The best robot vacuum cleaner for your smart home

Buyers guide: We review the latest and greatest smart vacuum cleaners

The best robot vacuum cleaners

Let's face it, ever since you watched Breaking Bad and saw one cleaning up Jesse's house, you've wanted to buy a robot vacuum cleaner to sort out your house. But you've haven't stumped up the cash yet because of that nagging voice in your head, the one that doubts that a robot vacuum cleaner would actually work or be able to navigate around your home without damaging your furniture.

Well, that nagging voice would be right – a few years ago, that is. The first-generation of robot vacuum cleaners were, indeed, a bit crap. Actually, they were more than a bit crap; they were clumsy, noisy, ineffective waste of times, and the concept is still finding it hard to shake off all of that negative stigma.

However, we're here to tell you that robot vacuum cleaners are now awesome. We promise. There are some top options out there.

Sure, they are still as expensive as heck, and sure, they still get themselves stuck or lost quite a bit – and they are in no way a replacement for an upright vacuum cleaner – but they are capable of keeping your gaff clean with minimal effort.

Robot vacuum cleaners: Considerations before buying

Robot vacuum cleaners now come in an array of shapes and sizes across a multitude of different brands – 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 ladden with sensors – different manufacturers have different approaches to getting tricky-to-clean areas like corners and under furniture spick-and-span. Don't be 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 – some use those cameras and sensors we mentioned, 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 2018; of course robot vacuum cleaners pack in Wi-Fi). Those apps also have a plethora of different features, from tracking, to schedules, to integrations with other smart home products.

We've whittled down our selection to five of the top robot vacuum cleaners and you can rest assured that they all do their basic job – of cleaning up general dust and dirt – 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 this. Robot vacuum cleaners are excellent for maintaining a clean house, but they need a good starting-off point.

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 – and thus not falling down them – 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… or buy more than one.

Anyway – 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.

Neato Botvac D7 Connected

The best robot vacuum cleaner for your smart home

$799, | Amazon

A D-shaped entry, the latest Neato flagship 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 - 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's the MyFloorPlan mode that really sets the D7 apart from the rest. On its first run out the Botvac will learn the layout of the land – where walls are, where furniture is, and so on 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 recent software update actually means that the D7 can learn the layout of multiple floors as well - 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 ambient verdict
Neato Botvac D7 Connected
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 awesome My Floor Plan mode means no more fencing off troublesome areas with magnetic strips and the like. The cleaning performance is great, the app is easy to use and the battery life is superb too. Throw in both Alexa and Google Assistant voice controls into the mix and you're looking at a pretty complete package.
  • Great digital assistant integration
  • Multitude of cleaning modes
  • My Floor Plan and No-Go lines
  • Still quite pricey
  • Turbo mode is pretty loud
  • Manual mode is a tad clunky

Dyson 360 Eye

The best robot vacuum cleaner for your smart home

$999.99, | Amazon

The fact that Dyson now has a robot vacuum cleaner should be enough to convince you to get involved in the game. You won't be surprised to hear that the Dyson 360 Eye is one of the heaviest hitters of the bunch, and it actually has the highest suction rating of any of the robots we tested – 1800-2000Pa, if that means anything to you. Dyson claims it has twice the suction power of any robot cleaner and while we don't agree that's entirely true we will agree that it does suck big time – and, with vacuum cleaners, that's a good thing.

You'll be amazed, yes amazed, if you let the 360 Eye loose on carpet you thought was clean. Its dust container will be full of grey filth by the time its 45 minute cycle is done. Yep, 45 minutes - that's not a lot, we agree. However, we use our Dyson in our open plan living room / dining room / kitchen setup - and 45 minutes is just about enough. There is a 'quiet' mode too, which tones down the suction - and the noise - and that lasts for 70 minutes. However, even if it doesn't quite get the job finished the Dyson is clever enough to go and charge itself (2 hours 45 minutes for a full charge) and then resume the job from exactly where it left off.

It does that, and locates itself in general, using the 360 panoramic camera on the top, which is constantly scanning the room to look at where it's going and where it still needs to visit. There are no additional extras – virtual walls, barriers etc – that need setting up with the Dyson, it's good to go right out of the box. That also means it's easy to move around the house to different levels. It obviously won't be able to find its way back to the charging station if it's not on the floor where that's plugged in, but it will work itself back to the exact spot where it started cleaning and wait for you to come and collect it.

Looks wise, you'll notice that the 360 Eye is quite different to its rivals in this roundup. It's a taller, but narrower offering. We're told that the company was more concerned with navigating obstacles like chair legs than it was with getting under furniture. On that, it's succeeded, the Dyson is one of the top performers when it comes to not getting stuck – the tank track wheels make it a decent climber too.

You'll also notice no brushes sticking out from the edges of the Dyson – cleaning is handled by a motorised brush bar with the same carbon filaments and nylon bristles you'll find on an upright cleaner from the company. We did worry this might mean dirty corner spots but we needn't have – it's a consistently good clean.

The Dyson Link app gives you access to live status of your cleaner, schedules plus maps of previous cleans, and you can also remotely start a clean from your smartphone. Also, on the smart home front, there's an Alexa skill, so you can ask your 360 Eye to start or stop cleaning from your Echo speaker.

the ambient verdict
Dyson 360 Eye
There's just so much to love with the 360 Eye – it's easily the most complete robot vacuum cleaner. It's super easy to set it up, there's no faffing with virtual walls and the like and it's excellent at both navigating and cleaning. The app, which has just been updated, is slick and the Alexa integration is a welcome addition as well. It's on the top-end of the price range for this group but, in our opinion, is well worth the money.
  • Fantastic cleaning
  • Superb room navigation
  • Slick app and Alexa on board
  • Short battery life
  • Too tall to go under some furniture
  • High-end price

iRobot Roomba 980

The best robot vacuum cleaner for your smart home

$999.99, | Amazon

iRobot is possibly the biggest name in the robot cleaning world; the Roomba range has been on sale for over 15 years and, with the latest generation – the 900 Series – the company has introduced its iAdapt 2.0 Responsive Navigation system, along with Alexa integration.

What does that mean exactly? It's essentially simultaneous localisation and mapping, combined with an algorithm that helps the 980 simultaneously map and track. That means that not only does it know where it's been, but it also has in mind where it's going next. In the real world it means you don't see it just aimlessly bumping around your furniture and missing areas – whole rooms get covered. With a super slim 3.6-inch high profile – one of the sveltest robots we've used – it doesn't have too much bother getting under furniture either and is one of the better performers at not getting stuck.

Now, all the cleaners in our roundup are sufficient at cleaning and picking up dirt – that much is a given if we've included them in a 'best-of' buyers' guide. However, while the 980 does a pretty good job, compared to the others on this list, its cleaning performance was the weakest. Especially with stray hairs, which it didn't seem to be able to gobble up with any great aplomb.

The 980 is also pretty loud, with a bit of an annoying high pitched wheeze; it's much noisier than its rivals. The slot to remove dust from the bin is also too slim – you'll find that you have to pull it out with your hands a bit, rather than just tipping it out, which is a bit disgusting.

Back to the good stuff though and there's a nice edge clean mode where, at the end of a clean, it double checks it's picked up the dust around skirting boards and furniture legs. Battery life is also good at 2 hours - although that will take a hit if you turn on the super-sucky Carpet Boost mode.

The 980 comes boxed with some wall barriers, which have the dual modes ‘virtual wall’ for blocking off rooms and ‘halo’, which is like a forcefield – handy if you want to create no-go areas around pet food bowls, or delicate furniture.

All-in-all then, a bit of a mixed bag for the Roomba 980 and we've not even mentioned that it's the priciest model on test. Ouch.

the ambient verdict
iRobot Roomba 980
The price-tag and the heritage indicate that you'll be getting the best robot cleaner available with the 980 – but that's just not the case. It's fine, it does a great (not perfect) job at cleaning and it's clear that the company has paid attention to shortcomings of the past, but it's just hard to fully recommend the 980. You won't be massively disappointed – as we said, it's fine on the whole – but you will get better value for money, and better performance, elsewhere.
  • Easy to use app
  • Dual mode virtual wall
  • Edge mode is unique
  • So expensive
  • Struggled with hair
  • Noisy operator

Samsung Powerbot VR7000

The best robot vacuum cleaner for your smart home

$599, | Amazon

Samsung’s current robo vacuum front runner – the Powerbot VR7000 – screams ‘appliance’. In fact, that LCD display makes it look like a microwave. A flat, squashed microwave. When we say front runner, there are other models of Powerbot you may want to consider, but it’s the VR7000 that gets top billing from the Korean company – so it’s the model we’ve taken into consideration.

Less than 10cm tall, it’s not as skinny as the Hoover, but it’s a much better performer. The flat front design is pretty unique in the robot cleaner world and it’s the auto shutter feature that really sets it apart – it’s a movable part that drops down near edges to scoop up hard to get to bits of dust and grime. On corners, it will actually visit the same spot, three times - while increasing the suction power 10% each time – so it makes sure it gets everything up.

On to suction power and the Intelligent Power Control tech detects the type of surface it’s running on, whether that be carpet or hard floor, and generates the most effective suction. If it moves from a wooden hard floor to a deep shag pile (snigger) then it will ramp up the power. You can also choose the level of suction from within the app, and you’ll get 30/60 or 90-minutes (ish) from the different modes on offer – from a charge time of around 2.5 hours. There’s also a mode where it will just keep going until it can’t go no more – making it some sort of kamikaze robot (it won’t crash and die – it will just stop).

There’s a bulky as heck remote for controlling the Powerbot too – but the reason it’s chunky isn’t (solely) down to bad design… the remote also packs a laser that you can guide the robot around with. It’s a handy, if somewhat, clumsy feature that is – once again – a feature that’s unique to Samsung.

You don’t have to use the remote though – you can quickly start or stop it, schedule cleaning times and check the cleaning history from the Samsung Home app too.

It hasn’t quite got the tank wheels of the Dyson, but the big lcaw-esque rollers do make it pretty nifty at climbing over various obstacles around the house.

Basic voice assistant controls are on offer from both Google Assistant and Alexa (and Bixby too, if you’re one of the 17 people using Samsung’s digital assistant) and there’s also a nifty self-cleaning function that helps (but does not eliminate) with hair and fluff build up on the brushes.

the ambient verdict
Samsung Powerbot VR7000
Samsung's robo is quite a funny looking chap but it does the job - pretty impeccably - in its own unique way. It's particularly good on carpet - where it automatically ramps up the power - although the battery life and the charge time isn't the most efficient on test.
  • Unique edge cleaner
  • Frickin lasers
  • Self cleaning brush
  • App is pretty naff
  • Quite noisy
  • Looks like a squashed microwave

Xiaomi Mi Robot

The best robot vacuum cleaner for your smart home

$319, | Amazon

This one is a bit of a left-field inclusion. Xiaomi is a Chinese company that's more famous for its budget smartphones, fitness trackers, laptops and tablets. However, the Mi Robot (made by Xiaomi startup subsidiary Rockrobo) is awesome – although you will need to be fluent in Chinese to make the most of it.

When it comes to cleaning, it's only really the Dyson in this list than can compare with the performance of the Mi Robot, and Xiaomi's effort comes in at around a third of the price. Yep, a third – it's ridiculously good value.

The tech smarts on the Mi Robot are second to none. There are a total of 12 sensors packed into this robot vac, including an ultrasonic radar sensor, a cliff sensor, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a speedometer and an electronic compass. However, it's the trio of dedicated processors for the simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) movement algorithm, combined with the laser distance sensor (a small disc you can see spinning up top) that wins the top-tech-smarts prize for Xiaomi. We'd actually say it's better than the Dyson 360 Eye at navigating and we're told that it's constantly planning the optimal cleaning route minutes ahead. There's obviously no way to verify this, but it's easily the least clumsy robot vacuum cleaner we've tested.

Boasting an air pressure of 1,800Pa, the Mi Robot has three power modes and, on the lowest (which still does a great cleaning job) is capable of 2.5 hours of cleaning – Xiaomi tells us that equates to a floor space of 250m sq. We keep ours on the top, turbo mode, however, although we have to admit it's pretty loud.

The dust bin is smaller than some of its rivals, but a nice touch is that the app will warn you when it needs emptying. Ah, the app – you knew there would be a catch, right? While you could buy the Mi Robot and just use the buttons on the top to clean your house, and never have an issue, you want more, right?

Well, strap yourself in for a bumpy ride. The app is complex as heck… unless you're fluent in Chinese, that is. To be fair, Xiaomi are constantly improving the English app experience but you'll still run into plenty of obstacles (even though the Robot itself doesn't). The app is actually the complete Mi Home one and the Robot is just a small part of it. You should have no problems pairing your vacuum, changing its voice to English, scheduling cleans and seeing maps of previous cleans – but you'll also get random notifications in Chinese popping up on your phone, and you'll definitely get lost within the settings menu. Also, while it's technically compatible with Alexa, getting the skill set up isn't the easiest (we gave up after a while).

Still, that's a small price to pay. The value for money is just too good to ignore the Xiaomi. However, be aware that there is now a second-generation model (the Roborock S50), that throws in a mopping function too. It's around $100 more but that still makes it much cheaper than its more well-known rivals. But if you're just looking for superb vacuum cleaning, you won't be let down by the original model.

the ambient verdict
Xiaomi Mi Robot
Xiaomi (well, Roborock) has created a superb looking device that does a fantastic cleaning job and is the best navigator of the bunch at, in robot vacuum terms, a budget price. Yes, the app is predominantly in Chinese but that's the only real downside to the first-gen Xiaomi Mi Robot. Highly recommended – in terms of what you get for your money it's completely unrivalled.
  • Amazing value for money
  • Superb cleaning performance
  • Excellent battery life
  • English is limited on the app
  • May be difficult to shop for parts
  • Dust compartment is quite small

LG Hom-Bot Turbo+

The best robot vacuum cleaner for your smart home

$887.99, | Amazon

Not one to leave the other household tech names to physically clean up the house on their own, LG's entry into the world of robot vacuums comes through the Hom-Bot series.

The pick of the litter is what you see above, though two other cheaper models are also available. Just be aware that they're all called the Hom-Bot Turbo+, so you'll need to look out for model numbers to decipher the difference. But, even still, the drop-off isn't overly severe here. The top of the line, 13.39 x 3.5 x 13.39-inch model offers the best cleaning abilities of the three, while it also brings support for Home View (lets you control your vacuum and move it around) and Home Guard (a kind of half-baked security feature which snaps photos when it senses something in front of it), which don't both feature on the other models.

But despite the CR5765GD model offering the best cleaning, LG's line generally doesn't offer the greatest suction of all the options on this list (so much so, it's not actually listed on its site). It can handle dust and other small floor bits with ease, but don't expect it to pick up bigger things reliably. It also, oddly, can't get enough of cables. This thing loves to try and eat cables, and often finds itself unable to negotiate chair legs, so be wary of that.

During cleaning, though, it's mainly a breeze. The Hom-Bot can take on multiple floor types (except hardwood) admirably, and it's a fairly quite machine when compared to rivals. We're not saying it's not noticeable, but the light hum is certainly quieter than what you'd expect. You can even mix up its cleaning modes, from the standard zig-zag to the more adventurous spiral mode and the fast-paced turbo mode.

Control is all through the included remote (or the device's buttons resting on top, which you'll rarely use) or the app, though it does respond to voice, too. Thanks to integration with Alexa and Google Assistant, you can call it into action, check the status of the clean and even send it home. Given how the Hom-Bot announces pretty much everything it's doing, though, you might not be in the mood to be very chatty with it.

As for the post-clean, well, this is one of the strong points of the machine. You simply push to open the top lid, pull out the dust bin, open it and empty the dirt. There's even a little brush on the dust bin that you can pull off to get some of the dust out of the container.

We just wish this efficiency spread to the charging situation. The 100-minute battery will generally be enough for most users, but actually getting the device back onto the dock can feel like it takes about the same amount of time. It's able to initiate the sequence well when running low, though you'll need to make sure there's no shoes or bags around the station, otherwise you'll likely find yourself ending its incessant circling of the dock and plonking it on there yourself.

the ambient verdict
LG Hom-Bot Turbo+
The Hom-Bot is a neat looking vac that has plenty of strong points. LG's attempted a few original features here, and though they mostly land on the gimmicky end of the scale, rather than useful, this is still a device that terrorises dust and small items and provides hassle-free maintenance. We just wish it was a bit better at cleaning, given the price.
  • Cute design
  • Tackles the smaller stuff
  • Nifty floor modes
  • Expensive
  • Loves a cable
  • Confused by dock and chair legs

TAGGED   smart home

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  • Bruce

    We go away for 1-2 months at a time. We have all wood floors in a one level condo and no pets. Therefore, we are looking for a robotic vaccum, which will return to its station and automatically continue to do new sweepings until it is full. what do you recommend

  • p.lamkin

    Most - all of the ones listed here, at least - allow you to set repeating schedules and also allow you to start and stop cleans from your phone, wherever you are.

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