Every time someone asks me to recommend a robot vacuum, I always reply with the same question: what’s your budget? Although many are surprised to learn that there can be so many differences, the truth is that there are some fundamental ones between the most expensive and the cheapest models: from the way they move around the house to their cleaning efficiency or accessories.
$275 vs. $1,600
Let’s give an example based on experience. For the affordable model, I chose the Cecotec Conga 7290 Eternal Home X-Treme, which has a price of around $275 and is one of the options with the best value in its range. In its technical specifications we find a laser navigation system that scans the rooms and creates a map you can use to send it to a specific room, a suction power of 2,500 pascals, eight cleaning modes and the possibility of mopping. It also includes an automatic emptying station, so you do not have to clean the dust container manually every time it cleans the house; a rare feature in the cheap models.
In the opposite corner is one of the most expensive robot vacuum cleaners: the Roborock S8 Pro Ultra ($1,600) whose self-emptying base also has two water tanks (one for used water, one for clean) to scrub the mop heads. On a technical level, it has LiDAR navigation, a suction power of 6,000 pascals, VibraRise 2.0 scrubbing technology and four power modes (five, if you only need to vacuum).
The biggest difference: the mopping
What does this mean on a practical level? As for the vacuuming, and based on the fact that the affordable model we chose is one of the best in its price range, the power of the Roborock is much greater. It leaves fewer residues (especially the heavier ones, such as small stones), and it also manages to clean edges and corners better. Having said that, it is important to bear in mind that these results are more striking if you don’t use it frequently: if it is programmed to clean daily, the differences between one and the other in this aspect can be minimal.
However, in the mopping function the differences are important. While the cheaper models are limited to damp mopping (with the floor often ending up worse than it was before) and cannot tell if they are facing a carpet, the most advanced ones do take advantage of this function: their mops vibrate, as in the case of this Roborock, or they press against the floor, scrubbing and removing stains. It’s not exactly like mopping yourself, but it comes close. In addition, they detect carpets and are able to avoid them or vacuum them with greater power, but always raising the mop so that its wet surface never touches them.
Another important fact: in an inexpensive model that mops, when the robot returns to its base, the mop must be removed and washed by hand (otherwise there is a risk of bacteria and a bad smell); but one with a self-emptying base like the Roborock, in addition to emptying the dirt tank, activates a system that washes the mop and then dries it, making human intervention unnecessary and eliminating the aforementioned inconveniences.
Navigation and app options
Finally, let’s talk about navigation and app options. Both models offer the possibility of creating maps and sending the robot to clean certain rooms, as well as programming their operation. There are subtle differences — for example, the Roborock app lets you see where the robot is at all times and what it has already cleaned — but they are not too relevant. On the other hand, we have noticed that the expensive model handles the obstacles better, detecting and dodging them with greater precision.
So, are the differences enough to justify an expense that can be up to six times higher? It all depends on what you need it for. If you are looking for basic maintenance cleaning, if there is not so much to clean (pet hair, for example) and cleaning will be scheduled regularly, for most users a cheaper model will be enough. On the other hand, if what you seek is a more thorough cleaning that also includes scrubbing and completely forgetting about the robot, the higher cost is justified.
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