Best robot vacuum cleaner 2019: Neato, Dyson, iRobot face a Chinese invasion in the cleaning Robot Wars

Robot vacs have improved a lot in the last few years making the choice of which to buy tougher… until you read this

The best robot vacuum cleaners

Good news, everyone! The best robot vacuum cleaners are now way better at navigation than they used to be, in some cases they're cheaper, and robot vacs are also now somewhat better at sucking stuff up. They're definitely not just for early adopters anymore. Sure, even the best robot vacuum cleaner is not going to mean you'll never need to push a normal vac – like a trusty Dyson cordless vacuum , or any of the other best vacuum cleaners – around ever again. However, used daily or at least regularly, the best ones are an effective way to stay on top of dust and maintain your floors and carpets. 

The improvement in the overall standard of robot vacs has only really happened over the last year or two – I was genuinely surprised when I came to test a more recent batch of robots, as in the past they have driven me round the bend with their uselessness. Still, the question remains: which robot vac is the best? Which should you be looking out for on, for instance, Black Friday?

What is the best robot vacuum cleaner?

This is not an easy question, as there are options at varying price points, and while the most expensive bot of all – iRobot's Roomba i7+ – is in fact the best, you do feel that, given it costs a not-insubstantial £1,200, it really ought to be the best. You can however opt for the Roomba i7, which is the same thing with a smaller bin, for a more reasonable £899. 

In terms of cost to benefit, a lot of people will prefer one of the new wave of far Eastern cleaning bots. The best of these that I've tried is Roborock S5. This boasts excellent navigation and obstacle avoidance, speedy movement and perfectly adequate cleaning, all for around £400.

Neato led the robo vac field for a long time, and its D7 Connected remains another very strong option. There are then some other excellent contenders from Miele, Dyson, Eufy (Anker) and others, which you might well want to consider if the price is right. Our regularly updating price widgets should help with that. 

How to buy the best robot vacuum cleaner for you

All the robots here come with docking/charging stations and do the following: clean, return to their docking stations when their batteries are dying, clean again, return home once finished. Again, newer ones are better at cleaning average-sized floors in one sweep. They can't climb stairs.

The robots can also all be taken off their charging stations, put in a room with the door shut, and made to clean there only, although then they usually won't return to base, because they don't know where the base is. However, the latest and greatest robots not only map your home accurately, they also let you specify which part of the map is which, so you can dispatch your robot pal to clean only the bathroom or home cinema space.

Navigation is via a mix of sensors, lasers and, in some cases, cameras. The latter technology is the most cutting-edge but that is not to say it is necessarily better than the ones that use laser scanning. As you can imagine, a robot that navigates by 'looking' upwards with a camera is going to struggle if it goes under a sofa. They all have drop sensors to prevent them falling down the stairs. 

Now, the first rule of robot vac buyers' club is this: do NOT try to use a robot vac like a normal one. Don't use it once a week, or to clean up spills. You will go mad. Robot vacs, by definition, do not suck up as much dust as proper vacs. And even if they did, they could only hold a little bit of it in their compact, frisbee-like bodies.

But guess what? They're robots! You can make them clean every single day and they won't complain. Even more than once a day, if you like. So long as you remember to empty their tiny dust bins every couple of days.

Do you live in a flat with only hard floors, and no furniture? Perhaps you're Japanese, or a fundamentalist minimalist. Yes? Then buy any of the best robot vacuum cleaners listed here and it'll work well. My place is like this and all the newer bots manage to get all the way around it on a semi-regular basis. 

Is your house more a mess of knick-knacks, furnishings, deep carpet, kids and pets? Then a robot vacuum cleaner will struggle more. Get used to receiving app notifications saying, 'Your robot is stuck' quite often.

If your place is somewhere between those two extremes, you should find that these 'bots will safely navigate over and around some of your household obstacles, but you will have to move the ones that it turns out they can't handle.

As well as setting these robot slaves to work every day, I also strongly recommend you let them work while you're out, or otherwise occupied. 

Why? Because, if you watch most of these robots working, it will drive you mad. You can see the debris it should be picking up. You're willing it to move there. But it has its own, 'intelligent', preset way of cleaning. It'll get there when it damn well gets there. And even then, maybe it'll miss it.

Also, robots hate moving obstacles such as humans. So get out and let it do its thang, is my advice. I mean, do you like being watched while you work? Exactly. It's also a bit of a waste of time trying to use the 'spot cleaning' modes on most of these robots – a cordless/handheld vac of some sort is so much easier. 

There are other things to bear in mind. Other than on the iRobot i7+, you'll need to empty the bin of your robot regularly – they're always small. You can also usually clean or change the filters on these things but if I'm being honest, I have NEVER EVER done that. But if you suffer from allergies, you may need to.

The best robot vacuum cleaners right now

Best robot vacuum cleaner: iRobot Roomba i7+

1. iRobot Roomba i7

The best robot vacuum cleaner

Reasons to buy
+State of the art, room-by-room navigation+Powerful cleaning action for a bot+Massive bin on i7+ model
Reasons to avoid
-Gets 'lost' when it goes under furniture

• Buy iRobot i7+ for £1,295 from Amazon
• Buy Roomba i7+ for £1,199 direct from iRobot
• Buy Roomba i7 for £899 direct from iRobot

For the avoidance of any doubt, the i7+ is what's pictured above. The reason its base is so massive is that it also contains a large, bagged dirt bin, more like a traditional vacuum cleaner. When the i7 docks, dirt is sucked out of its small bin and into the large one. I've been using it for months and it's nowhere near full, so if you really don't like emptying bins, the i7+ is the one for you.

The i7 is the same robot but without the Daddy Bin, and £300 lopped off the price. Surely for most people, this is a better option? I don't know; iRobot was adamant that its customers hate emptying robot vac bins and insisted on the solution it's come up with.

In both incarnations, the i7 is a great cleaning robot. Its obstacle avoidance is solid, it navigates quickly enough to get around my place (2 bedrooms, an 'office'/dumping ground, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, lounge) usually without needing to stop to recharge. 

The really clever bit is that after the i7 has been around your place a few times, it maps it in its memory, accessed via the app, and you can split off and name each room individually. Now, you can dispatch the i7 or i7+ to clean only the bathroom (so long as the door is open and the path to it fairly clear) from anywhere in the world. 

That works really well. In fact, everything about the i7 works well, as it bloody well should, given the price. The one thing that does not work well is cleaning under sofas, wardrobes and so on. The i7 has a low profile that means it can get under all sorts of obstacles, which is great. However, its primary means of navigation is to scan the ceiling with an upwards-facing camera – navigating a bit like a sailor, by the stars, but with your light fittings and whatnot as the 'stars'. This is all very well in general, but as soon as the droid is under a sofa or wardrobe, it becomes partially blind. Laudably, this doesn't cause it to give up and fail, but it does mean it sometimes spends a very long time trying to blunder its way back out into the light.

That aside, the i7 is narrowly the best robot vacuum cleaner you can buy.

Best robot vacuum cleaner: Roborock S5

2. Roborock S5

Best robot vacuum cleaner under £500

Reasons to buy
+Fast, accurate navigation+Decent cleaning power+Great VFM
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't get too near the edges of rooms

Until recently you had to pay top dollar for the best robot vacuum cleaners but this can usually be had for under £400, and offers exceptional value at that price. The best thing about the Roborock S5 is its navigation, which is arguably even better than the i7. It absolutely whizzes around, and moves in a very logical way – first finding the edges of a space and then filling in the middle with eerie efficiency. Despite the speed of it, cleaning is pretty good, and because it's so adept at getting around, you can trust it to clean on a daily basis while you're at work. 

Part of the reason the Roborock gets stuck so infrequently is that it is rather circumspect about obstacles – it opts to stop short of them rather than trying to go over or through them. This does mean that it tends not to get too close to the walls and corners of rooms, or furniture, so edge cleaning isn't so good but that's a pretty minor quibble. You can't map rooms in the same way as on the iRobot but this feature is coming soon. Roborock is partly owned by Xiaomi, and it's pretty dilligent about updating its app and robot firmware on a regular basis. 

A new model named, logically enough, the S6 is coming soon from Roborock, and seems to be very much the same device but with stronger cleaning power promised – that should be well worth looking out for.

Neato Botvac D7 Connected

3. Neato Botvac D7 Connected

The first really good 'smart' robot vacuum cleaner is still a 'smart' purchase

Reasons to buy
+Powerful cleaning+Fast and efficient navigation+Handy 'no-go' lines

• Buy Neato Botvac D7 Connected from Amazon

This was, for several years, the pinnacle of robot cleaning technology, and it's still a good option that frequently turns up in Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday type sales frenzies. The D7 Connected from Neato Robotics does just about everything right. After years of being driven crazy with frustration by other robots, it was quite the relief when it arrived (and quite the wrench when it had to go back after review).

My first experience of the Botvac D7 Connected was great. It bursts out of its starting blocks (okay, dock), races around my entire flat without stopping once, and when it got back the bin was practically full. That's despite another robot vacuum having already cleaned on that very day. Go figure.

Although I didn't really need them, due to the Botvac's navigation being so sure-footed, you can also use the Neato app to set 'no-go' lines on a map of your house, so it doesn't enter the minefield that is your kids' room, or get stuck in the feet of that artfully designed dining room table. Amazingly, this actually works, although setting it up does reveal some minor limitations of the system.

That's because to do this, it has to go around your place, mapping as it goes. But if you ever move the position of its dock, you'll have to reset and start again. More problematic, it means you have to do battle with Neato's app and Wi-Fi system, which require a fair amount of perseverance to setup and pair. Newer smart vacs from iRobot and Roborock don't have these issues.

However, for overall performance, there's still little that beats the Botvac D7 Connected. The only thing that seems to stop it is it will occasionally get 'lost' under sofas.

Best robot vacuum cleaner: Eufy 30C


4. Eufy BoostIQ Robovac 30C

Best cheap robot vacuum cleaner (cheap being under £300)

Reasons to buy
+Excellent performance for the price

• Buy Eufy 30C at Amazon for £270

Anker sub-division Eufy's 30C is another great example of how much robot vacuum cleaners have improved in recent times. Just a few years ago, a sub-£300 robot would have been guaranteed to be useless but the Eufy is far from that. It doesn't use any map-related cleverness to avoid pitfalls, but it does come with a long length of bendy plastic that you can use to physically block off problematic parts of your home. Do a bit of minor obstacle-removing prep, however, and you should find you don't even need that. It's not the most elegant of movers – in fact it's rather haphazard, and quite forceful – but it does seem to cover the ground well if you leave it to get on with things.

The Eufy is definitely less good on deeper carpets than some of its flashier rivals, but if you've mainly got hard floors and a few rugs, you could save yourself a few hundred, buy this instead and barely notice a difference. There are a few complaints online about it falling downstairs, but I tried it on a table and it steered clear of the edge so perhaps those people were just unlucky.

Best robot vacuum cleaner: Miele Scout RX2

5. Miele Scout RX2

Good cleaning, although has some navigation issues

Reasons to buy
+Solid navigation+Good suction
Reasons to avoid
-Feels about 3 firmware upgrades away from being the finished article-'Homeview' camera option seems both costly and pointless

• Buy Miele Scout RX2 for £1,199 direct from iRobot  
• Buy Miele Scout RX2 Home Vision for £1,399 from Amazon

This robot vac has a slightly more, ahem, 'nostalgic' feel to it compared to the 4 rivals above it in this list. That's because, while it cleans well and is a generally solid performer, it has a long list of 'quirks' that are a little maddening. Foremost among these is a tendency to get stuck for no apparent reason, but the buggy app is also annoying as hell. It's supposed to let you map and name rooms in the same way as the i7 but at present, that just doesn't work. 

However, it's an industrious little cleaner, which actually powers up when it senses it's moved from hard floors onto rugs. It generally navigates quite well – the curious and frustrating thing is that it will avoid some obstacles with aplomb, but then grind to a halt entirely because it doesn't like the look of something. Oh, and it also seemingly considers any bit of floor that's not wider than itself by 10cm or so to not really be floor at all – as a result, it struggles to get down the side of beds, for instance.

You can also buy a 'Home Vision' version of this robot, which sends a live camera feed to your phone – the standard Scout RX2 has cameras as well, but only uses them to navigate. So if you've ever wanted to see your home from the point of view of a rat wearing very grubby spectacles, this is your chance. The premium you have to pay for this dubious pleasure is outrageously high, however.

Best robot vacuum cleaner: Neato Botvac Connected

6. Neato Botvac Connected

Very solid, slightly older robot vacuum cleaner, often found going cheap

Reasons to buy
+Very respectable cleaning+Fast and efficient navigation+Slightly cheaper than rivals
Reasons to avoid
-Ugly and noisy-Ludicrous operating system

This D-shaped cleaner preceded the very similarly-named, and similar-looking D7 Connected, above, and it's still a decent option if you find it going cheap, which you should because in gadget terms it is well old

If used very day or every few days, it's at least as effective as its even pricer, admittedly better-looking rivals further down the chart: less prone to getting stuck than the Dyson, less of a tendency to plough through breakable objects than the cheaper of the iRobots.

The Neato Botvac moves methodically and fairly rapidly to clear hard floors and carpets. Cleaning performance overall is good, and it can deal with hair and tricky floor surfaces. It doesn't have caterpillar tracks, and its drive doesn't appear particularly powerful, but this Neato can get over most household bumps.

Because of its low profile, the Neato Botvac Connected can get under practically anything, and because it navigates with lasers and sensors rather than a camera, being underneath furniture doesn't 'blind' it.

Sure, it gets stuck now and then, and emits a plaintive bleep to let you know, like a trapped owl. Edge and corner cleaning is not amazing, but it has a go and frankly, it's no worse than the pricier models here.

The only 'problem' with the Botvac Connected is Neato's insistence on making it connected. Although by the time it made the D7 Connected it had worked out a number of the issues around making a network-connected vac, this one feels more like a beta product. It loses connection to your router regularly, and the firmware has to be updated via a download transferred to USB key and then plugged into a special cable. What, is it 1998 in here or something?

The good news is, you can just ignore all the connected functionality and use the "start" button. On the occasions the connected stuff does work, it allows Alexa and Google Home control and the ability to see a map of where it has (and, perhaps, hasn't) cleaned. I don't think that's very useful anyway.

Best robot vacuum cleaner: Dyson 360 Eye


7. Dyson 360 Eye

A rather different take on the robot vacuum cleaner

Reasons to buy
+Best suction of any robot vac+Quite attractive as such things so+Nifty app
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Deeply annoying

I have already written about a billion words when reviewing the Dyson 360 Eye, because I found it so immensely frustrating. Rather like Barack Obama, you could sense all the good things it was that close to doing, but then it would just get horribly bogged down, over and over again. 

Unlike Obama, I never actually replaced the 360 Eye and I still use it to this day. Rather like in a marriage, I have come to accept its flaws and try to concentrate on our good times together, although sometimes I feel bitterly resentful.

As long as you are willing to move certain obstacles it will never surmount, and accept it will sometimes just shut off because it's gone under your sofa and its camera eye can no longer see, the Dyson 360 Eye is a solid vac. 

Oh yes, you'll also have to grit your teeth as it spends anything up to 9 hours cleaning one 3-bed flat. The 360 Eye is so slow, it would make even the elderly impatient, and the battery life is compromised by Dyson's insistence on making it, to be fair, a very effective sucker up of stuff.

A low power mode was added a while back via a firmware upgrade, so if you prefer to use that, you have a robot that is still very slow, but at least doesn't need to recharge so frequently. Its extra height still means its less good at getting under furniture – but then given its tendency to get stuck when under things, maybe that's a plus point.

In terms of actual cleaning power, and its connected functions and app, the Dyson was way out in front at launch. However since then several rivals have come along and matched or bettered its suction, while adding more useful connected features and much improved navigation and speed. However, if you see the 360 Eye at a discount, I would still say it is worth considering, even though I have been close to chucking mine off the balcony a few times during out acquaintance.

8. iRobot Roomba 980

This older iRobot vacuum cleaner remains a nifty navigator

Reasons to buy
+Gets around well+Decent cleaning performance
Reasons to avoid
-Not as good as the i7 and not a lot cheaper

The Roomba 980 is an older iRobot but still very proficient (and somewhat pricey). At just 91mm tall, it’ll fit under all but the lowest of sofas. Its excellent rubber brush bars actively help to prevent tangles from hair, etc, and are mercifully quick to clean, though the cleaner isn’t as simple to empty as the Dyson. For some reason, the charging dock can only be plugged in from one side, which may limit your placement options somewhat.

Like the i7, the 980 boasts a top-mounted camera, but it also draws on Roomba's longstanding expertise with using sensors, giving a hybrid navigation system that generally works well. This is another one to watch out for in sales. 

9. Vorwerk Kobold VR200

Excellent alternative robot vacuum cleaner option

Reasons to buy
+Quite sexy+Moves so gracefully+Very speedy cleaning
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Gets stuck in weird places

• Buy direct from Vorwerk for £749

This is a bit of an outlier, being a German model that's only available direct from its manufacturer. It's actually a previous generation Neato robot, but built to German spec, ie: better and more expensive. The Star Wars/2001 styling is pretty cool, and once unleashed, this thing shifts. It whizzes around in a very intelligent fashion. Cleaning performance is similar to the Dyson's.

In my case, it became apparent that the Vorwerk could never work in my flat because it got jammed under my wardrobe every single time. Its laser 'eye' on top just couldn't see the clearance was too low for it. I also had a few other concerns with its ability to dodge obstacles, but in general, if your home doesn't have furnishings that are exactly the right height off the ground to trap it, the VR200 could still be a very good option.