The best robot vacuums of 2021


Robot vacuums are designed to make your life easier, cleaning the floors so you don’t have to. Or at least, don’t have to do it as often. They’re particularly great for keeping up with pet hair, but can also keep your house tidy when you’re just too busy (and they’ll do it better because they don’t mind vacuuming everyday).

The best robot vacuums will skillfully and thoroughly clean your floors with little or no effort from you. We tested 10 robot vacuums to see which one is best at navigating a home, picking up dirt and simplifying your life.

The best robot vacuum overall

The iRobot j7+ is the best robot vacuum you can buy right now, with simpler mapping, more cleaning power, and smarter features than anything else we tested.

The best affordable robot vacuum

The Eufy 11s may not be smart, but its brute force approach covered our test area almost as well as the connected robots, plus it’s quiet, slim enough to reach under most furniture, and does a great job cleaning.

The best robot vacuum for pet hair

The budget-priced iLife V3S Pro uses a suction tube like a traditional vacuum cleaner rather than the roller brushes employed by other robot vacuums, and does a better job picking up pet hair without clogging.

The best value self-emptying robot vacuum

If you want the convenience of a self-emptying vacuum but want to save a couple of hundred dollars over an iRobot or Samsung, the Shark IQ XL cleans and performs almost as well for a lot less.

Best robot vacuum overall: iRobot Roomba j7+ ($849.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)

iRobot j7+ Robot Vacuum

Andrea Smith/CNN Underscored

The iRobot j7+ is the best robot vacuum you can buy right now. It beat out all the others in mapping, creating virtual boundaries, and detecting and avoiding obstacles, which means it’s the best “set it and forget it” smart robot vacuum — and it even empties itself. More importantly, it picks up dust and debris and cat litter from hardwood floors and low pile carpeting better than the others we tested.

iRobot uses what it calls Dirt Detect, focusing more cleaning effort when it detects a concentration of dirt. I spilled cat litter on the hardwood floor and the j7+ recognized it as a “dirt event.” It got to the end of the cat litter spill, reversed itself back to the beginning of the spill area and took another pass at it. It did this several times until all the litter was picked up. Even litter that got scattered by the sweeping motion of the side brush was eventually picked up.

The j7+ leaves behind neat rows of just-vacuumed carpeting and the powerful suction of the unit was able to pick up cat litter and pet hair in my bedroom carpeting. Its multi-surface rubber brushes on the underside kept the brush from getting tangled with pet hair; only the the iLife V3S Pro did a better job at not getting tangled, but that’s because it doesn’t have a roller brush like the j7+ or the other robot vacuums we tested.

iRobot J7+ robot vacuum with base station and waste bin

Andrea Smith/CNN Underscored

The j7+ with its base and waste bin

When the j7+ is done cleaning, it returns to the base and empties itself into a bag in the larger dustbin at the back of the base. You need to change that bag every two months or so, but other than that, you likely won’t have to interact with it very much at all.

In our testing, the j7+ was the easiest robot to direct while mapping, doing a much better job than the Neato BotVac (which couldn’t complete mapping our typical single-floor home in time) and the Shark IQ, which required a lot of work editing and creating virtual dividers to mark rooms. With the j7+, it was easy to set up virtual no-go zones (we blocked off the area around our cat condo). Once the J7+ completes the initial mapping setup of your home — which takes some effort and input from you — the robot takes care of the rest.

Map created by the iRobot j7+ robot

iRobot

The j7+ did the best job at creating and letting us adjust a map of our test area.

The j7+ also did a superb job of steering clear of items like headphones and lamp cords, outdoing similar high-end smart robots like the Samsung JetBot+ courtesy of its front-mounted sensor and lights. Right now, it only recognizes certain objects like cords, headphones and pet waste, but once you’ve mapped your home, it requests feedback after encountering objects and over time it will learn more about what you leave out and add more objects to its list of items to be avoided.

At just 3.4-inches high, the j7+ fits more easily under furniture than the taller Samsung JetBot+. The Clean Base is shorter and shallower than Samsung’s emptying bin base, taking up less space in a room or under a table. It also has a hidden storage area where you can stash your extra bags.

The Roomba j7+ is not perfect. Those high-end smart features will cost you: at $699 it’s one of the most expensive vacuums we tested. It’s also the loudest robot vacuum we tested. There’s no such thing as it sneaking up on you, you’ll always know when its running. When the vacuum empties itself into the base following a cleaning run, it’s like a jet engine taking off. Luckily it doesn’t last too long. It would be nice to have the option to keep it from emptying after certain runs as it gets super loud, but it is a minor downside for such an effective robot vacuum.

Andrea Smith/CNN Underscored

If you don’t want smart features like mapping, don’t need a self-emptying dustbin and don’t mind picking up before you start the vacuum, the Eufy 11S is the budget robot vacuum we recommend. It’s a basic and affordable vacuum with a slim profile, good suction and quiet operation, and should work well for anyone who wants to maintain their floors in between manual vacuuming.

The Eufy does a superb job picking up dirt, excelling on hardwood floors, tile, and low pile carpets. It filled its dustbin with pet hair and cat litter though it wasn’t able to get up all the litter on a higher pile carpet.

What sets the Eufy 11S above the budget competition is the ability to change the power level while the unit is cleaning. It offers Standard, Boost IQ and Max. This is the only unit we tested that lets you change the power and suction level while the vacuum is operating. The more expensive Shark IQ XL and the Ecovacs Deebot N79S can only be changed with the remote when the unit is stopped. I appreciated this feature as I was able to turn on Boost IQ and then Max when the vacuum got close to the living room, which has a medium pile carpet. It performed admirably climbing up onto the carpet to clean, though it did get stuck several times on the base of my bar stools and had to be rescued.

Unlike our overall pick, the Eufy 11S doesn’t have any smart mapping features, so you can’t create a map, or direct it with Alexa or Google — it’s a classic “bump bot” and finds its way by random or bounce navigation, running in a straight line until it bangs into an obstacle like a table or chair leg. This ends up in surprisingly good overall coverage, but you may find that some areas that trap the robot (under a table, for instance) get lots of attention, and more open areas (like the middle of the living room) just get one quick pass.

It took a few hours for the vacuum to fully clean my entire home, which is about 1,500 square feet, and watching as it maneuvered in and out of my office several times for varying lengths of time made me a little crazy but to get smart linear navigation, you’ll need to spend at least $200 more.

Luckily the Eufy has a recharge and resume feature, so if it runs low on battery, it makes its way back to the base to recharge itself and when ready, resumes the cleaning job. In our testing this worked well, except for the fact that it resumed right in the middle of a dinner with friends, but it was easy enough to stop the cleaning run by pressing the button on the vacuum.

The Eufy is smart enough to keep itself from getting into trouble — in our testing, it had no trouble detecting stairs with a combination of infrared sensors and anti-drop sensors. keep it from going down a step. And at just 2.8 inches tall, the Eufy 11S is almost a full inch shorter than the slightly more expensive Roborock S4, allowing it to get under more furniture like console tables and kids’ beds.

The dustbin on the 11S needs to be emptied manually, like others in this price range. It’s easy to open and empty, even easier than the higher end Shark IQ XL. Since there’s no indicator to show when the bin is full, we recommend emptying it each time it returns to the base to recharge. this ensures the bin won’t fill up mid-cleaning run. You’ll also get the satisfaction of seeing how much dirt and pet hair the vacuum picks up that you might not otherwise be able to reach.

The included remote lets you create a schedule for the vacuum, however you can only set a single daily schedule. Otherwise, you can either press the button on the machine itself to start a cleaning job, or use the remote, which comes with a handy guide to the button symbols on the back. There are five different cleaning modes to choose from: Auto sends the vacuum from room to room, Spot cleans a specific area and Edge will send the vacuum hugging the walls of your house for perimeter cleaning. You can also choose a single room or pilot the robot with the directional arrows on the remote.

If you live in a home without high pile carpets and find yourself constantly vacuuming up pet hair or dirt, and don’t need the ability to map your home and create virtual walls or no-go zones, the Eufy 11S is a top choice.

Andrea Smith/CNN Underscored

If your main struggle is keeping up with pet hair and small pieces of debris like cat litter, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a well-performing robot vacuum. In our testing, the iLife V3S Pro did the best job on cat hair and cat litter on my hardwood floors.

The V3S Pro uses a small suction opening to scoop up debris, much like a regular vacuum, instead of the spinning roller brush on the bottom used by most robots. While the suction isn’t the strongest I’ve seen on devices in this price range, it avoids having hair and carpet threads build up and get stuck in a brush, and therefore helps it pick up more hair and dirt. Two side brushes with 3 bristles each push hair and dirt into the robot’s path, and do a great job.

Like the Eufy 11s, this vacuum uses random, or bump and run navigation, so while it does take time to clean the house it covers every room. Again like the Eufy, it returns to the charging base if it runs out of battery before the house is finished and then resumes the job once fully charged. Infrared sensors keep it off the stairs, though like other bump bots, it can’t avoid obstacles like lamp cords.

The iLife V3S Pro was able to transition easily from a rug to a floor and back up onto the rug without any problem. Because of its low 11.8 X 3” profile, it also fit under a dresser that the Shark IQ and iRobot j7+ couldn’t get under.

iLife V3S Pro with top cover removed and waste bin visible

Andrea Smith/CNN Underscored

The iLife V3S Pro’s bin is easily accessible from the top of the robot.

Though it doesn’t alert you when the bin is full, it’s easy to access the dustbin from the top of the unit, right under the cover (most other vacuums have it located on the bottom).

As with other inexpensive robots, you can only set a single daily schedule; the V3S Pro also offers three cleaning modes — whole floor, spot and edge — accessible from the included remote.

If you’re a pet parent who needs help keeping hardwood, tile, or low-pile carpeting fur-free, the iLife V3S Pro is the right vacuum for you. If getting pet hair out of high pile carpeting is a priority, you should step up to the iRobot 694 which has two brush rollers that work great on higher pile carpets, but that will cost you about $100 more and the iLife does a better job overall.

Best value self-emptying robot vacuum: Shark IQ XL ($599.99, bedbathandbeyond.com)

Shark IQ XL robot vacuum on a hardwood floor

Andrea Smith/CNN Underscored

If you like the idea of a self-emptying robot vacuum but not the high price tag of the iRobot Roomba j7+, then we recommend the Shark IQ XL. It has smart features such as linear navigation, in-app mapping, scheduling and voice control. You can’t schedule specific rooms to be cleaned with the Shark IQ XL, nor can the robot automatically adjust power levels to deal with different types of flooring like the Roomba j7+, but you get a lot of functionality and effective cleaning for about $200 less on average.

Like other self-emptying robot vacuums, the Shark IQ XL returns to the base and empties its contents. The Shark, however, is the only vacuum we tested that features a bagless self-emptying base. To empty it, you simply detach the bin and empty it manually over the trash. This can get messy as dust flies around but you save money buying replacement bags.

The Shark IQ XL robot vacuum with its base and waste bin

Andrea Smith/CNN Underscored

The Shark IQ XL robot vacuum with its base and waste bin

The base itself stands about 15 inches tall and has a window so you can see how full it is. Shark says it will hold about a month’s worth of cleaning.

Another feature that stands out on the Shark IQ XL is Evacuate and Resume, which is designed for homes with lots of pet hair. Instead of waiting for the vacuum to run out of battery and return to the base, where it will empty its on-board dustbin, in this mode it will return and empty the dustbin after 30 minutes of cleaning, so the robot itself doesn’t fill up with pet hair. Once it empties itself, it picks up where it left off.

The Shark IQ XL navigates efficiently in a linear fashion and easily gets over and around furniture. It’s the only vacuum out of the eleven I tested that was able to get up and over the base of my bar stools without getting stuck.

It can get just as loud as the iRobot when cleaning, especially on Max mode, but in our testing, it did a good job on pet hair and cat litter.

If you want a self-emptying robot vacuum with smart features and don’t mind emptying the dirt bin yourself, this is a step up from the Shark ION and Ecovacs DEEBOT N79S. While it lacks some of the smarts of the more expensive iRobot Roomba j7+, you might find it to be just the right mix of smarts and convenience.

If you’re pressed for time or have a pet who sheds, a good robot vacuum is a worthwhile investment. They’re particularly great for pet owners, since even if you depend on a traditional vacuum cleaner a basic robot can stay on top of the hair, dander and litter on a daily basis, making your chores a little easier once you get around to a deep clean.

A robot vacuum does require some amount of time and input from you. More advanced models require you to set up a map and define the zones of your house you’ll want them to clean or stay away from, and even the best vacuum can get stuck and need human intervention.

Robot vacuums can’t do everything, or completely replace an upright, canister, or stick vacuum. They aren’t the best tools for taking care of household accidents or heavily soiled areas, and if they end up running over anything messy (pet waste, or spilled liquids) they can make things worse.

Even the most advanced models can’t get into every crevice and hard-to-reach space, and they can’t vacuum upholstery, drapes, closets, drawers and kitchen cabinets, or anything else that isn’t a horizontal surface.

But for staying ahead of dust and dirt buildup, they’re solid investments that will save you time, and as part of an overall cleaning schedule they make a lot of sense.

Our four recommended robots on a hardwood floor

Andrea Smith/CNN

Our four recommended robots

Consider the layout of your home and whether you have mostly hardwood floors or deep pile carpeting. If you live in a Victorian style home or have medium to high pile carpeting, a robot vacuum will likely require a lot of input from you. However, if you live in a more modern, open-flow style of home with tile or hardwood floors, a robot vacuum is a great option. You’ll also want to ask yourself how much time you want to devote to prepping the house before you vacuum.

If you don’t mind picking up toys and lamp cords and anything else that might get in the way or get snarled in the roller brush, then you can get one of the more affordable robot vacuums. These robots — such as our budget recommendation, the Eufy 11s — typically run in a random “bump and run” fashion, and don’t have any smart mapping features, so they’re run for a long period of time to clean the whole house instead of progressing intelligently from room to room.

But just because you’re not spending a lot of money on a smart unit doesn’t mean you’re not going to get a clean house. In our testing, we found there are some models that clean really well and can do almost as good a job as a higher-priced option.

If you’re not willing to devote the time to prepping the house, then opt for the LIDAR-enabled, connected robot vacuums — like our overall recommendation, the iRobot Roomba j7+ — that are smart enough to detect and steer clear of obstacles. Spending the time during the initial setup, mapping your home and creating in-app “no-go zones” will save you the hassle of decluttering each time you run the vacuum.

You’ll pay more money for these models, but you get the capability of setting schedules, designating specific rooms to be cleaned and using voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant to control your vacuum.

How are you with touching dirt and pet hair clumps? If you don’t mind emptying the dustbin after every cleaning run, a standard robot vacuum will work for you. If you’d prefer never to touch the dirt, opt for the self-emptying models that automatically empty themselves into a bag or bin. The bag usually only needs to be changed every 60 days or so.

4 robot vacuums stacked, with a cat, on a hardwood floor

Andrea Smith/CNN Underscored

Our test supervisor assess how the robots stack up

After researching which robot vacuums to test, we settled on eleven models with a wide variety of features and price points. We set up each vacuum, downloading apps and creating accounts where necessary. We ran each vacuum multiple times through an approximately 1,500 square foot home with two cats, hardwood floors and mostly low-pile carpeting.

We sent them on a normal run of the house cleaning run as well as runs with handfuls of cat litter on the floor and carpeting.

We assessed all the models on the following criteria:

  • Suction power
  • Noise level
  • Navigation style
  • App ease of use
  • Mapping ability
  • Ease of setting virtual no-go boundaries
  • Ability to schedule cleaning
  • Ability to schedule cleaning of individual spaces
  • Ability to navigate furniture, corners and other obstacles
  • Effectiveness of picking up pet hair and litter
  • Cleaning effectiveness on various surfaces (hardwood floors, tile, low and high pile carpets)

We also evaluated the individual vacuums based on:

  • Ease of use
  • Availability of remote/app-based control
  • Self-emptying or onboard bin only
  • Size and ease of placement of base
  • Ability to return to base
  • Number and type of brushes
  • Height of unit and ability to maneuver under furniture and reach tight spaces

Ecovacs DEEBOT N79S ($249; amazon.com)

This is an app-controlled vacuum with a low profile that didn’t perform well enough in our testing to compete with others in the same price range. It can be controlled via a remote, app or voice assistant but has no mapping or room-specific scheduling capability and the random navigation, in our testing, never quite completed a run of the house.

Samsung JetBot+ ($599, originally $799; samsung.com)

Samsung’s JetBot+ is a high-end, feature-rich machine that has Lidar navigation and a self-emptying base. At 21-inches tall and 9-inches deep, the base is just so big and noticeable, we much prefer the smaller, less obtrusive base of the iRobot j7+. The vacuum has a forward camera and obstacle detection, but our testing found it not to be as precise as the iRobot j7+.

Shark ION RV765 ($259.99; target.com)

Mediocre suction capability, random navigation and difficulty finding its base made this a non-starter for us. While the vacuum has features such as voice control and in-app scheduling, it didn’t function half as well as the similarly priced Eufy 11S.

Eufy RoboVac X8 ($599.99; amazon.com)    

The Eufy Robovac X8 is packed with smart features and offers four different suction levels for powerful clean-up. It uses AI to detect and avoid obstacles and builds a virtual map that you can watch in real-time, something other vacuums don’t do. It took a few tries to get our unit to create the initial map. It also into a few tangles with power cords and had to be rescued but did a great job scooping up a cat toy that I later found in the dustbin. It’s a solid machine, but at $599, you can get the self-emptying and superior iRobot Roomba j7+ for just a hundred dollars more.

Neato BotVac D8 ($569.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)

With features such as in-app mapping, scheduling and no-go zones, the Neato BotVac D8 was promising. The signature D-shape design of the machine makes it easier to get into corners and edges and it was the easiest of all the connected vacuums to set up.

However, we couldn’t get it to complete the mapping process despite several attempts and a call to customer service.

The vacuum uses Lidar to map and navigate along with infrared drop sensors to detect stairs, but it kept mistaking the base of my cat condo for stairs and asked to be moved away from it. Though it claims a whopping 180 minutes of runtime, it ran down at 110 minutes and died before it made it back to its base.

iRobot Roomba 694 ($274.99; irobot.com)

The iRobot Roomba 694 is a solid robot vacuum with some extra features thanks to its ability to connect to the iRobot Home app. You can schedule cleaning sessions or use a voice assistant to start one but even though it’s connected, you can’t map your home or target areas to be cleaned. We don’t think the extra connected features are worth the extra money so for $50 less, we found the Eufy 11S to be a better vacuum.

Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing:





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