Robotic vacuums: a PC enthusiast’s primer

Owning a robot vacuum can be its own hobby in a number of ways. If you think that notion’s a little far-fetched, remember that the site you’re reading right now is dedicated to what many people consider to be just computers. A similar community has coalesced around the idea that Roombas, Neatos, and their ilk are more than just vacuums.

I don’t intend to dwell on the community that fills YouTube with videos of cats riding Roombas or that makes costumes for their robots, but I do think there is a connection and probably some overlap between fans of DJ Roomba and users inclined to do what it takes to keep their robots happy.

Operating a robot vacuum as a hobbyist is a bit like running an overclocked CPU. I’m not talking about the bang-for-your-buck side of overclocking, though. It’s more along the lines of the finicky but rewarding side of the endeavor. The world of robot vacuums does have its own value and performance winners, to be sure, but even the very best choices have their limits. Let’s explore some of those limitations and appreciate how engaging these seemingly mundane devices can be.


Got a spinning combo-brush, 13″ wide. I believe that yours stores attachments on the side.

They are real vacuums

The first generation or two of Roombas from the early 2000s weren’t much more than robotic sweepers. The distinction: vacuums produce, well, vacuum, while sweepers rely on a spinning brush to push debris into a receptacle of some kind. Some of those old-school designs (or worse) are still sold by various companies today, but don’t let those impostors fool you: there are plenty of robots on the market today with proper vacuums inside.

iRobot gave the 500-series Roombas a huge upgrade when it released the AeroVac dust bin in 2009. Neato arrived on the scene in 2010 sporting a much larger vacuum motor than any other product before it. The Samsung Powerbot line from last year goes so far as to show off its vacuum assembly right on the top of the robot. The Dyson 360 Eye, which is still only available in Japan, has a beefy 100,000-RPM motor that’s probably a big factor in its limited 20- to 30-minute run time. Reviewers say it really sucks when it’s running, though.

As with PC components, reviewers often employ various benchmarks when reviewing robot vacuums. Every review will mention some kind of performance metric and the more in-depth ones will put the robots through repeatable tests. The classic test is with Cheerios, but some reviewers go to extremes. I’m not a fan of the torture-test style of robo-vac benchmarking, though, as it’s just not the job these machines were designed to perform. Nobody buys a Core m3 ultraportable and expects it to be the best PC for everything. Generally speaking, though, those machines are plenty good enough for most day-to-day needs. The same goes for robot vacuums.

It probably goes without saying that a dramatic leap in technology will be required to completely eliminate manual vacuuming of stairs and furniture. You could get away with just a handheld model for those things, though as long as you think about floor vacuuming as preventative maintenance instead of an infrequent cleanliness-repair job.

You think your trendy Dyson Big Ball competes with Neato? My BotVac D80 just ate your Dorito.

My Neato cleans every morning and consistently fills its bin. It’s pretty easy to tell that’s mostly pet hair—four dogs and four cats will do that—but there’s a lot of dirt mixed in there too. I notice a huge reduction in overall dust levels in the house just by keeping the floor clean. Like a garbage collection algorithm on an SSD, running on a regular schedule is really what allows battery-powered robo-vacs to compete with beefier corded models in overall performance. All that mess goes in the trash every morning instead of after the weekly or monthly mechanical shag defrag you’d be doing yourself. Yes, I just went there.

They are real robots

As the vacuums inside these robots has improved over time, so has the sophistication of the robots themselves. What started as a couple bumper switches for navigation, basic sensors to avoid falling down stairs, and crude movement logic is now a topic beyond the scope of this piece. I’ll try to cover the basics, though.

My living room carpet is bot-perfected. Every fiber inspected, no foreign contaminants detected.

Two critical features of any self-respecting robo-vac are the ability to clean on a schedule, and the ability to automatically dock at a home base to recharge afterward. Scheduling is the easy part. Figuring out how to return to base requires a lot more information-gathering. That information is obtained by a combination of sensors that is increasingly the special sauce that sets a given bot apart from the pack.

Neato set the standard for navigation in 2010 when it rolled out its LIDAR-equipped bot to take on Roomba’s algorithmically-derived cleaning pattern. All Neato models use LIDAR to map out their surroundings while they move, which allows them to clean in straight lines on an open floor (much like mowing a lawn). The most recent offering from iRobot, the Roomba 980, adds a camera for navigation. Both the Dyson 360 Eye and Samsung Powerbot employ camera-based vision systems, as well.

You’re usin’ an Electrolux? Don’t make me laugh. You bust that thing out what, every week and a half?

Successfully navigating a home isn’t just about seeing things, though. It isn’t the only task on a bot’s situational-awareness agenda, either. Robo-vacs also need to deal with objects in their environment that their sensors can’t see. Every robo-vac still relies heavily on simple bumper switches to let them know when they’re up close and personal with an obstacle. It’s pretty common for robo-vacs to include a set of infrared sensors that can detect an object and slow the machine down before they bump into anything. Other IR sensors allow robots to hug walls closely without touching them to ask “are you still there?” like some other robots do.

While your Hoover’s nappin’, Roomba’s multiaskin’. He puts in more effort without me even askin’

Robo-vacs also need to know when they’re stuck. For example, Roombas use their half-black, half-white front swivel caster and a photo eye to determine whether they’re gliding along the floor or if they’ve gotten hung up on a squeaker toy. Roombas also have a sound-based dirt detector right next to their brushes that lets them know when they are cleaning a particularly large mess. When this sensor is triggered, the bot knows to slow down and clean that area more thoroughly. The Roomba 980 can also detect if it is on hard floors or carpet. In turn, it can adjust suction power to increase performance or conserve battery life, a lot like dynamic voltage and frequency scaling on a CPU.


My robo-vac family album

My experience after using these robots for about seven years has left me with plenty of opinions and tips to share. I ordered my first robo-vac, a Roomba 560, from in 2009 (don’t judge, it was a great deal). Then I went slightly crazy and ordered a Scooba 380 mopping robot the very next day. I was so pleased with how well the Roomba worked on the main floor that I picked up a Dirt Dog for the basement shortly after. Those three robots kept my floors tidy for over three years until I bought my first Neato.

In August 2012, my Neato XV-21 arrived and took over cleaning duty for the main floor of the house. I then moved my Roomba 560 upstairs. Just like that, I had robots roaming every floor of my house—at least, if you count my aquarium-filled basement lair as a floor. Sadly, not long after that milestone my faithful Dirt Dog went mad and I had to put him down (poor Yeller). Of course, once you’ve had robots cleaning your entire house, you can’t go back to the vacuuming Dark Ages, so I got a second XV-21 for the top floor and moved the Roomba to the basement.

I should do this guy a favor and box him like Old Yeller. I just can’t do it though, he’s just too useful of a feller.

We moved a little over a year ago and that change required robot redeployment. Our new house has just two levels, so we relegated the Roomba to cleaning up spilled cat litter in the basement. The Neato twins were scheduled to work separate day and night shifts to cover the whole upstairs. That status quo ended a couple months ago when I decided that the extra attention and maintenance my Neatos needed after their own three-and-a-half years of service just wasn’t worth the effort anymore. I couldn’t bear to toss them, so I packed them up and shipped them off to a good home where I knew they would be properly repaired or at least used for parts. That meant it was time to pick out a new one.

The Neato BotVac D80

My new Neato BotVac D80 may have crossed paths with my old Neatos on their way to greener carpets. Even though my original Roomba outlasted my first Neatos, I chose another Neato for a few reasons. Cost kept me from even considering the Roomba 980. At $900 it’s fully double the price of the Botvac D80, and its feature list just doesn’t justify the difference (think AMD vs. Intel circa 2004). iRobot doesn’t make another Roomba that can navigate a whole house without the use of its Lighthouses, and I didn’t want to mess with those again (or have my dogs eat any more of them). I took a serious look at Samsung’s Powerbots, too, but murmurs of spotty navigation and the lack of a side-brush steered me away.

It was an easy pick to choose the BotVac D80 over the other Neato models. The D75 doesn’t come with a bristle brush for pet hair, and it ships with standard low-surface-area filters. It’s compatible with a better brush and filters if I wanted to buy them separately, but that approach doesn’t save any money. With the D75 out of the running, Neato only had one other option worth considering.

The high-end BotVac Connected’s claim to fame is its onboard Wi-Fi transceiver. That radio lets owners control the Connected using a smartphone app. Since I’d never want my robotic vacuum to run off its schedule, that feature didn’t appeal to me. The BotVac Connected can switch between an Eco mode that conserves battery life and Turbo mode that increases suction power. The Connected can’t change between these modes intelligently like the Roomba 980 can, so it’s not an earth-shaking feature unless one’s home is too big to clean on one charge without the Eco-mode boost.

I am a little jealous of the Li-ion battery that the Connected comes with, though, especially because I can’t replace my D80’s NiMH battery with one later. My D80 can run for over an hour without needing to recharge, though. That’s good enough to clean my home’s entire floor, so I’m not losing sleep over it. The Connected does come with an “Ultra-Peformance” filter instead of a “High-Performance” one, but I can switch those filters out myself if I want. The bottom line is that the $250 price difference between the Connected and the D80 would be better spent on a PC upgrade of some kind.

You’ve gotta be the smartest vacuum I’ve ever seen. Using LIDAR to see where to clean.

This isn’t a review, but I do have a few thoughts to share about the first month of living with the latest addition to our household. He’s been doing a fine job. The D80’s larger dust bin is great. The smaller bin of the XV-21s filled up too quickly with all the pets in our house, even though both vacuums ran daily. I think the one on the D80 allows the vacuum inside to work more effectively since it doesn’t get packed as densely with debris during a cleaning run. I’m sure the greater surface area of the D80’s newer filters help in that regard, too. The other observation worth mentioning is that the D80 gets stuck in things like chair legs much less frequently than I was used to with the XV-21. In fact, after a couple initial adjustments, it hasn’t gotten stuck a single time except for the occasional tangle with a misplaced sock.

Repairing, modding, and hacking

With any new robo-vac comes new things to learn about it. For those with an enthusiast mindset, the immediate urge is figuring out how to make the vacuum better and how to fix it after your tweaking attempts fail. For questions or advice, there’s no better resource than the Robot Reviews forums. That community has created countless threads with tons of detail, and it’s made up of helpful people that are just as tuned into the world of floor-cleaning robots as our forums are to PC hardware. I couldn’t even begin to cover all the cool mods people come up with, or the breadth of repairs that are possible, so I’ll just share my personal tweaking and tuning efforts over the years.

Like the countless status apps out there for PCs, NeatoControl lets Neato owners get a full overview of what’s going on with their robots. It allows control over many of the Neato’s functions, and it can read the vacuum’s sensor data, too. I should have made time to check it out, but I was too busy making animated GIFs of blinking RGB arrows and taking pictures of my phone taped to my vacuum. Hmm, does that count as a mod?

Your living space is a disaster. So overclock your robot to make it clean faster.

Any discussion about robo-vac repair and maintenance should start with a word about the costs involved. Robo-vacs will need more time and money to keep running than a normal vacuum. The time it takes to keep them in working order is more than offset by the time they save you from vacuuming manually, though. That said, the total cost of ownershiph is a bit high compared to a regular vacuum. I estimate that if I took all the money I’ve spent in seven years of using robotic vacuums and divided it out, my fleet has cost me somewhere around $25 per month. Expensive for a vacuum, but not bad for a hobby, right?

Your battery’s two years old? Well that’s great. Cause now you’ve got a nice heavy paperweight.

That money has gone toward a variety of items. Some was for replacing standard consumables like lifeless batteries, worn-out filters, and beat-up side brushes. Depending on the frequency of the robot’s cleaning schedule and their chemistry, batteries will probably last about a year before their runtime is significantly diminished. Filters require maintenance and replacement, too. I toss mine in the dishwasher every couple weeks to keep them in top form, and I always have a hot-swap spare ready to go for when the other one is drying out. That treatment won’t work for all filters, though. I’m already noticing that the D80’s wider filter is losing some of its form, something that never happened with the XV-21’s filter. I’ll likely have to find a third-party one that holds up better. Side brushes can last years, or they can lose an arm in one night if they have an unlucky run-in with a furnace vent or a shoelace.

You haven’t cleaned your filter in over a week? Give that thing a scrub, man it’s startin’ to reek.

Thankfully, all modern robo-vacs are highly modular and fairly simple to repair. The non-standard repairs you have to perform and pay for do add up over time, though. I’ve probably replaced the Cleaning Head Module on my Roomba four times, not to mention the dozen times I’ve disassembled them to clean out the gears and extend their life. The CHM that I have now is an upgraded version that’s designed to prevent gunk from getting into the gears in the first place. Before that, I used a modded version with sealed bearings. That module lasted much longer than the originals, but it wasn’t cheap. I’ve also replaced wheels, motors, and bearings. The good news is that as robo-vacs improve, I’d expect the total cost of ownership to go down. Owners of older vacuums can benefit from what I’ve learned to save some money, though.


What to expect when you’re expecting a robot

If you decide to give a robo-vac a try, there are a few simple steps to take that can allow the bot to work better and to ensure it does what you want. My first piece of advice may seem counterintuitive, but you should give your house a thorough vacuuming before you unleash your robot on it. Robo-vacs aren’t meant to clean up weeks or months of accumulated filth in a single go. Rather, they’re built to help keep a clean house clean over time. Since we know that some TR readers have cleanliness issues with their PCs, I don’t feel bad suggesting that the same problem might extend to their homes. Don’t make your robot suffer—do it a solid and clean up first.

Part of that clean-up should also include consideration of the clutter that may be on your floor. If you schedule cleanings, you’ll soon get used to spot-checking your floor for socks or cat toys before your robot does its thing. The same pre-planning should extend to furniture and fixtures, as well. Your robot will quickly show you the areas it can get stuck the first time it runs, but if you think about challenging terrain in advance and rearrange your home accordingly, you’ll get better performance out of your bot to start with. Think of it as that PC cable-rerouting project you’ve been putting off.

Of course you can use your robot’s Virtual Wall or boundary marker to cordon off problem areas. Since my dogs ate all my Virtual Walls years ago and those magnetic strips are hard to hide, I generally attack the problem at the source or go with a lower-tech solution like the bumper shown below.

Yeah, rackin’ up bills with my mad vacuuming skills. Upgrading my robot for thrills.

I think the best way to determine the schedule for running your robot is to go by the contents of the dust bin after a cleaning. Don’t make this judgment call right away. Let your robot clean every day for the first couple weeks. Depending on how full the bin gets, decide whether you need to keep running it daily or if you can reduce the frequency of cleanings. Just be sure to empty the bin and at least check the brush after each run.

When you do set your bot’s cleaning schedule, you’ll want to think about what will be happening in your house at the time. Just like you wouldn’t schedule a backup or AV scan in the middle of your regular gaming night, you don’t want your robot to vacuum during times of peak household activity. That isn’t to say that it’s always the right call to let your robot vacuum unsupervised though. Even if you’ve prepared well and are confident it won’t get stuck, there could be at least one more important variable at play.

A word about pets

Robot vacuums and pets are at once the best and worst combination. Pet hair is the single biggest reason I need a robot to vacuum my entire house daily. Without my Neato doing its job, pet-hair-tumbleweeds take over my floor in less than a week. Conversely, pet, uh, mess, is the cause of my worst robo-vac disasters.

All of my robots have had run-ins with pet mess. I’ve had robots spread mess on the carpet, fill with mess until they stop running, and, in an unfortunate incident involving knit-booties, actually mop the floor with mess. It’s not pretty, people. I’d rather remove malware from a relative’s PC than extract pet mess from the I/O ports of a robo-vac, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. Eventually I got smart and adjusted my bots’ schedules so that I was always awake to check for mess first, but let this be a word of warning to you.

Wanna roll wit my crew, hah? Hunt dust bunnies and bore felines like I do?


It takes a certain level of fondness to willingly clean pet mess out of a robot. It’s human nature to personify inanimate objects, and that seems to be especially true of robots, even robot vacuums. I appreciate the work my robots do, and I can’t help but feel pity for them when something bad happens to them or they break down. That dynamic makes me inclined to take good care of them, which ends up being an interesting and educational enough activity for me to consider my bots a hobby.

If you’re on the fence about trying a robo-vac out for yourself, a good option to consider is a refurbished Neato XV-21. These bots are easy to find for about $200, and should work well while providing a good platform to learn something new. Heck, with memory and SSDs so cheap, stagnating CPU performance, and a pending GPU die shrink, what else are you going to spend your computing budget on?

Colton Westrate

I host BBQs, I tell stories, and I strive to keep folks happy.

Comments closed
    • BIF
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]" has lifted about 100lbs of dog hair off my carpet..."[/quote<] That's two good-sized dogs! [quote<]"...having two Yellow Labs and a black Maine Coon."[/quote<] Hmmmm, have you done a head-count lately? 🙂

    • JoeKiller
    • 7 years ago

    I found that getting the robot actually made me more proactive about clutter as it was annoying to not have a successful vacuum session. Even though the neato is a robot it can a friend that encourages good habits.

    • cynan
    • 7 years ago

    That resonates with me too. While I don’t consider myself having too much clutter, I spend at least half of my time spent sweeping and vacuuming, cleaning pet hair/dust from under furniture or along the edges of rooms where there are cords running, etc. As neat as these things are, they just don’t seem the most practical.

    • cynan
    • 7 years ago

    I’ve thought the two etymologically similar if not outright synonyms, so I pronounce both as [i<] prymer[/i<]. You use primer to prepare a surface for paint, just as you use a primer to prepare to acquire knowledge on a certain subject..

    • TopHatKiller
    • 7 years ago
    • TopHatKiller
    • 7 years ago

    [i<]I Hate You![/i<]

    • w76
    • 7 years ago

    Great intro article to the subject, I’ve long been tempted by one of these, half because it’s a freakin’ robot and half because, well, lazy. Thanks!

    • digitalnut
    • 7 years ago

    I use noise cancelling headphones with my media player while I vacuum.

    • southrncomfortjm
    • 7 years ago

    I got my Neato Botvac 80 about a year ago and love it. I have 2 dogs and a cat, so I need all the help I can get. A year in and it is showing a bit of wonkiness. I need to manually turn it off and then on again in order to get it running correctly. Nothing major, but a bit concerning for a $450 piece of luxury cleaning equipment. I’ve run it daily during that time, and it has lifted about 100lbs of dog hair off my carpet. I still need to do weekly vacuuming, but the house looks a lot better in between. The cost of having two Yellow Labs and a black Maine Coon.

    That said, I got my Botvac from where they have a 5 year warranty for robot vacuums they sell – [url<][/url<] I figure that gives me a bit more piece of mind. We'll see what happens when I actually need to send it in.

    • drfish
    • 7 years ago

    They aren’t a fan of long fringe but otherwise they are happy climbing over a pretty decently sized lip.

    The nice thing about maintenance is that it’s typically a once a day couple minute thing that becomes habit like brushing your teeth or something really quickly.

    • reckless76
    • 7 years ago

    When I first got my Dyson vacuum, I’d do the regular maintenance cleaning brushes and filters, but quickly dropped off. Don’t think I’ve taken that thing apart in years.. Kinda doubt I’d do much better with a robot vacuum.

    That said, how well do this things work with area rugs? Do they manage to roll over the lip and clean them, or do they bounce off? What if the rug has a rolled up corner or something?

    • Spunjji
    • 7 years ago

    Loving the weird-al themed captions. Jolly good article there, sir!

    • TopHatKiller
    • 7 years ago

    “what many people consider to be just computers….”
    What on earth are you talking about?! And Don’t call me , Baby.

    uggh. dogcrap in robots. this article is almost as unpleasant to read as some of the comments.

    • Wonders
    • 7 years ago

    This is the kind of article you can come back to read more than once, and notice new details each time. I really get a lot of mileage out of this style of article.

    • moose17145
    • 7 years ago

    What I got from this is maintenance for me with one of these would be extremely minimal, and would basically make it so I never need to vacuum myself (well… maybe once every 3 months or so).

    Single. No pets. Single level 1100sq/ft condo with 3 rooms and one long(ish) hallway. Extremely little furniture.

    I could likely just let the thing go all on it’s own while I am at work each day or every other day and my floors would be virtually spotless. Only room I might have to keep it out of would be my office (cable clutter because computers).

    Anyone have any thoughts on this? I can already get away without vacuuming for 2+ weeks and even then my carpet isn’t bad (like I said, no pets, and I do not wear shoes in my place often). What would the operating /maintenance costs / time be like on one of these if you had zero furry pets? Obviously that does not affect battery longevity a ton.

    And yes I am aware that in my case I very much do not NEED one of these. And along those same lines I also do not NEED a 15TB Raid Array, 24GB of RAM, another new motorcycle…etc…

    • UberGerbil
    • 7 years ago

    So I don’t have pets, or kids, but I do have clutter. In fact, over half my time spent vacuuming involves turning the vacuum off to go around and pick up clothes and books and cords so I can vacuum where that stuff has been. What I get from reading this is that I’m the exact opposite of the intended market for a robo-vac.

    • vargis14
    • 7 years ago

    The cichlids are a pretty cool kind of fish….so many different kinds that supposedly evolved from like a few ancestors…..for fresh water they can be very colorful and very”territorial” but since the fish have been evolving so much longer in the oceans than in lakes they have the best colors and diversity.

    I would love to go scuba diving in the pacific ocean somewhere near the polynesian islands since I have only scuba dived in the caribbean a few times which I loved but cannot afford to do it as often as I would really like to do it. I have been swimming etc since a baby and love free diving. Used to get a lot of free expensive fishing lures along with my aunts lost diamond ring 30ft down in a canadian crystal clear lake. But let me tell you one thing it may be 65f on the surface but once ya get 10ft down the temperature drops like 20f and it is cold without a wetsuit.
    But it is kinda cool coming up after 2 minutes and that cold 65f water all of a sudden feels warm:)
    EDIT: BTW the RoboSnail is the same concept I was using except i did mine by hand and could only move it slow, too fast and the scrubber magnet side would pop off and you would be fishing for it. My 90 gallon tank was a good bit bigger than the one in that video and might have even had 1/2″ glass…I know it was at least 3/8″ or 7/16″ thick…I had to get the strongest magnet cleaners felt on outside magnet and a bristly velcro type magnet inside I could find around 12 or so years ago. Could have made my own with some round rare earth neodymium magnets back then that would have worked a lot better but would have been afraid i might break the glass or squash a finger….some of them are dangerous on the dance floor.

    • drfish
    • 7 years ago

    I haven’t had any tanks since we moved but I used to have a ton of Tanganyikan cichlids. I saw a 400 gallon tank with like 20 species in it at MSU when I was a kid and just thought they were the coolest fish I’d even seen. I think I had 6 tanks down there during peak fish.

    I probably setup a nice big tank again someday but not anytime soon. I did run across [url=<]these[/url<] recently which I'll admit was more tempting than it should be. Mandarins are gorgeous, if I ever did a reef tank I'd get one of them right away.

    • vargis14
    • 7 years ago

    Mine is SOOOO OVERDUE 🙂

    EDIT: all 3 desktops are overdue bigtime.

    • vargis14
    • 7 years ago

    I am curious what you have in your aquariums in the basement..I am guessing reptiles since a 90 gallon 4ft reef tank like I had was a focus point of color, life and sunlight “artificial but arc bright 2 x big metal halide bulbs with a 25lb transformer on each” lighting my living room. It was a beacon and hotspot for anyone who entered my living room and took most people by surprise since it was not in view until ya walked through the living room’s doorway.

    It was a fun but super duper expensive hobby..luckily I had magnetic glass cleaners on all 3 sides to remove the algae from the glass without reaching into the tank that kept my day to day upkeep easy but he monthly or bi monthly 35 gallon water change was a super pain in the azz, but it was totally worth it once I had all my fish/corals/crustaceans/live rock and sand tuned to the perfect community where fish would line up like a car wash to be cleaned by my mated pair of cleaner shrimp. I even incorporated a couple different species of native delawarean Gobies to make my pair of Mandarin’s look even more beautiful.

    It was surprisingly quiet with its giant gravity fed but pump return bio ball filled filter and a very large canister filter also….along with a protein skimmer. The canister filter and protien skimmer were not ran all the time since you would be feeding the canister filter and protien skimmer instead of feeding your corals and anemones. My fish loved the weekly brine shrimp and tri monthly cleaner shrimp babies most of all I thinks:) ” actually anything that reproduced usually got eaten by someone/thing in the community with vigor and enthusiasm”

    • drfish
    • 7 years ago

    Nope, that would be cool, but [url=<]this[/url<] is how it did it.

    • tipoo
    • 7 years ago

    “some TR readers have cleanliness issues with their PCs, ”

    Oh god, the horror in that linked thread!

    • Inkling
    • 7 years ago

    Maybe you should… Lighten Up, Guy.

    sorry, couldn’t help myself

    • Dposcorp
    • 7 years ago

    Nice article fish.
    At first I thought those were all glow-in-the-dark stars that were gonna get vacuumed up under a black light or something. 🙂

    • tsk
    • 7 years ago

    Mother of! I was just looking at robotic vacuums today, and now TR has an article!

    • Anovoca
    • 7 years ago

    Not your run of the mill TR article but it is always fun to become educated on new things. Thanks Colton.

    • StefanJanoski
    • 7 years ago

    In American or British English?

    • psuedonymous
    • 7 years ago

    The only time I could imagine “prim-mer” being correct is when describing something becoming more prim.

    • drfish
    • 7 years ago

    Try thinking about it in terms of vacuuming or not vacuuming at all instead of the amount of time if that helps. Like having your photos upload to OneDrive or Apple’s servers automatically after you take them instead of needing to sync them manually – not a lot of time involved but it’s nice to not have to do it at all.

    BTW, thanks, now I’m drooling over [url=<]these bad boys[/url<]. 😉

    • StefanJanoski
    • 7 years ago

    Wow! As a Brit, I don’t ever recall hearing it pronounced ‘prim-mer’. Surprised I haven’t come across that on TV or something. Sounds totally wrong to me 😛

    • Jambe
    • 7 years ago

    This feature of American English bothers me; the Brits aren’t thus afflicted.

    As an American I’ve always used a long i in both contexts. When I first encountered short i pronunciations they struck me as aesthetically (aurally) weird and as another one of those unconscionable divergences of pronunciation from orthography.

    It’s still vaguely like nails on a chalkboard when I hear it. I think, “Oh, gaw, there aren’t two m’s in there!” Then I remember most of the rest of English is crazy, too.

    • SHOES
    • 7 years ago

    Great article Colton! Consider me a newbie hobbyist.. going to order one of those neato’s when finances allow!

    • MOSFET
    • 7 years ago


    [quote<]prim-mer[/quote<] unless you're about to paint over it

    • LightenUpGuys
    • 7 years ago

    And given the tiny size, i really doubt that they are capable of doing what a real vacuum does.

    I think some comparitively gigantic, autonomous, robotic vacuum thats probably loud and does have car battery sized batteries, HEPA filters and powerful agitators is something that would be great for commercial buildings. Let them roam convention centers or other large buildings at night cleaning. I didnt check, such robots probably already exist lol.

    I dont really get the point of them in residential homes unless someones elderly or disabled and theyre sort of an assistant robot.

    • davidbowser
    • 7 years ago

    I realize that some folks just don’t understand the utility of them.

    To be simple: It’s the pets. 2 cats and a dog. Until very recently, when my kids were trained in the art of vacuuming, the Roombas were the only thing keeping us from being overrun. Many years ago, I had to vacuum a couple times a week to keep the dining room floor in a condition where there were not visible clumps of pet hair.

    • DPete27
    • 7 years ago

    I find vacuuming to be rather therapeutic actually…. It plays to my OCD side, standing all the carpet fibers up and making nice straight lines all the way across a room. Similar to mowing the lawn.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<] less than two minutes[/quote<] And that is why I don't understand robot vacuums. I mean, they're cool and I want one for some unknown reason, but it doesn't take long to vacuum like a normal human being, either.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 7 years ago

    Yeah, that’s what I came here to post. I laughed and laughed. Nicely done, drfish.

    • LightenUpGuys
    • 7 years ago

    “Real vacuum” makes me think of something that has a large, bypass, over 10 Amp motor, a bag(bagless vacuums have always been junk), HEPA filtration and can get the job of vacuuming a decently large rooms floor in less than two minutes.

    • jcamel24
    • 7 years ago

    We got a Roomba 780 for Xmas and it is great! Love that it runs daily, and really cuts down on the pet hair (especially under our dining room table).

    Yes, it does require daily maintenance, like emptying the bin, but we do that when we feed the dogs. Cleaning the brushes, etc. I do weekly. But I’d rather do that than sweep every day with 3 shedding dogs!

    • Wildchild
    • 7 years ago

    Funny this article would pop up as I recently purchased a Roomba 770 for my parents as a present for last Christmas. They are in their late 50’s and so are getting to that point where they are not as active as they used to be (especially my mom), which is kinda hard when you live in a five bedroom, two story house with two cats and two dogs. There is always a constant battle going on with pet hair especially. Enter Roomba.

    My mother has been extremely happy with it. I programmed it to go off every other day and the amount of a difference it makes for a little robot is amazing. It gets into very tight spaces and underneath furniture that’s elevated high enough. No, it doesn’t replace a regular vacuum cleaner, but that’s not the point. It’s just to offload some of the work so you, the individual, don’t have to do as much, and it does that beautifully.

    Maintenance isn’t really an issue, but it’s there. I’d say the spinner brushes need to be de-haired twice a month, which takes about 15-20 minutes to do. Not bad considering the thing works about 6-7 hours a week. I think it’s gotten stuck 2-3 times since they’ve had it, but it’s usually a nonissue. I’ve been so impressed with it that I want one now and would recommend them to anyone else.


    • spugm1r3
    • 7 years ago

    I’ve always wondered: is it pronounced [i<]prim-mer[/i<] or [i<]pry-mer[/i<]?

    • allreadydead
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]Heck, with memory and SSDs so cheap, stagnating CPU performance, and a pending GPU die shrink, what else are you going to spend your computing budget on?[/quote<] THIS PURE EVIL I'm just glad Amazon is not shipping them over here.

    • drfish
    • 7 years ago

    I probably should have mentioned that on a normal day I spend less than two minutes fussing with Neato to empty the bin, knock crap out of the filter and clean the brush.

    But yeah, it’s a trade-off when you consider everything. I’ve always obsessed over floor clutter so it it’s a natural fit for me.

    With all our pets though, its a no-brainier, truly.

    • DPete27
    • 7 years ago

    I just can’t help but wonder on hard floors if the amount of time spent each day cleaning up toys (probably should do this regardless of robo-vacuum, but let’s face it…), emptying the bin, cleaning the brush, the [sounds like] frequent other maintenance and repairs is really any different than making a few quick passes with a dust mop. I know it takes me less than 5 minutes to clean my entire main [hard] floor this way.

    Daily cleaning is nice, but as you mentioned, probably not necessary if you’re using a traditional vacuum. Obviously the frequency of vacuuming/cleaning varies with pets, but one could probably get by with a once-a-week vacuum for even the worst scenarios. Traditional vacuums also have much larger bins (less emptying), stronger suction (deeper clean), more robust beater bars (less maintenance required), etc etc.

    Just seems like an expensive nerdy toy. (of course I’d want one if I could justify the cost, but nah)

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    I’m tempted now. Vacuuming is a tedious, mindless task.

    Make the robovac do the tedious bit in exchange for hobbyist fettling?


    • pikaporeon
    • 7 years ago

    Love the All About the Pentiums- er Benjamins parody in the photo captions

    • alloyD
    • 7 years ago

    That last video should have Yakety Sax for a soundtrack.

    • ColeLT1
    • 7 years ago

    You are spot on, I have had a 5 series roomba since they came out. Did the AeroVac, upgraded pet CHM, and higher capacity battery swaps a couple years ago and it really made a huge difference. It is now a full vac, no longer a sweeper + squeegee vac.

    My Siberian Husky is a hair shedding factory, even with daily bushings, and it keeps my house clean and the hair in check. I’m lucky though, house is all hardwood (except laundry and bath rooms have tile), I mop with a “Bona” kit, and run the big vacuum occasionally, but the roomba greatly extends the time between. It is pretty useless on carpet though.

    • anotherengineer
    • 7 years ago


    I threw mine out into the snow bank.

    Then this came by
    [url<][/url<] Now I can vacuum the vacuum 🙂

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