Consumer Reports tests the best robotic vacuums

November 8, 2013

Robotic vacuums used to be more like a high-priced toy than a cleaner. The first ones couldn't pick up along edges and got tangled in the fringe of your rugs. But Consumer Reports' latest test of robotic vacuums found they have improved quite a bit.

What's adorable, efficient, and actually hums while tidying your house? When you're away, robotic vacuums will play, and even clean your carpets.

Consumer Reports put three of the latest models to the test to see if they truly do as they claim - effectively clean your floors.

Their infrared sensors help to get them out of tight spaces, find dirt, and even keep from falling down the stairs.

They stop cleaning when their bin is full and return to their docking stations when they're finished.

But how well do they clean?

Consumer Reports' testers pitted the three robots against measured patches of cereal, sand, rice, cat fur, and paper bits.

"The Roomba did better simply because it covered all areas of the room several times," said John McAloon.

Other models are more systematic, moving in straight lines across the room. They pass over the area once, so whatever litter they miss stays there.

Consumer Reports recommends the iRobot Roomba, at about $450. It did an excellent job in all of Consumer Reports' tests.

"It took a little bit longer to do the room than others, but if you're not there doing the work, what does it matter?" said McAloon.

Robotic vacuums are easy to program to tidy up your home while you're away. But they can't replace your regular vacuum for deep-cleaning carpets.

If you are in the market for a regular vacuum, Consumer Reports named a bagged upright from Sears a Best Buy at $200. It is the Kenmore Progressive, model number 31069.

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