Nearly three weeks ago, we welcomed a new member in the house…. No no no, not another baby! It integrated so well at home now that it has its own corner, wake up and sleep timings , can speak a few languages and mischievous at times, we consider it as part of the family… And these days, we (even the kids) greet her when we wake up or go to sleep, and I am not joking!
Today, I will be writing about Devika, our Xiaomi Robot Vacuum Mop P. That’s her name!
To all Devikas out there, you should feel proud!
A small note before the “gender fighters” start throwing mud at us :
- We (Dhaneesha and myself) split the household chores and kids handling. There is no discrimination or gender inequality or anything when we split what needs to be completed within time.
- Dhaneesha proposed the name Devika herself, which I gladly accepted. We do not deem it necessary to justify why we did not give a male name or look for a unisex name instead.
When Dhaneesha got ill months back, I realized how tedious and tiresome it can be to clean the house on a daily basis.
Using the traditional broom (aka “balier fatak”) only made things worse, pushing the dirt from here to there, till the dust collection, just like ice hockey players passing the rubber puck with their sticks till the opponent’s net.
So, that’s how I started reading about different brands and models of robot vacuum cleaners.
There are several brands out there, each with their own features and price tags but I believe that the best brand for such products remain iRobot Roomba. A decent model, with features comparable to the Xiaomi Vacuum Mop P will cost a total of around Rs 25, 000 while this Xiaomi one has cost me Rs 18, 000. (Prices include Amazon purchase price + shipping via shopandship + local VAT charges).
For indicative purposes, Galaxy is selling a Midea robot vacuum at around Rs 9, 000, Ah Ling has the Xiaomi 1G model at nearly same price while Urban Home was selling the Xiaomi 1C model at around Rs17, 000 last year.
I will quickly go through basic requirements and features which you can look for in these devices:
- Operation type
These devices can either run on the following modes : vacuum only, mop only or vacuum and mop at the same time. Depending on models, you will need to attach extra accessories (a mopping pad for the Vacuum Mop P model) and add water in its dedicated tank when doing mopping. iRobot has designed the Roomba models for vacuum only while their “Braava” models are a different set of dedicated robot mopping devices.
Cheaper models are usually standalone devices which might not have any connectivity options. They will just start vacuuming whenever you press the dedicated start / stop buttons. Other models usually come with bluetooth and/or wifi connectivity options which enable them to be controlled remotely.
- Mobile apps
For devices with bluetooth / wifi, mobile apps are usually available to provide a list of additional features such as remote control of the devices, schedule cleaning, define specific zones to clean or restrict, among others.
- Battery capacity
Just as most battery powered devices, they come in different battery capacities, with higher ones allowing longer operational times without the need for a recharge. Some models also allow you to swap batteries when they get defective or inefficient.
- Mapping and Multi-floor
Most of these robot devices normally analyze the environment and generate a map as they move on. Just as when you use Google Maps (or any other maps), this allows you to quickly navigate to a region. By saving the map, the device can travel quickly and clean the whole area more efficiently.
If you have a two or more storey house, it might be interesting and cost-effective to go for a model which supports multi-floors. This allows the device to switch in between automatically-generated maps, without the need to generate a new one each time it is moved to another floor.
- Zoning and Virtual Walls
Devices with advanced mapping features might also offer these additional features whereby you can mark specific areas the robot should absolutely avoid going into or draw virtual lines on the map, defining walls which the robot should not bump into. For example, you might mark a restricted zone around your kid who is playing on his mat.
- Navigation style
More advanced models now embark with the Laser Detection Systems (LDS) as they allow a more precise mapping through laser as compared to devices with a visual sensor which embarks a camera-like device or other cheaper models having only a gyroscope. Additional advantage of the LDS : It can operate in the dark (while you are sleeping) unlike the visual sensor which needs some minimum amount of light to be able to operate.
- Automatic recharge / dock
Earlier models might not be able to find their charging dock automatically, requiring the user to manually connect a charger to them or place them directly on their charging dock/station. However, I believe that most models now can automatically return to their charging station whenever they are running out of juice.
- Automatic resume after recharge
For models with this feature, the vacuum robot will automatically resume its cleaning once it is sufficiently charged. So, it will go back to where it left cleaning and it will complete the job from there itself.
- Docking station with emptying mechanism
More advanced models have larger docking stations with a mechanism which transfers the content of the bin from the vacuum cleaner to the storage on the docking station whenever needed. This allows more autonomous operation requiring a human to empty the docking station once in a while. Some models with mopping function even have extra water tanks in the docking station!
Just like other smart devices, those things are equipped with many sensors. For example, cliff sensors allow them to avoid falling on stairs, anti-collision sensors to avoid crashing into the wall.
- Support / consumables / firmware upgrades
When purchasing such devices, it is important to make sure that you are not spending so many bucks on unbranded devices, or devices which you are unable to carry out basic maintenance, such as replacing the brushes, battery or mopping pads. Common brands have genuine (and sometimes after-market) replacement kits for sale as you will probably need to change these consumables with time.
Now that you have familiarized yourself with robot vacuum cleaners and the terminologies, let me quickly take you through this specific model, the Xiaomi Vacuum Mop P (model Reference : STYTJ02YM).
Fitted with a LDS on its top, the Xiaomi Vacuum Mop is the third model ( in terms of number of features) manufactured by the Chinese brand. The LDS module increases the height of most models as the system need to be able to scan its surrounding continuously as it is moving so that it can plan its route.
The Xiaomi Vacuum 1G is the basic version with a gyroscope for navigation and limited features (no virtual walls or zoning and no mopping) whereas the 1C model has these mentioned features along with a visual sensor. On the other hand, the Xiaomi Vacuum Mop is equipped with the Laser Detection System (LDS) which offers more precise mapping and it can move around without the need to have lights on.
Whenever you need to use the mopping function, you need to swap in the 2-in1 bin with water tank and clip on the mopping pad on the device. It has some sort of pump which pushes a continuous flow (or drips) of water onto the mopping pad, and the amount of water flow can be controlled via the Xiaomi app.
Worth mentioning that the Xiaomi Vacuum Mop P does has firmware upgrades to get the multi-floor option but unfortunately, these upgrades are available only to specific regions such as China.
Weighting around 3.6 kgs, the Xiaomi Vacuum Mop P comes in a huge box, adding in quite some extra weight – 7.3kgs to be exact. So, expect higher shipping costs.
In the box, you get the device (fitted with dust bin), the 2-in-1 bin with water tank, the mopping pad, dock with charger adapter and extra consumables (one extra brush and one mopping pad).
Available for both Android and iOS devices, the Xiaomi Mi App allows you to register and connect any of your Xiaomi smart devices in one app. Once added, you get to access all features of the Xiaomi vacuum cleaner.
I will now share some screenshots…
Good to know that you can operate the Xiaomi Vacuum Mop P without the app. Just press the power button and it will start cleaning the house and get back to its dock once completed or when it needs a recharge.
Did I mention that Devika can sometimes be mischievous? On a few occasions, Devika depicted strange behaviors and when writing a review, one cannot ignore these, hence the need to mention them.
The first run :
On the first day we received the device, I ran a full cleanup around 11pm.
15 minutes later, from my bed, I could hear strange sounds coming from the ground floor. I ran to have a look and to my surprise, Devika was roaming, sorry, cleaning around, with a door mat stuck at its back. I paused the device, removed the mat and any other small mats in the area to be cleaned.
I resumed it operations and went back to bed.
45 minutes later, I received a strange error notification on my mobile.
It was like a SOS sent from Devika, who got stuck under the bed. She got entrapped among small toys, declared missing since ages!
The day she was powered off by a car
One day while I was at my desk, working quietly, I realized that I could not hear the Vacuum Mop P cleaning anymore. Just as any other vacuum cleaner, the device makes quite some noise (under normal settings). I walked to the main area : No sight of the device. Took my mobile, loaded the map and as per the latest updates, I could see her location. She was under one of the cars of the kids, powered off! I took her out and noticed that she now had a scar! In fact, when she went cleaning under that car, her power button got pressed by something under the car, at the same time causing a deep scratch.
Damn! From that day, I always position the car differently so that she can’t go beneath it. And that is one of the reasons why I manually trigger it after walking a bit around the rooms, making sure nothing bad is on its way.
Lost while manually triggering a custom cleaning region
While she was returning to her charging dock after having completed the cleaning, I used the app to pause the action and I immediately scheduled a custom cleaning of a specific area on the map. When I resumed the device’s operation, she started to move randomly around the house, unable to get to that area to be cleaned. I used the app to instruct her to return to her dock instead but in vain. She seemed lost, unable to find her way.
Once your vacuum mop robot has mapped your house, it expects to find the obstacles (same chairs, your kitchen bin, your children stuffs) and walls at exactly the same position. (btw, without kidding, some models have some 3D sensors which can really predict which objects are found around them).
It did happen twice or thrice, that we noticed the device drawing another map, on top of the saved one. This usually happens when in some area of the house, something was positioned differently. You can usually locate the source of this issue by observing the region the map goes beserk. The best thing is to clear the map and let it regenerate a new map based on updated data.
In these cases, the device will not be able to return to its dock and since the map layout has changed, it will desperately try to move around, probably going over same places a few times.
We love Devika. She has impressed us with her skills. For the first days, Dhaneesha did a strict quality control after each cleaning, leaving her speechless. Totally worth the investment. However, only time will tell how long it will last and whether the investment is profitable over that period of time.
But at least, we barely use our “balier fatak” to sweep our ground floor now. A huge time gain! Since I mainly work from home, I use the app to trigger the device daily once the kids (and the wife) are away from the house. I still prefer triggering it manually as prior the cleaning, I need to pick up toys, put the kids bikes and cars in their garage.
I tried the mopping only once. It does work as advertised but we still prefer to do the mopping manually whenever needed. Also, I read that it is not advisable to use cleaning detergents into the device. The mopping-only mode is very silent and it uses less battery since the vacuum itself is off.
Now, Dhaneesha has a dream : Get a sister (or a brother, as you wish) for Devika, docking him/her on the first floor… Did you hear that Santa Claus?