iRobot Roomba 510 Review

From $250 Best

The iRobot Roomba 510 is the lowest-priced model from the popular name brand. Users seem impressed with its performance and "intelligence," saying it's smart enough to stop before it falls down stairs and to detect extra-dirty areas. Consumers are disappointed that the Roomba 510 has no home base for charging itself. But overall, this cheap robotic vacuum seems to have the most going for it.

In a category that gets harsh user criticism, iRobot Roomba 510 reviews comes out on top. Users posting reviews at Amazon seem very impressed with this cheap robotic vacuum, saying it cleans carpet perfectly and pointing out the convenience of special features such as spot cleaning. Users posting reviews at Buy.com agree, saying the ledge detection, which keeps the vacuum from falling down stairs, is also a nice feature and the vacuum overall makes life a little easier.

The Roomba 510 (starting at $250, Amazon) is the cheapest model from the popular iRobot brand. It's simpler than some higher priced versions but still manages to offer some great features. It adjusts to clean hardwood, tile, linoleum, and carpet, and it comes with a one-year limited warranty, something other budget robotic vacuums don't offer. Special features include sensors to detect dirt and clean dirtier areas longer, bumper technology to allow the vacuum to go under soft barriers like curtains, and spinning side brushes for close wall cleaning.

In a category without many good choices, this one is the cream of the crop. We like all of the special features on this low-cost robotic vacuum, especially the sensors to detect dirtier areas and spend more time cleaning those areas. Furthermore, user comments indicate that this machine works great and really helps keep areas clean between regular vacuuming sessions.

Infinuvo CleanMate QQ-2 Review

From $160 Good

Users like that the Infinuvo CleanMate QQ-2 doesn't take long to charge and cleans for more than an hour on a full charge, as well as the fact that it easily maneuvers around furniture and corners. It has a home base for charging but seems to have a hard time finding it, and some users say it doesn't transition well between floor types.

The Infinuvo CleanMate QQ-2 cleans well and maneuvers easily around furniture and corners, according to CleanMate reviews at Newegg. Some users report in reviews that the vacuum transitions well from hardwood floor to carpet and back, but some users disagree, saying it gets hung up while transitioning. The CleanMate QQ-2 is supposed to be able to find its way back to its home base and charge itself, but users report in CleanMate reviews that the vacuum has a hard time finding its home base unless it is nearby.

The Infinuvo CleanMate QQ-2 (starting at $160, Amazon) runs for 70 minutes on a fully charged battery and charges in three and a half hours. Other special features include an ultraviolet light that deodorizes and kills bacteria, a ledge feature to prevent the vacuum from falling down stairs, and a remote control. It cleans hardwood, tile, linoleum, and carpet.

This cheap robotic vacuum seems to be better than most, but it still has its problems. We like the self-charging feature but wish it worked better. While users seem to consider this vacuum a solid choice, it could use some improvement.

Where to buy

iTouchless AV002A Review

From $127 Think Twice

Durability is the main problem with the iTouchless AV002A Automatic Intelligent Robotic Vacuum Cleaner. Several users report that it doesn't hold a charge or quits working after only a few uses. This machine also seems to do a poor job transitioning between different floor types and reportedly can't handle carpet at all.

Users posting iTouchless vacuum reviews on the Home Depot website are not impressed with the iTouchless AV002A Automatic Intelligent Robotic Vacuum Cleaner (starting at $127, Amazon), reporting that it doesn't transition well between hardwood flooring and carpet and often gets stuck on carpet. One unhappy user posting a review on Amazon agrees, calling the machine maddening because it stalls out even on low carpet. Other users posting iTouchless vacuum reviews on Amazon report that this cheap robotic vacuum is not very durable and stops working or stops holding a charge after only a few uses.

ITouchless doesn't indicate how long the AV002A takes to charge, but it can clean for 70 minutes on a full charge. Special features include stair and ledge detection, wall- and corner-cleaning technology, and a feature that turns the machine off when it gets stuck. This vacuum also comes with a remote control and has the ability to come into a lighted area when it's done cleaning so it's easy to find.

One paper, this model seems able to compete with the other low-cost robotic vacuums on our list. In practice, according to user reviews, it just doesn't make the cut. While most robotic vacuums struggle on carpet, this one seems to perform exceptionally poorly. It also worries us that users report that it stops working after only a few weeks. This model is perhaps best avoided.

Where to buy

Buying Guide

Choosing a Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

Vacuuming is not most people's favorite pastime, but it must be done on a regular basis to ensure a clean home. While a cheap robotic vacuum isn't meant to take over for a traditional vacuum, it can help keep your home clean until you get around to dragging that upright out of the closet again. Robotic vacuum cleaners appeal not only to consumers who don't like to vacuum often but also to those who like to keep their floors spotless even underneath the furniture. Robotic vacuums range in price from as little as $30 to more than $1,000. Most fall between $300 and $600, and few are less than $300.

Robotic Vacuum Brands.

Robotic vacuum cleaners made by iRobot are by far the most popular. (For a while, iRobot so dominated the market that few other brands existed.) We also looked at models from iTouchless, which makes a variety of sensor-activated household products, and Infinuvo.

Pricey vs. Cheap Robotic Vacuums.

The main difference between cheap robotic vacuum cleaners and pricey ones is special features. Cheap robotic vacuums are sufficient for simple cleaning and dusting of hardwood, while higher-priced models transition better between hard floors and carpet and have features such as schedulers and dirt sensors. Some models can seemingly think for themselves and even have the ability to return to their home bases to charge themselves when their batteries run low. Other desirable features include extra-long battery life, short charging time, stair and ledge detection, and programming abilities. Cheap robotic vacuums often lack many of these features.

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Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

Robotic Vacuum Reviews: What We Considered

Robotic vacuum reviews are few and far between, and the ones we found online were somewhat negative for almost all models. Expectations are high for these machines, and the consensus seems to be that even pricey models could use improvement. The feeling is that, while a robotic vacuum cleaner is a great idea, the technology just isn't there yet.

Cleaning and Transitioning Ability.

The best robotic vacuums have the ability to differentiate among floor types: carpet, hardwood, tile, linoleum, etc. In some cases the user must manually add an attachment to transition the machine from carpet to hard flooring. One theme in reviews of cheap robotic vacuums: They tend to work fine on low carpet but not as well as they do on tile or hardwood floors. Some also have a tough time, for instance, climbing from hardwood floors to carpet and often get stuck in the process. We chose models that earn praise from users for their ability to clean many types of surfaces and transition well among surface types, going from tile to carpet to hardwood to throw rugs without many hang-ups.

Battery Life.

Battery life dictates how many rooms (or, more likely, how big a room) a robotic vacuum can clean on a full charge. Another consideration is how long the vacuum takes to fully charge. Even higher-priced models charge for hours at a time and then run for only a little over an hour. Some are supposed to be able to find their home base when the battery is low in order to charge themselves, although reviews warn that some of these vacuums can't find the charging dock unless it's nearby. One user reports having to move a vacuum within a foot of the home base. Assessing battery life is somewhat hard to do, as manufacturers often don't list battery life or charge time in the product information. In those cases we relied on reviews to get a sense of the battery's performance. A typical budget model might charge for about three hours and run for about an hour on a full charge.

Special Features.

Special features separate more expensive robotic vacuums from cheaper ones. Yet our picks boast some features often reserved for pricier models, such as the ability to detect dirt and spend more time cleaning dirtier areas. Wall-following technology allows a robotic vacuum to hug the perimeter of a room and clean against the walls. A ledge detection sensor prevents it from falling down stairs and bumper technology keeps it from getting hung up on soft barriers, such as curtains, and vacuum under them instead. A spot-clean mode allows a vacuum to quickly clean concentrated dirt spots and an anti-tangle mode prevents it from getting caught up in cords, carpet fringe, and more. Some models feature an ultraviolet light to deodorize and kill bacteria, and some come with a remote control. Reviewers also appreciate a vacuum that turns off when it gets stuck and moves into a well-lit area when done cleaning so they don't have to go searching for it. These special features don't always work as advertised, however.

Durability and Warranty.

Durability seems to be a problem for the category as a whole. Several robotic vacuum reviews on Amazon report machines that were defective or just didn't last long. One user says a cheap robotic vacuum stopped working after just a few months and another laments a vacuum that stopped holding a charge after only five or six uses. Despite what you might expect from a relatively expensive electronic device, few entry-level robotic vacuums come with warranties. The only warranties we saw were for iRobot brand products.

Additional Products We Considered

P3 International P4920 Robotic Vacuum Review

From $33

Despite lacking a lot of special features, the extremely cheap P3 International P4920 Robotic Vacuum gets good marks from users posting P4920 reviews on Newegg. They say it maneuvers well around furniture and walls and does a good job picking up dirt and dust. The main gripe in reviews seems to be that the vacuum takes almost a full day to charge. The long charge time coupled with only 45 minutes of running time means it can really clean only one room per day.

The P3 International P4920 Robotic Vacuum (starting at $33, Amazon) is the cheapest and simplest robotic vacuum we researched. Its only special feature is an along-the-wall mode that allows it to clean a room's perimeter. It cleans hardwood, tile, and carpet, but the user must manually add an attachment to transition to tile and hardwood floors from carpet.

While some users seem to like this vacuum and compliment its maneuverability and cleaning ability, others find it lacking. Robotic vacuums are supposed to be easy to use and "intelligent," and this model falls short on both counts. Some consumers might feel its worth the super-low price, but we think you'll find better value for your money if you spend a little more.