The Best Flagship Robot Vacuums

We swept up flagship robot vacuums to find out which one sucks the most.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

We swept up flagship robot vacuums to find out which one sucks the most.

My Reading Room

The Ecovacs Deebot R98 ships with two unique features; it’s the only bot here that automatically empties its bin when charging, and comes with a handheld vacuum cleaner.

It’s also the bot that’s most tied to its app. The Deebot R98 only ships with a single Auto Mode button on its body; everything else must be done through its app.

Linking to the Deebot R98 was seamless, but even then I couldn’t tell the bot to start cleaning yet.

Because while the other bots can begin out of the box and map as they clean, the Deebot R98 needs to map out the entire house before it can start cleaning.

This led to a few problems.

The first time it mapped out my house, the map looked skewed, so I decided to rebuild the map.

Unfortunately, remapping failed a few times. I think the Deebot R98 got confused about its position after it got stuck. It took me a few tries before the Deebot R98 successfully built a new map, and I had to be present to rescue it so it could do so.

This was essential because without a map, the Deebot R98 can’t schedule cleaning.

Now that I could finally start using the Deebot R98, I discovered that it kept getting stuck under my sofa, which turned out to be a death trap for most of the robot vacuums in this shootout. The Deebot R98 would also do odd things like bump into obstacles and keep on bumping, or get stuck in a corner instead of backing itself out. To its credit, I discovered that the more it cleaned, the more it refined its internal map.

The Deebot R98 is actually good at cleaning, it picks up large debris well, but it does fling some of it around.

It avoided dropping down larger steps, but didn’t avoid the short fall into my toilet and it got stuck inside. Like the manual says, the Deebot R98 can’t clean carpets, it stopped immediately when it rolled on top of my carpet’s tassels (at least it didn’t get tangled).

The best thing about the Deebot R98 is that when it returns to its charging station, the handheld vacuum cleaner in the dock turns on and sucks out debris (quite loudly) from the bot’s bin, helping you to empty it automatically. It‘s the only bot here that can do that.