Polaris robotic pool cleaners have garnered several PCMag Editors' Choice awards over the years for their sturdy build and superb cleaning performance, so it comes as no surprise that the company's latest model, the Polaris Alpha IQ+ ($1,499), is also its best. As with previous Polaris robots, the Alpha IQ+ is very easy to use and comes with a debris canister that you can empty and clean without getting your hands dirty. It also offers a few new features, including water temperature readings, additional cleaning modes, and a more efficient navigation system. The Alpha IQ+ doesn’t come cheap, but it can save you hours of work while keeping your pool spotless, earning it our latest Editors’ Choice award for robot pool cleaners.
The Polaris Alpha IQ+ has a similar shape and size as the Polaris 9650iQ Sport we reviewed back in 2017, but there are some notable differences. The Alpha IQ+ has a darker blue finish than the 9650iQ, and has a transparent lid that lets you see how much debris it has collected. The see-through lid also allows the cool interior LED lighting to shine through.
Other than that, the Alpha IQ+ uses the same four-wheel drive and Vortex vacuum technologies as its predecessors. The four-wheel drive mechanism allows the cleaner to navigate through various depths, climb walls, and scrub the waterline, while Vortex technology lets it suck up any debris in its path, store it in the mesh canister, and expel clean water back into the pool.
The Alpha IQ+ measures 12 by 17 by 19 inches (HWD) and weighs 22 pounds. It's designed for in-ground pools of up to 60 feet in length and uses four wheels to travel around the pool and has two rubber scrubbing brushes that loosen up dirt and clean the waterline. A button on the front of the cleaner pops open the lid so you can remove the debris canister. As with previous models, the canister simply pulls out and can be emptied without having to touch anything that has been picked up. After a quick spray from a garden hose, it’s ready for the next cleaning cycle.
A 70-foot rubberized cable connects the cleaner to the head unit, which is mounted to the included caddy. The cable is flexible and uses a swivel mechanism that keeps it from becoming twisted as the Alpha IQ+ moves around the pool. The caddy has two wheels, a long handle, and a hook for storing the cable when not in use.
The head unit, or control box, is the brains of the Alpha IQ+. It has a display that shows the status of the cleaner (what mode it's in and how much time is left in the cleaning cycle), as well as several function buttons and indicators including plus and minus buttons for increasing/decreasing cleaning time, a start/stop button, an iAquaLink button for pairing the device to a mobile app and connecting it to your network, a power indicator, a dirty canister indicator, and a Lift button that sends the unit to the side of the pool where it will climb the wall and discharge any water it is holding, making it easier to lift out of the water.
The Mode button lets you select a cleaning preset including Waterline, which cleans just the waterline and runs for 45 minutes, Quick Clean, which only cleans the floor of the pool and runs for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and Deep Clean, which does the floor, walls, and waterline and runs for 2 hours and 45 minutes. New to this model is a Smart Cycle mode in which the cleaner uses embedded sensors to learn the size, shape, and depth of your pool and calculate a custom cycle that cleans the floor, walls, and waterline. Also new to this model are a Spot Clean mode that allows the cleaner to concentrate on a single area where debris has collected, and a water temperature sensor.
You can control the Alpha IQ+ using the same iAquaLink mobile app (for Android and iOS) that is used to control the 9650iQ Sport. To access the cleaner, tap its name that appears on the My Systems screen, along with any other Polaris devices that you have installed. This takes you to a control screen with a large circle that tells you the status of the cleaner (Idle, Running), what cleaning mode it's in, and how much time is left in the cleaning cycle. There’s also a water temperature reading, a dirty canister indicator, a start/stop button, and plus and minus buttons for extending/decreasing the cleaning time. A banner at the top of the screen tells you the next scheduled cleaning time.
At the very bottom of the screen are Remote, Clean Mode, and Lift System buttons. Tap the Remote button to open a page with an on-screen joystick that lets you move the cleaner forward, backward, left, and right. Here you can also activate the above-mentioned Spot Clean feature. The Clean Mode button lets you select a default cleaning mode or create a custom mode, and the Lift System button sends the cleaner to the side of the pool where it will climb the wall for easy removal. Tapping the gear icon in the upper right corner opens a screen where you can set cleaning schedules and view system information including the firmware version, serial number, and total run time.
As with previous Polaris models, the Alpha IQ+ does not offer any notifications such as for when a cleaning cycle has started or completed, or if the cleaner has turned over in the water. Still, this is a minor gripe and not a deal breaker by any means.
Setting up the Alpha IQ+ for the first time was easy. I followed the illustrated instructions for assembling the caddy, which took all of five minutes and doesn't require tools, and snapped the head unit into place. After removing the packing material from the canister I plugged in the head unit, placed the cleaner in the pool, and downloaded the latest version of the iAquaLink mobile app. I already had an account, but if this is your first Polaris cleaner you’ll have to create one. I then tapped the plus button upper right corner, selected Robotic Cleaner from the list, and pressed the iAquaLink button on the control box. Following the on-screen instructions, I selected my Wi-Fi SSID, entered my password, and the cleaner was immediately connected.
The Alpha IQ+ did a fantastic job of cleaning my 16-by-32-feet in-ground gunite pool. Using the Smart Cycle mode, the cleaner scanned the pool and calculated a cleaning time of 2 hours and 9 minutes. I used this setting almost exclusively and the pool was spotless after each cycle.
The cleaner had no trouble picking up filter sand, insects, dead worms, berries from a neighbor’s tree, leaves, and any other debris that typically finds its way into my pool. The dirty canister indicator worked as intended, and the Lift feature made it easy to remove the cleaner from the pool without much effort. You don’t get a handheld remote with this model like you do with some others, but the mobile app’s joystick controller was responsive and workedperfectly. The Spot Cleaner feature also worked well, and water temperature readings were right in line with readings I received from a Water Guru Sense pool monitor.
The Polaris Alpha IQ+ robotic pool cleaner may be expensive, but when you consider the cost of having your pool cleaned weekly by a professional or the amount of time spent doing it yourself, the price starts to look a lot more reasonable. The robot is easy to use and offers several cleaning modes, and the debris canister can be emptied and cleaned with very little effort. In addition, the mobile app lets you create cleaning schedules, guide the cleaner through your pool using a joystick controller, and focus on specific areas using the Spot Clean feature. All of this makes the Alpha IQ+ the best pool cleaner from Polaris yet, as well as our Editors’ Choice winner.