Infinuvo Hovo 510 review: Redemption comes cheap with this robot vacuum

With a push of the Auto button, the Hovo will set out to clean, then return when it needs a charge -- if you want to send it home early, just hit the Charge button. There's also a spot-cleaning mode, as well as a "Full Charge & Go" function, where the Hovo will automatically begin to clean when its battery is full, return to the base when it needs to recharge, then repeat. All of these are departures from the QQ5's timer-based design, where you'd specify exactly how long you wanted it to clean for, and as you'll see, it's a departure that impacts how well the Hovo cleans.

The Hovo performed shockingly well on hardwood floors. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Performance and usability
Without timed cleaning, a robot vacuum typically needs to be able to decide for itself when things are clean enough to justify returning to the base. Neato vacuums do this by mapping out each room, then returning to the base once they've gone over all of it, row by row. Roombas do it using a complex algorithm that bounces them around until the computer is satisfied that it's been everywhere. The clever LG Hom-Bot maps out the room by taking pictures of the ceiling.

The Hovo, on the other hand, isn't quite as smart. It bounces and spirals about randomly, often going over one side of the room several times and the other side just once or twice. It can't tell where it's already been or where it needs to go, so it'll never have enough information to quit cleaning at the appropriate time. Fortunately, I think Infinuvo has the right answer to this shortcoming: the Hovo doesn't quit. It isn't smart enough to decide that things are clean enough, so Infinuvo chose not to program it to make that decision. Instead, it'll simply keep cleaning until you tell it to stop, or until the battery runs down. At that point, it'll head back to the base for a well-earned rest.

At first, this sounds less than ideal. If you're tidying things up in the 20 minutes before guests arrive, it would certainly be more convenient to clean a room with a Roomba or a Neato, either of which could do a satisfactory job in 10 minutes or less, then automatically return to their bases. With the Hovo, you'd have to set it to clean, then remember to tell it to stop, too.

However, let's say you've set the Hovo to clean your apartment while you're out at work. Do you really care if it spends way too long cleaning your living room? I probably wouldn't -- especially if it means that I'll be getting the cleaning performance of a housecleaner with OCD.

Rice (out of 2.5 oz)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Medium-pile carpet  
Short-pile carpet  
Hardwood floor  
Infinuvo Hovo 510
2.33 
2.45 
2.48 
iRobot Roomba 880
2.38 
2.43 
2.33 
Neato XV Essential
2.22 
2.28 
2.28 
iRobot Roomba 790
2 
2.32 
2.25 
Neato XV Signature Pro
2.05 
2.33 
2.13 
LG Hom-Bot Square
1.85 
1.87 
2.13 
Infinuvo CleanMate QQ5
1.55 
1.8 
0.8 

To an extent, the numbers back up the notion that this approach to cleaning can yield great results. Look at those marks for our black rice test -- the Hovo scored better on hardwood floors and on short-pile carpet than any other robot vacuum that we've reviewed, and on mid-pile carpet it was edged out by only one machine, the Roomba 880. That's a fairly astonishing result given the QQ5's abysmal performance, and it reinforces the idea that Infinuvo got the basics right with this machine.

In fairness, the Hovo ran for longer than the Neato or Roomba vacuums that we tested -- but only because those vacuums decided they were done. The Hovo won't, and in my opinion, that's a good thing, because, given that it isn't as orderly or efficient a cleaner as some of the competition, I don't think I'd trust it to make that decision correctly. The Hovo is a dumb machine -- but it's smart enough to know that it's dumb. And, like I said, running longer than needed isn't a terrible thing, and it's certainly better than not running long enough.

Sawdust/sand mix (out of 1.25 oz)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Medium-pile carpet  
Short-pile carpet  
Hardwood floor  
Neato XV Essential
0.50 
0.32 
1.03 
iRobot Roomba 880
0.4 
0.43 
1.18 
Neato XV Signature Pro
0.42 
0.43 
0.92 
iRobot Roomba 790
0.3 
0.23 
1.12 
Infinuvo Hovo 510
0.28 
0.2 
1.23 
LG Hom-Bot Square
0.23 
0.27 
0.75 
Infinuvo CleanMate QQ5
0.15 
0.13 
0.07 

Our sand and sawdust mixture was up next; again, we saw an extremely impressive result on hardwood floors: a near-perfect score that bested every other machine we've looked at. On the carpets, however, things were less impressive, and that fits the pattern that we've seen with other machines (getting sand and sawdust out of carpet fibers is a lot more challenging than getting it off of a smooth surface, where it doesn't have anywhere to hide).

Both of the Hovo's carpet scores were just barely a step up from those of the QQ5, and that isn't saying a whole lot. Since the sand and sawdust is our closest analog to dust, the results suggest that carpet-owners concerned with allergens may want to splurge instead on one of the slightly more expensive Neato robot vacuums, which performed much better on carpets, and which can also come equipped with HEPA filters.

Pet hair (out of 0.2 oz)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Medium-pile carpet  
Short-pile carpet  
Hardwood floor  
Neato XV Signature Pro
0.15 
0.15 
0.18 
Neato XV Essential
0.13 
0.15 
0.15 
iRobot Roomba 880
0.12 
0.10 
0.17 
iRobot Roomba 790
0.047 
0.05 
0.17 
LG Hom-Bot Square
0.083 
0.02 
0.08 
Infinuvo CleanMate QQ5
N/A 
0.02 
N/A 
Infinuvo Hovo 510
N/A 
N/A 
N/A 

This brings us to what ultimately proved to be the Hovo's kryptonite: pet hair. Like the QQ5 that came before it, the Hovo just couldn't handle the stuff. Even the shortest, wispiest clumps would inevitably wind around the Hovo's brushroll, ultimately causing it to stop in its tracks and beep out a cry for help. It never made it more than a few minutes into a run before getting tangled, and never successfully moved a weigh-able amount of hair into its bin. If you have pets and you're looking for a robot vacuum that'll help you pick up after them, you'll need to look elsewhere.

The Hovo couldn't handle our pet hair tests. Ry Crist/CNET

This propensity for tangles is a bit distressing, as it suggests that the Hovo might not feature quite as rugged or well-designed a build as some of its competitors, but that isn't terribly surprising for a budget-priced appliance. The Hovo comes with a one-year limited warranty -- the same as Roomba or Neato.

Conclusion
The Infinuvo Hovo 510 is not an exceptional robot vacuum, but that's not what you should be expecting at this price. In the $200 to $300 price range, you should be expecting a machine that will clean reliably in most situations, with enough basic features to make keeping your home tidy into noticeably less of a hassle. I think that the Hovo fits that bill, which is absolutely more than its predecessor, the CleanMate QQ5 can say. Kudos to Infinuvo for taking a big step forward.

That said, if I were buying a robot vacuum right now, I'd probably spend the extra money on the midpriced Neato XV Essential or Neato XV Signature Pro, both of which performed quite well in our tests and aren't as painful a splurge as the top-rated iRobot Roomba 880. But if I saw the Infinuvo on the shelf at a reasonable price, I'd definitely consider it -- and that's miles away from how I felt about the brand five months ago.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Cleaner Type robotic
  • Exterior Color black