The idea of a robotic vacuum cleaner is awesome: imagine never having to vacuum again.
In reality we’re not yet at the stage where we can leave all the cleaning to robots, since they’re not able to take themselves up the stairs, tidy up around themselves or empty their own dustboxes. The truth is you will still want to resort to a proper vacuum cleaner every once in a while. Nevertheless, they take the pain out of a daily flick over, and are desperately cool gadgets to show off to guests.
The trouble with automatic vacuum cleaners is they tend to be rather expensive, and it’s very difficult to justify spending that money when you probably don’t know what to look out for. After all, few of us will have tested a robot vacuum cleaner before.
The cheapest models will be circular in design with two brushes at the front that can drag in dust from the corners and edge of a room in order that the vacuum can pick it up. The most basic models will most likely omit a rotating brush, which means they are likely to be able to navigate carpet well but not to clean it well. Typically they will have small dust boxes (that will need to be regularly emptied), and will be operated either by a selection of buttons on top or a bundled remote control.
Pay a little more and you’ll get a rotating brush that makes it easier for the vacuum cleaner to pick up hair and remove dirt from carpets. You should also expect to see filters that keep small particles from escaping the dust box and, potentially, a polishing pad that can be attached to the bottom to help deal with wooden- and laminate floors. We recommend you look for a model with a full length brush (often found in models that are squared at one end), which will make it easier for the robot to get right into the corners.
Mid-range robot cleaners are also likely to come with some method of blocking their access to certain rooms of the house. Some favour magnetic strips or discs, while others use battery-operated towers that emit a ‘do not pass’ beam.
The next step up will get you Wi-Fi connectivity, which enables you to operate the automatic vacuum cleaner via a mobile app. You can set up scheduling and even remotely trigger cleaning when you are away from home, while some also let you use the app to set areas for the vacuum to ignore.
At the top of the range you’ll find cylindrical (or cyclonic) drums that offer very good suction no matter how full is the dustbox.
If you’re paying full-whack it’s possible that your robot cleaner will also feature a camera. While some, such as the Jisiwei S+, use this to turn the vacuum cleaner into a home-security device, others such as the Dyson 360 Eye use it to more effectively plan cleaning routes and dodge obstacles.
Below you'll find the best robot hoovers that we've reviewed so far, with links to our full reviews in case you want to read more. Also check out our round-up of regular vacuum cleaners.
Best robot vacuum cleaners 2018
- Reviewed on: 23 November 2018
As with any robot vacuum cleaner the RoboVac 30C will not eliminate the need for a traditional vacuum every so often, but it has sufficient suction power (1500Pa) to keep tidy your floors and carpets on the days you'd rather put your feet up and chill.
The ability to connect it to your home Wi-Fi network for remote operation is cool, although nothing new, but we love the voice assistant integration for proper lazy boy cleaning.
If your budget can stretch this far the RoboVac 30C is highly recommended.
Read our Eufy RoboVac 30C review.
- Reviewed on: 23 November 2018
While a robot vacuum cleaner is still a luxurious purchase in 2018, the Neato Botvac D7 Connected is one of the best you can buy. At £799 it’s an expensive purchase, but the performance and convenience are enough to justify it if you really want one – despite the frustrations we found with the app.
If you don’t need all the bells and whistles of the D7, Neato makes cheaper Botvacs in its range that might tempt you.
Read our Neato Botvac D7 Connected review.
- Reviewed on: 4 December 2018
The Kobold VR300 is certainly expensive, so you really have to question if the upgrades over the VR200, also in our chart, are for you.
The VR300 offers an upgraded scanning system to help it navigate your home and obstacles, ditches the need for physical no-go strips and it’ll be getting Amazon Alexa support soon. Apart from that, the VR300 offers the same impressive cleaning experience as the VR200 with the same suction power, D-shaped design and 90-minute battery life.
Read our Vorwerk Kobold VR300 review.
- Reviewed on: 23 November 2018
The Deebot Ozmo 930 is a decent option for a robot vacuum cleaner. Even though it's quite expensive you can spend even more.
It's easy to get on with and offers plenty of features via the decent app like scheduling and marking a custom area to clean. The robot navigates well, accurately mapping and avoiding mishaps (if you've prepared the space well).
It can even mop but only lightly and we'd expect regular vacuuming performance to be better at this price.
Read our Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 930 review.
5. Roborock E25
- Reviewed on: 11 December 2018
More features than you would expect for the money, and the Roborock does a good job at cleaning. It's a shame it doesn't allow you to create zones in the app (especially no-go zones), but it's still good value at this price.
Read our Roborock E25 review.
6. iLife A7
- Reviewed on: 16 August 2018
The iLife A7 has a lot to like, including an affordable £249.99/$249.99 price (buy here), a bristled roller brush, spinning side brushes, powerful suction and intuitive control via a remote or mobile app.
It doesn't support a mop function, which is not a bad thing given that you can't cordon off carpeted areas, but in vacuuming it performs well, and is suited to both carpets and hard floors.
A 7.6cm profile makes it easy for the A7 to slip under furniture, but you still need to properly prep the area before you begin cleaning - phone cables, in particular, are delicious snacks for this robot cleaner.
Read our iLife A7 review.
- Reviewed on: 11 April 2018
The Kobold VR200 offers powerful cleaning than can (almost) match a regular upright vacuum, backed up by good maneuverability and and solid smart support - albeit minus a couple of big features, like Alexa support or an in-app floor plan.
It's just a shame to see big downsides - the noise, the missing smart features - in a device with such a high price, which might make it hard to justify the jump from some of the cheaper alternatives.
Read our Vorwerk Kobold VR200 review.
- Reviewed on: 5 December 2018
The N79S is your quintessential robot vacuum cleaner in both design and features.
It's middle of the road in almost all areas so while it's cheaper than many rivals, it just has a basic level of performance and perks. It can cope with both carpet and hard floor but bounces around rooms fairly aimlessly.
On the plus side it has a remote control and support for Alexa. If you just want a robot to do a bit of surface cleaning then the N79S is a good enough choice.
Read our Ecovacs Deebot N79S review.
9. iLife V8s
- Reviewed on: 28 June 2018
A great buy at £299.99/US$259.99 the iLife V8s has chunky wheels that enable it to get over door thresholds and other obstacles in your home, a large 750ml dust box that keeps it sucking up that dirt more efficiently for longer, and anti-tangle side brushes that let it get right into the corners without you having to regularly unpick hairs and other nasties that would otherwise jam them up.
There's no roller bar, which means it is best suited to hard floors, where it will also mop or at least wipe clean your floors. Stuck-on dirt will still require more welly than this robot vacuum can provide, and you'll need to physically block it from entering carpeted areas.
Battery life is pretty decent and the controls are simplistic, enabling you to easily switch between programmed, spot and edge modes, standard- and max suction, and even schedule cleaning at different times on each day of the week.
It's not the smartest robot vacuum we've tested, with no app or smart-home integration, but in what this cleaner does know it's something of a genius.
Read our iLife V8s review.
- Reviewed on: 13 June 2016
With an onboard camera, the Jisiwei Smart Vacuum Cleaning Robot is much more than just a futuristic robot vacuum cleaner. It's said to be the first of its kind to also operate as a home-security device, which you can monitor through the free app - which also lets you trigger cleaning remotely.
It will never replace either your main vacuum cleaner or your security camera, but it certainly takes the pain out of cleaning the whole house.