Pool cleaners have come a long way in the past decade. In this article we take a close look at some of the best pool vacuum robots for the money. Of course, the term “best” is subjective but we’ve selected a few that we feel are worth investing in. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide
The best way to have a sparkling clean pool with the minimum amount of effort on your part is by using a robotic pool vacuum. A pool robot, as many like to call them, is a fantastic invention and they far outperform the automatic pool cleaners that we used to know.
Intro | Pool Vacuum Robots
Suction side pool cleaners are the cheaper option but will never compare to the efficient cleaning power of an intelligent robot that vacuums your pool and filters the water at the same time. Of course, there’s a cost involved here and pool vacuum robots can cost well over $1000 for a high-end product. This can be cause for some to take a step back and wonder if the money that you’re paying for a robotic pool cleaner is actually worth it.
You need to look at what you’re paying for and there are some decent pool bots for well under a grand. Though, one needs to be careful of going to too cheap. If a pool vacuum robot costs about the same as a quality suction side automatic pool cleaner, be wary. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, entry-level robotic pool cleaner from a reputable brand, expect to pay in the region of 600 – 700 bucks. You may be lucky and find a special offer for a decent pool robot at a lower price. But with summer just around the corner, discounts on automatic pool cleaners aren’t going to be common – this usually happens in winter when the demand in is low.
After reviewing a selection of the best pool vacuums robots, I’ll talk more about what to look for when buying one. We’re talking about the best robotic pool vacuums for the money in this article. This means there’s a good variety of prices and you’re likely to find something that suits your budget. Though even the cheapest in this lineup is not the cheapest that you’ll find. We’ll never try to convince you that it’s worth buying a piece of junk. So when I talk about a budget pool robot, I’m referring to a decent machine from a reputable brand at a reasonable price. If you can’t afford the best, it’s better to go for an entry-level robotic pool cleaner from a brand that has a reputation for quality and good service.
Hayward Tiger Shark — 90 min Quick Clean (read review)
Buying from a recognized, established brand also means that you’re assured of getting the spares and accessories that you need further down the road. Unknown brands seldom have the support network that you get from established ones. So, we’ve stuck with the best brands that are popular and come highly recommended – Maytronics who manufacture the much-loved Dolphin range; Aquabot and Polaris. Hayward might be conspicuously missing from the list and Pentair (another big brand in the business) also have a robotic pool cleaner in their product range. We can’t cover them all in one article and you can be sure to read more about some of the other great automatic pool cleaners as summer approaches.
For now, let’s take a look at the fantastic selection that we have for you. Regardless of the price, all of these pool robots are excellent value for money. The cheaper models may not have all the bells and whistles that you’ll get with more expensive machines, but still, offer you exceptional quality and all the basic features that one would expect to find on the best pool vacuum robots.
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus 99996403-PC
With CleverClean technology. Consistently a top seller. Recently redesigned makes it even better than before. Best pool vacuum robot available.
- Top-Filter access allows for extremely easy filter cleaning.
- CleverClean Technology cleans the floor, walls, and waterline.
- Extra-Large filter capacity means fewer filter cleanings!
- Maytronics patented floating, swivel cable ensures optimal, tangle-free pool coverage.
- Easy Fix modular technology.
- 360˚ suction, the Nautilus PLUS with CleverClean filters the water while it collects debris in its self-contained filter, so you can reduce the need to backwash your pool filter by as much as 30%.
- 2 Year Warranty.
- Patented swivel cable helps prevent tangling
- Scrubs, vacuums and filters all pool surfaces in just 2.5 hours
- Once they are submerged in water they expand back to their normal shape
- Weekly Timer
If a high-quality pool robot is what you’re after but your budget is somewhat limited, the Dolphin Nautilus Plus is going to make your day. This is my first choice when looking at a cheap robotic pool cleaner. Okay, I use the word cheap in the context of what you’d otherwise be paying for an intelligent automatic pool cleaner from a top brand. Even then, the Nautilus Plus isn’t the cheapest in the Dolphin stable. It’s a step up from the original Dolphin Nautilus and costs a little more. Though those extra few dollars buy you quite a bit more and it will be well worth digging a little deeper into your pockets for the Dolphin Nautilus Plus.
Even though the Nautilus is on the lower end of the price range when it comes to pool robots of this caliber, it is great for pools up to 50 FT in length. One of the advantages of this upgrade from the standard Nautilus is that it has a shorter cycle of 2.5 hours as opposed to the 3-hour cycle for the cheaper model. The Nautilus Plus has an extra-long 60 FT power cord and this has a swivel connection so it won’t tangle.
Like all the best robotic pool cleaners, the Nautilus Plus is a very intelligent little guy. So, it scans the pool and then proceeds to calculate the most efficient and effective way to clean your pool. Clever Clean technology means that it scrubs and vacuums your entire pool – the floor, cove, and the walls – up to the waterline.
The Huge filters are a big plus and they are easy to access via the top of the machine. Removing the filters for cleaning is a breeze and replacing them again is just as quick and easy. The dual filters are excellent at taking care of both large and micro-particles. The Mesh filter removes large debris and won’t clog easily. Small particles are taken up by a pleated polyester filter. This system works fantastically and keeps your pool water sparkling clean and hygienic.
Another step up from the base Nautilus model is that the Nautilus Plus can do 3-point turns, so it can work more effectively when cleaning your pool in a shorter period of time. It also has faster water flow (a suction rate of 4,233 gallons per hour), expelling the water from the filters in 6-seconds. It shares the customizable (3-hour) programmable cleaning cycle of its cheaper brother and the fantastic FastFix modular component system that Dolphin has developed. FastFix components have made these robotic pool cleaners really easy (and affordable) to repair, it’s usually a simple DIY process.
So all of this is great news, but the Nautilus Plus is not without its issues. Some owners have complained about the cumbersome effort it takes to remove the bot from the pool. It doesn’t have an auto-drain function. When you tug it out of the pool, it can be quite heavy because of the water inside. Even more so, if it’s full of heavy debris. The net weight of the Nautilus is already 22 LBS, which isn’t too bad. But when it’s full of water this is quite a bit more. An optional caddy helps when transporting the Nautilus to and from the pool.
Another thing that can be a hassle for some is the fact that it won’t climb the walls if your pool has sharp corners where the floor meets the walls. It needs a bit of a curve to negotiate the transition from floor to walls. For most pools, this shouldn’t be a problem though.
When all’s said and done, this is a really amazing robotic pool cleaner for the money that you’re paying. It has all the basic features that you want from a pool vacuum robot and then some. It’s great for fairly large pools and comes with a 2-year warranty.
Great build quality and features makes this a great choice for best pool vacuum robot.
- Navigation: Microprocessor controlled SmartNav learns the optimal path to clean your pool.
- Logic: Calculates optimal pattern for faster cleaning & improved efficiency.
- Propulsion: HyperGrip rubber tracks improve power delivery and control.
- Capabilities: Vacuums leaves, debris, pollen & green algae.
- Energy efficiency Reduces energy costs up to 90% over AC powered cleaners.
- Surfaces: Power scrubs and vacuums doors, steps, walls, and water line.
- Dual ballasts: Delivers superior agility, maneuverability & climbing performance.
- Micron rating: 2 micron – removes the smallest particles, even green algae.
- Air sensor: Learns water line elevation for superior water line cleaning.
- Filtration rate: Micro filters 75 gallons per minute for remarkable water quality.
✓ You can also purchase a pool caddy for this cleaner which will come in handy for storage, transportation and organization.
Having looked at one of the cheapest pool vacuum robots from Dolphin, let’s look at the best they have to offer. If you’re going to ignore the price, and go straight for the best of the best, the Dolphin Premier is bound to impress. It’s well-deserving of the title “Premier”, as it’s packed with the functions and features that one would look for in a high-end robotic pool cleaner.
From the super-efficient DC electric motor to, arguably, the best and most versatile filtration systems, the Dolphin Premier really has it all. All of the top robotic pool cleaners use DC motors these days – they’re safe and very efficient.
Dolphin have spent years researching for the best way to provide a powerful yet economical way to suck up pool debris and have come up with a remarkably powerful motor that only uses a 180W of electricity – this works out to roughly 5-cents an hour in electricity costs. This, while providing incredible suction power that will clean a large pool in 3-hours or less. What’s more, this efficiency is with using two motors. One motor drives the bot and the other runs the vacuum pump to ensure ultimate performance with a very low energy input.
The multi-media filtration is a remarkable idea and, in my opinion, one of the biggest plus factors of the Dolphin Premier. Different situations require a different type of pool cleaning. Having ultra-fine filtration is the best way to remove and prevent algae, it also keeps the pool hygienic by removing most of the harmful pathogens. This is one of the biggest benefits of using a high-quality pool robot with excellent filters. Though there is a downside to fine filtration, the filters will quickly become clogged with larger debris and the bot will stop working when the filters need cleaning. So, after a storm, when the pool is full of leaves, fine filtration is more of a bother than it is a bonus.
After an hour or less of sucking up large volumes of big debris, most robotic pool cleaners will stop and need to be to be emptied before continuing. The Dolphin Premier allows you to choose the filtration medium according to your current pool cleaning requirements. The oversized debris bag is perfect for collecting large amounts of leaves and other large debris. When fine filtration is what you need, it’s super easy to change over to micro-filters that will remove the smallest micro-particles from the water.
There’s even an option to use disposable bags if you can’t find the time to be cleaning the filters. This versatility is a simple and logical breakthrough, giving you the best of all worlds. There’s an LED warning light that’s visible from outside the pool to tell you when the filters are nearly full and need cleaning, which is an added convenience.
Another great move was replacing the wheels with high-traction HyperGrip tracks. This makes the Dolphin Premier one of the best pool robots for covering any type of pool surface and it won’t be held back by obstacles like protruding drains or outlets. It negotiates tricky sharp corners like few can. It’s fantastic to watch how the Dolphin Premier eases along the wall and then effortlessly maneuvers its way around the sharp corner where the wall meets the steps. I haven’t seen many robotic pool cleaners with this level of agility. This also helps the Dolphin Premier work much faster, there’s no skidding, slipping or wasting time moving around situations where regular pool robots simply can’t go.
Scrubbing brushes are common when it comes to the best pool vacuum robots. Though not all are equal and Dolphin have done a lot of research into what makes the best pool scrubbing brush. Few of us know this, but there are over 2100 types of algae that scientists are aware of and this is just one of the things that a pool scrubbing brush has to contend with. Biofilm is another group of microorganisms that play havoc with your pool water, increasing your dependency on pool chemicals.
The engineers at Dolphin know the facts and have developed a high rev scrubbing brush that can handle these pool issues. There are pool cleaners that will remove a fair amount of algae, but few can compete with this one when it comes to the complete removal of algae and other microorganisms. You end up with the cleanest, healthiest pool water with the minimum amount of chlorine and other chemicals. This saves money, you also don’t have the skin irritation, scratchy eyes and all the other negative side effects from using large doses of pool chemicals.
Naturally, you have the benefit of the Dolphin FastFix modular component system that makes DIY maintenance and repairs easy. You’d also expect the Dolphin Premier to have one of the best smart navigation systems and you’d be right. Another thing that Dolphin is renowned for is the 360° swivel cord which means no tangling. It also has the convenience of a remote control for easier programming, this is available as an optional extra along with a caddy for transporting the pool robot.
Dolphin Premier Pool Cleaner | Advanced scrubbing abilities
There’s a lot to say about the Dolphin Premier, it’s an amazing robotic pool cleaner and I think I’ve about covered it. If you were wondering if this pool vacuum robot is worth the money, I think you’ve found your answer. It’s worth paying extra for this level of engineering and superior technology. In addition to this, it has one of the best warranties – an incredible 3-years. This gives you the assurance that you’re spending your cash on a quality item.
This pool cleaner truly does it all. Designed to quickly clean your pool in as little as 1 hour. Put this one on your list as it deserves your consideration for the best pool vacuum robot cleaner. Excellent quality.
- Dual Clutch-to-Turn Technology
- Cleans Pool in 1-2 Hours
- Cleans Pool Floor, Wall and Waterline
- Patented Power Washing Jets
- Extra Long 60’ Cable with Swivel
- Climbs 90° angles to flush out and remove dirt from corners, seams and porous surfaces
- Includes Swivel to help prevent cable tangling
- Programmable for External Timer*
- MultiMedia Now Included – New Dolphin Premier offers up to four types of media in one robot. Dual filter cartridges + oversized bag included.
- 3 year warranty with no-nonsense rapid repair. Not pro-rated. Not limited to hours or cycles. With a warranty that’s 50% longer than the nearest competitor, it’s the best in the industry.
- Patented Power Washing Jets
- Free Caddy Included
Dolphin isn’t the only big name in the business and the Aquabot Turbo T2 Plus certainly deserves a spot among the best robotic pool cleaners. The Aquabot Turbo T2 Plus is in direct competition with the Dolphin Premier, both in its price and capabilities. In some areas, the Aquabot beats the top of the range Dolphin model and in other areas, it doesn’t. It’s not easy to say which is the better pool cleaner. One thing that may make the Aquabot better value is that the caddy is included in the purchase price. Like most others, you have to buy the caddy separately if you choose to go for the Dolphin Premier.
Like the Dolphin Premier, the Aquabot T2 Plus stands out in having tracks instead of wheels. This gives it superior navigation abilities and it won’t shy away from sharp corners or tricky areas like steps that meet at a strange angle to the walls. The Aquabot could be the fastest of the lot. Their sales brochure claims a cleaning time of 1-2 hours, but this will depend on the size and shape of your pool, as well as the level of cleaning required.
What I find to be the most remarkable feature of the Aquabot Turbo T2 Plus are the power cleaning water jets. Not only does this pool cleaner have a fantastic scrubbing brush to rival any of the best, but it also uses a concentrated jet of pressurized water to loosen the dirt. This means that it can get into small crevices between tiles and into sharp corners to clean where others can’t.
When it comes to power consumption, the Auquabot can’t beat the super-efficient Dolphin premier, it uses 230W to run a single motor. Though this extra power isn’t as bad as it looks, the Aquabot T2 Plus has incredible suction (4500 gallons per hour), it also moves incredibly fast and will probably clean your pool in less time. So while you’re using more electricity per hour, your pool robot isn’t running for as long and this balances things out. Of course, the power jets that make this such a remarkable cleaning machine also need extra power to pump the pressurized water.
As far as intelligent pool scanning goes, the Aquabot is every bit as good as the best and will clean your pool very efficiently. It has a 60 FT swivel cord, so there’s no chance of it stopping because of a tangled cord and it won’t be held back in a pool up to 50 FT long. The filter bag is great for fine filtration and is reasonably large, meaning that it won’t need to be emptied as often. Though nothing compares to the Dolphin Premier with its huge oversized debris bag.
liIt has a programmable 7-hour cleaning cycle and you can get an optional remote control (at an additional cost) for added convenience.
The power cleaning water jets are the Aquabot’s trump card and it performs very well on all other levels too. It’s one of the best high-end pool vacuum robots and the inclusion of a caddy in its purchase price makes for added value for money. The 3-year warranty is excellent. For the first year, this is a full warranty with no limitations (which is rare). Thereafter, for the remaining two years a limited warranty is applicable, like all the others.
Truly, a wonderful product. You better believe this is one of the best pool vacuum robots money can buy. This is not only a highly effective pool cleaner but as you can see, it’s also beautiful to look at. Engineered and designed from the inside out.
- Motion-Sensing Remote – Responsive cleaning control in the palm of your hand.
- Easy Lift System – With the touch of a button the 9550 surfaces to a desired location and waits for you to grab it, then automatically evacuates water for effortless removal from the pool.
- Dirty Canister Indicator – No more guess work. Know immediately when it’s time to empty the filter canister.
- Vortex Vacuum Technology – Keeps debris suspended for long-lasting suction and superior cleaning performance.
- Easy Clean Filter Canister – debris can easily be emptied with a simple shake and spray convenience.
- 7-day programmable timer – fully customizable set it and forget it cleaning modes.
- ActivMotion Sensor – automatically controls robot’s position at all times, allowing complete cleaning coverage without any hang ups.
- 4-Wheel Drive Technology – cleans pool floor, walls, and scrubs tile line with a solid-blade scrubbing brush.
- Waterline Only Cleaning Cycle – for isolated tile line scrubbing.
Now it’s time for my personal favorite in our lineup of the best pool vacuum robots for the money. The Polaris F9550 Sport is another top of the line machine and, depending on where you get it, will cost as much as the Aquabot Turbo T2 Plus or the Dolphin Premier – possibly even more. Though it has some features and functions that put it in a class of its own. If you own a particularly large pool, this is your best option as it has a 70 Ft cord and can clean a pool up to 60 FT in length. It also has the option of a swivel of fixed cable kit. When I discuss what to look for in a pool cleaning robot, I’ll elaborate on the pros and cons of fixed vs swivel cord.
I’m very impressed with the high traction tracks that are fitted to the other two premium pool robots. The engineers at Polaris have taken a different approach and, while I’m no engineer, it appears to me like a better way of doing things. It looks like they got a bunch of guys from NASA to help develop this little monster, it resembles a moon buggy and this means that it should be able to go anywhere. Not only are the wheels on the Polaris huge and close together, but it uses four-wheel drive and this makes it pretty unstoppable. Big wheels are also much more effective when it comes to speed when compared to tracks that move slowly like a tank or an earth-mover.
4-Wheel Drive Technology – cleans pool floor, walls, and scrubs tile line
The vortex suction system is also a great technical advantage. This is similar to that used in the best vacuum cleaners and it allows for perfect suction, even as the canister fills up. So its cleaning power remains optimal at all times. The filter canister is also one of the biggest for very long cleaning cycles before emptying it. When the time comes to empty it, all the hassle is removed. It has a wide, easy to open door at the top and the filter canister lifts out with the aid of a handle. It also has an indicator to tell you when to empty the canister. The cleaning power has the added advantage of a rear water cleaning stream that blasts debris off the steps and out of tight corners.
When it comes to intelligence, none can compare to the Polaris. For starters, it has a 7-day programmable cycle. So, unlike most of the others that only have programmability for a few hours, this pool robot can really be left unattended for as long as you want. Then there’s the fantastic remote with a motion sensor. Now for the really cool bit, the easy lift system.
Getting your robotic pool vacuum out of the pool can be quite a hassle, you have to get down and pull it toward you using the power cord. Not with this baby, press a button and the Polaris will come to where you want it, climb the wall, and when you lift on the handle, it will release all the water – making it as easy as can be to remove it from the pool.
This little bot is like a well-trained dog and you don’t even have to give it a biscuit to perform its tricks! It also has some really cool program functions, like a waterline only cleaning cycle. This allows you to quickly remove scum buildup around the tile line of your pool.
lAlong with all this, you get a premium caddy to make it as easy as possible to transport. It also works incredibly fast, cleaning a large pool in as little as 1.5 hours. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to find a more accomplished pool cleaning robot than this one.
If you thought that all high-end pool robots were equal, the Polaris F9550 Sport should change your opinion. It has everything you’d expect from the best automatic pool cleaner and so much more that you wouldn’t have thought possible. It’s remarkably intelligent, perfectly agile, and extremely fast. The only area where it doesn’t quite match the other two more expensive robotic pool cleaners in this review is in its warranty, which is 2-years and not three, like the other two.
What to look for in a pool vacuum robot
About 40-years ago, when robotic pool vacuums first found their way onto the market, they were riddled with problems. These early machines used the pool’s circulation pump and required a lot of power. This also meant that they needed a pipe, like suction side automatic pool cleaners. They were clumsy and tended to fall over quite easily. This rendered them useless until someone came to their rescue.
Fortunately, engineers have worked tirelessly to eliminate these problems and continue to work at perfecting the pool vacuum robot. This is one of the advantages of paying extra for a product from a premium brand. Research and development costs money, there are a whole bunch of clever guys working behind the scenes to perfect your pool robot and they need to be paid. Engineers don’t come cheap and nor should they. Knock-offs from unknown brands are not only inferior quality, but they don’t have the benefit of years of R & D.
So before diving in and buying the cheapest robotic pool cleaner that you can find, here are some of the critical things that you should look for.
How is your robotic pool cleaner powered?
These days, all the best pool robots use efficient low-volt DC motors to propel them and provide the suction to clean your pool. These motors are safe (you can’t be electrocuted by a 24V motor) and they use far less electricity than your pool pump. Though I still see some robotic pool cleaners that use an old-fashioned pipe setup. Rather than use pool vacuum robot with a pipe, I’d prefer a suction automatic side pool cleaner – they’re cheaper and work almost as well. If the robotic pool cleaner that you’re considering doesn’t have a power cord and still uses pipes, don’t bother.
When it comes to power cords, they too, are not without their hassles. Initially, power cords would become easily entangled. When this happens, the robot can’t move and stops cleaning until you rectify the situation by taking it out of the pool and untangling the cord. All the top manufacturers of automated pool robots have developed ways around this.
Many use a swivel cord which has a fixture that allows the cord to rotate 360° without tangling. This guarantees that the cord will never tangle and your pool robot will never get stuck because of this. However, these swivel connections have moving parts and this always means wear and tear. Over time, the swivel connector will wear down and this will mean that could stop moving freely or it may draw in water, causing a short circuit to stop the machine from working. You’ll probably be replacing the swivel cord every few years, but this beats having a robot that gets stuck all the time.
Another way of preventing the cord from tangling is by using the robot’s intelligence. Some manufacturers have chosen to use a more robust fixed cord and rather program the robot to move in a way that prevents the cord from tangling. This means that you won’t be replacing the cord, but it’s not perfect either. It won’t happen often, but sometimes even the best program won’t always prevent the cord from tangling. So you may, occasionally, have to detangle the cord before your pool cleaner can continue with its job. Because these programs limit the way the robot moves, they will usually take longer to clean the pool. They can’t do an about turn and always have to follow a path that reduces the chance of a tangled cord rather than take the most efficient route.
How does your pool robot move?
Most pool robots have wheels to move them around your pool, some use tracks. Tracks have the advantage of better traction, but there are a few four-wheel drive options that are just as good or even better.
You should always look at the type of wheels that your pool robot uses. Larger wheels are the best for overcoming obstacles and climbing. The most important wall climbing aspect is that of the tread. A pool robot needs a tire tread that allows it to suck onto the walls. These will look very different to the tires on a car or any other vehicle. Some use large sponge-like fingers while others will have rounded suction pads molded into the rubber tread of the tires.
Large wheels also reduce the likelihood that your robotic pool cleaner will tip over. If a pool cleaner has a good center of gravity and large enough wheels, it will be very stable. So taking note of the size of the wheels and the tread on the tires is a very important aspect of choosing the best machine.
How well is the pool vacuum robot going to clean your pool?
Here there are three things to consider: suction power, scrubbing action and filtration.
You can’t tell by looking at a robotic pool cleaner how much power it has. You need to look at the spec sheet and rely on reviews like this one to guide you. Like a vacuum cleaner, a good roller brush at the front of the pool cleaner is going to make it much more effective. Some even use two brushes, though a well-designed single plastic brush with flexible bristles is going to work perfectly.
Filtration usually works best when you have a dual system and a large debris canister. This can take the form of two filter cartridges, using one for large debris and one for fine filtration to remove silt and algae. A large debris bag with fine filtration often works the best. The bag will hold a lot of large debris like leaves, seedpods, and pebbles, while the fine filtration of bag walls will prevent silt and micro-particles from escaping.
A robotic pool cleaner uses a computer to manage its cleaning cycle. The more options you have to program cleaning cycles, the more versatility you have. Most will allow you to set cleaning cycles within a period of 3-8hours. Some have weekly program cycles.
More advanced pool robots will have customizable and preprogrammed cleaning cycles that will allow you to do specifically focused cleaning, like only cleaning the floor or the walls. Many will have a quick cleaning cycle so that you can have the bot move about and clean the entire pool in less time, without concentrating on cleaning as thoroughly.
A remote control will allow you to change programs and move the robot while it’s in the pool.
A robotic pool cleaner can weigh anything from 20 to 40 LBS. You’ll need to transport the machine from the area where you store it and get it into the pool. You also need to lift it out of the pool. If you’re not too strong this can be a problem and you might want to consider a smaller, lighter robotic pool cleaner.
Some will have a water expulsion feature that make them lighter to lift out of the pool. The Polaris 9550 Sport will even climb the wall, so you only have to lift it a short distance.
Just about all robotic pool cleaners have a caddy to make them much easier to transport – this is usually an optional extra, but some come with a caddy as standard. With a caddy, you hardly have to lift your pool robot. You wheel it up to the edge of your pool and slide it in. The only lifting required is to remove it from the pool and place it back onto the caddy.