Currently, the global industry of the Robot Vacuums to buy in 2018 is dominated by the iRobot and Neato brands thanks to its robots with visual navigation capabilities (including the implementation of laser navigation), its D-type dust brush, its high-efficiency brushing, among other characteristics that have led to the top these devices. We must say that iRobot's visual navigation technology is one of the best. For its part, Neato last year premiered the function of creating virtual walls through an application, a function that would help even more to create routes for robots.

However, lately, in China, there has been a revolution in the robot vacuums market thanks to the appearance of Xiaomi cleaners, machines that have reached many homes in record time. Its selling points are its low cost and its efficiency, which has served to boost the reputation of these gadgets and the brands that manufacture them. Since then these little companions have become a necessary device in every home, which leads us to the question: Which of all the machines is worth buying? 

3 Steps to understand the robot vacuums

Almost all brands claim that their device is an intelligent robot, and for customers there seems to be little difference beyond some of them cost $90 and others $900. The truth is that there are differences, and is that some robots are not as smart as they are, constantly facing embarrassing situations such as not cleaning an area well, filtering water from the tank or even falling down the stairs.

If you think that these intelligence masterpieces are only at the lowest prices, we tell you that you are in error! Not all that glitters is gold. So, how is an intelligent product different from the rest?

In the case of the robot vacuums, there are three fundamental characteristics:

1. They have a good vision

2. They have a good learning system

3. They have strong brushes and a great dust tank

1. They have a good vision

If the robot cannot see, it cannot clean. And although all vacuum robots have a vision and navigation system, not all have the same effectiveness. The truth becomes clear when comparing vacuums with different navigation characteristics. This is the difference between a laser cleaner and a camera cleaner. Although the machines are similar, one of them has a better vision of the environment. With this information, the robot can make a cleaning plan, and also return to the point of origin to recharge.

Top Robot Vacuums to buy in 2018 - Which one is the best cleaner? Photo 1

The current navigation technology of the robot vacuums is dominated by Neato's laser navigation, Dyson's 360-degree visual navigation, and iRobot 9's visual navigation. Infrared lights and acoustic waves are still used, but they do not work as well, so they tend to be an auxiliary mechanism.

Before the 9 series, iRobot flagships were equipped with lighthouses that guided them, allowing the robot to clean the room for a period before moving on to the next one. The disadvantage of this system is in the way in which they divide the areas, besides that the batteries of the same had to be constantly replaced. iRobot discarded this technology in the 9 series; however, it continues to implement it for the creation of virtual walls.

Now a series of cameras located on the diagonals of the front of the fuselage are responsible for detecting objects in front of the robot. In this way, the VSLAM algorithm creates marks in the environment and its localization. Combined with a navigation planning system, the robot will be able to know which places have been cleaned and which have not. In this way the iRobot961 manages to position itself, cleaning the internal areas initially until achieving a gleaming effect.

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Dyson's vacuum also implements a visual navigation system. Unlike the iRobot, Dyson installed a superior panoramic camera that allows a 360-degree view of the robot, being theoretically more advanced than that seen in the iRobot. In fact, most cleaners that rely on a visual navigation system use methods similar to the one implemented by Dyson, such as the DJ35 from Coworth and the X660 from ILIFE. However, it is good to say that Dyson's navigation technology is still in a premature state, there is a gap between the planning and recharging system used by iRobot.

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The last one is Neato, who uses a laser navigation system. The fundamental principle is the implementation of a laser rangefinder that constantly rotates to measure the distance between itself and the surrounding objects, locating the position of these. Subsequently, thanks to a series of algorithms, the robot draws up a cleanup plan, marking the areas that have not yet been swept.

The domestic devices created by Mijia arose from Neato's laser navigation technology. These type of machines are very easy to distinguish since in the upper part of the fuselage they have a protruding area where the laser emitter can be seen.

2. They have a good learning system

The vision is only the first step. There must be a good mind (and algorithm) and a good teacher (the manufacturer) to educate the system.

The cleaning path of the robot is the result of the engineering and adjustments that each manufacturer makes. It also consists of the technological core of each of the manufacturers, requiring a thorough investigation of all the processes.

The robot vacuums should be aware of two things: the cleanup plan and the ability to get out of trouble. The specific performance when judging entire environments of the house, especially with the algorithms to clean between tables, chairs, and corners, will determine if the manufacturer has done a good job.

The hard work to adjust and create an excellent program requires a great cost and many practical tests. Only some of the best manufacturers have their algorithm, such as iRobot vslam, Neato's autopilot algorithm, and Xiaomi's algorithm. However, among all these, Neato's planning system is the one that leads.

3. They have strong brushes and a great dust tank

It does not matter how well the robot can navigate if it cannot clean. This is where the brushes and the dust tank come into play. If we only see the suction power of the robot, we will be looking at a very superficial fact. A well-designed vacuum cleaner together with its brushes can make a difference when cleaning.

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For the moment, the maximum representative of this category is the small suction nozzle present in iRobot, together with the addition of the AeroForce double rubber system, and the ultra-wide suction nozzle used by Neato in conjunction with the spiral brush. Xiaomi combines the best of both worlds, using the iRobot suction nozzle and the Neato brush system. However, the price of Xiaomi is still much lower.

As international brands are, I must say that the design of the main brush suction port is much better designed for the products of iRobot and Neato.

Now, the work would not be complete if all the garbage collected by the brushes could not be stored. It's as simple as the larger the dust box, the more trash it can store, resulting in much longer cleaning intervals. In the next image, from left to right, are the compartments of Neato, iRobot, Mijia, and Roborock . In this contest, Neato has the greatest capacity, followed by the Xiaomi robot. During the tests, Neato's dust box only needed to be cleaned every 10 days, while Xiaomi's was up to 7 days. The other two competitors came just 3 or 4 days.

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Now, maybe that does not sound like a big problem, but let's get some accounts. In one year, the Neato box will only be emptied 36 times, while that of the iRobot871 will have to be emptied 121 times.

Finished the analysis of what factors must meet the robot vacuums, now I'm going to provide some information based on my experience that can spare you some headaches.

1. Before buying, it is good to see the result of the mop.

The Roborock vacuum cleaner has made many improvements concerning the floor mopping function, for example improving the width of the mop or eliminating the presence of water when it stops. It also has the HEPA filter to repel water, which will also absorb moisture until the performance is seriously affected.

However, there are three problems in this function: water spots, a small water tank and very bad accessibility.

In the image, you can see a small problem with water, where it is evident that the Roborock vacuum cleaner cannot control the amount of water very well. This may turn out to be a problem, especially in the case of hardwood floors.

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The second problem is definitely the capacity of the water tank. If we have a small cleaning surface, this will not be an inconvenience, but to clean areas of 70 or 80 square meters, the tank will not be enough.

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The last problem is accessibility. When using the mop function, the cleaning capacity of the brush will be severely affected, since it will not be able to avoid obstacles so easily and could even get stuck.

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The wet trawl function will play an important role in the initial cleaning process, eliminating some difficult stains that cannot be lifted off the ground. The problem surge when there are no stains to clean because the mop will simply get dirty with dust.

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2. Design in D or circular?

The D design used by Neato not only allows the front dust brush to get better access to the corners when cleaning, but it also allows you to have a larger space for the dust box. However, the design in D has always been problematic. Currently, only Neato has managed to handle them. The implementation of this form in other brands has not been as fruitful as would be expected, and we often see how the robot's ability to get out of trouble is reduced.

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The opposite is true with the iRobot robot vacuums, gadgets with a circular shape. This is highly efficient, but it has a serious problem, and it is the limited size that the brush can have to sweep dust since it can only be located in the space between the edge of the fuselage and the wheels. Also, to reach the difficult sides, they use large side brushes. The problem is that this type of brush hit the garbage trying to get it out of the path of the robot, and sometimes it sends it too far. In circular robots like the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum, the lateral brush speed is kept very low to avoid this kind of inconvenience, while a low-quality vacuum will not have this function.

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At this point, we are already professionals when identifying among the robot vacuums. Now it's time to say which are the best robots to clean our home.

Robot vacuums for under $500

Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum

We start with what will be our point of comparison for the rest. It is not for all of us, but inside all the vacuums, Xiaomi is the most complete of the competitors and the one that offers the best price. Its laser navigation system is very good, in addition to including a deposit for dust with considerable dimensions. The suction system has a power of 1800PA, giving one of the cleanest cleaning effects. It has a 5200mAh battery, this being one of its greatest successes. As if that were not enough, all this can be achieved for a price of only $315.44.

However, the product is not free of faults, since the laser can be damaged relatively quickly (a year or more, depending on the use), although it is not difficult or expensive to replace it.


1. Laser navigation + customized Xiaomi algorithm

2. Brush for hair and dust

3. Suction power of 1800PA

4. Built-in 5200mAh lithium battery

5. Price of only $315.44


1. Useful life of some components

Roborock S50

The biggest difference present in this robot is the price increase of $55. This price translates into improved parts and some optimized functions of the Mijia version, as well as a new original mop function. Among the new improvements is an extended micro-switch of the laser head, so that in case of collisions the robot will recoil to avoid damage. The fall sensor has been improved to provide a more accurate scan of the environment. Also, the HEPA filter can be cleaned to save us buying a new one.

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New sweeping functions have been added to the software of the robot, but this will also be included in the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum, so it is maintained that the biggest change is in the function of mopping and the price.

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It can be said that the mopping function is more meticulous in this version. The area of the mop that contacts the floor is the same as that of the dust brush. In this way, it is avoided to wet the area that has not been swept. Definitely a quite noticeable improvement. As long as you do not mind the price increase, this is a very important option to take into account.

Regarding the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum:


1. New sensors and improvements in existing ones

2. Mopping function.


1. $55 more expensive.

360 S6 Sweeping Robot

Compared with the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum, the first big difference is evident: a battery of only 3200mAh. We are facing a battery with only 61.5% of the capacity of the Xiaomi’s machine, which greatly limits the useful life of the device and efficiency when cleaning. There is another problem to highlight, and that is that the planning and scanning of the environment of the robot is not so good, so it may fail to clean some area.

So, what are its advantages? Definitely including the mopping function for such a low price and the existence of bilateral brushes. Also, through the use of a smartphone app, we can define a banned area which eliminates the use of a virtual wall that entails an additional cost.

Regarding the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum:


1. Bilateral brushes

2. Mopping function

3. The possibility of restricting zones through the APP


1. The algorithm is not very good

2. A relatively small 3000mAh battery

3. Non-floating dust brush

Robot vacuums for more than $500

Xiaomi managed to get people started to take an interest in the use of robots vacuums for cleaning, but the truth is that if you are looking for something of much more quality you will have to look elsewhere. If you want the best result nowadays, the price should increase, in some cases up to double. Let's see some more expensive options and compare them in relation to the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum. At this point, the price will not be located as a problem, since we are dealing with the best of the market.


Neato is at the top of home maintenance thanks to 3 fundamental characteristics. The first feature is the ultra-wide dust brush made of rubber and its great suction force. The second is the large storage capacity of the dust tank. The last feature is the powerful algorithm designed to control the Type D vacuum.

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If you ever used one of Xiaomi's cleaning robots, you will know the rubber brush it uses. Its brush is excellent with any floor. Only the one used by Neato can overcome it, being softer, with a denser brush, better construction, and a cleaner finish.

From the first generation of Neato robot vacuums, the dust tank has been a strong point, and the extra-large filter implementation makes the robot less likely to clog.

The fan that Neato uses does not have comparison with the ones of the competition. While Xiaomi, 360 and iRobot use a motor with a rated power of 15W, the Neato high-power turbine is 49.68W.

Although the D design of the vacuums may seem like a problem, Neato has proven to be able to handle it, having in the market the only cleaning algorithm capable of creating routes where the robot will not suffer shocks.

Currently, you can get different models of the robot, these being the D7500, the D8000, the D5 Connected and the D3 Connected (the latter with prices over $700).

Regarding the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum:


1. It has the best brush for dust

2. Larger dust deposit

3. Greater suction power

4. Best algorithm

5. Better prevention of obstacles


1. The relatively lower battery of 4200mAh


If you are looking for where the floating structure of the brushes implemented by Xiaomi came from, then you should look at iRobot. Xiaomi implemented a very similar structure but replaced the patented iRobot brush with a reduced version of it. They also borrowed iRobot's modular drive wheels, as well as the design of the side brush motors.

Identifying an iRobot is simple, we just need to see what the first number is in the three-digit code. For example, if we see the number 871, this means that we are looking at an eighth generation product. Of this generation, only the 880 uses a navigation system through a headlight, which allows efficient cleaning in different rooms. However, we must remember that this technology has been replaced by a visual navigation system in the ninth generation.

The biggest improvement in the 9 series is that iRobot finally joins the VSLAM navigation technology without the need to use additional hardware. The full name of this technology is Visual Panorama Planning Navigation Technology. Maps are created in the same way that they would be done with a laser navigation system while cleaning.

Within the same series, we can get differences among the robot vacuums. Between 980 and 961 there is a change in the fan and the capacity of the battery. In fact, the 980 is up to twice as powerful as the 961, getting a more effective cleaning.

If you are not interested in the latest version, we must tell you that the models 691, 861 and 891 have been improved to have lithium batteries and much longer longevity. Pay attention when buying the product so that it is not sold with an old battery. Finally, the most modern version, the iRobot Roomba 980 is priced at $1326, definitely far superior to the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vaccum.

Regarding the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum:

iRobot Roomba 961


1. Best brush for dust

2. Easy to disassemble to make maintenance

3. Navigation without moving parts


1. Visual navigation requires environmental light

2. Very small 1800mAh battery

3. The planning algorithm needs improvements

iRobot Roomba980


1. Best brush for dust

2. Easy to disassemble to make maintenance

3. Navigation without moving parts


1. Visual navigation requires environmental light

2. Very small 3300mAh battery

3. The planning algorithm needs improvements

Conclusion - which one should I buy?

If you do not want to read so much, we summarize the article in the personal recommendations of the house. In the field of robot vacuums, if you are looking for a general cleaning without much complication, we recommend that you jump without thinking about it to the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum. It has the best value for its price with features that adapt to what you are looking for a robot to sweep. It is a pity that it does not have the function of mopping, but for that price and with that cleaning algorithm, it is impossible to find a better robot.

Now, if you are looking for the best of the robot vacuums without impediments, the best option is the Neato D5. From its design to its navigation and cleaning system, Neato demonstrates why it is a leading brand when it comes to keeping the home clean.


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