3 MUST HAVE FEATURES When Buying A Robotic Vacuum

October 9, 2019

Today on the hookup I’m going to show you the three most important aspects to consider when choosing a robotic vacuum, run some of my favorite vacuums through a series of scientific tests, and then I’m going to show you how to pick the right vacuum for your specific home, use case, and budget.  Here we go.

Robotic vacuums are the single most life changing smart home product on the market today, and I firmly believe that if you don’t have one you should immediately move it to the top of your purchase list.  I love smart home tech, but the hard truth is that we were all able to survive before automated light switches and curtains by simply standing up and flipping a switch or pulling a cord. The reason why robotic vacuums are such a great invention is that they take something that you should be doing everyday like cleaning your floors, and they actually do it.

If you’re already happily vacuuming your floors daily, good for you, you can stop watching this video now, but if you aren’t you’ll be amazed at the increase in quality of life that a robotic vacuum can give you.  Not only will your floors be cleaner, but you’ll notice less dust on your furniture, less allergens in the air, and indirectly, having a robotic vacuum will encourage you to keep clutter free home, which has been shown over and over again to increase mood and quality of life.  The best part is, once you get your robotic vacuum set up, you can pretty much forget about it other than emptying the bin.   That is of course, if you select the right vacuum for your specific needs. I’ve gathered 4 great vacuums to compare from all different price ranges, and I’ll be putting them through a series of tests to get some cold hard data on what you get for your money.

The lineup for this video will include both the cheapest and most expensive vacuums from Ecovacs, the Deebot 900, which can be purchased new for $259, and the Ozmo 950 which will run you $799.  I’ve also included the most recommended robot on home automation forums, the $500 Xiaomi RoboRock S50, and finally I tested a newcomer to the robotic vacuum world, the Tuya LDS to see if our Chinese friends at Zemismart have been able to shave costs make a competitive vacuum for under $300.  These vacuums have a lot of things in common, but here are the three most important considerations to make when choosing which robotic vacuum is right for you.

The first, and most important feature on my list is navigation and mapping, and right now there is absolutely zero reason to buy a vacuum without it.  LIDAR is the king of mapping techniques, but there are other types of vacuums on the market that you should steer clear of.  Random navigation is the least efficient cleaning method where the vacuum bounces around your house bumping into walls and furniture until it runs out of batteries and goes back to its charger.  For reasons I’ll discuss later in this video I think these vacuums will cause you more frustration than their worth, so cross them off your list.  High end robotic vacuums like the new iRobot Roomba i7+ and S9+ have camera based navigation, but I’m not really sure why iRobot is clinging to this technology.  Not only is camera based navigation worse when it comes to accuracy, but it also requires the lights to be on in the room and in my opinion opens up a huge amount of privacy issues when you have a wifi connected camera taking a tour of your house daily.  LIDAR robots on the other hand use a spinning infrared laser to generate an accurate map of your home and provide the most efficient cleaning path while avoiding obstacles… without all the privacy issues.

Combined with their companion apps LIDAR robots also give you the ability to virtually block off areas of your home where you don’t want your vacuum to go which is an absolutely must have feature and will help you avoid the tangles and and hangups that used to be associated with robotic vacuums.  These no go lines and zones are slowly coming to camera based navigation robots, but they aren’t as accurate and are more prone to failure.  All the robotic vacuums that I’ll be testing in this video are equipped with LIDAR, but if you’re looking at another brand or model, an easy way to tell a LIDAR robot by looking at it is to check for the raised circle on the top of the robot that houses the spinning laser.

So if the most important feature can be found on vacuums that differ in price by more than $500, what does that mean you getting for your extra money?

At this point, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another amazing youtube channel dedicated specifically to vacuum reviews called vacuum wars.  His reviews are unbiased and quantitative and he’s got this whole vacuum testing thing down to a science.  However, being somewhat of a scientist myself I recognize the importance of replication and validation in the scientific process so even though I based my initial vacuum selections off of his very large dataset I wanted to confirm his numbers myself, so I replicated the most important tests for these vacuums, and came up with a few interesting results that weren’t necessarily in line with their price points.    However, I also believe that no matter what the suction, bin size, or carpet deep clean ability, a more important aspect of your robotic vacuum is hassle free use.  If my experiences with my Roomba 500 series 10 years ago are any indication, if your vacuum gets stuck too often or needs too much babysitting, you’ll just stop using it, which means you’ve wasted your money.  That’s why reliability is my second most important factor.



So to give each vacuum a reliability rating I created a treacherous obstacle course for these robots including some of their most common enemies:  Thresholds in half inch and three quarter inch varieties, a thick fluffy rug, and a loose floor mat.  I ran each robot for two consecutive runs and recorded the number of times that they failed on each obstacle, as well as the number of critical failures that caused the cleaning session to stop.  As you can see, in this case price is directly correlated with obstacle and hang up avoidance.  But it was also evident that each robot had a specific cleaning style and personality.  For instance, the Ecovacs OZMO 950 was by far the most aggressive robot while the Roborock S50 and the deebot 900 are much more gentle which results in some difficulties navigating over large thresholds, which the OZMO 950 did with ease. My guess is in the future this aggressiveness will be configurable in the app, but for now if you want a gentle robot that isn’t likely to knock over delicate furniture the S50 is probably your best bet, and if your house has different flooring levels with moderately sized thresholds the OZMO 950 will navigate your home with ease.  If your house is relatively easy to navigate, you can save money by getting the Deebot 900, and don’t forget, if you do have trouble area in your house you can always use the app to create no-go lines to keep your robotic vacuum out of trouble.

Speaking of apps, my final consideration for choosing a robotic vacuum is connectivity.  One of my favorite parts about my vacuums is that I never see them doing their job.  My downstairs vacuum is triggered by my bedtime routine with a 30 minute delay, so the family is all upstairs and fast asleep by the time it leaves its dock, and my upstairs vacuum operates within a specific time period whenever our house is in “away mode”, and immediately returns to the dock if we happen to come home during its cleaning.  Each vacuum has slightly different integrations, and I’ve included the most common smart home hubs and control mechanisms on this chart.   I’ve also rated the complexity of the different integrations next to them on a scale from 1-10 with 1 being extremely simple and 10 being the most complex.

The Xiaomi Roborock is the only vacuum that I know of that has a completely custom firmware written for it that allows for strictly local control and MQTT, but the installation is not for the faint of heart, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for the average consumer of these vacuums.  Still, if you’re interested in installing a custom firmware on your vacuum I’ve linked to the valetudo firmware down in the description.

Before I finish this video I wanted to talk about a few things that are nice to have, but not crucial in my opinion.  First, is battery life.  In my tests the Ecovacs OZMO 950 had an absolutely insane 212 minutes of battery life, which blew the competition out of the water, but all these LIDAR navigation robots have accurate recharge and resume abilities where they will clean until around 20% battery, return to the charger and top off their battery, then return to the exact spot that they left off and resume the clean.  If you have a very large single floor home you may still need a large battery since you’ll generally need to be able to complete a single mapping run before recharge and resume can be operational, also, if your house is large enough that you need more than one recharge a single clean could take longer than 8 hours, which will push the limits for being able to clean your house when you are away.

My second interesting but not necessary feature is mopping.  The OZMO 950, Tuya LDS and the Roborock S50 all have mopping attachments where they will dispense a controlled amount of liquid onto a mopping pad and then wipe the floor in a controlled pattern.  It’s not an amazing mopping experience, but it’s not the worst either.  The largest problem is that the pad barely applies any force, so it’s the equivalent of wiping your floors VERY lightly with a damp towel.  If you have all solid floors, mopping is definitely something to look into, but in my case my tile floors have carpet in between which prevents me from sending my robotic vacuum on an unattended mopping run, and as I’ve mentioned a number of times, the absolute best part about these things is that they do all their work without your input.

Which brings me to my last “nice to have, but probably unnecessary” feature.  Some newer robotic vacuums, especially at higher price points have what’s called “multi floor mapping” where they can save the floor plans of a multiple floor house so you can transport them up and down the stairs to clean each floor.  Unfortunately, this also violates my first rule of robotic vacuums, which is you shouldn’t have to interact with robotic vacuums.  Given the choice between a single $800 vacuum that I move between floors and a $400 vacuum for each floor I’d choose the latter every time.

So what’s my final verdict?  If you just want the best, most hassle free vacuum that will do a superb job cleaning your floors, the Ecovacs OZMO 950 is an easy pick, BUT I also think Ecovacs have really priced themselves out of the market with their own Deebot 900.  For basically a quarter of the price, the Deebot 900 gives you similar suction, cleaning ability, scheduling, and mapping.  As I mentioned, the Deebot 900 will do best when floors are level without too many transitions, but other than that it’s an absolutely impossible to beat product.  The Tuya vacuum would also be really interesting if it wasn’t for the Deebot 900, it’s just too good for cheap.

If you’re a lifelong tinkerer and won’t be able to just leave your vacuum alone, then you probably want to check out the The Xiaomi Roborock S50 and install the valetudo custom firmware.  But if you just want a vacuum that works, the S50 costs twice as much as the Deebot 900, and it’s not twice as good.

I also wanted to share one last hack with you:  Robotic vacuums keep your floors REALLY clean, so clean in fact that you’ll definitely notice how dirty your stairs are.  To clean stairs, I’ve employed billions of years of evolution to have a tiny human do the work for cheap.  A tiny human needs a tiny vacuum, so I picked up this battery operated stick vacuum from Proscenic on amazon, this particular vacuum lets you install the vacuuming head without the extension to make a perfect sized tool for a 7 year old.  You’re not going to be cleaning your whole house with this thing, but the battery life is perfect to give your stairs a good cleaning.

If I missed a test, or you want me to do a specific test on these vacuums before you buy them make sure to leave a comment below.  Thank you to my awesome patrons over at patreon for your continued support of my channel, if you’re interested in supporting my channel please check out the links in the description. If you enjoyed this video, please consider subscribing, and as always, thanks for watching the hookup.

Ecovacs Deebot 900 (Amazon US): https://amzn.to/30YVtBB
Deebot 900 (Amazon US Refurb): https://amzn.to/2OvPZLV
Roborock S50 (Amazon US): https://amzn.to/30UWOJr
Roborock S50 (Amazon UK): https://amzn.to/2AW0Fve
Roborock S50 (AliExpress): http://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/BTmXb0y0
Valetudo Firmware: https://github.com/Hypfer/Valetudo
Ecovacs OZMO 950 (Amazon US): https://amzn.to/35i1r3z
Zemismart Tuya LDS: http://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/cILMI1DO
Zemismart Direct: https://www.zemismart.com/wifi-tuya-robotic-vacuum-laser-sweeping-robort-smart-sweeping-machine-timer-remote-alexa-voice-control-p0233.html
Proscenic i9 Stick Vacuum: https://amzn.to/2P9i107
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