Samsung's original VR9000 POWERBot was a surprisingly effective robot vacuum cleaner. The new VR9200 improves on the tried and tested formula by adding a remote control and Wi-Fi connectivity, and while it's not hugely different to the existing model, it's a little more versatile in how it can be set up and operated. If you have a small living space, and if vacuuming seems like a chore, then the POWERbot can genuinely help out with your daily cleaning duties.
It's just as smart as ever at navigating a room. Samsung's POWERbot vacuums have a wide-angle, upward-facing camera that maps ceilings, light sources and the placement of objects within rooms; those smarts help the VR9200 work out where the corners of your rooms are, but they also detect objects -- like people or cats or dogs -- moving around your living space. That, along with ultrasonic sensors, make for a robot that is surprisingly good at not running into things and knocking stuff over. You might find the VR9200 stuck under a low couch, maybe, but that's your biggest risk with it.
It handles corners surprisingly well. Robot vacuums, especially the round ones, always struggle with cleaning inside sharp corners, but the POWERbot handles getting into corners well -- it kind of shimmies sideways into them -- and actually cleaning them. The secret to this is the fact that this particular robot has suction and bristles that extend nearly to its outside edges, and the bristles themselves are quite forward on the robot itself. The VR9200's remote lets you target specific areas -- Samsung calls this Point Clean -- to which the robot will happily (I imagine it's happy, at least) trundle over to, making several passes back and forth to clean trouble areas or recent spills.
It's a lot quieter, even at full power. The original VR9000 POWERbot was loud; at full-power Turbo mode it would literally vibrate the house around it as it was cleaning. The VR9200 has three different power levels, and while the most powerful (still called Turbo) mode is very, very effective at picking up dust, it's a lot less likely to shake the floor and tell the people on the floor below you that you were driving a giant tank around your living room. The two lesser modes are practically inaudible by comparison, although I wouldn't really recommend them unless you're vacuuming late at night or early in the morning.
It fills up with dust and dirt quickly. The same 0.7-litre dust capacity as the previous model remains, with the same high quality filtration system. Because the VR9200 is actually really good for a robotic vacuum in terms of the detritus that it picks up, you'll have to empty it regularly especially if you're running it over carpet or any other fibrous surface that traps dust easily. This is probably 90 per cent of your interactions with the POWERbot -- emptying its dust canister -- and it's very straightforward, requiring you to only lift a single flap and remove the container, but it's a chore nonetheless.
It still doesn't have useful Wi-Fi. Samsung says the POWERbot VR9200 uses its Smart Home app and hooks up to your house's Wi-Fi, letting you schedule cleaning or set your robot vac loose on a rampage at the touch of a button whenever you're out of the house. I didn't have any luck getting the POWERbot connected to my smartphone, neither on Android or iOS. I did get it working on an iPad eventually, though. You can do everything that the remote control does, but I'd love to see a more useful application of the VR9200's sensors -- a virtual layout of your house that you can tap and send the robot vacuum to clean, for example.
It's still expensive, but worth it. Especially if you have a small apartment or a limited living space, an autonomous vacuum makes a lot of sense, and the Samsung POWERbot VR9200 is just about the smartest and most capable one you can buy in Australia right now. It's leagues ahead of the horizontal-brushing-and-sweeping robot vacuums like the Miele RX1, both on suction and the quality of its cleaning on soft and hard floors. And it does come at a significant cost, more than twice as much as some of its competitors, but if you're buying it with long-term use in mind then you're not wasting your money.