Ecovacs Deebot U2 review: Low-cost simple robot cleaning
- Lower cost
- Mopping and vacuuming options
- Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa compatible
- Gets lost rather easily
- Tangled items on wheels are a nightmare to remove
- Small capacity means you’ve got to empty it every time
The Ecovacs Deebot U2 is the lowest cost vacuuming robot that Ecovacs has brought to Australia, part of the same family as fancier devices such as the Ecovacs Deebot U2 Pro or even more premium Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo T8 AIVI.
That cheaper price point does come with some compromises in terms of battery life and cleaning capacity, and it shares the same essential bump-and-hope-for-the-best navigation approach of the Ecovacs Deebot U2 Pro too. Still, if you're after a vacuuming robot for the basics on a budget, and especially for smaller houses and apartments, it's a decent option.
- White version picks up more visually obvious dust
- Small dual mopping and vacuuming container
- Set-up via Ecovacs app is nice and easy
As with most robot vacuum makers, there's an awful lot of shared design DNA between Ecovacs' robot vacuum cleaners. As the suffix difference might give away, the Ecovacs Deebot U2 is part of the same family as the slightly pricier Ecovacs Deebot U2 Pro, and the external design is essentially identical. Until somebody comes up with a snake-shaped robot vacuum cleaner, they're all going to look fairly similar in any case.
The Ecovacs Deebot U2 comes in either a white or black finish, and I'd strongly suggest that you opt for the black model. It's not faster, but that black finish stays looking decent a lot longer than the white. One quick trip under the sofa, and the Ecovacs Deebot U2 came out covered in rather obvious dust. Over time, any markings from bumps or grime are also going to be more obvious than on the darker hued model.
The Ecovacs Deebot U2 uses the typical rotating whisker approach of most robot vacuums alongside a central suction area where it will collect whatever it rolls over. More on that shortly.
Because it's the budget option you don't get a whole lot of accessories to speak of. There's a single container that combines a water section for mopping and a small container for dust and hair and other particles that the Ecovacs Deebot U2 picks up, with a small brush and cutter that pops onto the top.
The whiskers are removable and could be replaced over time if they break. You get a charging dock that you're meant to place up against a wall for best fit, although getting the cable to sit nicely without the vacuum trying to suck it up can be a touch challenging.
Setting up the Ecovacs Deebot U2 does involve downloading the Ecovacs App for iOS or Android and setting up an account with Ecovacs. You then scan the QR code in the box and it will add the Ecovacs Deebot U2 to your home Wi-Fi.
While you can just use the Ecovacs Deebot U2 with its push-button interface, it's a lot more convenient and flexible to use the app to get it to do more of what you want. The Ecovacs Deebot U2 also includes compatibility with both the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistants. There's definitely something cool about simply talking to thin air about how the vacuum should go on, only to see it trundle into operation seconds later.
- Range of cleaning modes works acceptably well
- Small dustbin needs frequent cleaning
- Navigation is a best-guess enterprise
- Getting random items unstuck from the wheels is a nightmare
Cutting the price on a robot vacuum cleaner was always going to involve a level of compromise, and I was keen to see where that compromise might lie, especially having recently reviewed the Ecovacs Deebot U2 Pro model.
The big difference between the two is the lack of that larger 800ml capacity dustbin on the Pro, because the U2 Pro is meant to be more "pet friendly" where the Ecovacs Deebot U2 is more about "budget" considerations. As such, you get a 400ml dustbin with a 300ml mopping capacity, and that's your lot.
That similarity also means that it uses the same bump-and-see kind of navigation to get around any given cleaning area. I put it to the test with my Sydney suburban home, and it managed about as well as the U2 Pro did when it came to navigating around and under obstacles in its way.
Which is to say that while general coverage was decent, and you'd certainly be aware that your floors and especially carpets had been run over by the Ecovacs Deebot U2, it wasn't always entirely sharp when it came to working out where it was, where it had been and especially where its home base was.
The Ecovacs Deebot U2 works on a basic run system that will keep on cleaning until the battery gets too low, at which point it will declare it's going to head home. The problem that I saw here even more than with the Ecovacs Deebot U2 Pro is that it very often lost track of where home actually was.
Maybe that's a function of the lower floor area in my home that I was getting it to clean, which is fairly large, and smaller areas might work better, but all too often I'd get a notification from the Ecovacs Deebot U2 that it was heading home to recharge its battery, only to be followed by another one saying that it couldn't actually make its way to wherever home happened to be.
The vacuuming and mopping process is actually decent, if not spectacular. You can optionally set it to a maximum power mode if you've got particularly grubby carpets, but like most robot vacuum cleaners, what you're mostly doing is what I'd call maintenance cleaning.
It's good enough for covering the basics, but not what you'd want if that fussy aunt is coming around, or you've got a landlord inspection coming up, if you know what I mean.
The Ecovacs Deebot U2 did suffer, as most robot vacuum cleaners tend to, from getting smaller items stuck on its cleaning whiskers, and at least there the solution was to pop them off, remove the debris and resume cleaning.
However, it's a lot worse if something gets stuck around the driving wheels. The Ecovacs app can recognise a driving wheel stuck situation and alert you to it, but by then it's often too late. Getting items off, especially anything that can thread its way around the wheel, is a very tough process.
It'd be great if you could somehow pop the wheels out. In some cases, I had to use the provided cutter or scissors to free up the wheels to continue cleaning, and I always worried I was going to break the wheels while doing so.
- Smaller battery compromises performance
- Slow recharging
The Ecovacs Deebot U2 runs off a sealed 2600mAh battery, which in one contextual sense is kind of remarkable when you consider that's a mid-range to low battery life figure for a smartphone these days. Your smartphone does a lot, but nobody expects it to vacuum floors – or at least not yet.
However, it's actually a low battery inclusion figure for a robot vacuum cleaner, and considerably lower than the U2 Pro's 3200mAh battery pack. Ecovacs rates the Ecovacs Deebot U2 as being capable of running for up to 110 minutes at a time, although I generally found around 80 minutes was more likely during my review process.
Recharges are also pretty slow affairs. Ecovacs rates it at 4.5 hours for a full recharge, and while you can tell it to go out and clean on a partial charge, it's not a great idea to do so. That charging rate is more problematic when you consider its relatively brainless navigation system, for two reasons.
Firstly, the default cleaning mode is to run until it's nearly flat, but you'll often see it run over areas it has already cleaned because it's not really mapping as it goes. That does raise the odds of it grabbing debris that it might have missed the first time around, but it also means it's using power that could be used to clean areas it hasn't even seen yet.
The second problem is that its random approach all too often leaves it unable to either see or recall where its base is. That means it will say it's heading home to recharge, fail to find its base, and simply stop and go flat. If you're buying a robot vacuum cleaner to tidy up your home while you're out, you could well find it's stopped, unable to get home and totally flat too. You'll have to carry it back to its base and wait a few hours before you can get it to finish the job in that case.
Should you buy the Ecovacs Deebot U2?
- Buy it if you want a budget-priced robot vacuum.
- Don't buy it if you want smart mapping.
Like its bigger Pro sibling, you can definitely get a bigger, better and smarter robot vacuum cleaner than the Deebot U2. However, you pay for that privilege, and if you only need the basics, that might not be money well spent. The smaller battery and randomised cleaning approach of the Ecovacs Deebot U2 do mark it out as a better option for those who live in smaller, less complex houses than my own, or apartment dwellers for that matter who want a simple and affordable set-and-forget smart vacuuming option. Just keep a pair of scissors handy for the times it decides to eat any errantly hiding socks.
Pricing and availability
Images: Alex Kidman
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