It’s been a robot vacuum whirlwind here in the TechGadgetsCanada test kitchen. The newest to cross the floor is the mid-priced iLife A10 robot vacuum. I had a chance to test one out in my home for a few weeks and I’ll tell you all about what it can do, how it works and whether I’d recommend it for your home.
iLife A10 robot vacuum: What’s in the box
The iLife A10 is a vacuum robot; in the box you get the robot, charging dock and cord, a cleaning tool, and some extra parts including an extra roller brush, filter and corner brushes. This botvac also has a remote control.
Key features: iLife A10 robot vacuum
The main feature of this vacuum is laser mapping. This vacuum uses laser technology which essentially lets the bot see its surroundings with LiDar which stands for Light Detection and Ranging. Lidar uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure distances. Simply put, these technologies let the bot see obstacles, walls, furniture and more and orient itself properly within the map in real–time.
With the laser mapping, the robot will be able to construct a map of your home inside the iLife app. With the map drawn, you should be able to get customized and room-by-room cleaning.
While getting the bot set up was pretty much plug and play, when it came to the mapping I did have some difficulty.
Getting iLife A10 to map my home
The iLife A10 went out a few times to do its initial mapping run, but in several instances it just died in a random location, so it seemed this rendered it unable to complete the map. It wasn’t stuck on something or out of juice, it just shut down and gave up, so I wasn’t initially able to get a functioning map. I decided to reset the bot and try again.
On the next go, I was able to see an accurate map, but then my next struggle was with how to label and delineate the rooms.
The map editing tool lives in a pull up app drawer, but using it is an exercise in frustration. There’s no instructions in the manual for how to use it and the app certainly does not help. I tried dividing up spaces, merging spaces and even naming spaces, but I wasn’t able to do it. I just got odd error messages like “the door is not in the room” or “the room size is too small after division”.
After being absolutely frustrated with this interface I had to ask iLife for help but I wasn’t able to make sense of the directions.
In the end, with quite a bit of try, try, try and try again, I was able to get most of the areas I wanted to separated, delineated.
Using room-specific cleaning
Once your botvac has mapped your space, you can go into the app and ask it to clean only specific spaces. You can trigger it with a tap or set it on a schedule. While building and managing the map was a terrible user experience, the bot did a good job at doing this room-specific cleaning.
What does the remote control do? Nothing…for me
I was surprised to find a remote in the box, since these days, most cleaning control comes from a smartphone. But I guess if you want to be analogue like that, we shouldn’t judge. The physical remote supposedly lets you do many of the things you can on the app, including starting and stopping the bot, sending it home, doing a spot clean, increasing suction and even scheduling—and many of those options are activated with just a single push of a shortcut button.
Except I couldn’t get the remote to work at all. While I was able to set the time, not one the buttons worked. The manual was no help here. I couldn’t see if it needed pairing, resetting or what. So I gave up and simply used the app.
The iLife A10 robot vacuum is supposed to give you flexibility over your cleaning, but in some cases these customizations appear to be bandaids, not solutions. Let me explain…
While some robot vacuums can automatically recognize carpeted areas and deliver an additional suction boost, the iLife A10 needs you to tell it which areas are carpeted so it can know where to use its included ‘power up’ feature which increases suction on carpets.
Similarly the A10 lets you send it to an area that needs more intense cleaning. But since managing the map was such a confusing and hit or miss endeavour, I was not able to either find or enact this supposed carpet ID featuere.
One thing I did like: Inside the app there are customizable settings for overall suction power and to adjust the speed of the spinning side brushes. Nice to be able to control that, I guess but these are things you need to turn on and adjust manually each time, and in my opinion, those are things a truly smart robot vacuum should be able to adjust for itself—and other bot vacs DO.
Should the side brush be spinning at 76% or 100%? How the heck should I know?
There’s also an Edge Clean feature that sends the vacuum out to just do the edges of a room, plus a spot clean feature that will sweep the area in front of the vacuum.
Set no-go zones
A good and common feature of robot vacuums is the ability to set no-go zones, so if you want the bot to keep away from the messy floor of your closet or the dog’s water dish, you can. Happily I was able to get a couple of no-go zones set fairly easily, despite my other issues managing the home map.
Awfully designed dustbin
Let’s talk about the dustbin on the iLife A10. It’s awful. The release button on the bot doesn’t properly open the bin so you can empty it. While most other bots have a latch that lifts, and the door opens with it, this one you have to press in as if you’re closing the bin lid, then try to separate the lid from the bin.
Battery life & charging
iLife says this bot should run for up to 100 minutes. While I never maxed it out, it was able to clean my main floor on a single charge.
Cleaning tests: how well does iLife A10 clean?
I run all my vacuums through the same tests; I spill flour, sugar, oats, rice and crackers on both carpet and hardwood and see how the vacuum handles it. Watch my video to see the bot in action.
I started it at about 10% suction, which meant the vac was really quiet. On flooring, the vacuum was okay at flour; but it took about three passes to get it all and swept a lot of it to the side. It was good at rice and got most of it on the first pass. It was terrible with oatmeal; just sweeping it out over a wider area. And It got all the cracker pieces.
On 100% suction… it’s really loud. But it did have more suction power naturally. With the brushes spinning faster I did find they scattered some messes over a wider area, but the vacuum would pick that up using the roller brushes in subsequent passes.
Overall it was hit or miss; I’d say the vacuum gets a 3 or 4 out of five on cleaning, but it takes more passes.
When cleaning carpet, even at 100% suction this vacuum was not great at inhaling messes; and sometimes scattered stuff over a wide area, and kept going. Watch my video review to see what I mean.
This vacuum is what I’d call average when it comes to nose levels but it does have a very big plus; you can use the iLife app to dial in the suction power and thus your overall noise level. The lowest you can set it at is 1%, which is pretty quiet, and the top level is 100%, which is significantly louder. I do really like this feature though; it lets you do anything from a quiet light sweep while you’re on Zoom, to a full powerful clean while you’re out of the house.
Get stuck? Random shutdowns
It’s not uncommon for a lot of robot vacuums to get stuck on things like stray socks and charging cords. Fortunately, the A10 didn’t seem to get stuck very much, at least not on transitions, objects or debris. As I noted earlier it did sometimes just park itself out in random places in my home and shut down, never to resume again until I carried it back to its base. Similarly, I’d set the bot to go home after I’d find it and the bot would just wander all over the house before it would just stop again.
Sometimes I’d turn it on and send it out and it would just do the room that the base station is in and then dock again.
How does iLife A10 handle flooring transitions
After a disastrous experience recently with another bot that couldn’t handle any flooring transitions, it was a relief to see the A10 successfully navigate most flooring transitions with ease. From carper, to wood, and across tile, I never saw the A10 get caught up on any transitions.
Overall review: iLife A10 robot vacuum
Overall this vacuum has some good points and some disappointments. On the good side, it’s customizable, with a suction level you can control so you can manage noise level. With that said, on some of the lower levels it’s not working as thoroughly, so you may need to schedule it to go out more often on lower power.
I thought it did a great job finding its way to rooms for room-specific cleaning, and it didn’t get stuck often at all. But the overall cleaning power just wasn’t there for me.
While the home mapping worked well, and the controls in the app are okay, the app provided a terrible user experience for dividing up rooms —it was buggy and only seemed to work one out of 10 times.
Also the downside, the dustbin door is ridiculously backwards and hard to open without spilling and the remote control never worked for me. And the random shutdowns and stalls were weird.
Overall this is not my favourite of the robot vacuums, but I do think with some software updates and a new dustbin mechanism it could be improved. It sells for about $349USD and you can get it from Amazon.
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