The whole point of using a robot vacuum is to cut down on your housework, but most need to be emptied and cleaned often, adding at least one chore to your list. If you're looking for a lower-maintenance option, the Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL R101AE ($599) works quickly and efficiently, rarely gets stuck, and has a large dustbin in its base station that only needs to be emptied about once a month. You can control the robot from your phone or with your voice, and set up cleaning schedules so it automatically gets to work when you want it to. The vacuum maps your home as it cleans, so you can send it to specific rooms and create virtual no-go zones, features you don't get with the similarly priced iRobot Roomba i3+. It's also a compelling option for pet owners thanks to a self-cleaning brushroll and enough power to suck fur from carpeting. All of these features earn the R101AE our Editors' Choice award.You Can Trust Our ReviewsSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)
The $599 IQ Robot XL (R101AE) is the most expensive model in Shark's lineup, and features a bagless base that holds up to 30 days of dirt and debris. For a more affordable alternative, the $449 Shark IQ Robot features a smaller base that holds around two weeks worth of debris, but is otherwise the same as the XL model.
As recently as a couple of years ago, you'd be hard pressed to find a sub-$1,000 self-emptying robot vacuum, but the pricing on these models has been coming down. Last year, iRobot introduced the aforementioned Roomba i3+, which at $599 is the company's most affordable model with a self-emptying dustbin. Other self-emptying vacuums in this price range include the $699 Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo N8 Pro+ (which also works as a mop) and the $599 Neabot NoMo, both of which we plan to test in the future.
Most self-emptying robot vacuums empty the contents of their bin into a bag. The nice thing about this is that you never have to come into contact with dust and debris. The downside is that you eventually have to buy more bags when you run out.
The IQ Robot XL, on the other hand, has two dustbins: one in the robot itself, and a larger one in the base station. Each time the Robot XL returns to its dock after cleaning, it makes a loud noise as the contents of its bin are transferred to the base station. A transparent window on the left side of the base dustbin lets you check the fill level.The base station dustbin
When it's full, you simply press a release button on the top of the base, slide out the dustbin, hold it over a trash can, then press the Empty button on the side. The bottom of the dustbin will open, and the contents will fall out into the trash. It's a relatively clean process, though if you have severe allergies to dust, you might prefer a bagged model.
The IQ Robot XL has an all-black, utilitarian design. It measures 12.9 by 12.6 by 3.5 inches (LWH) and weighs 5.87 pounds. The base is about 15 inches tall. It won't win any style awards, but what a robot vacuum looks like is less important than whether it works well, and this one does.
The vacuum doesn't come with a remote, but you can control it with the physical Clean and Dock buttons on the top of the unit, with your phone via the SharkClean app (available for Android and iOS), or with voice commands via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Situated between the Clean and Dock buttons is the IQ Navigation module, which allows the robot to map your home and assess its location. Inside the robot's dustbin is a high-efficiency filter that captures airborne dust, dander, and allergens as it vacuums.
On the bottom, the IQ Robot XL features two side brushes and a self-cleaning brushroll, which constantly filters pet and human hair into the dustbin, so it doesn't get wrapped around the roll, a common problem with many robot vacuums. A Shark spokesperson says the brushroll is able to do this because it features fins and bristles that "comb through the hair and actively remove it."
The IQ Robot XL has three power levels: Eco, Normal (the default option), and Max. As its name suggests, Max offers the most suction power, but also drains the robot's battery the fastest. Eco offers the least suction power, but drains battery the slowest. Some robot vacuums, including the $799 Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo T8 AIVI and the $499 Proscenic M7 Pro, automatically increase their suction power when cleaning over carpets and heavily soiled areas, but the IQ Robot XL doesn't.
The robot has a Recharge and Resume feature, which is turned off by default but recommended for homes larger than 1,500 square feet. When enabled, the IQ Robot XL will return to its base to recharge when it's running low on battery, then pick up where it left off. To enable/disable Recharge and Resume, press and hold the Clean button for 15 seconds.
It also offers a feature called Evacuate and Resume, meant for homes with pets. When enabled, the robot will return to its base to empty the dustbin after 30 minutes so it doesn't get overly clogged with pet hair, then resume cleaning where it left off. Shark says you shouldn't enable this feature if your home is smaller than 1,000 square feet. To enable/disable Evacuate and Resume, press and hold the Dock button for 15 seconds.
To start using the IQ Robot XL, simply remove all the protective film from the robot and base, attach the side brushes to the posts on the bottom, and flip the switch on the side of the robot to turn it on.
Next, you need to locate a spot for the base. Shark recommends setting it up at least three feet away from anything on either side and five feet across from anything. For the best results, set up the base on a bare floor, or use the included plastic mat if you need to place it on carpet. Then just plug the base power cord into an electrical outlet, flip the power switch on the back to turn it on, and a small green light on the left side of the base will illuminate, indicating it has power.
From there, pick up the robot and put its back side up against the base. When it starts charging, you'll hear a beep and a blue charging indicator light on the base will pulse. When the robot is fully charged, the light will turn solid blue. Shark says to charge it for six hours the first time.
While you're waiting for it to charge, it's a good idea to prep your home. Shark recommends cleaning any cords and removing objects such as toys, clothing, and drapes from the floor, and opening the doors to areas you want cleaned and mapped. For the best results, Shark recommends running the robot in well-lit conditions. The company also says to avoid moving the robot or the base, as doing so can impact its ability to map your home.
The robot comes with a physical boundary strip that will prevent it from cleaning areas you want it to avoid, such as pet bowls or power cords, though you can also use the map in the app to do this to some extent. Like most floor-cleaning robots, the IQ Robot XL features cliff sensors that will prevent it from falling down the stairs.
When you connect the robot to its SharkClean companion app, it will build an interactive map of your home, allowing you to select specific rooms for area cleaning. The app also lets you create a cleaning schedule, remotely control the robot from wherever you are, check its battery level, and view cleaning reports.
After downloading the app, follow the on-screen instructions to create and verify your account. When you're ready to connect it to the app, press and hold the Dock and Clean buttons simultaneously until the robot's Wi-Fi indicator light begins to blink blue, indicating it's in setup mode. The first time I tried putting it in setup mode, nothing happened, so I turned the robot on and off, and it worked. When you see the flashing blue Wi-Fi indicator, press Continue in the app, then tap OK when prompted to allow SharkClean to connect to other devices on your local network. Next, select your home Wi-Fi network from the list, enter your password, press Continue, and you should be good to go.
After successfully connecting your robot to the app, it asks you to name the vacuum and gives you the option to enable the Evacuate and Resume feature.
The IQ Robot XL moves quickly and efficiently, cleaning in straight lines instead of haphazardly ping-ponging from wall to wall like some cheaper robot vacuums. On its first test run, the IQ Robot XL cleaned for 88 minutes in Normal mode before successfully returning to its docking station to empty its dustbin and recharge. When setting up the robot, I opted to enable the Evacuate and Resume feature, so 30 minutes into its first test run, the IQ Robot XL navigated back to its base station, emptied its bin, then resumed cleaning right away.
On its second test run, the robot cleaned for 97 minutes in Normal mode, beating the Roomba i3+, which lasted 90 minutes in testing, but falling far short of the Deebot Ozmo T8 AIVI, which cleaned for 170 minutes, the longest of any robot vacuum we've tested. Close to 100 minutes is a decent battery life result, but we've tested a number of models that cross the 100-minute mark.
In testing, the Robot XL always successfully maneuvered around furniture and traversed area rugs, carpeting, and hard flooring with ease. On its first two runs, it never once got stuck, even on places that have tripped up other robot vacuums in the past, such as the cords under my bedroom dresser.
After each test run, my floors looked noticeably cleaner. I have a pitbull named Bradley who sheds, and the IQ Robot XL did an excellent job of collecting his fur from my floors. A high concentration of dog hair usually collects on the floor around my living room couch, where Brad likes to relax during the day. When I checked this area after the IQ Robot XL cleaned, it was completely free of dog hair. It also left behind no trace of hair from the white rug in my office.
After those first two test runs, I could already see some debris through the docking station's fill window. Though it wasn't nearly all the way filled, I emptied it early for testing purposes and was pleasantly surprised to see how much dirt, debris, and dog hair the robot collected.
Next, I checked the brushroll on the bottom to verify Shark's claim that it can clean itself. I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical, but it actually works. After two cleaning sessions, the brushroll on the bottom of the robot was hair-free. As someone with long hair, one of my biggest problems with robot vacuums is that after a few runs, hair gets wrapped around the main brush. I then have to remove the brush and cut away the hair, a seriously icky task. You still might have to do this at some point with the IQ Robot XL, but less frequently than other robot vacuums, a big perk if you have long hair or live with someone who does.
My one gripe is that the IQ Robot XL can get a bit loud, especially when working over hard flooring. In Normal mode, it operates at around 57dB over hard flooring and 53dB over carpet, according to readings from the NIOSH Sound Level Meter app taken in the same room where the robot was working. In Max mode it gets even louder, while Eco mode is the quietest option. The CDC says that 60dB is about the volume of a normal conversation or air conditioner.
The SharkClean app is well designed and makes it easy to control the IQ Robot XL and take advantage of its smart features. In the middle, there's a purple Clean button; just tap that to send the robot on its way. In testing, the robot always quickly responded to app controls.
While the robot is cleaning, the app keeps track of how long it's been working and lets you view the remaining battery level. You can use the app to change modes, or to cut the job short and send it back to the dock. A Find Robot button can help you locate your vacuum if it goes missing.
Shark says that it might take the IQ Robot XL multiple runs to generate an interactive map of your home. In testing, it only took one run to map my roughly 1,000-square-foot main level. Shark says the robot will continue to refine the map as it completes additional runs.
With a few clicks, you can change the orientation of the map, label each room, and create virtual no-go zones. After labeling your rooms, you'll be able to select which ones you want cleaned, and the robot will go straight there.
The app also makes it easy to create a cleaning schedule so the robot automatically gets to work at a specific time on certain days. When creating a schedule, you simply select the days you want it to clean, and set a start time. You can repeat the same schedule for each day of the week, or have it clean at different times. There's also a toggle so you can quickly disable/enable all scheduled cleaning jobs. In testing, the robot successfully adhered to the schedule I created, starting up and getting to work at the specified time.
At this point, it isn't possible to schedule the IQ Robot XL to clean a specific room, a feature that is available on the $249 Wyze Robot Vacuum. And you can't schedule it to run multiple times per day, just once. Shark says it may add these features in the future.
In testing, I had no problem connecting the vacuum to Amazon Alexa (just search for and enable the Shark skill in the Alexa app). Once connected, the robot responded to voice commands such as, "Alexa, tell Shark to start cleaning," and, "Alexa, tell Shark to pause cleaning."
Getting it connected to Google Assistant took a few tries, as the Shark app didn't appear when I went through the usual process of linking a new device with the voice assistant via the Google Home app on both an iPhone and Android handset. I got it to work via the Google Assistant app on my iPhone following a method I found on Reddit: tap the compass icon in the lower right corner, then search for Shark, and you should be able to link your accounts that way. I was then able to control it with voice commands such as, "Hey Google, start cleaning with my Shark," and "Hey Google, stop cleaning with my Shark."
Using a robot vacuum can sometimes feel like trading one chore for another: You no longer have to vacuum your floors, but you have to clean your robot all the time. The $599 Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL R101AE, however, is more self-sufficient than most of the competition. It can store up to 30 days' worth of dust and debris in its bagless base, so you only need to empty it about once a month, and it features a self-cleaning brushroll that prevents hair from getting wrapped around it. In testing, the vacuum delivered strong suction power, effectively cleaning dust, debris, and pet hair from hard flooring and carpet, and it never got stuck. It offers a number of useful smart features, including home mapping for targeted room cleaning and virtual no-go zones, perks you don't get with the comparably priced Roomba i3+.
Allergy sufferers might prefer the Roomba i3+, which empties its bin into an AllergenLock bag, so you're not exposed to dust. The IQ Robot XL's bagless design is more convenient and wallet-friendly, however, since you don't have to buy replacement bags. Unless you're allergic to dust, we recommend opting for the IQ Robot XL—this convenient and powerful robot vacuum is well worth the price, and our Editors' Choice winner.
The Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL R101AE vacuum holds up to a months' worth of dust and debris in its base station, and features a self-cleaning brushroll and lots of smart features for a truly low-maintenance experience.
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