Samsung POWERbot VR9000 Robot Vacuum: Australian Review

As cool as robotic vacuum cleaners can be, they're not usually particularly good at actually vacuuming. Weedy vacuum motors and ineffective sensors often make for autonomous cleaners that don't really do a very good job. We're finally reaching the stage, though, where manufacturers are building in large enough batteries, powerful enough motors and smart enough software to make robots a viable alternative to the old fashioned upright and canister models pushed around by fleshy meatbag humans. Enter the POWERbot VR9000 — Samsung has finally made a robot vacuum that doesn't suck.

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What Is It?

  • Battery Life: 60 minutes (approx.)
  • Charge Time: 160 minutes (approx.)
  • Camera: Yes, front-mounted
  • Sensors: 10
  • Dust Capacity: 0.7 litres
  • Brush Width: 311mm

The POWERbot is Samsung's newest, and by far its most powerful, robotic vacuum cleaner. It's not exactly small, but it's far more compact than any full-size canister or upright Dyson or Miele or similar. Although the company has one upright listed on its size, robots are Samsung's specialty, and the $1499 POWERbot VR900 (SR20H9050U) is its best autonomous vacuum cleaner yet. Its defining feature is a revamped digital motor — 60 times the suction of "conventional" 'bots — and a cyclonic design that promises no loss of suction as the dust collector fills up.

The majority of the POWERbot's chassis is taken up by that central, cylindrical vacuum motor and dust bin. Behind that in the VR9000's circular body is the 60-minute battery pack, and ahead of it is its front-mounted array of sensors and circuitry, including a novel upward-and-forward-facing digital camera sensor for room and roof mapping and forward-firing ultrasonic sensors for obstacle tracking and avoidance.

As regular vacuums go, the POWERbot VR9000 is positively underpowered; that's because it runs off a battery rather than a constant 240V power supply from a wall socket. It uses that power efficiently, though — it only has a single powered brush and a single point of suction, so its outright vacuuming power is actually quite high. That brush is a full 311mm wide, and extends almost the entire length of the POWERbot's body, so it doesn't need to make multiple cleaning runs on a single spot.

Although there's an integrated LCD screen and three touch-sensitive controls on the rear top of the Samsung POWERbot, for modes, auto vacuuming start/stop and return to base, you'll be using the bundled remote control for almost all of the controls of this robot vacuum. You can set a cleaning schedule to your requirements, and by setting the onboard clock you can adjust that schedule for when you're at home or out of the house. You can also choose from silent, regular or max power cleaning modes, and can select spot cleaning or direct the VR9000 manually or to a specific point if it doesn't pick up the dust or debris that you're expecting it to. I'm sure the next step is for Samsung to add in Wi-Fi and an accompanying Android and iOS app to set and track your robot housemaid's cleaning peformance.

What's It Good At?

Let's be honest. Robot vacuums are rarely good at vacuuming. I don't consider myself a vacuuming expert, but I can tell when a vacuum — robotic or otherwise — leaves dust and hair and fibres and junk still on my carpet and floor after a run back and forth. The Samsung POWERbot VR9000, for its size and rated power, does a very good job of vacuuming. Its single rotating brush does a very good job of picking up dust and fibres both from carpet and from hard surfaces, and in some instances did a better job than I could with my own canister vacuum. I'll go into a little more detail of the VR9000's dust capacity later on, but suffice to say that within a single 15-minute vacuuming run, it filled up the 700mL container, and that's on a carpet-and-tile floor that generally gets pretty decent vacuuming relatively regularly anyway. The VR9000 is no weedy little sucker.

Battery life from the VR9000 is right up on Samsung's rated 60-minute figure, provided you charge it fully once you take it out of the box. The POWERbot's Max power mode — great for carpet and for difficult spills. I have a cat that likes to shred the corner of my fabric lounge and wicker coffee table, so there are a couple of carpeted areas that are usually pretty dirty. The Samsung robotic cleaner knows when there's a particularly dust- or fibre-heavy area and runs in concentric circles around it, and it's an approach that genuinely works very well for cleaning difficult locations.

It's smart, too. The camera on the front of the VR9000, facing almost straight upwards, knows when it's going from room to room and when it's entering a corner, so for the most part it can handle navigation around complex objects and through your entire living space. Drop sensors stop it falling from drop-offs like stairs, bump sensors help it locate walls for almost perfect edge cleaning, and when it's running low on power it takes the most direct route possible back to its charging station. Unless it gets stuck, just about the only attention you need to pay to the VR9000 is when you need or want to empty its dust container.

Samsung seems to have hit onto something right with the VR9000; its design is not especially large or inconvenient or imposing, but it's powerful enough to do a very good job of cleaning (for a robot vac) and small enough to fit into most corners. It's also well constructed; big wheels mean it'll handle bumps in your carpet or inclines within your house — just about the only thing it can't do is climb stairs or dust the top of bookcases for you. It's defined by a combination of complex sensor suite and simple vacuuming tech — the two together make for a robotic vacuum that genuinely is surprisingly powerful and useful. Being a robot it charges itself on the docking station and knows when that charging needs to happen, too, so that headache is removed from the equation.

Samsung's accessories pack bundled with the VR9000 is top notch. You get an extra dust filter, a cleaning brush, the charging/docking station and its power cable, a clearly-labeled remote control, and a single Virtual Guard that you can position to stop the robot vacuum from venturing too far into a difficult-to-clean corner or into a space where it'll get stuck on cables or other clutter. I didn't use the Virtual Guard save for once in my testing of the POWERbot VR9000 — the cleaner was smart enough not to fall down a set of stairs, and it only ran into difficulty a couple of times with a raised door jamb and a just-slightly-too-low couch.

What's It Not Good At?

Moreso than any other robot vacuum that I've used, the POWERbot is loud. Samsung rates it at 76dBa — that's about the noise of moderate volume music from your computer or radio; not ear-splittingly loud but you'd have to raise your voice slightly to have a conversation. (It's still a fair bit quieter than any upright or canister vacuum at full power, though.) There is a silent mode, but this still isn't a robot you'd like to have whirring around your house while you're asleep. Maybe as a wake-up call it'd work well.

The 0.7-litre dust holding capacity of the Samsung POWERbot VR9000 is not huge, and pales in comparison to any upright or canister vacuum you can buy — as you'd expect, since it's both compact and battery powered. In any case, after not vacuuming a 50-odd square meter living space for a week, I unleashed the VR9000 on it — and had to empty out the canister after a single 15-minute robotic vacuuming run. That's a testament to the POWERbot's vacuuming power, but also to the small size of its dust holding receptacle. This is a worst case scenario — a large carpeted and tiled floor left unvacuumed for a week — but if you have a large house or a dirty one, the POWERbot will have its work cut out for it.

And, of course, being a circular robotic vacuum it isn't able to reach into 90-degree corners, navigate between chair legs, or move laundry baskets out of the way for a more thorough clean. If you're living a frugal and minimal lifestyle — not too many chairs in your house, large open floor spaces, no dirty clothes piled up in your bedroom — then the Samsung POWERbot is well suited to your living environment. If not, it becomes a little harder to live with. It did get stuck once or twice — on the raised lip of a door jamb, and under a low-slung lounge — but was generally pretty smart otherwise. In any case, you'll need a secondary vacuum — maybe a Dyson Digital Slim or similar — to clean the tops of skirting boards, window sills and all the above-floor-level spaces that the Samsung can't handle.

The thing about the POWERbot is that you have to use it in a different way to a regular vacuum. My house actually has a central vacuum system, with a massively powerful (and just massive) vacuum in the basement and ports in each room to connect a vacuum hose to. We usually vacuum once a week (or so) on weekends. But you can't use the POWERbot like that — it isn't great with big loads or long cleaning periods, since its canister fills quickly. I think it's much better suited to a daily cleaning schedule, when you're out of the house, keeping your floors clean rather than playing catch-up. If you use it with this mindset — and if you commit to it by setting schedules and remembering to keep it maintained — then it's great.

Should You Buy It?

Samsung POWERbot VR9000 (SR20H9050U)

Price: $1499

  • Surprisingly powerful.
  • Smart sensor suite.
  • Great accessories and design.
Don't Like
  • Loud during vacuum operation.
  • Expensive.
  • Small dust bin capacity.

The $1499 POWERbot VR9000 genuinely surprised me with the quality of its cleaning, on both carpet and hard surfaces. The previous robotic vacuums that I've used have been OK but not great, and have struggled with carpet especially. Samsung's latest vacuum — at least when it's brand new out of the box — does a sterling job of picking up trapped fibres and dust. It handles the job of a vacuum cleaner pretty damn well considering its size and its battery powered nature.

The issue with the POWERbot, as with any other robotic vacuum cleaner, is its relatively short battery life and its relatively small dust holding capacity. The first issue requires that you use the VR9000 in a different way to a regular upright or canister vacuum — you can't just give it one good run around your house or apartment, since it won't have the power to keep going for an extended period of time. The second means that you'll need to check back in with it regularly, to give it a clean-out and make sure it's running at peak efficiency.

With those two caveats, as they also exist with any of its competitors, the POWERbot VR9000 is the best robotic vacuum I've used, by a huge margin. It is significantly better at cleaning — exactly what you want a vacuum to be good at — than any battery-powered vacuum that I've used in the past. It's pretty smart, too, and does an excellent job of avoiding obstacles and making its way around complicated living spaces. It's entirely easy to operate, too, and that makes it easy to live with — you just need to let it do its thing, basically, and clean up after it. With those three boxes ticked, the VR9000 is just about the only robot vacuum that I'd buy right now.



    like made of gold or something? WTF?!

      I that cost you might as well put it towards getting a cleaner ever other week!

    Yeah - that $1,499 is insane. I've had a Neato XV-21 for over a year now and it is FANTASTIC. Never mind the $700 price tag from Myer, etc. bring it in from Amazon for under $500 - buy a few with the $1,499 for spares if you've that much money! We have a labrador roaming our house, so the daily schedule on our Neato keeps the place spick and span from black dog hair. As to the size of the dust containers; run the thing daily, empty it daily - if that bin is still too small you have either a filthy house or live in a mansion!

    +1 for my $500 Neato. Pfft to the $1500 Sammy!

      I just got the Neato Bot 80
      great unit, not the best with shag rugs but otherwise great!

        I would have thought you'd use a sponge or damp cloth to clean a shag rug.

        Oh, behave!

        Another Botvac convert. Changed my life. The botvac 85 from US for about $650AUD delivered from BB&T, much cheaper than Myer or DJ's. 70sq. apartment with all hard surfaces, three times a week for last 6 months hasn't skipped a beat. Very robust and quiet enough to watch TV while it's going but scheduled for times when you are away works best. It's super smart with it's mapping of rooms and doing laps back and forth, picking up where it left off if battery depleted (never happens though my apartment is always done on one charge). At 120mm-ish tall it's low enough to fit under the couch and bed (this Samsung VR9000 would be too tall to get under most beds or couches), Botvacs side brush gets every millimetre of every corner and right up to the skirting boards without scratching. Freshly painted skirting doesn't have one mark from the Botvac which was bought at same time as skirting was painted. Don't have a dog so can't comment on pet hair but wife's hair seems to constitute a large part of what gets wrapped around brush.
        I do wish the Neato had a remote though, the spot cleaning button works ok but not always vacuums where you intended. Dustbin sensor sometimes gets a bit sticky and beeps at you even when fitted. Other than that, the only thing more you could want is a li-po battery for bigger areas or some type of Wi-fi intergration. I think you need to do a group test when the Dyson is released.

          You summed up my thoughts, and yes the wife's hair was the cause of my brush needing cleaning as well. Take it apart and untangle that hair...

          I have two cats, the botvac is used daily for most of the house every day.
          It fills its bin everyday, that is how much the cats malt or shed.

          I have floorboards throughout with shag rugs under every ones bed (4 bedroom house) and in the lounge room. It does them no issued.

          In the study I have a very shaggy rug and the wheels do get stuck every time, it did't with the vx-21 though, I wonder what changed.

          The upgrade has been worth it, bigger bin, better run and have not picked up my Dyson vacuum for a month now.

          Note: If you have cat food bowls, put down the metal strip so it won't try to gobble up their dinner!

          what is this BB&T you speak of?

            Bed, Bath & Table. Seemed like they were selling the 85 with extra filters and both the brush types for same price as bestbuy or amazon were charging for just the 80 model.

              I don't see anything on Bed Bath & Table.... was this on the Australian site?

              I did find it on Bed Bath & Beyond... That was $714AUD in postage to Australia.
              That's not too terrible I guess. It's actually a bit less if you pay in US dollars.
              Also DHL express is only $10 extra...

              I think I've convinced myself.

                You can actually get the botvacs for quite cheap at the moment from Amazon by utilising the free shipping Amex deal. It shouldn't officially work since it's not standard shipping but Amazon customer service has been quite flexible with that.

                All up for a botvac 70e you are looking at $450 AUD which is fantastically cheap when compared with Australian RRP. You can buy the additional filters and brushes etc off ebay if you really want them.

    for anyone that cares, the Samsung and lg robovacs have some non-swivelable wheels in their outer extremities that scratch hard floors when it turns. The Roomba doesn't have this problem provided it's well maintained. Beware - any robovac not cleaned on a weekly basis will destroy your nice polished floor. From experience.

      which ones the rubber ones that drive the unit or the little plastic ones that keep in on balance at the front of the unit?

        The balance wheels shown at the bottom right and left of the underneath pic.

        I pull my Roomba apart to clean it every week otherwise it suffers from scratchy floor syndrome It's probably more regular than what's needed, but depends how rank your house is I suppose.

        The irony of these robovacs is you need conventional vacuum to clean and maintain the little blighter.

        Still, I love my Roomba.

      Had my LG a year now and it runs every day. Not a scratch on the floor.

    STOP CALLING PWM DIGITAL!!!!! Aaaaaaaarg

    Christ I'd rather my Dyson DC54 and not be too lazy to vacuum the floor properly.

      But for the love of God never ever by a Dyson upright.

        I'm not a fan of uprights in general, don't really get to the edges well an are annoying to use tools with, but what's wrong with the Dyson's?

          Where do I Start.
          It clicks into the upright position, then you let go and it falls over, take 3-5 goes to get it to stay.
          The Hose that comes out of the handle to use attachments with. Has so much spring tension it's a bit of effort to get some reach on it. Which makes the vacuum click out of upright mode and fall over
          The hose also kinks easily.
          My issues are most with the upright position not holding and the hose that is heavy and may as well be ridged, but it's at the point where I'd rather use my old dc20 instead. The upright is a dc41 with the dog hair brush head.

          Last edited 03/12/14 6:52 pm

      Botvacs do the job properly.

      They are just not for everyone.

      We have a Dyson and the LG robot. The Dyson comes out once a fortnight for the bits the LG, that runs everyday, can't get. The LG runs after and gets the bits the Dyson won't.

    Can we get some big robot vacuum battle royal article? I'm still leaning towards a Neato Botvac 85 but it's hard to find any good comparison article online....

    This Samsung one looks far too expensive. Doesn't even empty itself.

      I'll see what I can do. Maybe a showdown in the start of 2015, that sounds fun.

    Very timely review. Been on the lookout for a real world review of this product since it was announced in Germany in September. This the first I've seen (the others have all been media channels at the trade show or Samsung related). Had a look at the machine in action on Sunday. At 135mm high it is certainly higher than most machines, but wandering around my house with a tape measure I found it will actually fit under most items, including the beds.
    Its interesting that it got stuck on the raised lip of the door jamb, as the extra large wheels are supposed to prevent exactly that from happening.

    $1499 is Samsung's optimistic RRP.
    Most places are advertising it at $1299.
    One salesperson I spoke to on Sunday said she was prepared to go to $1199.
    My impression, in store, was that it fairly quiet so I wonder whether she demoed it on 'silent' mode.
    One thing that impressed me was the dust bin. It seems larger than some of the smaller machines and also very easy to empty.

    Any Neato owner like to comment on reliability of their Botvac, as the various forums and product review sites I've visited seem to have a high ratio of disgruntled owners?

    Question for the Campbell Simpson: Did you notice how well it cleaned along/near kitchen cupboard kicks? The kicks in my kitchen are 100mm high and recessed 50mm, so I suspect that this machine may not clean to the floor edge and may hit the overhanging base of the cupboards.

      It actually does a pretty decent job along straight, floorboarded runs (like the kicks in a kitchen under bench/cupboard space). You'd get a great clean up until around 3/4 of an inch from the edge of the cupboard, because the brush doesn't extend completely to the edge of the VR9000.

      The door jamb issue came as it approached it at a weird angle, if I remember...

        Thank you. I do wish Brand Developers would release the Roomba 880 in Australia, as its been out for 8 months in the US and only available here through gray importers. Then we could have a comparison of two machines with newer more powerful suction systems.

      I think Neato unreliability being reported online is most likely artificially overstated. I'n my opinion a lot of people that are aware of the Neato brand are fairly competent with Interwebs (not sure if they even advertise through normal channels, awareness seems to be via word of mouth online) therefore more likely to have online presence discussing issues on forums and blogs if you know what I mean. It seems like the whole company has grown out of a Robovac hacker community by hackers. Their product may not be as 'polished' as the big consumer product manufacturers, but the lack on planned obsolescence in the design of their products encourages people that like to tinker with things the opportunity to. I have no issue with buying a grey market Botvac with no warranty here in OZ because once you see the way these things are built, you'd have no reluctance to pull it apart to fix if something were to go amiss. They are so simple to pull part, all the things likely to break or wear are easily replaceable with off the shelf standard components (bearings, micro-switches etc.). They even sell replacement Ni-Cad batteries at a reasonable price that are easily replaced by a Novice. Some have even managed to hack Li-Po batteries into their Neato's. Trying buying a replacement Ni-Cad battery for an Electrolux cordless vac, replacement battery pack requires a fair bit of soldering and costs 20% more than a whole replacement handle that comes with 90% of the original product included. The old one goes in the bin electric motor and all, all you keep is the dirt bin and charger, seems a bit wasteful to me. I'd say Neato product isn't for the general mainstream consumer that buys things off the TV and is happy to throw it in the bin when it breaks or doesn't hold a charge a week after the warranty expires. If you have some technical knowledge or like to pull things apart (hey you're reading Gizmodo aren't you?) then any negatives of the product are easily overlooked.

      I won't sugarcoat Neato ownership too much, upon delivery a micro switch behind the front bumper got jammed from bouncing around during transit from the states, had to pull the front bumper off and play around with it for 15 minutes to get it to work without errors. The dirt bin button occasionally gets a bit stiff and Botvac starts beeping, telling you to 'Put my dirt bin back in' even when it is, and it doesn't like highly reflective vertical surfaces, try's to mount the bases of my chrome bar stools before getting stuck and shutting down. That's OK with me, the cheap bar stools are going and the Botvac is staying.

        Does anyone know if robotic vacuum cleaners set of burglar alarm sensors when activated?

          Get a burglar to let it loose and see what happens

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