Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Best Robot Floor Cleaners

It seems impossible, but we live in age when robots can clean our floors for us. You don’t have to be Donald Trump or Emperor of Mars—this is science fact. But which floor-bot is dominant? We have answers.

A robot cleaner has to suck up the dirt, obviously—and most importantly. But it also needs to be smart. It needs to navigate around the shoes you’ve strewn about, your couch, and not fall down stairs. It needs to be able to find its way back home without knocking things over. It needs to not get stuck. It needs to be precise enough to get into those deep, grimy edges under your kitchen counter.

3rd Place: Mint Plus
The Best Robot Floor Cleaners

The Mint Plus isn’t a vacuum cleaner. It’s a robotic broom. But it’s also the smallest and quietest of the trio—and has a very interesting navigation concept behind the scenes. So let’s give it a fair shot.

Unlike the Roomba, the tiny Mint has no suction—again, it’s not a vacuum—and ergo no place to store the dirt it encounters. This is its greatest flaw. The mint relies on reusable cloth pads or store bought Swiffer wipes that are somewhat clumsily tucked into its foot, whereupon it’ll slide neatly across your floor, through dust and silt and whatever. It’s not a very methodical slide, however—the Mint doesn’t have the rigorous mapping of its competitors, navigating in lazy back and forths, avoiding walls, and often failing to link up with the “NorthStar” navigational unit that supposedly tells Mint where to go from above. Which is a shame, because the idea of outsourcing the nav process to a little box you can place anywhere is great! Shucks. Instead, the Mint just shuffles around like a quiet toddler. And in the process, it’ll accumulate a giant, disgusting hairball in its wake. Remember, this isn’t a vacuum.

Surprisingly, it works at getting dirt off the floor. Granted, it’s in the most inelegant way—just dragging it along into one big snowballing dirt mound—but at the end of the cleaning cycle, my floors were clean. But what then? Getting the crap off the cleaning cloth is a chore—no amount of slapping and scraping into the trash would bring it back to its original freshness. So I have to do laundry between sweeping cycles? No thank you.

Mint’s wet mop functionality is useless. Taking a shower with my clothes on and rolling around on the floor moaning would have done a better job. $300                  More