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Review: ECOVACS DEEBOT R98: A Smarter Robovac

The humble robot vacuum cleaner is now pretty much a mainstream tech product with a market value of at least US$1.5 billion per annum, so by now we are pretty used to these oversized robovac hockey pucks placidly hovering up our carpets during the night.

The latest generation of these floorbots are now pretty advanced and come with a whole load of sensors to not only ensure your floor is kept clean, but to also learn how to avoid your furniture and stairs. One of the smartest we’ve recently seen is the ECOVACS DEEBOT R98 which we had in the office for a couple of weeks to test out. Note however that the DEEBOT R98 is a complete vacuum cleaner system, not just a simple robovac unit.

A Big Box Load

The DEEBOT R98 is actually a system that combines a smart robotic vacuum cleaner with a cordless handheld vacuum, and as such it comes in quite a big box. Unlike other system that uses a small charging dock the charging unit for the R98 is actually pretty big and you’ll need to spend a bit of time and thought figuring out where you want it. This is because the charging station not only docks both the robovac but also the handheld vacuum as well as a long wand and various vacuum head attachments. For home use we’d recommend placing the charging dock in a corner of your kitchen next to a power outlet.

Now size aside this is actually quite a brilliant bit of engineering, as the charging dock not only charges both units simultaneously, but it enables the robot to automatically discharge its payload into the handheld unit – so you actually don’t really have to do much maintenance on the robot except to regularly check for the usual hair stuck in the brush head and remove larger objects that accidentally get sucked up – like a Nerf dart from the last VR-Zone Office Nerf Battle!

Sucking it all up

We weren’t joking that our review DEEBOT R98 sucked up a Nerf dart, so yes it handles regular dirt quite easily, especially on the bare concrete of our office floor with its two side brushes channeling dirt towards the central vacuum section. For tiled floors you can use a wet/dry mopping system that mops and dries in one pass.

The robot vacuum did have a bit of trouble cleaning under our tables, especially when it got stuck trying to climb over PVC electrical trunking conduits – while the DEEBOT R98 uses ECOVACS SMART NAVI technology which includes a laser detector, anti-collision system, anti-drop system and environmental mapping to avoid chairs and table legs it didn’t seem to detect these 1cm tall trunking conduits, which too be fair isn’t something it’d encounter in a home.

Oh and when it does gets stuck the robovac activates its speakers and issues an actual ‘cry for help’ like “My driving wheel is suspended”, and since you can easily change the language settings via a smartphone app we soon had our DEEBOT R98 calling out in not only English but also Japanese, Thai and Malay!

The app also enables you to not set up the DEEBOT R98 to vacuum at a preset time but it also logs its routine, including a visual map. Via the app you can not only manually control the DEEBOT R98 and drive it around (quite fun for cat chasing) but if you, for example, spilt your potato crisps on the floor you can use the app to designate one specific spot on the floor for the ‘bot to attack.

As we mentioned the DEEBOT R98 kit comes with a handheld cordless vacuum cleaner that the robovac will automatically transfer its payload into, and to use this handheld you just pull it out of its slot, click on a vacuum brush head and off you go. It’s not the most powerful handheld we’ve ever tried, but it works well enough and with the various attachments you can clean desk, chairs, couches and table tops well. Dumping all the dit is pretty simple – just hold it over a dustbin and unlock the latch.

A Clean Score

The ECOVACS DEEBOT R98 is now available in store and online for S$1,199. Of course there are plenty of cheap handheld vacuum cleaners and robot vacuum cleaners available online but if you prefer quality and efficiency over cost then this complete system is pretty reasonable.

Shawn Chung
The Editor

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