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Smart Home

This isn't the Samsung robo-vac we're looking for

The $700 PowerBot Essential features a few upgrades and begs a few questions.

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The Samsung PowerBot Essential features the same cleaning power of an earlier model, but at a lower price.

Samsung

With an eye on the holidays, Samsung's bringing the price of its PowerBot robot vacuum series down to a competitive $700. The new Samsung PowerBot Essential Robot Vacuum features the same cyclonic force cleaning power of the $900 PowerBot VR9000 we reviewed in May (which costs £700 at Argos in the UK as well as AU$1,499 in Australia), as well as the same whole home mapping system facilitated by its digital camera. New to the PowerBot Essential is a wider motorized brushroll with a combination of hard and soft bristles aimed at more effective cleaning in a single pass across your floors.

If the Samsung PowerBot Essential can clean more effectively for less than the VR9000, it'll be an appealing option in the growing field of robot vacuums, especially for Samsung brand loyalists. We liked the VR9000, and thought it a competent cleaner, but had issues with the price.

Missed connection

It's not clear what exactly Samsung's cutting from the VR9000 to make it cheaper, but it's missing the connected prowess we've seen from similarly priced competition. Smarts were not a feature of the VR9000 either, and now that we've seen it successfully implemented on the Editors' Choice winning $700 Neato Connected Botvac, Samsung's falling behind. And since the Neato out-cleaned the VR9000 in our tests, the Essential's new brushroll will have to show marked cleaning improvement to make this vac worthwhile for non-Samsung loyalists.

Given Samsung's relationship to SmartThings, and SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson's vision for a robot vacuum that can double as a smart home security sentry, a connected robot vacuum from Samsung could leap well past the rudimentary smarts of Neato. Samsung matches most of Neato's smarts with its included remote, so a connected vac from Samsung could be a great multitasker, but the Essential doesn't make that leap.

Outlook

You can purchase the Samsung PowerBot Essential for $700 from Samsung's site. It's also available via Best Buy. Internationally, the price converts to around £466 and AU$995.

I'm curious to see if the Samsung PowerBot Essential can improve upon the VR9000's cleaning game while reducing the price. The Essential looks to be an incremental upgrade and a positional move as far as pricing. It could be a solid option for you or a family member this holiday season, but it'll need to impress to keep up with the newest Neato. It's also fair to want a bit more in terms of smarts from the brand that owns SmartThings.

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