A robot vacuum cleaner may sound like the ultimate dream technology for your home. But before you throw out your old vacuum cleaner in favour of a dust-zapping robot, read on to find out what you need to know about robot vacs.
We've independently tested more than a dozen popular robot vacuum cleaners, so we can reveal if they're any good at cleaning, how much you need to spend to get a good one and useful features to look out for.
Go straight to our robot vacuum cleaner reviews to see how they compare.
Highest scoring Best Buy robot vacuum cleaner
Below we've selected the best robot vacuum cleaner from our rigorous lab tests.
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This robot vac certainly looks the part and it cleans like a pro, too. It impressed our experts in all of the tests we put it through, getting five-star ratings for sucking up dust and debris on carpets and hard floors.Sign up to reveal
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Watch: How to buy the best robot vacuum cleaner
Not sure where to start with a robot vacuum cleaner? Watch this video for our tips on buying the best robot vacuum cleaner to suit your needs.
Are robot vacuum cleaners any good?
With some robot vacuums costing more than £1,000, you'll want to be sure they will leave your home free of dust without you lifting a finger. Unfortunately, our experience with robot vacuum cleaners suggests that, unless you choose carefully, you're likely to be underwhelmed.
Even the best robot vacuum cleaners can't match a standard vacuum cleaner for cleaning power on carpets , and they can't tackle the annoying little bits of your home such as stairs, crevices and upholstery. So, while they can keep floors looking spick and span during the week, you'll still need to do a full-house vacuum every so often, unless you live in the most minimalist of glossy city apartments.
Our tough tests show that some robot vacuums do a much better job than others when it comes to navigating around obstacles and sucking up dust. In fact, some were just painful to watch. If you have a small, cluttered or otherwise tricky-to-negotiate home, you may find yourself spending more time freeing your robot vacuum from under sofas or chair legs than it will actually spend cleaning. Make sure you select one worthy for your home by reading our robot vacuum cleaner reviews.
If you don’t want to leave your home in the hands of robots just yet, check out our round-ups of the best vacuum cleaners or best cordless vacuum cleaners for a tried and tested dust-busting model.
What to spend on a robot vacuum cleaner
Robot vacuum cleaners range from the very simple ones that will adopt a trial-and-error approach to finding their way around your floors, to high-end robots with Nasa-inspired navigation and remote control.
The cheapest models will set you back around £200-£350, but fancier ones will cost a small fortune – some more than £1,000 – which is more than ten times the cost of our cheapest Best Buy vacuum cleaner.
Robot vacuum cleaner features
Sensor technology: Most robot vacuums use some sort of smart sensor technology to help them negotiate their way around your home. The most basic robots use infrared sensors to avoid falling off edges, and simply change direction when they bump against an obstacle, rather than actively mapping their environment, while more sophisticated systems will use laser-guided scanners, or a combination of cameras, sensors and 'virtual walls' to map out their cleaning environment, as well as dirt sensors to make sure they've done a thorough clean.
Remote control: Some robots include remote controls so that you can direct the vacuum from the comfort of your sofa, while others – such as the Neato BotVac – can be controlled via an app on your phone. You can manually schedule most robot vacuums to clean at a set time, but if you want the flexibility of remote control, look for a model with smart functionality.
Battery life: Most robot vacs come with a docking station that they will automatically return to when they need recharging, but some cheaper models need to be plugged in – which could mean you come home to a half-cleaned living room. Make sure you also check how long the robot takes to recharge before you can send it off on another mission, as we've found that this can vary between models.
Brush type: The brushes on your robot vac will determine how well it cleans and whether it can reach any tight spots. Recent models from Samsung and iRobot have included full-width turbo brush bars, which can mean better floor coverage. Sweeper brushes – spindly little brushes that rotate on the edge of the vac – may look futile, but can be handy for directing dirt into the path of the vacuum.
Cleaning modes: Generally speaking, the more you spend, the more choice of cleaning modes you'll get. For example, the has everything from auto mode, where you can programme it to automatically move around a space once or until it runs out of battery, to spot clean, where it will focus on a particular area of your choice.
Dust capacity: Don’t be blinded by all the fancy features, as you still need a vacuum cleaner that has a decent dust capacity. Robot vacuums hold much less grime than a standard vacuum, so look for a bigger capacity if you don't want to be emptying the canister too frequently, or one with self-emptying abilities.
If you want to leave most of the floor cleaning to your robot vacuum, it might be worth picking up a cheap handheld vacuum cleaner for the smaller jobs that a robot can't reach. See some of our top-rated handheld vacuum cleaners to find the best.
What about the Dyson 360 Heurist?
Dyson launched its first ever robot vacuum cleaner, the Dyson 360 Eye, in 2016. In 2020, it rolled out its successor, the Dyson 360 Heurist, with a suite of new technology and upgraded customisation.
At just under £800, Dyson says its 360-degree vision mapping system ensures that the 360 Heurist cleans floors logically and thoroughly, and it learns to clean better the more it familiarises itself with your home.
The 360 Heurist also has tank-style tracked wheels, which should help it to easily negotiate obstacles such as doorsteps between rooms. Its full-width turbo brush can reach all the way to edges, and it sports the kind of top-end Dyson tech that you'll find in other Dyson products, such as its digital motor and radial root cyclone technology.
Dyson says that this hidden tech means that its robot can clean better than rivals, without compromising on battery life. Like other new robot vacuum cleaners from iRobot, Neato and Samsung, the Dyson 360 Heurist can also be controlled remotely via an app on your smartphone.
Head to the full Dyson 360 Heurist review to see how it shapes up against the key rivals and whether it can be your automated solution to keeping your home clean.
How good are security support policies for Robot Vacuum brands?
We asked a range of popular robot vacuum brands how long they'd support devices with important security updates after launch.
Unfortunately, many weren't willing to tell us. In the case of those who did, for an expensive product, you might consider the support periods to be not nearly long enough.
- iRobot promises to support any new series of robot vacuums (I, J, S, M series) for at least five years from when the product launches. Older models will be supported for at least five years from when they are removed from sale on the iRobot website.
- Dyson did not tell us how many years it's dedicated to supporting its products. It stated that it is continually reviewing and developing its policy.
Other robot vacuum brands that did not provide us with information on minimum update support periods include: Neato Robotics, Xiaomi and Ecovacs.
While you may not be at immediate risk if you're using a device that's unsupported, it's obviously desirable to buy and use a device that you know will receive update support for a good period of time. For more information, read our guide on Why smart device security matters.
Which? robot vacuum cleaner reviews
We've tested twelve popular robot vacuum cleaners to find out which models really will clean your house. We found a brilliant Best Buy robot vacuum cleaner, but we also uncovered one terrible model to avoid. Find out which robot came out on top by visiting our robot vacuum cleaner reviews.