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Mai Pham
December 15, 2023

There are many different robot vacuums on the market, ranging from cheap ones around $200 to expensive ones around $1,000. Knowing the differences between robot vacuums is crucial before buying one to make sure you pick the one you really need. Here’s what I’ve found out.

There are many differences between robot vacuums but they all come into these main things: shapes, prices, and features. Robot vacuums can be categorized as D shape vs Round shape, Cheap (around $200) vs Expensive (around $1,000), and their features (like mopping, self-emptying, etc.). These factors significantly impact robot vacuums’ cleaning ability.

D Shape vs Round Shape

The most common shape of robot vacuums is round. This is the easiest shape for the robot vacuum to go in and out of a small area. A round robot vacuum is less likely to get stuck in a corner or in a small area, as it can easily turn around and retrieve out.

Besides round shapes, many robot vacuums are now D-shaped. Some robot vacuums are even square or rectangular. All these shapes can get stuck easier as they have more corners so it can be harder to turn around and retrieve out.

The best advantage of D shape robot vacuums is that they can get closer to the walls and corners. The main brush of D shape robot vacuums is often located near the edge so they can vacuum corners and wall edges much better.

How D shape robot vacuums get to corners more easier

If you want to know more about the differences between a round shape and a D shape robot vacuum, read my articles on Robot vacuum shapes comparison.

Cheap vs Expensive

Many people only care about the price when selecting a robot vacuum. But for me, while the price is a very important factor, my whole purpose of getting a robot vacuum is to remove me as much as I can from the cleaning chore. So the more a robot vacuum can do, the less it requires my attention, the better.

Cheap robot vacuums can do the basic vacuum just fine. However, if you want your robot vacuum to do more (ie. you do less), consider choosing a robot vacuum with added features.

Cleaning Ability and Features

How It Navigates

Bump and Run

Cheap robot vacuums generally feature the “bump and run” navigation system. It means that they will go around your house until they bump into something, then they will bump into that thing several times to detect the shape of that obstacle to decide whether they should go around it or change direction.

Especially in the first run, you will notice that your robot vacuums run in weird paths (or some people even call this the “stupid run”).

Once your robot vacuum already mapped your house, you will see fewer bump and run as it remembers where the walls and furniture are. However, with moving obstacles (like when you move your chair around), it will still apply the bump and run to decide the next direction.

The bump-and-run navigation is very effective, especially when you use your robot vacuum for spaces less than 1,000 sq ft.

On the other hand, the bump-and-run system can be annoying, especially when you are watching TV and the robot vacuum keeps going around very near, just because you move the table to put some snacks on. Not even mention when you are doing exercise on the floor, it keeps bumping into you to realize what kind of obstacle you are!

And robot vacuums with bump-and-run navigation systems are enemies to expensive furniture. You really don’t want your furniture to be scratched because the robot vacuum bumps into it.

Map with Lidar Camera, AI-Powered Smart Navigation, etc.

Expensive robot vacuums feature more advanced navigation systems to go around the house. Even in the first run, they will run in an orderly path as they have more advanced cameras and other smart navigation systems to help them see the obstacles, detect what they are and decide how they should navigate.

If you worry about your precious furniture being damaged by the bump-and-run robot vacs, try a robot vac with an advanced navigation system.

However, just because you pay more for the navigation system, your robot vacuums can still get trouble with the carpets, charging cables, shoe laces, etc.

I’ve noticed that even the most expensive robot vacuums with the smartest navigation system can still get into trouble with cables, strings, and some pieces of clothes on the floor.

Suction Power

Generally speaking, the stronger the suction power, the more dirt it can pick up. However, there are other factors like the brush size, dirt-detected AI system, and navigation system that also impact greatly how much the robot vacuum can pick up.

Bump-and-run robot vacuums, as it goes around several times through a spot during the bump and run, it can pick up as much dirt as other advanced robot vacuums. Some expensive robot vacuums feature a dirt-detected AI system, where they detect the dirt and run around the dirty area until clean.

As the general rule of thumb, you should select a robot vacuum with suction power from 1,000 pa up.

Below is just a very simple reference for you to decide how much suction power you should look for, depending on the cleaning area in your house.

Floor SpaceSuction Power
Less than 400 sqft800pa
From 400 sqft – 800 sqft800 pa – 1,000 pa
From 800 sqft – 1,000 sqft1,000 pa – 1,600 pa
From 1,000 sqft1,600 pa +
Suction Power for Floor Space

If you wonder if should you aim for the strongest suction power, make sure you read my article: “Is The Stronger Suction Power, The Better?

Brush Sizes and Types

A typical robot vacuum has a main brush that is located underneath the robot, around the center area. This main brush is responsible for scrubbing the dirt and directing it to the suction area to be stored in the dust bin. The longer the main brush, the faster your robot vacuum can clean your floor as it doesn’t require repeated vacuuming in a same area.

However, do not choose a robot vacuum simply by the size of its main brush. There are other factors of the main brush that determine how well a robot vacuum can clean for you, like its type and materials.

There are 2 most common main brush types: main brush with bristle and main brush without bristle. In both types, the hubs are often made in rubber, silicon, or soft nylon.

Main brush types

A robot vacuum with a bristle bar can pull out fibers from a carpet and wear out your carpet fast. If your robot vacuum’s main brush is made of silicon only without bristle, you can use it for your carpets.

If you have carpets and would like to know how to use your robot vacuum with carpets, make sure you check out my guide on Simple Tips To Reduce The Impact of Robot Vacuums on Carpets.

Besides main brushes, many robot vacuums also include side brushes that are used to take the dirt from the wall edges and corners to the suction mouth. Long-side brushes tend to do a better job of taking the dirt out of hard-to-get-to places.

If your house has many corners, I recommend getting a D-shaped robot vacuum with a side brush(es) to clean corners better.

If you find your corners are not yet spot-cleaned after running your robot vacuum, make sure to check out my guide on How To Make Robot Vacuums Clean Corners Well.

Battery Life

Robot vacuums with longer battery life can clean more at a time. Therefore, they can clean faster and more effectively. You really don’t want your robot vacuum to run back to the dock to charge in the middle of its cleaning session.

Generally speaking, most robot vacuums can run around 60 minutes to 90 minutes, which means that they are sufficient to handle small to medium size apartments or homes.

But if your house is very spacious with several floors, consider having more than 1 robot vacuum to clean several rooms and floors at once.

Vacuum Only vs Vacuum and Mop

Many people choose to get a robot vacuum with a mopping feature instead of getting a robot vacuum along with a robot mop.

For sure a robot mop can do more and better job at mopping your floor. However, a robot mop itself is not cheap. And for some people, having a robot cleaner and a robot mop lying on the floor is redundant and not necessary.

If you need to be your floor mopped and don’t want to invest in another robot mop, consider getting a robot vacuum with mopping feature.

Back when this robot vacuum was first released, many people complained that the mopping feature wasn’t worth it as it left mopping marks all over the floor. But things have changed a lot since then.

All the manufacturers have improved and developed their robot vacuums to do a better job at mopping while being able to detect different surfaces to decide what to do with its mopping session.

Self-emptying and Self-cleaning

For busy people, when it comes to house chores, the less human touch, the better.

When I just bought my robot vacuum, I emptied it twice per day, after every cleaning session. The first few cleaning sessions collected a big chunk of dirt, then it was barely anything in the dustbin.

And that’s when I started to get lazy.

From emptying the dustbin twice per day to once every 2 days, to even sometimes until the robot vacuum alert that the dustbin is full.

That’s not good.

Because the more dirt is kept in the dustbin, the more dirt can be released back into the air when your robot vacuum works. But what if you are not home every day to empty it?

Here comes the self-emptying feature. Your robot vacuum shall empty itself for you and keep all of the dirt in a designated bag. All you have to do is to dump that bag once in a while.

For robot vacuum with a mopping feature, it can also clean and sterilize the mop for you. All you need to do is to change the water tank periodically.

Robot Vacuums Can Do More Than Just Vacuum

From self-cleaning to mopping the floor. And helps to simplify your house chores even more.

With the right pick, you can remove yourself from most of the floor-cleaning work. Depending on your budget, your need as well as the features you are looking for, you can select the right robot vacuum with the most-needed function without breaking the bank.

About the Author

I am a working mother who more than often prefer to come home and rest rather than doing house chores. I am passionate about simplifying house chores to live and enjoy life more.

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