The last three years have been particularly exciting for robot fans. Loads of cool and interesting home robotics products have hit the market, thanks in large part to the success of the Roomba– iRobot’s iconic vacuum bot. Though iRobot deserves credit for pioneering home robot technology, I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a fan of the company. Read on to find out which robotic vacuum cleaner is the best Roomba alternative.
What’s so bad about Roomba?
My main beef with iRobot’s latest Roomba is that it’s way overpriced. The company is currently charging a ton of money for their priciest robotic vacuum.
Because the Roomba 980 debuted with a $899.99 MSRP, you’d expect it to run circles around the competition. But actually, other robotic vacs do a much better job. According to Consumer Reports the super pricey Roomba 980 doesn’t even vacuum as well as its older (and far more inexpensive) brother, the Roomba 880.
A change to the Roomba’s innovative way of cleaning has surprised us with a small step back for the company’s latest model, the iRobot Roomba 980.
– Senior Editor Ed Perratore, Consumer Reports
As a robotics geek, I happen to know that the electronic components used to make the Roomba are barely worth $50. The Roomba’s brain isn’t anything special– it’s just a “good old fashioned” 16 bit MC9S12E microcontroller that costs around $25. And if you go to any hobby electronics store, you can get a pack of sensors and motors that work just as well as the ones you might find in a Roomba for 10 to 15 additional bucks.
Even though I love to hate on iRobot, I do also have to admit that the company deserves some credit for bringing robots into consumer homes. Robots generally tend to creep people out– but the success of iRobot’s Roomba has made automated appliances seem normal. Since the early 2000s, robot vacuums have co-existed peacefully with humankind. Not a single one has “gone terminator” on its master.
Automated vacs haven’t sucked anyone’s face off yet.
But overpriced Roombas have managed to suck an excessive amount of money out of their owners’ wallets.
Alternative Roombas are better than ever
What most people don’t know about iRobot is that the company had a special advantage over the competition in the early 2000s. Back in the 90s, iRobot got its start making battlefield robots for the United States government. That’s why its first consumer products were so advanced. Of course, a lot has happened in robotics over the past few years. The technological advantage iRobot once enjoyed has eroded. In my opinion, the 3 robot vacuums listed below are far more innovative than iRobot’s latest Roomba.
- Alternative Roomba Round-Up: 3 Superior Sweepers
- Alternative Roomba Round-Up: 2 Roomba Alternatives to Avoid
- Which Roomba Alternative Is the Best?
Alternative Roomba Round-Up: 3 Superior Sweepers
The first item on this list is just as ridiculously expensive as a Roomba 980, but it destroys the competition in terms of performance.
1. Samsung’s POWERbot Turbo VR9300: Pricey but awesome
When it comes to sheer performance, forget about Roomba– Samsung’s POWERbot reigns supreme. The POWERbot Turbo recently kicked Roomba’s butt all over the place during a Consumer Reports lab test, which is why it’s currently the non-profit consumer advocate’s #1 rated robotic vacuum.
The top-of-the-line “turbo” edition of the POWERBot sports an equally ridiculous price tag— but it’s ability to suck up pet hair and sand particles puts the Roomba 980 to shame. POWERbot Turbo is also much better at cleaning along walls and sucking up corner crud.
The main downside to this muscular little vacuum bot is that it’s super expensive. But if you’re looking for a deal, you can sometimes find a refurbished unit for sale on Amazon.
- The best performing robotic vacuum on the market, according to Consumer Reports
- No robotic vacuum is better at sucking up sand and pet hair
- You can give it commands via your smartphone
- Almost never gets stuck
- The “point to clean” remote function allows for quick and easy spot cleaning
- Because it’s 5.3 inches tall, this robotic vacuum may not be slim enough to fit under certain kinds of couches
If you don’t care about “gee whiz” features and you just want a decent robot vacuum that gets the job done, keep reading. The next two products are two awesome yet highly underrated automatic vacuums that are selling like hotcakes in Canada and overseas.
2. bObsweep PetHair: Best robotic vacuum for the money
If you’re looking for a solid all-around vacuum robot that won’t cost you an arm or a leg, bObsweep PetHair is still the way to go. When bObsweep’s PetHair vacuum hit the shelves back in March of 2016, it was the most powerful robotic rug sucker on the market.
bObsweep PetHair Plus has the strongest vacuum suction of any robotic product out there.
– Ali Afrouzi, lead technologist at bObsweep
Even when this cool little robot vac was brand new, it only cost around 300 bucks. But now that several months have gone by, bObsweep has moved the price even lower.
Because bObsweep doesn’t have the marketing resources that iRobot enjoys, you may have never heard about the brand. Nonetheless, this small company’s inexpensive yet surprisingly effective robotic vacuums have helped bObsweep bots earn a devoted community of fans.
Despite the fact that bObsweep PetHair is one of the best alternatives to Roomba out there, it never really got the media attention it deserved. Dyson’s awful (but expensive and flashy looking) 360 Eye came out a few months after PetHair debuted and stole bObsweep’s thunder.
bObsweep PetHair is not quite as fancy as Samsung’s POWERbot, but for 1/4th of the price it’s an awesome deal.
- Super low price
- Excellent customer service
- Huge 1 liter dustbin
- Surprisingly powerful suction
- Vacuums, sweeps and even mops
- Other robotic vacuums do a better job of navigating corners and edges
3. iClebo Arte YCR-M05: Super easy to use
iClebo is virtually unknown in North America, but it’s currently the number one bestselling robot vacuum brand in Asia. The main reason for the company’s success lies in the fact that its robot sweepers are super user friendly and very reasonably priced.
When it comes to robot vacuums that are easy to set up, iClebo’s Arte YCR-M05 takes the cake. To get a Roomba going you have to find your way through a few weird menus. But all you have to do to set up an iClebo Arte is:
- Plug the station into a wall outlet
- Stick the iClebo Arte into the station
- Flip the “on” switch
- Press “start”
- When iClebo is ready to go, it’ll start vacuuming your house.
In addition to being easier to use, another advantage this robot has over Roomba is the fact that its batteries are a bit more efficient. The Roomba 980 lasts for 2 hours and requires 2 hours to get a full charge, but the iCLebo Arte YCR-M05 lasts a bit longer plus it only needs an 100 minute break to repower its powerful lithium ion batteries.
iClebo Arte comes in at around the $400 range. It’s not my top pick, but it offers a lot more overall value compared to the latest Roomba.
- It’s one of the most user-friendly robotic vacuums
- Consumer Reports awarded it an 86/100
- Efficient batteries
- Does an especially good job on hard floors
- It’s extremely quiet
- There’s no “full bin” indicator light
Alternative Roomba Round-Up: 2 Roomba Alternatives to Avoid
The Roomba competitors mentioned above stand a good chance of giving iRobot a run for its money– but the robotic vacuums mentioned below are total fails. If you’re in the market for a vacuum bot, steer clear of these 2 disappointing duds. They’re horrible.
1. Neato XV-21: Ugly, confusing and inefficient
The Neato XV-21 doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. It’s not very smart, it’s ugly and it’s battery is weak. It’s also not very good at vacuuming. When Consumer Reports took the Neato XV-21 into the lab to compare it to other robotic vacuums, it struggled to clean areas that its cheaper competitors tackled with ease.
- Quiet operation
- No remote control
- Confusing interface
- Ineffective at vacuuming
- Hideous design
2. Dyson 360 Eye: A big shiny hunk of junk
The impressive looking Dyson 360 Eye looks like it’s more than ready for the technological singularity to happen. Its ultra futuristic, menacing design brings to mind terminators and cylons. It’s hardware is beefy, too. The 360 Eye sports a big powerful motor and an advanced navigational camera.
Yet… it can’t even vacuum rice.
Dyson generally makes good stuff, but their first home robotics product was a big embarassment.
- The 360 Eye’s tracked wheels can easily handle any surface
- Super expensive
- Too tall to clean under couches
- Can’t vacuum very well
- No on/off switch
- Remote control functionality requires a smartphone
Which Roomba Alternative Is the Best?
If I were to sit down and order a robotic vacuum today I’d definitely buy a bObsweep PetHair. bObsweep PetHair costs just over a couple hundred bucks, but it’s super powerful and can even be used as a mop. I also like the fact that it has a super large bin.
Check out the video below to see bObsweep PetHair in action.
If I were filthy rich and had a thousand bucks to blow on a robotic vacuum cleaner, I’d go with a Samsung POWERbot Turbo VR9300.
Though the POWERbot Turbo is a bit noisy and bulky, it’s the best robot appliance of its kind in terms of performance. When Consumer Reports took a POWERBot Turbo to the lab and put it to the test, it blew away every single robotic sweeper it went up against.
Check out the video from CNET below to see the POWERBot Turbo in action and learn more about its nifty smartphone app.