Whether you love them or loathe them, household chores are a necessary part of everyday life. So wouldn’t it be great to have someone or something to pick up the slack? Enter: robot vacuum cleaners, a worthwhile investment for any busy household.
Robot vacuum cleaners have recently hugely risen in popularity, especially as more affordable models have joined the vacuum market with options that suit most budgets – Aldi even brought out their own model last year which promptly sold out.
Manufacturers offer a wide range of features on these smart cleaners like voice control, room mapping and even automatic dirt disposal.
Ready to shop now? Our current best buy is the Xiaomi roborock S5 max (£420.28, Amazon.co.uk)
Depending on the level of technology you’re looking for, robot vacuums can still be very expensive – one product we tested cost almost £1,200.
So before you invest in a robot vacuum, it’s important to consider exactly what you’re looking for, whether it’s a dual function cleaner that can vacuum and mop, a low maintenance product that effectively cleans hardwood floors only, or a powerful hoover that will reach every corner of your home, sucking up pet hair, dust, and everything else in between.
To help you make this decision, we’ve tested out a range of robot vacuum cleaners in three different settings: a small bedroom with a hardwood floor and rugs for the robot to navigate over; a large, open-plan kitchen complete with dining table and chairs; and a carpeted living room featuring numerous obstacles such as sofas, a coffee table, a desk and a television. Our final pick features the products that performed the best in these challenges and we believe are worth investing in.
The best robot vacuum cleaners in 2021:
- Best overall – Xiaomi roborock S5 max: £420.28, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for quiet cleaning – iRobot roomba i3+: £559.99, Irobot.co.uk
- Best for bin capacity – Proscenic M7 pro robot vacuum cleaner: £399, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for powerful suction – Dyson 360 heurist: £799, Johnlewis.com
- Best value robot vacuum cleaner – Eufy robovac G10 hybrid: £299.99, Eufylife.com
- Best for avoiding obstacles – Coredy R500+: £169.99, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for pet hair – Neato botvac connected D7: £399, Myrobotcenter.co.uk
- Best for cleaning hard-to-reach spots – Miele scout RX2: £389.80, Amazon.co.uk
Xiaomi roborock S5 max
- Battery life: 180 minutes
- Charge time: 6 hours
- Bin capacity: 600ml
- Size: 35cm x 35cm x 10cm
- Additional features: Alexa voice control, mopping
Available in black and white, this sleek-looking robot vacuum won our best buy. This is actually a dual-function robot, so it comes with an in-built dustbin and water tank, to vacuum as well as mop floors. As with many other products, this robot can be controlled via the Roborock app, but you can also simply press the “start” button on the top of the robot to begin a quick spot clean.
During testing, we found this product had no problem with navigating rugs and different surfaces at a reasonable speed, and most importantly it always corrected its cleaning path so that it wouldn’t fall down any stairs. With an impressive 180 minutes of battery life, this was one of the longest-running robots we tested, and we particularly liked that if it runs out of charge while cleaning a room, it’ll return to the dock to charge just enough battery to then complete the remainder of the room.
The easy to use app allows you to see each room map that the robot has created, which you can then cleverly edit and divide according to your cleaning preferences. The scheduling options for this vacuum cleaner were advanced compared to other products we tested, letting you choose the room, the setting (vacuum or mop), the day and time, as well as the power mode – we were impressed.
This vacuum robot consistently finds its way back to its small charging dock, and you don’t have to completely clear a room of obstacles (as with other models) in order for it to effectively vacuum dirt and dust. Another feature we liked was that the air filter and mop pad were washable, meaning they last longer before needing to be replaced. We also found the dust tray could gently slide out, making it easy to empty after each clean.
iRobot roomba i3+
Best: Quiet robot vacuum cleaner
- Battery life: 90 minutes
- Charge time: 2 hours
- Bin capacity: 500ml
- Size: W 13.26in x H 3.63in x D 13.34in
- Additional features: Self-emptying dustbin
iRobot’s roomba is probably the best-known name in the robot vacuum cleaner market. With a variety of models available such as the roomba 600 at the lower end and the roomba s9+ nearing £1,500, we chose to test this product for it’s mid-range price point. One of the best recent developments in robot vacuum technology is the ability for robots to self-empty their dust bin.
This robot is one of the cheapest models currently available which offers automatic dirt disposal, which means you don’t have to worry about the vacuum not finishing the cleaning job due to a full bin, plus it minimises your exposure to dust and allergens. With a more affordable price tag in comparison to other robots with automatic dirt disposal, this is a great option if you suffer from allergies and would like to minimise your exposure to dust. If you don’t feel like investing in the automatic dirt disposal base just yet, the vacuum and the base are available to buy separately.
The clean base doubles up as a charging base, and it comes with a dirt disposal bag pre-installed, which is made from an allergen blocking material to trap pollen and mould, and holds up to sixty days worth of dirt. The robot easily found the base each time it needed to empty its bin during cleaning, before returning to exactly the spot where it had been previously cleaning. This model also returns to charge if its battery gets low, picking up where it left off once its battery is full again.
We particularly liked the minimalist design of the robot, and although the clean base is much larger than standard charging bases, once it is placed in the corner of the room you soon forget that it’s there. During testing, we found the vacuum was far quieter than other models we tried, and its straight line navigation ensured that it didn’t miss any floor areas. As with most robot vacuum cleaners, it had some difficulty capturing dirt from room corners, although we noticed the edge-sweeping brush did help to sweep in the larger pieces of fluff and dust.
Proscenic M7 pro robot vacuum cleaner
Best: Bin capacity
- Battery life: 150 minutes
- Charge time: 4 hours
- Bin capacity: 600ml
- Size: W34.67cm x H 34.67cm x D 9.65cm
- Additional features: Alexa and Google Assitant voice control, vacuums and mops
This is the latest two-in-one offering from Proscenic, which has several other affordable options in its robot vacuum range. This robot was simple to set up – just download the Proscenic app and select your model to start vacuuming or mopping. We liked that this vac came already charged, so you could put it to work straight away. If you prefer not to use your phone, you can use the handy remote control that comes with it, or alternatively, the robot is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant – which we found easy to set up.
The app is a little more fiddly to use compared to others we used during testing, and we found it difficult to edit the floor maps the robot made. Scheduling cleans using the app was simple enough, as was changing the cleaning mode from quiet, to standard and powerful. Depending on the power setting you use, you can get up to 150 minutes of cleaning time, which is one of the longest out of the robots we tested, and we found that the vac quickly and methodically moved across the floor without missing debris.
We were also impressed that it automatically adjusted suction power depending on the surface it was cleaning, and it didn’t encounter any issues transferring from hard floor to a higher carpet level – others we tried consistently got stuck. Although it doesn’t affect the quality of cleaning, the voice setting on this vac is a bit strange, as it sounds slightly muffled, meaning you need to strain to hear what it’s saying. Considering that this robot can vacuum as well as mop – thanks to its removable water tank – this is a powerful two in one cleaner at a very reasonable price point.
Dyson 360 heurist
Best: For powerful suction
- Battery life: 75 minutes
- Charge time: 2 hours 45 minutes
- Bin capacity: 330ml
- Size: H 120mm x L 240mm x W 230mm
- Additional features: Adapts to different floor surfaces,
This futuristic-looking robot is the latest release from Dyson. A step up from its previous model, Dyson claims to have made this vacuum capable of learning as it goes, with 20 per cent more suction than before. This product lived up to these credentials, providing a seriously impressive and methodical clean in all the rooms we tried it out in.
We set up this vacuum through the Dyson Link app, where you can view the robot mapping the zones you want it to clean, which it then remembers via its huge 10GB of memory. You can set a cleaning schedule for your robot, viewing exactly where has been cleaned and how long it took. Moving on tank-style tracks instead of wheels, it easily moves across the room and adapts to new surfaces, and you can even create “restricted zones” via the app, so that it knows the areas it must avoid.
Smaller in diameter but thicker than other robot vacuums on the market, an obvious problem with this product is that it can’t get under objects that other models we tested were easily able to clean. We also noted that the efficiency of this robot means that it sometimes moves at quite a speed, barging into objects in its way before understanding and then remembering how to navigate around them.
Eufy robovac G10 hybrid
Best: Value robot vacuum cleaner
- Battery life: 100 minutes
- Charge time: 360 minutes
- Bin capacity: 500ml
- Size: H 12.8in x W 12.8in x D 2.83in
- Additional features: Slim design, removes pet hair easily
The younger sibling to electronics brand Anker, Eufy provided one of the cheaper robot vacuum cleaners we tried out, and you get a surprising amount for your money. Quick to set up, this two-in-one vacuum and mopping robot takes around three hours to fully charge.
The smart navigation system means the robot knows where it is at all times, and returns to the docking base when it knows it’s running low on battery. This robot was not as powerful as others we tested, and you have to manually choose between two suction settings. However, we found it did a good enough job of cleaning and moving across different surfaces – although it is recommended for hard floors only, so bear this in mind.
This robot was the only product we tested that came with its own handy cleaning brush to help you remove the dust and hairs that get stuck underneath the robot, which was a nice touch. It also has a waterproof base mat for use when you select the mopping function. At a bargain price, go for this one if you want a robot vacuum that is capable of a quick tidy up before you get home, which you can schedule and control from the Eufy Home app. Also, kids will love the comic “Butler” and “English Duchess” voice settings.
Best: For avoiding obstacles
- Battery life: 120 minutes
- Charge time: 300 minutes
- Bin capacity: 500ml
- Size: H 12.6in x W 12.6in x D 2.76in
- Additional features: Sweeps, vacuums and mops, slim design
This three-in-one robot is able to vacuum, sweep and mop floors. However, the mopping attachment is actually sold separately, so that already may be a tad misleading. Still, this was the cheapest and quieter robot vacuum cleaners we tested, and at 2.7in tall, this is a slim robot that has obvious advantages.
It is able to move under most household furniture, removing dust from normally hard to access areas. This is a random navigation robot, so you can’t map areas for it to clean, however, we found it provided a reasonably thorough clean in larger rooms, but it struggled a bit more covering the small bedroom space we tested it out in.
Neato botvac connected D7
Best: For pet hair
- Battery life: 130 minutes
- Charge time: 180 minutes
- Bin capacity: 700ml
- Size: H 13.2in x W 12.7in x D 3.9in
- Additional features: Large bin capacity
With two cleaning modes and smart mapping technology, this robot performed impressively on carpet but wasn’t quite as effective on a hard floor. Easy to set up and use with a simple app, we liked that you could draw “no-go” lines – which map out areas that the robot will avoid while cleaning. It is also compatible with Google Home and Amazon Alexa, so you can use voice commands to tell it to start, stop, or find out how much battery is left.
We found this one was particularly good at reaching dirt in the corners of the room, thanks to its unique “D” shape, and it had a long battery life (120 minutes). It was also easy to empty and re-fit the dust canister on this robot after each full clean. With strong suction comes loud noise, but this shouldn’t be an issue if you schedule the robot via the app to clean while you’re at work. Choose this one if you are a pet owner and have carpeted floors, as we found it was very effective at picking up animal hair.
Miele scout RX2
Best: For cleaning hard-to-reach spots
- Battery life: 60 minutes
- Charge time: 150 minutes
- Bin capacity: 400ml
- Size: H 13.93in x W 13.93in x D 3.34in
- Additional features: Swing-out side brushes
Quick and easy to set up, this robot has a handy mobile app which you can use to control the machine, but you don’t need this in order to actually operate it. We found this effectively cleaned each room, and navigated different surfaces easily (although it did have some trouble getting over the corners of a rug).
The feature we were most impressed with was the nifty swing-out side brushes, which worked really well, capturing dirt from the hard to reach corners of each room and from under furniture. At 67 decibels when on night mode, this was one of the quieter vacuums we tested. It does need around two and half hours charging time to clean for just 60 minutes, so if you have a large floorplan, we wouldn’t recommend it. It’s currently out of stock, but we hope to see more soon.
Robot vacuum cleaners FAQs
Robot vacuums vs other types of vacuum: Pros
Time saving: The best aspect of a robot vacuum cleaner is the fact that it cleans your home all by itself, saving you valuable time and leaving you one less chore to do yourself.
Cleans while you’re out: You can schedule the robot to clean on specific days and at specific times. Schedule cleaning for when you’re out at work and enjoy the feeling of coming home to a clean house.
Better reach: Thanks to their small size, robots can get under heavy furniture that you wouldn’t usually be able to clean yourself.
Vacuum and mopping: Many of the newer robot cleaners are dual function, with mopping capabilities as well as vacuuming.
Space saving: The compact and minimalistic design means robot cleaners take up much less space in your home than a traditional vacuum cleaner, plus they look a lot nicer, too.
Control remotely: Wifi-enabled robot vacuums can be operated and controlled via a smartphone app, and many of these models feature voice control, which is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google assistant.
Spot cleaning: Crumbs under the dining room table? Simply pick up the robot vacuum and put it next to the mess for a quick and easy spot clean.
Robot vacuums vs other types of vacuum: Cons
Small bin capacity: Robot vacuum cleaners are much smaller than traditional vacuums, which means they have a much smaller bin capacity. You’ll find you’ll need to empty the robot after every thorough clean.
Price: Although they are becoming more affordable as the technology develops, robot vacs are more expensive than regular vacuum cleaners, making them a serious investment in your cleaning routine.
Obstacles: Depending on the size of the model – robot vacuums can get stuck on objects or under furniture. You need to make sure the room is reasonably clear before the robot is scheduled to clean – don’t leave socks and cables lying about.
Stairs and corners: Robot vacuum cleaners cannot navigate stairs, but they will stop short of the stairs when cleaning, so you don’t have to worry about the robot falling down them. Most models cannot get into corners either, so you’ll still need another vacuum cleaner to clean these areas.
Battery life: Most models last for at least 60 minutes, which won’t be enough time for a full clean if you have a large home. However, the robot will go back to the charging base when the battery is low and will then return to the area to resume cleaning once adequately charged.
Can robot vacuums be set to clean multiple rooms?
Basic robot vacuum cleaners will clean any area available to them – so if you leave the sitting room door open it will navigate its way through and start cleaning the next room. More advanced robot vacuums come with mapping technology. This means the robot can map your home layout using built-in cameras and smart sensor technology, remembering the different areas using its memory bank. The maps the robot creates will then show on your app, and you can usually change the boundaries of the map and assign each map a name – for example, main bedroom, office, and dining room. The robot will also note the placement of furniture, so that it won’t bump into any of it when it next cleans.
Is it difficult to program a robot vacuum?
This of course varies depending on the model, but robot vacuums are generally designed to be as simple as possible to set up. All robot cleaners come with a charging stand or “home”, and the robot will need to be left to charge for a short while so that you can then set it up to start cleaning. You’ll need to connect the robot to your wifi, and most cleaners come with an app that you need to download to create a cleaning schedule for your vacuum. Here you can track your robot’s cleaning progress, and some apps will give you more in-depth information, such as the time it took for the robot to vacuum and the areas it successfully cleaned. Some will also send alerts to your phone if the bin needs to be emptied or if the robot is stuck in a corner and needs your attention.
Are robot vacuums worth it?
While a rather costly purchase, a robot vacuum cleaner is a great addition to your home as it can complete day-to-day cleaning tasks without you having to pick up a vac yourself, saving you both time and energy. Plus, if you’re short on space, thanks to its compact size, it won’t take up too much room in your home.
Can a robot vacuum replace a normal vacuum?
If your living space is all on one level, a robot vacuum cleaner can clean your home for as long as its got charge. However, robot vacs don’t have the ability to climb stairs so can’t (yet) replace a normal vacuum for a multi-floor home... unless you get two.
The verdict: Robot vacuum cleaners
For its comprehensive cleaning and reasonable price tag, the Roborock S5 max won our best buy. If you’d prefer to spend less on your first foray into the world of robot vacuum cleaners and you have hard floors, the Eufy G10 hybrid is an excellent choice. If you’re ready to make an investment, choose the iRobot roomba i3+ for its powerful suction and automatic dirt disposal.
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