Having one of the best robot vacuums to zip around the home whilst you're at work -or doing something more enjoyable than vacuuming - is a real treat. They'll keep themselves busy, let you know when they're full and even return to base when they need a charge.
And while the first robot vacuums were pretty dumb, things have improved beyond immeasurably, with the latest designs now boasting advanced Artificial Intelligence, piles of sensors, voice control, app control, self-emptying, clever room mapping and even mopping! They're essentially an extension to the best cordless vacuum cleaners because it's efficient, hands-free cleaning but with these little guys they'll just do all the moving around for you.
Need help choosing? No worries: we've rounded up our six buys (below) from the likes of Miele, Dyson and iRobot in this guide, so there is a vac to suit all budgets and requirements. They're all served at the best price to help save you more time by doing all the research for you.
Best robot vacuums 2021
The S5 Max is a great value vacuum that also washes hard floors as it goes. With a 280ml water tank and microfibre cloth fitted you’re left with dust free and well wiped floors without lifting a finger.
Designed for homes up to 200 m², it’s powerful enough to deal with everyday dust and dirt, and thanks to excellent mapping software and the Mi Home app it rarely gets lost or confused, and you can even designate no-go areas - around the kid’s LEGO, or near a particularly delicate plant– which it will diligently avoid. You can even set it to clean certain areas – around the kitchen table after breakfast – as well as standard times sessions.
Power adjusts automatically from hard floors to carpets to maximise results, and there’s impressive suction. The bin is easy to empty too.
We wouldn’t throw out the long-handled mop just yet, but the small water tank lets you control the amount of water sprayed and the scrubbing pad leaves floors appreciably cleaner. And we like the fact it has a plastic moisture-collecting tray that sits under the charger, protecting the wet surface until you can get home and rinse out the cleaning pad.
Dyson’s second robot vacuum is a huge improvement on the original – which was pretty good already - boasting exceptional suction from the 78,000rpm motor and dust pick up you’d usually expect from a full-size design.
Setting up the Dyson Heurist takes just a few minutes and once linked to Wi-Fi it will do a reccy of the house and start mapping using the cameras onboard, after which you can assign safe zones or change the power depending on floor types.
This robotic cleaner is especially good on carpets and the 212mm-wide brush bar stretches the full width of the machine. Without spinning sweeper arms though it can’t quite get right up to the corners or along the skirting boards.
It’s also not a fast cleaner, but assuming you set it to clean while you’re out this isn’t really an issue, but if you have a large house expect it to need to go back to its charging base for a refuel halfway through.
While it lacks some of the bells and whistles found on newer more expensive models, the D7 from Neato is a solid all-round option that picks up a huge amount of dust, dirt and pet hair.
The square front design 10.9cm/4.4” brush bar and spinning side arms means it can get right into the corners and also has a wide brush bar for efficient cleaning in large open plan areas. The app lets you set 'no-go' lines on a map, which is fast becoming a must-have feature, especially if you’re terrible at remembering to tidy up.
If you don’t want to use the app, the Botvac D7 also comes with some slim magnetic strips you can lay across the floor to create a physical barrier the robot won’t cross.
At just 30 minutes, the battery life isn’t especially good compared to newer models, but as it is efficient getting around, and fast charging when docked, it can happily go home for a quick charge mid cleaning session.
With two extra-long sweeper arms, a powerful brush bar and class leading two-hour battery life, the Miele Scout RX2 is a wonder for big houses and pets.
It picks up dust and pet hair brilliantly and the slim design navigates easily under the furniture, and while the navigation seems incredibly haphazard, and does bump around quite a bit compared to the Roomba, it gets the job done and covers an awful lot of floor space.
The bin is easy to empty, and we like the onboard brush that lets you give the filter a quick clean. It’s a neat, stylish design we’d be happy to have on display.
Connecting to the Miele app wasn’t as fast and intuitive as the rest of the vacuums we’ve tested, but the cleaning results are definitely worth the effort. That said, the Scout RX2 does come with a quality remote control that lets you set basic timers and start/stop, so it might appeal to anyone not interested in using their smartphone.
With so many robot vacuum cleaners now available, brands are working extra hard to get noticed with clever features and bargain pricing, but Trifo have done something completely different; they’ve equipped their vacuum with a smart home security camera that keeps an eye on your home while also cleaning.
As with a standard home security system, the built-in camera can detect sound and movement and send alerts to your smartphone (iOS, Android), let you check in to see all is OK, and importantly it can be turned off so you don’t feel spied upon.
It can also keep watch when charging, and you can talk through its built-in speaker from your smartphone.
It’s a clever idea and nicely executed, and thankfully the Max Pet also cleans well, with a hugely impressive 4,000 Pa of suction and 120-minute battery to cope with even the worst tumbleweeds of pet hair.
It also comes with two heads – one standard brush bar and an interchangeable brushless attachment that sucks up hair without getting tangled.
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The S9+ is the most stylish Roomba to date, and while we also recommend the S7+ and the older, cheaper Roomba 980, this remains the pinnacle of the range with the best cleaning for pet hair, smart room mapping and navigation, and easy to create no-go zones using the app.
When the S9+ moves from hard floors to carpet the suction increases automatically for a deeper, more powerful clean. It also has a high-quality air filtration system to help keep dust particles and allergens being returned to the room.
But best of all is the Roomba S9+ CleanBase docking station that charges the battery and empties its dustbin automatically, making cleaning even easier and more reliable, and you’ll no longer have to empty the vacuum mid-clean, or come back to half a finished job. Each dust bag has enough room for 30 full vacuum bins of dirt.
How do I choose a robot vacuum cleaner?
With models available from $100 to $1,500, choosing how much you want to spend is key, and while automatic dustbin emptying, and Alexa compatibility is convenient it doesn’t necessarily mean cleaner floors.
As a rule, spend as much as you can, but look out for features that are useful for your home. Robot vacuums work best on hard floors, so if you have deep pile you’ll need a model with extra suction power.
Timers are also essential – generally set via smartphone app, but onboard controls are available on cheaper non-Wi-Fi models – meaning the cleaner will work when it’s convenient to you. If you, or a family member suffer from allergies, we’d suggest you look for designs with a HEPA (or similar) filter that’s washable to trap allergens.
Are robot vacuum cleaners worth it?
A good robot vacuum is an investment, and we would suggest avoiding anything under $300/£300 as anything less tends to be more robot floor sweeper than intelligent cleaner.
Our best buy costs up to $1,500 (or £1,500) which is a lot, but you will notice the difference.
Remember to factor in a vacuum cleaner - or the best vacuum for pet hair- as no matter how good they become, robot vacuums can’t clean the stairs or the car. Are they worth it? If you have pets, they’re especially useful as they help control the hair and dander, for everyone else, choose wisely and you’ll have one less daily chore to do.
Do robot vacuum cleaners really work and clean properly?
While robot vacuums can easily navigate around a room, they’re no match for a shoelace or a pile of LEGO. If you remember to pick obstacles off the floor before you leave for work, you will come back to a much cleaner house. And the beauty is, it will clean every day, without complaining.
Those models with built-in mops can also remove light surface stains on hard floors, but it’s the equivalent to a wipe with a microfibre cloth rather than a deep clean.
What is the best robot vacuum cleaner?
To recap... the best robot vacuum cleaner is the Roborock S5 Max. It's PERFECT for wet and dry cleaning your flooring all on its own. It's suitable for homes up to 200 m² which means that this robot vac is powerful enough to deal with everyday dust and dirt. We're confident that it will quickly settle into the home and find it's way around in no time.
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