Back in 1957, Andrew L. Pansini came up with the design for what many people consider the very first truly automatic pool cleaner. His invention was the result of necessity, since Mr. Andrew was a polio survivor and his condition made it extremely difficult for him to manually clean the pool that he had constructed for his family. His automatic pool cleaner implementation consisted of a giant swinging arm with a vacuum head attached to the end which would suck up leaves and other debris from the floor of the pool.
Fast forward to 2020, it’s the age of robotic pool cleaners. These devices utilize microprocessors and sensors to intelligently navigate pools of all shapes and sizes, sucking up everything from algae to leaves and twigs. Pool cleaning systems have advanced a lot since the days of Andrew L. Pansini. But the motivation behind these technological advancements hasn’t changed, which is to make life a little bit easier for all of us. After all, pools are meant to help us relax and have a fun time with family and friends. The less time you spend cleaning your pool, the more time you get to spend inside it.
One company has consistently been at the forefront of innovation in automated pool cleaning, churning out innovative designs since the 1980s. It’s Maytronics, and you might have heard about their famous Dolphin brand of robotic pool cleaners. Today, we shall take a look at three of their most popular models- the Oasis z5i, the Premier, and the Sigma. What are the differences between these 3 models? Which one should you get for your pool? All three models differ in certain aspects such as navigation, cleaning speed, ability to handle walls, etc. Before you select a pool robot, consider the following points:
- The size and shape of your pool (square, round, kidney, etc.)
- The surface type (gunite, vinyl, fiberglass, concrete, etc.)
- Debris type (leaves, sand, algae, insects, etc.)
The ability to climb walls is also very important, especially for in ground pools which have sharper inclines and taller walls compared to above ground pools. Most in ground pool robots will handle above ground pools without any issues, but the reverse isn’t true. So make sure to choose wisely, unless you prefer to clean pool walls manually. A good propulsion system is essential in order to transition between the deep and shallow ends of the pool. A robust track drive will help your pool robot move over obstacles like drain covers, stairs, etc.
Note: A pool robot will only clean the floor and walls of your pool, it can’t catch anything that’s floating on the top. If your pool skimmer isn’t doing a good enough job with surface debris, we suggest you take a look at some of the solar pool robots that skim around on the top of the pool, grabbing stuff like leaves and insects.
Even though Maytronics has made some of the most popular pool robots, it isn’t the type of company which sits on its laurels. Instead, it continues to push the limits of technology and updates its older models while simultaneously releasing new robots that are equipped with cutting edge features. This is to ensure that they stay in the lead, and keep their promise of unrivaled customer satisfaction.
As an example, the Dolphin Premier was first released in 2013, and has gone through multiple update cycles since then. Not only does our article talk about the differences between the Sigma, Premier, and z5i, but it also discusses the various upgrades these models have received during their life. Sometimes you’ll find older versions for a cheaper price, but be careful because the company might not have spare parts for outdated models that aren’t being produced anymore.
Robot Pool Cleaner REVIEWS
Dolphin Oasis Z5i vs Premier
The Oasis z5i and Premier are both excellent robotic pool cleaners, capable of handling pool up to 50 ft. in length. They are equally matched when it comes to wall-climbing, and can operate on any surface from vinyl to tile. But there are a few key differences – the Premier is a much older unit, since it was released in 2013. As a result, it lacks some of the navigational features present on the Oasis z5i. It is also less maneuverable than the z5i while turning (especially during 360° turns), since there is a single brush roller instead of a split roller at the front of the unit.
|Oasis z5i||Pros: Newer design, lighter, more efficient navigation, shorter cleaning cycle (2.5hrs), top access to filters||Cons: More expensive, lacks a bag filter option|
|Premier||Pros: Cheaper, has a bag full indicator to let you know when the filter needs to be cleaned||Cons: No Bluetooth connectivity, less maneuverable while turning, bottom mounted filters|
Dolphin Oasis z5i | Excellent Performer
An upgraded version of the Oasis Z5, this robot is designed to tackle medium sized pools (up to 50 ft. in length) of any shape – oval, circular, rectangular, and even free form. It is equipped with the latest version of Dolphin’s CleverClean system, a navigation mechanism that uses advanced computer algorithms and sensors to map out the optimal path for cleaning a pool. And the best part about it is that the CleverClean system never uses the same cleaning pattern for two different pools. It chooses the most efficient route after scanning its surroundings and storing the data within an onboard memory. The Oasis z5i needs a couple of initial runs around your pool, before it comes up with the optimal cleaning pattern.
It is capable of using two different filter types- Fine, and Ultra Fine. In standard configuration, the Fine filters should be adequate for regular cleaning- leaves, twigs, acorns, insects, sand, etc. will be caught in it. Use the Fine filter at the beginning of the swimming season, if your pool has been unused since a long period of time. You can also use it after a storm, because there will be a bunch of leaves floating around inside the pool. Once you’ve used the Fine filter to clear out large debris, you can switch to the Ultra Fine filter for catching microscopic particles like algae or bacteria. It will also take care of really small dust and dirt particles that have settled on your pool floor.
Swapping filters will only take a few seconds. All you have to do is pop open the top hatches, there’s one on either side of the handle. Remove the cartridge filters and swap in new ones. Cleaning the filters is also really easy, all you need is a garden hose. First, unlock the filter panels from the frame by twisting the 2 S- clips holding them in place. There are 2 filter panels per cartridge, one on either side. You get a total of 4 cartridges with the unit, two Ultra Fine filters and two Fine filters. That makes a total of 4 Ultra Fine filter elements and 4 Fine filter elements. Once you’ve separated the filtration elements from the frame, take a garden hose and clean off all debris. Make sure you clear debris from both the filtration element as well as the frame. Now you can reinsert the elements and lock them in with the two S- clips on top of the frame.
The Oasis z5i has excellent suction power thanks to a high torque, low inertia DC 24V motor that drives the impeller. There are a total of 3 motors in this robot (all 24V DC), two for the drive system and one for the impeller. The impeller sucks debris through the bottom of the unit, and as the water is pulled through the filtration chambers on both sides, it becomes clean and passes out from the top. As the water passes out from the top side, it generates thrust (like a jet engine on an aircraft). This vertical thrust is what pushes the robot into the pool, allowing it to climb 90° walls without falling off. That, and the soft rubber caterpillar tracks with aggressive treads which maintain traction even on slippery surfaces like vinyl. Algae infections make the pool walls slippery, but an Oasis z5i will have no trouble cleaning the waterline even with all that slime on the walls.
Turning ability is excellent, thanks to the split brush design on either end of the unity. Each brush rotates independently of the other, which reduces friction during a turn (since the outer brush has to spin more). The brushes on an Oasis z5i are passive, meaning they aren’t connected to any drive motors. Instead, they spin whenever they come into contact with the pool surface. The forward/ reverse motion of the robot is what causes these brushes to spin. They are decent enough at dislodging sand, and other smaller particles. But if you’ve got a bunch of leaves and other larger debris on your pool floor, you might want to consider a robotic pool cleaner with an active brush
Note: The Oasis z5i is a Deluxe Series model, and is equipped with passive brushes. A Premium Series model like the S300i would be perfect for scrubbing away algae and picking up larger leaves, since it has an active brush(one that’s driven by a motor and spins at a much higher rpm than the tracks).
Dolphin Premier | Great Value For Money
It was first released in 2013, and you can tell from the boxy design that this is an older model. But the Premier has received many updates over the course of its lifespan. It used to have an older version of the SmartNav navigation system, but the latest Premier comes with a gyroscope and newer SmartNav. So, in theory it should be much better at avoiding obstacles and cleaning the entirety of your pool. But many customers will verify that its navigation properties are slightly inferior in comparison to the Oasis z5i. The z5i is equipped with IntelliScan- a much more advanced navigation program that creates a digital map of your pool to calculate optimal cleaning paths. The difference in their navigational abilities is verified through the longer cleaning cycle on the Premier- 3hrs, vs just 2.5hrs on the Oasis z5i.
Another thing that you don’t see very often in modern robotic pool cleaners is a bottom mounted filtration system. You don’t want to flip over your 30lb robot every time you need to access the filters. But the Premier has a bottom mounted filtration system, and that’s a bit of an inconvenience to be honest. But it does have an advantage over the z5i- the option to use an oversized leaf bag instead of filter cartridges. This comes in super handy whenever you need to clear out large amounts of leaves from your pool, like right after a storm or during fall season. By using the bag, you trade out fine filtration in exchange for much larger capacity. A traditional cartridge style filter will get jammed, and interfere with suction whereas a bag will keep on going and can accumulate a lot more debris. Oh and talking of debris accumulating, the Oasis z5i won’t tell you when it’s full. It doesn’t have a bag full indicator. But the Premier does have one.
The Premier is built really well, despite being an older design. Its modular 5- part construction means you can easily open it up and replace only the parts that are damaged. There are two 24V DC motors, which is one less than the Oasis z5i. But this doesn’t affect performance all that much. Well, maybe it affects the speed at which this robot moves on the floor, since there is only one motor driving the tracks instead of two. But its wall climbing abilities aren’t diminished in the slightest, when compared to the Oasis z5i. The premier will clean your pool floor, waterline, and walls.
It doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity built into the power supply, so you won’t be able to do any manual spot cleaning by using the phone app like you would on an Oasis z5i. So it is going to miss out on a few nooks and crannies, whereas the z5i is capable of reaching pretty much every part of the pool with some manual guidance. But we aren’t going to complain too much, because the Premier also costs a fair bit less than the z5i. And if you have a simpler pool design (rectangle or oval), it won’t matter as much since the cleaning program is good enough. The Premier has no trouble traversing slopes and moving over drain covers, thanks to the rubber track system.
Dolphin Sigma Review
The Best Robot Pool Cleaner From Dolphin’s Deluxe Lineup
Identical to the Oasis z5i in terms of features and performance, with one small difference- this robot has an indicator to tell you when the filters are full. Otherwise, they are functionally the same with a few design differences. Both the z5i and Sigma are equipped with triple 24V DC motors, both can scale walls, and both have 2.5hr cleaning cycles. The Sigma also has a smart power supply with built- in Bluetooth, so you can set the weekly timer and set up cleaning programs, etc. You can also take manual control over the Sigma via the phone app, it lets you move the robot around with a little joystick on your touchscreen. This way, you can pick up any little piece of debris that the robot missed.
Navigation is taken care of by SmartNav 3.0- the latest and most advanced version of SmartNav. It is assisted by a gyroscope and an advanced microprocessor which stores data like pool length, contours, bank angles, etc. within an onboard memory. This helps the robot “learn” and adapt to your specific pool. The Oasis z5i uses a different navigation program called “IntelliScan”, which is on par with SmartNav 3.0 (maybe that’s why both the z5i and Sigma have 2.5hr clean cycles). The Sigma uses a cartridge style filtration system, similar to the Oasis z5i. It doesn’t support bag filters though, so there’s one area where the Premier wins over the Sigma.
The Sigma is also quite easy to clean and maintain, since its filters can be accessed from the top. It is also the lightest robot among the three that we’re reviewing, so you’ll be able to lift it out of the pool with relative ease. It is equipped with a 360° swivel anti- tangle power cord, just like the Oasis z5i and Premier.
Dolphin Sigma vs Premier:
The Sigma is better than the Premier in every possible way. And that’s to be expected, since it costs even more than the z5i (at the time of writing this article). The Sigma wins in every category- ease of use, cleaning speed, weight, etc., and it supports Bluetooth connectivity so you can take manual control of the robot with your phone app. One advantage the Premier has, is its ability to use a filter bag for collecting excessive amounts of leaves from the pool floor.
|Dolphin Sigma||Pros: Better navigation, triple 24V DC motors, top access filters||Cons: More expensive|
|Dolphin Premier||Pros: Supports the usage of oversized filter bags to collect large amounts of leaves||Cons: Cleaning cycle takes longer, no Bluetooth connectivity, bottom access filters, less maneuverable|
In Ground vs Above Ground Pool Robots
To understand the difference between in- ground and above- ground pool robots, we must first take a look at the difference between in ground and above ground pools. In ground pools are larger, deeper, and generally have sharper inclines. Above ground pools are shallower, the floor is usually level, and the walls are short. Above ground pool robots lack wall climbing abilities, which is why most of them use wheels instead of tracks.
Above ground pool robots are also cheaper. In ground pool cleaning robots are required to clean 3 different areas- the floor, the wall, and the waterline. As a result, the ability to climb walls at up to a 90° angle is a must- have on in ground pool robots. They are larger and heavier, since they need to have bigger motors and floating handles. Most in ground pool robots use rubber tracks instead of wheels, and a few of the high- end models have active brushes which spin at a much higher rpm compared to the tracks. Premium Series pool robots from Dolphin are equipped with PowerJet 3D mobility systems that can generate vectored thrust.
Thrust vectoring allows models like the Dolphin Quantum and Active 30i to climb vertical walls covered in slime without any issues. They can also move around on the wall in ways that a regular pool robot can’t. In ground pools are more expensive, and their owners are willing to spend more money on high quality robots which is why in ground models have all the cool extra features like timers, weekly schedulers, Bluetooth, smart home connectivity, etc.
Fun Fact: Modern robotic pool cleaners like the Aquabot X4 can filter down to 2 microns (on par with some DE pool filters). For reference, the average human hair is 75 microns thick.
Dolphin Pool Robot : Comparison
If you aren’t very familiar with robotic pool cleaners, you might get confused when you first browse through the Dolphin catalog. There are a total of 46 different residential models, distributed across 5 different “classes”. A lot of the designs look alike (with the only difference being a new paint job), and some models even have similar feature sets with only one or two differentiating attributes. To clear things up, we decided to provide a short overview of each class, and what it represents within the Dolphin family. Premium and Deluxe are the high- end machines, Advanced consists of mid- range robots, and Performance Class contains lower- end models.
Premium: These are the most expensive, no- compromise models within the Dolphin family. Designed for medium to large inground pools, they feature a high degree of automation and the best navigation programs. Optimized for the “set and forget” style of operation, Premium class Dolphins can be synced up to your home automation system (with the exception of the DX6, which lacks automation mode since it’s an older model). All Premium models have active scrubbing brushes which guarantees excellent performance in pools with algae infestations. Some of the newer models like the S300i and Quantum feature cutting edge technologies like thrust vectoring jets and multilayer filtration baskets. All Premium Class Dolphins also come with caddies, for easy transportation from the shed to the pool and back.
Deluxe: Also quite advanced, but one tier below Premium in terms of automation features (lack of automation mode for example). And some of the Deluxe models like the Sigma and Proteus DX5i don’t come with a caddy (a caddy is included with all Premium models, right from the factory). Now, it should be noted that certain Deluxe class models are on par with Premium models in terms of features. For example- the Proteus DX5i has automation mode and active cleaning brushes, along with a multi cleaning cycle option which can alternate between Standard (2hrs) and Quick (1hr). It even has the PowerStream thrust vectoring jets which make it an excellent choice for free form pools with lots of obstacles. It is essentially a Premium model, minus the caddy (which you can purchase separately). The Deluxe Class is extremely diverse in terms of features, more so than any other class. There’s a Deluxe Class Dolphin for every residential pool.
Advanced: These are the mid- range models, and as a result, some of them lack features like Bluetooth/ wi-fi connectivity or automation mode. Advanced Class robots have only one cleaning mode (Standard), and many of them lack active cleaning brushes. Older models like the M200 and DX3 aren’t designed for cleaning the waterline, whereas newer models like the S200 and Active 20 feature PowerStream propulsion which gives them unrivalled mobility compared to any other pool robot in the industry.
Performance Class – InGround: Designed for small to medium sized pools, these robots lack cutting edge tech like PowerStream propulsion or automation mode. But they are a lot cheaper than Premium or Deluxe class models, and a great choice for cleaning in ground pools if you have a lower budget. Performance Class Dolphins are limited to a maximum pool length of 33 feet, and don’t support Bluetooth/ wi-fi connectivity for remote operation. With the exception of the base Nautilus CC, every Performance Class in ground robot is equipped with active cleaning brushes.
Performance Class – Above Ground: The cheapest class of robots within the Dolphin family, but they still pack a punch. These are smaller and lighter compared to Deluxe or Premium robots, and are designed for smaller pools (30 ft. maximum length). Which is fine, because most above ground pools are smaller than in ground pools, and shallower. Wall climbing isn’t a priority, which is why above- ground Dolphins won’t clean up to the waterline. They won’t even clean the walls, instead they climb just a few inches above the cove and retreat back to the floor. Performance Class robots have a shorter warranty on average, compared to Premium and Deluxe models. For example- the Dolphin Escape only has a 12- month warranty.
Pool Cleaner FAQ
Q: My suction pool cleaner isn’t moving, what’s wrong?
A: Check the hose to make sure that it’s tightly secured to the skimmer’ suction line. Then, make sure there are no air leaks in the hose. Finally, check the diaphragm within your suction cleaner to make sure it isn’t torn or blocked.
Q: Why won’t my automatic pool cleaner cover the entire pool
A: Maybe the hose is a bit on the shorter side. If the hose length is fine, maybe the return jets are preventing the cleaner from reaching every part of the pool. Or maybe your particular cleaner is limited by its design, and can’t cover the whole pool.
Q: Why is my robotic pool cleaner moving so slowly?
A: If your robotic pool cleaner is slower than usual, shut it down and remove it from the pool. Check the tracks for signs of wear and tear. Worn tracks generate less traction, and can impair the performance of your pool robot. And make sure to empty the filters from time to time, too much weight will prevent the robot from climbing walls. Finally, check the impeller to make sure that it isn’t clogged with debris.
Q: Why does my robotic pool cleaner get stuck around the pool?
A: A pool has many obstacles for a cleaner to navigate- stairs, ladders, drain covers, ramps, etc. Robotic pool cleaners either have a pre-programmed cleaning patterns that they follow (cheaper models), or have built- in sensors like gyroscopes and microprocessors to actively navigate across terrain. If your robot gets stuck all the time, check the suction on the drains because it might be pulling the robot in towards the drain cover. Adjust the position of the power supply/ control box so that the robot can move around more freely.
Q: How to get rid of algae without using a pool vacuum?
A: Once the algae layer has formed you will need to use a skimmer, pool vacuum, net, or some other apparatus to remove it. The trick is to follow certain procedures to ensure that algae never forms in the first place. Maintain the water chemistry, shock the pool periodically to super chlorinate it and kill off unwanted living organisms. Run the pump for an average of 8 hours each day to ensure that the pool water cycles through filters and doesn’t remain stagnant. Add algaecide, brush the walls and stairs (or buy a robotic pool cleaner that climbs walls).