Ecovacs Deebot X1 Omni review – finally a robot vacuum that’s a smart cookie
Top-of-the-line robo-vac with a price tag to match.
Top-of-the-line robo-vac with a price tag to match.
A few months ago, I inherited an iRobot Roomba 980. It’s an older model and the battery is starting to fade, but it does a decent job of keeping on top of visible pet hair and other debris in our small house.
Above all else, it’s endearingly stupid. When it takes off to go cleaning, it simply runs in one direction until it crashes into a wall, turns and goes back the same way. Eventually it covers the house but not in the most logical fashion. On most cleaning trips, it gets caught under a chair in our lounge and needs to be rescued, or it'll run out of battery oh-so-close to its charging station.
Like all robot vacs, the dust collection bin is puny and needs to be emptied after every trip around our modest home. I accepted these quirks because my house was looking cleaner than it ever has before – but surely things can be much better than this?
The Omni is advertised as an “all-in-one vacuum and mopping flagship”. They say it’ll mop and vacuum your home and clean itself, for the princely sum of $3000. Is it too good to be true or a game changer? I got one in to find out.
The first thing you notice is that it comes in a giant box for such a small vacuum. That’s because it comes with a cleaning station that takes up quite a lot of room compared with the Roomba, so you’ll need to make sure your home has the space.
The cleaning station holds a clean water tank for mopping, and another tank that fills with dirty water as the station cleans the mop pads for you. There’s also an onboard vacuum bag that empties the small dust collector, as well as various tools for cleaning the robot.
The robot itself looks similar to my old Roomba, but the underside reveals an extra dust-collecting brush and two mopping pads that easily pop on and off.
On closer inspection, the Omni also has cameras in its nose and a little periscope out the top.
Setting up the Omni robot is easy and driven by the mobile app. You just need WiFi and enough space for the large cleaning station. You can give your robot a name; I called mine Jenkins as it’s a perfect butler’s name. Once it’s ready to go, you can send out the robot in the Quick Mapping mode, where it’ll scoot around your home using the onboard cameras and sensors to make a map of your place. It does a decent job of this, although it requires a few manual adjustments to make it perfect. Distinguishing between rooms was needed on my map to separate rooms, because it thought the bedroom and living room were one space. And Jenkins initially thought the cavity behind the wardrobe door through to our living room was part of the bedroom and would try its hardest to clean there. It was an easy fix to put up an exclusion zone on the map, though.
After the map is complete, you can send off your robot to work. I went a few steps further and labelled the rooms in the app, which comes in handy with the built-in voice assistant, Yiko.
Using the voice assistant wasn’t as easy as I expected. It simply didn’t understand my Kiwi accent, and shouting didn’t help either. Eventually I worked out the trick: when I do my best robotic American accent, Yiko follows my every command. This worked really well when I trimmed my beard; I simply called Jenkins into the bathroom to clean up my fallen whiskers. Little things like this really help as I didn’t have to go dig out the vacuum cleaner from the cupboard, though I feel a tad silly doing the accent.
I scheduled the Omni to go off every day at 2pm to clean the house. The house looks excellent without me having to lift a finger. I only had to rescue the Omni once, from under the TV cabinet. The periscope got caught, so I just put an exclusion zone in that area of the map. Since then, it’s been perfect. Rather than crashing into objects before turning, the Omni drives right up to chairs and walls before turning – and if you leave something on the ground like a sock, it drives around it.
When the dustbin is full, the robot returns to its station and empties itself before continuing its work. That eliminates my biggest gripe with robot vacs. The Omni is much quieter than the old Roomba in everyday vacuuming, but the cleaning station is noisy when it empties the dustbin into the onboard vacuum bag, and that action always makes the cats jump. That said, the pets seem to tolerate the Omni better due to its quiet nature in everyday vacuuming. You need to manually empty the station’s vacuum bag from time to time (it’s claimed that it can hold approximately four weeks’ worth of dust).
The only annoyance I’ve found, and it is incredibly minor, is that you need to remove the mop pads for the Omni to vacuum the carpets. Once it’s in mopping mode, it sticks to the hard floors and won’t venture on to the carpets, so that leaves the bedrooms and the rug in my lounge untouched. To change modes, you have to lift up the robot and take off the circular mopping pads. It takes all of 10 seconds but it’s the only negative I’ve found with my time with the Omni. And it’s something I’m prepared to put up with for all the time and convenience it provides. Hopefully the next generation of Deebot robot vacs will be able to tackle both tasks in one hit.
Our house doesn’t get too dirty and we take our shoes off at the door, so mopping isn’t required multiple times per week. Still, it’s good to have a robot do it for you and things do look spick and span after it’s finished. I just need to remind myself to attach the pads the night before so it will head out to mop at 2pm.
One of the most fun features is the Video Manager mode in the app. It projects the X1’s onboard camera on to your phone screen with a joystick in the bottom corner. That gives you the ability to live out your inner NASA fantasy and control the robot from anywhere you have an internet connection. I’ve had loads of fun driving it around my house and even had a conversation with my wife through the two-way speaker. It isn’t perfect audio, rather an in-built gimmick that means you can say hello to your pets. And that’s the kind of gimmick I enjoy.
The Omni did a decent job of mapping my place, but I did need to fiddle around with things. The app makes these things easy enough to do but I found this task was better on my iPad as it has the bigger screen.
Simply put, Jenkins is like a son to me now. Is it something I’d pay $3000 for? Yes, but I’d be saving up for one for a long time – it’s a sizeable wad of cash. It’s taken away all the annoying quirks of my old Roomba and I have all the benefits of a clean house that’s basically hands free. And now I can chat to my cats from work.