Amazingly Like Bringing Home A New Puppy
Reviewed in the United States on 1 July 2019
This is my first robot vacuum so I was largely ignorant of what to expect. I'm a little bitter about the app requiring registration, but my overall impression was positive.
Unpacking the unit was fairly simple - everything is arranged to be easily removed from the box. There are side brushes for the machine itself, and brushes to manually clean the machine provided, but the process for getting set up is to basically take the vacuum out of the box, attach the side brushes, take the dock out of the box, plug the dock in, turn the vacuum on and put it on the dock.
The instructions encourage you to download the app, however the app will not function at all without registration which means that the company wants your personal information when they don't really need it to operate the vacuum. The app could interact with the vacuum perfectly well without requiring registration. If I'm being generous the only practical reason to register the app is the ability to operate the vacuum over the Internet. There is no other benefit to the consumer to register the app - it's just a way for the company to farm your data. Assuming the very best of intentions, it gives them free market research into how you use your product and allows them to create and maintain a database for future analytics. Alternative possibilities are that they'll try to supplement their income by selling personally identifiable information about you, your habits and data the robot learns about the interior of your home. At very least it's just one more place for identity thieves to compromise and harvest your information. In essence the company does not respect your privacy - there is no excuse for not allowing people to opt out of registration and just use the app over Wi-Fi. Minus one star for this (should be two, really).
The most useful additional features hidden behind the login wall of the app are changing the suction power of the vacuum, checking the battery level, scheduling cleaning times, viewing logs of how long and how much area has been cleaned, and predicting the remaining wear life of replaceable components such as the filter and brushes. If you can live without these I suggest just using the remote control and forgetting the app altogether.
Setting the Deebot 500 loose on your floor is like setting a new puppy down on the floor of your house for the first time. I turned it on and watched it start to trundle around the floor, randomly changing directions then proceeding in a straight line until it bumped into a bookcase, then turned back into the room, moved a couple of inches then turned right back and bumped into the bookcase again. Just to make sure it would work I hit the "Home" button telling the robot to return to its charging dock. Just like a puppy trying hard to remember the trick you just taught it, it slows down to concentrate on the task of finding that dock, then carefully deliberately makes its way back to its kennel/dock. Once I was sure that was working, I set it loose again. After another minute or two of watching the little thing merrily bonk into things and sweep up, I went off to go rearrange some items in boxes in another part of the house. A few minutes later the little vacuum wandered into the area where I was working, "sniffed around" a little then turned and went back in the direction of were it started. A minute or so later I hear it whimpering (beeping) for help because it's gotten itself stuck on a coiled extension cord I left lying on the floor. I picked up the cord, sat the little fella down, told him it was all better now (tapped the flashing power button to resume). Then I went back to my work. Another minute or so, I hear beeping again because the vacuum has knocked over something I had propped up against the wall and trapped itself again. This happened several more times - once it tried to eat a sock, then it tried to swallow a rug but couldn't get past the fringe. Finally I decided that play time was over and hit the "home button" again. Well this time it didn't have line-of-sight to the dock so it was very confused and wandered off in the opposite direction. Just like a puppy, the urge to use verbal encouragement is as irresistable as it is ineffective at getting it going in the right direction. I caught myself following it around and talking to it, "No, not that way, dingus, your food dish is over there." Once I was sure it was hopelessly lost I tried out the leash (the direction buttons on the remote) and manually guided it back near to the dock. This time when I hit the home button, it found its way to the dock. The vacuum's random search pattern had left large portions of the floor still noticeably dirty (dirt shows up amazingly well on my short-pile black rugs), but I figured that wasn't bad for a first attempt. The dustbin certainly had a wad of fluff and grit to clean out.
So far, every time I've turned the vacuum on, it has managed to get stuck somewhere on something - like a puppy it seems to seek out every single thing that you left lying around that you shouldn't have and go straight to that. It has found one particular spot between a speaker and a stereo rack that it likes to get stuck in repeatedly, but I've also found it jammed up underneath bits of furniture and have to wonder how in the world it managed to get into such a position.
Just to be fair about it, the instruction manual warns about all of this and more. If you take the time to read through it's 40 separate precautions, it basically says that you have to have your house clean and puppy/baby proofed before you can expect great things from this vacuum.
So after picking up most everything that looked like it would be a hazard, putting up barriers to stop the little guy from toddling into somewhere I didn't want him, while I was out with my family, I used the app to reach out over the Internet and activate the Deebot. Two minutes later it reported that the robot had gotten itself stuck again... When I got home I found that the silly thing had been drawn like a magnet to some new hazard that I hadn't caught, so my floor still wasn't clean and I had to come home and manually interact with it anyway. However, after a couple more rounds of trial and error I finally managed to construct an artificial environment within which the robot could do its business without getting stuck and crying for help. It finally managed to almost completely clean the area I had cordoned off for it, however it must have gotten lost on the way back to its dock again because I found it stopped in the middle of the floor rather than back on its dock charging.
The robot is making a noticeable difference in the space where I'm using it. The rugs are not precisely clean but definitely cleaner than they were. The dustbin can attest to the fact that it's making a difference.
The dustbin is kind of difficult to empty without getting yourself dirty - I would suggest always bringing a little hand-brush to get off the lint that collects on the filter squares.
If you have dust allergies you should be aware, when cleaning hardwood floors, the robot's "exhaust" blows out the sides, stirring up dust and debris as it goes by. It seems to me a better design would have been to blow the exhaust upwards - assuming that it's being cleaned by a hepa filter on its way out there should be a lost less dust put into the air this way, but that's just speculation.
While this was a great deal of novel fun, the DeeBot 500's random cleaning pattern is terribly inefficient. It's so prone to getting stuck that if your floor space isn't immaculate to begin with, you're probably going to work just as hard to get this thing to clean your floors as you would just doing it yourself with manual implements. The need to baby/puppy-proof everything, for me anyway, makes my space non-functional while it's prepped for cleaning. The DeeBot 500's random-only navigation kind of reminds me of the cheap remote control cars I used to get as a presents as a kid that could only turn the wheel in one direction - sure they were cheaper and that was probably the only reason I got one at all, but I found myself wishing they would have either waited to afford something with all the features, or not bothered at all. I can only speculate as I don't have any direct experience, but it seems like the more full-featured models with sensors that allow them to map your floor would probably get stuck less, require less prep, clean more completely and maybe even take better advantage of the app. As it is, the app was a terrible disappointment because it requires that you risk your identity and personal information and doesn't really give you anything in return - the robot gets stuck so easily there's no practical utility to trying to control it over the Internet, and no other aspect of the app justifies opening an account with EcoVacs to let the robot "phone home".
- Simple, quick setup
- Less expensive than full-featured robot vacuums
- Quiet (on the default "power" setting)
- Fun (at least at first)
- Random navigation gets stuck a lot and doesn't clean completely
- App asks you to risk your identity and doesn't provide adequate compensation for doing so
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