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How we test

Mashable Shopping reporters, editors, and product testers have reviewed dozens of robotic vacuums, and we’re always in the process of testing more. Major brands like iRobot, Roborock, Yeedi, and eufy are constantly releasing new models, and we spend weeks (and sometimes months) carefully evaluating these new releases to determine how they stack up against the competition. We not only want to find the best vacuum overallbut we also want to find the best robot vacuums for pet hair, carpets and budget buyers.

Specifically for this guide, we tested the iRobot Roomba j7+, iRobot Roomba s9+, Yeedi Vac Station, iRobot Roomba i1+, iRobot Roomba i3+, Shark Matrix, Shark AI Ultra 2 in 1 and Roborock S8+. (We are currently in the process of testing the new Roborock S8 Pro Ultra and the Ecovacs Deebot Omni X2.) It took months of practical experiments and observations to test some of these models. We also chose to include the Roborock Q5+ because of its comprehensive feature set and our positive experiences with similar products from the brand.

When reviewing a robot vacuum cleaner, we tested the robot on a combination of floor types: hardwood, bathroom tile, thick rugs, shag rugs, bath mats, and other surfaces are all valid. To test a robot’s agility, we intentionally litter the floor with some combination of cat toys, tasseled blankets, dirty clothes, and shoelaces. In addition to testing the obstacle avoidance features, we also evaluated the robovac’s overall cleaning ability. And for this particular category, we reviewed the self-emptying bin to see how easy to use and reliable these features are.

Additional factors taken into account during testing include:

Smart Mapping and Overall Navigation Accuracy: An important component of how effectively a robot vacuum does its job is the in-depth knowledge it has of the layout of your living space. After doing their initial “navigation/mapping” run, we evaluated how well the vacuums could maneuver around furniture, glide between different floor types, and generally clean all the required space. Supported apps for robovacs demonstrated whether the mapping was truly “smart” and accurate, and we made sure to take into account the differences between LiDAR (laser) and VSLAM (camera) navigation/mapping on the robots.

Noise: One common point among self-emptying robot vacuums is that they are quite noisy. As Mashable reporter Leah Stodart once said said in a vacuum review, “transferring waste from the robot’s trash bin to the dock’s trash bin can be quite loud and alarming to nearby people or pets.” We paid attention to how significant these noise levels were for each vacuum cleaner and whether it was something that could interfere with daily life in the long term, especially for those who share walls with neighbors.

App functionality: Each of these robovacs has a compatible app with which users can easily (or supposedly easily) control them. The most impressive applications included the ability to create “no-go zones” or zones where the vacuum cleaner would increase its suction power; schedule a cleaning in advance; and view the vacuum’s progress in real time (as well as detailed metrics on its performance after a successful cleaning). We also tested how well the app cooperated with the vacuum cleaner in question.

Actual vacuum functionality/effectiveness: This one is pretty intuitive and revolved around us asking a few key questions: Did the vacuum cleaners really do what they were supposed to do? Did they make neat rows on the carpets for a thorough cleaning? Did they vacuum up all the dust balls and dog hairs lurking in the corners of a room? Did they deal with larger intentional disasters (reminiscent of the Graham Cracker Experiment Reporter Stacia Datskovska was carried out with a Yeedi vacuum cleaner? When in doubt, we analyze the irrefutable evidence found inside her trash cans and the self-emptying dust bags from her dock.

Obstacle avoidance: For robot vacuums that claim to be able to detect and avoid obstacles that cause problems (read: pet droppings and tangled cords), we made sure to check this IRL. The feature is usually reflected in a higher price, so it was important to see if robotic vacuums could actually negotiate obstacles without getting nervous, or if human intervention was needed to help get them unstuck, thus demoting them to the level of any old vacuum that does not avoid obstacles.

Price/value and competition: For each robot vacuum tested, we compared its price to the closest competitors currently available on the market and assessed whether its additional features (or lack thereof) could justify the price discrepancy. Taking into account the fact that many of the models in this roundup are often on sale, we perform a cost-benefit analysis by asking one last question: Did this surprise us enough to spend X amount of money on it?

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