Tag Archives: Cleaning

The Dirt Devil RoomMate Robot Vacuum Does the Job

Dirt Devil RoomMate Robotic Vacuum Cleaner Reviewd

What we have here is a hard floor cleaning robotic vacuum cleaner that is something of a Roomba look-alike. It’s a vacuum with dual side-brushes, and like a Roomba it does a random behavioral kind of cleaning (as opposed to mapping out a room like the Neato XV-11 and Mint Cleaners do). Here’s one that appeared in 2011 without a bang: The Dirt Devil RoomMate Robotic Vacuum Cleaner by Royal Appliance Mfg Co. The best I can figure out, this item was introduced in April or May of this year, with little or no fanfare. There aren’t any reviews on the Amazon product page yet, even. So I’m pretty sure that this is the first review for this item.

What comes in the box.

The robot comes with everything you need to get started in the box: The robot itself, 2 detachable side bristle brushes, a manual, a quick-start guide, the battery, and battery charger. . The battery is a 14.4 Volt, 800mAh NiMH unit that looks like it’s made of 12 AA cells wrapped up into a single module. The quick-start guide gets you through attaching the side brushes, inserting the battery, and operating the robot for the first time. The manual is one of those frustrating affairs because it is written in three languages and they’re all crammed together. So each page has every step and illustration detailed in English, Spanish, and French together. I don’t know why it is, but I always find myself trying to read the French sections.

Dirt Devil on/off switch and charging port

The robot takes four hours to charge. A charge lasts over an hour with a new battery. The manufacturer says that the robot should last 50 minutes. Ours lasted about one hour, ten minutes for our testing. On the top of the robot there are three LED lights. They are: “Battery Low” indicator, “Dirt Cup Full” or “Clog” indicator, and “Charging” indicator. To be honest, the outside two lights flash while the robot is cleaning, so I haven’t really been able to figure out what they mean.

Here is the robot in action:

As you can see, it does random criss-crossing of the room, followed by circling/spiraling and then it does wall following. It actually does those things in that order. It follows walls in one direction only, going clockwise around a room perimeter when viewed from above. Also like the Roomba, Mint Cleaner, and XV-11, the Dirt Devil has a bumper in front to tell when it has run into something. The Dirt Devil also seems to use that bumper to do its edge following. Like other floor cleaning robots, the Dirt Devil has cliff sensors to keep it from going off an edge.

Comparing a Dirt Devil RoomMate to an iRobot Roomba

Despite its appearances, the Dirt Devil is different from a Roomba in quite a few ways. For one thing, it lacks a lot of the advanced features built into Roombas these days. There’s no Dirt Detect, no dock, no Lighthouses, no scheduling, no remote control, and etc. As you can see, the robot is smaller than a Roomba, and shorter. You put the robot in a room, switch it on, and the robot is done when the battery runs out. When it’s done it gives a distintive chirping noise. Since the robot vacuums until the battery is gone, you need to charge it again before you can do another room.

Bottom of the Dirt Devil robot

Looking at the bottom of the robot reveals even more differences from a Roomba. The Dirt Devil has two side brushes instead of one. Unlike a Roomba or XV-11, there are no beaters or intake brushes. Instead, the side brushes direct dirt and debris into a mouth-like intake where the vacuum sucks it into the filter cup. So on the plus side, it won’t inhale power cords. During testing, however, the robot had some trouble with the intake getting clogged by large dust bunnies. When I looked at the dust bin, I noticed that there’s a cellophane lid that is made to keep debris from falling back out of the bin. I bet if a person pulled that out, it might not have such a hard time with the dust bunnies.

The robot moves more slowly than any other robot vacuum we’ve reviewed here, and as a result it’s more gentle when it runs into furniture, doors, and walls. It’s more noisy than the Mint, but definitely more quiet than a Roomba. During testing the robot didn’t have any problems moving around rooms, but it did have some trouble with floor mats and area rugs. In particular, depending on its angle of approach, the robot sometimes got stuck trying to climb up area rugs and floor mats. Like every other robot floor cleaner in the world, when left unattended, this robot may get stuck in unexpected places and can get tangled in cords.

Dirt Devil robot debris cup and filter

The filter cup is easy to get to and very easy to empty. One nice thing is that the cup and filter can be cleaned with water, although obviously they need to be dried properly before putting them back in the robot.

So how does it do? As the title states, it does the job. I was able to use it to clean several rooms, and was satisfied with the results. I did my standard test where I ran other robots after the Dirt Devil cleaned a room to see how it did, and in all cases it didn’t leave much for the other robots to clean up on hard floors. Although it is a vacuum cleaner, it’s not designed to clean carpets. I’m guessing that this is because the robot lacks beaters and intake brushes to pull dust and dirt out of carpets. One thing we were impressed by was its ability to suck up larger debris like pine needles from our Christmas decorations.


More sensitive bumper than most other robots.
Won’t eat cables and cords (although it can still get stuck on them).
Less room prep work needed.
Less expensive.
Cleans hard floors well.
The dual brushes get into corners for good cleaning.
Runs more quietly than other robot vacuums (manufacturer claims less than 60 dB).


Can’t be scheduled.
Gets stuck climbing area rugs and mats.
Intake can get choked with dust bunnies.

Executive Summary

The Dirt Devil robotic vacuum is ideal for vacuuming kitchen and bathroom floors, and is available at almost half the price of its closest competitor. In our testing, the robot seemed reliable, and I appreciated how it was more forgiving than other vacuums as far as how much room prep is required. Our one concern with the robot is that the intake can get clogged easily. If you’re looking for a no-frills budget floor cleaning robot that does the job, the Dirt Devil RoomMate might be the robot for you.

Check out information and pricing for the Dirt Devil RoomMate on Amazon.com.

Robot Review: The Neato Robotics XV-11 and XV-15

Neato Robotics XV-11 in box

We got our hands on a Neato Robotics XV-11 recently, which gave us the opportunity to test it out, and also to compare it with an iRobot Roomba (review of 780 model here) and the Evolution Mint Cleaner (see our review of the original Mint and the new 5200 Model). The good news is that there are some key things that the XV-11 does a lot better than the competition. Does it beat the other two in all areas? Not really. BUT depending on what you’re looking for in an automated vacuum cleaner, the Neato may the robot for you. Read on to find out what we discovered.

Besides the robot vacuum itself, in the box you get a manual, quick-start instructions, a charging dock (with power cord), an extra filter, and a roll of brown keep-out strip (which is 15 feet long, unwound). So the robot really comes with everything you need to get started, which is excellent. The manual is 54 pages long, is very detailed and clearly written.

There are a couple of things that make the XV-11 stand out from the competition. For one, it uses what Neato Robotics calls RPS Technology, which is their mapping system that is built into the robot. It uses a laser rangefinder to build a map of everything in the room so that it can navigate around your house and find its way back to its dock. Because it maps the room, it can clean methodically, doing the perimeter of the room and also going back and forth in rows. Because it works this way, it cleans rooms more quickly than a Roomba will, and thus can afford to put more power into the suction of the vacuum. When you watch the vacuum cleaner go around a room, you’ll notice that it kind of divides a room up into sub-spaces and does those spaces one by one. The XV-11 is also aware of doorways. So it will automatically stay in one room until it finishes vacuuming it, and then it will move on to the next room.

Another welcome difference is the LCD display. You and the robot will use this display to communicate with each other. Around the display are five buttons. The most obvious of these is the red Start button, which is pretty much the “Clean” button. On the right side of the display are the following buttons: Up, Down, and Back. Below the display is a Select button. So basically, you use the up, down, back, and select buttons to navigate through the menus on the robot. The XV-11 can be scheduled, and you use this interface to do the scheduling. Setting the time and scheduling the robot is very easy. If you can set a digital alarm clock, then you shouldn’t have any trouble with the XV-11. It’s also nice having a display where the robot can communicate with you. There is a battery level indicator, and the robot will also display messages there. For instance, when the robot is finished vacuuming the room, and is headed back to the dock, it displays a message which tells you that it’s looking for the dock.

XV-11 from the bottom

Another thing that is obviously different about the XV-11 is that the front end is square. When the vacuum was first introduced, the tech press made a big deal out of how the front end was square and claims were made that this shape would make the robot be able to get into corners better than the competition. Unfortunately, as you’ll see in the review video here, the XV-11 doesn’t do a great job of the corners. One would expect the robot to drive into the corner and then back out. Instead, it sort of curves through the corners. Also, it lacks a spinning side brush, so it doesn’t really get that inch of space between the edge of the robot and where the beater begins.

Neato Robot Dust Bin

Some other nice things built into the Neato Robot: The dust bin is built into the top of the robot, and is very easy to remove, empty, and replace. There is a cleverly built-in carrying handle on the top at the front of the robot. As mentioned above, the robot comes with a roll of barrier strip. So what you can do is cut these to length and use them to keep the robot out of various areas. This is pure genius. I’ve got a space under my desk where the cables for my computer, monitor, mouse, and peripherals all hang out. Keeping the robot out of that area is as simple as laying down one of these strips.

This video will show you what I mean about the XV-11 not really doing a great job with corners. In the video, the robot does kind of bump into the edge of the doorway, and then kind of curves through the corner, instead of driving into it, and then backing up and turning like one might expect. This is the way it does all corners. Watch the robot as it navigates around a table leg. This illustrates the really seriously different thing about the XV-11 that nobody seems to talk about: It doesn’t knock into your furniture. Before anybody gets all excited, I should say that yes, it will bump into walls and furniture every once in a while. But in comparison to the Roomba, which can really smack into things, the XV-11 mostly avoids touching your furniture.

The dirty little secret of all robot floor cleaners is that they require room prep before you set them loose. Things like clothes, toys, or any other small objects that may or may not be sucked up into the vacuum should be cleaned up. Cords need to be tucked away (or moved behind barriers), tassels and curtain pulls may be in danger if they hang to the floor, and some of your mats and rugs may simply refuse to play nice with your robot. Despite all your best preparation, the robot will find a cord sooner or later, and unfortunately the XV-11 doesn’t react well to them. It will suck a cord up, mangle it, and often try to pull whatever is connected to the cord away with it. (It’s fair to say that this will happen with Roombas, too, except that the new 700 Series Roombas actually detect cords and spit them out.)

The XV-11 is a half inch taller than a Roomba, and thus can’t get under everything a Roomba can. Also, curiously, it will not go under anything it can’t see under. So if your bed has a skirt, the skirt won’t stop most floor cleaning robots, but to the XV-11, the skirt looks like a wall. So a bed skirt, if it is laser “eye” level to the robot, will keep the vacuum from going under the bed. Depending on your situation, this might be a good thing, but it bears mentioning.

Maintenance: The Neato doesn’t seem to get hair and other debris wound around its brush bearings much. Although the XV-11 does need a little maintenance now and then, it’s pretty hassle-free.

Finally, in several months of testing, the Neato robot vacuum cleaner found its way back to the dock 100% of the time. I’ve read other reviews that don’t report this success rate, but that’s what we experienced.

Tested with Roomba, Mint, XV-11 to compare and contrast

We did a LOT of testing with XV-11. We ran tests to compare it to the Roomba and also to compare it with the Mint cleaner. We found that there wasn’t really a substantial difference in cleaning between the different floor cleaners. In other words, if you cleaned a room with one of the robots and then followed it up with another one, the second robot would come back without much dirt. There would always be some dirt on the second run, but never enough to make us stop and take notice.

Now you may be thinking to yourself that it sounds like there isn’t any compelling reason to choose the Neato Robotics XV-11 over the competition. But there are two places where it really shines. As I said in the intro, it depends on your situation. First off, the XV-11 is a master at cleaning multiple rooms. If you have thoroughly prepped all the rooms in your house, you can set the XV-11 running, and it will vacuum an entire floor with no human intervention and no need for arranging lighthouses (or, in the case of the Mint, Northstar cubes). When used with a charging base, it will recharge itself if necessary, and start off where it last left off. Second, the XV-11 doesn’t bang into furniture and walls. It’s not perfect, so it will gently bump things here and there, but it is much less likely to leave streaks on your furniture and walls.

So there you have it. The XV-11 does a good job of vacuuming, maps rooms as it goes, can be scheduled, requires less maintenance, comes with handy barrier strips and a charging base, doesn’t bang into the furniture much at all, and is capable of cleaning a whole story of a house in one go with a minimum of fuss.

More Information

Neato XV-12 at Engadget
Neato Robots Reviewed at Robot Buying Guide
Neato Review at IEEE AUTOMATON

The Mint Plus Does It Better – An In-Depth Review

Later note – Announced August 22, 2013, iRobot is now selling the Mint 5200 re-branded as the Braava 380t.

I bought the original Evolution Robotics Mint (model 4200) a year ago and I use it every week at home and love it. It’s really well designed and does a great job keeping our hardwood and tile floors clean. When I found out that Evolution Robotics was coming out with a new improved model, the Mint Plus (models 5200 and 5200C) I was really excited to see what they had done to improve this simple automatic sweeping and mopping robot. The good news is that they’ve really improved the robot, especially when it comes to mopping, and we whole-heartedly recommend spending the extra money to get the newer model.

Mint Plus Model 5200C

Very briefly, the Mint robot is built to sweep and mop floors. It comes with wet microfiber cloths for mopping and dry microfiber cloths for sweeping. When it sweeps, it runs around the floor in straight lines. When it mops it uses a back and forth and side-to-side motion to wet and then pick up dirt as it goes.

Unlike Roombas, the Mint robots actually navigate around the room and keep track of where they’ve been. To navigate, they use a device called a NorthStar beacon which is a cube that you turn on and place on a table or counter in the room that the Mint is cleaning. The Mint cleans a room by going back and forth over the floor, and then running around the perimeter of the room. Like a Roomba, it has sensors to keep it from running off of cliffs and stairs.

The main advantages a Mint has over most robotic vacuums:

  • Quiet
  • More gentle on furniture
  • Cleans same size room faster
  • Mops in addition to sweeping
  • Less prep work before cleaning

Some other robot vacuums have advantages over the Mint. For example, the Mint:

  • Can’t do carpeting (this is, admittedly, a big one)
  • Can’t be scheduled
  • Won’t return to charging dock when finished and charge itself automatically

For a more in-depth review of the original Mint, check here. For a side-by-side comparison of the Mint robot to an iRobot Roomba, read here.

The first thing I noticed when unboxing the Mint Plus, was that instead of using huge blocks of styrofoam to pack the robot, everything is in cardboard trays. I know not everybody cares about this, but for me it’s a big plus to have a company care about the environment and use “green” packing materials.

What comes in the box Mint Plus

Here’s what you get in the box

  • Mint Plus Robot
  • Owner’s Manual (39 pages – download here)
  • NorthStar2 Cube
  • 2 C Batteries for NorthStar2
  • Pro-Clean Reservoir Wet Cleaning Pad
  • Regular “All-Purpose” Cleaning Pad
  • 2 Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
  • 2 Wet Microfiber Mopping Cloths
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Replacement Wick Cap for Reservoir

The Mint cradle model (the 5200c) comes with a cradle. Otherwise, the cradle is available for purchase separately.

In the box you get everything you need to get started. Everything is very clearly marked, and many of the items are packed with simple instructions in the packaging wrapped around the item (like the Pro-Clean Reservoir) or printed directly on them (like the NorthStar module). The NorthStar cube requires two C size batteries, and those are provided in the box, which is awesome.

Mint Plus model comparison 4200 5200

What’s different in the Mint Plus

As you can see, the Mint Plus is black. Both robots are the same size and height. The Mint Plus comes with a cleaning pad that has a reservoir for dispensing liquid as it mops. The Mint Plus charges more quickly, getting a full charge in two hours. It also lasts 25% longer on a full charge than the original model. The NorthStar2 module is supposed to be more efficient and also has a better scheme for having the robot clean several rooms at one go. The Plus has a quick cleaning mode where it skips doing the perimeter. The Mint Plus also has a Pause and Resume feature where it can pick up from where it started if you need to interrupt it for some reason. The Mint Plus is made so that it can be kept in a charging cradle.

Mint Plus in Charging Cradle

Looking at the Mint Plus, you can see that the front edge has more padding on it. There’s a rubber pad that runs all the way around the front. Like iRobot Roombas, the Mint robots will run into your furniture and walls. They try to slow down before they hit things, but people who use cleaning robots do tend to notice wear after using them for years. This padding is to help keep the robot from doing eventual damage to your things, and is much more substantial than the padding on the original Mint.

Under the hood, the Mint Plus has an upgraded battery. Both robots come with a 7.2 Volt NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) battery, but whereas the original Mint came with a 1500 mAh battery, the Mint Plus is packing a 2000 mAh battery. The measure “mAh” is short for milli-Amp hours and is a measure of how much energy a battery can supply over a period of time. Do the math how you will, but the manufacturer states that Mint Plus has 25% more battery time. The connectors for the different batteries are not compatible, so you won’t be able to buy a replacement battery for one model and use it in the other.

While the regular microfiber cleaning cloths are basically identical, the wet cleaning cloths for mopping are a little different. The cloths are a little smaller in the direction that gets tucked around the cleaning pad. This doesn’t reduce the cleaning surface at all, and was probably done to help keep the ends of the cloth from getting bunched into the middle and cause problems mounting the pad to the robot.

The charging brick is built so it won’t block other power outlets around it. This is awesome!

Mint NorthStar Navigation Cubes

Evolution Robotics has made changes to the NorthStar Navigation Cube, which they are calling the NorthStar2. The original NorthStar cube was model 4261. Mint also sells a “second room” cube which is model 4262. The new Mint NorthStar module is model 4264 (which leaves me wondering what happened to 4263). The main change to the navigation system occurs when you get more than one cube and place them in different rooms. With the original system, the second cube would keep the robot out of the second room, and then when it was finished cleaning the first room, you had to pick the robot up and carry it into the second room. The new NorthStar system works such that the robot will clean the first room and then move into the second room by itself, afterwards. This makes better sense and doesn’t require human intervention to clean two rooms in one session.

Also related to the NorthStar, the Mint Plus is supposed to navigate more efficiently. I timed both robots cleaning a few rooms, and for a room that took around 15 minutes to clean, the Plus took about a minute off of the cleaning time when sweeping. Watching the robots when sweeping, I don’t notice any real difference. The promotional literature about the Plus claims that the NorthStar makes the robot clean larger areas more efficiently, so maybe I need larger test areas.


The Cradle is Nice

The Mint Plus is built with contacts on the back end to charge in a cradle. One nice thing about the cradle is that you don’t have to plug the robot in manually. With a cradle, there’s a space where the Mint “belongs” so it’s more likely to end up there. Also, it helps make the Mint fit into a way smaller space.

Mopping Has Improved!

If you’ve read my original Mint cleaner review, you’ll know that I wasn’t particularly impressed with the mopping job that that the robot did. To mop, you wet a mopping cloth, put it on the cleaning pad, and then run the robot. The problem is that the mopping cloth usually dries out before the robot can finish the room. So it never cleans up all the sticky spots or places where there is mud tracked into the room.

Mint Plus mopping reservoir

The engineers at Evolution must have known this was a problem because they’ve come up with a solution: The Pro-Clean Reservoir Pad. Basically, this is a pad that’s pretty much like the regular all-purpose pad that you attach the cleaning cloths to, except that it has a container for water (and mild soap if desired) and a wick that lets the liquid in the reservoir seep out into the cleaning pad. So the mopping cloth doesn’t dry out. As you can see from the picture, the reservoir is clear, so you can see what the water level is.

Mint Plus after mopping the floor

Since we got the Mint Plus, we’ve used the mopping feature twice. Once to clean the kitchen floor after it hadn’t been mopped in a long time, and the second time just before we had company. On the first run, there were several spots where something sticky had been dropped on the floor and dirt had accumulated on the spots. These were the kinds of areas where the original Mint might or might not do a good job on them. We were pleased and surprised when these spots disappeared from one cleaning with no pre-wetting of the spots. The second time, we needed to clean because it had rained all day, and we had carried groceries and other things in and out of the house enough times that there was some mud tracked into the kitchen. Again, the Mint Plus did a great job where the original Mint might not have got everything.

A Few Gripes

While it’s not as important with a Mint as it can be with its more noisy and obnoxious vacuum cleaning cousins, I really wish the Mint came with a scheduler. The rest of my complaints are really just minor quibbles. Here goes: While the cradle is nice, if it’s on the same floor as the robot is cleaning, the Mint will push it around the room. So you have to put the cradle somewhere else. Next, having two cleaning pads means that you need somewhere to store the one that currently isn’t on the robot (I told you these were quibbles!). Also, you have to remember to empty the Pro-Clean reservoir before putting it away because otherwise it will continue to leak water after you’ve put it away. Finally, the glossy black finish on the Plus collects and shows fingerprints, dirt, and dust.

Wrap Up

A great little cleaning robot just got a lot better! While I would have really loved a scheduling feature on this robot, that’s my only really substantial complaint. The robot charges more quickly, can clean more area on one charge, has some other features like Pause/Resume that make it easier to use, and it does a much better job of mopping. Also, the robot can be used with a cradle, which is really nice. As of this writing, the original Mint is $200 US, and the Mint Plus is $300 without the cradle. The cradle is about $70.

If you’re wondering if a Mint robot is for you, consider whether or not a robot vacuum makes more sense. Our house is mostly hardwood floors with a tile floor in the kitchen and linoleum/marmoleum in the bathroom. For us, the Mint replaced our Roomba, and we love it. Someone with wall to wall carpeting throughout their house should consider how much they hate sweeping and mopping their kitchen and bathroom floors.

So, is the Plus worth the heftier price tag? I would say that if you already have a Mint and it’s working great for you, the new model is worth it if you really want or need one or more of the substantial improvements, like the fast charging, the improved mopping, and/or the cradle.

The same answer goes for someone trying to decide between getting the original 4200 or the Plus 5200. If you tend to get the deluxe model when you’re buying an appliance, it’s a no-brainer to get the Plus. Otherwise, you have to decide if the improvements are worth the extra cost. I didn’t expect to like the mopping feature as much as I did. I ran it just before some friends were coming over for dinner. I was preparing food while the robot was mopping the kitchen, and it “just worked”. To me, the satisfaction was worth it.

Where to get the Mint Plus

Get the Braava 380t Floor Mopping Robot at Amazon.