Narwal Freo Review

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Erin Lawrence

Narwal Freo ReviewI’ve had the good fortune to be able to test out some of the best robot vacuums in the world; I’ve gone hands-on with about 50 in my lifetime, so I have a solid idea of what makes a great robot vacuum. Even so I’ve become a bit cynical about the possibility there could be a bot that’s doing anything new or revolutionary. So when Narwal reached out to ask us to review its Narwal Freo robot vacuum and mop I was up for the task, in part because it has three enticing promises: it claims to sense dirt and adjust to clean it appropriately, it can identify floor types to clean them correctly and it uses a special cleanser to get floors cleaner than with water alone (which is what every other floor bot is limited to).

Narwal Freo
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Summary

Overall, this robot vacuum and mop really seems like it should have it all. It’s got a great look and there’s lots of innovative features. But in truth, it doesn’t hold up to other bots since it vacuums very poorly, and would really only be appropriate for a home with all hard floors and very light dust.

Pros

  • Easy set up
  • Dual vac and mop in one
  • Uses floor cleaner solution
  • Touchscreen for quick access
  • Removable base tray for easy cleaning
  • Beautiful design
  • Washes and dries mop pads
  • Lifts mops off carpet
  • Very quiet

Cons

  • Gets stuck a lot. A lot.
  • Dirt detection not noticeable
  • Extremely poor vacuum performance
  • Required re-map to get area cleaning to work
  • Bumps forcefully into furniture
  • No auto dustbin emptying
  • Goes through water quickly

Narwal Freo review

In this review I’ll take a look at how well Narwal Freo cleans, how these special features work and if I can recommend this bot for you.

Design

The Narwal Freo is a smart, Wi-Fi connected, app controlled floor cleaning robot. It’s a big piece of tech, but it is streamlined and I’m giving Narwhal major points for its sleek design.

Narwal Freo ReviewFreo has two rounded triangle microfibre pads that it uses for mopping, plus two side brushes and a main roller brush in the middle.
The dock has an LCD display and I’ve not seen this on other robot floor cleaners. It’s a nice way to get your robot moving or to get a status update without having to fish for your phone.

Under the lid is the mopping water; a large 4L dirty water tank, and a large clean water tank, which is adjacent to a special bottle of cleaner (which you need to install).

Liquid Floor Cleaner included

The floor cleaner is the innovation here. The small bottle is placed upside down inside the base station to trickle into the robot, so you’re washing your floors not just with water but with water and nicely scented cleaning solution.
Narwal Freo ReviewMost robot vacuums only clean with water (chemicals can damage their guts), so I’m excited to see if this bot and its cleanser can do a more thorough job.

Set up

Getting this robot floor cleaner set up was extremely easy. Turn it on and follow the instructions on the touchscreen to connect it to your home’s Wi-Fi network. You will also want to download and sign into or sign up for the Narwhal app.
While you can control the robot using buttons on the bot itself, or using the touchscreen on the base station, the easiest way to get hands-free remote control and to enable scheduling and additional features is to use the app.

You can adjust the level of suction for the vacuuming, adjust mopping waterflow, schedule cleaning automatically.

Dirt sensing technology + Freo Mode

Narwal Freo ReviewNarwal says the Freo has dirt sensing technology it uses in two ways: On the Freo’s dock Dirtsense will detect how dirty the mops are and then customize a mix of water and Narwhal’s cleaner to wash them. I can confirm that the mopping pads were always clean and never got stinky.
On the robot itself, the Dirtsense technology supposedly senses how dirty your floor is and can repeat cleaning until it is satisfied that the area is clean.

Flooring Identification & Mop lifting

With combination vacuum/mops, it’s essential that the robot be able to determine which of its two functions it needs to engage. I suppose it’s hard to read the Narwhal Freo’s mind and prove that it’s actually seeing my floors correctly, but I can say it definitely lifted its mopping pads off of carpet and rugs effectively, and it didn’t seem to use too much or too little water when mopping.
But can it see dirt, react appropriately and clean precisely as you need it to? Let’s run some cleaning tests to see.

How well does Narwal Freo clean?

Narwal Freo ReviewI put all my robot vacuums and mops through the same series of tests in my home. I let it clean for anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks on its own, then I spill things and see how well it cleans up those dedicated messes; I’ll pour rice, oatmeal, or cracker crumbs on both carpet and hardwood floors to see how well it can pick up debris. Then for mopping robots I will splash things like coffee or red wine on the floor, let some of them dry, and see how well the mop is able to lift spills.

As an aside, I was extremely impressed with how quietly this bot operates. When it’s running, even on higher power, it makes almost no noise at all. Does that translate to inferior cleaning power? Let’s find out…

On hard floors

When cleaning hardwood and tile, one of the first things I noticed is that the robot’s corner brushes sometimes spin quite slowly. This is actually a good thing. If those corner brushes spin too fast, they simply scatter debris to a different area like playing dirt tennis. With these slower spinning brushes, it simply moves the dirt and debris to the center so the roller brushes underneath can pick it up. I thought that was a good thing, but then I started to realize it wasn’t doing a thorough job.

The bot was okay at picking up small amounts of debris on floors, though it wasn’t 100%. I’d say on floors, it woulds pick up between 50-70% of debris, but its success rate varied wildly. If it rolled right over something so its brushes were centred and could inhale something, it would pick up the majority, but if it skirted any kind of debris, more often than not, it wouldn’t vacuum it up.

When it came to the mopping, the Narwhal Freo was also only intermittent. It has decent mopping skills, but wasn’t detailed or deliberate enough to get every spill on every outing. Some days it did well, others, not as well; similar to the vacuuming, it seemed if it hit a spill dead-on, it was better at getting it but if it wasn’t, the cleaning suffered. If there is Dirt Sensing technology in here, it’s not obvious to me that it’s working.

Narwal Freo ReviewThe mop uses a good amount of water and on days it was scheduled to mop the kitchen, it was noticeable that it’s been through, but at the same time it doesn’t leave my floors overly wet or streaky.

In short, it was okay at running its pads over my tile floor for a light wipe, but not as good with larger or dried-on spills.

On carpets

Once I started testing the Narwal on carpet, that’s where it really started to fall down.

On carpets the bot was extremely ineffective. In some of my dedicated tests, using both regular and high power, it left behind about 70-90% of a spill, both when it came to finer cornmeal and bigger oats; it just didn’t seem to have the suction power it needed. Watch my YouTube video (above) to see what I mean.

I also tried running it on more “normal” household dirt, but even on the rug by our front door, it couldn’t pick up dirt or even small dry leaves. In many cases it rolled right over them without picking up anything at all.

So poor was this robot’s vacuum performance that I reached out to Narwal to ask if something might be wrong with it, and sent a video sample of the lack of suction.

A bot for light “daily cleaning” only

I learned Narwal intends for this robot to be used for “daily cleaning” and the company notes some of my test spills might be a bit much for bots to get through, and perhaps not typical of how most owners would use them. Narwal says, “the suction will be easily affected by the furry hair on the surface of the carpet,” and that it “may have no good performance for cleaning food debris or too much debris.”

The company says it has 3,000PA of suction, which should be a lot, but in my testing it was not able to deliver on that. So here’s my take: The Freo is not a skilled vacuum if you have anything more than light dirt in your house. Busier homes with kids and pets may find this pretty bot can’t keep up.

One final word on our testing; we’ve run this same testing regimen with many robot vacuums, and while some do perform better than others, Narwal has the distinction of scoring the lowest we’ve recorded on vacuum prowess.

Testing it at a different house

Narwal Freo ReviewI was so surprised by the poor cleaning performance of this robot I actually brought it over to a different house to test it in a whole new environment. The other home has no carpet, so right off the bat I think that gave it an advantage. In this space, the extremely light vacuuming and mopping was enough to keep things tidy in the house, so I think what this tells me is that this robot is pretty much only good for homes with hard floors and light dirt.

It did okay in the space, but again it got caught on absolutely everything from cords and cables to rugs and bathmats. I’d say at least three or four times per cleaning trip it would get caught on something, lose its mopping pads or simply shut down.

Heated Mop Drying

While not new technology, the Freo’s mop are both cleaned and dried inside the dock (the Ecovacs Deebot X1 Omni and Yeedi Mop Station do this too).

The cleaning and drying cycle runs long (about 4 hours), but it’s not noisy. I can definitely say the mopping pads stayed quite clean and stink-free in my testing period.

Getting stuck: constant problem

Narwal Freo ReviewOne of the things you want in a robot vacuum or mop is obstacle avoidance, since if it constantly gets stuck on things it won’t complete its cleaning missions. Freo seemed to me to get stuck on obstacles more than any other robot floor cleaner I’ve used, and isn’t very good at avoiding obstacles. Multiple times during each and every clean, this bot would become stuck. That’s frustrating, since it means I always needed to be present during a clean; if I’d leave it on its own, I’d most often come back to it being stopped, caught or stalled out and needing to be fixed, righter and restarted.

The way around this is to just pick up after yourself before the robot cleans, however with so many newer (and even older) botvacs out there that have basic and effective object recognition, this seems like a problem that should already be solved.

Overall review – Narwhal Freo robot vacuum and mop

Overall, this robot vacuum and mop really seems like it should have it all. It’s got a great look and there’s lots of innovative features. But in truth, it doesn’t hold up to other bots and would really only be appropriate for a home with all hard floors.

Narwal Freo ReviewOn the plus side you’re getting both a vacuum and mop in one, though the vacuuming is extremely inferior compared against other bots we’ve tested. I like the fact it uses floor cleaning solution instead of just plain water, and the design with the removable base tray is really smart. It’s super convenient that it not only washes but also dries your mopping pads and the battery seems to charge quickly. Final good thing about the spot is that it seems quite effective at lifting its mops off low pile carpet and rugs.

On the downside, there is no automatic emptying of the dust bin, and speaking of the vacuum I did not see the dirt detection feature in action, and the overall vacuum performance was extremely poor with it rolling over even simple dried leaves and not picking them up. It also got stuck on almost every outing and it can be quite forceful when it’s bumping its way around. With mopping I didn’t notice that the addition of cleaner or the Dirt Detection feature setting this bot apart.

I’m so disappointed in this robot; I really wanted to love it, but this iteration at least isn’t up to scratch and I can’t in good conscience recommend it. In my opinion you’d be better off considering some of iRobot’s bots like the j7+ or Combo j7+ which has a retractable mop. Roborock’s S7 Max V Ultra, or the Ecovacs Deebot X1 Omni are all worthy alternatives.

 

 

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