The idea that technology has evolved to the point where a tiny vacuum can clean your house independently in an almost 'Rosey the Robot from the Jetsons' way still blows my mind.
These little robo-vacs have actually been around commercially since the early 2000s, but the features they're loaded with continue to get more and more futuristic.
So when Ecovacs asked if I wanted to try out their Deebot T20 Omni vacuum, I jumped at the chance to temporarily adopt a new little electronic member of the family. At best, I figured it would leave my house sparkling clean without me lifting a finger. At worst, I thought would probably make for some great video content of my kittens riding it around the dining room.
As it turns out, both of these predictions were correct - kind of.
I was struck down with a nasty flu a day after my Deebot arrived, which meant I literally could not lift a finger. I was bedridden for a whole week, and the robot vacuum dutifully took on the role of housekeeper while I lay shivering under a pile of tissues.
Calling the results 'sparkling' might be a slight step too far, but my goodness, it was wonderful to stumble onto a freshly mopped bathroom floor and clean carpets when I managed to leave my room.
As for the cats? They didn't so much ride the Deebot around as intermittently launch surprise attacks on it, which, to the machine's credit, didn't deter it much from doing its job.
At around $1,500, the Ecovacs T20 is no small investment. So is it worth it? Here are the pros and cons from my experience.
The Deebot doesn't just vacuum for you, it mops too! And it can easily switch between the two jobs. It has technology that helps it sense when it moves from hard floors to carpets, and will lift the mop pads accordingly. Pretty clever.
Speaking of mopping, this machine cleans the mop pads with hot water, all on its own so you don't have to touch them. Not only that, it dries them well to avoid bacteria or mould building up. When it comes to vacuuming, the dust bag in the Deebot's station can hold waste for up to 75 days, so you won't need to empty it often.
This model features a 'housekeeper mode' which uses intelligent cleaning that adapts to your home environment, habits and preferences. For example, it will automatically do a deep clean if it knows it's been a while since it was last used. It will also focus on specific rooms if it knows they get dirtier than others.
This little guy knows how to make his way around. He can avoid obstacles and will map your entire house quickly, which you'll then be able to view on the app. You can instruct him to clean the whole house, or just a room, or just a specific square of the map.
If you're really tech savvy, you can set up voice commands to tell the Deebot what to do without even pressing a button. Personally, this was a bit much for me but it's a cool feature to have.
The not so good
The Deebot's docking station is pretty big, so if you're short on floor space, or want to hide it away, this could be an issue. The machine also needs to return to the dock, like, a LOT - sometimes too much. It goes back to charge, to clean the mop pads (even when you're not using the mop function) and sometimes seemingly for no reason at all, which can be a bit annoying.
The clean and dirty water tanks need changing and refilling really frequently, but it is super satisfying (if a bit gross) to see how filthy the water gets.
Once the Deebot has mapped your house, you're not able to add new rooms or areas. So if you originally kept it out of some spaces due to someone sleeping or working, or for any other reason, you'll need to totally delete your map and start again if you want to include it later.
The round shape of the Deebot means it won't always be able to reach every corner of your house, and despite the climbing and avoidance technology, it still does get stuck on things or tangled in cables.
Sometimes early in the mopping function, the pads will be too wet and can leave excess water marks on the floor. The vacuum power is good, but not great, and obviously not as easily manoeuvrable as a handheld vaccuum cleaner.
Whether or not this kind of technology is right for your home is going to depend massively on your personal situation. There's no doubt though, that finding your home clean and tidy after you've been sleeping or out of the house is pretty amazing.
This could also be a great solution for people with decreased mobility, or even just a household where everyone is often out working or travels a lot.
Ecovacs says the Deebot is designed to last for years, and with a long battery life that can allow it to clean up to four hours in the average NZ home, that hefty price tag could buy you a whole lot more spare time.
Ecovacs provided Monika with a Deebot unit for this review.