I know what you are all thinking. You read the title, maybe you clicked the link and here you are, wondering. Can it be true? Can there be a robotic vacuum that doesn’t cost over $800, and in fact, can be picked up for less than $100? It has to be a dream, right?
Looking for the best robot vacuum deals? Click here to see a curated list of the best deals available right now.
No, it is not a dream. There are several sub-$100 robot vacuums on the market. As I sit here and write this, there are over 40 such robots. And, as you can probably guess, they work about as well as a diaper for a windshield wiper.
There are a few though that are worth looking further at. Which prompted me to write this article for you. Today I will discuss the Housmile ECAN Robotic Vacuum, the PureCLean PUCRC25 V2, and the VBOT S30C.
Stick around, because that last one may just surprise you with a new feature not found anywhere else.
- 1 Specifications Chart
- 2 How to Pick a Sub-$100 Robot Vacuum
- 3 The Winners
- 6 If You Can Spend a Bit More
- 9 In Conclusion
Let’s see these robots side by side and list what they can and cannot do.
|Housmile ECAN||Pure Clean||VBOT S30C|
|Dimensions||10×9.8×3.1 inches||11x11x2.9 inches||11.8×11.8×2 inches|
|Weight||3.23 pounds||3.5 pounds||4.25 pounds|
|Battery||2600mAh Lithium-ion||850mAh Lithium-ion||800mAh Lithium-ion|
|Runtime||Up to 90 minutes||Up to 60 minutes||Up to 60 minutes|
|Recharge||4 hours||3 hours||4 hours|
|Filter||Standard Screen Style||HEPA||HEPA|
|Extraction||1000pa Suction Only||800pa Suction only||1200pa Suction only|
|Navigation||Sensor Based||Sensor Based||Sensor Based|
|Drop Sensors||Yes||Yes||Yes (adjustable)|
|Dirt Detection Sensors||No||No||No|
|Collection Bin Capacity||0.2L||0.2L||0.3L|
|Full Bin Indicator||No||No||Yes|
|Floor Types||All hard flooring, Low pile carpet||All hard flooring, Low pile carpet||All hard flooring, Low and medium pile carpeting|
|Warranty||1 year||1 year||1 Year|
How to Pick a Sub-$100 Robot Vacuum
When shopping for your robotic vacuum, do you know what to look for? What features are important and which ones can be avoided to save money? Well, that is what I am here to tell you. Grab a cup of coffee and let’s go over some robotic basics.
If you are reading this article, you are probably on a tighter budget, or you just don’t want to shell out a lot of cash for a machine you aren’t sure will be used all that often. Either way, there is one piece of advice I need to share with you right of the get-go:
Lower Your Expectations
Seriously. If you are in the market for a sub-$100 robotic vacuum, you can’t be expecting too much. No, it isn’t too much to ask that the robot work, but your expectations of how it works and what is required of you in these cases need to come down just a bit.
You are going to lose a lot of features that those expensive models come standard with. The clean will depend greatly on your patience and how often you perform maintenance. You will need to do other things for these models that you wouldn’t have to do for a more expensive unit.
If you are willing to sacrifice some of these features, and you understand that you won’t be replacing your normal vacuuming days with these little guys, then read on.
So what should you expect from these robot cleaners?
Batteries are Going to Deplete Quickly
One thing you will notice is that the batteries in these cheaper units aren’t as big. Usually between 800 and 1200mAh, compared to 2600 to 3300mAh of the more expensive brands.
This means they will die faster, not clean as large an area and take longer to recharge. You will also have to charge them manually.
The bargain models don’t normally come with a charging station that they go to on their own. When the battery gets low, you will have to pick them up and take them to an outlet and plug them in.
This also means that you won’t get other docking features like automatic resume or entire level cleaning. That is the price you pay for going cheap. (Pun fully intended).
The Controls, If Any, Will Be Severely Limited
Another thing you won’t get a lot of is controls. There won’t be any wireless interfaces, no mobile apps or voice control and you usually won’t even get a remote control.
What you will get is local controls and if you are lucky, it will be more than one button. However, this shouldn’t hinder your choice. You buy these types of robots to do a single job: go clean. Pressing a button once (or twice) isn’t that big of a sacrifice when you save over $800.
Some (albeit very few) will have some form of wireless control, such as Bluetooth connectivity that will enable you to use your phone. However, like with the robots, you really shouldn’t expect that much from the Bluetooth apps.
Floor Types will be Important to You
A lot of these robots do not use brush rolls for carpet agitation and loosening dirt in carpet fibers. Instead, they will use direct suction to vacuum up the loose particles.
Some will have side brushes; some will not. Though it is important that you pay attention to the listed floor types and know what they mean.
Some packaging will claim they clean “all” floor types. While this may be technically true, carpet comes in many types. In particular, you have: low pile, medium pile, high pile and shag.
About 90 percent of the budget models will either clean low pile carpet only or no carpet at all. Anything more will usually result in the carpet fibers being caught in the suction port and clogging the machine until it is forced to stop.
Depending on how much carpeting you have and what style, this is something that may be important for you to research.
The Features You Need Versus The Features You Want
If everyone in the world were perfectly content with a Roomba 980, then none of this would be an issue. We would all have all the features and the best robot. I would also be out of a job since these reviews wouldn’t be necessary.
Every robotic cleaner has pros and cons and most of those come in the form of features, either lacking or over-done. So it is important for you to run down the long list of features offered and decide what you must have, what you want, and what you do not want.
Your must-have list should be the priority. From there you can pick and choose a robot cleaner that has what you need and a few things you want. As long as you can live without the features it doesn’t have; you will have made a solid purchase.
Now that you know what to expect and look for in a budget model robot vacuum, let’s start the comparison, shall we?
Each of the following budget model vacuums attempts to woo you into a purchase with promises of greatness. Just remember what I said before about your expectations. I’ll do my best to point out any flaws or weaknesses in the manufacturer’s statements. We all know these aren’t “perfect”, but that’s not why you are here.
Housmile ECAN Robotic Vacuum
A lot of Power in a Dumb Robot
It can be said that the ECAN just e-can’t. It is a decent sweeper and a bad robot. But for less than $100, you can’t have it all, and at least it isn’t the other way around.
The Battery Is The Best Feature
The battery pack on the Housmile ECAN is huge for a budget model vacuum. At 2600mAh it is even larger than some of the higher-tiered models. It offers a runtime estimate of an hour and a half, which is very surprising.
Of course, you will not see that long of runtime, but it’s fun to try. In the real world, the robot will run for about 55 to 65 minutes before it needs to be recharged. An hour to just over an hour of runtime should be plenty to run through most of your home.
Unless you are living in a six bedroom, 3500 square foot house, there won’t be a problem. If you are in such a house and can afford the maintenance and upkeep and cost of living there, why are you here? Go by a Roomba and be done with it.
Since you are here, I will assume that, like me, you are more modest in your dwellings. The ECAN will cover about 1100 square feet on a single charge. It is best left to a single room at a time though.
Just because the battery can run that long, doesn’t mean the rest of it can. I will explain this statement in a moment.
Back to the battery. You will have to manually plug the robot into the AC adapter and plug it into an outlet in your home. The robot will indicate when the battery is dying (or you will just find the robot passed out on your floor.). It will also alert you when it is fully charged. This takes about four hours.
Because there is no navigation, no mapping and no real intelligence, you just charge it up, stick it in a room and let it go. Recharge it, move to a different room, repeat.
The Filter is Almost Useless
Don’t expect some fancy filter here. The filter element is a screen type filter that collects the large particles and prevents them from getting into the motor area.
It sits on top of the collection bin and will need to be brushed off after every use. If it gets too clogged, the robot will shut down. This is important for you to know. Do not skip cleaning off the filter after every run.
The robot does come with a spare filter and you can purchase more later (though if I am completely honest with you, I haven’t been able to find one for sale by itself just yet).
Allergens in the home are about 3 microns to 5 microns in size (this is very small). HEPA filters will capture particles down to 3 microns in size. The ECAN filter will capture particles down to about 12 to 15 microns in size.
If you have severe allergies, this robot may not be the right choice for you. Or at least you need to stay out of the room while it is working.
Controls? We Don’t Need Controls!
Okay, so maybe that’s not entirely true. Once the battery is fully charged and you unplug it from the adapter, you transport the robot to the room(s) you want clean and set it down.
There is only one button on the machine. If you press it once it will do what Housmile calls the quick clean. It will cover about 300 square feet (or less) and run for about 30 minutes. This is the single room mode and is good for small to medium-sized rooms.
Best of all, you can usually move it to a second room before having to charge it again.
If you press the button twice, you mean business. This puts the robot into big room mode. The robot will cover about 600 square feet (or less) and run for about 55 minutes.
This mode is good for larger rooms like your living room that’s connected to your dining room. Once the robot finishes the cycle, the battery will need to be recharged. Don’t forget to empty the collection bin and clean the filter off, though.
Everything Is Small On This Robot
The collection bin is tiny. It will only hold about 0.2 L worth of dirt dust and debris. The filter that sits on top of this small container is also small, as it has to fit.
Don’t expect to be able to clean multiple rooms without emptying the bin and cleaning off the filter.
The robot also uses direct air flow suction for debris extraction. There are no brush rolls, only optional side brushes. Because of this, you will only be able to clean low pile carpeting and hard flooring surfaces.
The side brushes are soft and the wheels are rubber tread coated, so you don’t have to worry about scratching softwood surfaces.
It has no navigation and will bump into everything; it is designed to do so. So don’t freak out when it starts smacking itself against your walls and table legs.
There isn’t a clear cleaning pattern; it just runs around going here and there until the battery runs out. Though, when confined to a single room, it will, eventually, cover the entire floor.
- Large 2600mAh battery for pretty substantial runtimes.
- Easy to use single or multi-room button control.
- Battery indicator lets you know when it is about to die.
Areas of Concern
- The filtration needs a lot of help, not recommended for severe allergy sufferers.
- The collection bin is tiny and needs to be emptied after every room.
- Charging time is a bit much for the robot (4 to 5 hours).
It isn’t the worst budget model by a long shot. As long as you have the time to move it from room to room and don’t mind a basically ineffective filter, it’s not a bad choice.
> See Housmile ECAN <
PureClean PUCRC25 (Version 2)
A New Update The Same Old Machine
Usually, when we see a new version, there are significant upgrades that we can’t live without. Ironically, this is the case here, if you owned or researched the original version of the PUCRC25 you will know what I am talking about. Let’s start there.
Version 2 Means This Robot Doesn’t Just Go In Circles
The original version was a fairly decent model, but it had one major, almost unforgivable flaw: The wheels sucked.
After about 30 minutes of use, one of the wheels (usually the right side one) would break. This would result in the robot turning in circles as the left wheel was the only propulsion it had. This made the robot ineffective.
The version 2 fixes this problem and the wheel no longer breaks. So, technically it is an upgrade we can’t live without. However, it is also an upgrade that shouldn’t have been warranted.
HEPA Filter is Surprising!
You read that right. This little guy comes with a HEPA certified high-efficiency filter. That means all your pet dander, pollen, dust mites and tobacco smoke will be cleared from the floor and captured by the filter.
Reducing in-home allergens is important for allergy sufferers. Your large upright vacuum should have a HEPA filter and will be the bulk of your allergen reduction. But every little bit helps.
Having your daily upkeep robot help remove those allergens as well is a good benefit to have.
The Battery is Small, So is the Suction
The 850mAh battery may not seem like much, and it isn’t. However, it is enough to power the 800pa suction motor and keeps your hard flooring free of dirt, dust and debris.
I don’t recommend running this on any carpet, though hard pack low pile carpet doesn’t really have loose fibers and will be cleaned by this guy with some ease. Any other type of carpet though will just be like you getting on your hands and knees and waving a paper fan over it. Pretty ineffective.
Like the other models on this list, there isn’t a charging station. When the battery dies, you will have to go get the machine and plug it in yourself. Or, as the kids like to say these days: Many Inconvenience. Such sacrifices.
Single Button: Many Cleaning Modes
Like the previous model, you have a single button to tell the robot to go clean. However when you do you have three cleaning options to choose from.
The first is the standard, sporadic, random running around of your floors. This is called automatic mode and when you press the button to turn it on, this is the default.
Press the button twice though and you get edge cleaning mode. The robot will run around your baseboards and get into the corners to clean out pet hair and debris that has settles along the edges of the home.
Finally, a third push will set the robot into what PureClean calls spiral mode. This is just a five-minute spot clean in a specific area. I bet you can’t tell how the robot maneuvers during this spiral mode cleaning. Oh, you can? Okay.
- The HEPA filter is great news for allergy sufferers.
- Three cleaning modes solve a lot of instant-mess problems.
- Quick(ish) 3-hour charge gives you almost a full hour of runtime.
Areas of Concern
- Small suction power doesn’t do so well on any carpet.
- Side brushes wear down really fast.
- Maintenance is an almost daily task.
The PureClean PUCRC25 V2 does its job, as long as you realize it’s capabilities and don’t expect more, ever.
> See PureClean PUCRC25 V2 <
A Newcomer With A Lot of Potential
In all honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised to see VBOT create a mid-tier robot sometime in the future. For now, the budget model is testing a new feature that will most likely be perfected and adopted by the bigger name companies like Samsung, iRobot and ILIFE.
What is This Incredible New Feature I Speak of?
It is widely known that all robotic vacuums use drop sensors to detect stairs and ledges to prevent falls. What you probably also know is that these infrared beams can get confused when traveling over dark surfaces such as clack tiles or dark colored carpet.
The dark colors absorb the infrared beam and falsely tell the robot it is on a ledge.
The VBOT attempts to address this. They have a drop sensor that is adjustable. You read that right. A three position switch allows you to control the depth of the stairs you have as well as the color of flooring.
In practice, it still needs some tweaking. In theory, though, it is great news for robotic technology. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, the robot can tell that it is still on solid ground and just a dark colored floor, or if the drop is more than an inch, more than 5 inches or less than half an inch.
Once this is perfected, we will no longer have robots that can’t tell the difference between a dark rug and a drop-off. (and the dark colored floor owners rejoice!)
The Filter Is Also Great
With the VBOT you also get a HEPA certified filter. It sits on top of a 0.3L collection bin. This bin isn’t large by any means, but it is larger than any other robot on this list.
The filter collects all in-home allergens (up to 99 percent of them anyway) and keeps them locked in without returning to your air or flooring.
The Direct Air Flow is Strong Enough For Carpet
The suction power is rated at 1200pa, which means that you can clean more carpet with it. If you have low or medium pile carpeting, you can get them clean.
Now I say that with a slight twinge. There is no carpet agitation. So you won’t get a deep clean. Just a surface clean. However, the air intake port is fairly large and the carpet fibers from medium pile carpeting won’t get stuck as much.
High pile and shag are still out of the question, but tight woven medium pile will only slow the robot down, not cause it to stop and turn off.
Everything Else is Standard
Just like every other budget robot, the rest of this write up is redundant. You will get a smaller celled battery, about an hour run time. You will have to manually plug it in and unplug it when charged, which takes about 4 hours.
You will not get any controls other than the local power button. You also won’t have a robot that maps or uses fancy navigation algorithms. The S30C will just run around bumping into things and doing the best it can, which, all being told, is pretty good.
- Adjustable drop sensors are going to be the next big thing.
- Battery level and full bin indicator lights on the robot.
- HEPA filtration helps cut down in-home allergens.
Areas of Concern
- Navigation could be a bit better.
- A remote would help this robot a lot.
- Needs a larger battery.
Test out the technology, enjoy a cleaner floor and save a ton of money. The VBOT S30C isn’t perfect, it all about expectations.
> See the VBOT S30C <
If You Can Spend a Bit More
If you are willing to spend just a little more, you can get an entry-level robot with a charging station, decent cleaning power and filtration and the use of more controls. The ILIFE V3S Pro is a good value alternative.
I have said it many times in this article and I will say it again: you can have a great budget model robot vacuum if you lower your expectations. Take reviews and comments with a grain of salt and just remember what you are buying. You can’t buy a budget model and expect to get Roomba performance.
The Housmile robot is a decent option for those looking to keep a smaller space clean and tidy. It does a decent job in single rooms and has a long lasting battery.
The PureCLean fixed problems with their first gen model and the robot performs better than expected. It is also the least expensive model on this list, which can be alluring.
The VBOT offers some interesting technology and HEPA filtration to boot. If I have to choose one budget model to put in my own home right now, with my expectations being where they should be, the VBOT S30C would be my pick. Mainly out of curiosity.