Miele's new Scout RX1 robovac promises better cleaning smarts

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The Miele Scout RX1 packs a bevy of sensors and camera for smarter cleaning. Colin McDonald/CNET

Editor's note, September 4, 2014: This review has been updated with pricing and availability information.

Robot vacuums certainly are neat gadgets but aren't exactly known for efficiency. Appliance maker Miele hopes its new Scout RX1, shown off at IFA 2014, will change this reality. Boasting seven infrared sensors, a digital camera, and even a gyroscope, Miele says the Scout packs a level of smart navigation that, "borders on perfection." Additionally the cleaning machine has the brains to pause in its duties and recharge if necessary, then resume until its hunt for dirt is done.

Design

On the surface the Miele Scout RX1 looks like most robot vacuums which have hit the market within recent years. Flat, circular, almost puck-shaped, the RX1 could easily be mistaken for an iRobot Roomba or a growing list of challengers from the likes of LG or Neato. In fact when flipped over and seen from the bottom, the RX1 features what appear to be almost identical parts and components.

For instance, the two large wheels with knobby rubber tires could have come right off of the iRobot factory floor. The same goes for the long rotating brush that lies towards the back of the bot, next to an eerily familiar curved and removable dust tray. One difference, however, is the RX1's twin rotary side brushes. The norm for these devices is to have just one spinning sweeper which is designed to push dirt and debris (often hiding in crevices or wall edges) into the vacuum's underbelly.

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Aside from two side brushes, the RX1 is a splitting image of older Roomba vacs. Colin McDonald/CNET

Miele also makes a point to tout the Scout RX1's 89mm (3.5 inches) height which it says helps the device to slip under tables, cupboards, and couches with ease. Of course the Roomba 880 is practically just as low to the ground (3.6 inches). Another area where iRobot's latest device departs from conventional robovac design is its brushless design, what the company calls its AeroForce cleaning system.

A smarter vac that also sees

What helps the Scout RX1 really stand out from the robovac pack claim Miele is its enhanced intelligence. Specifically the RX1 features an array of infrared sensors along with a top-facing digital camera, plus the brains to operate them effectively. Indeed Miele explains that the RX1's cleaning algorithms were born from a unique collaboration with a certain hot shot robotics expert.

According to Miele the result is an automated vacuum clean able to scour floors quickly and efficiently, "track by track", with a minimum of wasted effort and maximum precision. Likewise the robot uses its electronic eyes to avoid unnecessary furniture collisions and of course tumbling down stairwells. Additionally the machine uses a gyro sensor that supposedly helps it keep tabs on how much it's turning and its direction.

Also pretty slick is the promised Scout RX1'a ability to pause in its vacuuming tasks when it senses its battery running low, return to its dock for charging, then pick up where it last left off. The machine says Miele will also be able to hunt down dirt across multiple rooms and not be intimidated by complex layouts.

Outlook

As they say the proof is in the pudding and the key to the Miele Scout RX1's success depends a great deal on whether it can pull off its promised performance. The gadget faces stiff competition from products which already possess a similar level of smart cleaning skills such as the Neato XV Essential and XV Signature.

And with an ultra-premium price of $900, the Scout RX1 commands a steep cost of entry. For this much cash, the RX1 had better demonstrate significantly improved robotic vacuuming skills. The Miele Scout RX1 is currently available for sale globally.

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