Review of the Vanigo Smart Robot Vacuum Cleaner
I remember one evening, years ago, standing braced against heavy seas and staring grimly into the navigational closet of my ship. The compartment held two beer-fridge sized gyroscopes.
A vessel’s inertial navigation system uses a computer, motion sensors and rotation sensors to calculate its position, orientation, and velocity. Gyroscopes are a vital component of this system and one of ours was faulty. That was unfortunate because minesweepers carry only one technician, and I specialized in communications equipment.
I sometimes worry unnecessarily. The problem was quickly resolved, and if it hadn’t been, the ship could have struggled on using the bridge-mounted GPS receiver.
Today I am reviewing the A3; Vanigo’s new robotic vacuum. This product is fitted with a navigational suite very much like the one described above.
A navigational system would certainly improve the usefulness of a robotic vacuum. Earlier versions of these devices depended on a set pattern and the power of repetition. The vacuum would follow its routine, busily cleaning until its battery ran low. Although this works reasonably well, it can be frustrating to watch. I distinctly remember monitoring my Koolvac as it revolved around a chair leg for five minutes before moving off in a different direction.
The Vanigo follows a pre-set pattern but also uses its navigational suite to utilize the principal of dead reckoning. If the system works correctly, the robot will know where it started, keep track of where the vacuum has been, and accurately identify its present location. This allows the robotic vacuum to determine when its job is complete.
Documentation states that, if the Vanigo A3’s battery drops to twenty percent, and its task is not yet concluded; it will return to its dock, recharge to eighty percent and then return to finish its job.
The robotic vacuum shipped with a dust box and assorted brushes. Also included were a water tank, mop cloth, two spare side brushes, remote control, power adapter, charging cradle, brush cleaner, and user’s guide.
The top of the vacuum is quite colorful, its design patterned after the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. A top-mounted button can be used to start or stop this robot. When charging, this button emits a blinking orange glow. When operational, it will turn green.
A small panel, mounted to the side, includes a power switch and an input to which the charger can be connected. There is also a yellow latch that must be depressed, before removal of the dust box.
The dust box is open at one end, allowing easy disposal of debris. If the yellow latch is, again, depressed the clamshell styled box may be opened to reveal its filters.
I turned over the robot and compared it to my Roomba. Both vacuums are equipped with solid plastic wheels covered by a rubber surface intended to provide grip. Each wheel is fitted with a spring. When the robot is jammed into a space with insufficient overhead, the wheels will depress, providing an opportunity to escape.
Also similar are the free spinning caster and metal strips used in conjunction with the charging dock.
The Roomba includes a 14.4V NiMH battery with a 3.3Ah Capacity. My new vacuum shipped with a Li-ion 14.8V 2500ma cell. The Vanigo, because it is significantly lighter, will run longer on a single charge.
The Vanigo A3 supports two side brushes, and these perform better than the single brush fitted to its competitor. The Roomba, however, is equipped with a pair of main brushes that run in opposing directions, working together to feed anything and everything into the bowels of the machine. That might be considered overkill—the Vanigo’s single brush worked well—but it certainly impressed me.
My Vanigo is reasonably quiet when in operation. I have at times, sat in the living room, watching television while it busily cleaned beneath my feet. If you depress the MAX button on the remote, suction will increase in tandem with noise levels.
Model: A3 (Smart Robot Vacuum Cleaner)
Country of Origin: China
Height: 80mm (3.2 inches)
Circumference: 30cm (12 inches)
Weight: 2.4 kilo (5.3 lb)
Brushes: Two side brushes and one main rotating brush
Vacuum: 12000 to 1400PA suction
Accessories: two spare side brushes, water tank, mop cloth, remote control, power adapter, charging cradle, brush cleaner, and user guide
Power source: Li-ion 14.8V 2500ma battery
Dustbin capacity: 800ml
Water tank capacity: 350ml
Working time: 90 – 120 minutes
Recharging time: 3 – 4 hours
Features: ESLAM mapping with gyro navigation. Also includes water tank with mop cloth
Vanigo is trademarked by Guangzhou Zhiying Technology CO., LTD. Vanigo’s sister company, Moman Technology Limited, is a vendor of photographic equipment.
Although the robot can be started by pressing a button on the vacuum, its remote allows more sophisticated operation. There are five cleaning modes; auto, spot, zig zag, edge, and scheduled. When the home button is depressed, the robot ceases work and returns to its charging station. I found it easy to schedule a daily cleaning routine but when setting this up, the remote must be within the same room as the vacuum.
The charging station appears to be equipped with a short-range beacon intended to aid during docking. While I did not experience a problem, the dock is quite light and could be brushed aside if the vacuum were to approach from a poor angle. I would have been more confident if Vanigo had applied a rubber coating to the dock’s bottom.
The water tank can be easily filled from a tap. It comes with a sturdy cloth which attaches by Velcro and two elastic straps. This device worked perfectly during my tests.
The user’s guide proved easy to understand and covered all necessary information. Being a technician; however, I would have preferred additional detail. I also feel this guide would have benefited if it had been edited by someone who’s primary language is English.
The Vanigo A3 is equipped with 16 sets of sensors. These are used to prevent the robot from falling down steps, to aid in navigation, and for identification of walls and large obstructions.
If a wheel or brush is prevented from turning, the specific problem is noted and the robotic will, verbally, notify the user.
I started the vacuum in my dining room. This area contains three obstacles that constantly leave my elderly Roomba stranded like a beached whale. The first is a raised section of flooring, which contains a vent. The Vanigo struggled but was consistently able to mount the obstacle and clean the area behind.
The second problem area is the plate-steel support for my seldom used universal gym. This support is formed into the shape of a shallow and inverted V. The highest point is only three-quarters of an inch but will usually strand any robotic vacuum powerful enough to mount it. The Vanigo routinely navigated this obstacle without mishap.
New flooring added to my living room and kitchen ensure that the entryway to each room is either higher or lower than its neighbor. The difference between living room and dining room is slightly more than one inch and supposedly beyond the ability of this robotic vacuum. The height difference between kitchen and dining room is even greater.
Neither vacuum would attempt to enter the kitchen. They considered the threshold to be a wall. Both, however, felt the passage to my living room worth attempting. The Roomba consistently became stuck. Sometimes the Vanigo A3 would manage to struggle over the edge, and sometimes it would fail. If it could not mount this obstacle, the robot would back away and try again later. In practical terms, this vacuum can be programmed to clean every room, except for the kitchen, on the first floor of this building. Please note, however, that in this less than ideal situation, the cleaning process will take longer than normal, and the robot will spend three-quarters of its time on the lower floors.
To provide a more in-depth series of tests, I persuaded my neighbor to use this vacuum in his house for several days. During initial trials, he removed a pair of small mats and rescued the robot after it became trapped beneath his love seat. He blocked off the opening under the couch and ran scheduled cleanings over the following two days. The robot appeared to improve its cleaning routine on the second run, suggesting it does build and utilize a map of the area. Please note that, according to Vanigo, if you shut off the vacuum using the main power switch, this information will be lost.
Robotic vacuum cleaners are considered inferior to a normal vacuum because they clean only the top surface of a carpet. For sure, a high-powered canister vacuum will do a better job but, using the power of repetition, a good-quality robotic cleaner can complete this task. During tests conducted for an earlier review, I ran my Roomba in an unused bedroom, every day for two weeks. Each time it recovered additional dirt and cat hair buried within the carpet. I ran the Vanigo for several days in this bedroom and it; like the Roomba, continued to remove debris from beneath the carpet’s surface. The Vanigo A3 is recommended for light carpets only.
Rugs and Mats
My neighbor has thick and heavy rugs. Except for a couple of smaller mats that it pushed around, the robotic vacuum cleaner experienced little difficulty.
I own a large Turkish rug with fringes attached to both ends. Turkish carpets are constructed from wool and hand woven using double-knots. This technique results in a very flexible rug that can be folded in the same manner as a bed sheet. While otherwise a desirable characteristic, a Turkish carpet’s flexibility does not play well with robotic vacuums.
For a while, I thought I might get away with it; the Vanigo A3 was very gentle with the fringes. Then it approached the rug from an angle. Robotic vacuums, by necessity, are low-slung. It pushed against the corner of the carpet, raising it slightly. Then one of the side brushes slipped beneath, busily sweeping. As the vacuum continued forward, it folded the corner of the carpet and became stuck. This was not unexpected. I have yet to test a robotic vacuum that can successfully and consistently navigate my Turkish rug.
If you are considering the purchase of a robotic cleaner, you probably want to know if you’ll have to pull up your rugs each time you clean. Robots tend to more successfully traverse larger rugs, but a small mat will work if it is heavy enough not to get pushed around. As noted earlier, flexibility is not a desirable trait . If you can fold over the corner of your rug, you can expect a problem.
Cords and Cables
Sometimes a robotic vacuum will climb over a cable and become entangled. The Vanigo A3 seldom experienced problems with cables and cords providing they were properly secured.
The dust box is fitted with two filters. The outer filter is equipped with handles and should be removed and washed under a tap every few days. Hidden beneath is a small HEPA filter.
The two side brushes are attached to the main unit by tiny screws. When they become worn, these brushes can be easily replaced.
To remove the main brush, simply pull off the yellow plastic brush guard and slip out the brush. After it has been cleaned, reverse this procedure.
I like Vanigo’s new vacuum. The A3 is extremely agile, relatively quiet, and it is fitted with a navigation system which allows it to operate efficiently. I found the included water tank and remote control to be very useful. Those that want to take a closer look can follow this link to Amazon.ca. The Vanigo Smart Robot Vacuum Cleaner is recommended.