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by Harry Perachi de Souza

Robot vacuum cleaners are nothing new, with the first Roombas having been released 20 years ago now. However, the recent leaps in mapping and management technology are making a strong case for the new vacuum cleaners we see around, which are getting cheaper year after year. Or at least that was the excuse I told myself to finally go around purchasing one.

After seeing the Xiaomi Mi Smart Robot Mop going on sale for the third time, I convinced myself to pick one up from PBTech last week. Having a store nearby is a good enabler to my impulse shopping, I went from clicking Buy Now to turning it on in less than an hour.

Unboxing is straightforward and simple process, and in the box you will find the vacuum alongside its charging dock, a pair of replacement brushes and the accessories needed for mopping mode – more on that later.

I wasn’t too sure on how to do the initial setup, so I tried something I hadn’t done in quite a few years – reading the instructions manual before firing it up. It explained what kind of assembly was required and what app I needed, so I started the download while getting the hardware ready.

Pop the hood! Here’s a cleaning brush + blade and the dustbin access

The app is the usual Xiaomi Home you’ll be familiar with if you already have another smart product from them. I question whether the experience would be better on an Android phone given Xiaomi’s roots, but my analysis this time is going to be iOS-centric.

After an initial round of setup with not a lot of options, I was faced with the landing page for the vacuum cleaner, where I would see the map and choose cleaning options. I fired it up in “Normal” (from Silent, Normal and Turbo) and “Vacuum” (from Vacuum, Vacuum + Mop and Mop) modes. The robot then started a round of the house to completely map it before doing any cleaning. So here’s a tip – charge it to full before doing this, otherwise it will return to base midway at low battery and wait until it’s back to 60% before resuming. I ended up cancelling that try and redoing it once it was at 100%.

Doing a reconnaissance round of its new home

Once the house is fully mapped, you will get your rooms automatically split in the app and the ability to set virtual walls and no-go zones. It did an okay job of predicting my floorplan, I just had to tell it my two bedrooms are not the same room and create some boundaries to keep it from going into the shower area and the balcony.

Floorplan with no-go zones and real-time view

It was finally time to see if it did what it said on the tin. It is too loud to go unnoticed even on “Silent” mode, so we left it on “Turbo” to see what it was capable of. It took almost an hour and 70% of its battery to cover our small, 2 bedroom, half wood flooring, half carpeted home. Its dust bin would probably have taken another run before being full but I didn’t try my luck. For a robot with that many sensors that had mapped the house just half an hour earlier, it really did headbutt a few too many things – I guess it was just putting on a show for those closely following it.

The mop mode requires the use of two accessories supplied with the robot: the mop itself and a dual-purpose dust bin that also has a water reservoir. The vacuum is smart enough to know these have been installed and will confirm to you once successful (it will actually say the words) and also unlock the mopping options on the app. It uses the water in the reservoir to dampen the mop cloth, and changes its cleaning route to add a bit more back-and-forth. It seemed a tad too light for my taste even on the “wettest” setting, but that might be due to the small size of my kitchen – the mop cloth was barely all wet by the time it had finished covering its entirety.

The mop accessory installation is quick and easy

The second time I was using it to vacuum the house, I had the curtains open. This meant the robot “saw” uncharted territory outside the windows and stubbornly tried crossing the them to get there. After a few tries, it accepted its indoor fate and got back to the previous routine with no impact to the route – kudos, Xiaomi! However, just a minute later its wheel got caught in the curtains and it started asking for help (in plain English), with blinking lights and a push notification to go with. It’s impossible not to humanise it in situations like these, even if just a little bit, or maybe feel bad when it drives head-on at full speed at something that is clearly in front of it.

Watch out for thin curtains as they might get caught

In summary, it is a cool gimmick that can definitely take care of the daily dusting. It will not do an amazing job with corners and we found we had to do more “pre-work” such as clearing the floor from traps and furniture, but with that out of the way (pun intended) it will do away with the frequent vacuuming. A good buy for tech savvy busy people, and I heard those with pets benefit even more!

Where and how much: bought from PBTech, July 19th for $379.

Would you recommend this product? Yes, so long as you know this is not a direct replacement to actual vacuuming. Use the app to set periodical cleans and you might have to dust the house way less frequently!

Pictures and words: Harry Perachi de Souza

This post is not sponsored. There is no involvement from Xiaomi or PBTech and full MSRP was paid on this product.

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