When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. ➥Learn more
Polaris 280 vs 380 : Which is the better pool cleaner? Which one is right for you?
If you’re one of the many people wondering about the Polaris 280 vs 380 comparison, we have the answer. This article is going to uncover the details, by closely comparing the Polaris 280 to the Polaris 380. To make things more interesting, I’ll also review one of the very latest pressure side pool cleaners available, the impressive Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport.
With the growing popularity of robotic pool cleaners, pressure side models are often seen as second best. But is this really true? Manufacturers of pressure side pool cleaners have done a lot to improve the technology, in a bid to compete with their more expensive robotic rivals. The result being that many actually prefer the low-tech power side, and suction side pool cleaners.
If we’re talking about pressure side pool cleaners, Polaris is one of the most popular brands. They sure do make great pool products. With the Polaris 280 being so similar to the 380, many are a little confused as to which is the best one for their in ground pool. So Polaris 280 vs 380 is going to be the main focus of this article. I’ll be reviewing each model separately. At the same time closely comparing the Polaris 280 to the 380. By pointing out the differences, you can decide which pool cleaner is going to suit your pool and, of course, your budget. So, without any further ado, here it is. The big showdown: Polaris 280 vs 380.
Note : Polaris also makes a pressure-side pool cleaner that DOES NOT require a booster pump. It’s predictably called the Polaris 360. It has all the same features as the 380. See chart below.
Comparison Chart | Polaris 280 vs 360 vs 380 vs 3900
The most popular automatic pool cleaner from Polaris. Has dual-jets.
- Vacuums, sweeps and scrubs the bottom and walls of any size or shape pool.
- In-line back-up valve automatically frees the 360 if it gets cornered and keeps it cleaning without interruption.
- Powered by the pressure of clean water returning to your pool, leaving both the filter and skimmer free to eliminate contaminants.
- Unique filter bag removes debris before it reaches your pump basket or filter, prolonging the life of your filtration system.
- Available in a Black Max Model to complement dark bottom pools.
The Polaris Vac-Sweep 280 has earned quite a legendary status among the high-quality pressure side pool cleaners available today. Because this is a very powerful, full function, pressure side pool cleaner, it requires a booster pump. This gives it the ability to vacuum, scrub, and sweep all the surfaces of your in ground pool, regardless of the type of surface. This trait makes the entire Polaris Vac-Sweep pool cleaner range worthy competitors to robotic equivalents.
The Polaris 280 comes standard with a 31-foot hose which connects easily to a dedicated pressure line (1½”). Using a 2¼” vacuum inlet, it can suck up larger objects without blockages. The single chamber debris bag then captures large debris, like leaves, acorns, and pebbles. This really helps your pool filtration system, by preventing all that junk from filling up your filter basket.
Double jet propulsion makes this a pretty swift and fast machine. It can easily clean the pool in 3-hours, possibly less. Obviously, the size of your pool will affect the time it takes to clean it properly. The amount of corners, steps, and the depth of the pool, will also affect cleaning time. So 3-hours is more of ballpark estimate.
The classic wheels are shaft driven and the Polaris 280 doesn’t have much of problem climbing the pool walls. The inline backup valve does an excellent job of keeping the Polaris 280 working continuously. It doesn’t get stuck in corners, which is a great relief, as this has always been a common problem with power and suction side pool cleaners. Another great feature, seen on both the Polaris 280 and 380, is the auto backup function. When it is stuck and can’t move forward, the Polaris doesn’t just come to a standstill like most power and suction side pool cleaners. It will back up and take another direction.
VIDEO | A Closer look at the Polaris 280 and 380
This is a really easy pool cleaner to set up. It weighs only 6.2 pounds, so there’s no hassle getting it into the pool. You may have to tweak the pump pressure a bit in the beginning but, thereafter, it should be pretty much plain sailing and hassle-free. Though the debris bag can be a little tricky to clean when it’s wet. An easy solution to this is using an extra bag. This will allow you to exchange the full bag with a clean one, allowing time for the used bag to dry. Once dried, the bag is easy to empty. As with all the Polaris Vac-Sweep pool cleaners, it can accommodate the TailSweep Pro attachment, which prevents the sweep hose from spraying water all over the place and boosts the flow by up to 50%.
The Polaris Vac-Sweep 280 has earned a solid reputation among pool owners as being a truly reliable, low-maintenance pool cleaner. If you’re considering the Polaris 280 vs 380, the price could be a deciding factor – the 280 is the cheaper of the two.
The Polaris 280 has a proven record as being a robust and reliable pressure side automatic pool cleaner, providing up to 10-years of reliable service. There can be no doubt the Polaris brand is a heavyweight in the industry, with over 40-years of experience. Although I wouldn’t call the Polaris 280 cheap, it is, in the context of high-end power side pool cleaners, good value for money. It’s worth paying for equipment that is going work relentlessly for years on end.
Read our dedicated review of the Polaris 280 pressure pool cleaner.
Has three jets and required a separate booster pump — Zodiac PB4-60
- Powered by triple jets providing greater vacuum power and faster cleaning
- Works in all in-ground pools of any size and shape
- Sweeps, scrubs, and vacuums the bottom and walls of your pool
- Runs off separate booster pump
- Equipped with single chamber filter bag and includes 31-feet of feed hose
- Available in a Black Max™ Model to complement dark bottom pools
On the face of things, there’s very little to distinguish the Polaris 380 from the 280. So I can see why the Polaris 280 vs 380 question is a common one. They look the same. The same wheels, the same single chamber debris bag. Both are power side pool cleaners that require a booster pump, which has to be bought separately. Both pool cleaners are available in Black Max, which is more aesthetically pleasing in dark-colored pools. Both are compatible with the TailSweep Pro attachment and include the same 31-foot hose, using a 1½ pressure inlet. Both are in ground pool cleaners for all types of pool surfaces.
So what is the difference between the Polaris 280 and 380 pool cleaners?
It’s only when we look under the skin, at the engineering of these machines, that the differences become apparent. The Polaris 380 is, essentially, an upgraded version of the 280. Though I’m not entirely convinced that these are all upgrades.
The main advantage to the Polaris 380 is that it utilizes 3 Venturi jets, vs only 2 for the 280. This makes the Polaris 380 more power and efficient. Though it doesn’t appear to be any faster and will take around 3-hours to clean the pool – on a par with the Polaris 280. The Polaris 380 should be more effective at handling heavier debris, as well as being better at climbing the walls of your pool.
The other difference is in the method of propulsion. The Polaris 280 uses a more old-school shaft and gear system. Whereas the Polaris 380 uses a belt-driven, all-wheel drive system. This does give the 380 superior traction and the belt drive is more in line with the modern engineering approach. This being easier and cheaper repairs.
Though the Polaris 280 shaft drive vs 380 belt drive is not as simple as it may appear. I’m a little old-fashioned when it comes to old-school engineering that’s built to last. The Polaris 280 shaft drive has proven to itself to be durable and requires absolutely no maintenance. Though the gears will wear over time and the shaft may even snap. The latter being quite unlikely. In any event, once the shaft drive system quits, that’s the end of the road for the Polaris 280. At this point, it becomes uneconomical to repair. The belt drive, on the other hand, is relatively cheap and easy to replace. The downside is that it will require some routine maintenance. Over the lifetime of the pool cleaner, you are going to find yourself fiddling with the belt. It’s highly likely that you will need to replace the belt, possibly more than once. Though all of this means you could gain a few years extra service from the Polaris 380. This will, however, involve some hassle and a maintenance costs.
The final part of the Polaris 280 vs 380 debate, comes down to price. The Polaris 280 is cheaper than the 380. This begs the question: is the Polaris 380 worth paying more for? The improved 3 jet power delivery is a definite plus point for the Polaris 380. Though if you dread pool maintenance, more specifically, maintaining your pool cleaner, then the Polaris 380 isn’t going to bring you much joy. I wouldn’t say that it’s unreliable, or needs constant attention, but it will require more frequent maintenance than the Polaris 280. If you feel that the extra performance (albeit with a bit of routine maintenance) is important, then those extra dollars will be well spent.
Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport
All-wheel PosiDrive system with durable stainless steel drive chain that delivers 50% more torque. Includes TailSweep PRO, an advanced sweep hose feature innovation.
- Most vacuum power of any 3-jet Polaris pressure pool cleaner, with 40 GPM of additional pool filtration through the filter bag
- 50% more torque with the all-wheel PosiDrive system with stainless steel chain
- Now includes TailSweep Pro, providing ultimate sweeping action, while eliminating water from spraying outside the pool
- Equipped with dual chamber SuperBag that collects more debris
- Supplements the filtration system by circulating an additional 40 gallons of water per minute
- Works in all in-ground pools, requires booster pump
- Combine the 3900 Sport with the PB4-60 booster pump for maximum performance
The Polaris 280 vs 380 race is certainly a close one. So what about the latest Polaris Vac-Sweep model, the 3900 Sport? Polaris have painted a glowing picture of this pool cleaner on their website, calling it “The most advanced pressure side pool cleaner on the market”. I’m always a little skeptical of claims that suggest a product is the most advanced. All too often, manufacturers find cheaper ways of building something and then call advanced. Ironically, you usually end up paying more for this. Now, I wouldn’t expect this from a brand like Polaris that has always brought us great, innovative pool technologies. But I needed to be sure. This review should clarify the issue.
At a glance, those new Wide Trax wheels, with shiny chrome detailing, does give it a really sporty look. So this might justify the new name, perhaps some racing stripes could have added to the sporty image. But, in all seriousness, those large four wheels, with a much improved PosiDrive (all-wheel drive) system is quite impressive. In addition to this they have used a stainless steel chain, instead of the belt drive that was introduced for the Polaris 380 drive system. This alone, is a major improvement, both in terms of performance and reliability. The maintenance issues that some have not enjoyed with the Polaris 380, should now be a thing of the past. Above all, the speed and torque of this new model is astounding. According to Polaris, the Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport is now 50% more powerful. So it’s faster and cleans way more effectively than previous versions.
This model uses 3 jets, which was introduced as an upgrade when the Polaris 380 was launched. There doesn’t seem to be any need to change this. It’s really the improved drive system that makes all the difference in power and performance.
The entire body has been redesigned, and the new model now has a dual chamber debris bag which holds a lot more – 5 liters (1.1 gallon). It will clean for longer, without the need to clean the bag. The TailSweep Pro, which is an optional extra on other Vac-Sweep models, is included as a standard item for the Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport. This prevents spray from the from the sweep hose and improves performance.
While there have been some significant changes made, the Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport has maintained the essentials that have made the entire Vac-Sweep range so successful. Using a booster pump, it is an exceptionally powerful and competent power side pool cleaner. Designed for in ground pools, with any type of surface, the 3900 Sport vacuums, sweeps, and scrubs the wall and floors of the pool. This is what has endeared so many to all the Polaris Vac-Sweep models and this has not changed. Excepting that the Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport does all this faster and more efficiently. It also has the auto backup function, found on the Polaris 280 and 380. So it will back up when stuck and continue working. The 2½” vacuum inlet is another great thing that has remained unchanged. This is something that has always made the Vac-Sweep pool cleaners so good at handling larger debris, like acorns.
Polaris recommends the PB4-60 pump to make the most of this pool cleaner. Along with providing optimum performance for the 3900 Sport, this pump will circulate an extra 40 Gallons per Minute (GPM) water through the pool filtration system.
So it’s clear that the changes implemented when developing the Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 have not been purely cosmetic. Granted, it does look much cooler that the older models. But it’s not just about the looks, those sporty wheels give this machine superior traction. The greatest improvement of all has to be stainless steel chain PosiDrive propulsion system. The larger dual chamber bag is less major, but a nice improvement. Even an old cynic like me has to admit that Polaris have done an exceptional job in improving, and already amazing, pool cleaner.
The introduction of the Polaris 380 as an upgrade to the 280 may not have been all that significant. When pitting the Polaris 280 vs 380, it’s not all that easy to justify the extra price for the 380. So, while the Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport is the most expensive of the lot, the improvements are vast and hugely impressive. If you’re going to spend extra on advanced technology, you may as well do it properly. That would mean the Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport which has been totally redesigned, not just upgraded with a few changes. They’ve kept a few of the old basics that have proven to be fantastic, and re-engineered the rest to enhance the pool cleaner that so many have come to respect.
Learn more about the range of Polaris pressure pool cleaners by visiting the Polaris site.