(Pocket-lint) - The human race might well fear being replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) and being put out of work by the rise of the machines, but there are some jobs we don't mind losing out to robots on - and cleaning is one of them.
If you're considering adding a robot vacuum cleaner to your smart home then there are a number of options out there. Some are cheap and cheerful, others come with a hefty price tag but with features and functionality to back it up.
On price alone, the Vorwerk Kobold VR200 robot cleaner is certainly in the higher-end of the market. At this price, can it stand up against the competition - like the Dyson 360 Eye - or does it simply suck? We let one loose around our home to find out.
Setup, cleaning cycles and settings
- Automated cleaning schedules
- 90 minutes cleaning time
- Remote control functionality
Setting up the Vorwerk Kobold VR200 robotic vacuum cleaner was one of the easier experiences we've had when testing and reviewing robot vacuums.
Basic setup just involves popping the machine out of the box, plugging in the dust filter, attaching the front brush and turning it on. You can then send it off cleaning straight away if it's got enough charge. Inevitably you're better off docking and charging the machine first, but this is a taste of how simple setup is.
Of course, that's just the very basic setup: there are plenty more cleaning possibilities at your fingertips. Diving into settings on the robot itself means you can adjust cleaning power, setup a schedule, update the firmware and more.
Even on the very basic settings this robot cleaner is more than capable. Out of the box, the VR200 will default to "all room" cleaning, seeing it clean the room it's in, then move onto the next one once it's finished.
There are other settings within the robot's menus including spot cleaning and eco mode. You can also setup connection with a smartphone app and remotely control the bot with a supplied manual controller too.
Obstacle detection and room cleaning
- Climb-assist tracked wheels
- 360-degree laser-mapping
- Ultrasonic obstacle sensors and wall detectors
- Optical floor and step sensors
- Bump rail
The Vorwerk Kobold VR200 boasts 12 different sensors and a 360-degree mapping system that allow it to detect the area it's cleaning with ease. This little robot uses these sensors to scan the room and create a map as it cleans. The sensors also ensure it neatly avoids obstacles, shies away from toppling down stairs and provides a satisfactory edge-to-edge clean.
During testing, we found this robot vacuum often preferred to start cleaning at the edges of the room and work its way around. It also followed a neat and regimented cleaning pattern moving up and down the room in a satisfying way. The regular cleaning routines left pleasing track lines in plush carpet, showing where the robot had been during its travels.
The d-shaped design of the VR200 allows it to get closer to the edges when cleaning. We also found it slowed down when reaching the edges or getting near obstacles as if carefully avoiding causing unwanted chaos in the home.
When finished with one room, this robot cleaner capably makes its way into the next and carries on with its cleaning routines until all the rooms it can reach are suitably cleaned. With around 90 minutes cleaning time per charge, it gets a fair amount of work done before it needs to auto-return to its charger. Even in instances when it began to run out of battery sooner than expected it simply returned to the charger and came out again when it had enough juice to finish the job. Well, assuming it successfully docked with the charger - something that didn't always happen.
If the intelligent mapping and sensor system isn't enough and you're worried about areas where the robot might get stuck - under low-lying furniture, for example - then there's no need to worry, as Vorwerk thought of that too. A magnetic strip is included that you can place in areas you wish to block off to prevent the robot from stepping over a threshold or going in a certain direction while it's cleaning.
Clearly one of the failings of robot vacuums is they can't manage climbing stairs to clean multiple floors during their cleaning passes. The VR200 does, however, boast a clever tracked wheeled system (like mini plastic tank tracks) for mounting thresholds and carpets. This theoretically allows it to overcome small obstacles and carry on cleaning in the next room without being disrupted by doorways or thick rugs. We occasionally marvelled at its ability to climb over objects we had accidentally left in its path.
Cleaning performance and suction power
- Eco-option for quieter cleaning
- Spot, manual and all room cleaning modes
- 67dB noise level
On the standard "all room" cleaning mode, we found the Vorwerk Kobold VR200 robot vacuum cleaner to be slightly louder than other robot vacuums we've tested. This is partly due to the sheer suction power, as it has pretty impressive capabilities in this area.
We watched as the V200 picked up dirt on reasonably thick carpet and made light work of cat hair that other robo-cleaners sometimes struggle with. Passing into another room, it also performed well on hard floors. On a tiled kitchen floor, it managed to pick up a lot of fallen food that had toppled from a toddler's high chair. We were impressed that it even managed to suck up dust, dirt and debris from between floor tiles.
Often robot vacuum cleaners leave something to be desired in their ability to clean. They're not meant to replace your standard vacuum cleaner and more often than not, they'll not have the power to do so anyway. Therefore, the key to keeping a clean house with a robot vacuum is to setup regularly scheduled cleans. A weekly cursory vacuum will offer much better results if the robot is sent out seven days a week to give your floors a cleaning pass. Which is the sort of logic where the Vorwerk Kobold VR200 performs best.
A downside of the suction levels of this robot is it appears to blow out a lot of air as it goes about its cleaning tasks. You'll often feel a breeze as it passes by. Not an issue if you set it up to clean when you're out of the house, but we found this combined with the louder noise levels could be a bit obnoxious at times. It's certainly not a robot vacuum you'd want to run at night unless you're, well, not in the house and have no neighbours.
The official specs for the Vorwerk Kobold VR200 say it's capable of around 90 minutes cleaning before it needs charging. With the regimented routine, we found it made light work of multiple rooms and returned to the charger way before the 90 minutes was up but had happily been cleaning for 40 minutes without issue.
If, for some reason, the robot does run low on charge mid-clean it's more than capable of returning to and docking with its charger for a re-juicing. We were impressed with how often it successfully managed this, even if we had spotted niggles with the charging rail design on other occasions during use.
Furthermore, if the V200 runs into trouble then audible alerts and flashing lights make it known. These include messages about emptying the dust tray - which is sufficient for day-to-day cleaning capacity, if emptied regularly - unjamming the brush, or helping it to move when it gets stuck.
We didn't find the bot got stuck much, though. If anything, the V200's aggressive action was a bit much at times compared to the competition. You really need to ensure the floor is clear of obstacles, even ones you've not thought of, to avoid them being pushed about the room. We'd accidentally left a brush in an unfortunate position and it was knocked over and then blocked the bot's path.
App functionality and remote control cleaning
- Android/iOS companion app
- Manual remote control
As you'd expect from a high-end smart home gadget, the Vorwerk Kobold VR200 is compatible with apps, allowing you to control it from your phone or tablet.
This robot cleaner has both Android and iOS apps available to download. We initially had some issues getting the robot to connect to the app as an update was required to the robot's firmware before it would pair with our phone via Wi-Fi. This update was luckily supplied via a USB stick that plugs directly into the bot.
We had similar teething problems with getting scheduling setup when we couldn't access the option via the onboard menus because that required programming the time, the option for which didn't exist. Again this was because the firmware was out of date and shows the frustrations of modern connected devices. You'd never have this problem with an old-fashioned vacuum cleaner.
Once setup the app gives you access to various settings to be able to control the robot vacuum remotely. This includes changing the settings for switching between all room and spot cleaning, as well as activating eco-mode and more. You can also set cleaning schedules from here, which makes it far more accessible and easier to use than trying to set this up via the robot's main settings menus.
We're happy to report that this app functionality also means you can set the robot vacuum off on a cleaning mission even when you're out of the house. You don't need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network in order to be able to do so which is very handy indeed. Especially if you discover while you're out that you've got unexpected guests dropping by later without much warning and the house needs a quick once over.
The app has other uses too. You'll get push notifications on your phone when it's finished cleaning and messages within the app to let you know what's happening – alerts for when brushes need cleaning, when the robot is returning to its base station for a charge, or simple progress reports like "I am cleaning".
We were surprised not to see more functionality within the app though. Considering the mass of sensors and the laser-mapping system we were expecting to see an active map of the cleaned area – as we did with the Ecovacs Deebot R95 MK II. This sort of functionality is a nice way to show you the bot's cleaning progress or allow you to select an area for spot cleaning, but it's lacking in the V200.
- Ecovacs Deebot R95 MKII robot vacuum cleaner review: A smart luxury addition to your cleaning arsenal
There is also the option to control the robot vacuum cleaner remotely with the supplied remote control. Although useful to have, we do feel that remote controls for robot vacuums mostly defeats the point in having them. After all, you have a robot vacuum to clean so you don't have to think about it, so why do you want to manually control it?
The Vorwerk Kobold VR200 also lacks global support for Amazon Echo or Google Home devices. Unless you happen to live in Germany, the Alexa skill is not accessible, so there is no way to control this robot vacuum cleaner with your voice. We've seen other cheaper robot vacuums where this ability is present.
The Vorwerk Kobold VR200 robot vacuum cleaner is a very capable and powerful cleaner with a regimented cleaning routine. It's this power that really sells it compared to the typically more budget competition.
However, the V200 is fairly noisy and costs a fair chunk of cash too. For this kind of money we think some more functionality - such as Amazon Echo skills, Google Home voice activation, and better mapping functionality in the app - as seen elsewhere should be featured.
In the end, the Vorwerk Kobold VR200 is a fantastic robot cleaner. That last word being the operative one: it's great at getting things clean thanks to a considered design and strong suction power. Shave a few hundred off the price and it'd be easier to recommend.
Alternatives to consider
Dyson 360 Eye
For roughly the same money as you'd spend on the Vorwerk Kobold VR200 you can also get a Dyson 360 Eye, which is one of the best robo-vacs on the market. The Dyson name alone is enough to ensure this will deliver a magnificent clean throughout your home. It's a bit tall, however, which poses occasional obstacle issues.
Read the full article: Dyson 360 Eye review
Ecovacs Deebot R95 MKII
For a few hundred pounds less, the Ecovacs bot is a worthy alternative. It cleans well, offers a clever interactive mapping system in the companion app, plus Alexa skills for voice-control for Amazon Echo compatibility.
Read the full article: Ecovacs Deebot R95 II review