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Since first hitting the market back in the early 2000s, robot vacs have improved significantly. But if you’re looking to get a new vacuum for your home, the biggest decision right now is whether you want to get one that has LiDAR. Here’s everything you should know, along with the best robot vacuums worth your money.
What Is LiDAR?
LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, became a game-changer in 2010, when Neato released the XV11. This model utilized an invisible spinning laser to measure not just the size of the room, but also where any objects might obstruct its path, like couches, tables, ottomans and even instrument stands.
Robot Vacuums With LiDAR Buying Guide
In this article, we’ll be focusing primarily on LiDAR vacs and all they have to offer. When choosing one, there are a few things to consider.
Mapping: In our testing, we found that LiDAR vacs were better at creating a map of the room and learning where obstacles are, since the laser is scanning at ground level. Plus with LiDAR, you won’t even need the lights on for the vac to do its job, since it already has a working map. This can ease any privacy concerns you may have with letting a camera freely roam around your living space, and it’s also way less likely to get stuck in a corner.
Apps and Connectivity: Most robot vacuums come with their own smartphone apps, where you can create clear “no-go” zones. This is especially helpful for spots that are too delicate to send a robot vac into, like in the back of an entertainment center or desk where there are loads of loose wires. If you have a smart home set up and want everything linked together, connecting Alexa or any other AI system might also be an option.
Convenience: If a vac needs too much maintenance and constant care, you’re more likely to stop using it altogether. It can be enormously frustrating when a vac keeps getting stuck in small areas or choking on a stray sock that was on the floor. The best robot vacuums will really only need your attention when it’s time to empty the dustbin.
Speed: LiDAR vacs can also finish the job faster than traditional robot vacuums — starting out with a clear map of the room means less learning (and bumping into things) as it goes, and having a clear outline of the space translates to more efficiency and speed, as well as saving battery life. This means covering more of your house in one go before it needs to hustle back to its charging pod. A faster vac that moves with more momentum can be a good option for houses with various flooring, since it’ll have enough power to get over any higher thresholds, like going from flat hardwood to thick carpeting.
Mopping: While many of these have a “mopping” capability, it’s more of a nice extra feature than a really practical one. It typically doesn’t have the muscle to really clean floors like traditional mopping does, and is more equivalent to wiping it down with a wet cloth.
Battery: Another nice thing about LiDAR vacs is they’ll automatically return to their charging dock when they sense the battery is getting low (usually around 20 percent), then go back to finish the job later once it’s fully charged.
What Are the Best Robot Vacuums With LiDAR?
We’ve selected four LiDAR-based vacs to keep your floors clean without having to break out your clunky, old-school vacuum.
1. Neabot Q11 Robotic Self-Emptying Vacuum
Open up the app for this Neabot, hit the Go button and watch as the vac maps out your room in real time. In our tests, this got pretty close to 100 percent coverage of all available floor space in both big and small rooms, with minimal instances of bumping into things. The accuracy of the “No-Go” zones you set work well too, and the vac chose efficient paths to find its way around whatever was off-limits. You can also set it to go over the room twice to make sure it got everything.
But the feature we loved the most was the auto-emptying bin, which performed the best out of all the ones we tried. When the vac returns to its charger, a motor in the base sucks the dirt out of the vacuum into a disposable bag, and can be replaced every few weeks. This was a big help in making the cleaning process more streamlined, sanitary and getting less exposure to dust and allergens.
2. Proscenic M8 Robot Vacuum Cleaner With LiDAR Navigation
Proscenic’s M8 Robot Vac with LDS 4.0 LiDAR runs up to 150 minutes on a single charge, packing a 300ml water tank and 280ml dust box into its efficient design.
Multiple floors are no problem, as the LiDAR can create a map with one scan, then save it for future uses. Bumping into objects is pretty minimal here, but the crash sensor helps it recover quickly when it happens, and learn for the next time it cleans.
Its cleaning path can be set ahead of time, tracing its trajectory back and forth in Y shapes to make triple passes over the same spots. We especially liked that you can adjust the water amounts used during cleaning, with four different settings.
Alexa and Google AI are compatible for dishing out simple voice commands, and the recharging dock is short enough to hide under a couch or somewhere out of the way. The included remote is also handy for sending it out to sweep up a specific target, like a clump of pet hair, instead of having it clean the entire place.
3. Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro+ Robot Vacuum
We found this unit to be extremely precise when it comes to mapping out a room, with better efficiency (and range) than lots of other models out there. Its TrueDetect 3D laser sight keeps it from bumping into walls and furniture, while the TrueMapping Navigation covers more spots that other robot vacs might have missed. The app also lets you schedule cleaning times, set boundaries and monitor the bot’s progress from anywhere.
The auto-empty station empties the dustin by itself after returning to the charging dock, and can typically hold 30 days worth of dirt.
4. Roborock S4 Max Robot Vacuum
For multi-level homes, this Roborock can create LiDAR maps of up to four floors with ease and accuracy thanks to its PreciSense system, and allows you to set names and schedules for each individual room. The more it cleans, the more it learns the layout of your house. Invisible walls and no-go zones are simple to set up wherever you need them each time, and can automatically sense when it’s on a carpet, kicking the suction power into high gear.
This also connects up to AI assistants like Siri and Alexa, and it works well in dark settings.
5. Samsung Jet Bot AI+ Robot Vacuum with LiDAR
Samsung’s Jet Bot is still in its early stages, but already has some noteworthy features and sleek design. This unit has the trifecta of mapping capabilities — LiDAR sensors, a 3D camera and AI object recognition. No need to pick up things off the floor before turning it loose, as this will sense any obstacles in its path.
With a five-layer HEPA filtration system, this is ideal for homes with pets, and it can automatically recognize different surfaces of floors and amounts of dust to determine how much suction power is needed. Cleaning is quiet and fast, and if there’s an area it couldn’t clean, it’ll tell you where and why.
The bin is completely detachable and washable, and the vac self-cleans each time it returns to the home dock.
6. Zigma Spark 980 Robot Vacuum with 4000Pa LIDAR
An infrared, rotating laser-head sensor scans the room 360º ahead of time on this Zigma, preventing it from bumping into furniture, and remembering the floor-plan and where it’s already cleaned, even if the battery runs out. This virtual map allows it to return to its charging station, refuel, and pick up right where it left off without needing to rescan.
Selecting which rooms to clean, and which to avoid, is efficient with the app, even on multiple floors. Once you’ve got your home mapped, you can also operate it by voice command with the major Smart-Home systems, setting it up to recognize your voice and no one else’s.
Suction on this was good, with 4000Pa of muscle behind it, and had no problem picking up pet hair, crumbs and dust, whether on hardwood or carpets. Its height clearance was low too, at under 3-inches, avoiding the common problem of not being able to slip under sofas and other low furniture. Programming a set time to clean each day or week is done in just a few steps, and the unit will even send you a summary report afterwards.