Walter Shillington writes about products he knows firsthand. His articles focus on healthcare, electronics, watches, and household items.
The technology behind robotic vacuums has advanced to the point where even low-priced units can perform well in an apartment or small house. Batteries have especially benefited, allowing manufacturers to increase the vacuum’s suction and operating time. These robots are also surprisingly agile and, due to sophisticated sensors, can maneuver safely around obstacles.
A budget robotic vacuum, however, is a poor choice for medium-sized or larger homes. They will buzz noisily around the house for up to two hours before mounting a seemingly endless search for their dock. And, depending on how robot-proof your home is, these vacuums often require someone around to free them when they become stuck.
A navigational system will solve the majority of these problems. Visual SLAM or LIDAR equipped robots examine each room as they vacuum, building a floorplan of the entire cleaning area. This map is consulted during future cleanings to determine the route required to navigate the house most quickly. In addition, forbidden zones can be designated for areas where the robot might otherwise become trapped. And, of course, since the robot knows where it is positioned, it can quickly return to its dock when the job is complete.
In the past, only the most expensive vacuums were fitted with navigational systems. Now, however, they are available on several medium-priced robots. Today, I am testing and reviewing Amarey’s new A980.
The Amarey A980 weighs in at just under six pounds and spans 12.5 inches. This vacuum is slimmer than most, rising only 2.95 inches from the floor.
It arrived in a cardboard box containing the vacuum, remote control, AC adapter, charging dock, and a cleaning brush. Two spare side brushes, an extra filter, a boundary strip, and a user’s guide are also provided.
The robot’s top surface is composed of scratch-resistant glass, broken only by a start button, the camera lens, and an indicator that flashes while the unit is charging.
This vacuum is equipped with four types of sensors. Cliff sensors, located beneath the robot, ensure it will not inadvertently tumble down a set of stairs. A plastic bumper, which wraps around the front of the vacuum, conceals a series of mechanical switches. When the vacuum brushes against an object, such as a table leg, one of these hidden switches will be activated, alerting the robot to back away and walk itself around the obstruction. Infrared wall sensors ensure the robotic vacuum will reduce speed as it approaches walls and large pieces of furniture. A visual SLAM type navigational system is used to determine the vacuum’s position and map its cleaning area.
Robotic vacuums navigate a room, powered by a pair of large spring-loaded drive wheels. A sturdy caster is utilized to provide balance and provide the ability to change direction. Amarey has added a roller, positioned beneath the dustbin, to increase the agility of the A980.
This unit includes a pair of side brushes, intended to sweep debris within reach of its main brush. The brush quickly grabs this material and deposits it into the dustbin. The Amarey 980’s rate of suction is set at 1600Pa. This robot, rated with a noise level of less than 60db, is quieter than most.
Located at the bottom of this robot are the charging contacts, battery compartment, and main power switch. The 2600mAh Li-ion battery will power the A980 for up to two hours, allowing it to cover 1400 square feet.
A removable dustbin slides into the rear edge of the robot. This 500-milliliter container is fitted with a HEPA, foam, and a mesh filter.
The Amarey A980 is suitable for hard surfaces and low pile carpet. Cleaning modes consist of automatic, spot, and edge cleaning.
- Manufacturer: Amarey
- Model: A980
- Country of origin: China
- Color: Black
- Weight: 2.7 kilograms (5.98 pounds)
- Diameter: 31.75 centimeters (12.5 inches)
- Height: 75 millimeters (2.95 inches)
- Battery: 2600mAh lithium-ion; 14.4 volts; 24 watts
- Battery charging time: 3 hours
- Battery run time: 110 - 120 minutes
- Noise level: ˂60db
- Dustbin: 500ml (17 fluid ounces)
- Scheduling: Yes
- Suction power: 1600PA
- Coverage: 130 square meters (1400 square feet)
- Navigational system: Visual SLAM
- Mapping: Yes. Includes exclusion zones
- Cleaning technique: Suction, main brush, and side brush
- Climbing ability: 0.59 inch (1.5 centimeters)
- Filter: HEPA, foam, and mesh
- Accessories: Recharging base, cleaning brush, spare filter, 2 spare side brushes, boundary strip, and user’s guide.
Amarey is branded by AnKobot. This company, a division of SanKobot, is headquartered in Shanghai, China. SanKobot was founded in 2016 and quickly expanded operations to Singapore, Israel, the USA (Silicon Valley) and Taiwan. Their field of expertise relates to visual and AI technologies.
SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) systems determine the orientation and position of a robotic vacuum by creating a map of its cleaning area while simultaneously tracking the robot’s whereabouts within that environment. Amarey utilizes a visual SLAM system that relies on a 145-degree camera mounted atop the device.
Setpoints (points of interest determined by the robot’s algorithm) are tracked through successive camera frames to triangulate 3D positions. This information is relayed back to create a map and identify the location of the vacuum.
After mapping and localization via SLAM are complete, the robot can chart a path that efficiently navigates a room.
The Amarey Pro Application
This application allows a smartphone to be used as a remote control. More importantly, it provides the ability to read the maps produced by the vacuum and adjust specific parameters. The operator can set exclusion zones which take effect while vacuuming or select a particular room for cleaning.
Maneuverability and Robot-Proofing
The usefulness of a robotic vacuum depends on the device’s ability to start automatically, effectively vacuum its cleaning area, and then return to dock. To assist in preventing the vacuum’s wheels and brushes from becoming entangled, all cables and wires should be secured to nearby baseboards using clips.
While robotic vacuums will sometimes sandwich themselves between the floor and a couch or cabinet, this did not prove to be a problem with the A980. It, however, did experience difficulties entering my office from the dining room. Slightly damaged wood flooring—there are deep gouges that I have yet to repair—terminate at a three-quarter inch threshold. While cleaning, a robotic vacuum must navigate the gouges, mount the threshold, and climb onto a slippery metal strip that holds the office carpeting securely in place. Most robotic vacuums struggle to transit this entrance and the A980 was no exception. Happily, this robot was usually able to extricate itself.
Several rugs were used to test the ability of the A980. The vacuum played well with the thick and heavy mat located in my living room and my well-secured Turkish rug. The robot pushed around but did not attempt to ingest a thin, towel-like mat. It was also able to mount and navigate across the thick memory foam pad in my bathroom.
The dock should be positioned in an area where there is room for the robot to maneuver. The Amarey A980, which incorporates a navigational system, requires less room than most of its competitors.
As the vacuum enters each room, it circles and begins to clean, utilizing a Z pattern. The Amarey Pro application can be used to instruct the robot to tackle a specific room, edge clean, or spot clean a particularly dirty area.
This vacuum may be scheduled to start at a specific time each day. It can also be operated using the remote control, the Amarey Pro application, or by simply pushing the start button located at the top of the vacuum.
This robotic vacuum performs exceptionally well and, because it is reasonably agile and can take advantage of exclusion zones, the vacuum may be left unintended while it is cleaning.
Excellent battery life, combined with the robot’s navigational system and its ability to map, ensure that even large cleaning areas are vacuumed quickly and thoroughly. The Amarey A980 is recommended.
© 2020 Walter Shillington