The little robot that could

Celebrating sales of 20 million robot vacuums globally, ECOVACS are the leaders in their field. With a healthy amount of cynicism, Metropol tech guru Ian Knott put their flagship model, the Deebot T9+ to the test.

When the Deebot’s heavy box arrived at my desk, I said to the team at Metropol, “Five minutes at my place and this thing’s going to wish it had never been born.”

In our animal-heavy, beach-loving household, spotless floors are a concept we gave up on many moons ago. The idea that a small robot vac would survive the night seemed futile at best.

Initial set-up of the T9+ couldn’t have been easier. Plug in the charging base station, attach the twin rotating brushes and let the vacuum charge fully. During that time, you download the accompanying Android/iOS app, register the device, connect it to WiFi (and Alexa if you want) and you’re ready to go.

Once there’s enough charge you can tell the T9+ to head off and map your house (while cleaning), committing where all your rooms are and furniture is to memory. It’s an impressive thing to watch, especially when you think it’s going to get trapped, but then manages to manoeuvre its way out of trouble.

When it’s finished a cleaning cycle, or the dust compartment gets too full, the T9+ returns to the base station and the contents get forcibly sucked out into a more conventional vacuum cleaner bag. It will then either finish its cycle or stay and recharge.

Everything you want the T9+ to do can be controlled from the app – spot cleans, once-overs, or scheduled full house vacuums can all be started remotely and you get to watch an animation of the unit scooting around a virtual map of your home. I’ve got to admit – it’s fairly addictive.

Despite my preconceived doubts, I must concede that the suction and cleaning itself is quite impressive. The initial clean certainly had the T9+ wondering what hit it, but with a once-a-day full house cycle, the payload is getting increasingly smaller, the place looks and feels cleaner, and because of the built-in air freshener (blueberry) – it definitely smells cleaner too.

The T9+ cleverly knows when the surface changes from carpet to hard flooring, and adjusts the suction power to suit. For those with loads of hardfloor area, it comes with a dedicated mopping attachment that holds detergent and keeps your wood, polished concrete or vinyl flooring in top condition. However, there is some housekeeping to be done before the T9+ can successfully get on with the actual housekeeping.

Any loose cords, such as phone chargers (thicker power cords are fine), shoelaces and the like can’t be left lying around or they’ll get tangled in the roller brush. The machine will then stop, send you a warning and go to sleep until someone untangles it.

Shaggy rugs can also be a problem, and it’s best to edit the virtual map to set up an exclusion zone around them. The T9+ initially went around the outside of our shaggy mat, but the second time it managed to find a way onto it and got into a little trouble. Because it almost comes across as a sentient being at times, it’s easy to feel a bit sympathetic when it gets stuck.

There are several brands of robot vacs out there, but the ECOVACS Deebots are genuinely impressive. The excellent T9+ is available at most good vacuum shops, along with spare parts, and usually retails for $1399.

Having held off for so long, thinking robot vacs were something you bought when your house was already spotless, I’m absolutely addicted to Suckface (yes, I named it Suckface), the newest member of our family.

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