Review: Look out Roomba, Dyson 360 Eye is a great vacuum


British company’s machine delivers better suction power than competitors, at a higher price.

dyson 360 eye, robot vacuum
THE GOOD: Great suction, small size, handy app.
THE BAD: Very pricey.

As a long-time Roomba user, I’ve been pretty jazzed to try the Dyson 360 Eye. Eighteen years in the making, the British company’s foray into robovacs is the strong competition the field has been waiting for.

After a couple of weeks of using it, it’s clear the 360 Eye is an excellent robot vacuum. But be warned: at $1,299 in Canada, it’s crazy expensive.

Dyson, which has made its name on high-quality-but-expensive vacuums and fans, says the 360 Eye has twice the suction power of competing robovacs. It’s a claim that’s hard to prove outside of a lab, but it’s easy enough to believe after using it.

I started the 360 Eye off in the veritable deep-end – my carpeted basement. My wife and I have two cats, so it’s a veritable cesspool of feline hair and, therefore, allergies.

Dyson’s robot is connected, which means it can be controlled through wi-fi with an app. Connecting was simple – the app asks you to create an account, log the date you bought it, and give it a name. Of course, I chose “Artoo.” One quick tap later and it’s off (you can also activate it by pressing the start button on the unit itself).

The 360 Eye exits its charging station slowly – Dyson recommends giving it at least a metre of runway. It then stops and seemingly thinks before getting to work. As Dyson engineer Mike Aldred explained in a recent interview, the robot uses a camera system to guide itself around the room, hence its name.

The differences between Dyson’s robot and iRobot’s Roombas are immediately noticeable. While Roombas tend to take off in random directions, the 360 Eye starts to clean its immediate area before eventually radiating outward.

As part of that process, it seems to stop and think more. I wondered a few times if it was lost, only to eventually see it start up again.

The Dyson also differs from Roombas in its physical dimensions. At nine inches across, it’s considerably smaller than the latest Roomba 980, which measures almost 14 inches in diameter. Conversely, the Dyson is a bit taller at nearly five inches, compared to about 3.5 for the Roomba.

That extra height could be a problem for some users as the 360 Eye may be too tall to fit under some chairs and coffee tables. I’m lucky in that it cleared all of my furniture, and its smaller width means it was able to squeeze into more tight spaces than the Roomba.

The app is easy to use and lets you program schedules. It also has easily-accessible video how-to’s for reference, in case something goes wrong. The app’s coolest feature, hands down, are the visual maps of the robot’s job. The maps show you where the 360 Eye went, how much ground it covered and how long it took.

In the end, you’re left with a recognizable snapshot of whatever room or rooms it cleaned:

dyson, 360 eye

The robot’s smaller size also means a smaller dust bin – only 0.33 litres, or about half the size of the Roomba’s. Depending on your needs and how you use the 360 Eye, this may or may not matter, especially when the battery figures in.

With a smaller profile and more powerful suction, Dyson’s robot doesn’t run nearly as long as its main competitor. While the typical Roomba can go for two or more hours, the 360 Eye can only manage about 45 minutes before needing a recharge.

In my tests – in my cat-hair-filthy basement – that’s about as long as it took the dust bin to fill. Ultimately, your mileage may vary, but I’m guessing that most users will need to empty their bins after each clean, depending on how dirty their place is.

The 360 Eye takes about two hours to recharge. If it runs out of juice in the middle of a job, it’ll pick up where it left off. This is where I had my only real hiccup.

The robot has only a single button, with a flashing battery symbol that indicates it’s charging, and a pause icon. Not knowing that the robot was recharging in the middle of a job, I picked it up and moved it upstairs to vacuum there. When I plopped it down and hit the start button, it moved around, seemingly confused, and refused to suck.

I eventually figured out that I had interrupted its recharge and then placed it in a room it had not mapped. Once I cancelled its current job in the phone app, it worked fine.

It turns out the robot sends a notification through the app once it has finished its job, so it’s probably not a good idea to disturb or move it before that happens.

One other potential downside to the 360 Eye is that its vision system lacks infrared capability, so it generally needs light to work. That means that in a darkened room, like my basement, you have to be home to turn the lights on, which limits remote usage. Unless, of course, you also have wi-fi-connected lights, but that’s another story.

All-told, the 360 Eye does an excellent job. Most importantly, it does the job so you don’t have to. No robot vacuum cleaner is going to clean a room as well as a half-interested human, but the fact that it can do it well enough is a big time saver. My cat-filthy basement has been considerably cleaner since I began deploying the 360 Eye.

Both the Roomba and the 360 Eye are excellent tools in this regard. I’d give the slight edge to Dyson’s robot vacuum because of its better suction power, but it’s also about $200 more expensive than iRobot’s latest Roomba 980, which is a difficult premium to swallow.

The good news is that the robot vacuum wars are now on in earnest, so hopefully those prices will start falling to the point where these machines will become affordable for all households.

Dyson supplied a loan unit for the purposes of this review.

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