These Are Our Favorite Robot Vacuums

These Are Our Favorite Robot Vacuums

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In the past few years, no product I’ve tested has advanced as quickly as the humble robot vacuum. Where once they ping-ponged randomly around your kitchen, you can now find robot vacs at every price point with an incredible array of features, including mapping capabilities, self-emptying bins, and even cameras. 

Vacuuming an ever-changing household is a complicated task, and no robot vacuum is perfect. However, I test them in one of the most challenging environments possible—a carpeted, two-story family home with messy kids and a shedding dog—and personally, I find them indispensable. Whether you’re drowning in cat hair, need to lighten your chore load, or just want to spend more time with your family, we have a pick that will help. 

Looking for other handy home items? Be sure to check out our other buying guides, including the Best Air Purifiers and the Best Pots and Pans.

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Updated May 2022: We’ve added new picks, such as the Roborock Q5+, and cut a few older units. 

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  • Roborock Q5 robot vacuum and smartphone

    Photograph: Roborock

    Best Overall

    Roborock Q5+

    I’m only halfway through testing Roborock’s new midrange series, but I can already call this our new overall top pick. Last year, Roborock’s self-emptying bin simply wasn’t very effective or easy to install. This year’s self-emptying bin is both—and the vacuum, plus self-emptying bin, costs about the same as the high-end Roborock S7 ($650). 

    Most people don’t need a super fancy vac. The Q5+ works pretty well! It mapped 850 square feet of my home on the first run for 110 minutes, with plenty of battery left to spare. It methodically ran around the rim of the room before vacuuming it in rows, navigated neatly around kitchen chairs, didn’t fall off the step in front of the fireplace, and marked everything accurately on the map. It can save and customize up to four separate maps, which means I can simply pick it up and carry it upstairs or to the basement. Adding Siri voice commands is simple, and I can yell at it to start from over 50 feet away. 

    I have one gripe, which is that the onboard bin is still pretty small. You can make up for this by increasing the emptying frequency and power in the app, or setting up different zones so it empties after each room. However, it did pick up tumbleweeds of dog hair and adroitly swiped croissant crumbs from under the kitchen counter that other vacuums had left behind. 

  • Photograph: iRobot

    I Love Self-Emptying Bins

    You’ll Probably Need One

    If you think your robot vacuum isn’t working, the first thing I’d suggest you try is emptying the bin more regularly—if it’s dragging dust balls around your house instead of picking them up, it probably just doesn’t have enough room in the bin. When I reviewed the Roomba S9+, I predicted that within a few years most robot vacuums would have a self-emptying bin. The future has come to pass, and now almost every manufacturer makes one. 

    I’ve tried almost every self-emptying bin available. I think the convenience is worth it, but they may require some tinkering. If you purchase the bin as an accessory rather than bundled, the robot may have trouble settling itself properly on the base station’s air ports when it docks. You also have to check occasionally to make sure the self-emptying chutes on both the station and the robot vacuum itself aren’t clogged. 

  • Photograph: iRobot

    The Absolute Best

    iRobot Roomba j7+

    We featured iRobot’s latest Roomba j7+ in last year’s Wish List. Even as dozens of competitors have hit the market, iRobot’s vacuums remain attractive, effective, and easy to use. I particularly like their cleaning base integration. The robots never have trouble settling, and even the midrange Roomba i3+ has bin sensors to empty it automatically when it’s full. I also can’t believe that it’s the only manufacturer to offer a smaller bin with storage inside for tools and extra bags. I always forget where I’ve put the extra bags. 

    The Roomba j7+ has powerful suction and some of the best navigational tools on the market. iRobot now has a new feature called Genius that lets you teach your Roomba about your personal preferences and cleaning schedules, instead of painstakingly programming them manually. My one quibble is that the j7+ is supposed to smart-recharge and return to clean areas that it missed. During the (quick) initial mapping, it missed one corner of a room on my 800-square-foot downstairs. My husband quickly realized that just one spot wasn’t getting cleaned.

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