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Techko Maid Smart Maid RS118 review: Not smart, not much of a maid

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Spring cleaning season is upon us, and the $250 Smart Maid RS118 from California-based Techko Maid wants to pitch in. With dual sweeper and mopping functionality, it's a robotic floor cleaner that promises to handle just about any type of mess on just about any type of surface.

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4.7

Techko Maid Smart Maid RS118

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The Techko Maid Smart Maid RS118 is fairly simple to use, and offers two separate cleaning modes.

The Bad

Neither of those cleaning modes delivered satisfying performance in any of our tests.

The Bottom Line

With no real smarts and relatively little actual cleaning power, this sad robot is borderline useless.

Unfortunately, this maid isn't quite up to the task. The sweeper lacks suction power, the bin lacks a filter, and the rear-mounted mop head lacks the ability to get into corners. Like the iRobot Braava 380t , you won't be able to schedule automatic cleaning runs -- something which cuts directly against the appeal of having a robotic floor cleaner in the first place. Given all of that, the Smart Maid simply isn't worth the money you'll spend on it, nor is it worth the time you'll need to spend cleaning up the spots it misses.

Cleaning house with the Techko Maid Smart Maid RS118 (pictures)

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With its rather dated design, the Smart Maid looks the part of a cheap, budget-friendly floor cleaner. There's not a whole lot of style to this device, so if you're looking for something aesthetically pleasing, you'll need to look elsewhere.

The aesthetic that does manage to come through is a slightly creepy one. Turn the face of the cleaner upside down, and the Smart Maid transforms into a depressed clown, complete with teardrops. One of those teardrops even glows blue in sweeper mode, as if the thing is crying. Plug the Smart Maid in to charge, and that light glows red. That's right -- this clown cries blood.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

All coulrophobia aside, the design isn't a terribly practical one, either. The mop-head is located on the back of the unit, meaning that it's just about impossible for the Smart Maid to mop corners. The sweeper's bin doesn't have any sort of filter, which should be an immediate deal-breaker for anyone with allergies. It's a noisy cleaner, too, far more so than the whisper-quiet Braava 380t.

About the only good thing that I can say for the Smart Maid's design is that I appreciate the top-mounted handle, which makes it easy to pick up and carry. Aside from that, almost every design element feels poorly constructed, and as poorly thought out as the clownish appearance.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

The Smart Maid doesn't feature any sort of water reservoir for its mopping head, so you'll need to use wet, disposable cloths, or spray a generous amount of cleaner onto the floor. For dusting, you can use dry, Swiffer-style cloths, or you can remove the mop head altogether if you just want to sweep up a few crumbs.

What you can't do is schedule the Smart Maid to sweep those crumbs up automatically with preset cleaning runs. If you want it to clean, you'll need to start it yourself. You'll also need to tell it when to stop, because the Smart Maid doesn't know how to tell when it's finished covering an area.

Also absent: a charging dock. You'll need to plug the Smart Maid into a wall socket using a DC cable in order to recharge the battery. Not a huge deal, but still, not nearly as convenient as robotic floor cleaners with enough smarts to navigate back to a home base and recharge themselves.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Using the Smart Maid is easy enough -- just set it down on the floor and press either the sweeper button or the mop button to get it started. The Smart Maid doesn't map out the room, and it doesn't seem to keep track of where it has and has not cleaned.

Instead, it bounces about randomly, going with the flow. If it detects an open, central area, it'll start to move in sweeping circles. If it detects a wall, it'll repeatedly bump its front side along the length of it, which isn't terribly effective. This is especially true for mopping, since the mop is in the back.

This all leads to cleaning performance that fares a lot better in the center of your room than it does along the edges. In all of my tests, the Smart Maid missed spots, even after twenty minutes of cleaning the same, small area. Most often, these spots were the corners or along the walls, though the Smart Maid would occasionally miss spots in the middle, too.

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Ry Crist/CNET

I started my cleaning tests by coating each of the test floors with half an ounce of a powdery dust substitute. The sweeper wasn't able to get more than a fine coating of the dust up into the bin, but the mop head actually fared pretty well, with more dust trapped in the Smart Maid's disposable cloth than I had seen captured by the Braava's reusable microfiber cloth.

Still, the Smart Maid can't adequately clean along walls or in corners, so none of the runs left me satisfied. There was always dust left over that the rear-mounted mop head simply had no way of getting to.

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The mop head actually did a decent job of trapping dust, but it couldn't successfully clean in corners or along walls. Ry Crist/CNET

This applied to the rest of the tests, as well. No matter what mess I was cleaning, no matter what surface I was cleaning it off of, the Smart Maid would fail to get the corners clean.

Mud was up next. Splattering the stuff across each of the floors, I found that the Smart Maid did the best job with hardwood, leaving the testing area noticeably cleaner then it found it. Of course, it wasn't the shiny, totally clean floor you'd probably hope for, and again, the corners were still dirty. Still, this was better than it did on vinyl, and much better than ceramic tile, where it simply smeared the mess around and left mud caked into the grout.

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The Smart Maid couldn't get mud completely off of hardwood flooring, and it left the corners dirty. Ry Crist/CNET

That said, tile wasn't as much of a problem for the Smart Maid as it was for the Braava, which struggled with each and every test on the surface. The Smart Maid actually gave me its best result when I told it to clean splattered cooking oil off of the ceramic tile (we dye the oil green so it shows up a little better on camera).

The Braava was almost totally unable to clean grout, leaving greenish gunk in between the tiles and forcing me down to the floor with a rag to scrub them clean again by hand. The Smart Maid wasn't great at grout either, but it wasn't quite so bad, and actually did a decent job of picking up my mini-oil spill. It even managed to clean one of the two corners I had dirtied up.

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Ry Crist/CNET

Unfortunately, this was the only test that offered anything close to a positive result. At the other end of the spectrum was my tomato sauce test, which the Smart Maid simply could not handle.

This was most true on vinyl, where the spilled sauce quickly gunked up the Smart Maid's wheels. After less than a minute of cleaning, it got stuck, and no amount of nudging could get it rolling again. I was forced to abort the test and spend an unpleasant 15 minutes scrubbing tomato sauce out of the the Smart Maid's underside. Clearly, I had asked too much of it.

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Tomato sauce was too much for the Smart Maid to handle. Ry Crist/CNET

Overall, the tests were overwhelmingly disappointing. The Smart Maid never managed to impress me. There wasn't a single run that didn't require me to re-clean the test area by hand afterwards. For an automatic cleaner, it's an abysmal level of performance.

Given that kind of disappointment, I really can't recommend this cleaner to anybody, especially not when iRobot's Braava 380t retails for just $50 more. While not a perfect cleaner, the Braava is a quiet, smart little navigator capable of getting into corners for adequate dusting, if not deep cleaning. That's certainly leaps and bounds ahead of what the Smart Maid is capable of.

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4.7

Techko Maid Smart Maid RS118

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Performance 4Features 5Design 4Usability 6.5