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Why are iRobot’s new Roombas so damn expensive? – CNET

Robot vacuum pioneer, iRobot, has big plans in the works. From new Roombas that clean themselves, to smart vacuums that communicate with floor-mopping machines, and even robotic lawn mowers, iRobot has been busy. But while these sophisticated home care systems sound impressive, even useful, they suffer from one glaring downside. They are all staggeringly expensive.…

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Why are iRobot’s new Roombas so damn expensive?     – CNET

Robot vacuum pioneer, iRobot, has big plans in the works. From new Roombas that clean themselves, to smart vacuums that communicate with floor-mopping machines, and even robotic lawn mowers, iRobot has been busy.
But while these sophisticated home care systems sound impressive, even useful, they suffer from one glaring downside. They are all staggeringly expensive. This move by iRobot is no accident. While it may seem reckless, it’s a reaction to the realities of today’s robot vacuum market. 
For its high-end plan to succeed, iRobot really needs to deliver on the bold promises of its new vacuum technology. Here’s an overview of what iRobot offers over its competition, and what it means for you.
Read: Roomba gets an upgrade and a new floor-mopping sidekick
Home robots have gone mainstream
Like TV sets in the early part of last century, robot vacuum cleaners were once aspirational, luxury appliances. Today that’s changed. Prices for entry-level cleaning bots have hit all-time lows, and continue to drop. You can now scoop up an entry-level robot vacuum for as little as $224. As with TVs, the idea of a single- or multi-robot home doesn’t sound outrageous.
The cause of this shift is certainly due to increased competition. These days iRobot faces a host of challengers. The list includes rivals such as Dyson, Electrolux, Samsung, LG, and lesser known companies like Neato, Eufy, Ecovacs, Electrolux. Even the crowdsourced corner of the hardware market is getting in on it, thanks to Narwhal and its promised self-cleaning vacuum, mop combo.

More automation means less work
Beating back competitors in a race to the bottom is a losing proposition for any trade. And battling over price alone is surely no way to innovate. I think it makes more sense to dream up brand-new products, ones that do things no robot cleaner has done before or yet as well. That appears to be what iRobot envisions with its current premium lineup. Both the $1,099 Roomba i7+ and $1,299 Roomba S9+ are built to work with the CleanBase doc. It both charges and empties out their dustbins, so there’s less mess to deal with.

The CleanBase cleans Roombas so you don’t have to.
iRobot
At the moment, these are the only robot vacuums available in the US that can pull off this trick. They weren’t the first to attempt this. Ecovacs self-cleaning vacuums offered similar functions in the past. The same is true for the Samsung Navibot S that promised an “auto dust emptying” feature. Neither robot made it to the US market.
And since manual cleaning is one of the biggest headaches associated with these machines, the feature could be worth paying extra for. That said, execution is critical to success. These new pricey Roombas must perform as advertised, otherwise their future looks shaky.
Another unique selling point iRobot makes for its expensive new products is their intelligent, collaborative operation. The Roomba S9+ will coordinate its cleaning activity with the company’s Braava Jet m6 robot mop. Both are linked to the iRobot mobile app. With one finger tap, the Roomba vacuums then tags the Braava to start mopping when its done. Again the goal is more automation, and less work for you.

iRobot’s latest Roomba and Braava mop will communicate to coordinate floor cleaning.
iRobot
iRobot also has plans outside of floor care. The iRobot Terra robot lawn mower will land in Germany first in Q3 of 2019. It’s then slated for US shores (and yards) by 2020. The Terra won’t come cheap either, with iRobot expecting it to cost about the same as other robotic grass-trimming solutions ($900 to $10,000).
The Robomow, and Honda Miio are similar systems you can purchase today. Unlike those products, the Terra will use wireless communication and software to navigate. In fact, it’ll be the first robot lawn mower to do so. The big upside here, and what sets the Terra apart, is you won’t need to deploy tedious guide wires along the ground. It’s a physical hassle that comes with current automatic mowers.

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Evolve, improve or die
As the first commercially successful robot vacuum brand, Roomba products enjoy commanding market share. Naturally all the other makers of domestic bots want a piece of the action. Arguably the biggest threat to Roomba comes from a legion of budget models. And even though they can cost as little as $200 to $300, many are quite advanced.
For example, $299 Eufy Robovac 30C and $179 Ecovacs N79 both link to mobile apps for command and control. Some create digital maps of your floors as they clean them. I especially like Ecovac’s app that displays the robot’s position in real-time as its cleaning. These Neato and Ecovacs models are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, too.
Competition isn’t only coming from entry-level vacuums either. Neato’s flagship model, the $829 Botvac D7 Connected, costs less than the Roomba s9+ ($1,299 with CleanBase, $999 without). Even so, it supports multiple room cleaning, and lets you drop virtual barriers into your floor plans. That way you can cordon off areas where your robot shouldn’t venture. 
Select Roombas just began storing maps last year. And they all still lack an official virtual barrier function, relying instead on less convenient physical barriers. That said, the new app-connected Roombas will accept voice commands to start and stop cleaning with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but that’s more keeping up with the rest of the market than an advanced feature.
A steep price for convenience   
You can’t deny that iRobot is charging a huge premium for its suite of floor cleaning products. Outfitting your home with them is an outrageously expensive proposition. You have to shell out for a $1,299 Roomba s9+ that empties its dustbin on its own. Next, you pair it with a new $499 Braava Jet m6 robot mop. That comes to an eye-popping $1,798. 
Based on what I’ve seen testing robot vacuums over the years across all price points, iRobot has a tall order to fill in terms of delivering enough value to justify such a high price tag. Most robot vacuums, Roombas included, don’t even reliably return to base without a hitch, let alone operate for months without human intervention. When you add to the mix a separate intelligent mopping machine running in tandem, the variables for unforeseen problems will no doubt increase. 
I’ll put iRobot’s new cleaners through our testing lab as soon as I can. I’d love to be surprised, but iRobot is going to have to demonstrate a remarkable leap forward in robot floor cleaning technology to justify the high cost of even the vacuum itself, let along the vacuum-mop combination. 

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Acer’s new smart speaker is a colorful contribution to the market – CNET

Acer’s new smart speaker will be available in early 2021. Acer If you’re interested in smart speakers, but not impressed by what you’ve seen from Amazon, Google or Apple, there are third-party speakers out there. Acer on Wednesday announced the Acer Halo, a $109 smart speaker with DTS sound, LED display and more.The Acer Halo sits…

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Acer’s new smart speaker is a colorful contribution to the market     – CNET

Acer’s new smart speaker will be available in early 2021.
Acer
If you’re interested in smart speakers, but not impressed by what you’ve seen from Amazon, Google or Apple, there are third-party speakers out there. Acer on Wednesday announced the Acer Halo, a $109 smart speaker with DTS sound, LED display and more.The Acer Halo sits on a base lit up by RGB lighting you can customize. The glowing lights can sync with streaming music, too. That music streams from a speaker with DTS sound designed to project in 360 degrees to fill the room.

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On the front of the speaker’s gray fabric cover, an LED light display provides visual information like weather or time. Acer is working on an app that will let you personalize the message or image displayed via LED.An LED display on the front of the speaker displays information.
Acer
The smarts behind this speaker come from Google Assistant. You’ll use the usual “Hey, Google” voice command to request music, podcasts, news and answers to questions. The Acer Halo is equipped with two far-field omnidirectional microphones to detect ambient noise and voice commands. A physical switch is available to mute the microphones.Acer isn’t the first third-party manufacturer to try its hand at a smart speaker. We’ve seen successful models from Bose and Sonos, among others. The Acer Halo Smart Speaker will be available in North America in early 2021 starting at $109. Its European price of 119 euros converts to about £110 or AU$200. 

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Google smart displays are getting a makeover, dark mode included – CNET

Google smart display interfaces are getting a new look.  Google Smart displays are just a few years old, but updates and redesigns are already in the works. Google just announced a brand new look for the user interface of its Google Assistant-enabled smart displays such as the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. Keeping tabs on…

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Google smart displays are getting a makeover, dark mode included     – CNET

Google smart display interfaces are getting a new look. 
Google
Smart displays are just a few years old, but updates and redesigns are already in the works. Google just announced a brand new look for the user interface of its Google Assistant-enabled smart displays such as the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. Keeping tabs on your homeThe overhaul starts with several new screens. The home screen now displays a quick glance at your day. In the morning that section is called “Your Morning” and it progresses throughout the day, displaying information like news, events on your calendar and the weather.

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Other new tabs across the top of the home screen will direct you to specific categories. Those tabs include Home Control, Media, Communicate, and Discover. Each tab holds tappable cards and widgets. On the Media page you’ll find music, videos, shows and recommendations. You’ll also be able to see and control what media is playing on other connected devices in your home. Media widgets will be customized to show content from your preferred streaming service. The Home Control tab displays a dashboard of all the connected devices in your home and tappable cards to adjust any device settings, like dimming lights or viewing the doorbell camera.The Communicate tab houses cards for video and chat settings, and the Discover tab displays ideas for things to do with your smart display like playing a game, hear a joke or find a new recipe. Dark mode and ambience settingsIn addition to organized tabs, Google-enabled smart displays are also several new ways to wind down in the evening and wake up each morning.Relaxing ambient sounds are coming to Google Assistant-enabled smart displays. 
Google
With dark mode on, your smart display’s color scheme changes, reducing light emission. You can set dark and light modes to activate automatically depending on ambient light of the sunrise and sunset. A selection of ambient sounds is also coming to smart displays for added relaxation options. A Sunrise Alarm feature is also making its way to smart displays, gradually increasing the brightness of your screen for 30 minutes before your alarm time. You can manage alarms on your display, set different alarms for weekdays and weekends, as well as choose alarm tones. Meetings and calendarsIn recent months, the team at Google improved Google Meet and Duo on smart displays and announced plans for Zoom to come to the device. Now smart displays will be able to link multiple Google accounts, so you can see personal and professional meetings all in one place. You can also cancel or reschedule meetings on your smart display. If you use Google Meet on the camera-enabled Nest Hub Max display, you’ll be able to move around the room while staying in frame. Google smart displays will support multiple accounts for calendars and meetings. 
Google
These new features and the new interface design will be rolling out in the coming weeks to all Google Assistant-enabled smart displays in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and US.  

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Best robot vacuum for 2020: Neato, iRobot Roomba, Electrolux, Eufy and more – CNET

It used to be that robot vacuum cleaners were only to be seen in dream homes from the future. But now they’ve become reality. In fact they’re more advanced than they’ve ever been. They boast arrays of sophisticated sensors, lasers, CPUs, even AI-enhanced software. The fact is these robots are useful tools to keep your home…

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Best robot vacuum for 2020: Neato, iRobot Roomba, Electrolux, Eufy and more     – CNET

It used to be that robot vacuum cleaners were only to be seen in dream homes from the future. But now they’ve become reality. In fact they’re more advanced than they’ve ever been. They boast arrays of sophisticated sensors, lasers, CPUs, even AI-enhanced software. The fact is these robots are useful tools to keep your home nice and tidy.Living the robot vacuum dream can set you back a healthy pile of cash — some cost as much as four figures. While you don’t have to spend that much, you do get a lot in return. That includes multiple room and floor mapping, self-emptying dust bins, powerful suction and thoughtfully designed hardware. Despite all this sophistication, however, none of these machines can really replace a mop.

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To choose the best robot vacuum, I spent over 120 hours (that’s a lot of time) torture-testing a group of 12 robotic cleaning vacuums for things like suction power, their ability to perform on carpets and hard floor and how well each performed during each cleaning cycle. Among them are brand-new models that have recently launched, flagship models and compelling options offered across numerous online retailers. I excluded older models that likely won’t be sold for much longer. I update this list periodically.

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Get smart home reviews and ratings, video reviews, buying guides, prices and comparisons from CNET.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If someone were to give you a blank check and tell you to buy the best robot vacuum, this is the bot to get. That said, the iRobot Roomba S9 Plus costs a whopping $1,100. For that staggeringly steep sticker price though, this robotic vacuum delivers powerful suction and superb dirt and dust removal. On hardwood floors this Roomba picked up an average of 93% of our test sand, the highest amount in our test group, but it struggled a bit cleaning sand from low-pile carpeting and area rugs, earning a low average dust and sand pickup of 28%. That said, the Roomba robot vac removed an average 71% of sand from our mid-pile carpet while vacuuming. Again, this is the best result that we saw on this specific test. It also cleaned up more dog hair, pet dander and allergens than any vacuum in this test group, and the bot navigates and maps multiple rooms and floors. iRobot has also updated its app to let you designate “keep out zones” that you want the S9 Plus to avoid when cleaning. The app also lets you use voice commands to immediately clean a room using Alexa or Google Voice Assistant.The robot zipped through our test room in a short average time of 25 minutes, too. You can link the S9 Plus to the Roomba app and your home Wi-Fi as well. Best of all is the Roomba S9 Plus’ CleanBase docking station. The dock both charges the robot’s battery and empties its dustbin automatically, making cleaning even easier and keeping you from worrying about battery life. Now that’s convenient.

Read our first impressions of the Roomba S9 Plus.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

For roughly half the price of the Roomba S9 Plus, the $600 Neato’s D7 vacuums up dirt, dust and messes almost as well, making it the best robot vacuum at a midrange cost. On average this robotic cleaner picked up a greater amount of sand (36%) across low-pile carpet and rugs than the Roomba did. This automatic vacuum cleaner narrowly beat the S9 Plus for cleaning power on hardwood bare floors, too, collecting an average of 95% of the sand we put down. The vac cleaned dirt, dust and sand from midpile rugs less effectively though, notching a pickup average of 47% while cleaning. While the Neato can’t match the Roomba’s prowess at removing pet hair or empty its own dust bin, the D7 navigates more efficiently around furniture yet covers more ground thanks to smart robot vacuum built-in lidar laser navigation mapping. You can also control the cleaning robot using the Neato app as a remote control, as well as link it to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The app allows you to designate areas of your home as off-limits to cleaning, too.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Here’s a robotic vacuum that proves you don’t need to blow your budget to purchase a solid robot vacuum cleaner. Even though the Robovac 11S Max costs just $227 right now, it cleans floors effectively. That’s especially true when cleaning bare hardwood floors. It managed to remove an average of 71% of our test sand from this type of surface. The bot didn’t work as well cleaning carpets, earning sand-pickup averages of 21% and 27% on low-pile and mid-pile, respectively. And thanks to this vacuum’s basic navigation system, it took well over an hour to negotiate our test room. As far as time goes, that’s a lot. Still, the Eufy used its runtime wisely. The vacuum covered the space well, cleaning up and leaving almost no spots untouched. The Eufy is also self-charging, so again, no need to worry about battery life or factor that into overall cleaning time. It’s the best robot vacuum for value.

Read more.

How we test robot vacuumsOur method for evaluating robot vacuums is straightforward, yet grueling. There are two types of tests we run. The first trial is to figure out how well a robot covers the floor while cleaning. We built an industry-standard testing room as specified by the International Electrotechnical Commission, just for this purpose. The IEC is an international standards body responsible for managing robot vacuum testing procedures, among other things, for vacuum manufacturers.  Obstacles in our test room mimic what robot vacuums run into in the real world.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET
Inside this room are objects designed to simulate typical obstacles a robot vac encounters for navigation as it cleans. These obstacles include wall edges, table and chair legs, couches and other furniture, and so on, plus bare tile and hardwood floors, as well as carpet.  Here’s a coverage photo of the iRobot Roomba S9 Plus as it moved through our test room. You can see the Roomba S9 covered the floor well, except for one slight section in the center (left, bottom).
Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET
We mount LED lights to the top of each vacuum cleaner. The dimensions of the lights correspond to the measured nozzle width of each particular robot vacuum we test. 

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As robots move through the room while cleaning, a camera overhead captures a long-exposure image of the entire room in low light. That photo will then have a light trail, created by the LEDs, that shows the exact areas where the robot traveled (and its nozzle position) during its runtime. We can also see areas of the floor the vacuum may have missed or gotten stuck. This is the coverage pattern created by the Neato D7. Its movement through our test room was very orderly, logical and effective.
Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET
You can see the navigation results of all the robot vacuums in our test group in the gallery below.
Some robot vacuums have a better sense of direction than others
See all photos

The second type of test reveals exactly how much physical debris a vacuum is able to pick up off of the floor. To mimic dirt of small particle size, we use a mixture of play-sand and landscaping sand. For bigger particle soil, we use grains of uncooked black rice. Robots then run in straight line mode across three types of flooring (low-pile carpet, medium-pile carpet and hardwood bare floors). We test robot vacuums on three types of floor surfaces.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET
We control for the specific nozzle width of each vacuum, too. We constructed an adjustable tool to soil our test floors. It lets us lay down a strip of precise area of soil to match the nozzle dimensions for every robot. The mass of soil isn’t chosen at random either. We measure a proportional amount that’s related to the flooring material, type of debris, plus each vacuum’s nozzle width. Our custom-built tool lets us match soil area to a robot vacuum’s nozzle width.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET
We conduct three cleaning runs (at minimum) on each floor type. We also perform cleaning tests with sand and rice separately. That comes to at least 18 tests per robot vac. We weigh the robot’s dust bin both before and after each run. From there we can calculate the percentage of debris pickup for every cleaning run and the average amount of soil a machine manages to remove. Additionally we run anecdotal (visual) pet hair tests for each robot, on all three floor types.  We run robot vacuums in a straight line during the debris pickup tests.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET
The chart below shows the fine particle cleaning performance data for all of the robot vacuums we tested. It should give you a pretty good idea about their cleaning performance on different kinds of flooring surfaces. Our rice-based, medium-size particle test didn’t show enough differentiation between each cleaner, which says they can all handle larger particles without trouble. For fur removal for pet owners, we judged anecdotally. Percent soil removed

Neato Botvac D6 Connected

Legend:
Sand from low-pile
Sand from hardwood
Sand from medium-pile
Note:
Results listed are the average percentage of total material removed from test surface

Want more robot vacuum options? Here’s a list of the other robot vacuums we tested besides the models listed above. More vacuum advice and recommendations

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