(Pocket-lint) - Robot vacuums are still a bit of a luxury item, but with the continued rise in smart home products, especially ones that work together, there's the possibility of an enhanced experience.
When we learnt that the Ecovacs Deebot R95 MKII robot vacuum cleaner worked with Amazon's Alexa voice control and offered smart cleaning that included mopping and drying capabilities, we had to get one in to see whether it was worth the extra expense.
If you're familiar with robot vacuum cleaners, then the design of the Deebot R95 will appear immediately recognisable. Like others before it, the Deebot R95 is a slender, round little vacuum cleaner that features a low profile which allows it to easily get under tables and chairs and hard-to-reach places.
The front of the unit includes a sensor that allows it to detect obstacles in its way, as well as a laser mapping system that helps it map out the environment.
A regular issue with robot vacuum cleaners of this design is the difficulties they have with edge cleaning. The round design just doesn't work naturally along skirting boards and edges of furniture. The Deebot R95 gets around this issue with large brushes on either side, which sweep into corners, edges and around across the floor as it goes, gathering up dust and dirt with ease.
Under the lid on top is the dustbin - which is easy to pop out, empty and replace. A cleaning brush is included here too, to allow for easy removal of any extra dust or debris that's stuck on the inside.
On the underside, two connectors allow for easy docking and charging when required. There's a section for attaching the advanced wet/dry mopping system and the large brush and suction unit.
Setup, cleaning cycles and settings
- Android/iOS companion app
- Automated cleaning schedules
- 90 minutes cleaning time
- 3-4 hour charging time
- Auto, spot and area cleaning modes
Setup of the Deebot R95 robot vacuum cleaner requires the installation of an accompanying app available for Android or iOS smartphones. This app walks you through the registration process and then allows you to adjust the various settings as necessary.
Once you've followed the first few steps, the initial setup then requires you to "map" the cleaning areas the vacuum is going to be covering (unlike its cheaper M81 Pro cousin). This is as simple as clicking "auto" and letting the Deebot R95 do its thing. At this point the robot cleaner will set off around your home, working out where it's going by use of the sensor and laser mapping system on the front. You can watch this mapping in progress and get a good idea of what the robot sees based on the map it creates.
From our experience, it's worth clearing the area of all obstacles before the Deebot R95 robot vacuum cleaner gets started, otherwise it'll end up bumping into objects and assuming it can't clean in that direction. Anything that might present a problem needs to be moved - toys, chairs, random items of clothing left scattered about the place. We'd basically recommend a good tidy before initial setup. This will ensure in future that the robot follows the same path and can actively clean as much of your space as possible.
Obstacle detection and floor mapping
- Anti-drop and anti-collision sensor systems and bump rail
- Automatic mapping systems
We found this robot cleaner's detection and mapping to be reasonably effective and accurate. There were some minor issues with how it handled lower objects - like fireplaces, where it bumped into the low hearth regularly before finding its path.
The sensors on the front allow the robot to capably map out the room and find its way around without crashing into everything in sight. We were pleasantly surprised with how effective this was. Even if the room has already been mapped out, if you suddenly have an object in the way then the robot will handle it well and move around it with ease.
It's important to note that the instructions recommend blocking off areas where the vacuum might go under and get stuck. This includes gaps under drawers and wardrobes where to robot can slip underneath but not easily find its way back out again.
The advantage of robot vacuum cleaners, however, is their ability to reach places you wouldn't normally be able to get without a lot of hassle. Who enjoys having to move tables and chairs out of the way and bending down to clean underneath? With a robot vacuum, all you need to do is to ensure there's enough room for the robot to slip underneath and then sit back and enjoy the crumb-sucking goodness.
The Deebot R95 will also make its way underneath beds with ease (assuming you have one with access underneath, of course), which is fantastic and probably a much more thorough clean than you'll typically do.
We found the Deebot R95 handles stairs and steep drops really well too. We watched anxiously when, for the first time, the bot edged closer and closer to a drop only to sense it and move off again. This is obviously a limitation of the system: robot vacuum cleaners cannot climb stairs or manage even small drops. If you have any raised flooring in your home, then this will lead to issues with rooms or areas not being cleaned if you don't physically pick up and move the bot to a new section.
Cleaning performance and sucking power
- 69.5dB noise level
- 520ml dust bin capacity
One of the pleasures of the Deebot R95 robot vacuum cleaner is its noise levels - this is a quiet machine compared to an average upright vacuum, which means it won't disturb you too much. There's a do not disturb mode to prevent cleaning during specific hours, if you require total silence.
The reason for the sound level is because the bot doesn't have the same suction power of your average vacuum cleaner. That's the issue with robot vacuum cleaners in general: they just don't have the power to suck up enough dirt and grime around the home.
We were pleasantly surprised with the power of this little robot vacuum cleaner though. With daily cleaning tasks we found we were emptying the dustbin on a regular basis and it was full of dust and debris. The actual sucking power had varied results. We've watched the Deebot R95 suck up bits of tissues, bits of cardboard, even small items of children's clothing - the last of which is a bit of a problem. On the other hand it has failed to pick up clumps of cat hair and even two passes weren't ample to handle a small pile of salt that had accidentally been dropped on a hard floor.
The Deebot R95 has a few surprises up its robotic sleeve though. When we accidentally broke a bowl on a tiled floor and shattered it into a thousand tiny pieces, we used the opportunity to test out the bot's suction abilities. After seeing it fail with salt and cat hair, we weren't confident, but were astounded as it made light work of the porcelain particles.
The convenience of the Deebot R95 robot vacuum cleaner comes into play with the various cleaning modes. A simple "auto" mode can be activated by the press of a button on the vacuum itself or within the app. This automatic cleaning mode sets the robot off on a regimented and intelligent cleaning cycle of the mapped-out area.
In auto mode, the Deebot R95 follows a set path up and down the room and then from room to room until the entire area is finished. If it needs to recharge in the middle of a cleaning cycle it even knows where it finished last and can carry on cleaning as necessary. The regimented cleaning is obvious when you spy the neat little track lines in freshly vacuumed carpets.
Auto mode can be set on a schedule via the app to commence cleaning at a specific time each day - every day if you so choose. It's worth doing this, too, as regular cleaning gives far better results that will more closely line up with traditional vacuum cleaners.
Other cleaning modes are available too. Once the floors are mapped out, you can set the robot to "area" cleaning mode which allows you to select specific sections of the house for cleaning without doing the whole house.
"Spot" mode is also useful for cleaning up small spills or particularly dirty areas. This spot mode allows you to select a specific point on the map and set the robot off to clean that point and a one-metre surrounding area.
Mopping and drying
- Advanced wet/dry mopping system
- Detachable mopping reservoir
The Deebot R95 robot vacuum cleaner picks up dirt from carpet and hard floors reasonably well, but one of the other appealing features is the advanced wet/dry mopping system which can be used to mop your floors at the same time.
The mopping system is simple enough to use. An advanced mopping reservoir is included in the box that you attach to the underside of the robot cleaner. Filling it with water and attaching the cleaning cloth allows the robot to mop while it cleans. This system works by wetting one side of the cleaning cloth while the other remains dry. As the robot cleaner goes about its regimented cleaning tasks it wets one side of the floor and then dries it on the returning pass.
This sounds great in theory, as a wet floor is never ideal, even if it is clean. In practice, however, the mopping system on the Deebot R95 is a tad underwhelming. You can only put water in the reservoir, no detergent, so the mopping is essentially the same as rubbing a slightly damp cloth across the floor. Of course, like vacuuming, it's nice not to have to do the mopping yourself.
App functionality and connectivity with voice assistants
- Amazon Alexa compatible
We already mentioned the setup requirements using the accompanying app available for Android or iOS smartphones. This app is also a powerhouse of functionality for controlling the robot vacuum, even kicking off cleaning rampages when not at home. From within the app you can watch the progress of the robot as it cleans and see where it's been during its cleaning cycles. You can also set it to spot, area and auto cleaning modes as well as instructing it to return to charger.
Within the mapped-out area, you can setup virtual walls if you need to block the robot from cleaning specific spaces within the home. This might be useful for preventing problems with the robot getting stuck under furniture without actually having the physically block off those spaces.
The app also allows for remote control of the robot, allowing you to change its direction and control its movements around the house. Within the settings, you can set a time schedule for cleaning cycles according to your needs on a day-by-day basis. You can also see a record of cleaning work carried out and set restrictions for cleaning hours.
Another handy setting here is the ability to remap the house if you need to. This is helpful if you need to move the robot vacuum between floors or if, during initial setup, you didn't sufficiently clear the area and obstacles were encountered by the bot that wouldn't normally be there.
As well as a wealth of functionality within the Ecovacs app, the Deebot R95 is also compatible with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. To setup the ability to use your voice to control the robot, all you need is the Ecovacs Deebot skill from the Alexa skills store. You then need to link the skill to your Ecovacs account to complete the setup. Initially, we had some issues with this setup as we couldn't get linking to work properly, but a quick chat with their support team sorted this out.
Once this linking is done you can then command the Deeboot R95 with simple orders via Alexa:
"Alexa, ask Deebot to start cleaning."
"Alexa, ask Deebot to stop."
"Alexa, ask Deebot to start charging."
Speaking of voice, the robot itself also features a voice reporting system that will alert you to various things - like if the robot gets stuck or needs empyting or if it detects a problem during it's cleaning routines. This voice can be silenced too if you just want a quiet vacuum that silently does your bidding.
We've enjoyed having the Deebot R95 robot vacuum cleaner help out around the house and have been pleasantly surprised by just how many features this little bot has to offer.
That said, the R95 is certainly a luxury item, as it only performs a cursory clean wherever it goes. It won't pick up big bits of debris, has issues with cat hair, can't handle long pile, and will get stuck on objects if they aren't cleared off the floor – games, toys, clothes, books, and so forth – and its mopping mode is underwhelming.
You won't be able to throw out your vacuum just yet, then. But as the R95 can can reach places that you can't with ease, it certainly proves its worth. We found it's mapping and sensing technology to be excellent and the regimented cleaning to be methodical and very useful.
For the price, the Deebot R95 is a capable robot vacuum cleaner that ticks a lot of boxes. The addition of control via Amazon's Alexa voice assistant is icing on an already well-featured cake.
Alternatives to consider
Dyson 360 Eye
With the Dyson 360 Eye, Dyson has concentrated on making a robotic vacuum cleaner that is a cleaner first and a robot second. During our review, we found the Dyson 360 Eye to be thoroughly impressive. If you're not put off by the price, this is likely one of the best robotic vacuum cleaners on the market.
Neato Botvac D5 Connected
The Neato Botvac D5 Connected is a good little cleaner with great battery life and cleaning performance. The D5 Connected is a great option to consider but doesn't offer quite as many features as the Neato Botvac Connected.