Get ready for summer with these 7 above-ground pools – CNET

Public pools may be closed this summer, but you can still outfit your backyard with a temporary, above ground pool. These above ground pools are more affordable than you might think, and bigger than you'd expect. Seriously, these ground pool kid are not just for little kiddos.

The options gathered here are all a decent size. While some of the marketing pictures featured below involve liberal use of Photoshop, some of these are indeed big enough for the whole family. And while we haven't used these pools ourselves, together they have an average rating of 4.3 out 5 stars on Amazon.

And as you'd expect, they're already frequently sold out (and their prices often change), so check back often. After all, the long, hot, dog days of summer are right around the corner and creating a backyard oasis with an aboveground pool will help you get through.

Homech

Spanning 12 feet long by 6 feet wide and 1.8 feet deep, the Homech Family Inflatable Swimming Pool isn't massive. That said, neither is its price. It's also big enough to hold 312 gallons of water (don't put it on your deck, it's a smidge heavy). Just grab a cold drink and you'll be all set for pool season. Just be advised, though, that this pool kit isn't so much a kit -- you'll have to supply your own air pump to blow it up with.

Intex

The Easy Set line of aboveground pools from Intex are designed for simple setup in your yard. Just choose a level spot outdoors, assemble, then fill the pool with water. The manufacturer claims the entire process takes about 30 minutes. This 10-foot diameter, 30-inch deep model has a water capacity of 1,018 gallons. It also comes with an electric, filtered water pump (330 gallons per hour) to get the good times flowing. Pool ownership has never been so easy.

Intex

A little on the small end, the Swim Center Family Inflatable Pool still can hold 198 gallons of water. This Intex Pool shouldn't be too hard either to find a spot for its relatively compact dimensions (8.6 by 5.8 with a 1.8 foot wall height). You will have to inflate this above ground pool package and fill it with water with your own equipment. The kit doesn't come with an air or water pump, and while you're looking for those, you also might want to grab a skimmer to remove debris.

Taiker

Like the other rectangular pools on the this list, this Taiker model is far from massive -- you're not likely to be swimming laps in this one during pool season. Measuring 8 feet long by 4.8 feet wide, with a height of 1.8 feet, it is an upgrade from your average toddler splasher. It has a water capacity of 175 gallons, and according to the manufacturer is big enough for two adults plus two or three kids to chill in the pool water.

Googo

The smallest rectangular above ground swimming pool in this group, you won't be playing intense games of Marco Polo in the Googo Family Swimming Pool (8 by 4.8 by 1.8 feet). You can however, have a splashfest in its 162 gallons (max capacity) of water. And according to manufacturer Googo, this ground pool model takes just three to four minutes to inflate it with an electric air pump, not included.

Intex

The smallest rectangular above ground swimming pool in this group, you won't be playing intense games of Marco Polo in the Googo Family Swimming Pool (8 by 4.8 by 1.8 feet). You can however, have a splashfest in its 162 gallons (max capacity) of water. And according to manufacturer Googo, this ground pool model takes just three to four minutes to inflate it with an electric air pump, not included.

Intex

For those who want to go big, there's the Intex 12 foot by 30 inch Metal Frame Pool. This circular Intex pool is large enough to hold a massive 1,718 gallons of water. You can also fill it to a water depth of two feet in just 30 minutes using the included electrical pump. Of course since this isn't a basic inflatable pool, it will require more time to assemble and set it up initially.

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This robot vacuum solves the Roomba’s biggest problem: Getting stuck – CNET

The Deebot Ozmo T8 Aivi from Ecovacs is quite a sophisticated robot vacuum.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Robot vacuums are handy tools for keeping your home tidy without much effort. But they often get stuck or trapped by common household objects. And that forces you to get off the couch and investigate -- unacceptable. The new Deebot Ozmo T8 Aivi from Ecovacs, however, is different. This $800 machine is smart enough to identify potential obstacles and avoid them.

That, according to Ecovacs, is possible because of the T8's sophisticated navigation system. It relies on information collected from lasers, collision and cliff sensors, plus an onboard HD video camera. More importantly, the robot has the intelligence to tie all this data together, then accurately interpret what it sees.

So if there's a pile of dirty clothes on the floor, the T8 will circumvent it. The same goes for shoes, wires and cords, area rugs and oddly designed chairs. At least that's the theory. And I have to say, right now, a brainy cleaning robot sure sounds tempting.  

Like many people, I'm hunkered down staying healthy at home with my family. I won't lie: The chaos and untidiness level around here is getting a little much. That's why I was really curious to see for myself if this smarter vacuum can handle or even improve the situation. Here's how things went.    

A big HD video camera sits on the front of the Osmo T8.

Brian Bennett/CNET

An eye out for trouble

At first glance, the Deebot Ozmo T8 Aivi looks like a lot of other robot vacuum cleaners. It's round, flat, and shaped like a pie plate. A turret sticks up from the top of the machine housing a spinning laser that powers the vacuum's lidar navigation subsystem. You'll also find the usual assortment of cliff and collision sensors many vacuums have.

Here's a view of the Neato Botvac D6 Connected using its lidar mapping system in our test room.

Brian Bennett/CNET

What sets the T8 apart is its optics. Robot vacuums with lenses aren't new. Many models have had them for years, including iRobot Roombas and earlier Ecovac Deebots. Those products technically have what's better described as optical sensors, not cameras. Their primary purpose isn't to capture realistic images. They snap pictures to navigate as they move, and use algorithms to tag walls, the ceiling and other reference points. 

The T8 instead boasts a 720p HD camera. This high resolution lets the robot actually see and avoid obstacles. And at the moment, my house is chock full of these pitfalls. At any given moment there are piles of kids' sneakers, toys, books, paper, you name it, it's scattered everywhere. I'm also fond of hardwood floors, as well as high-pile shag area rugs (don't judge). The latter in particular can be a challenge for even the most robust vacuum cleaners.

screenshot-20200421-132244-collage

It took a while for the Osmo T8 to create a floor plan map. While it did, the robot generated reports with advice for where to remove clutter.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Cluttered home, no problem

Getting the Ozmo T8 acquainted with my home took a lot longer than I thought it would. The first step was to set it up in a room with a free power outlet (my dining room). Next was to have the robot create a map to navigate around my house. It does that by attempting to clean, exploring and learning as it goes. 

The amount of time this takes will vary on the distance covered. Most robot vacuums I've used need two or three cleaning runs to draw up a floor plan. And if it's just one room, like our robot vacuum test room, they complete this in just one 25-minute cleaning cycle.

screenshot-20200422-132352-collage

With the map complete, features like virtual boundaries, no-go areas and cleaning zones were unlocked.

Brian Bennett/CNET

It took five cleaning sessions, each between 90 minutes and two hours, for the T8 to fully map my home's main floor. And like other robots, you can't access special abilities until after the robot creates a floor plan. That includes functions like building virtual walls and keep-out zones, cleaning targeted areas and labeling rooms.

Once the Osmo T8 had its map, however, its navigation was close to flawless. Obstacles and surfaces that often trap other vacuums, such as high-pile rugs and tangled power cords, didn't phase T8 one bit. Those are dangers that can foul up even flagship robots like the iRobot Roomba S9 Plus and Neato Botvac D7.

As the Ozmo T8 cleans, it identifies and avoids problem objects.

Brian Bennett/CNET

When cleaning is complete, the robot's app presents a report outlining the potential problem areas it detected. For instance it identifies any shoes, cords and rugs you might consider clearing before your next cleaning 

Across eight full cleaning sessions there was just one time the T8 ran into trouble. The machine had somehow encountered a hard plastic pool squid. The dive toy's multiple tentacles proved too much for its main brush, and stopped the robot in its tracks. 

img-20200422-094351

The robot comes with a water tank and cloth pad for wet mopping.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Yeah, it mops too

Another of the Ozmo T8's useful abilities is its mopping function. There's a water reservoir in the back of the machine, along with a microfiber cloth scrubbing pad attachment. When both are installed, the T8 can simultaneously vacuum and mop. In this mode, the robot is smart enough to stick to hard flooring and avoid rugs or carpeting.

img-20200422-094541

The microfiber cloth pad sits on the bottom of robot and in the back.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Ecovacs even says that the mopping action removes 99.2% of bacteria from floors. I can't confirm that claim myself. What I can say is that mopping removed any greasy or slippery patches, especially in the kitchen. 

The app crashed a lot.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Glitchy software

For all the Ozmo T8's slick abilities, its mobile app needs work. I used the software on my Pixel 3 XL running Android 10. Every time I cold-launched the app (not running in the background), it failed to open. I was always successful on the second attempt, but it's annoying. 

The biggest problem was "visual butler" mode. This function supposedly lets you drive the robot to locations in your home while it provides an HD video stream. I could never get it to work, and the video connection always timed out.

Ecovacs said it is aware of the issue and that some units suffer from the glitch. The company plans to address the shortcoming via an upcoming software update. Honestly, I feel it's a minor problem. With so many people stuck at home right now, the demand to monitor your pets remotely is pretty low. And there's always the security risk of adding yet another connected sensor inside your house. 

More cleaning, less hassle

The Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo T8 Aivi isn't quite as incredible as its splashy marketing would have you to believe. That said, I'm still quite impressed with how well it gets around, and how little it gets stuck. It means fewer headaches for you. That by itself is a big reason to take a long look at this model. 

Even the fanciest flagship robot vacuum cleaners run into problems a lot more than they should. It's clear to me that the T8 spends more time hunting down dirt than sitting tangled in the corner. And that's intelligence other vacuums would do well to emulate. I'm looking at you Neato Botvac D7 and iRobot Roomba S9 Plus.

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The best coffee grinder you can buy right now – CNET

When grinding and brewing exceptionally good coffee, the key is to grind your beans right before you brew. And for that, you'll need the best coffee grinder. True coffee lovers and coffee connoisseurs don't settle for just any old machine, though. Just how important is the coffee grinder to a good cup of coffee? A weak coffee bean grinder will hinder even the best coffee makers. Cheap grinders or a manual grinder have the tendency to mistreat whole beans, grinding them inconsistently. That leads to uneven coffee extraction, and ultimately, a bad cup of coffee or espresso.

Avoid this scenario by getting the best coffee grinder that delivers the goods, cup by cup. I've chosen my three favorites below, followed by a list of the other electric grinders that I've put through their paces. The ultimate coffee grinding machines delivers a consistent grind (be it fine or coarse depending on the grind setting), useful grinding features and settings, powerful motors to grind, easy to clean and easy to use. 

Yes, this buyer's guide list starts at $99, by no means cheap, but that's because I tested all of these coffee grinders personally, and just didn't like the results from the budget set. (See the testing details below, along with their pros and cons and a full list of other models that didn't make the cut.) I'll follow up to see if any other bargain grinding machine is worth the trade-off in the future and update the story accordingly.

Also, be sure to read our guide to the best home espresso machines for sale right now.  

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you're a coffee drinker who needs a solid, all-purpose (relatively) inexpensive coffee grinding machine, I recommend the $100 Oxo Brew Conical Burr Grinder as the best coffee grinder overall. In terms of grind consistency, the Oxo Conical Burr Coffee Grinder placed second within my test group. That's behind the $199 Breville Smart Grinder Pro, which ranked first in grinding but also costs twice as much. The Oxo Brew Conical Burr Grinder, however, can grind beans faster. And while it has fewer coarse grind settings, Oxo's stainless steel machine is more versatile. The Oxo burr coffee grinder can grind fine enough to be used as an espresso grinder in a pinch. The stainless steel Oxo coffee grinding machine can also produce coffee grounds coarse enough for brewing a cup of siphon, French press and cold brew. Other pros are that the Oxo Brew is easy to clean and creates less of a mess when grinding than other grinders. $100 might sound like a lot, but keep in mind a quality coffee and espresso grinder should grind for a long time.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You can't get much simpler than Baratza's $139 Encore. The Encore Conical Burr Grinder has just one control: a switch that turns the grinder on and off. That's not just easy -- that's easy easy. Continually pressing a button on the Encore's front activates the grind, too. Grounds from the machine were relatively consistent in particle size. The machine is also simple to clean and less noisy when grinding than many other coffee grinders we've tested. Read our Baratza Encore review.

Read more: Trusty reusable coffee cups to keep your coffee hot and wallet full

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If you want a cup of espresso, here's an espresso maker to look at. You'll pay a little more for grinding with the $200 brushed stainless steel Smart Grinder Pro. But if you've got your heart set on pulling espresso shots at home, the Smart Grinder Pro is the best coffee grinder for espresso, cup after cup. This Smart Grinder with stainless steel burrs can produce extremely fine coffee grounds, the sort necessary for brewing quality espresso or Turkish coffee. The machine also created the most consistently sized grounds of all the machines I tested. The Breville boasts 60 settings, and it comes with adapters for espresso machine portafilters. If you like brewing siphon, French press or cold brew though, consider looking elsewhere. Even at its most coarse, this coffee bean grinder's grounds are too fine for those methods. Read our Breville Smart Grinder Pro review.

So, how exactly do we test coffee grinders?

An ideal coffee grinder produces ground particles that are of a consistent and correct size. By that, we mean that the size of ground coffee particles should match its grinder's coarseness setting, fine or not. The size of grounds produced should also be fit for the intended brewing method, as outlined within the product manual.

To test each grinder for our coffee grinder reviews, we first hand-wash and dry all parts recommended by the manufacturer. We then set each machine to the appropriate level for grinding drip coffee or automatic coffee brewers (again, as indicated by the manual). Sometimes the manual lacks specific directions. In this case, we select the middle coarse setting for grinding, then bump it up by one more coarse level (from fine grind to coarse grind). For example, if a grinder has 16 total coarse settings (assuming 16 is its most coarse grinding option and 1 is fine), we'll set it for coarse level 9.

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Next we weigh out 10 grams of whole coffee beans to grind. By default our test beans are Kirkland Colombian roast (from Costco). It's the same beans we use for our coffee maker tests. (No judgments, please.) When you grind as much coffee and espresso as we do, it pays to be frugal.

Then we run our sample beans through the grinder. We also make note of how long the grinder takes to grind coffee beans. Next, we carefully collect the grounds, then sift them with a two-screen sieve for 60 seconds. For that we use the Kruve Sifter Two. It comes with two mesh screens of different aperture sizes (800 and 400 microns). This step lets us measure the grind consistency of our sample.

Read more: High-end drip coffee makers for brewing right at home

We used a Kruve coffee sieve system to confirm grind size consistency. 

Brian Bennett/CNET

A superior electric coffee grinder or hand grinder will produce grounds, preferably with stainless steel blades, that are mostly between 400 and 800 microns in particle size (at our chosen grind setting). Finally, we weigh the grounds that collect between the two screens (800 microns top, 400 microns bottom).

A bad grinder will grind particles of varying sizes, from large to small. Blade grinders are notorious for this issue. Unlike a blade coffee grinder, a coffee grinder with steel or ceramic burrs typically yields grounds that are much more uniform in size.

Additionally, we grind at least two more times. From there, we can record an average optimal yield for each grinder.

Want more? Whether you prefer a cup of espresso, coffee or Turkish coffee, here's a list of coffee grinders I've put through their paces for this evaluation, in addition to the ones above. And below that, you'll find a chart that displays their grinding pros and cons and how well they stack up against each other. Now enjoy a cup!

Coffee grinders compared


Baratza Encore Bodum Bistro coffee grinder Breville Smart Grinder Pro Capresso Infinity Conical Burr grinder Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill Krups GX5000 Mr. Coffee Electric 12-cup coffee grinder Oxo Brew Conical Burr coffee grinder
Average optimal yield (grams) 2.6 3.9 6.5 2.9 1.8 1.9 1.8 3.2
Percent optimal yield 26.3% 38.7% 64.7% 28.7% 18.0% 19.0% 18.3% 32.3%
Average grind time (seconds) 26 9 10 10 33 19 12 7
Price $139 $90 $192 $99 $36 $49 $19 $99

Originally published last year and updated periodically.

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The best cordless vacuum for 2020 – CNET

Today's advanced vacuum cleaners are nothing like the clunky models of decades past. They're cordless, lightweight, and pack rechargeable batteries for extreme portability and convenience. These machines aren't simple dustbusters either. They rival traditional upright corded vacuums, both in flexibility and power. Many come with numerous attachments, along with special modes to tackle multiple floor types, including hardwood floors, carpet, bare floors and stairs, and household chores like cleaning furniture and upholstery.

Dyson pioneered this field with its lineup of capable -- and pricey -- Cyclone V series stick vacs. A host of companies now offer their own cordless vacuums. In some cases these are shameless clones of Dyson products. In others, they're unique takes on the cordless vacuum, providing novel features all their own.

Are any of these vacuums worth buying over Dyson's premium models? And if so, which one makes the most sense for you? To find the answer, we selected eight current cordless vacuums. On our buyer's guide list are stick vacs from well-known vacuum cleaner heavyweights like Hoover, Bissell and Shark. We also included a few options from vacuum newcomers Moosoo and Onson, both popular, low-cost Dyson alternatives sold through Amazon.

Read more: Best robot vacuum of 2020: iRobot Roomba, Neato and all other robot vacuum cleaners

We then put them all through a rigorous battery of floor-care tests on hard flooring, carpet and other surfaces. The process took over 150 hours to complete. It also consumed multiple pounds of sand and rice, plus hundreds of handfuls of pet hair. After that, we've determined that these products are our picks for the best cordless vacuum for 2020.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The $584 V11 is Dyson's latest and greatest stick vac. It's also the most expensive machine in our test group. That said, this flagship model delivered best-in-class performance to match its steep price. On hardwood floor surfaces, the V11 literally wiped the bare floors clean from dust and dirt. The vacuum, which has a lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, demonstrated near-flawless pickup of both sand and black rice test samples (99.6 and 100%, respectively). 

Pet owners will also appreciate the V11's prowess at eliminating pet hair. During anecdotal tests, the vacuum completely removed hair fibers and dust from mid-pile and low-pile carpet. Pet hair pickup across hardwood flooring went almost as well. The only detractors were a stray clump the vacuum missed at the top of our test area. That and a few strands ended up wrapped around the V11's brush roll. 

I certainly like how easy the V11's dust bin is to empty. Just aim the vacuum into the trash, and push a release tab to open the dust bin's lid. To close it, pull the tab in the opposite direction. Other models we tested were a nightmare in this regard. The Hoover BladeMax gave us the most trouble. Hair and dust typically became trapped deep inside its dirt cup. I found its bin tricky to open too. Worse, it isn't always clear that the dirt bin is securely attached.    

Dyson also bundles numerous attachments in the box. Among them are a crevice tool for cleaning tight spaces, a motorized tool for upholstery, a soft dusting brush and a stubborn dirt brush head for pulling ground-in dirt from a carpet. All this makes the Dyson V11 the clear choice for the best cordless vacuum money can buy. Read more about the Dyson V11.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The second-best performer in our group of cordless vacuums was the $250 Shark Rocket Pet Pro Cordless. It came very close to cleaning floors as well as the Dyson V11, but costs hundreds less. The Rocket removed just as much sand from both midpile carpet and hardwood floors. In fact, the only area where the Shark trailed the V11 as the best cordless vacuum was over low-pile carpet. There, the machine pulled away an overage of 67.6% of our test sand. By contrast, the Dyson V11 removed a greater amount of sand from our low-pile carpeting (78.4% on average).

The Rocket didn't have trouble handling pet hair either. On both low-pile carpet and hardwood, this handheld cordless vacuum wiped away all traces of animal dander. Results were favorable across midpile carpet, too. Only a small tuft of hair remained after the vacuum passed over the thicker, more challenging surface.

Design is another of the Rocket Pet Pro's strengths. Its dust cup is almost as easy to empty as the Dyson V11. The dust cup typically remains clear of dirt and debris as well, not stuck inside even after emptying. I also appreciate how the Rocket Pet Pro's wand and upholstery tool can stand upright on its own (disconnected from the main vacuum unit). LED lights on the nozzle help you see dirt and debris around your home, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery makes for easy charging. So, if you seek a solid midrange cordless upright stick vac, Shark's Rocket Pro is an outstanding option.

Chris Monroe/CNET

If you'd like to own a Dyson but would rather not spend top dollar, consider the $450 Dyson V8 Absolute. This step-down model is a few years old, yet still performs like a champ. On our floor-cleaning tests, the V8 came in a respectable third. In our test group, only the Dyson V11 and Shark Rocket Pet Pro scoured floors better than the V8.

On hardwood, the vacuum managed to pickup an average of 98% of the sand we dropped. For low-pile carpet, that average fell to 68.3%. The average slipped further across midpile carpet, though remained at a respectable 52%.

Pet hair didn't faze the V8 much either. It pulled hair away from midpile and low-pile carpets completely. It did fail to remove a small amount of dander on hardwood. Additionally, some fibers became wrapped around the vacuum's brush roll. But the washable filter was handy.

And similar to the V11 Torque Drive, the V8 Absolute comes with a generous assortment of add-ons. That includes gadgets for dusting, a crevice tool for reaching into a tight crevice, a soft cleaning head for bare floors, a motorized brush roll for grabbing ground-in dirt and debris, and a docking station for charging the battery. So for those who'd like to own a Dyson brand stick vac a little less cash, the V8 Absolute is worth a look.      Read more about the Dyson V8.

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Moosoo isn't exactly a household name. Nevertheless, the $120 Moosoo M X6 cordless vacuum packs a respectable punch, considering its low price. Despite costing much less than competing vacuums, the M X6 was the fourth-best performer in our test group of eight models.

The stick vac picked up 99% (on average) of our test sand from hardwood. On low-pile carpet, that figure sank to 41.3%. The M X6 fared better across thicker midpile carpet though, earning a higher sand pickup average of 52.2%.

Black rice, our large particle test soil, was a breeze for the Moosoo vacuum. It managed pickup averages above 90% on hardwood, low-pile and midpile carpet (95.4, 96.8 and 94%, respectively).

Don't buy the Moosoo M X6, though, if you're a pet owner. Cons are that at least some visible dander remained after vacuuming, no matter the test surface. The brush roll tends to wrap strands of hair around itself as well.

If you want cordless vacuuming on a tight budget, however, consider the Moosoo M X6. It just might fit the bill, and for much less cash.

How we test cordless vacuums

Putting cordless vacuums through their paces isn't as complicated as testing robot vacuums, but it still takes lots of time and careful effort to find the best cordless vacuum. We run each vacuum in a straight line across three different surfaces (hardwood, low-pile carpet, midpile carpet). On all three test beds, the test area is the same length (30.25 inches).

Our custom-built tool lets us match the soil area to each vacuum's nozzle width. The amount of soil used for each test also depends on the type of flooring.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The width of the test bed is proportional the vacuum's nozzle width. We measure this width ourselves. We also use nozzle width, plus the flooring type, to calculate the soil density for each test, per International Electrotechnical Commission guidelines. The IEC is an international standards body responsible for managing vacuum testing procedures, among other things, for vacuum manufacturers.

We test vacuums on three types of floor surfaces.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

We use three types of soil. To simulate small particle size, we use a mix of play sand and landscaping sand. To emulate larger dirt particles, we use uncooked black rice. To see how vacuums deal with pet hair, we use our mixture of clippings sourced to us through our local pet groomer. 

img-20191111-153402-collage

We run tests in a straight line across all three floor types.

Brian Bennett/CNET

We perform three runs (at minimum) on each floor type. We also test with sand and rice separately. That comes to at least 18 tests per vacuum. We weigh the vacuum's dust bin both before and after each run. 

Percentage of sand removed

Dyson V11 Torque Drive

Dyson V8 Absolute

Shark Rocket Pet Pro

Moosoo M X6 Cordless

Hoover OnePwr Blade Max

Hoover Linx

Bissell Iconpet

Onson D18E Stick Vacuum Cleaner

Legend:

Sand from low-pile

Sand from hardwood

Sand from mid<span class="scribe-editor-marker" style="display: none;"></span>pile

Note:

Results listed are the average percentage of total material removed from test surface

From there we can calculate the percentage of dirt and debris pickup for every run and the average amount of soil a vacuum manages to remove. Additionally, we run anecdotal (visual) pet hair tests for each vacuum, on all three floor types to help us select the best cordless vacuum.

Percentage of rice removed

Dyson V11 Torque Drive

Dyson V8 Absolute

Shark Rocket Pet Pro

Moosoo M X6 Cordless

Hoover OnePwr Blade Max

Hoover Linx

Bissell Iconpet

Onson D18E Stick Vacuum Cleaner

Legend:

Rice from low-pile

Rice from hardwood

Rice from midpile

Note:

Results listed are the average percentage of total material removed from test surface

Want more cordless vacuum options? Here's a list of the other stick vacs we tested besides the models listed above:

Read more: 

Originally published last year.

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The best espresso machine for 2020 – CNET

espresso-promo-shots-4

Espresso coffee is uniquely powerful and flavorful. It's the ultimate test for home brewers.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Many java connoisseurs find espresso to be the ultimate expression of coffee, but the difference between a truly great brew and something that is just so-so comes down to finding the best espresso machine in your price range. It's easy to fall hard for espresso, which is concentrated, complex and intensely flavorful. But to be your own top-level barista and create and enjoy good drinks at home, you'll need to be willing to spend big bucks.

The best home espresso machines have an advanced brewing process and handy bells and whistles like a double portafilter basket for double shot drinks and a milk frother and steam wand for a cup of cappuccino or a latte. These automatic machines don't come cheap, and you can expect to pay at least $600 for something that whips up legit cafe-caliber espresso drinks. But when in doubt, try to remember how much you'll be saving on all the lattes, cappuccinos and double shots you get from your coffee shop thanks to your espresso and cappuccino maker.

Of course, you can also drop as little as $100, if you're willing to settle for a mediocre espresso, but I urge you not to pounce on products that cost less, especially if you plan on drinking espresso regularly. They may seem like a bargain at first blush, but they're often a waste of money and counter space, too. 

For those on a budget, "espresso brewers" (in the $30 to $50 price range) typically lack motorized pumps and are powered by steam pressure alone. What they produce is really moka pot, the sort of coffee made by simple stovetop brewers; it won't taste quite like the espresso you're used to from the barista at your local coffee shop or cafe. That's not inherently bad -- it's just not really espresso.

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To find the best espresso machine for espresso lovers, I spent over 80 hours putting 10 available espresso machines through their paces and only real, manual espresso machines, too -- no pre-packaged pods or capsules here. I also revisited three other espresso machines I reviewed previously. During the process, I made and sampled scores of espresso shots, double shots, lattes, cappuccinos and pitchers of steamed milk. I also took into account other things like water reservoir and storage, water filter, control panel, grinding capabilities, automatic milk frother length (and its ability to steam and froth milk) and more.

After my experience, these are the three I'd qualify as the best home espresso machines. While they all get the job done and offer the essential features you need -- like a steam milk frother, drip tray, substantial water reservoir, and easy-to-clean stainless steel base -- the key differentiating factor between them is the price point. And how much you spend on an espresso machine does have a major impact on what type of coffee you'll ultimately get.

I also limited this list to automatic machines and semi-automatic espresso machines. I excluded super-automatic espresso makers as well, sold by Krups, Philips, Miele, and others. They're a breed apart, costing many multiple times more ($2,000 to $3,000).

Chris Monroe/CNET

You can't beat the Breville Barista Express and its combination of performance, features and price point. For less than $600, the machine's formidable grinder pulverizes espresso beans, smart technology doses grounds directly into its portafilter basket, plus its sturdy frother steams milk well and makes thick foam. It also consistently pulled the best tasting shots of espresso in my test group. 

The control panel may be a little intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of things, a delicious shot (or double shot) of espresso, latte, or coffee-based drink of choice will be your reward. Made from stainless steel, the Barista Express is a cinch to clean as well. And to seal the deal, Breville includes premium metal tools such as a handy dose trimmer and tamper.

We will note, though, that this machine does not offer a compact design. If counter space is at a premium in your kitchen, you may want to look at the next machine on the list to make your cup of coffee. Read more.

While it lacks its own coffee grinder, making an espresso, cappuccino or latte from the Cuisinart EM-100 has plenty going for it. This espresso machine has a compact design but is powerful enough to brew from fine coffee grounds. It also pulled flavorful espresso shots, second only to the Breville Barista Express in terms of quality, taste and strength. The machine features a long stainless steel frother for steaming milk and a built-in cup warmer heating element too. A solid espresso machine at about a third the price of the Breville.

This is by far the best espresso machine under the $100 price point that I tried. Despite its modest price, the Mr. Coffee ECMP50 surprised me by belting out satisfying espresso shots. They were nice and strong, with good crema and balanced coffee flavour. I will say, though, that I still prefer shots brewed by the Breville Barista Express and Cuisinart EM-100, which offer a more intense taste. Frothing and steaming milk to the proper temperature on this machine was difficult compared to those products due to its short frother arm. Mr. Coffee doesn't bundle a milk pitcher either, so you'll have to supply one yourself. That said, if $100 is your price limit, this budget espresso machine -- which still has necessities like a removable drip tray and 40-oz water reservoir -- should fit the bill for your cup of the day.

How we test espresso machines

My evaluation process for espresso machines is similar to how I test standard drip coffee makers. First, I hand wash and dry all removable parts and accessories. For most espresso products, that includes the portafilter basket, metal portafilter inserts, water tank and so on. Next I run one brewing cycle with just hot water to flush away any residual material from manufacturing.

Most espresso machines, save for fancy super automatic models, lack an integrated coffee grinder and I prefer to test with freshly ground coffee. So I supply my own grinder --- the Breville Smart Grinder Pro. I chose this grinder for two reasons. First, it's calibrated more for espresso and less for drip or other brewing styles. That means it produces a grind that is quite fine. Second, its grind size is also consistently uniform. Both factors are critical for a proper espresso brewing process.

To pull shots, I start with the suggested method outlined in a given machine's product manual. Usually that covers the amount of coffee grounds expected per shot, along with any guidelines regarding coarseness level. Likewise, I follow tamping instructions (light, medium or hard tamp) if the manual provides them.

Whenever possible, I brew double shots of espresso for all my test runs. I make sure to record the weight of the grounds I use, plus the weight of espresso for each shot I pull. This data, along with readings from a portable refractometer, allows me to calculate two important percentages: TDS (total dissolved solids) and extraction percentage.

And just like any coffee brew, the ideal extraction percentage for espresso is a range between 18 and 22%. This yields a balanced cup, assuming you perform an even and efficient extraction of coffee compounds from your grounds (both flavor and caffeine).

Not many home espresso machines can brew quality shots. This one was pulled from the Breville Barista Express.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you over-extract, you run the risk of leaching out unpleasant flavors (bitterness) after the good. On the opposite end of the scale, under extracted brews tend to have undeveloped flavors. Lacking sugars and other caramelized organic chemicals, these shots will taste sour, weak and watery.      

Unlike making a cup of drip coffee, espresso should be concentrated. While excellent drip typically has a TDS percentage of 1.3 or 1.4, great espresso has a much higher percentage. The Breville Barista Express, for example, produced shots with TDS percentages as high as 12.4.

These shots I pulled were balanced though, with an extraction of 18.6%. The test beans I use are the same variety I employ for standard coffee makers -- Costco Kirkland Colombian. It's a medium dark roast, suitable for brewing espresso as well.    

Lastly, I try my hand at frothing milk with each coffee machine equipped with a steam wand. I record the overall experience with the steam wand, whether the process is a snap, a tricky chore or somewhere in between.

Want more options for your cup of coffee? Check out this list of espresso machines I've tested in addition to the ones above.

Originally published last year and updated periodically as we review new products.

More coffee coverage at CNET and Chowhound

• Best coffee makers for 2020
• Trusty reusable coffee cups to keep your coffee hot and wallet full
• Best gifts for coffee lovers in 2020
• Best coffee accessories of 2020
• The best cold-brew coffee makers of 2020
• The best coffee grinders you can buy right now
• How to make the best cold-brew coffee
• Best travel coffee mugs for 2020
• What is the difference between coffee and espresso?
• Make espresso gelato at home

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The best kamado grills: Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, Char-Griller and more – CNET

Kamado cookers, which are those egg-shaped, ceramic, wood-burning grills that you may have seen or at least heard of, impart a delicious smoky flavor to everything they cook. They can run low and slow for hours at smoker temperatures and sear at high heat levels that go well beyond the capabilities of a gas grill. That's hot enough to create true steakhouse steaks and real wood-fired pizza like a pro griller.

The Big Green Egg is the best known example of a kamado grill and smoker, but competitors like Kamado JoeVisionChar-Griller and Char-Broil round out the category of grills that provide the benefits of kamado cooking. Should you be tempted to add one to your arsenal and become a more serious griller, I put the Big Green Egg and its four major rivals to the test over 200 hours to find the best kamado grill -- here's what I found.

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Ribs, chicken, burgers: you name it, we cooked it.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Over 200 smoke-filled hours later, I've cooked more than 20 pounds of pork ribs, six chickens and 10 pounds of burgers, and a few steaks for good measure. After all of that, I can say with conviction which brands make the best kamado grill for my taste, and which ones you should avoid.  

Here are my kamado grill reviews and picks for the best kamado grill options of 2020, which I'll update as I review new products.

Read moreBest gas grills of 2020

Chris Monroe/CNET

At $1,600, the Kamado Joe Classic III may have a steep price tag, but it delivers plenty for the money. That means lots of accessories that don't come standard with other grills, including the Big Green Egg Kamado. This kamado grill and smoker performs well too. On our slow and low barbecue test, we adjust grills to 225 degrees F (107 C) and let go of the controls to see what happens. In this trial, the Joe demonstrated excellent temperature control.

The grill got a little hot in the first 30 minutes (315 F) but then settled down at the one-hour mark. From there it coasted on cruise control, parking the needle between 253 F and 219 F for almost three hours. Only the Big Green Egg turned in a tighter temperature curve, humming along for hours within the smoking sweet spot.

One feature that really sets the Classic III apart is something called the SloRoller. Billed as a "hyperbolic smoke chamber" by Kamado Joe, it's an hourglass-shaped metal contraption that sits over the fire. The apparatus functions as both a heat deflector and a convection aid. Essentially it stops radiant heat generated by the coals from striking food sitting above (on the grill grate). This prevents the meat from drying out during long cooks. And according to Kamado Joe, it also encourages air flow (smoke) circulation within the cooking chamber.

In fact, there are a ton of extras bundled with the Classic III right in the box -- including ceramic parts. That includes an additional set of ceramic heat deflectors (one for each half of the grill), a coal stoker and an aluminum charcoal basket. You get two halved aluminum grates as well, an ash removal tool, plus a three-level cooking rack that you can configure as needed for grilling.

By contrast, everything on the Big Green Egg except the stand costs extra. Keep in mind, you can also save a little by choosing Kamado Joe's Classic II. For $1,195 it's almost identical to the Classic III, but lacks the SloRoller accessory and has a different stand.

The construction of the Classic III feels very solid too. I especially like the sturdy side shelves, ideal for grilling and smoking, also standard. All that makes this one of the best kamado grills, if you can afford it.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Big Green Egg, the company that started the kamado craze, still has a winner. Of all the grills in my test group, the Large BGE model had the best temperature performance and stability. Once tuned to a low and slow temperature of 225 F, the Egg pretty much ran itself. According to our temperature gauge, the Green Egg stuck to this temperature range, with only minor and infrequent fluctuations.

The Large Big Green Egg also felt the most responsive. If for any reason I had to make an adjustment to either the top or bottom air vents, I saw a change quickly. I typically noticed course corrections in as little as six or seven minutes. 

The food I cooked in the Large Big Green Egg came out quite tasty as well. While my BGE test unit lacked the extra heat deflector accessory, chicken and pork ribs had convincing barbecue flavor. While not as delicious as what I smoked in the Kamado Joe Classic III, the BGE came in a very close second. Big Green Egg does make a heat deflector accessory, called the ConvEGGtor, but it's an extra add-on.

True to its name, this kamado grill and smoker is big, giving you lots of space to grill, smoke and cook to your heart's desire.  

That's why I recommend the Large Big Green Egg as one of the best kamado grills for just about anyone. You'll have to go through a local dealer, and unlike the Kamado Joe Classic III, everything except the stand is extra. Ultimately though, the total cost of the Large Big Green Egg should be less than the fully decked-out Classic III.

Char-Griller

The Char-Griller Akorn provides real kamado performance at a rock-bottom price. It costs just $323, which is incredible considering typical kamados will set you back $800 to $1,000. The Akorn's cooking temperature and temperature control isn't as inherently stable as the more expensive kamado grills I used. I suspect that's because the Akorn's body is constructed from triple-walled steel, as opposed to heavy ceramic. The grill's fire was also harder to ignite and keep lit than the Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe Classic III.

When I let it burn through our low and slow test (adjusted to 225 F), the Akorn's fire died out within 45 minutes. After relighting, temperatures inside the cooker shot up to 370 F in a mere 15 minutes. I didn't add extra fuel either, just one paraffin fire starter. Thirty-five minutes later, heat levels inside the Akorn hit 405 degrees. Temperatures then plateaued but remained hot, not dropping below 387 F for the next three hours.

Things were very different when I kept an eye on the Akorn. With a starting temperature of either 225 F or 350 F, it only took a few vent adjustments for the air flow to nudge the grill back on track. And since it's built from steel, not ceramic, the Akorn weighs less (100 pounds) than traditional kamados (200 pounds or more).

The food I cooked on the Akorn wasn't bad either. Both slow-cooked baby back ribs and chicken had a pleasing charcoal flavor. That said, they couldn't match what came out of the Kamado Joe thanks to its bundled heat deflector smoker system. A price this low outweighs a lot of the cons, though, so the Char-Griller Akorn adds up to a fantastic kamado bargain. 

How we test kamado grills

Testing kamado grills is an intense experience for a griller. It literally requires playing with fire and high temperatures, though in a controlled, responsible way. The most critical element to kamado performance is heat, specifically temperature control and how well a grill holds to one temperature. And to smoke meat low and slow, that magic number is 225 F. Good smokers, kamados or otherwise, stick to this temp for as long as 12, 15 or 20 hours. This means the a temperature gauge, as well as the ability to control air flow via air vents or dampers is key.

img-20191015-133658-collage

We monitor the internal temperature of the kamado grills as they go.

Brian Bennett/CNET

To capture this, we load kamados with thermocouples (one per grill). Essentially a sensitive temperature sensor made of a probe and a connected wire, they hang suspended just above the grill grate (1 inch). They're connected to a data logger, and ultimately a computer that records changes in heat levels over time.

Then comes time to fire up each grill.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

We try to run temperature tests on each grill simultaneously. We also use the same weight and brand of lump charcoal (4.4 pounds or 2 kg), often from the same bag. That's true of firestarters too (one per grill).

A kamado smoker that has a stable heat level is key to good performance.

Brian Bennett/CNET

After that, we light them up, as instructed by their manuals if available. Usually, that means letting the coals catch for 15 minutes, with the lid open, then shutting the grill. At this point, vents remain wide open until within 50 degrees F of the target temp. 

We carefully fiddle with the vents to get there. Last we let go of the controls and observe. 

We follow the same procedure for our higher temperature test with a target of 350 degrees F. The idea here is to simulate heat performance required to roast chicken and other poultry.

mvimg-20191015-164310-edited

We smoke ribs along with other food for anecdotal tests.

Chris Monroe/CNET

And speaking of food, we perform lots of anecdotal cooks too. We smoke a rack of baby back ribs (225 F) on each. We butterfly (spatchcock) chickens and roast them too, sourced from the local Costco (roughly 5 pounds each). Last, we grill a set of four half-pound burger patties (8 ounces) at high heat (600 F). 

img-20191016-144113

Burgers anyone?

Brian Bennett/CNET

Want more options? Here are two other kamado grill models I evaluated for this test group:

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More grilling goodness:

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Best coffee maker to buy for 2020: Bonavita, Ninja, Oxo, Moccamaster and more – CNET

Though making drip coffee should be as easy as filling a drip coffee maker with coffee grounds and hot water, not all drip coffee makers are created equal; as french press and ground coffee enthusiasts will tell you, there's much more to the art of the perfect home brew. You need to find a drip brewer that can bring water to the correct temperature and that doesn't brew too slowly -- all common obstacles that can doom your drip -- and that's not always easy to do.

Luckily, we have found some noteworthy exceptions on the market, and whether you prefer to brew perfect lattes, iced coffee or turn coffee beans into the perfect cup of joe, you don't need to spend a mint to get the best coffee maker. You can drop over $600 on a tricked-out Ratio Eight that's as beautiful as it is capable or on a programmable commercial coffee maker. But all it takes is $15 to get Oxo's superb Single Serve Pour Over funnel.

And there are plenty of compelling choices in-between for a coffee lover's brew. One is our Editors' Choice winner, the Bonavita Connoisseur, our pick for best all-around automatic brewer. Another is the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer, which uses an ancient technique to achieve outstanding and dramatic results. No matter your budget, there's something on this list that'll fit your drip needs perfectly and be the best coffee maker for you -- and we'll periodically update it with new products as we test them. We promise, you'll never have to drink coffee from pods or an ancient coffee pot again.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Despite its snobby name, the Connoisseur from Bonavita is the best automatic drip coffee maker you can buy for the least amount of cash. It reliably brews full pots of fresh coffee that rival what you would get from your favorite coffee shop or barista, and it's a cinch to use. With easy one-touch operation, the Bonavita has a 1,500-watt heating element that maintains optimal brewing temperature of 198-205 degrees fahrenheit.

This perfect coffee maker also has a 1.3-liter water reservoir, works fast and has all the bells and whistles including a stainless steel-lined thermal carafe. It's also a snap to keep clean, with a removable, dishwasher-safe brew basket and carafe lid.  Read our Bonavita BV 1900TS review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you find that brewing an entire pot of coffee each morning is overkill, then consider the Bonavita Immersion Dripper, the best coffee maker for strong single cups. This small gadget is the best coffee maker to brew perfect single cups of strong, flavorful Joe that can be enjoyed hot or cooled for iced coffee. You just have to supply the hot water and coffee filters. Read our Bonavita Immersion Dripper review.

Those who seek lots of coffee in a hurry will love the quick brew cycle of this coffee maker. The Bunn Velocity Brew BT drip coffee maker with its stainless steel-lined thermal carafe whips up large pots of joe at astonishing speed. In as little as 3 minutes, 33 seconds, the coffee maker can deliver full batches of tasty drip to drink. Read our Bunn Velocity Brew BT review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

It's hard to find a coffee maker that beats the KitchenAid Siphon Brewer's unique combination of spectacle and quality. The coffee it makes is distinctly rich, deep and seductively flavorful. Its vintage brewing process, based on vapor pressure and vacuum suction, is also mesmerizing to watch. No paper filters needed as the Siphon Brewer comes with a reusable stainless steel filter. Read our Kitchenaid Siphon Coffee Brewer review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Think of this kitchen appliance as the Swiss army knife of the drip coffee maker world. The Ninja programmable brewer (with frother, thermal carafe and reusable filter) offers an uncanny degree of flexibility, making it the best coffee maker for those who don't always want the same cup. It can create everything from solid drip, to perfect cold brew, to iced coffee, to latte-style drinks with its milk frother, and it will adjust the temperature according to your choice. Its thermal carafe will keep tea or coffee hot up to two hours. This programmable coffee maker even lets you brew iced coffee and hot coffee in multiple sizes, from small cups all the way up to full carafes. Read our Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Cold brew coffee is delicious, but it can be a pain to make. Oxo's cold brew coffee maker takes much of the headache out of the process. This Oxo Brew coffee maker saturates coffee grounds evenly and lets you drain cold brewed coffee from them into its glass carafe with relative ease. Read our Oxo Cold Brew Coffee Maker review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Delicious coffee and great tasting drip from a product that costs just $15? It sounds unlikely but that's just what the affordable Oxo Good Grips Pour-Over offers. It only makes coffee one drink at a time and requires you to provide the hot water. That said, the simple brewer transforms the otherwise complex task of pour-over into one that's easy, clean and almost foolproof. Read our Oxo Good Grips Pour-Over Coffee Maker review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Judging by the Ratio Eight appliance, the people at Ratio believe that a coffee maker should be beautiful as well as functional. Starting at $495, each brewer is crafted from a selection of premium materials like walnut, mahogany and glass. (Both the water reservoir and carafe are made from hand-blown glass.) Their sturdy aluminum bases are available in numerous finishes as well. And yes, the Ratio Eight with its glass carafe also makes excellent drip.   Read our Ratio Eight review.

Megan Wollerton/CNET

Dutch company Technivorm has sold exceptionally good drip coffee makers for decades. Its Moccamaster KBT 741 drip coffee machine sports a design with clean lines and sharp angles that harkens back to 1968, the year the first Moccamaster hit stores. Retro design aside, the Moccamaster KBT 741 consistently puts out perfect freshly brewed coffee that will satisfy coffee connoisseurs. Its stainless steel thermal carafe also keeps its contents hot a full six hours.  Read our Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 review.

A note on testing coffee makers

Evaluating the performance of a coffee maker is trickier than it might sound. The first step is to know what good drip coffee actually is. According to the Specialty Coffee Association, there are criteria critical to brewing quality java. Mainly these are brewing time and water temperature. Hot water should come into contact with grounds for no less than four minutes and no longer than eight. Additionally, the ideal water temperature range is between 197 degrees Fahrenheit (92C) and 205 degrees Fahrenheit (96C).

To confirm how each coffee maker meets that challenge, we log the length of their brew cycles. We also employ thermocouple heat sensors connected to industrial-grade data loggers. That enables us to record the temperature within the coffee grounds while brewing is underway.

We measure the temperature inside the brewing chamber of every coffee maker we test.

Brian Bennett/CNET

After brewing coffee, we take sample readings of the produced coffee liquid with an optical refractometer. Given we factor in the amount of water and freshly ground coffee used, that data lets us calculate the Total Dissolved Solids percentage of each brew. From there we arrive at the extraction percentage. The ideal range is commonly thought to be between 18 and 20%.

We also back up measured data with a good, old fashioned taste test. If the taste of a cup of coffee is bitter, there's a good chance it was over extracted during the drip. On the opposite end, an under extracted cup of coffee will typically taste weak -- it can even taste sour or have the flavor of soggy peanuts. And to be certain, we brew identical test runs a minimum of three times to achieve average results.

More coffee recommendations

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Best robot vacuum of 2020: iRobot Roomba, Neato, Eufy and many more vacuum models – CNET

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A robotic vacuum cleaner that does all your cleaning and vacuuming for you at home sounds like a fantasy. But with the sophistication of today's robot vacuums, which are packed with smart features, electronic eyes, smart sensors and even lasers that offer enhanced computing and cleaning power, that fantasy can be your reality. 

The prices have ballooned, so that fantasy does come at a cost. Some robotic vacuum models will even set you back a staggering four figures. Spending that much is extravagant, but it does net you next-level vacuum cleaning with dirt and dust busting power. Those cleaning features include dustbins that empty themselves, multiple room and floor plan mapping, turbo mode, plus elegantly designed hardware.

To zero in on the best robot vacuum cleaner, I spent over 120 hours (that's a lot of time) torture testing a group of 10 robotic cleaning vacuums. Among them are brand-new models that have recently launched, flagship models, as well as compelling options offered across numerous online retailers. I excluded older models that likely won't be sold for much more time.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If someone were to give you a blank check and told you to buy the best robot vacuum, this is the bot to get. The iRobot Roomba S9 Plus costs a whopping $1,399. For that staggeringly steep sticker price though, this bot delivers powerful suction and superb dirt and dust removal cleaning power. 

On hardwood floors it picked up an average of 93% of our test sand, the highest amount in our test group. The Roomba struggled to work a bit cleaning sand from low-pile carpeting and area rugs, earning a low average dust and sand pickup of 28%. 

That said, the Roomba robot vac removed an average 71% of sand from our midpile carpet while vacuuming. Again, this is the best result that we saw on this specific test. It also cleaned up more pet hair, pet dander and allergens than any vacuum in this test group, and the bot navigates and maps multiple rooms and floors. iRobot has also updated its app to let you designate "keep out zones" to designate areas you want the S9 Plus to avoid when cleaning. The app also lets you use voice commands to immediately clean a room using Alexa or Google Voice Assistant.

The robot zipped through our test room in a short average time of 25 minutes, too. You can link the S9 Plus to the Roomba app and your home WiFi as well. Best of all is the Roomba S9 Plus' CleanBase docking station. The charging dock both charges the robot's battery and empties its dustbin automatically, making cleaning even easier and keeping you from worrying about battery life. Now that's convenient. Read our first impressions of the Roomba S9 Plus.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

For half the price of the Roomba S9 Plus, the $647 Neato's Botvac D7 Connected vacuums up dirt, dust and messes almost as well, making it the best robot vacuum at a midrange cost. On average this robotic cleaner picked up a greater amount of sand (36%) across low-pile carpet and rugs than the Roomba did. 

It narrowly beat the S9 Plus for cleaning power on hardwood bare floors, too, collecting an average of 95% of the sand we put down. The vac cleaned dirt, dust and sand from midpile rugs less effectively though, notching a pickup average of 47 percent while cleaning. 

While the Neato Botvac Connected can't match the Roomba's prowess at removing pet hair or empty its own dust bin, the Botvac Connected navigates more efficiently around furniture, yet covers more ground, thanks to built-in lidar laser navigation mapping. You can also control the cleaning robot using the Neato app as a remote control, as well as link it to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The app allows you to designate areas of your home as off-limits to cleaning, too. Read our Neato Botvac D7 Connected preview.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Here's a cleaning machine that proves you don't need to blow your budget to purchase a solid robot vacuum cleaner. Even though the Robovac 11S Max costs just $220, it cleans floors effectively. That's especially the case when cleaning hardwood bare floors. 

It managed to remove an average of 71% of our test sand from this type of surface. The bot didn't work as well cleaning carpets, earning sand pickup averages of 21 and 27% on low pile and midpile, respectively. 

And due to this vacuum's basic navigation system, it took well over an hour to negotiate our test room. As far as time goes, that's a lot. Still, the Eufy used its runtime wisely. The vacuum covered the space well, cleaning up while leaving almost no spots untouched. The Eufy is also self-charging, so again, no need to worry about battery life or factor that into overall cleaning time. It's the best robot vacuum for value. Read more.

How we test robot vacuums

Our method for evaluating robot vacuums is straightforward, yet grueling. There are two types of tests we run. The first trial is to figure out how well a robot covers the floor while cleaning. We built an industry-standard testing room, as specified by the International Electrotechnical Commission, just for this purpose. The IEC is an international standards body responsible for managing robot vacuum testing procedures, among other things, for vacuum manufacturers. 

Obstacles in out test room mimic what robot vacuums run into in the real world.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Inside this room are objects designed to simulate typical obstacles a robot encounters for navigation as it cleans. These obstacles include wall edges, table and chair legs, couches and other furniture, and so on, plus bare floors of tile and hardwood, as well as carpet. 

Here's a coverage photo of the iRobot Roomba S9 Plus as it moved through our test room. You can see it covered the floor well, except for one slight section in the center (left, bottom).

Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET

We mount LED lights to the top of each vacuum cleaner. The dimensions of the lights correspond to the measured nozzle width of each particular robot vacuum we test. 

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As robots move through the room while cleaning, a camera overhead captures a long-exposure image of the entire room in low light. That photo will then have a light trail, created by the LEDs, that shows the exact areas where the robot traveled (and its nozzle position) during its runtime. We can also see areas of the floor the vacuum may have missed or gotten stuck.

d7-c-use

This is the coverage pattern created by the Neato Botvac D7 Connected. Its movement through our test room was very orderly, logical and effective.

Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET

You can see the navigation results of all the robot vacuums in our test group in the gallery below.

The second type of test reveals exactly how much physical debris a vacuum is able to pick up off of the floor. To mimic dirt of small particle size, we use a mixture of play-sand and landscaping sand. For bigger particle soil, we use grains of uncooked black rice. Robots then run in straight line mode across three types of flooring (low-pile carpet, medium-pile carpet and hardwood bare floors).

We test robot vacuums on three types of floor surfaces.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

We control for the specific nozzle width of each vacuum, too. We constructed an adjustable tool to soil our test floors. It lets us lay down a strip of precise area of soil to match the nozzle dimensions for every robot. The mass of soil isn't chosen at random either. We measure a proportional amount that's related to the flooring material, type of debris, plus each vacuum's nozzle width.

Our custom-built tool lets us match soil area to a robot vacuum's nozzle width.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

We conduct three cleaning runs (at minimum) on each floor type. We also perform cleaning tests with sand and rice separately. That comes to at least 18 tests per vacuum. We weigh the robot's dust bin both before and after each run. From there we can calculate the percentage of debris pickup for every cleaning run and the average amount of soil a machine manages to remove. Additionally we run anecdotal (visual) pet hair tests for each robot, on all three floor types. 

We run robot vacuums in a straight line during the debris pickup tests.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The chart below shows the fine particle cleaning performance data for all of the robot vacuums we tested. It should give you a pretty good idea about their cleaning performance on different kinds of flooring surfaces. Our rice-based, medium-size particle test didn't show enough differentiation between each cleaner, which says they can all handle larger particles without trouble. For fur removal for pet owners, we judged anecdotally.

Percent soil removed

iRobot Roomba S9+

Neato Botvac D7 Connected

Neato Botvac D4 Connected

Electrolux Pure i9

Neato Botvac D6 Connected

RoboRock S5 Max

Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 950

Shark IQ 1001AE

iRobot Roomba i7+

Eufy RoboVac 11s Max

Ecovacs Deebot 600

Ecovacs Deebot 500

Legend:

Sand from low-pile

Sand from hardwood

Sand from medium-pile

Note:

Results listed are the average percent of total material removed from test surface

Want more robot vacuum options? Here's a list of the other robot vacuums we tested besides the models listed above.

More vacuum coverage at CNET

Originally published earlier this year.

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