Ro­bot Vac­uum Ri­vals


Ro­bot vac­uum clean­ers strike me as an es­sen­tial appliance these days. The Roomba, made by iRobot, has been my choice. But Liam McCabe, a se­nior writer at The Wire­cut­ter and Sweet­home, the New York Times sites that eval­u­ate prod­ucts, has been test­ing these things since 2013 and says there is now a bet­ter op­tion. Q: Was the dis­place­ment of a Roomba by a ri­val a big deal? A: It was pretty sur­pris­ing. The Roomba 650 had been the pick since we first had a ro­bot vac­uum guide, back in 2012. It was the low­est-cost bot that didn’t usu­ally get stuck, and was also strong enough to pick up most of the no­tice­able de­bris on most floors. They just got un­der­cut.

Q: How so?

A: The se­cret to the Roomba 650 was the nav­i­ga­tion. All the other cheap com­peti­tors up un­til re­cently had poor nav­i­ga­tion. They’d get stuck on re­ally ba­sic ob­sta­cles like any kind of car­pet fringe or stray cable. A lot of them didn’t even have brush rollers, so they didn’t do much on car­pets. But then a batch of pretty good cheap mod­els popped up.

Q: So why did the Eufy RoboVac 11 win?

A: It nav­i­gates just about as well as the Roomba 650 — not ex­actly the same be­hav­ior, but close. It’s less likely to get caught on cords but slightly more likely to strug­gle cross­ing thresh­olds. On bal­ance, it’s pretty sim­i­lar. Q: And it is cheaper?

A: At least $80 cheaper, and it’s some­times closer to $200 cheaper, de­pend­ing on sale prices. The Roomba 650 can still cost $375. Some­times the Eufy is $185-ish. Q: The robots wear out faster than hu­man-driven vac­u­ums. Why?

A: Vac­u­ums, in gen­eral, have a tough job. They’re pick­ing up grime and grit that can wear on me­chan­i­cal parts. The robo­vacs are bat­tery pow­ered, so that’s al­ways a fail­ure point. And com­pared with cord­less hu­man-driven vac­u­ums, they spend more time run­ning, so the bat­ter­ies wear out in fewer uses.

Q: How did you de­cide that the Eufy is the best bet? A: Test­ing the bots at home. First, I let the bots loose and try to see what they strug­gle with. Then I pur­posely set up an ob­sta­cle course. I test for small-par­ti­cle pickup: baby pow­der and crumbs. Some of the weaker bots can strug­gle to pick those up. I also set up tightly ar­ranged chairs be­cause some bots can strug­gle to nav­i­gate around the legs, or they just go around with­out go­ing un­der them, leav­ing de­bris be­hind. I tie dif­fer­ent USB and charg­ing cords to the legs of those chairs and lay a power cable across the floor to see if they get caught.

Q: You must have the world’s clean­est house.

A: The thing is, I need to let it get kind of dirty to see how well the vac­u­ums work.

ROOMBA CHAL­LENGER The new Eufy RoboVac 11 ro­bot vac­uum cleaner has many good fea­tures.

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