I Wanted to Love Dyson’s New $1,200 Robot Vacuum. But Our $130 Budget Pick Cleans My Home Better. (2024)

The honeymoon phase

I Wanted to Love Dyson’s New $1,200 Robot Vacuum. But Our $130 Budget Pick Cleans My Home Better. (1)

Violet’s physical beauty struck me instantly. While most other robot vacuums look like oversize hockey pucks, the 360 Vis Nav is deep purple with striking silver accents. It is D-shaped, rather than round, promising access to corners and other areas that circular bots tend to miss.

The 360 Vis Nav also features an extra-large brush roll, about double the size found on most bots. Reminiscent of the rollers of Dyson’s cordless stick vacuums, it has soft, fluffy microfiber to caress delicate floors and stiff nylon bristles to dig up dirt from carpets. The brush roll is enclosed in clear plastic housing, so you can watch it while it works. (I appreciate transparency in a relationship.)

I was similarly smitten with Violet’s dustbin. My current cleaning partner, the Eufy RoboVac 11S Max (our budget-pick robot vac), forced me to wrestle out its bin—which then coughed up some of its contents on the way to the garbage can—but Violet’s brushed-silver receptacle gracefully detaches from the robot with the push of a red button. It then reveals a carrying handle with another red button that, when pushed, dumps the gathered debris from the bottom of the bin into the trash. The carrying handle can also be used to carry the whole robot, a convenient feature rarely seen on other robot vacuums.

Some may argue that a $1,200 robot vacuum should empty itself (a partner who takes out the trash is the ideal, after all). Even our top pick, the Roborock Q5+, which costs about half as much as the 360 Vis Nav, comes with a self-emptying dock that automatically sucks the debris into a bag after a cleaning session.

I Wanted to Love Dyson’s New $1,200 Robot Vacuum. But Our $130 Budget Pick Cleans My Home Better. (2)

Unlike the majority of machines available, including our picks, the 360 Vis Nav has a touch screen that lets you start and stop the machine, choose from four cleaning modes (Auto, Quick, Quiet, and Boost), set the language, and access its fault history.

The app has more programming options than the touchscreen, allowing you to schedule, map, and create restricted areas. It’s intuitive and sufficient, but it doesn’t allow you to follow your robot’s progress on a map, which is standard on most machines. (The option to choose a preferred power mode for each room, such as Quiet for the bedroom and Boost for under the dining table, was a nice touch, though.)

The 360 Vis Nav also features a USB port. App-averse owners can manually download software updates onto a USB stick and upload it directly to the bot—a decidedly anachronistic feature in 2024.

One thing you don’t get with your $1,200 Dyson robot is the ability to mop your floors. Though many robot vacuum manufacturers are integrating mopping into their machines, John Ord, a lead engineer on the 360 Vis Nav project, told me the company determined it would compromise the overall cleaning performance. We’ve gone for the best possible dry-cleaning robot, he explained. (Dyson may not be misguided, here: In our tests so far, most mop-vacuum hybrids performed disappointingly.)

Some pink flags emerge

Violet mapped my living room, kitchen, and bedroom quickly, and I admired how it climbed over the 0.75-inch threshold into my bathroom, taking a couple of twists and turns before scampering back out. (Only a few bots I have tested manage this feat.)

Then Violet went to work. The bot gracefully avoided most obstacles, including sleeping bunnies, and even managed to clean the pet rugs without bunching them up and trying to consume them. But I began to have doubts about how deeply Violet was cleaning my floors. I wouldn’t have caught on so quickly had I not been able to view the bot’s cleaning activity after each cycle: A fairly accurate map of my home showed the color-coded areas where Violet detected low dust (purple), medium dust (orange), and high dust (yellow). (For the record, my home was far from filthy. My husband had vacuumed with our Miele canister vacuum just a few days prior.)

I Wanted to Love Dyson’s New $1,200 Robot Vacuum. But Our $130 Budget Pick Cleans My Home Better. (3)

After taking Violet on several runs in a row, I noticed that not only did the robot underestimate my home’s square footage, but subsequent activity maps continued to show areas with high dust prevalence. Granted, the yellow and orange spots grew smaller with each run, but examining the map, I wondered why my precious, posh, supposedly perfect Violet kept leaving dust behind at all. Did Dyson shoot itself in the foot with this gimmick?

“The pickup is never going to be 100% on any vacuum, whether it’s a robot, a corded, or a cordless,” said Ord when I addressed the issue. He added that in Dyson’s tests, the 360 Vis Nav picked up “more than any other robot could have done on the first pass.” (While Ord said that the machine was tested against “competitor models making up the majority of the top market share,” he did not disclose which models he was referring to.)

Violet has a “side duct” that extends like a tiny red hand with fingers, redirecting suction to capture dust and debris close to baseboards. But in my tests, Violet’s little hand only sporadically emerged, and the bot all but ignored the rice and flour I had spread on the wood floors along the baseboards. It also consistently left large amounts of debris in the threshold areas between rugs and next to walls. Admittedly, this is challenging for all bots, but I expected a $1,200 machine to work a little harder to win my heart.

I ran the Eufy RoboVac 11S Max right after Violet declared itself done to see if it would pick up the slack. It did, for the most part. This may be in part because the Eufy vacuum tends to go over the same areas multiple times. But at its price, Violet didn’t have an excuse for leaving behind even a speck of dust in an easily accessible, bare-floor area.

The battle for my affections

I Wanted to Love Dyson’s New $1,200 Robot Vacuum. But Our $130 Budget Pick Cleans My Home Better. (4)

The real revelation that we might not be a match came when I pitted Violet against my humble Eufy model to compete for my affections. For this, I didn’t vacuum my four-pet home for three days, letting fur, litter, dandruff, kitchen debris, the occasional dried bunny poop pellet, and strands of soft hay accumulate. For funsies—and much to the delight of my carb-addicted rabbit—I also spread some sushi rice evenly around the house. (Naturally, I locked him up once I noticed his indiscriminate appetite.) I then programmed the Eufy vacuum to run on BoostIQ, which increases suction on carpet, and set Violet to run on Auto, which promises to adjust suction based on dirt detection.

Like a besotted lover, I watched while the Eufy vacuum ate up a charging cord and my Violet dug into a large rubber band I had forgotten on the floor. Considering the alarming noise the tangled-up rubber band made before I pulled it out, I was surprised that the incident didn’t make it into the machine’s “fault history.” Did I come to Violet’s rescue too fast?

Once freed, both machines continued their cleaning journey, but I began to notice differences in stamina. The 360 Vis Nav’s battery lasted for less than 45 minutes in Auto mode, so Violet had to return to the dock to recharge. This meant cleaning my entire home—about 1,200 square feet—could take hours. Violet wasn’t particularly quiet either. While the Eufy vacuum rarely goes above 60 decibels, even in Max mode, Violet consistently went up to 74 dB on carpets in Auto mode. If you work from home, this is one way to get disenchanted with your new crush. (Another one is the blinding bright light that comes on whenever the vacuum detects darkness. Way to kill the mood, Violet!)

To keep things fair, while Violet was charging, I paused the Eufy vacuum, only turning it back on once Violet was ready to finish its cleaning session. After a few more rounds, Violet declared itself done, and I turned off the Eufy vacuum as well, even though it could have happily continued for another hour or so (wink wink).

I Wanted to Love Dyson’s New $1,200 Robot Vacuum. But Our $130 Budget Pick Cleans My Home Better. (5)

I then weighed the contents of each dustbin: The roughly $130 Eufy vacuum had collected 25 grams of debris, while the $1,200 360 Vis Nav got only 18 grams. Not only had Violet collected significantly less fur than the Eufy vacuum, it somehow avoided stray bunny poop and strands of hay almost entirely. (Maybe it considers tending to such detritus beneath its dignity.)

These results held up in subsequent battles: Only once did both bots bring home an equal amount of debris. On all other occasions, the Eufy vacuum won. We’ll continue to test the 360 Vis Nav against other robot vacuums, but I can’t help but feel disillusioned. “It’s a bit of a puzzle,” Ord said, when I told him, nonetheless emphasizing that the bot’s “superiority [was] thoroughly tested.”

A long-term commitment

In the couple of weeks we played house, Violet gradually started exhibiting other flaws. On occasion, it returned to the dock declaring itself finished five minutes after I had sent it out to clean. At one point, its dirty-sensor warning came on repeatedly, even after I had thoroughly cleaned the sensors. Once, the bot got lost under the dining table, spinning endlessly.

Ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be. When it comes to long-term commitments, good looks and swagger can only take you so far. Dependability is where it’s at—I just hope my Eufy vacuum is willing to take me back.

Budget pick

Eufy RoboVac 11S Max

An unassuming but mighty robot

This solid, affordable robot vacuum has a large bin and excellent cleaning power. It can be scheduled to clean, but it can’t be controlled with an app.

Buying Options

$250 from Amazon

This article was edited by Courtney Schley and Ingrid Skjong.

I Wanted to Love Dyson’s New $1,200 Robot Vacuum. But Our $130 Budget Pick Cleans My Home Better. (2024)
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