The ultimate head-to-head between two popular vacuum models.
Along with laundry and dishwashing, vacuuming is one of the most persistent domestic tasks. And if you have pets, small children or both, then cleaning your floors is probably a weekly, if not a daily, occurrence. That means you'll need reliable hardware to tackle this chore consistently.
Enter the vacuum cleaner. But choosing from thousands of options can be overwhelming to say the least. Do you go with a cordless vacuum? They're lightweight and discreet yet powerful. Or do you go with a robot vacuum? These automatic machines are programmed to do all the work for you, yet they often come at a lofty price.
Both models are useful and convenient -- and they both have unique strengths and weaknesses. That may make it tricky to decide which vacuum cleaner is right for you. This comparison will help you pick the best for your needs by making the case for and against each type. For more vacuum tips, explore the proper way to vacuum your floor and these tips to help your robot vacuum clean even better.
I've previously written about why cordless vacuum cleaners are a standout option when shopping for floor cleaning hardware. These vacuums are lighter, smaller, and easier to use and store than upright vacuums, and most importantly you won't have to stop vacuuming every few minutes to unplug and replug the cord to a closer outlet. Cordless vacuums also come with easy emptying capabilities, and some brands even incorporate charging docks that automatically empty the dustbins.
In the battle with robot vacuums specifically, cordless models tend to be much quicker in their cleaning.
While top-of-the-line robot cleaners can navigate rooms efficiently, many move across floors somewhat randomly or get stuck on furniture around your home (like getting caught in your curtains that fall to the floor).
Depending on house or room size, you can usually be done cleaning with a stick vac in an hour, while robot vacuums will certainly take more time. The problem is, a cordless vacuum may not last the full hour.
One of the main downsides of cordless vacuum cleaners is the somewhat inconsistent lifespan of its batteries. As a battery-operated machine, they have a finite runtime.
For instance, Dyson claims its V15 Detect model offers a run time of 60 minutes, but the company qualifies the statement saying, "actual run time will vary based on power mode, dust level, floor type and/or attachments used." Tineco, another cordless vacuum maker, lists the run time of its A11 Hero as just 40 minutes, though they do have an option to purchase another battery that can be charged on the charging deck simultaneously. Comparatively, robot vacuum cleaners battery lasts longer. Many models' batteries last between 120 and 180 minutes on average, though that can decrease to about 60 minutes on high pile, thick carpet.
But perhaps the biggest downside of a cordless vacuum is that you still have to do a bit of work. With even the most advanced stick vac, you'll still have to perform the physical act of vacuuming. If you're tired of vacuuming back and forth again and again, then a robot vacuum cleaner is what you should buy instead.
Robot vacuum cleaners are often associated with supreme convenience. When you hear the term, you probably envision a machine that hunts down dirt and debris with predator-like precision. And you're not far off.
Robot vacuums run fully autonomously and automatically. They self-navigate on any flooring type, from hardwoods to carpets, and some models can even be programmed to have a cleaning schedule and to sync to smartphones and smart home devices. For example, iRobot's latest Roomba vacuums are activated by a mobile app or smart home sensor to start cleaning when you leave your home.
Still, even the most sophisticated robots can fail from time to time. From poop-smear disasters to getting tangled up in electrical cords, one of the biggest issues with a robot vacuum is that you'll constantly need to be on the lookout for potential obstacles.
While robot vacuums can be mapped to your floor plan and are engineered to avoid hazards, even the most advanced models can't avoid common household interference.
If you're not willing to declutter your floors before cleaning, then a basic robot vacuum probably isn't the right choice. You'll have to either spend more for a smarter machine that steers clear of trouble, or go the cordless vacuum route.
That brings us to another robot vacuum drawback: the price. A good robot vacuum costs anywhere from $400 to well over $1,000, putting it out of reach for many US households. While not cheap by any means, cordless vacuums tend to come in under $500 and reliable models can be had for as little as $200. But if you're willing to spend the money, and don't care about tidying up as quickly, then a robot vacuum's cleaning prowess is unbeatable.
While that heading may be frustrating, it really does depend. It depends on your specific needs, wants, situation and budget. If you prioritize hands-off ease and don't mind spending the big bucks, then a robot vacuum is certainly the way to go. But if you don't mind putting in a little elbow grease and want something that cleans quickly and efficiently, then I recommend you go with a cordless option instead.
With this in mind, it really will depend on your priority list. And it's up to you to decide what those priorities are. But when you are ready to buy, you can then explore CNET's favorite cordless vacuums and robot vacuums of the year.
For more vacuum tips, explore the best Roomba alternatives to keep your floors clean and the best robot vacuum deals available now.