Our Automation (Robot Vacuum) Tests and Scores

Updated
What it is: The vacuum's automation capabilities. Only Robot vacuums have automation features.
When it matters: When you want automatic vacuuming features.
Score components:
  • 30% Remote Controller
  • 10% Automatic Bag Emptying
  • 20% Automatic Recharging
  • 10% Schedule Programming
  • 10% Boundary Markers
  • 10% Smart Pathing
  • 10% App Name
Score distribution

Robot vacuums rely on a myriad of sensors and navigational aids to maneuver themselves around a room, but these systems can vary in terms of effectiveness and functionality. Some models use edge detection systems that allow for a crude form of obstacle avoidance and navigation, while others rely on sophisticated optical or laser sensors to build accurate maps of their immediate coverage area. They can differ drastically in terms of feature sets, with some basic models coming only with a remote controller that allows you to operate the vacuum without an internet connection, while others have a companion app that lets you set up virtual boundary markers, check area coverage, or set up cleaning sessions for individual rooms.

Test results

When It Matters

Robot vacuums can vary drastically in terms of feature sets and capabilities depending on their price and market positioning, with several similarly designed and similarly-performing models varying only in terms of automation capabilities. It's important to know the limitations of a given model's automation features, as some will perform better in certain environments than others.

Our tests

Our tests regarding automation don't test the efficacy or user-friendliness of certain features but simply whether or not a vacuum has them. Identifying the specific advertised capabilities of a robot vacuum doesn't require much in the way of in-depth testing. A close examination of the advertised specifications and features is usually sufficient to indicate whether it has certain capabilities.

Remote Controller

What it is: The ability to give commands to your vacuum using a dedicated remote or with an app on your phone. This could include starting and stopping the cleaning and/or being able to directly control the vacuum to a specific place using arrows, for example.
When it matters: When you want to be able to give basic commands to your vacuum without needing to crouch or be close by.

The 'Remote Controller' field exists to inform you if a vacuum comes with a separate remote control that allows you to access some of its core functions, such as starting or stopping the cleaning process or manually controlling its movement via directional buttons. It also lets you know if it has a similar interface inside its companion app. This information is usually found on a vacuum's packaging or within its promotional material.

Automatic Bag Emptying

What it is: Whether the vacuum cleaner has the option of emptying its dirt compartment automatically in a larger reservoir.

The 'Automatic Bag Emptying' field informs you of whether or not a robot vacuum can empty the debris collected in its internal dustbin into a larger external reservoir, usually mounted directly to its charging dock. This feature is usually found on more premium models, like the iRobot Roomba i7+, though variants of existing vacuums can be purchase with this feature, usually at an additional cost. This information is usually found on a vacuum's packaging or within its promotional material.

Automatic Recharging

What it is: Whether the robot vacuum has the option to recharge itself at its station when reaching low battery status.
When it matters: When you don't want to think about recharging your vacuum.

The 'Automatic Recharging' field informs you of whether or not a robot vacuum can return to its charging station once its battery level drops under a certain threshold. This feature is very common, as it can be found on even simple, budget-friendly robot vacuums like the ONSON GOOVI F007 Robot Vacuum. This information is usually found on a vacuum's packaging or within its promotional material.

Schedule Programming

What it is: The ability to program your robot vacuum to start automatically cleaning at a programmed time.
When it matters: When you don't want to manually start your robot vacuum cleaning session.

The 'Schedule Programming' field is used to evaluate if a vacuum has a feature that lets you schedule cleaning times. This feature can vary in complexity. Some models, like the Roborock S6, allow you to schedule cleaning sessions for particular rooms or areas, while others only let you schedule a cleaning session within its bounded area, like the eufy RoboVac 11S. This information is usually found on a vacuum's packaging or within its promotional material.

Boundary Markers

What it is: Boundary Markers are markers that the robot vacuum cannot cross. It allows you to set areas of your house that the robot vacuum cannot go.
When it matters: When you want to restrict the accessibility of some areas of your house to your robot vacuum.

The 'Boundary Markers' field informs you of whether or not a vacuum comes with physical boundary markers that can be used to keep a vacuum out of a certain area, such as in the case of the eufy RoboVac G30 Edge, or allows you to set up virtual barriers within its in-app coverage map, like the Neato Botvac D7. This information is usually found on a vacuum's packaging or within its promotional material.

Random Pathing

What it is: Random pathing means that the robot vacuum will clean and move in random trajectories. It isn't looking to optimize its movement to increase the efficiency of its cleaning time. You can usually identify those vacuums when they reach a wall and bounce back in a completely arbitrary direction.

The 'Random Pathing' field indicates if a vacuum has a navigational system based on random pathing, which is the simpler of the two navigational systems that we test for. Robot vacuums with this kind of navigational system usually don't construct a permanent map of their cleaning area and develop increasingly efficient and detailed routes. Instead, they usually move in arbitrary patterns after they've made contact with a wall or an object.

Smart Pathing

What it is: Smart pathing uses cleaning patterns to optimize the efficiency of vacuuming time. You can usually identify those vacuums when they clean the room in an organized pattern.

The 'Smart Pathing' feature is used to indicate if a robot vacuum has a navigational system that can build a permanent map of its cleaning area and develop increasingly efficient cleaning routes. Vacuums with smart-pathing capability can localize their position within a room and recognize the area they've already cleaned, so they don't miss large swathes of space. Scheduling cleaning times for specific rooms or setting up virtual boundary markers is reliant on having a smart pathing navigational system. These systems can vary in terms of overall functionality, with some like the Roborock E4 relying on optical sensors to navigate, while others, usually more premium models like the Neato Botvac D7, using a light detection and ranging (LIDAR) system that can accurately map the size of obstacles in its path. This information is usually found on a vacuum's packaging or within its promotional material.

App Name

What it is: Whether the vacuum cleaner has an app to control various settings.

The 'App Name' field is used to indicate the name of a robot vacuum's companion app, if applicable. Some basic robot vacuums, like the Coredy R500+, don't have a companion app at all. This information can usually be found on a vacuum's packaging or within its promotional material.

How To Get The Best Results

To extract the best cleaning performance from your robot vacuum, it's important to understand its limitations. Vacuums with more basic automation features are likely to navigate better in less cluttered spaces, where they aren't as likely to get stuck on an obstacle.

Conclusion

While a vacuum's automation feature doesn't necessarily impact its cleaning performance, it does impact its ability to clean and navigate a space without manual intervention.

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