This thing sucks. In a good way. The Samsung VR9300 is the most powerful robot vacuum cleaner that you can buy in Australia, and it's redesigned to be slimmer in profile than its predecessors to better slip underneath your couch and furniture to keep your house clean. Integrated Wi-Fi and a ceiling-mapping camera and onboard sensor suite means it'll guide itself around your property while you're away, and you can remotely control it to give your house a bit of a tszuj while you're out.
This review was originally published on February 22, 2017.
What Is It?
The Samsung Powerbot VR9300 is a $1499 robot vacuum cleaner that is now at its third generation in Australia. The original VR9000 impressed me with its compromise between performance and size, the shiny rose gold VR9200 improved on that formula, and the VR9300 is a further iteration that increases suction power and battery life while reducing noise and improving the performance of the integrated camera and "visionary mapping system".
The VR9300 boasts a run-time of 240 minutes according to Samsung, but that's in its quietest and most energy-efficient vacuuming mode. If you're like me, what you'll really want is the full power Turbo mode, which sounds a little bit like a jet plane taking off from a distance but that gets your floors cleaner than any robot vacuum has before it. Samsung's 'CycloneForce' vacuum setup is the most powerful and effective robot vac system that we've tried out, although we're still patiently waiting for the Dyson 360 Eye to be released in Australia.
What's It Good At?
When it comes to the task of actually vacuuming, the VR9300 genuinely impressed me with the quality of the job it did. On a hardwood floor it does an excellent job of dealing with everything from fine dust and debris to larger objects like animal fur and leaves — basically anything that'll fit underneath, it can sweep and suck up without inconvenience. On rugs and carpets, it's just as effective when it comes to picking up unwanted fibres and dust siting on the top layer. It might struggle with a super-deep shag pile, but anything less than that is And, because it's automated, you can vacuum more often — just tell it what to do remotely.
And that's the biggest appeal of the VR9300. When you get it out of the box for the first time, you should definitely install Samsung's Smart Home app on your phone and hook up the Powerbot robot vacuum to your house's Wi-Fi. With that simple step, the usefulness of this particular robot vac increases massively: you can tell it exactly when (and where in your house) you want it to vacuum, even when you're not there. That's goddamn cool and goddamn useful, even if it does presume you keep your house clear of random clothes on the floor on a day-to-day basis.
As robot vacuums go, the VR9300 is smart. Its mapping system — a 360-degree, upward-facing camera plus a variety of bump and ultrasonic sensors to detect nearby objects — will build a layout map of your house, remember where obstacles have been in the past, and build a vacuuming map that'll let it — after a few runs to learn the lay of the land — efficiently and effectively clean your house or apartment. You can even view that digital floorplan using the complementary smartphone app, if you so desire — or if you know one room is particularly dirty and needs immediate attention.
Now, the VR9300 can only clean a single level of your house if you're lucky enough to live on a couple of storeys — it's not some kind of Transformer that can go up and down stairs. What it can do is navigate any height obstacles that might exist on a single level — the height difference between a hardwood floor and a rug, for example, or the difference between carpet and tiles leading into a bathroom. On a level with everything — rugs, carpet, hardwood floors and tiles — the VR9300 traveled around without getting lost or stuck along the way. It does this with the help of two wheels that have an excellent range of travel.
What's It Not Good At?
Despite being smaller than the outgoing VR9200, the VR9300 is still taller and wider than some of its competition. Now, that competition may not clean as effectively in my experience — that extra suction genuinely makes a hell of a difference when it comes to both hard and soft floors — but if it can get to more places, it can do a better job overall. The size of the VR9300's body makes sense given the hardware — those bump sensors that very effectively and gently stop the vacuum from crashing into a chair or table, for example — but it's still sizeable enough that you'll have to find a convenient home for it and ensure it can make its own pathways throughout bedrooms and living rooms.
It's also expensive. We haven't reached the point where robot vacuum cleaners are as affordable as regular vacuum cleaners, let alone cheaper. If you're going to buy the VR9300 it's a $1500 proposition, which could get you a proper canister or upright vacuum and a portable handstick as a backup. That's a hard hurdle to overcome, and it does kinda mean the VR9300 remains an expensive novelty or something you'd really have to find a lot of convenience in to justify a purchase of.
Its underslung multipurpose brush does a very good job of cleaning, but it doesn't extend completely to the edge of the robot's footprint, and that means it can't clean completely up to the edge of objects or into corners. It gets very close, but not all the way. Get yourself a Dyson handstick to bridge the gap. It's more than adequate for the daily or weekly vacuuming job, but it shouldn't surprise you to hear that a robot vacuum can't do everything; you'll still need to dust and clean up anything that it's missed.
Because it's a robot, and has to carry around its own power source as well as the results of its sweepings, the VR9300 only has so range and floorspace that it can cover in a single charge. You might find that in a house or apartment with a larger, especially open-space floorplan, that the VR9300 will have to pop back in for a partial recharge before it finishes up completely. The 700mL bin size is significantly larger than other robot vacuum cleaners and Samsung's own VR9200, but still requires regular emptying every couple of runs — your mileage may vary with the level of dust and animal hair in your house, of course.
Should You Buy It?
To be honest, it's seriously hard to recommend anyone buy a robot vacuum cleaner when there are more rational choices available — even if all of them actually involve standing up and doing some work. Do you really, really value the convenience of your house being vacuumed while you're out, or kept clean on a daily basis? If you do, do you value it to the tune of $1500? Because that's how much you'll pay for the Samsung VR9300. It's absolutely going to be worth it for some, but maybe not for most.
We have reached the point, though, where I'd say a robot vacuum cleaner — specifically, this little VR9300 workhorse — can handle the task of vacuuming the lion's share of any household, whether that's made up of hard flooring like tiles or floorboards, or soft finishing like rugs and carpets. The VR9300 is very powerful considering its size. You do pay the price in loudness — despite an improvement over past models — and in run-time — again improved — though.
Over its three iterations, I've seen the Samsung Powerbot get smaller, lighter, faster, smarter, more powerful and more efficient. The VR9300 is the one I'd be the most likely to buy, and I was already pretty keen on the first one. It's still not a guaranteed purchase, not a you've got to have this gadget, but it's getting more and more tempting with every update.