There's no doubt that the idea of a robot doing your housework for you is appealing. But is the convenience worth the cost?
Our expert robot vacuum tester Adrian Lini says that in many cases, it's not.
"A lot of what you're paying for with a robot vacuum is gimmicky features, rather than actual performance," he says. "For most people, a robot vacuum is only worth the cost if you have a single-level house with hard floors and no carpet."
Lini suggests ignoring the sales spin and looking for a lower-cost robot vacuum that actually does a decent job of picking up dirt.
Luckily, our latest robot vacuum review has revealed a number of cheaper models that perform just as well (or even better) than their pricier counterparts. We'll show you two cheap robot vacuums that rival some of the most expensive models on the market.
Our expert testers have assessed each vacuum's cleaning performance, carefully recording how much dirt they pick up from both hard floors and carpets, as well as checking to see how good they are at getting into corners and edges and picking up pesky pet hair.
Splurge vs. Save: Battle of the iRobots
Our product reviews are always proving that a higher price tag doesn't necessarily mean a better performance. But it's especially interesting to see this in action when comparing two products of the same brand.
These two iRobots are in a different league, price-wise, but when it comes to their performance, they're neck and neck. Both vacuums are fantastic at cleaning hard floors, but the i7+ is only OK at removing dirt from carpet, and the 670 is poor. But the 670 does a good job of cleaning corners and edges and pet hair, whereas the i7+ left half of the dirt behind in both these tests.
If you buy the i7, you're paying over $1000 for the self-emptying binAdrian Lini, CHOICE expert robot vac tester
For an extra $1250, the i7+ comes with a virtual wall function and a self-emptying dust bag that means you only need to empty the bag at the base every few weeks or so. On the flipside, the no-frills 670 has a much better battery life, running for almost an extra hour without needing to recharge.
It's clear that the i7+ is banking on its fancy self-emptying feature to justify its high price point, but we're not buying it.
As Lini puts it: "If you buy the i7, you're paying over $1000 for the self-emptying bin. In terms of performance, the 670 is my pick."
Splurge vs. Save: Spot the difference
The Miele may cost more than four times the Xiaomi, but in terms of performance and features you'd be hard pressed to spot the difference.
They're both excellent at cleaning hard floors and good at getting into corners and edges. But, like many robot vacuums, they're both poor at cleaning carpets. The Xiaomi definitely has the edge when it comes to picking up pet hair, receiving a score of 80%. The Miele scored 60%.
Even their features are almost identical: both models have most of the standard features, such as stair detection, automatic return to charger and a programmable app, but lack a virtual wall function. The most notable difference is their battery life: the Xiaomi can run 42 minutes longer than the Miele before needing to return to change.
While Miele may make some great appliances, they are not a leader in the robot vacuum marketAdrian Lini
The Miele does come with a remote control, which can be handy, and its two-year warranty is twice as long as Xiaomi's. But given the Miele's inferior pet-hair performance, shorter battery life and astronomically higher price tag, something just doesn't add up.
Lini says that although going with a trusted brand is often a good move, you should always ask yourself if the brand has a good track record when it comes to that particular product.
"Miele is relying on their brand reputation to justify a high price tag," he says. "But while they may make some great appliances, they are not a leader in the robot vacuum market, and this is reflected in the product's performance."