it got confused and stuck under one of the couches. There was one rug's edge that it could not get over without help, either. Most of the time it was good at getting to messes, though, and it was great at clearing them with its powerful suction. The POWERbot is not perfect for user-friendliness. The screen looks sort of dated and it’s not always clear what error messages mean. It is easy to use in some ways, though. The fact that you can run it remotely from your phone through an app is pretty amazing. It means you don't have to be anywhere near it to get it cleaning.
Pros
  • Displayed the best suction in our tests
  • Mobile app enables true remote controls
  • Programmable for future scheduled cleanings
Cons
  • The lack of a handle is a drawback, especially if you need to carry it up stairs
  • It got stuck on some obstacles, including carpets, in our test home
  • Screen is somewhat hard to read
$529.00Amazon
Best Agility

iRobot Roomba 980

The point of a robot vacuum is to take some of the pressure off you for maintaining your home, and the iRobot Roomba 980 is amazing for that. It never stopped cleaning during our at-home tests. It could conquer a dramatic drop-off between rooms or flooring types, the uncomfortably-close-together table and chair legs, and a couch with a heavy dust ruffle. It cleaned in and around all of them, so it is one of the most self-sufficient options. You can start it up and then forget about it while you do something else. Many of the other units needed much more help and supervision to keep vacuuming.
The Roomba 980 was not as impressive for suction as some others at the very top of our lineup, but it was still competitive. It was in the top tier for suction power on carpeting and hard floors overall but struggled to clean certain messes on some surfaces, including pet hair. This is a fairly large unit but at least it has a carry handle for transporting it up and down stairs, and to other areas of your home. It is competitive when you consider ease of use issues too. While it does not have a screen it does have pre-recorded voice messages that let you know what is going on. It will play a message like "please charge Roomba" so you know what it needs to keep cleaning.
Pros
  • It easily transitions between different types of flooring
  • The warranty is twice as long as many others
  • Audible error codes tell you the Roomba’s status
Cons
  • The suction is only average strength
  • It’s the heaviest and largest in diameter
  • This is a significant investment
$799.00Amazon

Why Trust Us?   

We spent over 300 hours testing robotic vacuum cleaners in our laboratory and an actual home to see which ones could extract the most messes from the most surfaces. We sprinkled debris like kitty litter, breakfast cereal, flour and sawdust on our laboratory test flooring and weighed what each unit was able to collect. We then changed the surface and repeated the tests to see how each one would perform on carpeting and different types of hard flooring.

We then took each vacuum home and had it tackle a real cleaning project. We took note of how self-sufficient each robot vacuum is and whether it could maneuver around obstacles like table and chair legs. We rated them on how well they could go from room to room, even when there was a shift in the type of flooring.

We also compared the specifications on each, including their run times and charge times. We considered what kind of brushes they use and also how easy their display and other features make it to understand what might be going on inside the vacuum at any given moment.

Customer service also is a factor for an investment like this. We noticed whether or not vacuum manufacturers responded to our inquiries and what type of coverage they offer under their warranty. 

How We Tested 

For this round of testing, laboratory staff built a vacuum track that was elevated from the ground, making it easier to observe vacuum behavior and access the test units, when needed. The track had wooden sides on three sides that worked to represent walls in our testing. There was no wall on the fourth side so we could leave a drop-off that would test how well the vacuums sense stairwells to avoid a damaging fall. We put down different types of flooring in the track to test all competitors on vinyl, wood and carpeting.

Our home testing was conducted on living, dining, kitchen and bedroom areas of a 1400-square-foot house. The robotic vacuums had to clean around two couches, several chairs and a dining room table. We observed whether they could weave through the chair and table legs to keep cleaning. We also considered whether they could effectively clean on many different types of surfaces in the home – two types of area rugs, wood flooring and tile, and the transitions between those flooring types. 

This is a product category where you get what you pay for, generally speaking. While there are a couple competitive lower-priced models, most of the ones below the $400 range had a hard time with basic tasks – they picked up less debris in our suction tests and were less able to maneuver around obstacles and keep vacuuming on their own. They were also less able to find their way back to the base for recharging. If you don't mind being home while they are cleaning, that might be just fine. You can get them unstuck and then do something else in another room for a while until they get stuck again. If you are dreaming of coming home from work to clean floors, be prepared to pay a little more for the ones that can keep themselves going without your help.

You also pay more for the ones you can control from your desk at work, or anywhere, using a Wi-Fi phone app. Happily, those are the same ones that have the right set of physical features to keep cleaning, even if they have to go through some table legs or over the edge of an area rug. Controlling the ones that get stuck all the time from your phone would be an exercise in frustration. They would start cleaning when you send the command from your phone, get stuck and then stay stuck for hours until you return.

You pay more for the products that clean your floors for you, unsupervised, but that is one of the reasons to buy a robot vacuum in the first place. The added investment is worth it in this case. 

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