Robotic pool cleaners are notoriously expensive, and the $1,399 Polaris 9550 Sport, Zodiac Pool Systems' top-of-the-line cleaner, is no different. But it isn't nearly as pricey as competing robotic cleaners such as the Aqua Products Aquabot Turbo T4RC or the Hayward AquaVac 500. Don't let the price difference fool you, though; the Polaris 9550 ($1,099.00 at Amazon) packs in more features than its competitors and will keep your pool sparkling clean, which is why it earns our Editors' Choice for robotic pool cleaners.
Design and Features With its sleek blue and gray finish and black sidewall wheels, the 9950 Sport looks more like a miniature sports car than a robotic pool cleaner (hence the name). The double-insulated plastic chassis measures 16.9 by 18.9 by 10.6 inches (HWD) and weighs 21 pounds, which is 5 pounds lighter than the AquaVac 500 and 1 pound heavier than the Aquabot Turbo T4RC. It can handle pools up to 60 feet in length.You Can Trust Our ReviewsSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (Read our editorial mission.)
The 9550 comes with a head unit, which controls and powers the cleaner, a blue 70-foot cable that connects the cleaner with the head unit, and a caddy for storing and hauling the cleaner around your yard. The cable is very flexible and tangle resistant, which makes it easy to wrap up and store on the caddy when cleaning is complete. The head unit is attached to the caddy, and there's a cradle for the included remote control. The caddy requires no tools to assemble and has a sturdy 33-inch long handle and a hook for the cable. The cleaner rests on the caddy vertically, which allows any excess water to drain.
The robot uses a four-wheel drive system to traverse the pool bottom and climb the walls to clean the sides and waterline. Two gray scrubbers on the front end of the cleaner work to dislodge debris, which is then sucked up using Zodiac's Vortex Vacuum Technology. Dirt, acorns, and other debris are trapped inside the canister, which uses a fine mesh screen to filter the water before sending it back into the pool via the water jet on the back of the robot.
The debris canister is one of my favorite features of the 9550, as it is easy to access and very easy to clean. Simply press a button to pop open the lid, lift out the canister, open it up, and shake out the debris. Any dirt or hair that collects on the screen can be easily washed away with a hose. At no time did my hands come in contact with any debris while cleaning up, whereas the Aquabot Turbo T4RC and AquaVac 500 require at least some contact (the Aquabot Turbo T4RC is particularly hard to clean without getting your hands dirty).
The head unit measures 8.0 by 7.5 by 4.5 inches (HWD) and is white with a black and gray control panel. It has a 2-inch display that uses red LEDs to show you programming times and running status, and contains several function buttons, including Clock, Program, Plus, Minus, Cancel, and Start/Stop buttons. Below these function buttons are a Dirty Filter indicator, a Lift System button, and three more buttons used to select the cleaning level (Intensive, High Intensity), the cleaning surface (Bottom, Bottom and Sides, Waterline Only), and the pool shape (Rectangular, Freeform).
The Lift System is a useful feature. Pressing this button tells the robot to stop what it is doing and return to the side of the pool (pressing and holding this button will determine which side of the pool the robot will use). It will then climb the wall and wait for you to remove it using the handle (not the cord). Once you start pulling it from the water it will expel most of the water from the filter back into the pool, which makes it much lighter and easier to haul out. During this time, the LED panel will display LIFT.
You can program up to seven preset cleaning cycles for specific times and days of the week, or use the default one touch cycles: Bottom Only runs for one hour and 30 minutes, Bottom and Sides runs for two hours and 30 minutes, and Waterline Only runs for one hour. If you find the defaults aren't sufficient, you can always change them using the Plus and Minus buttons, giving the robot up to 3.5 hours for each preset cycle. The weekly programming feature comes in handy when you'll be away for a period of time; simply program the robot, place it in the pool, and let it do its thing.
The included 5-inch remote has a motion sensor that lets you guide the robot by moving your hand in the direction you want it to go. It has an On/Off button that tells the robot you want to control it with the remote, and a Lift System button.
Performance I tested the 9550 Sport in my 16-by-32-foot in-ground gunite pool, which holds approximately 22,000 gallons of water and ranges in depth from three feet to nine feet. It has a metal ladder at the deep end and three round steps at the shallow end. It is surrounded by several large cedar trees with branches that hang over the pool, as well as two very large oak trees and a crabapple tree, so there's always a fair amount of fine and coarse debris scattered along the bottom of the pool. However, I wanted to create a reproducible test, so I tossed in a handful of sand, a handful of grass clippings, and a couple of small acorns.
I set the robot to clean the bottom only at the factory default of one hour and 30 minutes, selected the Intensive cleaning level, and choose the rectangular pool shape option. I placed the robot in the shallow end of the pool, waited a few seconds for it to fill up with water, and hit the Start button. The 9550 immediately went to work. It used a serpentine-like cleaning pattern that took it from the shallow end to the deep end on a single pass, and then it began to work side to side, from the deep end back to the shallow end. After an hour and a half the bottom of my pool was spotless with a few exceptions; one acorn and several blades of grass remained.
I used the remote to guide the robot back to the remaining debris and did three passes over the acorn before it was picked up. All of the remaining grass was sucked up on the first pass. The remote was a bit slow in reacting to my hand movements, however, making it difficult to get the robot to go exactly where I wanted it. After a few tries, I got the hang of it, but a more responsive remote would be an improvement. I also found myself wishing I could speed up the robot's progress with the remote, a feature included with the Aquabot Turbo T4RC.
I tested the 9550 over a period of two weeks, and it never once became stuck in its cord, flipped over, or needed to be rescued. It did a great job of scrubbing the waterline, too. I created a schedule that had the robot start cleaning at 9:00am Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and it responded without hesitation and shut itself down each time it was done. Additionally, the Dirty Filter indicator alerted me when it was time to empty the canister.
Conclusion The Polaris 9550 Sport is Zodiac Pool Systems' flagship robotic pool cleaner, and for good reason. It offers outstanding cleaning performance, a motion sensing remote, and plenty of programming options. It's also hundreds of dollars less expensive than its competitors. The innovative Lift System for water removal makes it easy to remove the robot from the pool when the cleaning cycle is complete, and cleaning the debris basket couldn't be easier. Granted, a more responsive remote with a speed control option would be nice, but these are minor quibbles, and neither prevents the Polaris 9550 Sport from earning our Editors' Choice for robotic pool cleaners.
The Polaris 9550 Sport is a well-priced robotic pool cleaner that does an excellent job of removing debris from the bottom and sides of your in-ground pool.
Sign up for Lab Report to get the latest reviews and top product advice delivered right to your inbox.Email
Your subscription has been confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox!Sign up for other newsletters