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.