Earning our Best Buy on a Tight Budget Award, the Ecovacs Deebot N79S is our favorite option when you aren't looking to spend a ton of cash and absolutely have to have a robot vacuum. It definitely doesn't do a terribly amazing job at cleaning, but does do surprisingly well at navigating your home and has a decent set of smart features and functions, all for around $250.
Ecovacs Deebot N79S Review
Pros: Inexpensive, decent set of smart features
Cons: Mediocre cleaning abilities, poor at picking up pet hair
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Our Analysis and Test Results
While this robot did finish towards the bottom of the pack, right behind the Shark ION Robot and ahead of the Eufy RoboVac 11+, it still is the best option when shopping on a tight budget. True, it didn't totally impress at cleaning and is realistically only really capable of cleaning a room, but retails for over $500 less than the top models.
To determine which robot vacuums are really worth your money, we bought all of the best and brightest products available on the market today and pitted them against each other in a series of head-to-head challenges to choose our winners. We grouped our tests into six weighted metrics, with the results of the Deebot N79S discussed below.
Responsible for the largest portion of the overall score at 30%, proper navigation skills are a key attribute for a great robot vacuum. We filled a single room with simulated furniture, then evaluated how proficiently each robot traveled through it. Additionally, we also scored how quickly each robot could locate its dock, as well as if it could travel under low furniture and traverse high-contrast flooring without inadvertently triggering any of its obstacle avoidance sensors. The Ecovacs did surprisingly well, solidly holding its own with other models that cost substantially more and earning a 6 out of 10 for its results.
This robot was quite haphazard in its navigation throughout the furnished room, though it never got stuck.
However, its semi-random method of navigation meant that it could be stuck for a long time in the more confined areas of the room and would get hung up under just about every piece of furniture. However, it would always eventually extricate itself, given enough time.
Unfortunately, it is a little finicky about finding its docking station. It will find it right away if it is in the same room, but it can struggle a bit with finding it when it is in a different room. This isn't too much of a problem, as the Ecovacs isn't terribly suitable for cleaning multiple rooms, as it just bounces around, rather than systematically cleaning.
This robot wasn't affected by the higher contrast flooring and easily drove under the lowest of the simulated furniture in our tests.
Rather than judging how well each robot handled wending its way past the various pieces of furniture and other obstacles in your home, our Home Coverage metric assessed how much of your floor each robot actually cleaned, as some were prone to skipping large swaths of your floor if they detected too much clutter. We also evaluated the spot clean capabilities of each robot, as well as if they could handle multiple rooms and the effectiveness of the barrier system, if there is one. These all combine to account for 20% of the total score, with the Ecovacs delivering a slightly below average performance, meriting a 4 out of 10 for its results.
This model did a relatively lackluster job at cleaning our furnished room, overcleaning some areas and failing to hit others. It's really hit or miss in its cleaning, meaning that you have to run the vacuum for a very long time to get adequate coverage.
The Ecovacs has an average spot clean function, covering an area of about 12.5 sq. ft.
Unfortunately, this robot doesn't have any barrier systems and isn't really set up for multiple rooms and won't automatically recharge and resume cleaning if the battery dies while it is cleaning.
The Ecovacs also delivered a relatively uninspiring performance in our carpet cleaning tests, earning another 4 out of 10 for its substandard results. We tested this robot on both low-pile, flat carpet and medium-pile, fluffy carpet, using a variety of different types of typical household messes to see how the vacuum dealt with fine, medium, and large debris. We also used our robot pen to see how close the Ecovacs could clean along a wall and in the corners of the room. Altogether, these tests count for 15% of the overall score.
This robot didn't get off to a great start, failing to clean terribly close to the edges of our testing enclosure, leaving a strip about 4" wide along the edges of the pen and a debris over 6" away from the corners. Additionally, while the main extractor visually picked up all of the coffee grounds that we spread out, you could feel tons of leftover grains if you ran your hand across it.
This robot continued its poor performance in our flour test, delivering one of the worst performances of the entire group.
However, it did rebound in our rice collection test on the flat carpet, only leaving about ⅛ of a teaspoon behind. It didn't do quite as well on the fluffy carpet, leaving about twice as much rice, but it still did quite well overall. The performance dropped a little in the oat test, with the Ecovacs getting most of the flakes on the flat carpet, but missing quite a few on the fluffier carpet.
This robot finished out with a rather disappointing performance in the final test for this metric, being quite hit or miss when it came to collecting mini-wheats on both types of carpet.
Hard Surface Cleaning
This metric is also responsible for 15% of the entire score, similar to the soft floor cleaning metric. We repeated all of the tests from our carpet cleaning metric, using a section of laminate floor to replace the carpet. The Ecovacs Deebot N79S didn't do amazingly well, again earning a 4 out of 10.
This robot again left a sizeable border along the edges of the wall, measuring about 4" across and the same wedges in each corner of the testing pen of each size.
For our flour test, the Ecovacs was again a bit of a disappointment. While this robot appeared to clean the floor acceptably well, we discovered that it didn't actually collect very much of flour at all, merely squeegeeing it around and accumulating it under the robot.
Performance improved for the rice test, though not by too much, with the Ecovacs only doing a mediocre job on the whole. The rotating brushes sprayed a non-trivial amount of rice to the side, but the Ecovacs definitely collected the vast majority.
It did a little better with oats, flinging less of them around.
This robot's performance again plummeted in our final test for this metric, failing to collect any of the mini-wheats in our test.
Next, we judged how well each robot vacuum collected pet hair, using a kind donation from a local dog groomer. This metric accounts for 10% of the total score, with the test being done on both flat and fluffy carpet. The Ecovacs struggled with this test, meriting a 2 out of 10 for its poor performance.
This robot only collected about 13% of the hair on the flat carpet and about 7.5% from the fluffier carpet.
For the final 10% of the total score, we ranked and scored the different smart features available for each robot vacuum. The Ecovacs did surprisingly well, earning a 6 out of 10 for its solid set of smart features.
This robot stayed connected very reliably to wifi throughout the duration of our tests, never requiring us to restart the app or delete and reset the connection. Unfortunately, the app isn't terribly useful, only allowing you to locate the robot, drive it remotely and adjust the suction power, as well as track the life of accessories. You can also set a schedule there.
This robot also includes a handheld remote to control the robot, where you can initiate a full or spot clean, send it home, or adjust the schedule. There are also some buttons right on the robot for rudimentary controls.
It also is compatible with the Alexa smart home system.
This robot is an exceptional value, offering the best performance you can get without spending over $300.
All in all, the Ecovacs is by far the best option if you absolutely must buy one of these products and are shopping on a tight budget, though don't expect too much from it when it comes to cleaning performance or navigational abilities.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer