Dyson 360 Eye Robot Vacuum Cleaner Review
Dyson's first robot vacuum does a great job picking up dirt—but has trouble reaching it.
Dyson has been working on a robot vacuum for nearly two decades. The Dyson 360 Eye (MSRP $999) is the result of all that research and testing, and it's finally on sale in the U.S. That means it's time to cut through the marketing hype and put the 360 Eye through its paces in our robot vacuum test lab.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, we can say that the Eye is a good robot vacuum overall—but despite Dyson's engineering efforts, it's not the best robot vacuum you can buy.
That the Dyson isn't a better cleaner is largely due to a series of compromises: Yes, it's good at cleaning wide-open spaces, but it can't fit under low furniture and gets tripped up in tight quarters. It has really good suction, but below average pickup. And while the app is clever, we'd rather have a way to keep it out of rooms where it shouldn't be.
Basically, the 360 Eye stands as proof that Dyson can make as big a splash in the robot vacuum market as it has nearly everywhere else. Still, at $999, we think it's worth waiting for the next version. As impressive as Dyson's clever technology is, there are robot vacuums that clean better for less.
Open its handsome box, and you'll find the Dyson 360 Eye is accompanied only by a slim charging dock. There aren't any special barriers to keep it from entering a room, or magnetic strips to wall off pet food bowls. This is a philosophical decision: According to Dyson, robots shouldn't require undue user input. While an app can schedule daily cleanings or show you an activity map of where the robot has cleaned, it won't let you choose which rooms to focus on.
When it comes to features, the most impressive is the source of the 360 Eye's name–a panoramic camera that scans for obstacles and landmarks, triangulating the vacuum's location in a room. While camera-based navigation may have seemed impressive to Dyson's engineers back in 2000, today the iRobot Roomba 980, LG HomBot, Samsung PowerBot VR9000, and Miele RX-1 Scout all use a virtual eye to see where they're headed.
Though it's no longer novel, Dyson's implementation is still pretty impressive: It even works when the vacuum is against a wall. Should the 360 Eye run out of power midway through cleaning, it can go to its dock, charge up, and resume where it left off, finding the spot via its Eye. Where it won't work is in the dark—there must be at least some light in order for the Eye to navigate.
Other innovations include Dyson's flagship cyclonic suction technology, powered by the same motor that's found in Dyson's handheld vacuums. A washable filter and dust bin are both hygienic and economical. (We admit—on a vacuum with a starting price tag of $999, the definition of "value" is a bit flexible.) As is the case with many Dyson products, the dust bin is exceptionally easy to open and empty once you've got the hang of it. The charging dock is slim and stylish.
Turn the vacuum over and you'll find the same brushroll as a full-sized Dyson vacuum. It has two sets of bristles: nylon for carpets, and carbon fiber for hardwood floors. According to Dyson, the carbon fiber bristles dispel static electricity that often causes dirt to stick to hard floor surfaces.
To get from those bare floors to the carpet, the Dyson 360 Eye travels around on tank treads. We observed the Eye climbing atop risers up to two-thirds of an inch tall without getting stuck. In the real world, that means that high-pile throw rugs and metal thresholds will not daunt the 360 Eye in the least.
The Dyson 360 Eye uses a unique spiral cleaning pattern. Dyson says this is because it covers the most amount of square footage with the least amount of movement—saving battery life and time. If you were to turn on the Eye in the middle of an empty room, you'd see it move one robot-width every time it turned, spiraling outwards until it hit the edges of the room.
On paper, that sounds very impressive and efficient. On our obstacle course, however, the Dyson stumbled a little. It had particular trouble with tight turns and furniture legs. One of our tests puts two chair legs 12 inches apart, giving the nine-inch-wide Dyson enough room to enter, but not to pivot one robot-width. The end result was a swath of debris left on the ground. We saw the phenomenon again on our two-thirds inch risers: The Dyson's tank treads could get it up there, but the vacuum couldn't turn. Again, the floor remained dirty.
The 360 Eye also has different proportions than most robot vacuums. When we first saw it, we were worried its physical dimensions would hinder its cleaning efforts. Our tests confirmed our fears: At 4.7 inches tall, the Dyson can't fit under toe kicks, couches, or low shelves. Robot vacuums are meant to maintain floors between full cleanings, so not being able to access hard-to-reach areas is a serious flaw.
All these little limitations led to below-average cleaning: Despite its tremendous suction power, the 360 Eye picked up just 8.5 grams of dirt per cleaning session—between 20% and 30% less than most other machines we've tested. In other words, it doesn't matter how powerful a vacuum is if it can't reach dirt.
The 360 Eye comes with a 2-year warranty—a year longer than most other robot vacuums. Dyson.com also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
For product manuals and more warranty information, visit the Dyson 360 Eye product page.
An Eye on the Future
For all its faults, we cannot deny that the Dyson 360 Eye is a showcase of technology and attention to detail. But in the decades it took for Dyson to bring this robot vacuum to market, consumers' expectations changed, and competitors developed similar technologies.
A design that's too tall, a price that's too high, and a set of features that's too limited keep us from giving the Dyson 360 Eye our full recommendation. But this robot did give us an idea of the impressive engineering Dyson is capable of, and we fully expect to see better results from future versions.
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