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Robot Vacuum Cleaners vs Handheld Vacuum Cleaners: Which Is Better for You?


What is the best vacuum cleaner you should buy, and how do you choose the correct type? Increased focus on hygiene and cleanliness in recent times has made the idea of the vacuum cleaner attractive once again. Interestingly, the vacuum cleaner itself is a very different product today from what it once was; it’s no longer the bulky, clunky, and loud device that needs to be plugged in and strung along on a long power cable. Instead, modern vacuum cleaners slot into two popular form factors today – cord-free handheld devices, and automated robotic cleaners. Both of these form factors take the best of what technology has to offer right now, and combine it with the age-old idea of sucking dirt and impurities into a bin.

If you’re looking for a new vacuum cleaner right now, you’ve likely considered either of these two options. In this guide, we’ll try to help you figure out which of the two form factors suits you best, based on your usage and requirements. We’ve also recommended some options from leading brands in the segment, including Dyson, Xiaomi, Realme, and more.

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Key differences between robot and handheld vacuum cleaners

The biggest and most important difference between robot and handheld vacuum cleaners is the way they are used; the former operates autonomously, while the latter has to be controlled and used by your hands. This means that robot cleaners are considerably easier to operate and don’t involve much effort from the user, while handheld vacuum cleaners offer better accuracy and a more comprehensive cleaning, guided by a real person rather than a computer algorithm.

Naturally, robot cleaners are limited to cleaning just the floor because of their form factor and size, while handheld devices can be used on furniture, table and counter tops, upholstery, and walls. However, most robot vacuum cleaners can also mop the floor, often simultaneously with vacuuming, which isn’t something you can do with a handheld vacuum cleaner.

How is a robot vacuum cleaner superior to a handheld device?

As mentioned, the biggest advantage of a robot vacuum cleaner is that it functions autonomously. Most devices are controlled using a smartphone app, and connect to your home’s Wi-Fi to receive the control commands and relay data such as cleaning statistics, map and location, and the condition of consumable parts such as brushes and air filters.

You can also control the device by pressing the buttons on the robot itself; either way, the robot will navigate itself around all accessible areas of your home and clean in a predetermined pattern without any further intervention from the user. Many robot vacuum cleaners also store home maps, and can then be set to clean specific rooms, in a specific order, or a particular spot. You can also set no-go zones, virtual wall barriers for areas you don’t want it to access, and more.

Once fully set up, the device only needs to be started up, and you can go back to doing whatever you were doing without needing to monitor the robot. Many such devices also have the ability to mop, with water reservoir tanks and mop cloth attachments that allow the devices to both vacuum and mop simultaneously. This means a robot cleaner can offer a comprehensive floor cleaning solution, with little manual effort on the part of the user.

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How is a handheld vacuum cleaner superior to a robot device?

Handheld vacuum cleaners slot into two general categories – corded and cord-free. The former, as the name suggests, must be connected to a power outlet to run and usually has a long cable to allow you to move around a room freely regardless of where the vacuum cleaner is plugged in. The latter has a built-in battery that allows it to be used wirelessly, making it much more convenient and easy to use.

The portability of a cord-free handheld vacuum cleaner means that you can access most areas of your home quickly and easily, including upholstery, counter-tops, and other furniture. You can also use it to clean areas that may not have easy access to an electrical socket nearby, such as a car, balcony, or terrace.

Handheld vacuum cleaners also have considerably more peak suction power than similarly priced robot devices. This, along with the precision that comes with a human operating the device, makes for much quicker and thorough cleaning. While a robot vacuum cleaner may take around an hour to fully clean a normal-sized urban apartment, a handheld vacuum cleaner in skilled hands could do the same job in a fraction of the time.

All vacuum cleaners, whether handheld or robotic, require periodic maintenance. With robot devices, there are more moving parts, including the sweeping brushes, the main vacuum brush, and the dustbin, all of which need to be regularly cleaned out for the device to continue functioning effectively. If the robot also has mopping functionality, you’ll have to regularly top up the water reservoir and wash the mop cloth as well.

In comparison, most handheld devices are a lot easier to clean out; you usually only need to empty out the dustbin, which is designed to be a simple process. Since handheld devices usually don’t have too many exposed moving parts, tangles and problematic jams happen less often, thus making these devices easier to maintain in the long run.

Our top picks for robot vacuum cleaners

Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P: The product that arguably popularised the robot vacuum segment in India, the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P offers excellent value for money at its current price of Rs. 20,000. You get vacuum cleaning, mopping, laser navigation, and an excellent app in the form of Mi Home, all of which works very well.

Realme Techlife Robot Vacuum Cleaner: Much like the Xiaomi option, Realme’s robot vacuum cleaner can also mop, works with the Realme Link app, has laser navigation and mapping, and works well for the most part. However, it is a bit buggy in function, and needs regular maintenance and care.

iRobot Roomba i3+ and Braava Jet M6: Priced at Rs. 44,900 each, the iRobot Roomba i3+ only vacuums comes with the Clean Base automatic dirt disposal system, while the Braava Jet M6 only mops. Together, these two devices offer a comprehensive home cleaning solution, but are held back a bit by navigation issues, slow cleaning speed, and the high combined price of Rs. 90,000.

360 S7: Although a bit more expensive than options from Xiaomi and Realme at around Rs. 27,500, the 360 S7 is usually available on major e-commerce stores, has a very good app and laser navigation system, and offers both vacuuming and mopping functionality. While vacuuming is very effective, mopping is a bit basic because of the small mop fitting.

ILife A10s: Priced at Rs. 34,900, the ILife A10s is a bit expensive compared to the competition, has some issues with navigation, and needs to vacuum and mop separately. However, it’s very effective at cleaning, and has a useful remote which you can control the device with.

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Our top picks for handheld vacuum cleaners

Dyson V11 Absolute Pro: Although expensive at Rs. 52,900, the Dyson V11 Absolute Pro is among the most powerful handheld vacuum cleaners you can buy right now. It comes with plenty of attachments, adding versatility and the ability to clean just about any household surface.

Realme Techlife Handheld Vacuum Cleaner: Promising the same level of convenience as a Dyson, but at a fraction of the price, the Realme Techlife Handheld Vacuum Cleaner promises easy cord-free household cleaning with a decent range of attachments, priced at Rs. 7,499.

Dyson Omni-glide: At Rs. 19,900, the Omni-glide is among Dyson’s more affordable cord-free handheld vacuum cleaners, and is very light and easy to use. The omni-directional roller attachment allows for quick and easy manoeuvrability when cleaning floors.

Kent Zoom Vacuum Cleaner: Similar in form, function, and pricing to the Realme handheld vacuum cleaner, the Kent Zoom has a HEPA filter and is said to run for around 30 minutes per full charge. It weighs around 3.15kg, making it easy to handle as well.


Realme India CEO Madhav Sheth joins Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast for an exclusive wide-ranging interview, as he talks about the 5G push, Make in India, Realme GT series and Book Slim, and how stores can improve their standing. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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Ali Pardiwala writes about audio and video devices for Gadgets 360 out of Mumbai, and has covered the industry for a decade now. Ali is a Senior Reviewer for Gadgets 360, where he has regularly written about televisions, home entertainment, and mobile gaming as well. He is a firm believer in 4K and HDR on televisions, and believes that true wireless earphones are the future of the personal audio industry. Ali is available on Twitter as @AliusPardius and on email at [email protected], so do send in
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