In a market that's full of pricey, overrated robotic vacuums, ILIFE's A4S represents a welcome return to basics. The A4S is a simple but well-made vacuum bot that's easy to use and maintain.
GearBest sent me an A4S to try out and review. Overall, I was impressed and surprised by how well the A4S works.
Continue on to learn:
- How much ILIFE A4S costs
- What the ILIFE A4S can and can't do
- How ILIFE A4S compares to ILIFE A6 and Roomba
Pricing & availability
The vast majority of people who bought the A4S liked it. ILIFE A4S has 64 reviews on GearBest and has a 5-star rating. On Amazon, ILIFE A4S has an impressive 4-and-half rating after 843 reviews.
You might like ILIFE A4S if...
You're a busy mom. After testing out the A4S, I gave it to a friend of mine who just had a new baby boy. She loves it because it saves her from having to run the vacuum all the time - and she could care less about the fact that it doesn't have any fancy features.
You have heavy furniture. ILIFE A4S is only 3 inches tall, so it can attack spiderwebs and dust bunnies that hide under hard-to-move sofas and beds.
You're fed up with "smart home" hype. Many so-called "smart" home appliances are actually rip-offs because they are overpriced and don't work very well. The ILIFE A4S, however, is reasonably priced and is great at doing the main thing you want it to do: vacuum.
ILIFE A4S isn't for...
Smart home geeks. If you're looking for high-end features like Amazon Alexa integration, you might be disappointed by ILIFE A4S's bare bones feature set.
Owners of long-haired pets. ILIFE A4S has a bristle style brush. In most cases, bristle brushes work just fine - but they tend to get tangled up in long hair.
- Note: If you have a long-haired pet, you may want to check out ILIFE A6. ILIFE A6 has a rubber brush that's similar to the rubber brush featured in 800 and 900 series Roomba vacuums. Rubber brushes don't get wrapped up as easily compared to bristle brushes.
My 3 favorite ILIFE A4S features
After testing it out for a week, here are the 3 things I liked the most about the simple but effective ILIFE A4S.
Low to the ground
The thing that impressed me the most about ILIFE A4S is how slim it is. Standing just 3 inches high, A4S is shorter than both Roomba and bObsweep. ILIFE A4S slid right underneath my couch and got rid of all the dust and crud that had been hiding out under there.
At first glance, you might assume that ILIFE A4S's dual sweepers might get in the way of its ability to navigate. However, that's actually not the case at all. The sweepers are flexible enough to flick around A4S's wheels as it moves. They do a great job of getting the dust out of hard-to-reach nooks and crannies.
One button starts the cleaning cycle
Once ILIFE A4S's batteries are full, all you have to do is push the "auto" button (or the clean button on the remote) to start a new cleaning cycle.
One more thing I like about this bot...
I almost forgot to mention that the A4S is very easy to clean. Once you flip it over, you can quickly pull out the brush and empty out the dust bin.
For best results, you should tidy up your A4S (make sure the wheels and brush aren't tangled up, etc.) before every use.
In the A4S manual, ILIFE recommends that you wash out the HEPA filter inside the vacuum about once a month.
What else can the ILIFE A4S do?
In addition to the features listed above, A4S has a programmable schedule and a "mini-room" cleaning mode.
ILIFE A4S has can be programmed to wake up and start cleaning at specific times of the day. I never bothered to program the A4S, though. Instead, I just turned the A4S on before leaving the house to go to the store. When I got back, my floors looked fresher and less dusty.
If you have a particular room that you want your A4S to focus on, you can switch to "mini-room" cleaning mode and your A4S will stick to a smaller cleaning area.
Here's what I didn't like about ILIFE A4S
The A4S is one of the best budget robotic vacuums out there right now. However, it's not perfect.
Like all budget robotic vacuums, the A4S relies on bump sensors to find its way around your house. Though the A4S's motor is actually fairly quiet, the robot does make a loud clack when it knocks into a wall or a piece of furniture.
The remote isn't user friendly
A4S's clunky remote is its biggest weakness. It's easy to get the A4S to perform a basic clean because all you have to do is press the "clean" button. But if you want to set the correct time or program your A4S to clean on certain days, you have to read the instruction manual to figure out how to navigate the remote's awkward menus.
It sometimes gets stuck
Like all robotic vacuums that use collision sensors instead of sonar sensors or cameras to navigate, the A4S tends to get stuck in awkward places at times. The A4S will get tangled up in cords and rug fringe if you don't clear them out of the way ahead of a cleaning. But as long as you do some prep work before you turn on your A4S, it should be okay.
The dustbin could be a bit bigger
With a capacity of 0.45 liters, the A4S's dustbin is not tiny - but it isn't big, either. On the other hand, a smallish bin is an unavoidable tradeoff that you have to accept if you want a robotic vacuum that's small enough to slide under your furniture.
ILIFE A4S vs. ILIFE A6
ILIFE A6 is very similar to ILIFE A4S. Both robots move around randomly when they clean and use collision sensors to determine when they need to turn around. However, there are a few important differences that are worth pointing out.
A6 has a better brush
The biggest advantage that ILIFE A6 has over the A4S is its brush. As mentioned above, ILIFE A4S has a bristle style brush. The A6's rubber brush doesn't get tangled up in long hair as easily.
Both bots are about the same size
In terms of height, the A6 and and the A4S are about the same. The A4S is 3 inches tall, but the A6 is slightly slimmer at 2.8 inches.
A6 is stronger (supposedly)
As far as suction power goes, A6 supposedly has a bit more "oomph." According to ILIFE, the A6 has a new-and-improved "2nd generation CyclonePower" motor. It's impossible to objectively compare A6's motor to the A4S's, though, because ILIFE has not revealed their vacuum motors' exact specs. (Typically, vacuum motors are measured in air watts.)
A6 comes with an electronic fence
A6 comes with an electronic boundary system that limits where it can go in your home. The boundary system could come in handy if you want to block your ILIFE from getting tangled up in wires that you can't move out of the way.
A4S is a bit cheaper
Though both the A4S and A6 are inexpensive compared to the competition, A4S costs about $50 less.
ILIFE A4S vs. Roomba
Though ILIFE A4S may be much simpler than the latest Roomba, the A4S offers a much better overall value.
The latest Roomba costs nearly a grand. Yet, the parts required to make your own DIY robotic vacuum add up to about $50. It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that something doesn't add up here.
ILIFE's line of nifty little low-cost robotic vacuums demonstrates what robot geeks like myself have known all along: Roomba and other "luxury" robotic vacuum brands have been ripping off consumers for years.
ILIFE A4S costs a fraction of what Roomba and other mainstream brands are charging, yet the basic cleaning performance is very similar.
There's nothing special about any of Roomba's robotic parts in comparison to the parts you might find inside of ILIFE. Camera modules cost around $20, so there's no excuse for Roomba to tack on hundreds of extra dollars because it has one. All robotic vacuums run on similar low-powered microcontrollers. (A $30 Raspberry Pi can easily outperform any robotic vacuum brain.) Even Roomba's fancier add-ons (WiFi, etc.) are inexpensive.
What you're actually paying for when you buy a Roomba is software and engineering. Yet, iRobot's research and development team invests all their brainpower into cynical schemes like figuring out how to harvest and resell information about your home. iRobot is either not interested in or not capable of creating features that work well and appeal to average people.
ILIFE A4S Review: Wrapping it Up
This reasonably priced budget robotic vacuum surprised me when I saw how well it cleaned my floors. If its remote was a bit more intuitive, it would be just about perfect.
If you're looking for a smart home compatible robotic vacuum with lots of fancy features, you may be turned off by A4S's somewhat clunky remote and the fact that it doesn't have an app.
On the other hand, if all you want is a robotic vacuum that does a more than decent job of cleaning, you'll be happy with what A4S brings to the table.