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REVIEW: ECOVACS Deebot R98 – For The Curious, Not Committed

Chinese robotics company, ECOVACS, has further cemented its presence in the local market, following the release of its 2-in-1 Deebot R98 (A$1,399), which offers both a robovac and handheld cordless [pseudo ‘stick vac’] vacuum in one handy box.

Robotic vacuum usage has only continued to grow in Australia. These nifty devices allow consumers to clean – and sometimes mop – their floors from anywhere in the world, via one click on a smartphone app.

Last year, sales of robotic vacuums notched $27.15 million. Alongside this, stick vacuums have continued to soar, jumping $161 million from 2015, to $278 million in 2017.

It makes sense ECOVACS would want to capitalise on such growth, and bundle both devices together in one highly competitive offering.

However, it’s interesting to note that ECOVACS Deebot R98 2-in-1 retails for A$1,399, while its premium Deebot 930 robotic vacuum sells for A$1,299.

From the onset, it’s clear the bundled R98 aims to offer ‘the best of both worlds’, but the strength of each device (particularly its robovac) may not be the best ECOVACS has to offer.

(As a background, I’d recommend you read my review on the flagship Ecovacs Deebot 930 first).

Set-Up

Setting up the Deebot R98 is super easy, provided you’ve had some experience first.

A relatively large box houses the R98’s robovac, cordless vac, attachments and charging dock.

Putting it all together is virtually effortless, just follow the included manual.

Both products charge through the same base station – the hand held vac on top, and robovac on the bottom.

I will say, however, that once set-up, the system does take up a lot of room.

It’s bulky and big – which is only exacerbated if you’re lazy [like us] and prefer to keep the most used, yet largest, stick vac attachment, attached.

Like former ECOVACS robovacs, you have to leave about 1m clearance from either side, which is especially difficult for a larger system like the R98.

Unfortunately, my apartment’s configuration couldn’t support such clearance, but I was thankful to see it didn’t impair performance.

Like other ECOVACS products, connecting to Wi-Fi is a common hurdle (read my Deebot 930 review here) – their manual is known for leaving out certain keyword (e.g. ‘’press’’ in lieu of “hold down”).

I also advise people to watch some ECOVACS YouTube videos first, which provide better instructions for first-timer robotic vac users, than the paper manual.

Barring that, set-up is relatively easy.

Performance

Robovac

It’s important to note, the Deebot R98 is not simply a bundled 2-in-1. In a bid to make its offering more synergistic, ECOVACS has also installed automatic dustbin emptying for the R98’s robovac.

After the robovac finishes cleaning and returns to its base station, the ‘charging dock’ immediately sucks, and empties the contents of the robovacs’ dustbin into the larger handheld vacuum.

It’s a nifty feature, though personally I’m not too phased. Emptying the dustbin of a ECOVACS robovac is relatively easy, and not too much of a burden.

Automatic emptying triggers the handheld vac to ‘turn on’ momentarily, which naturally creates a loud sound (the sound of a regular large vacuum working) for one or so minutes.

This is a major disadvantageous for families who have babies, or infants who are sleeping. Robovacs are often bought for their comparatively quiet vacuuming sound – the R98’s automatic empty feature eradicates that benefit.

That being said, the R98’s robovac does perform well, however, it’s definitely not at the same level as the premium ECOVACS Deebot 930.

The R98’s robovac is notably louder that the 930’s, takes longer to complete a clean, and doesn’t seem as intuitive. Despite ECOVACS’ proprietary SMART NAVI technology, the R98’s robovac doesn’t manouver quite as smoothly.

The robovacs’ software is also significantly less powerful that the 930’s.

In a bid to be more energy efficient, I would sometimes disconnect the 930’s unit from the power outlet, when I knew I wouldn’t need it for a few days.

Upon plugging back in, the 930 was ready to go, as though nothing had changed.

Doing the same with the R98 is not recommended – every time the product is plugged back in, the robovac loses memory of the scanned household map, and has to re-scan it all over again. It’s not time consuming, but does suggest the software isn’t as robust.

The Deebot 930 also boasts dual mop-n-vac functionality, and compared with the R98’s robovac the difference in clean is significant.

The R98’s robovac does include a mopping attachment, which claims to behave similarly, however, the end result doesn’t leave floors quite as squeaky clean.

That being said, the R98’s robovac sucks up dirt and debris well, and has the ability to enter rooms with slightly raised entrances (e.g. our bathroom).

Much like the Deebot 930, the R98’s smartphone app is good. You can trigger the robovac to clean from work via your phone, schedule cleans, manually control the device, and more.

But as mentioned, the R98’s robotic vacuum is considerably slower, louder and less smart than the standalone ECOVACS Deebot 930.

The R98 definitely includes a good robovac, which will likely please a first time user, but for someone like myself who has tried something better, the included robovac leaves me wanting more.

All in all, it’s a great starting point to learn and become familiar with robovacs, without being let down on quality.

Cordless Handheld Vac

The R98’s cordless handheld ‘stick’ vac (depending on attachment) does perform well, and has a decent amount of suction.

The dustbin is easy to clean, and using the various included attachments makes niche area cleaning easy.

I would crave a more new-age ‘stick vac’ attachment, however, I recognise this may be more power intensive, and probably not correspond well with the base station .

That being said, for lazy folk [like us], you can use the handheld vacuum like a ‘stick vac’ in certain small areas, via the longest attachment arm.

As a rule of thumb, we used the robovac for scheduled all-over home cleans. The handheld vac was used for cleaning certain rooms ad hoc – e.g. sucking up all the hair in my room, after a particularly labour intensive straightening session.

I would also prefer if the handheld vac had a specific ‘hair attachment’, similar to other recently released devices. The being said, I’m just being nit-picky, as the provided attachments do get the job done.

Summary

ECOVACS’ Deebot R98 is a competitive marketplace offering, which aims to bring two complimentary vacuum technologies in one handy box.

As mentioned, the products’ power – specifically its robovac – is not reflective of ECOVACS’ best, however, that is evident in price you pay.

The R98 offers two devices for about the price of one standalone premium robovac (e.g. ECOVACS Deebot 930).

For people who’ve never used a robotic vacuum before, the R98 will likely wet your palette, and increase comfort levels before moving onto a more robust offering.

Combining a handheld cordless vac with a robovac makes for an all encompassing system – one I’d recommend for smaller households, offices, or simple apartments.

When it comes to robotic vacuums, the Deebot R98 is a great 2-in-1 bundle, however, it’s more for the robovac-curious, than the committed lover.

ECOVACS Deebot R98 is available to purchase from several Australian retailers (here) for RRP A$1,399

OVERALL: 7/10

PERFORMANCE: 7/10

DESIGN: 6/10

VALUE: 8/10

 

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