Despite robot vacuum competition heating up, we're still waiting for a competent model at a reasonable price. Maybe Black & Decker's first entry into the field -- the Smartech Robotic Vacuum on display at CES -- can fill that void.
Sure, we quite like models from iRobot and Neato, but expect to shell out $700 plus for a current gen model and upward of $500 even for an older Neato. Starting in March, you'll be able to buy any one of four new Black & Decker bots priced between $300 and $400.
At the top of the range, the $400 Smartech bot has features competitive with iRobot and Neato. Like the recent Neato Botvac Connected and Roomba 980, you can steer the Smartech bot with an app on your phone and set a schedule for it.
Better yet, the $400 Smartech bot senses whether it's vacuuming carpet or hardwood and switches modes automatically. We saw Smartech debuted on stick vacuums at CES last year. The rest of its specs are competitive as well.
- 90 minutes of battery life
- 1-liter dust bin
- A HEPA filter
- Three cleaning modes: Auto, Quick and Spot Clean
- Anti-tangle bristles
- iOS and Android apps
A couple of gimmicks -- you can also change the color of an LED on top of the Smartech vac and name it in the app -- round out the features.
Unfortunately, those two add-ons aren't the first to go when you start cutting the price for the cheaper models. The $380, $350, and $300 models primarily cut the anti-tangle brush, battery life, and smarts respectively.
Regardless, if the Smartech line can navigate and clean as well as the high-priced competition, Black & Decker's army of robo vacs will be well positioned to move in on iRobot and Neato's turf.