Best robot vacuums 2021: Reviews and buying advice

Robot vacuums are all the rage—and why not!? Vacuuming is one of the most loathed household chores. While it doesn’t come with the ick factor of cleaning the toilet or the tedium of dusting, pushing and dragging a noisy, cumbersome vacuum is its own kind of torture.

Robot vacuums don’t have unwieldy cords or hoses to contend with, and they require little effort from you: You can run one from your couch using a physical remote or smartphone app, and the higher-end models can be programmed to wake up and start cleaning without any intervention at all. Robot vacs easily dispose of the most common household detritus—food crumbs, pet hair, dust—making them ideal for routine maintenance and quick cleanings when you’re expecting company.

Our top pick isn’t the most expensive model on the market, though it’s price tag is up there. If you’re working with a more modest budget, we have a strong recommendation in that category as well. 

Updated January 28, 2022 to add our iRobot Roomba j7+ review. Thanks to its excellent obstacle-avoidance technology, room-mapping abilities, and powerful cleaning performance, it’s our new top pick in this category.

Best all-around robot vacuum

iRobot’s Roomba brand is as synonymous with robot vacuums as Q-tips is with cotton swabs. The Roomba j7+, with its self-emptying dust bin and its phenomenal obstacle-avoidance technology—it’s guaranteed to avoid running over pet poop—shows why. Anyone with experience knows how much trouble objects left on the floor can cause a robot vacuum. That shouldn’t be an issue with this model. The icing on the cake, of course, is that the j7+ is an excellent cleaner.

Runner-up

When a manufacturer builds one device that’s designed to perform more than one function, you all too often  end up with a product that’s a jack of all trades, but a master of none. That wasn’t the case with Roborock’s vacuum/mop hybrid, and this update version features stereo cameras that enable the device to avoid obstacles like shoes and power strips that will trip up robots with simpler navigation systems.

Most sophisticated robot vacuum

iRobot has done it again, taking the robot vacuum to the next level by creating another model that can empty its own dustbin. A second powerful vacuum in the Roomba s9+’s docking station automatically sucks the dust and debris out of the vacuum when it docks, storing as many as 30 dustbins full of dirt. And it stores it all in a filter bag, so that nothing escapes in your home’s air when you eventually need to change the bag. But as you’ve probably guessed, this one comes with a very high price tag.

Best budget robot vacuum

Whether you’re budget constrained or you just don’t need all the bells and whistles (Wi-Fi connectivity, mapping, smart speaker support) that more sophisticated (and much more expensive) robot vacuums have to offer, the iLife A4s Pro delivers a tremendous amount of bang for the buck.

Runner-up

If you can squeeze a little more money into your budget, Wyze Labs has a low-priced vacuum that delivers a number of extra high-value features, including LiDAR navigation, a smartphone app with editable mapping and virtual no-go zones, and  

Best robot vacuum for pet hair

We’ve been impressed with several of Yeedi’s inexpensive robot vacuums, but the Yeedi K650 bowled us over with its ability to pull pet hair off the floor, using the silicone rolling brush you can swap out for its regular bristle brush. The silicone brush eliminates the problem of tangled hair impeding the vacuum’s cleaning. 

Best robot vacuum/mop hybrid

Looking for a robot that can clean both your carpet and your hard-surface flooring? You want the Roborock S7. And you should strongly consider buying the optional charging station that empties 

Robot vacuum cleaners are not cheap

The convenience robot vacuums provide come at a cost: As much as $1,000 at the high end, with many of the best models running no less than half that. To help you determine which ones are worth the expense, we tested models from some of the most popular brands in a real-world lab: my home, where the floors are punished daily by two kids, three cats, and a dog. I tasked each one with vacuuming a 400-plus foot space that includes low-pile carpet, hardwood flooring, and linoleum that was regularly littered with food crumbs, pet hair, tracked-in dirt, stray cat litter, and other debris. To maintain the real-world environment, each model also had to contend with random floor clutter during several cleanings.

Be aware even the most premium robot vacuums are a supplement, not a substitute, for your stand-up vacuum. Despite manufacturer claims, most just don’t have the same suction power of an upright. Think of them as an easy way to maintain your floors in between deeper cleanings with your current vacuum.

Robot vacuum features and functions

Fundamentally, the robot vacuums in our guide all operate the same way: They autonomously maneuver around your home on a couple of wheels suctioning debris from your floors. Two to four brushes on the bottom—both rolling-style agitators and spinning side brushes—grab dirt from the floor and wall edges respectively, and guide it into the suction area or direct it straight to a small, filtered dustbin. When cleaning is complete, or their battery is running low, they return themselves to their charging dock.

But just how they get the job done can differ across manufacturers and models. Here are some features and functions to consider beyond the basics.

Control

Autonomy puts the “robot” in “robot vacuum.” Virtually all models include an “automatic” mode that requires you to do nothing more than press a button on a remote, in an app, or on the vacuum itself to clean a room. This is great for ad-hoc cleaning, but most models can also be programmed to clean on a schedule. The latter scenario is great if you want them to work when you’re not home or to create a regular cleaning routine. Some higher-end models also integrate with smart speakers, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, which allows to control them using voice commands.

Cleaning modes

Just as your stand-up vacuum can be adjusted to clean either carpet and hard flooring, so to can a robot vac. Most feature the ability to change suction and other cleaning functions to adapt to different floor surfaces, either automatically or with input from you. They may also have a spot mode for more concentrated cleaning on a small area (cleaning up a spill, for example), include options for single- and double-passes of a room, or offer an option to focus just on cleaning along wall edges and baseboards.

The allure of robot vacuums is their promise to complete their task with minimal management from you. In order to do that, they must be able to navigate a room’s unique layout, maneuver around furniture and other obstacles, and avoid hazards such as falling down stairs and getting tangled in electrical cords.

Robot vacuums “see” the world through a combination of sensors. Cliff sensors let it know when there is an increase in distance to the floor—e.g., stairs or a sunken living room—so it doesn’t tip over the edge. Other sensors tell it when it has bumped into an object, so it can change direction, or is near a wall, so it can follow it. Still other sensors help the robot vacuum track how far it has travelled. Depending on the manufacturer and model, a robot vac might also include sensors that determine the amount of dirt present so it can adjust its cleaning mode accordingly.

Mapping

Manufacturers are increasingly including mapping capabilities in some of their robot vacuums. These models use an onboard camera or laser reflections to produce a 360-degree view of the room. This allows the robot vac to create a map of the space and locate itself within that map.

The advantage of mapping is the vacuum will know which areas it has already cleaned and which it hasn’t, to avoid going over the same spot unnecessarily. It also lets it know where to resume cleaning if it must stop and recharge midway through the task. This makes it ideal for larger rooms and—because it’s still something of a premium feature—larger budgets.

Boundary blockers

In an ideal world, you’d clear all your floors of clutter before using your robot vacuum. But we live in the real one and that’s not always possible or desirable. Knowing this, many robot vacuums include some way to block off areas you don’t want it venturing into, whether it’s a pet’s area, your kids’ room, or a cluster of device cords in the corner. Often it’s just a length of magnetic tape you stretch in front of or on a forbidden area that the vacuum’s sensors will detect and tell it to avoid. But some models employ virtual barriers, such as the ability to designate boundaries on a floor plan that signal the robot to steer clear.

Size

The dimensions of a robot vacuum matter for a couple of reasons. First, they will determine how well it can get into tight spots, such as under your kitchen cabinets and low-clearance furniture (couches and recliners). If it’s too tall, it won’t be able reach into these spots, or worse, it will get in and get stuck until you physically free it. Second, the bigger the robot vacuum, the larger the dustbin. Robot vacuums don’t use expandable bags like many of their stand-up brethren do, so when it comes to debris capacity, what you see is what you get.

There is no sweet spot for robot vacuum dimensions that we could determine—it really depends on your particular room layout—but a diameter of 13- to 14 inches and a height of 3.5 to 4 inches are the most common measurements we encountered.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi-enabled robot vacuums allow you to control them with a smartphone app instead of, or in addition to, a physical remote. That convenience alone doesn’t really warrant the extra cost these models command, but some model’s apps also provide other perks, such as detailed cleaning histories and the ability to save and edit floor maps for better navigation. Those models are worth considering if you’re cleaning large, intricate spaces.

Our robot vacuum cleaner reviews

We will add to this list as new models come to market. 

iRobot Roomba 960

Costing quite a bit less than the dustbin-emptying Roomba i7+, the Roomba 960 (which, granted, still carries a premium price) is no less a cleaning demon, earning it our Editors’ Choice award and pick for best all-around robot vacuum.

It can be controlled via Amazon Alexa or Google Home voice commands, an iOS/Android companion app, or by pushing a button on the device itself. Choose between a one-pass, two-pass, or automatic cleaning.

In our tests it swept up everything from tiny particles to larger items like shredded paper. It also worked effectively on wood, linoleum, or carpet, transitioning between surfaces with ease. It does a good job avoiding objects in its way, thanks to sensors and a front-mounted camera.

Read our full
iRobot Roomba 960 review

iRobot Roomba i7+

iRobot Roomba i7+

The priciest robot vacuum on Amazon also offers a very unique value proposition. It empties its own dustbin! That’s right, first this handy helper makes its rounds, sweeping and suctioning all types of debris from all types of floor surfaces, with the utmost competency that Roomba vacs are known for. Then, on completion, it wheels its way back to its docking base, where all the grime from its foray is forcefully sucked into a sealable bag.

From end to end, you’re blessedly liberated—freed from the physical chore of vacuuming and freed from handling your vacuum’s filthy byproduct. Just note that the Roomba i7+’s Clean Dock takes up additional space and must be placed near a power outlet.

Read our full
iRobot Roomba i7+ review

Roborock S7+

Roborock S7+

Ecovacs Deebot N79S

Ecovacs Deebot N79S

TechHive’s pick for best budget robot vacuum is the Ecovacs Deebot N79S. It stands out by offering amenities that are typically relegated to higher-end models. It boasts Alexa-enabled voice control, an elegant app, and a physical remote control—any of which can be used for controlling the vacuum’s work.

Choose from auto, edge, spot, and single-room cleaning modes. Combine that with its strong cleaning performance on different surfaces, then add in its relatively quiet performance, and you can understand why the N79S earned our Editor’s Choice award.

Read our full
Ecovacs Deebot N79S review

Eufy RoboVac 11s

Eufy RoboVac 11s

This is another excellent budget model, and one of the slimmest profiles in robot vacuums, at 12.8 x 2.8 inches. It’s the perfect solution for getting under low-clearance furniture.

An included remote control let you operate the vacuum, using one of its several cleaning modes, such as Spot, Edge, or Single Room mode. Auto mode will adjust itself according to the job at hand. Sensors on the front and underbelly of the device help the 11s avoid obstacles.

The 11s does an excellent job suctioning up debris, and despite its small size, the 11s’ dustbin should accommodate one floor cleaning in a larger house before emptying. Or a couple cleanings in a smaller house.

Read our full
Eufy RoboVac 11s review

Neato Botvac D7 Connected

Neato Botvac D7 Connected

If you want Neato’s most premier offering, you need to step up to the D7 Connected. Like the D4, the D7 has a D-shaped footprint for superior edge and corner cleaning, but adds a spinning brush on the side to better pick up dirt. In addition to that, the brush on its underside is noticeably larger than that of competing models. Its cleaning prowess on all sorts of surfaces is commendable, even with pet hair.

As with the D4, the elegant app walks you through the process of mapping your home, but with the D7 you have a greater number of options (up to three distinct floorplans) and level of control. Eco, Turbo, and Spot modes are all available. Google Home and Amazon Alexa support let you issue basic voice commands.

Read our full
Neato Botvac D7 Connected review

Roborock S5

Roborock S5

The first thing you’ll notice about the Roborock S5 is that it eschews the typical black exterior of most robot vacuums in favor of a shiny white finish. But the S5 has more going for it than its sleek looks. It has all the features you’d expect from a higher-end model, such as laser navigation and floor mapping. Plus, it can do mopping.

Once the S5 is connected to Wi-Fi via the phone app,the vacuum will get to work, mapping the space as it goes and providing stats on the area and its progress. Once the map is saved, you can choose an auto cleaning or zoom in on particular spots where you want the S5 to go. At 3.8 inches, the S5 is on the taller side, which could prohibit it from getting beneath some furniture.

For mopping, you will need to attach a special module, consisting of a flat water tank and cloth. It’s fine for a light cleaning, but it’s not the right tool for thoroughly cleaning, say, your kitchen floor. 

Read our full
Roborock S5 review

Michael Ansaldo is veteran consumer and small-business technology journalist. He contributes regularly to TechHive and PCWorld.

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