For some, robot vacuums might carry the whiff of silly self-indulgence. On the other hand, these devices are getting better and better at picking up after us, offering to keep things clean with a level of near total set-and-forget convenience.
Since our initial round of robot vacuum reviews in 2013, we've tested new models and come away impressed with the results. Industry leader iRobot debuted the new Roomba 880, which lives up to the company's reputation for top-of-the-line performance. We tested additional varieties of Neato cleaners, including the budget-friendly XV Essential and the Super Nintendo-esque XV-21. As for budget-brand Infinuvo, which bombed with last year's CleanMate QQ5, the company sent over the new Hovo 510 for a second shot, and lo and behold, the thing actually cleans.
One of the most interesting things about our tests is watching each robot make routing decisions. Some of them, like the Neato models, take a regimented, linear approach, finding the boundaries of the room and then moving along in neat rows within that space. The LG Hom-Bot uses a clever camera to turn your ceiling into a reference map for the room. Infinuvo relies on outward spirals to provide room-wide coverage.
iRobot's approach is starkly different. An array of sensors on the Roomba constantly reads its surroundings and sends back information about where to go. The resulting navigation can look data-drunk, and the Roomba can take longer to finish a run than its competitors, but in some circumstances it resulted in the cleanest room.
None of these vacuums will replace a human-driven upright yet, but if you're looking to use that upright a little less, regular robot vacuum runs can help you stretch out the days between deep cleanings. With a growing number of options to choose from, you're going to want to be sure to shop around before settling on a purchase -- and that's where we come in.