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Samsung PowerBot VR9000 review: The pricey PowerBot isn't quite a clean sweep

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The PowerBot struggled to clean alongside the walls of our test pens. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You might think that the extra time spent along the perimeter means that the PowerBot cleans better along the walls than it does in the center, but you'd be mistaken. The opposite is true, actually. Throughout almost all of my tests, the PowerBot struggled to pick up debris along the walls. That isn't unusual for a robot vacuum, but it's less of an issue for models with a side-spinning brush, like the Roomba 880 and the Neato BotVac 85.

Another pattern I noticed was that the PowerBot had a hard time cleaning the areas to the immediate left and right of the base station. Take another look at that glow stick shot. That green dot on the left side of the pen is the base station, and the corners to each side of it are totally dim. That's because the PowerBot flat-out missed them. In almost all of my tests, the PowerBot would approach those corners, but then stop short and turn around -- almost as if it was afraid of bumping into the base. This held true no matter which side I placed the base station on, and the result was always leftover debris that the PowerBot completely missed.

Rice (out of 2.5 oz.)

Neato BotVac 85
2.45
2.38
2.45
iRobot Roomba 880
2.38
2.43
2.33
Samsung PowerBot VR9000
2.33
2.23
2.28
Neato XV Signature Pro
2.05
2.33
2.13

Legend:

Midpile carpet
Low-pile carpet
Hardwood floor

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

In general, though, the PowerBot did a nice job in my tests. The battery held out through dozens of runs and recharged quickly, and the performance scores were comparable to top-of-the-line models from Roomba and Neato. Price aside, if I were using the PowerBot in my home, I imagine I'd be pretty happy with what I got out of it.

Our first test is black rice, which we use to represent the typical sort of crumbs and particulates you might find in a carpet that needs cleaning. With multiple runs across three different test floors -- plushy midpile carpet, berber-style low-pile carpet, and hardwood -- the PowerBot picked up a respectable amount.

Still, both the Neato BotVac 85 and the Roomba 880 came out slightly ahead. The only robot vacuum from this class that the PowerBot was able to beat was the lower-end Neato XV Signature Pro, and even then, it wasn't a clean sweep -- the PowerBot only beat it on two out of three test floors.

Pet hair (out of 0.2 oz.)

Neato BotVac 85
0.17
0.17
0.20
Samsung PowerBot VR9000
0.15
0.15
0.18
Neato XV Signature Pro
0.15
0.15
0.18
iRobot Roomba 880
0.12
0.10
0.17

Legend:

Midpile carpet
Low-pile carpet
Hardwood floor

Note:

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

After the black rice tests, I moved on to pet hair. We've got a garbage bag full of the stuff donated by our friendly neighborhood dog groomer, and I was eager to see if the PowerBot was as good at picking it up as our reigning champ, the Neato BotVac 85.

In the end, the PowerBot came pretty close, finishing just slightly behind the BotVac and tying the Neato XV Signature Pro, another solid performer from the pet hair challenge. Roomba struggles a bit here, with the 880 barely picking up half of the stuff on carpets.

Sand (out of 1.25 oz.)

iRobot Roomba 880
0.35
0.58
1.25
Neato BotVac 85
0.43
0.45
1.22
Neato XV Signature Pro
0.48
0.45
1.12
Samsung PowerBot VR9000
0.38
0.27
1.18

Legend:

Midpile carpet
Low-pile carpet
Hardwood floor

Note:

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

We finish up with the most challenging test for our robot vacuums -- 1.25 ounces of sand. Most of the bots we test have an easy enough time on hardwood, but carpets are a different story altogether. Even the top-scoring Roomba 880 wasn't able to pick up fifty percent once we ingrained the sand into our carpets.

Not surprisingly, the PowerBot saw similar struggles, barely managing thirty percent on midpile carpet and scoring even lower on low-pile. That puts it below both Neato models in the rankings, too.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Is it worth it?

At $1,000, the Samsung PowerBot VR9000 is priced at a premium, but it doesn't offer patently better performance than less expensive models like the iRobot Roomba 880 and the Neato BotVac 85. It didn't even beat out the top cleaner from Neato's previous generation of robot vacuums, the two-year-old XV Signature Pro . That vacuum costs just $450, and two essentially finished in a tie.

Performance isn't the only consideration, though. The PowerBot is a more feature-rich model than the other robot vacuums we've tested, and it dials up the cool factor with its laser-guided point-cleaning capabilities. Still, you won't find fairly basic features like a side-sweeping brush or a handle, and the bulky design might be too tall to fit under your furniture.

In sum, I just don't see enough here to justify the splurge, and even if I did, I'd want to wait to see if we get new robot vacuums from Roomba and Neato this year, and to see how well the app-enabled Dyson 360 Eye cleans. With smarts potentially coming into play in the near future, it might not be the best time to buy. I say wait, or go with something less expensive.

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