For the last two weeks, I have had a polite, good-looking, quiet robot move around my house and clean it for me. I for one welcome my new robot cleaning overlord.
What Is It?
An autonomous vacuum from the boffins at Samsung. It's packed with tech, but at its simplest, it's a sensor-laden black disc with two brush arms designed to get into the corners, a wide brush to sweep up your crap and a nifty dock that it can find its way back to when finished or out of battery.
The NaviBot's main feature are two pop-out brushes that extend from the disc-like vacuum to ensure your corner is completely clean. It's great because other robot vacuums always miss tough spots because of their circular shape. They can only get so close to an edge. The NaviBot has dual independent pop-out brushes and an intelligent dust detection program which shows it where the mess is. You'll have great corners with the NaviBot corner clean.
It also has a camera that maps the roof above its cleaning route. Paired with 10 other sensors on the front and sides of the unit, it helps to find its way around the room and clean more efficiently.
My housemate pointed out that these vacuums could build the most comprehensive floor plans of people's houses for Samsung to hang onto and pass to the NSA, but the Roomba is without wireless connectivity, so never fear for your privacy or anything.
Best of all? It's so quiet. Almost freakishly so. The Roomba 510 sounds like a goddamn leafblower next to the NaviBot. When I first turned it on to clean my house, I was worried it was broken because I couldn't really hear anything going on. When it was done, however, I emptied the dust bin and had my suspiscions reversed: it did a fantastic job with zero fuss and virtually zero noise. It's the robot butler you've always wanted. The only downside to being so quiet is that it will always set your cat on edge if it's as stupid as my Callie is. She's used to a freight train rolling through the room to clean it so deploying the Samsung was an endless delight for her to chase.
It seems pretty simple, but the LCD display was really handy on the NaviBot. So often with these sorts of gizmos it's tough to tell what they're doing. They can wander off from the job you want them to be doing and you'll have no idea why, but the NaviBot always tells you what it's up to. Whether it's just on a sequential path over your floor, or whether it's found some dust that needs extra work, you always know what's what, and how much battery you have left.
Side-by-side tests with the Roomba showed that, despite its smarts, the NaviBot got stuck more often. Don't be fooled, though: the NaviBot only got stuck because it has a slightly lower clearance and the fact that its corner-cleaning arms can get stuck behind dining chair legs. Make sure you pick up everything off your floor for the NaviBot to do its job.
The only real complaint I have about the NaviBot is the way it pushes your room around. It's really weird to watch, but to make sure that it's as close to the corner as it possibly can be for cleaning, the NaviBot physically pushes against obstacles. It comes to a gentle stop just on the edge, and when it goes to round the object, it physically rams it to make sure it's as clean as possible in the corners.
Now it's doubly-important to make sure your floor is clear, and that the pedestal you've got your collection of Ming vases on is secure or somewhere else altogether. I left my ironing board and iron out on the floor to see what the NaviBot would do, and as predicted, the sleek black robot wouldn't take no for an answer and started pushing the board around the floor.
Instead of detecting an obstacle and carefully navigating around it, the NaviBot detects and obstacle, carefully tip-toes around it before coming back to push its way around the corners to make sure everything's clean. I can't stress enough that this thing is meant to be used on a clear floor. Depending on how lazy you are, this may be a turn-off.
This Is Weird…
The remote that the NaviBot comes with didn't work. Like at all. I probably just had the one dodgy remote to come out of the factory, but that's cool.
To be honest, if you're guiding your robot vacuum from the couch with a remote you need to take a pretty good look at yourself anyway.
Should You Buy It?
It's smarter than its competitors, easier to use, and delivers a better, quieter clean.
If you have $1100 to burn on a vacuum but neither the motivation or inclination to push a Dyson around your house once a month, this is the next best thing.