Robot vacuum cleaners are great, in theory. That most menial of household chores is perfectly suited to a mindless automaton, cleaning up your leavings while you're out and having fun. But they usually aren't especially good. Until now, we would have only recommended Samsung's POWERbot. Miele, the brand of choice for proper vacuum cleaners, now has a robot in its arsenal.
What Is It?
- Battery Life: 120 minutes (approx.)
- Charge Time: 240 minutes (approx.)
- Camera: Yes, top-mounted
- Sensors: 11
- Dust Capacity: 0.6 litres
- Brush Width: 240mm
The $799 Miele RX1 Scout is a robotic vacuum cleaner in the same vein as the Samsung POWERbot VR9000 and countless Roombas — it's a squat, wide cylinder with a flat top (ideal for cats to sit on), soft rubber bumpers on its sides, and a base with two motorized wheels, a spinning bristled horizontal brush, two rotating vertical brushes, and a vacuum motor that sucks everything in.
The Scout has a moderately sized 0.6-litre dust container at its rear, and it's (mostly) see-through so you can keep track of when it needs to be emptied. Like Samsung, Miele has included a filter on the RX1's vacuum exhaust so that its recycled air is clean — probably cleaner than when it started, knowing Miele's excellent HEPA filters on its canister vacs.
Miele promises up to two hours of continuous cleaning time from the RX1 Scout's non-replaceable rechargeable lithium ion battery; that's a pretty long time and easily enough to comprehensively clean any average-size single-story two- or three-bedroom apartment or house (of up to 150m2). Of course, it can't handle stairs; the RX1 can only handle bumps of a maximum of 20mm at a time, although this can be limited to 6mm if you don't want it up on your rugs.
What's It Good At?
The Miele RX1 Scout has four cleaning modes. For most people the Auto mode will be enough; it's a general winding-and-waving pathfinding course that will cover an entire room or multiple rooms (with a bit of overlap) before returning to the base station to recharge or offload a full bin of dust and dirt. There's also Turbo, which reduces the overlap between runs, and Spot, which will focus on a roughly 2x2m square and cover it multiple times — to navigate to that area, you can manually guide the RX1 using the five-way navigational pad on the Scout's remote control (although there's no pointing-and-clicking targeting function).
The Miele's self-guided navigation is surprisingly competent, given that it only has a single vertically-oriented wide-angle camera at its front and a couple of positioning sensors on its front half. It notices obstacles from a couple of inches of distance and creeps up on them slowly, and barely nudges them before turning partially and following an algorithm to either clean around them (in the case of chairs, tables and other impediments) or follow them (in the case of walls).
Two hours of battery life is great, given that its competitors generally have around half of that. Miele says the RX1 Scout will cover a full 150m2 of floor space on a single charge, which is a solid 2-bedroom house; it's also three full cleans of a 50m2 apartment, if you choose not to use the Miele base station and instead charge the RX1 directly through its 12V power plug. If you live in a large but relatively clean house — that is, you have a lot of floor space to cover but not necessarily a huge amount of dust to pick up — then a long battery life is more important than dust-holding capacity.
On hard surfaces, the Miele RX1 Scout is killer. Its front rotating brushes and wide horizontal brush combine to cover a quite wide vacuuming space — almost the entire width of the Scout itself, which would be the absolute ideal — and those brushes do a great job of picking up dust and larger fibres. If you have a house with hardwood floors, the RX1 Scout would handle the vast majority of your cleaning — team it up with a portable Dyson stick vacuum and it'd be bonza.
What's It Not Good At?
Other robot vacs out there have internal dust bins larger than the RX1 Scout's 0.6 litres; the Samsung POWERbot has 0.7, some others are larger, and others again have base stations with larger internal storage space for offloading. As it stands, you'll be emptying the Miele after each regular twice-weekly clean if you have carpet, although if you're a particularly fastidious sweeper or keep a clean house normally you'll be able to get by emptying weekly.
The front rotating brushes, too, don't take long before getting bent somewhat out of shape. These are, in my opinion, by far the most high-use components and the most likely to break. As it is, the bending doesn't stop them from working, but I've never thought of those rotating brushes as especially effective in the first place on anything but hard flooring. If Miele included an extra pair, or even two, in the box that would be a big improvement. At least they're very easy to replace when you do need to buy a new pair.
Because the Miele RX1 Scout doesn't have a huge amount of suction and its bristles aren't incredibly tough or invasive, it's not the most complete when it comes to floor cleaning under difficult conditions. That is to say, if you're thinking of using it on especially plush carpet, or if you have a shag-pile rug, it won't perform anywhere near as effectively as a good ol' fashioned canister or upright vacuum. It is, at the end of the day, a pretty small robot.
But, within the confines of its capability, the Miele Scout does a good to great job, depending on the floor surface you're using it on. You'll get a better result from a hand-pushed vacuum, but that should be obvious. It cleans well, and it cleans for a long time, as long as its dustbin doesn't get too full for it to continue — and that's always going to be the weakness of any bagless and/or robot vacuum.
Should You Buy It?
The $799 Miele RX1 Scout is, as robot vacuum cleaners go, quite good. It picks up a good amount of dust and detritus, especially on hard surfaces where its dual front rotating brushes gives it a wider vacuuming track than its competitors. It's not as good on soft surfaces as its chief rival from Samsung, though, and that's because it doesn't have the same outright suction power as the POWERbot's cyclonic system.
For carpets, the RX1 Scout does a decent but unspectacular job; if you have a predominantly hard-floored house or apartment it'll be more than adequate for keeping everything clean. It would have been good if Miele included at least one set of replacement front brushes, because these will be the first parts to bend and break over time. The two replacement filters are a nice start, though.
It's not the smartest robot vacuum cleaner out there, but it's smart enough. Its back-and-forth motion may not seem quite as ingenious and intuitive as some of its infrared-and-camera using competitors, but the Scout's camera does a pretty good job of mapping your ceilings and knowing where obstacles are. The magnetic strip comes in handy for blocking the RX1 within a room or two, but you'll need to buy additional strips for a larger space.
Given that the Miele is half the cost of the Samsung, it's definitely better value — it does more than half the job. If you are looking for the most powerful robot vacuum cleaner bar none, then look elsewhere, but if like most of us you have a budget in mind when you're shopping then the RX1 Scout justifies its price tag well. It's not a weedy, underpowered robot vacuum, too — the RX1 is deserving of the Miele name.