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5 robot vacuum features to look for in 2021

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Looking to buy a new robot vacuum cleaner? Here are 5 new, cutting-edge technologies you need to consider.

Robot vacuum cleaners might look pretty similar but there's a lot of variation lurking beneath the hood. From 2-in-1 vacuum mops to self-emptying dustbins, these are the must-have features powering the next generation of robotic vacuums.

Whether you're buying your first ever robot vacuum cleaner or planning to upgrade an existing model, the following technologies should definitely be on your shortlist.

1. Smarter inbuilt mops

Robot vacuums with inbuilt mops have been around for a while now, but they are constantly improving via smarter and more effective technologies. The latest hybrid models are intelligent enough to swap between modes on the fly depending on what surface they encounter. In other words, the robot will mop hard floors and vacuum carpets in a single clean.

The VibraRise system in the Roborock S7 is a good example of this technology - it automatically lifts the mop and closes the 300ml water tank when it detects non-hard surfaces. This means the carpet won't get drenched during cleaning or dragged with a dirty mop when the robot returns to the dock.

In short, there's no need to switch modes or go around the carpet while mopping. You simply set and forget. (For added peace of mind, you can also map out an explicit No-Mop Zone using the app.)

2. Self-emptying dustbins

The chief benefit of a robot vacuum cleaner is that they do most of the work for you. Unfortunately, most still require a human to empty the dustbin at the end of each cleaning session. However, some models from brands like iRobot, ECOVACS and Roborock have docking stations that incorporate rubbish receptacles into the base.

For example, the Roborock S7 can be used for 8 weeks without emptying thanks to the HEPA-rated Auto-Empty Dock. This is a new, upcoming accessory for the S7 that empties the dust bag into a larger container while charging the vacuum at the same time. The aforementioned HEPA filters eliminate up to 99.99% of particles as small as 0.3 microns to keep in-home air as fresh as possible.

You can a video demo of how the tech works above.

3. Advanced navigational features

Nobody wants a robot vacuum that gets hopelessly tangled in household items or bounces off walls like a pinball. This is why cheap models from no-name brands are best avoided. (As the adage goes, you get what you pay for.)

Mid to high-end models typically come with advanced cameras and navigation sensors that can accurately map rooms, avoid obstacles and clean along wall edges. For best results, go for a model with a dual-camera array which translates to proper depth perception. This allows the robot to assess its surroundings in 3 dimensions while cleaning.

Roborock vacuum lenses

For instance, the MaxV edition of the Roborock S6 features a pair of front cameras with infrared imaging for vastly improved object avoidance. It is capable of detecting and navigating around objects that are just 3 centimeters tall.

The 360 S10 Robovac, meanwhile, features built-in triple Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors. Related features to look for here include Bluetooth-enabled apps that allow you to create mapping paths complete with no-go zones.

4. Bigger is better

One of the problems with robot vacuum cleaners is their compact shape. While this makes them easier to store, the user is forced to compromise on the dustbin size and battery life.

In recent years, clever engineering has helped to mitigate this issue. While they still can't match the size of a barrel vacuum cleaner, the gap is slowly narrowing.

As mentioned above, the Roborock S7 will soon offer an Auto-Empty Dock which effectively increases the dustbin capacity from 470ml to 1.8L. The same model also comes with a 5200mAh battery that can last up to 3 hours on a single charge. That should be more than enough to completely vacuum your home in one go.

You should definitely consider buying a model with a removable battery. The advantage here is twofold: it allows you to swap batteries when you run out of juice and also makes battery-related repairs a lot easier to fix.

5. Improved surface smarts

The first generation of robot vacuum cleaners only worked on a tiny handful of surfaces. If your home contained anything other than low pile carpet and lino they really began to struggle.

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Fortunately, the latest robotic models have improved significantly in this area, making them suitable for all carpet and floor types. For example, the Roborock S7 uses all-rubber brushes that are designed to stick closer to the floor, including shaggy or uneven surfaces. This allows the brushes to scrub your floors up to 3,000 times a minute, eliminating dried-on dirt and stains while sucking up dust at the same time.

If your home contains both hardwood and carpets, one thing to look for is scratch-safe wheels and brushes. This should be advertised on the packaging or on the company's website. The last thing you want is a scuffed floor, so make this a priority.

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