No other product I’ve tested has advanced as quickly as the humble robot vacuum. Just a few short years ago, they were mostly annoying, overpriced devices that fell off steps and got stuck on rugs. Now you can find robot vacs at every price point with an incredible array of features, including mapping capabilities, self-emptying bins, and even cameras.
Vacuuming an ever-changing household is a complex task, and no robot vacuum is perfect. However, I test them in one of the most challenging environments possible—a carpeted, two-story family home with messy kids and a shedding dog—and personally, I find them indispensable. Whether you’re choking on cat hair, need to lighten your chore load, or just want to spend more time with your family, we have a pick that will help.
Looking for more cleaning solutions? Check out our Best Dyson Vacuums, Best Cordless Vacuums, and Best Air Purifiers guide for more.
Updated August 2023: We added the Eufy X9 Pro, TP-Link Tapo RV 10 Plus, and iRobot Roomba Combo j7+.
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Even if you’re not listening to spatially mixed audio, the speaker still sounds fantastic. It has big, confident bass and details up top, and it can tune itself to your room using iOS or built-in microphones on the speaker. It’s a bit harder to place than the Era 100 above, and is also nearly double the price, but this is still worth considering if you have a larger space or a modern home with a more open floor plan.
There are tons of smart speakers. Here are a few more we like:
Amazon’s Echo Studio ($200)is the best-sounding Alexa speaker. Don’t buy it for music quality alone, but the Echo Studio is right up there with the Google Home Max in terms of bold bass and room-filling soundstage. Its odd shape keeps it from the top of our list.
Bose’s Home Speaker 500 ($379)has Alexa, and a bit extra. It’s certainly not cheap, but this Bose speaker does sound pretty good (not as clear as the Sonos One, but great on the whole), and it gets loud. It has hands-free Alexa, Bluetooth, a 3.5-mm auxiliary port to connect directly to your phone or MP3 player, and six useful preset buttons you can assign to open a specific playlist or album from Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, and TuneIn. The display on the front shows album art and a few other prompts but isn’t nearly as effective as those on true smart displays.
The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Level ($1,649)is a gorgeous speaker that’s built to last. The company has designed the high-end model to be repairable and upgradable over time. It’s made of natural fabric and wood for a truly sustainable “cradle to grave” experience. It’s a gorgeous flat speaker that comes with Google Assistant onboard—or you can buy it without a smart assistant for the same amount of money.
What About Siri?
It’s cool looking, but Apple’s HomePod Mini ($99) (6/10, WIRED Review) has the same issues as the original, larger HomePod speaker (5/10, WIRED Review), including a higher price than much of the competition, and muddy midrange. It doesn’t have anywhere near the level of third-party smart home support you’ll find with Amazon or Google. You can get a full-sized Nest or Echo speaker for the same money, and you should.
Why We Prefer Google Assistant Speakers (for Now)
There are a lot of reasons to love Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, and it works pretty well. If you want to use your voice assistant to shop or use Amazon services like Prime Music or Prime Video, chances are an Alexa-powered speaker is best for you.
Google Assistant has fewer skills and is compatible with fewer smart home devices than Alexa, but it can do enough to qualify as truly useful, and Google is adding new skills at a rapid pace. Speakers with Google Assistant work better when you network them together, and they’re compatible with a wide variety of Google apps and services. Google is better at answering random questions and telling you where to go out to eat since it can access and send information to your phone through Google apps.
Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube Music are the main ways to play music with Google Assistant, covering most of your bases. The service can also send Netflix shows and movies to your TV if you have a Chromecast attached.
Should You Wait to Buy?
Now is a good time to buy Apple and Google-made models. Both released new speakers not too long ago, and they should remain useful for several years since many of the improvements have to do with the services powering each digital assistant rather than the speaker hardware itself.
It’s worth noting that none of these smart devices will last forever. Like every product with a computer inside it, eventually, every smart device will be made obsolete. Stick to things that are made by major brands and support the big ecosystems, and you’ll generally get more life out of your purchase.
Robot vacuums are insanely expensive. A reliable, midrange mapping vacuum like the Shark AI Ultra (8/10, WIRED Recommends) can run you almost a grand. I say that it’s midrange because that’s what the market will bear, but $700 is out of my own budget for a home appliance. Those of us who are plebes must resign ourselves to cheaper bounce-navigation vacuums, or else to a life of constant maintenance.
But what if there was a third option—a vacuum that was just a little dumber, and thus a little less expensive? Enter TP-Link’s Tapo RV10 Plus, which has a self-emptying station, a mop, but a much cheaper navigation system and no mapping to slow it down, give your home details to Amazon, or post pictures of your butt to Reddit. It’s an intriguing value proposition. Personally, I found it to be a little wonky, but if your home is smaller and doesn’t have mixed flooring, this would be a great pick.
Tapo is the smart home brand owned by TP-Link, which is well known to us (and possibly you) as a router manufacturer. The RV10 Plus is its first robot vacuum, but this is not TP-Link’s first rodeo when it comes to home appliances. That shows in the hardware’s clean lines and easy setup. No screwing on flimsy plates or stands—I pulled two pieces out of the box, connected the TV10 Plus to the app, and I was done. It also works with Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
The self-empty bin is amazing. The bin on most self-emptying robot vacuums usually has a shutter or a curve in the tube that connects it to the dust bag on the dock. Ostensibly it is to prevent dirt from leaking out, but it usually malfunctions or traps debris. On the RV10 Plus, the bin tube is straight, and there’s no door. Nothing ever gets stuck or trapped. Every time I checked the bin, it was empty. I never had to stick my poor index finger inside the chute to loosen clogs.
It took about 1.5 hours for it to charge from 5 percent to 100 percent. TP-Link claims around three hours of cleaning on one charge, which I found to be accurate. We had run times of up to two hours and 37 minutes at a standard cleaning level (you can set it to one of three vacuum power levels), with power still in the tank.
It also has a mop attachment with a perfectly adequate 300-mL water tank. You can select between three different water levels. To mop, you clip the panel with the washable mop pad on the bottom of the vacuum tank. The lowest water level worked well on my wooden kitchen floor and had about half a tank left when it finished cleaning about 250 square feet.
Unlike many, even other midrange vacuums, the TV10 Plus uses gyroscope navigation to determine where everything is in your house and the distance between them. There’s a number of advantages to gyroscope navigation. First off, it’s much cheaper and faster than a laser system might be, and it doesn’t have a camera to violate your privacy or send images to Amazon. Few things are more annoying than a low-end mapping robot that wastes endless hours getting stuck and requiring three or four (or even 35) mapping runs to come up with an inaccurate map.
When it did clean a room, the TV10 Plus worked great. It swept over each room in long S-shaped passes that navigated adroitly around obstacles and picked up the big dog hair tumbleweeds that my heeler mix leaves by getting scratches and pets in the middle of the living room. When I mopped my kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom, it cleaned 250 square feet in around 24 to 29 minutes. This is fast and efficient; it cleans up all the Ritz cracker crumbs and powdered sugar under the kitchen table, and it’s a performance comparable to much more expensive mopping robot vacuums that I’ve tried.
However, unlike a mapping vacuum, you can’t program it to clean just one part of your house and stop. So every time I mopped, I had to keep an ear cocked and race to grab it before it dragged a wet, dirty mop pad onto the carpeted parts of my house.
The app does have a remote control, but it’s about 50–50 whether I remember and grab my phone first or the robot vacuum. I asked Tapo whether the company had any tips for setting automatic boundaries and its spokesperson suggested buying magnetic boundary tape ($25). I’ve used this tape before. It’s effective and it’s not particularly hard, but it is unsightly and annoying.
And because gyroscope navigation can get thrown off on low-friction surfaces, it occasionally misses the doorways between completely. That means I can take the trouble to pick up my entire house and it will spend all three hours cleaning only one room. That room is sparkling, but still.
Of course, it’s really easy to imagine a house in which this wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, in my old house, which was all hardwood floors in an open floor plan, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed Tapo’s shortcomings at all. If you have this specific use case, then congratulations! This is your unicorn, a self-emptying robot vacuum-mop combo that doesn’t completely suck and is under $500! For the rest of us, we might still need to spend the extra cash.
Notifications come through to your phone or smartwatch swiftly. The rich alerts on Android are the absolute best because you get a small close up of the person and can expand the notification to see a few frames of the video. With the iPhone, you must touch and hold the notification to see the subject highlighted. That’s usually enough to identify them and decide whether you need to tap through to watch the video. Tapping takes you straight into the Arlo app and plays back the video close to instantly.
The Arlo app has changed recently, so it may take a beat to set it up the way you want. It was generally quick and reliable, consistently loading the live feed in around four seconds. Occasionally, such as when I was away from home, connected via a mobile network, it took a little longer. You can also filter your video feed by event type (motion, people, vehicle, animal, package, and a few more). And you can favorite, share, or download videos from the cloud.
There is support for Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, and Samsung SmartThings out of the box. The live feed was usually quick to load with a voice command on my Nest Hub. If you want to use Apple’s HomeKit, you must buy an Arlo Base Station, and you need an Apple home hub and an iCloud+ subscription to use HomeKit Secure Video.
Audio is often a weak spot for security cameras, and microphones tend to distort sound, especially if your camera is in a windy spot, but the Arlo Pro 5 is as good as I’ve heard. Two-way audio is duplex, enabling you to talk and listen simultaneously. Lag can sometimes cause problems with conversations.
Downsides and Competition
Accessing all the best features and 30-day cloud storage requires an Arlo Secure subscription, which starts at $5 per month for a single camera or $4 per month ($48) if you pay annually. If you aren’t willing to subscribe, look at alternative cameras. I would not recommend the Arlo Pro 5 without an Arlo Secure subscription.
There is a removable battery inside the Arlo Pro 5, and you can buy extras and a charging station, but they’re expensive. It annoys me that Arlo uses a proprietary charging cable. It attaches magnetically to the bottom of the camera, but I’d prefer a USB-C port in the battery itself. Cables can go missing. If you’re anything like me, hunting through your cable box to find the right one can take a while.
Battery life seems slightly better than the Pro 4, but Arlo’s claim that the Pro 5 can go up to eight months between charges is a stretch. It all depends on the camera settings and how busy your chosen spot is, but three to four months is more realistic for most folks.
The only other security camera that performed as consistently well as the Arlo Pro 5 in my testing was Google’s Nest Cam Outdoor. For rich notifications, accurate detection, and minimal false positives, nothing else measures up. The Nest Cam is similarly priced and also requires a subscription, but it tops out at 1080p resolution, has a narrower field of view, and can’t match the color night vision of the Arlo. One area where Google’s camera does come out on top is frame rate: It records video at up to 30 frames per second compared to 24 for the Arlo. A higher frame rate reduces pixelation or blur on fast-moving subjects.
If you want the best, you may consider jumping up to 4K, and there are a few options, including Arlo’s Ultra 2. But beware: Wireless 4K cameras require plentiful bandwidth and storage space. If your budget is lower or you prefer local storage, you can find alternatives in our best outdoor security cameras guide. But the Arlo Pro 5 is the camera to beat right now.
Amazon’s family of Alexa-enabled devices is vast. From the spherical Echo to the swiveling Echo Show 10, you can get Alexa into your home in many ways. These devices can answer your questions, help you order essentials, set timers, play all sorts of audio content, and even function as the control hub for your growing smart home. These are our favorite Echo- and Alexa-compatible speakers for every home and budget.
The best time to buy any Amazon speaker is during a major sale event like Black Friday or Amazon Prime Day, as there usually are steep discounts. If you’re trying to decide which smart devices might be best for you, be sure to check out WIRED’s picks in our roundups: Best Smart Speakers, Best Smart Displays, and Best Bluetooth Speakers. We also have guides on setting up your Echo speaker, creating Alexa routines, and Alexa skills that are actually fun and useful to help you get started.
Updated June 2023: We’ve updated pricing throughout this buying guide.
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