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We have (semi) new robotic vacuum overlords

In late 2019, I wrote about how we were using two Deebot robotic vacuums to help keep our floors clean. And while these vacuums worked well, they had two issues that became more annoying as time passed:

  • They clean using a random path method
  • There's no way to map out obstacles they should avoid

The Deebots are basically non-intelligent robot vacuums. They have the ability to avoid bumping into things, and they won't fall off drop-offs, but that's about where their intelligence ends. They clean using a random path, which works but seems very inefficient. Much worse, though, is that there's no ability to mark areas you don't want them to clean.

For me, that meant I had to close the door to our laundry room so it wouldn't try to clean and get stuck in there. And block off access paths to other areas where it could get stuck. And put one shelf on risers, as the Deebot seemed to be able to get under it, but not back out!? And I had to do this any time I wanted to run the vacuums. That gets old pretty quick.

I wanted to find a vacuum that would clean in a more orderly fashion (using some sort of room map), and to electronically block off areas where they shouldn't clean. The problem was most vacuums that offered these features were (at the time) $350 or more, while the Deebots had cost us only $170 or so. So I kept searching and waiting.

tl;dr version: We bought two Wyze Vacuums with LIDAR and restricted area capabilities, and love them. Ours cost $225 each, but the price today is $267 each. Read on for a much more detailed review, if you wish.

A couple months after I started looking, I found the Wyze Robot Vacuum, which offered LIDAR mapping and the ability to mark no-entry areas. I have a number of other Wyze products, and have been quite happy with them. At the time of our purchase, the new Wyze Vacuum was $225—only $35 more than the list price of the Deebots at that time. The price has since increased to $267, though they do occasionally go on sale. This is cheaper than the other name-brand LIDAR vacuums, although more expensive than some no-name brands.

I bought one as a test back in March, and we were happy with it, so we replaced the other Deebot in May. There were some initial rough spots with the software, but after a couple upgrades, it works really well now.

You set up the Wyze Vacuum in your room, connect it to the Wyze app on your phone, and then it does an initial mapping pass to map out your space. The vacuum runs around the walls of each room, and then finds and maps objects within each room. When it's done, you can edit the map to create separate rooms, in case you want to vacuum some areas separately from others. Here's a portion of the map of our downstairs area:

At the bottom right of the map, you can see four spots; those are the legs of the kitchen table as mapped by the LIDAR. Above those dots is the island in our kitchen.

The red zones are "do not enter" areas, where the vacuum won't go. The family room area probably doesn't need that zone marked—it's down a drop-off step, so the vacuum would stop at the edge anyway, but I was being extra cautious. The red area in the office, though, is where we have a bunch of cords on the floor and a printer stand and standing desk (lots of legs). I don't want the vacuum going in there and getting tangled in the cords, so I've marked it as a restricted section. These restricted zones work perfectly, keeping the vacuum out of places I don't want it to go.

As the vacuum cleans, the app shows a real-time map showing what's been cleaned. When finished, the map shows exactly how the machine cleaned the floor:

No wasted motion with this one—nice straight lines, and you can see how it cleaned around the table legs (we put the chairs up when we vacuum). I get about 90 minutes run time out of the vacuum (set to normal power); if charge gets too low during a cleaning, it returns to base, charges as necessary, and then finishes the cleaning.

Using the app, you can schedule the vacuums, though we never do (as we put chairs up, etc. before they run). You can also see how long replaceable bits will last, as seen in the image at right.

I'm impressed at how long the various parts last—at about 90 minutes per cleaning cycle, we've got at least another 86 runs before we'll have to replace the HEPA filter. I do clean the main brush regularly, to remove hair curled around the roller, but that's true of every vacuum we own, given the number of long-haired people in the household.

Downsides? There are really only two that I've noticed. The first is that when editing the map and setting room boundaries, there are spots where you just can't put a room break. I wanted to separate our hallways from our kitchen area, but because of the limitation on where room dividers can go, I wasn't able to do that, so it's one large area now.

The second issue is that there are a few lights on the vacuum and base station that are always on—a blue light on the base station, and two white lights on top of the vacuum.

This isn't an issue for the downstairs vacuum, but the one we have upstairs is plugged in in our master bedroom, and those lights are bright at night. It'd be great if the app let you disable the lights, at least when the machine isn't in use, but since it can't, we've resorted to putting a black sock over each light. This works, but it's a decidedly low-tech solution for a high-tech vacuum!

The dust bin is a similar size to our Deebots—large enough to hold what it collects during our twice-weekly floor cleanings. Dust bin removal and cleaning are simple—it's much easier to clean than was the Deebot bin and filter.

Overall, I'm thrilled with how well these Wyze Vacuums have been working for us. They don't get stuck, they stay out of restricted areas, and they clean with a linear efficiency that appeals to my sense of order. They're not inexpensive, but they're nowhere near the high-end of what you could spend on a robot vacuum.

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