Let's face it, ever since you saw one cleaning up Jesse's house in Breaking Bad, you've wanted to buy a great robot vacuum cleaner to sort out your home.
But you haven't stumped up the cash yet because of that nagging voice in your head, the one that doubts that a robot cleaner would actually work or be able to navigate around your home without damaging your furniture.
Well, that nagging voice would be right ‚Äď a few years ago, that is. The early robot vacuums were, indeed, a bit naff. Actually, they were more than a bit naff; they were clumsy, noisy, ineffective wastes of time, and the concept is still finding it hard to shake off all of that negative stigma.
However, we're here to tell you that the best robot vacuum cleaners are now awesome machines. We promise. There are some top options out there.
Prices are becoming ever more affordable and the best robot vacuum cleaners are capable of keeping your house clean with minimal effort, often just with a voice command from your digital assistant.
In this guide, we'll go through our picks of the best robo cleaners for all types of houses. Best for hardwood, best for carpets, top budget option, top option for pet hair and the ones that work best with Google Assistant and Alexa - the whole shebang.
However, it's worth reading a bit about what you're getting yourself in for, when it comes to installing a robot vacuum cleaner in your house first...
Robot vacuum cleaners: Considerations before buying
Robot vacuum cleaners now come in an array of shapes and sizes across a multitude of different brands ‚Äď some well known vacuum cleaner specialists, and some tech companies jumping on the bandwagon.
In our selection of the best robot vacuum cleaners, detailed below, you'll find circular vacuum cleaners, ones with squared off edges, tall ones, skinny ones, ones with cameras and ones laden with sensors ‚Äď different manufacturers have different approaches to getting tricky-to-clean areas like corners and under furniture spick-and-span.
Don't get too bogged down with the technicalities, though, as we'll explain exactly what methods and approaches each robot we tested use, and how effective these prove to be.
You'll also notice that different robot vacuum cleaners have different strategies when it comes to room navigation ‚Äď some use those cameras and sensors we mentioned, some use lasers, some come with accessories you place around your home to tell it where to go.
Some even let you map out a cleaning area within a connected smart home app (it's 2021; of course robot vacuum cleaners pack in Wi-Fi). Those apps also have a plethora of different features, from tracking to schedules, and integrations with other smart home products, too.
If your home is made up of a combination of carpets and hard flooring then be sure to look out for robo cleaners that can tell the difference between the two; it takes a stronger suction to clean a carpet than it does a tiled floor, or floorboards, for example - and clever vacs can sometimes auto-adjust for these different surfaces.
Most of the top robo cleaners nowadays are brilliant at navigating on their own but some do also have the option to manually control them using a remote control or a virtual remote within the app.
We've whittled down our selection to a handful of robot vacuum cleaners and you can rest assured that they all do their basic job ‚Äď of cleaning up general dust and dirt ‚Äď with no issues.
However, don't go thinking you can simply chuck a robot vacuum cleaner into a dirty house and then have it spotless once it's done a cycle. It doesn't work like that. Robot vacuum cleaners are excellent for maintaining a clean house, but they need a good starting-off point.
In terms of a spec sheet for a robot vacuum cleaner there are two major things you should be looking at: the size of the battery and how strong the suction power is. Our advice... stick to anything above 4,000mAh for the battery and a suction rating of 2,000Pa+.
Finally, and this is probably an obvious one: robot vacuum cleaners can't climb stairs (at least, not yet). They are capable of detecting stairs ‚Äď and thus not falling down them ‚Äď and they are getting better at climbing up different levels (think rugs, room dividers and the like), but if you have a two-story abode, you'll either need to carry your robot to the floor you want cleaned‚Ä¶ or buy more than one.
Anyway ‚Äď enough of that, let's get on with the main event. Here are The Ambient's picks of the best robot vacuum cleaners that you can buy right now.
The S6 Pure is, as the name suggests, an upgrade on the Roborock S6 (¬£600) with a few tweaks to get the price down to around the ¬£500 mark.
There is no robo-vac brand that comes close to Roborock in terms of navigating a room.
It's hard to get an official number but, apparently, there are either 12 or 13 sensors packed into the S6 Pure. That's one less than the S6 but a couple more than you'll find on the S4 and S5.
As with all recent Roborock models, it's those sensors that allow for all the clever stuff in terms of mapping rooms and routes; an area where Roborock really excels. The little circle on top of the device is the unit where the heavy-lifting of mapping and tracking is done. It features an ultrasonic radar sensor, a cliff sensor, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a speedometer, and an electronic compass.
It's all powered by by a quad-core 32-bit processor, with a simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) movement algorithm combining with the laser distance sensor (LSD).
Roborock machines are always processing the optimal cleaning route minutes ahead, with a memory on board to remember room layouts, navigation routes, and areas it cannot reach.
The S6 Pure also features the company's Adaptive Route Algorithm, which calculates the most efficient cleaning route based on a room's shape and in-room obstacles, so you'll actually find that it runs into bother less often over time, as it learns where to avoid.
The S6 Pure provides a map showing what it has deciphered as different rooms as different colors. My downstairs has an open plan kitchen and dining room, so it had these grouped together, but it's easy enough to manually edit them.
Once your map is how you want it, you can individually select rooms for cleaning. You can also enable a multi-floor map, with up to 4 different floors on offer. Of course, you'll have to carry your S6 Pure up the stairs though, to clean different levels of the house - and it obviously won't be able to self dock.
The mopping feature on the S6 Pure is very much a "nice to have." Do you really want the hassle of filling up the tank, changing the pads and so on? For me, it's against the ethos of a robot vacuum, which is designed to clean your house with zero effort.
After a mop, you need to empty and dry the tank, pop off the cloth pad and stick it in the washing machine. You can also now get throw-away pads if you don't care about Mother Earth.
If you are interested in the mopping feature then the good news is the water tank is almost 30% bigger than on the S6; up from 140ml to 180ml.
If mopping is a big desire for you then check out the Roborock S7 later on in this robo cleaner buying guide.
Have a read of our full Roborock S6 Pure review to find out why it's our top pick.
Also consider: Roborock S6 MaxV
Thanks to the camera on the front of the Roborock S6 MaxV, this AI-powered model is built to automatically detect obstacles and skirt around them.
Adding cameras and the extra processing power to understand what the robot ‚Äėsees‚Äô all add to the price, comfortably making the S6 MaxV the most expensive vacuum cleaner from the Xiaomi-backed brand at ¬£699.99.
As mentioned, Roborock excels at mapping and navigation and the Roborock S6 MaxV is designed to be the smartest cleaner yet.
With two cameras and LIDAR, this cleaner is the most accurate at mapping that we‚Äôve tested.
It‚Äôs the cameras that really set this model apart. Thanks to a Qualcomm APQ8053 processor and a neural network trained by thousands of real-world images, the S6 MaxV is built to spot and avoid common household hazards that other robots can get stuck on. And, when spotted, the robot updates the map in the app to show a little thumbnail image of what it found.
It‚Äôs exceptionally clever, and I found that my cleaner avoided the (fake) pet mess and shoes that I left out, as well as a power cable on the floor.
The main problem with the S6 MaxV is that Roborock‚Äôs other cleaners are so good. Drop down to the S6 Pure and you lose the cameras but get all of the same smart mapping features and similar cleaning performance for $150 less.
Read our review of the Roborock S6 MaxV for more information on the brand's flagship model.
Buy now: dyson.com|¬£799
You'll notice that, like its predecessor the 360 Eye, the Heurist looks quite bit different to many of its rivals in this ever-expanding robot vac world.
It's a taller, yet narrower offering than the usual fat-pancake design ‚Äď measuring in at 120mm x 240mm x 230mm.
The reason for the taller-yet-smaller design, is that Dyson is more concerned with navigating obstacles like chair legs than it is with getting under furniture.
On that, it's succeeded. The Heurist can access small crevices between furniture that rival cleaners can't squeeze into and it also sails through chair legs like they're not there.
The Heurist has 8GB of memory on board (20x times the memory of the 360 Eye), so it is more than capable of retaining maps of your home's layout.
However, unlike the basic mapping of the 360 Eye, the Heurist really ups the game with personalized zones and room settings.
The latest Roborock vacuum cleaners all have great zone and room mapping options, allowing you to divide rooms up, set virtual no-go areas and the like - but the Heurist trumps these with a very in-depth array of specific settings you can apply to rooms and zones.
You can set areas where you want a more powerful clean (rugs need a harder suck than floorboards, for example), you can set areas to avoid (pet bowls, cables etc.), choose zones where you don't want the brush bar to spin (think a long haired rug or a surface that might be prone to scratching) and you can also choose particular places where you don't want the Heurist to attempt to climb.
It takes some initial work on the user's part to get the room and zone settings exactly as required but the result is a bespoke cleaning experience that's pretty much unrivalled when it comes to specific personal preferences.
The price it's in the upper echelons of the robo cleaner price range but you do know that you're paying for tried and tested technology with the Dyson brand, and the cleaning performance is superb.
Take a look at our Dyson 360 Heurist review for more in-depth analysis.
Buy now: Amazon | ¬£300
Anker-owned Eufy is making a big name for itself in the world of robot vacuum cleaners.
One of the latest models from the ever expanding line-up, the G30 Edge, comes with a mid-range price-tag, but a high-end spec sheet and feature list.
Its price-tag puts it head-to-head with the likes of the Roborock S4 but, in terms of the features, it's a robot cleaner that deserves comparisons with pricier models such as the Roomba i7+ and the Neato Botvac D6 Connected.
The G30 Edge is a step up in suction from the 35C; 2,000Pa compared to just 1,500Pa on its older stablemates.
There are three power modes on offer, which can all be set in the EufyHome app; standard, turbo and max.
However, it's the bonus option that you'll probably find most useful - BoostIQ. With this, you're leaving the decision up to the robot itself, based on what surface it detects it's on. It takes a bit more power to clean a carpet than a wooden floor, for example.
And that puts it under a bit of pressure for larger areas as the 100-minute battery life is only really on offer if you choose standard suction.
If you go for max, or indeed BoostIQ, you can expect to lose 20-25 minutes of battery life.
It navigates the optimal direction around your floor plan using 9 sensors - a few less than you get with a Roborock - and that might be why I found it to be a touch more clumsy than any Roborock models I've tested in the past. It's also quite a slow cleaner, taking around 20-30% longer to clean an area than rival vacuum cleaners.
The G30 Edge is a very compelling offering; especially given the ease of use with the super straightforward app and features like BoostIQ.
You can use Google Assistant or Alexa to direct the G30 to go home, start and stop cleaning - or ask where it's disappeared to.
Also consider: Wyze Robot Vacuum
Buy now: Amazon | ¬£200
Wyze, the industry-disrupting smart home company, has entered the high-end robot vacuum market with a sub-$250 bot that does almost everything its much more expensive rivals offer.
It boasts features like LiDAR and smart mapping usually only found on cleaners twice the price, as well as "Recharge and Resume," SLAM (simultaneous location and mapping), virtual walls, and room-by-room cleaning, and some seriously strong suction power.
What's currently missing is spot cleaning, any advance cleaning customization (the option to clean a room twice, for example), and integration with voice assistants or smart home systems (other than Wyze's own Rules engine).
Wyze's debut budget cleaner an excellent robot vacuum, and would be if it cost $400, which is what most bots this good cost. At $250 it's an absolute bargain.
And with Wyze's reputation for improving on its software and offering new features on a regular basis, the chances are it will only get better.
Head over to our Wyze Robot Vaccum Cleaner review for more details.
Buy now: Amazon |¬£399
Taking things back to basics somewhat by omitting the mopping functionality that's found on the likes of the flagship S6 MaxV, the S6 Pure and the S5 Max, the S4 Max picks up where 2019's Roborock S4 left off, offering the high-end vacuuming we've come to expect from the Chinese brand but with a more affordable price-tag.
Like its more expensive stablemates the S4 Max comes with a wealth of sensors for navigation (as well as a dedicated CPU).
And it's this array of hardware components that make all the impressive mapping of rooms and routes possible.
Maps, zones and rooms is an area where Roborock really excels - we've said it in all previous reviews and we'll say it again now - there is no robot vacuum cleaner brand that gets near Roborock in terms of navigating a room.
That little circular turret on top of the S4 Max is the unit where the magic happens, in terms of mapping and tracking is done. It features an ultrasonic radar sensor, a cliff sensor, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a speedometer, and an electronic compass.
It's all powered by by a quad-core 32-bit processor, with a simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) movement algorithm combining with the laser distance sensor (LSD). You might also see it referred to as LiDAR. The S4 Max's laser spins at 300RPM for an incredibly detailed mapping performance.
Roborock's latest model is a fantastic option for anyone who isn't all that bothered about the mopping functionality of the more expensive cleaners in the range. In terms of vacuuming it's essentially on a par with the likes of the S5 Max and the S6 Pure.
Read our review of the Roborock S4 Max for a more comprehensive overview.
Buy now: Amazon | From ¬£1,000
The S Series is the top dog of the Roomba range and comprises of two models: the S9 and the S9+. The key difference is also the most obvious here: the disposal tower that comes with the S9+, which means you no longer have to worry about emptying your Roomba (but you will eventually have to empty the tower, obviously).
Runtime on both is around 75 minutes and both have a new D-shape design (Roomba devices have historically been round) that makes them more effective at getting into corners. Should it run out of power, it will return to its charging station to power up before automatically resuming work ‚Äď a feature also found on the I Series below.
The other key difference? The price. $1,099.99 for the "base" S9 model and $1,399.99 for the tower of terror.
The S9 takes the i7's smart mapping feature and bin emptying tricks and ups the stakes - a lot. This might be the closest thing to an actual Rosie the Robot. The key addition here is a new sensor on the front of the bot, which uses two infrared beams to constantly scan the area around it, creating a 3D space for the robot to react to.
After a few cleans (you can also send it on some training runs to speed up the process), the S9 produces a map of your floor space, which you can tweak if it hasn't got it quite right and then label.
This tech - part of iRobot's vSLAM navigation system - means once you've labeled your rooms you can have your robot clean only certain ones. For anyone who has ever just wanted a clean hallway and found themselves endlessly chasing their robot and putting it back where they want it to clean.
Thanks to the dust-sucking base, you only need to touch your Roomba for general maintenance, which is important to keep it working well. Giving it a once over every couple of weeks would be good - once a month would probably suffice.
The best Roomba on the market, but by far the priciest model in this buyers guide, it features Clean Base, which charges the robot and empties the bin. Pair it with a Braava Jet Mop for those hard floors - use the new Imprint Link feature to pair up and automatically have the mop bot do its thing after the vacuum has finished - and you can kiss goodbye to floor-related chores for good.
Read our full Roomba S9+ review.
Buy now: Amazon | ¬£449
Once upon a time, this was the king of the Roomba clan. Even now, the 980 is still a superb performer at a much more attractive price point than when it first launched.
If your home is a bit of a gauntlet for robot vacuums, switching from hardwood to thin rug to thick rug to standard-length carpet in the rooms, the 980 could be just the model for you - and is especially highly regarded when it comes to sucking up pet hair.
Its Auto-Adjust Cleaning mode detects that it's on carpet it'll boost its power to start working harder and sucking in more air. You'll hear it because the fan will pretty much triple in volume.
It's pretty frills-free, compared to some of its newer rivals in this list, but is well worth considering. If you want top-end sucking performance and an easy to use app - with both Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility - the 980 should definitely be on your list.
Take a look at our iRobot Roomba 980 review.
Hardly budget at all but this Rooma entry model is a lot cheaper than its stablemates.
With its mid-range i3+ model, iRobot has brought the convenience of an auto-emptying clean base to an affordable robot vacuum. By dispensing with some more luxury features - room-by-room mapping, visual navigation - they've made the i3+ the most affordable self-emptying bot you can buy.
With 10 times the suction power of the rest of the Roomba range (only the s9 sucks harder), the i3 doesn't skimp on cleaning power and has plenty of smarts too - including smart mapping, imprint link with iRobot's Braava Jet m6 robot mop, and the new iRobot Genius AI.
Arguably the best feature of the i3+ is that it's the least expensive Roomba bot to work with a Clean Base. So you don't have to spend around $1,000 to avoid getting your hands dirty.
The Clean Base is basically a charging dock with a dustbin stuck on top - so it does take up a bit more room than the regular base.
When the vacuum is full it trundles over and the Clean Base sucks up all the debris, storing it in a small disposable bag that holds up to two months worth of dirt. Removing it is easy and a red LED light on the base warns when its time and the bag seals itself on its way out so you never have to deal with dust.
Read our iRobot Roomba i3 review for more details.
Buy now: Amazon | ¬£699
Neato's previous flagship (new Deato models are incoming) is a busy box of tricks that offers up more modes than its rivals. The shape is down to the fact that Neato thinks it's the perfect shape for a spotless clean, getting within 14mm of walls and corners ‚Äď compared to an alleged 98mm from circular robot vacuums.
The D7's shape allows for a front-brush design, with the main brush teaming up with a smaller, spinning edge brush that rotates at 90 degrees, helping to kick up dust and dirt that might be hiding in your cracks and crevices.
Using Neato's LaserSmart tech to find its way around your abode (with the lasers in the turret up top) the D7 divides rooms up into 15 x 15-inch segments and tackles the area based on what it determines to be the most efficient path.
There are eco and turbo modes, with an impressive two hour battery life on the former and around 45-50 minutes on the latter. Cleans can be started manually from the D7 itself, or from within the app.
But it was the MyFloorPlan mode that really set the D7 apart from the rest initially, though newer models on this list have now caught up.
On its first run-out, the Botvac will learn the layout of the land ‚Äď where walls are, where furniture is, and so on ‚Äď and then you're presented with a plan in the app. You can then draw virtual No-Go lines around any areas within this learned layout, to create areas in your house you never want the D7 to venture into.
If you've been put off getting a robot cleaner because you are wary of areas that are bound to cause them trouble, this feature is perfect. A software update also added the ability for the D7 to learn the layout of multiple floors as well, with a maximum of three.
Another great feature is the D7's new Quick Boost Charging feature, which analyses how much juice it needs to complete its clean, returning to the charging station and charging just enough to finish the job.
The Neato is a our favourite D-shaped robot and, if you buy into the science that the shape means better cleaned corners, then it could be the model for you
The best Neato you can buy - with Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT all on board - the My Floor Plan mode is a feature many people have been crying out for on robot vacuum cleaners for years.
Buy now: Amazon | ¬£599
Mopping has long been a core feature of Roborock‚Äôs flagship devices, allowing users to double-down on their hardwood floors by giving them an automated wipedown.
With the Roborock S7, this advanced feature is developing even further. The device now boasts one of the fastest sonic mop systems on the market, and the vibrating action on the mop itself is able to help scrub the toughest stains and grime from your surfaces.
So, whether it‚Äôs something that‚Äôs just been spilt on the floor or crumbs that have dried-on for days, a variety of high-intensity settings - ranging from 1,650 times/min to 3,000 times/min - are able to make short work of any mess and leave your floor gleaming.
Debuting on the Roborock S7 is the company‚Äôs VibraRise technology, which is designed to help the device automatically detect the surface it‚Äôs on and then, if a carpet is detected, lift the mop.
That means users are able to set the S7 around the house cleaning different types of surfaces without the worry of accidentally mopping carpets - all without interruption or the hassle of setting up a separate clean, too.
In order to maintain just-cleaned floors, the mop will also be automatically raised as the device journeys back to the dock.
Combined with the power of the vacuum‚Äôs Sonic Mopping system, the end result is both a comprehensive and clever clean that leaves all surfaces with exactly the right amount of mopping required.
Read our Roborock S7 review for more details.
7 robot vacuum cleaner top tips
Your home may be filled with dozens of smart devices, but the robot vacuum's ability to actually navigate around your house makes it a little bit special. Rather than stationary Alexa devices, robot vacuums can feel like a member of your household.
It's almost like a pet that cleans up your home, and we don't feel weird saying we've formed an unbreakable bond with our robot vacs. But like a pet, you need to look after it.
What can you do as a human being to make your robot vacuum feel good and work even better?
1. Name your robot
A good number of robot vacuum manufacturers will let you name your robot vacuum. No, really. So instead of having the iRobot Roomba 980 moving around your home you'll have your adorable best bud Roomby. Or Brownie. Or Charles Xavier the Third, Duke of Sandwich. Or Kevin. Whatever floats your boat.
Names impart identity, turning even the most cold device into a lifelong friend. If you name your robot vacuum something, you'll instantly care about it more. Think of it as a psychological trick to make you want to take better care of your robot vacuum.
2. Monitor its progress
We know, we know. The big thing about robot vacuums is letting them just clean your home and not having to worry about a thing. Counterpoint: why would you let a little rotating robot have free reign on your home?
Your home is built for big adult human beings, and often customised by you to accommodate either pets or baby humans. Thus, you need to keep an eye on your robot vacuum to make sure it doesn't get into trouble.
You don't have to hover over it like an overprotective parent, but you should check in every once in a while. See how it's doing, consult the companion app, and just make sure it's humming along as it's supposed to. We won't be responsible for any chewed curtains.
3. Clean out the bin
For the love of the smart home gods, clean out your bin. This is the grossest bit of owning a robot vacuum, especially since most have small bins and will have you pulling out clumps of dust from them into your garbage. The Roomba i7+ might be able to empty its own bin into its base station, but it just means you have to clean that instead.
But suck it up. Clean out that bin thoroughly, ensuring as many pieces of dirt and dust are out as possible. Even check out your manual to see if you can put your bin in the dish washer.
See, robot vacuums tend to use sensors to tell you when the bin is full. An improperly cleaned bin can confuse the sensors, which will impact your vac's ability to clean and send you on missions to empty an already-empty bin. Friends don't let friends clean with an improperly cleaned bin. Remember that.
4. Watch those wires
Similarly, you can't just let your robot vacuum go and hope for the best. You still have to take the dog out on a leash, so to speak. Before you get your robot vacuum to suck up all that dirt, you're going to want to take a walk around your home and tuck away some things.
Mostly, you'll want to tuck away the arch nemesis of robot vacuums ‚Äď the oil to its water ‚Äď wires. Some robot vacuums are much better at handling wires than others, but you should still make sure you don't have a tangle of cables spilling out from behind your entertainment cabinet or nightstand.
Just tidy up a little bit. You'll help your best buddy clean more efficiently and you also won't have to rush over to save it as it chokes itself.
5. Check the brushes
Your robot vacuum is built to go under and around furniture, sucking up grime from all those places you've failed to clean in years. Those places are dirty, and you never know what golden nuggets could be found there.
For the most part, your robot vacuum will do an admirable job on dust. But sometimes, you're going to want to check out the brushes to make sure everything is good. Maybe a ribbon gets stuck, harming your bot's ability to clean. Or, maybe you'll find a quarter lodged in there that causes your bot to intermittently stop in its tracks (true story).
Check your brushes after ‚Äď at least ‚Äď every other clean. Checking after every clean is better, but if you're in a rhythm where your robot vacuum has a regular cleaning schedule, it's not as important to do it every day.
6. Talk to it
Most robo vacs, those worth their salt, at least, can be controlled by voice assistants. You can call on Alexa and Google Assistant to start, pause and stop cleaning jobs ‚Äď the extent of this integration varies between vacs ‚Äď meaning you don't even have to lift a finger.
Some, like the LG Hom-Bot even talk back, telling you what it's doing, and letting you know when it's tired and needs to return home to its dock for a charge.
7. Don't pick it up randomly
Have you ever watched a baby crawl around on the floor, thought to yourself how adorable it is, then picked it up only to have it cry? Well, a similar thing can happen to robot vacuums, minus the soiled diaper.
You may one day get frustrated that your robot vacuum isn't cleaning a certain part of your home. Patience is your friend. If you're worried about it skirting too close to some wires, well, you missed the advice further up.
Anthony Bourdaine once said that the best thing you can do after cooking a steak is leave it the hell alone. Apply that thinking here. If you really need to move it or pick it up for any reason, turn it off first. You can either do this with the companion app or pressing a button on the robot itself.