Electrolux has been a trusted name in floor care for longer than most of us have been alive. Now, they want to take floor care out of your hands and put it all in the brush-hands of a robot: The Pure i9. It zips, it zooms, it cleans, it glides... but does it suck well, or just plain suck?
What Is It?
The $1699 Pure i9 is a triangular, single-brush, intelligent robotic vacuum that includes a 3D mapping system and Electrolux's PureFlow technology to clean your floors for you. The strap line is that you can 'vacuum from anywhere', using the Electrolux Pure i9 app, which allows you to schedule cleaning remotely for any time of the day.
It comes with a 21cm brush and 0.7L dust bin, both great sizes to keep the little machine cleaning for the 40 minutes that a full charge allows (you can extend this to around an hour in Eco mode). Definitely geared toward the time poor and those that just hate getting the vacuum out, the i9 uses an intelligent mapping system that is programmed to ensure it can detect and avoid obstructions around the home and perform a complete clean of all parts of the house.
How does it fare?
What's Good About It?
Coverage. My apartment has an assortment of flooring designs: A medium-pile rug in the living space, carpet in the bedrooms, tiles in the kitchen and bathroom, so I figured I would really be able to give the i9 a solid workout. I was impressed with the vacuum's ability to transition from tile to medium-pile rug without any issue due to its ClimbForceDrive, as Electrolux is calling it, which allows the vacuum to 'climb' up to 2.2cm.
As I watched the little robot dart around the room, I was impressed with how it recognised changes in floor types and adjusted itself accordingly. When it was done, it returned to its base and began recharging. In my two bedroom apartment, it generally returned to base once during a clean, but then carried on as commanded.
Footprint. The size of the i9 is striking, it's triangular shape designed to more precisely get into tough corners with its single Powerbrush. The height also allows for it to sneak under furniture. I was pleased that it snuck under chairs, the bed and the coffee table with no fuss.
The App. The Pure i9 app, which is an absolute necessity if you've purchased an i9, is delightfully easy to navigate and relatively intuitive. As a person that routinely ignores the instructions when they first pull a device out of the box, it was good to know that I could practically jump in, set up the robovac and schedule it to clean the house without ever taking too much of a look at the 'manual'.
On first log-in you need to set up an account and then the app runs you through the process of connecting the app to wifi and to the device you're using. From there, you'll be able to remotely set the vacuum to start cleaning and schedule a calendar of days and times for it to operate. You can also keep track of where the device has cleaned, which helps if you're looking to spot clean certain parts of your place.
Cleaning. This is the big win of most robot vacuums, the opportunity to 'set and forget' a daily spruce up. In my small apartment, it makes sense to send the thing on its merry way once a day and that's how I used it for the couple of weeks that it was stationed in my living area.
Scheduling a daily clean up, I did notice, on occasion, that the tiled floors in the kitchen and living space were cleared of some of the detritus when I got home (of course, the dishes weren't done, but the vacuum isn't that advanced yet). And yes, you will have to empty the dust bin - but that's a given. We haven't quite got to the level of robots taking themselves to the bin, either.
What's Not Good About It?
Cleaning. There's still a very real, very big gap between traditional vacuums, handheld vacuums and a robot vacuum. No matter how much the latter autonomises the cleaning process in your house, robots still can't quite compete with the former two and especially not with a vacuum plugged into a wall and controlled by humans. Part of this is due to the great discrepancy in vacuum power: Robot vacuums, including the i9, may be getting more powerful, but they cannot match the output of a vacuum connected to mains power. The power acquired from rechargeable lithium batteries just haven't made that jump yet and the quality of cleaning suffers for it.
Mapping. Let me paint a quick picture for you: My living area is quite small and opens into a hallway. There's a gap of about 45cm between the hallway and the living area. Sometimes, the i9 would have no trouble navigating this space, other times it would do a circuit, turn around and go back to base, assuming I live in a shoebox (which is fair, it is Sydney - but the i9 isn't that intelligent). The mapping may be able to determine where it needs to clean next, but it does struggle in smaller areas with more obstructions.
Price. It's price tag will also be an issue for many. It is an intelligent device, but for $1699 you feel like you shouldn't ever have to vacuum again. I found that, although it could pick up some dust, crumbs and assorted kipple that I left lying around, it still struggled with long hairs.
As you'll find with many robot vacuums on the market, it's relatively smooth sailing when the device is running on hard floors. Once it starts getting to carpets or rugs, it can clean - just not to a standard the means you'll never have to clean again.
Sound. The i9 is not quiet. The power that it sends through to the vacuum fluctuates depending on the type of floor it rolls across so a Silent Cleaner this is not. Not a huge issue considering most people will set it to work while they're out of the house, but something to think about if you're trying to watch Netflix while the robot is doing its thing.
Should You Buy It?
The absolute biggest issue with the i9 is that it, like many robotic vacuums, still struggles to do what a vacuum is chiefly designed to do: Remove as much crap and dirt from your floors as possible, to take the act of cleaning out of your hands. In fairness, there aren't many robot vacuums that do - and none are marketed to consumers as be-all, end-all devices that allow you to forget about vacuuming ever again. The Pure i9 certainly doesn't advertise itself as such.
Convincing prospective buyers that the $1699 price tag is half the battle. Perhaps even nine-tenths the battle. It will be hard to shell out that kind of money for what amounts to a cleaning add-on. Cleaning DLC.
There's some relatively high profile competitors in the robotic vacuum space including Roomba, LG and Samsung and most of their devices will do a pretty decent job of cleaning too - at a highly reduced price tag. If you can stomach the price, the i9 is a viable companion to your less intelligent, handheld vacuum but it cannot replace it.
For me, the price tag for what you get is currently just too great.
The i9 doesn't deserve to be thrown in the bin, but it is a bit rubbish.