For most of us, the nationwide lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic has meant that we're spending a lot more time at home. The added pressure of working from home and trying to get by safely through a global crisis hasn't made things any easier, particularly from the point of view of keeping our spaces clean. A time like this has once again highlighted just how technology can help us.
Robotic vacuum cleaners and mops have served people all over the world for a while now, with early pioneers in the space such as iRobot (the makers of the famous Roomba), and the concept is not new to India. However, the high price, the relative ineffectiveness of the devices in our unusually dusty conditions, and the fact that we prefer to get things done with our hands, have meant that the concept hasn't quite taken off. However, interest in the idea of a robotic cleaning device now seems to be on the rise.
The robotic vacuum-mop I'm reviewing today is a technological solution that isn't really new, but is definitely a lot more relevant now than it was even a couple of years ago. The Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P was introduced by Xiaomi in India at just the right time, and is set to ship out for preorders in September this year. It's now listed at Rs. 19,999 for preorders at the time of this review, but the price will go up as it nears the target shipping date of September 15.
I've had the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P with me for a few weeks now, with it doing much of the cleaning in my home during this time. How effective has it been these past few weeks, and can this robot really replace sweeping and mopping with your hands? Find out in our review.
The rather large sales package of the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P is primarily occupied by the large robot itself. The disc-shaped device isn't very tall and could roll under my sofas and tables easily enough, but it's wide and sometimes couldn't get through every gap. It's also somewhat heavy, but not so much that you can't lift it or flip it over when needed. It has a plastic lid for the fittings at the top, a button for power, and another button to send it back to the charging station. There's also a small speaker, and the device uses voice prompts to indicate what it's doing, with announcements for starting, completing, and charging, plus reminders to remove and clean the fittings.
There are two vacuum compartments - one only for vacuuming, and a second with a water reservoir for vacuuming and mopping. The roller brush is pre-fitted into the device straight out of the box, but is removable; you'll need to remove it every few days to clean it, and it fits back in place easily enough. A mop fitting and two mop pads are included in the box, along with two sweeping brushes. Only one of these brushes needs to be fixed onto the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P; the other is a spare to use when the first brush wears out.
Of course, the charging station is also in the box. This plugs into a power outlet and is placed on the floor at a convenient location where the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P can park and charge when not in use. Contact points at the back of the device touch the points on the charger. The device can dock and charge itself when needed without you having to do anything.
Under the lid, in its own little space, is a tool that is a combination of brush and knife. The brush can be used to clean out the filters and compartments, while the knife will come in handy when you need to cut things like hair and string out of the roller. I found myself needing to do this often, and it's thoughtful of Xiaomi to include this tool with the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P.
While many competing devices offer just once major function – usually vacuuming – the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P does both vacuuming and mopping, with basic sweeping as well. A rotating brush at the front of the device pushes dust and debris into the vacuum zone, where a large roller brush captures it so it can be pulled up into the vacuum compartment. Finally, two water outlets drop water onto the floor, and a fabric mop then spreads it out for a clean mop job.
The entire process is quite efficient, taking place in the same movement. However, it's worth mentioning that the device can't quite reach everywhere, and so it can't clean as effectively in corners and along the edges of furniture, because of the shape of the device itself. Furthermore, it isn't recommended to put any additives such as antiseptic liquids in the water, so you'll likely still have to do a bit of sweeping and mopping yourself every few days for a thorough clean.
You can also choose to either vacuum or mop only, depending on which fitting you install in the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P. Two options are included; one is a vacuum-only fitting with a larger dust compartment, while the second is the vacuum-mop fitting with a smaller vacuum compartment and a reservoir for water.
The combination compartment will need to be cleaned out more often because of the smaller size of the dust area, and the water level will have to be topped up pretty much before every home cleaning. If your home is large, you might even have to top it up in the middle of a clean-up. I preferred using the combination compartment in my 600-square-foot home, and had to clean out the dust compartment once every two or three days for effective cleaning.
I did notice a bit of water dripping out of the outlet when the fitting was removed, and this was a bit scary because it could easily drip into the device itself. It wasn't a lot though, and I quickly learned how to handle the fitting and the device itself to avoid water falling onto any electronic components. This is still something to be careful about. Ideally, it's best to fill water into the reservoir after the fitting has been installed in the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P.
Interestingly, the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P works different depending on whether you're only vacuuming or also mopping. The former follows a straight path and naturally works quicker, while the latter has the device creating Y-shapes on the floor, as this is said to be the more effective way to mop. This Y-pattern also helped the device cover the floor area more effectively, so it's a smart touch in my opinion.
The cleaning process is quite smart as well, with the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P first skirting the edges of the home and forming an outer boundary of sorts. After that, it works each individual room or area separately; this wasn't always effective, as the device chose strange routes and seemingly inefficient paths. I found that having it work in one room or zoned area at a time was more efficient, but this obviously needed my intervention and close monitoring using the app.
Apart from cleaning the everyday accumulation of dust and impurities, the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P is also effective when it comes to cleaning dry spillage such as bits of paper and food crumbs. You can have it clean in a zoned space, or manually control it using the app (more on that later) to have it target specific areas in your home. Larger chunks of food or pieces of paper won't be vacuumed properly and will have to be swept away separately.
The device uses LDS (Laser Detect System) navigation, which helps it move effectively around the house and also detect and avoid obstacles or drop-offs, such as the top of a staircase. The navigation system was good for the most part, but the device did occasionally bump into some obstacles such as the legs of a chair or table, door stoppers, or footwear. Fortunately, there are flexible bumpers that absorb shocks, so this doesn't damage the device in any way. That said, it could knock something brittle over, so you'll need to be careful about that.
The device is capable of climbing low heights (such as the edges of carpets or small joints in flooring), but loose rugs did get stuck in the rollers pretty much every time. Heavy or fixed carpets didn't bother the device too much, as long as they weren't too thick. While the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P is capable of effective vacuuming on carpets and rugs, it works best on hard flooring. If you have steps or some kind of raised obstacles dividing rooms, you'll have to manually lift the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P into and out of the spaces that need to be cleaned.
The Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P is quite loud, as would be expected of any vacuum cleaner, and the sound can be quite annoying. There is a mode to make it quieter, but this reduces the power of the vacuum cleaner to the point that it isn't as effective at capturing dust and impurities. The Standard mode worked fine for me, while the Medium and Turbo modes came in handy when there was some particularly tricky cleaning to do. Water flow can also be adjusted similarly, but I found that using the Standard modes was the most sensible in both cases.
The Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P has a 3,200mAh battery. This might sound like a lot, but the device uses a lot of power to get its job done, from driving the wheels to the actual sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping. As such, even a single clean-up of your home will drain a lot of the battery, depending on the size of the area being cleaned.
My 600-square-foot home took around 45-50 minutes to clean completely, and brought the battery down to around 60 percent on average. You could hope to clean a space of around 1200-1300 square feet on a single full charge, and in around 90-100 minutes.
When the task is completed and if you have the app set up, the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P returns to the charging station on its own to top up. This will also happen if the battery level is low in the middle of a cleanup. After charging back up again, the device will resume where it left off and complete the task.
At times when it isn't working with the app and its saved map, the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P will need to use laser navigation and communicate with the charging station through line-of-sight, and will return this way. You can safely leave the device on and in standby mode all the time if you choose, since this will allow for scheduled cleaning. This will also let you control the device remotely if the fittings are in place.
A big part of using the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P properly and efficiently involves the Mi Home app. While the device will work even without being set up with Mi Home, using the app gives you better control over exactly what you want the device to do. Setting up the app was a bit tricky for me – with India set as the region, the app didn't detect the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P at all, since this device hasn't officially launched here yet. This was fixed by changing the region to the United Kingdom, after which the app was able to connect to the device.
Once connected, you can use the app to properly map your home for the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P, control it remotely, and track its progress as it works. It's possible to start and pause cleaning, order the device to return to the dock, and change the mode and power level. You can also set cleaning schedules, toggle DND mode, and define virtual walls and restricted areas, apart from installing firmware updates for the device. The app also provides data including the cleaning area and duration, and the exact battery level of the device.
Mapping was a bit of a pain point for me early on, since it took a while for the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P to properly learn and save the layout of my home. Room labelling was off as well, making it difficult to have the device properly clean a full room using this function. This was easily overcome by using the zoned cleaning tool, which let me set a specific area to clean. However, this needed me to set the zone manually every time; this wasn't too difficult, but it isn't quite as automated a process as I'd have liked.
The app-based feature I liked the most was the remote control mode. This puts directional controls on the phone screen, and the device responded almost immediately to these controls. It might make the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P feel a bit like a toy, but this was quite useful when I needed to quickly clean a small and specific part of the house.
At a time when I've been driven to keep my home clean myself, the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P has been incredibly useful. The device isn't quite capable enough to replace using your hands entirely, but it definitely can reduce how often you have to sweep, vacuum and mop your house. Rather than doing these chores every day, the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P made it possible to only have to do them by hand once a week or so, giving my family and I a much-needed break from cleaning.
The device is good for basic cleaning, and useful for urgent clean-ups that tend to be necessary through a typical day at home. That said, it does require some attention from you, including keeping the fittings clean and the water topped up.
The price of the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P at the time of this review is Rs. 19,999, but it is expected to go up to Rs. 21,999 from July 15 to August 15, and perhaps even higher after that if Xiaomi continues to accept preorders. The device will ship only after September 15 regardless of when you place your order, so early preorders of the device are getting more favourable pricing.
Even if we assume the price to be around Rs. 25,000 when the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P ships in September 2020, I feel that this device is entirely worth it for its ease of use and the peace of mind it's brought me. There aren't too many robot vacuum-mops available in India today, and this is among the most reasonably priced options there are. Plus, it does exactly what it's supposed to.
Price (at the time of review): Rs. 19,999
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