Ecovacs Deebot X1 Omni robot vacuum review: Lots of features, but something wrong with almost all of them | Mashable

2022-07-30 08:27:06 By : Mr. GANG Li

I don't think it's a reach to say that robot vacuums are approaching upright vacuum-level ubiquitous.

Much like 4K TVs have gone from being a big cinephile splurge to the norm, the robot vacuum's novelty wearing off has made them more affordable — at least in terms of baseline features like app connection and suction power.

This means that manufacturers have to push the envelope on things a robot vacuum can automate to really set the high-end ones apart from the no frills ones. They also have to compete with cordless vacuums, which are fun to whip around and inherently more powerful by design.

Ecovacs is one robot vacuum brand trying to hit all the marks. At $1,549, the Ecovacs Deebot X1 Omni(opens in a new tab) is one of the most expensive and comprehensive robot vacuums one can buy. I tested it in my home for three months to see if anyone really needs to be spending that much to avoid manual vacuuming.

According to the Ecovacs website, the X1 Omni is "the most advanced all-around cleaning system taking excellence of mopping and vacuuming experience to the future."

Most capabilities on the X1 Omni's resume actually aren't novel. Lots of affordable robot vacuums can map out your home, tend to specific rooms, mop, and empty their own dust collection into their dock. First, Ecovacs sets out to perfect those features that have kind of become core bullet points in any mid-range robovac. If the X1 Omni actually clocks 5,000 Pa of suction as claimed, it'd double the suction power of most commendable vacs on the market. It takes mopping past a light gloss by ramping up rotations per minute to provide an actual scrub.

But what turns it into an all-encompassing cleaning suite are the more obscure automation features that aren't quite mainstream. The X1 Omni's dock is so big because it's storing a mega dustbin and two water reservoirs: a clean one from which the bot itself automatically draws and a dirty one that holds the juices wrung out from the mopping pads. Oh, yeah, the X1 Omni cleans those pads itself (rather than you having to hand wash them) and then dries them with hot air. Though it's large, it's not clunky — it's actually really sleek. I hear a "What is that?" (in a good way) every time a new person sees it in my apartment.

The $1,549 question: Does maximum convenience on paper actually lead to you not having to lift a finger?

Kitty litter, assorted crumbs, and long hairs made up most of the dry debris that my household produced on a daily basis. Those feel like the bare minimum job for any robot vacuum.

But too often I'd walk back into my bathroom after a cleaning just to feel litter crystals stuck to my bare feet and hair out in the middle of the floor — not even in a place that was maybe too much of a squeeze. So I'd say "OK Yiko, clean bathroom one" again, just to seal the deal. Sometimes the second trip was more successful.

I had a better experience with debris in my open-concept hardwood kitchen, which tells me that the X1 Omni's troubles in the bathroom may have been attributed to the slightly-cramped layout. Here, scattered crumbs and cat food pieces were usually gone after the first pass, including stuff that had been kicked under the cabinet lip. The brushes did push bigger pieces around sometimes, though.

Re-potting plants in the middle of your living room because you didn't feel like lugging the bag of soil outside — we've all been there, right? I didn't even have to apologize to my roommates for the soil explosion because the X1 Omni so reliably covered my tracks.

My apartment doesn't have any full-floor carpeting — only rugs (low pile, medium pile, and furry). The X1 Omni mostly did a satisfactory job on those when it didn't eat them. It got most of the kitty litter and long hair on my carpet-like bath mat and left behind those crisp vacuum lines that we all want to see. Crumbs on the flat weave living room rug were quite easy for the X1 Omni, but it did gloss over some fuzzies.

My cat's fur mostly collects on furniture, not on the floors. But to test the X1 Omni's performance on carpet for all of the multi-pet households out there, I grabbed a handful from her cat tree, spread it out in tufts on the rug, and made sure to press some of it down. The X1 Omni's first pass was about 75 percent successful. It retraced once on its own, leaving one piece of fluff behind, then I sent it back again and the fur was gone completely. I don't necessarily expect perfection from a robot vacuum, but then again, for $1,549, I kinda do.

I can't attest to the performance on high-pile rugs because I didn't once witness the X1 Omni approach a high-pile rug without getting tripped up and stopping cleaning.

Between the three priciest robot vacuums I've tested, the X1 Omni mapped faster (and more accurately on the first run) than the Roomba s9+ and Samsung JetBot AI+. It filled in almost every room in my 1,500 square foot apartment correctly, including guessing which rooms were bathrooms. I only had to reposition a wall or two and divide the very open kitchen and living room myself.

However, this didn't last. Like I said, the first map it whipped up was pretty spot-on, and I had a perfect system of saying "Ok Yiko, clean bathroom one" multiple times a day to tidy after my cat had been in the litter box. But one day, the X1 Omni randomly started heading into my roommate's bedroom when I gave the "bathroom one" command.

Naturally, I gaslit myself into believing I was mixing up the numbers the whole time — until I peeped the map and saw that my labels and dividers had been scrambled or deleted. Since you can't create a room out of grey area that the app insists it doesn't recognize, a fresh mapping session was needed, and each new map was less accurate than the one before.

The app's map editing isn't overly user-friendly, either, with irrational rules about where divider lines can be put and frustratingly touchy responses when you're attempting to pinch and drag. The 3D version of the map is much easier to use, allowing you to drag and drop furniture exactly where it is in your home, down to things like cat houses, tower fans, and large plants. This gives the X1 Omni a better idea of what type of barriers it's going around, and also unlocks the option to tell the X1 Omni to clean under a piece of furniture, like the kitchen table.

Regardless of how accurate the map of the day was, the X1 Omni got lost pretty often. Easy chunks of rooms were ignored on a regular basis, with the vacuum ditching the mission after announcing that it had either finished the job when it definitely hadn't or insisting that it "couldn't find the designated area."

Once, I sent it for a full sweep of the living room to take care of a fly that my cat killed but didn't eat. The X1 Omni must be as grossed out by bugs as I am, because it didn't even attempt to go near that wall.

One thing about the X1 Omni is that it's not about to get stuck on some furniture. It seamlessly went under the couch and low-profile bed frames and carved around the arm chair and acorn-shaped coffee table. (It even avoided the fringes of a blanket hanging off the chair.) It also maneuvered under the kitchen table and chairs with ease, and there are some pretty tight squeezes under there.

The roving camera feature puts you in the action by letting you watch a live stream of what the vacuum sees as it's maneuvering. I absolutely love this feature for pet parents, who can keep tabs on what their pet is up to with a camera more dynamic than one that sits on a table. Someone needs to invent a robot vacuum that dispenses treats and we'll really be in business.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assert that you shouldn't have to worry about a $1,549 vacuum eating your charger. (A $200 robot vacuum can do that just fine.) Despite using an "astrophotography-grade RGB camera with autopilot technology" for "enhanced obstacle avoidance even in the dark," I watched the X1 Omni gobble up a phone and laptop charger on multiple occasions. Like, at this point, I'd rather just do the whole pre-cleaning routine of putting away small obstacles.

Small rugs were also instigators. Despite its large wheels, the X1 Omni rides low to the ground and kicked up most corners of rugs of all piles. I could tell where the X1 Omni had been without checking its trail on the app because it left so many rugs all scrambled up. This was the kiss of death for cat toys with feathers, which I'd have to cut to free from the X1 Omni's jaws.

Sometimes the X1 Omni got so entangled with an obstacle that it simply got stuck and stopped cleaning, which is super annoying if you aren't home to fix it. Virtual boundaries mostly solve the issue, but pinning down the perfect square that actually translates to the spot the bot should avoid takes some trial and error. Also, it's the PRINCIPLE.

Allegedly, the pressurized mopping pads on the X1 Omni actually scrub (at 180 RPM to be exact). That should mean that it can provide a little more elbow grease than the light shine that most robot vacuum mops can add to a freshly-swept floor.

My apartment was covered in footprints after moving in. From housewarming guests not taking shoes off at the door to delivery people assembling furniture, the floor felt constantly grimy. In a certain light, the grime was really illuminated on our light hardwood floors. Being able to rely on the X1 Omni to tend to the kitchen, sucking up crumbs while erasing the footprints, was a relief.

The X1 Omni was great with spilt wine and almond milk. Spills were almost always cleared in one pass and the pads didn't drag liquid across the floor.

One day before a concert, I was clomping around the apartment in my vintage red cowboy boots. I mention that they are vintage not only to confirm that I am a sustainable secondhand queen, but because whatever heavy duty material they're made with left black scuffs all over the floor. While rushing out the door, I got on the app to send the X1 Omni to mop while we were gone. I came home to an 80 percent scuff-less floor, with the ones still present at least noticeably lighter. Better than having to go around to every single scuff myself.

The mopping was less successful on water marks on gray tiled bathroom floor. Though the floor was shiny after the X1 Omni exited, it was like the dried droplets hadn't even been touched.

Not all mopping results can be as blatant as a puddle disappearing. The dirty water in the tank was equal parts satisfying and disturbing — I had no idea our hardwood floors were that dirty, but clearly, the mop is working in some capacity.

The best part of the X1 Omni's mopping experience is definitely the self-maintenance of its mopping pads. When it thinks its mopping pads are dirty, the X1 sends itself to the dock for a quick car wash. The station washes the pads, dries them with hot air, and refills the on-board water tank so that the X1 can resume its mopping rounds with a clean slate. All of this is on you with other hybrids, which you have to keep track of pretty closely to avoid a dirty pad grunging up a clean floor.

As for the dock's handling of dry debris, I am thoroughly impressed. The sound that accompanies self-emptying of debris from the vacuum itself actually doesn't sound like a plane taking off. It's easily the most peaceful whoosh I've ever experienced.

The dock and its 3-liter bag have also blown the 60-day max out of the water. As of this writing, I'm past month three (so, over 90 days) and haven't had to change bags yet. Granted, I don't live in a house with kids or multiple shedding pets, but the X1 Omni is still cleaning up after three 20-somethings and a cat multiple times a week

The X1 Omni is so diligent about not getting carpet or rugs wet that it refuses to travel over carpet while the mopping pads are on. That sounds logical until there's a rug chilling in the route to the room that needs mopping. I witnessed pure dramatics when trying to send the X1 Omni to mop my bathroom, which is down a hallway with a runner rug that happens to have a few inches sitting in front of the doorway. The X1 Omni's camera recognized the rug, convinced itself it simply couldn't get to the bathroom, and returned to the station.

This means that "vacuum and mop mode" only includes vacuuming of hard floors. It's an easy enough fix if you're home to pop the pads off. But if you're out, it's annoying to be on the verge of starting a cleaning just to remember that the mopping pads are on, meaning that the vac won't go anywhere with carpet.

The system of switching between modes is a little irksome, too. The mopping pads can't be installed when the vacuum is docked, right? So, you need to lure the vac out of the dock or physically pull it out to install the pads. Then, because the vac left the dock thinking it was in vacuum mode, it didn't have a chance to fill up with water, meaning it attempts to mop without any water to release. I found myself having to dock the X1 Omni after popping on the mopping pads and then sending it out a second time.

It's a convoluted process compared to the X1 Omni's closest competitor, the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra(opens in a new tab) , or even the Roborock S7, which costs significantly less. Both simply raise their mopping pad over rugs and continue doing the job.

A brand-exclusive voice assistant feels redundant for a vac that's already compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, but it's not like adjusting to say "OK Yiko" (pronounced eco like in eco-friendly) is hard. Yiko commands work the same way, allowing you to request a full cleaning, spot cleaning of a certain area, or to return to the dock without picking up your phone.

Yiko's human recognition capabilities are pretty cool, albeit extra. If you spill something, you can call Yiko over to that exact spot without choosing a spot on the map. The camera recognizes the difference between a human and a piece of furniture and can spot you in just a few seconds. I audibly dropped an "aww" when Yiko ever so politely said to "please make some space for me" after locking in on my location. The only catch is that you need to be in Yiko's line of sight when you beckon it because it won't search the house to find you.

Yiko's hearing isn't as limited. It never missed a command, even when I yelled from across the room. Yiko actually paid so much attention that it also overheard conversations on the TV and responded "Sorry, I didn't catch that," — an interesting phenomenon when you're home alone and haven't said a word aloud in hours. We need a horror movie where the main character finds out about a demonic presence from an eavesdropping appliance!!!

This is typically where the "if you have the budget, do it" sidebar comes into a review of a pricey item, but there are simply more reliable options for less money. The Deebot X1 Omni(opens in a new tab) has too many caveats to get it to that level, even with the auto-empty dock being such a star.

Though the docking station does clean and dry its own soggy mopping pads, that's about the only genuinely helpful addition that you can't find elsewhere. The avoidance of carpet while the mopping pads are on and the fact that you need to be physically present to switch in and out of mopping mode put extreme limits on what can and can't be done if you're not home, defeating the purpose of controlling cleaning from an app.

With claimed 5,000 Pa suction, its success rate on common debris just isn't where it needs to be at this point. Then again, suction power doesn't even matter if a robot vacuum doesn't go where it's told to find the debris in the first place.

It's not that any of the workarounds for these complaints are overly hard. They're just things that I don't feel like I should have to deal with at this price. You know a robot vacuum isn't worth it when you find yourself subconsciously grabbing the stick vacuum instead, and that's where I was with the Deebot X1 Omni.

UPDATE: Jul. 28, 2022, 1:30 p.m. EDT An earlier version of this review rated the Deebot X1 Omni a 4 out of 5, but we have since updated the score to be 3.5 due to the price and some performance issues.

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