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LG Hom-Bot Square review: Don't get sucked in by this overpriced vacuum

This pricey robot just doesn't have enough suck for your buck.

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Ry Crist
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Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Appliances

Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, and home networking.

9 min read

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.

2013_07_29_2210.jpg
7.8

LG Hom-Bot Square

The Good

With its multiple cleaning modes, the <b>LG Hom-Bot Square</b> gives the user a terrific amount of control over how it operates. Its remote is convenient, easy to use, and well-designed.

The Bad

The Hom-Bot didn’t clean quite as well as some of the other vacuums we tested -- a major disappointment given its steep $799.99 price tag.

The Bottom Line

The Hom-Bot boasts some interesting bells and whistles, but after comparing its price and performance with the competition, it’s a tough purchase to justify.

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 Roomba, and $350 more than the Neato XV Signature Pro, which, after over 40 hours of testing, was our decisive winner in terms of performance. I like its overall polish and its tweakable settings, but without better vacuuming performance (or perhaps a price cut), the Hom-Bot Square is a difficult robot to recommend.

Colin West McDonald / CNET

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)

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Usability
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.

Colin West McDonald / CNET

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.

Performance

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

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 
LG Hom-Bot Square
0.083 
0.02 
0.08 
iRobot Roomba 790
0.047 
0.05 
0.17 
Infinuvo CleanMate QQ5
N/A 
0.02 
N/A 

Sawdust/sand mix (out of 1.25 oz)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Medium-pile carpet  
Short-pile carpet  
Hardwood floor  
Neato XV Signature Pro
0.42 
0.43 
0.92 
iRobot Roomba 790
0.3 
0.23 
1.12 
LG Hom-Bot Square
0.23 
0.27 
0.75 
Infinuvo CleanMate QQ5
0.15 
0.13 
0.07 

The Roomba and the Neato both routinely edged out the Hom-Bot in our cleaning tests. It underperformed on patterned, short-pile carpet, particularly in our pet hair tests, where it was barely able to pick up anything at all. This tied it with the Infinuvo CleanMate QQ5 Plus, and that's not a good thing, as we found the Infinuvo to be practically useless for cleaning pet hair (or much else, for that matter).

That said, in general, I give the Hom-Bot a passing grade for cleaning power, as it left our floors looking noticeably cleaner after almost every run. On a common, plushy, midpile carpet, the Hom-Bot even managed to pick up about twice as much pet hair as the Roomba -- although it still came up well short of the Neato. The Hom-Bot was also a strong performer in our nuts-and-bolts test, picking up some of the largest bits we threw at it, the same ones that caused other vacuums to jam. These bright spots aside, it didn't finish on top in a single one of our testing scenarios. For a unit that costs significantly more than the competition, that sort of underperformance is a problem.

The Hom-Bot's various cleaning modes were also hit and miss. I had a hard time detecting much difference between Zig-Zag Mode and Cell by Cell Mode, except for the fact that a cell-by-cell run took a little bit longer. On the flip side, the Hom-Bot's spot-cleaning mode worked better in our tests than the spot-cleaning modes of other robot vacuums. In this mode, the Hom-Bot spirals outward from its starting point to cover a circular area with a radius of a few feet. I'd like to see LG extend this radius even farther, as the spiral motion seems to be an extremely effective one for the Hom-Bot. A dedicated "Spiral Mode" capable of covering an entire room would have been a great feature. For now, though, spot-cleaning mode will have to suffice.

Colin West McDonald / CNET

Cleaning power aside, the Hom-Bot performs as you'd want a high-end robot vacuum to. Its cliff sensors work well, ensuring that you won't have to worry about watching your investment tumbling down the stairs. The navigational cameras it uses -- one scanning for debris, the other scanning your ceiling -- seem to do a good job, too. In our tests, we found the Hom-Bot quite capable of finding its way around a furnished space, then back to its charging dock. It's a bit finicky at times, though. On more than one occasion, it stopped mid-cleaning and asked me to clear an obstruction from its wheel (I never found one, and just picking it up and placing it back down would get it started again). The fact that it talks to you, telling you exactly what the problem is -- or at least, what it thinks the problem is -- is a nice feature, but it would be even nicer if it didn't get stuck quite so often in the first place.

Maintenance
The Hom-Bot's bin, while on the smaller side, is one of the easiest to remove and empty, more so than any other vacuum that we tested. This helps make up for the fact that you'll need to empty it pretty regularly, ideally following every run. With its glossy finish and touch-pad controls, it won't take long before your Hom-Bot is covered in fingerprints, so nitpickers might also want to regularly wipe the machine clean.

The Hom-Bot offers around 100 minutes of cleaning time on a 2-hour battery charge. If the Hom-Bot's battery runs low during a run, it will automatically return to its base to charge, then return to where it left off and finish cleaning. This puts it on par with most other robot vacuums, although it's worth noting that the Roomba 790 boasts up to 4 hours of cleaning on a single charge.

The Hom-Bot comes packaged with a spare dust bin filter, along with a brush for cleaning both the filter and the sensors, two spare side spinner brushes, and a pair of AAA batteries for the remote. If any issues arise with your Hom-Bot, a Smart Diagnosis button on the machine will help talk you through the solution.

Colin West McDonald / CNET

Service and support
LG offers a two-year limited warranty on the body of the Hom-Bot, and a six-month limited warranty on the LiPB battery. Common support answers, along with digital manuals, troubleshooting tips, software updates, and how-to videos, are all available on LG's Web site. Support is also available over the phone at 1-800-243-0000.

Conclusion
The LG Hom-Bot Square just can't compete with the Neato XV Signature Pro, not in terms of cleaning power and certainly not in terms of price. If the Neato's simplicity or lack of a remote turns you off, I'd steer you not toward the Hom-Bot, but towards iRobot's Roomba 790 -- it cleans a little bit better, costs a little bit less, and still has some very attractive features of its own.

Given the strength of those two alternatives, and particularly the value of the Neato, I really can't see myself recommending the LG Hom-Bot Square to anyone except for the Walter Whites out there, who might prefer to micromanage the cleaning process (and who also have the money to spend on such an expensive machine).

2013_07_29_2210.jpg
7.8

LG Hom-Bot Square

Score Breakdown

Performance 7Design 8Features 9Maintenance 8
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