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.