LG's newest robot vacuum, the Hom-Bot Square (pronounced "Home Bot"), sets itself apart from the competition by offering a wide array of customizable cleaning modes designed to put you in control of the cleaning process. Like most robot vacuums, you can set it and forget it if you like, letting it run automatically on the default settings. To really get the most out of it, you'll want to experiment with the different cleaning modes. This isn't to say that the Hom-Bot is high-maintenance, but it's definitely better suited for users who want to take a more active role in their robot vacuuming, tweaking the variables to maximize cleaning efficiency. Fans of the television show "Breaking Bad" might remember that slacker homeowner Jesse Pinkman is a Roomba owner. The Hom-Bot, on the other hand, would be a better fit for a control freak like Walter White.
Fortunately, the Hom-Bot makes fiddling with the different modes about as easy as it gets. Just press a button on the handy remote to turn any one of them on. The Hom-Bot will offer a vocal acknowledgement of the change, then display an icon on the machine to help you remember what it's doing. Once the machine has determined that it's finished, it'll automatically return to its charging station and sing a little victory song. And yes, there's a mute button on that remote, too.
There's no question that the Hom-Bot will do a decent-enough job cleaning your home, and it sports some undeniably cool features that the competition can't match. However, the thing costs $799.99. That's $100 more than a top-of-the-line
Construction and design
The Hom-Bot has an attractive and durable red casing with a sleek, rounded-square design that LG claims helps the Hom-Bot clean corners more effectively. The true implication is that the Hom-Bot cleans corners more effectively than the Roomba, and indeed, much of the Hom-Bot's design seems specifically intended to one-up the Roomba wherever possible. The Roomba has one sweeping brush -- the Hom-Bot has two. The Roomba has one primary cleaning mode -- the Hom-Bot has two, plus five additional modes. Features like these might look good on paper, but it's worth noting that none of them seemed to give the Hom-Bot an actual leg up over the Roomba in terms of cleaning power. It certainly wasn't as effective as the top-performing Neato XV Signature Pro, either.
LG's other design features are more worthwhile. I'll take the Hom-Bot's small, simple remote over the Roomba's bulky touch pad any day, especially given that the Hom-Bot remote nestles neatly and conveniently into the charging station, while the Roomba's will inevitably spend most of its time as a high-tech paperweight on your coffee table (the Neato, on the other hand, doesn't have a remote at all).
The Hom-Bot's HEPA filter-equipped dust bin was another plus. The cavity that houses it pops open with a gentle push; then, you just grab the bin's handle and lift it up and out for emptying. It might sound like a little thing, but it's actually an important upgrade over other bins you need to jerk out of their respective machines, often coughing out clouds of dust in the process. I also appreciated that the Hom-Bot is as quiet as it is, operating with a gentle hum that's much less noisy than the competition.
LG Hom-Bot robotic vacuum cleaner tries hard (pictures) See full gallery
As with most robot vacuums, getting the Hom-Bot going is easy. Just press the start button to wake it up, then press it again to set it off on a floor-cleaning quest for crumbs. But the Hom-Bot deserves a few extra points for usability, as its remote puts a plethora of cleaning modes into the palm of your hand. The default is Zig-Zag Mode, in which the Hom-Bot will bounce around somewhat randomly to figure out the space, then zigzag back and forth across the room. Press a button, and you can switch over to Cell by Cell Mode, which causes it to divide the room into a grid, then aggressively sweep back and forth and left and right within each square of the grid for a supposedly more thorough cleaning. In our tests, we didn't see much of a difference in performance between the two modes, but it's certainly worth experimenting within your own home.
Other settings were noticeably more useful. Repeat Mode will prevent the Hom-Bot from deciding that the job is done, forcing it to keep on cleaning the space until you tell it to stop. You can activate Turbo Mode to rev the robot up past its default speed for maximum suction (the Hom-Bot will do this automatically when it's cleaning carpet). Best of all might be My Space Mode, which lets you use the remote to steer the vacuum around a small area and manually define its cleaning boundaries. From then on, the Hom-Bot will remember those boundaries and go straight to that spot whenever the mode is activated. Maybe you want to vacuum the cat's litter box area every day, or maybe it's the holidays and you want the Hom-Bot to pick up pine needles as they drop off of your Christmas tree. Whatever you use it for, it's a remarkably handy feature, and one that seems obvious in hindsight, yet the Hom-Bot is the only robot vacuum to offer anything like it. Kudos to LG.
If you were so inclined, you could even activate all three of these settings at once, causing the Hom-Bot to clean your predefined My Space area at its fastest turbo settings over and over again, like a workaholic house-cleaner hopped up on caffeine pills. Would you actually want to do this? Maybe not, but the point is that you can. If you're looking for a robot vacuum that you can tweak and experiment with, then the Hom-Bot might be the machine you've been waiting for.
Scheduling daily runs with the Hom-Bot is another straightforward feature, although, like a cheap alarm clock, you can't set different times for different days, and you can't program it to skip days. This makes scheduling runs a much less flexible process than you'll get with the Roomba or the Neato.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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