People who know me probably know that I hate cleaning. Those closest to me know I have the ability to turn a blind eye to most housework in need of doing. I’m quite self-aware of this and am not proud of it. I’m also a massive fan of tech and generally believe tech can make up for most of my own shortcomings. At IFA 2018 in Berlin, I was taken aback by the number of smart cleaning robots on the market, in particular, iRobot’s Roomba and Anker’s Eufy range.
You know the way Hoover became synonymous with vacuuming? Just like Jeep and Velcro, Hoover was so good and making vacuums their brand became the general word we use to describe the machines. Roomba came bloody close to emulating that. They’ve been around since 2002 and when they entered the market, they were so popular that traditional vacuum companies had to reconsider the likelihood of people to adopt robotic vacuums.
Being on the market so long, iRobot has developed a wide range of Roomba robots and I got to test drive two of them recently.
iRobot Roomba 690 – €385
Just like cleaning, I’m not a big fan of reading manuals. Because I had already been testing out the Roomba 980 I spent quite a few minutes trying to connect the Roomba 680 to the iRobot app before I realised this vacuum has no remote controls at all. There’s no proper remote control and no WiFi control either. The only buttons are on the Roomba itself. Which seemed a bit odd to me given the hefty price tag.
While I wanted to see some more smarts from this Roomba, you could argue that the simple nature appeals to less techie users.
I pressed on. Literally.
Being honest, my small one-bed apartment isn’t much of a challenge in terms of power for a smart vacuum. One thing I did notice about the Roomba 680 was that it’s pretty aggressive. By that I mean it drove up on stuff, including my feet. Of the three smart vacuums I tested, it was by far the most aggressive and least willing to concede a barrier had been reached.
Coming in at a height of 9.2cm, this was also the tallest of the three robots I tested out. It’s rather surprising just how much of a difference this makes when the robot needs to pass under a clothes horse or a footrest.
Again, my apartment with timber floors wouldn’t have really pushed this Roomba to the max, but it’s worth noting this vacuum doesn’t have carpet boost built in and is the least powerful of all the vacuums. This isn’t a particularly common feature just yet, but it’s a practical requirement if you do have carpets.
All in all, as you may have sensed already, the Roomba 690 was far from impressive, not something I can say for the two alternatives at opposite ends of the price spectrum.
iRobot Roomba 980 – €900
This is the Bugatti Veyron of the smart vacuum world. I actually felt a bit special just getting to test drive this. Yes, that’s how I’m talking about a vacuum.
The Roomba 980 delivers the incredible performance you’d kinda expect to get from something that costs the guts of a grand. The Roomba 980 comes in at 9.1 cm high, a shade lower than the 690 but enough to make a difference when it comes to clearing certain areas of the house.
While that’s pretty cool, the tech of the Roomba 980 is exactly what I expected to see from iRobot. You can control the vacuum over WiFi using the iRobot app. The app is pretty cool. My favourite part is how the app actually maps your gaff. This has two benefits. You can see where exactly the Roomba 980 has cleaned when you were out. Also, I noticed that the second clean was much faster and much more efficient as the robot had learned the apartment.
As you might expect from the price tag, the Roomba 980 packs in some serious power. You won’t have to worry about carpets or timber floors given the vacuums built-in power boost. This thing sucks big time with a power rating of 1700 Pa. However, all that power does come at a cost. Now, I don’t mean battery life. As I’ve mentioned, it’s tough for me to get a real grasp of the battery life on these things given the size of my gaff. I would say, with a 3000 mAh battery alongside the smarts of the robot itself, few will have any complaints in the battery life department.
The cost all this power comes at is noise. I wouldn’t have considered the Roomba 690 particularly loud. Definitely not louder than the average vacuum and certainly not loud enough to make me think “damn that’s loud”.
The Roomba 980 on the other hand; well, to go back to the Veyron comparison, the 980 sounds like it’s running on a massive petrol engine. It’s quite loud. Now, is this really a problem? You’re can set this up to come on when you’re not home so I’d argue it’s not, but if you need to run the vacuum while you’re watching the news, you’ll be missing a bit of the RTÉ Six One.
Eufy by Anker
So, what about the non-iRobot smart vacuums? Genuine contenders or sucking pretenders?
Eufy RoboVac 30c – €300
Eufy sent me the RoboVac 30c a couple of weeks after I got my hands on the two iRobot Roomba vacuums. To be totally honest with you, my expectations were pretty low given the price tag. Actually, my biggest fear was not being able to look at the RoboVac 30c honestly after seeing what the Roomba 980 was capable of.
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My fears grew further when I saw the old school remote control in the box. Naturally, that hinted at this not supporting WiFi, but like everything I was worried about up until this point, the RoboVac 30c dispatched all my fears. It supports WiFi and genuinely challenges the Roomba 980 which costs three times as much; here’s why.
The Eufy RoboVac 30c falls behind the Roomba 980 when it comes to power, offering 1500 Pa of sucking power. However, that power rating is incredible considering how quiet the RoboVac 30c is. I’ve had Tilly, yes I’ve named my vacuum Tilly, come on when I’m asleep. It woke me up, I smiled at the fact a robot vacuum was taking care of my chores and then I went back to sleep. It’s incredibly quiet and that’s despite it having a super-powered mode for tacking carpets.
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The RoboVac 30c is the shortest of the three robot vacuums I tested too, coming in at 7.2 cm. That nearly 2cm lower than the two competitors I also looked at which meant the Eufy vacuum was the only one able to get in under the couch, clothes horse and footrest.
The Eufy app, while not as impressive as iRobot’s app, offers everything you’d expect except the cool mapping feature the iRobot app has. It does, however, offer one feature I really liked which iRobot seems to have omitted. With the app, you can take the controls and drive the RoboVac 30c around yourself. The vacuum can be a bit thick at times in terms of knowing where it’s going, so I liked having the ability to just drive the vacuum out to pick up a stray bit of popcorn on the floor. Yep, that’s how lazy I am!
Finally, I’m sure there’s good reason for this, but of the three smart vacuums, the Eufy is the only one to have dual brushes. These sweep dirt inwards towards the suction part of the vacuum. I’m sure iRobot has a good reason for having one, but to my non-vacuum expert mind, two is better than one, right?
The Verdict: Eufy vs Roomba
So who wins? The battle of Eufy vs iRobot and Robovac vs Roomba?
I’m pretty sure one thing was made clear pretty fast. iRobot’s Roomba 690 is very disappointing. From the world’s leading smart vacuum company, I really did expect a lot more. Naturally, the Roomba 980 delivered on every expectation. In fact, it surpassed my expectations, but then the Eufy RoboVac 30c landed. To be hypercritical, the RoboVac 30c can’t compete with the Roomba in terms of intelligence (I’m genuinely sorry to say that Tilly). But going beyond that, the Eufy RoboVac 30c is the clear outright winner in this battle.
Going by price, pardon the pun, but the RoboVac 30c wipes the floor with the iRobot Roomba 690. These two robots aren’t in the same weight class despite the 690 being more expensive. You just get so much more for your money from the Eufy including WiFi control, a physical remote control and over twice the suction. In fact, the Eufy RoboVac 30c is so impressive it’s able to take a few respectable swings at the Roomba 980 which costs three times as much.
The RoboVac is lower, quieter and offers suction which is right up against the iRobot flagship. I love nothing more than a budget model taking on the big guys and, let’s be honest here, winning. If you’re in the market for a smart vacuum, the Eufy RoboVac 30c is on Amazon.co.uk for €305 and is the obvious choice here.
Should I Buy A Smart Vacuum
Now, this is a totally different question. In general, are smart vacuums a good idea? Are they better than traditional vacuums?
Save Some Space
Personally, being a tech nerd that hates cleaning, I’m going to say yes. These vacuums from Eufy and iRobot are quiet small. With some creativity, you could pop the charge points under a bed or coffee table and save some space.
Keep It Clean
There are some catches though. You have to keep your gaff pretty clean and as obstruction clear give your smart vacuum a decent chance to clean. I’ve had all three vacuums try to eat socks or stray cables which generally leads to an error and the system just shuts down until you get home. Because of their size and shape, the vacuums can struggle to get into certain areas – behind the door was a particular area of interest for my better half as we completed out joint assessment of Tilly.
This Convenience Though
Having the vacuuming done while you’re away feels great. There’s something very satisfying about just emptying the dust tray every few days knowing all that first is being collected by a robot when you’re not around. Let’s face it; who doesn’t want a robot taking on some of the housework.
Perhaps this review shows the most important point of all. Spending nearly a grand on a smart vacuum is madness, but if you can get that kind of tech for €300, we’ve reached a point where most homes will have a smart vacuum in just a few years.
Comparing the Specs: Eufy RoboVac vs iRobot Roomba
|RoboVac 30c||Roomba 690||Roomba 980|
|Charging Time||Docks to Charge Itself||Docks to Charge Itself||Docks to Charge Itself|
|Noise||55 db||61db||70 db|
|Dust Tray Capacity||600 ml||300 ml||600 ml|
|Brushes||2 pcs||1 pcs||1 pcs|
|How Much It Sucks||1500 Pa||600 Pa||1700 Pa|
|Height||7.2 cm||9.2 cm||9.14 cm|