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 $1400, 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, 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 Ecovacs Deebot may cost nearly three times as much as the Eufy, but in terms of performance you'd be hard pressed to spot the difference.
They're both excellent at picking up dirt from hard floors but, like many robot vacs, they're both poor at cleaning carpets. They both also deliver a clean that's a bit rough around the edges, scoring just 40% for cleaning corners and edges. The Ecovacs wasn't great at cleaning small areas of dirt on our hard-floor test, leaving a trail of dirt behind (which kind of defeats the purpose of a vacuum cleaner).
The Ecovacs does have the edge when it comes to cleaning up pet hair, receiving a score of 90%. But the Eufy is still good at picking up after Fido, scoring 70% on this test.
Neither of these robot vacs blew us away, but this particular Ecovacs model is definitely overpriced for the performance it providesAdrian Lini, CHOICE
However, if you're after bells and whistles, the Ecovacs does deliver: Wi-Fi connectivity, an app, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa connectivity, and a mop function. And the Eufy is lacking in longevity, with a battery life of just 34 minutes (although it will automatically return itself to the charging station before the battery goes flat so you won't find it parked in the middle of the living room).
"Neither of these robot vacs blew us away, but this particular Ecovacs model is definitely overpriced for the performance it provides," says Adrian.
"It's hard to justify that sort of money for a vacuum that leaves a trail of dirt in its wake and doesn't clean thoroughly in the corners."