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iLife A4 Review

The iLife A4.
Price:   $250 List | $209.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Quiet, inexpensive
Cons:  Poor at cleaning pet hair, carpets, hard floors
Bottom line:  Better than nothing at cleaning, but is one of the best to get for non-cleaning purposes, e.g, mobile DJ or cat transportation vehicle
Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 
Manufacturer:   iLife

Our Verdict

The least expensive of all the models that we reviewed, the iLife A4 was also the lowest performing. This model does well at cleaning corners and edges with its dual rotating brushes, and is easy to use, but these were the only two metrics that it really excelled at. This model was average or below in all of the other cleaning metrics, as well as in room navigation.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Robot Vacuums of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
David Wise and Austin Palmer

Last Updated:
Friday
February 10, 2017

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While initially excited by such an inexpensive and reasonably well-regarded vacuum, this model fell a little short when compared to the other models in our testing process. This model is the quietest out of the bunch, so it might be something to consider if you need the most discreet robot vacuum available, and are willing to sacrifice some performance for a low-noise solution that won't break the bank.

Performance Comparison


The chart below shows the overall score for this vacuum. It wasn't the highest that we have tested.


Keep reading for a comprehensive look at what the iLife did well, where it faltered, and how it did compared to the competitors.

The iLife A4.
The iLife A4.

room Navigation


This model did about average in our room navigation tests, earning a 5 out of 10. To evaluate this, we looked at how this model dealt with specific obstacles, such as cords, thresholds, and shoelaces, as well as how it did cleaning multiple rooms and at navigating around an average sized room filled with furniture. All in all, this model is primarily suited for an small, single room to clean, with hit or miss performance on large areas or multiple rooms. This robot tends to miss areas, or overly-concentrate on specific spots unless given an exceptionally long time to clean, as seen in the photo below.

The iLife neglected the lower right of the room  instead cleaning the upper left over and over again.
The iLife neglected the lower right of the room, instead cleaning the upper left over and over again.

The iLife A4 is similar to the roomba 650, where it tends to try and power through an obstacle, rather than immediately giving an error. This model managed to power past thicker cords like a shoelace, but became tangled up and blocked on smaller strings, like what you would find on a tasseled rug or on a smaller blind cord. This board also cleared an average threshold easily, giving it the ability to move from room to room in your house.

However, this doesn't mean that the iLife A4 will actually go clean other parts of your house, especially not in a timely manner. While other models map out your house as they go, this model does much more of a random cleaning style, where it will bounce around cleaning and can escape when trapped, but won't clean in a systematic way. This means that it might eventually wander into other rooms to clean, or it might not.

The semi-random path of the iLife misses significantly more than the systematic models did in the same amount of time.
The semi-random path of the iLife misses significantly more than the systematic models did in the same amount of time.

However, for having such a haphazard style of navigation, this model does a surprisingly good job at escaping cluttered sections of furniture, as shown by the video below.



Carpet Cleaning


We spread out oatmeal, Mini-Wheats, flour and rice across a variety of different carpets, both low and medium-pile to assess how well the iLife actually vacuumed, scoring on how much debris was collected properly and how the carpet looked before and after. Unfortunately, the iLife fell quite short in this test, earning a 3 out of 10 — the lowest score of the group.

The iLife was proficient at picking up rice.
The iLife was proficient at picking up rice.

This model did a good job picking up rice on low-pile carpet, but noticeably struggled when it came to the fluffier, medium-pile carpet, leaving behind a decent amount of rice in the deeper crevices of the carpet. This model also solidly struggled at collecting flour, with it barely looking like the robot had even made a cleaning pass on the fluffy carpet.

The iLife  ready to clean!
Wait  did it even try and clean this?
 

The iLife failed our large particles test, and did not pick up any Mini-Wheats, and capped this all off with a mediocre performance at vacuuming oatmeal, leaving a decent amount behind.

The iLife  like many other models  was not proficient at collecting Mini-Wheats.
The iLife, like many other models, was not proficient at collecting Mini-Wheats.

Hard Surface Cleaning


We performed a similar set of tests on hard surface flooring types, and while the iLife did a little better than it did on carpet, it still had an overall subpar performance, earning a 4 out of 10. The dual rotating brushes set this model apart, but this feature proved to be a bit of a double-edged sword, as the brushes were just as likely to sweep debris into the main extractor of the vacuum….or fling it across the room.

The iLife has dual rotating brushes  a unique feature.
The iLife has dual rotating brushes, a unique feature.

This bot did alright at collecting flour and Cheerios, only flinging a few pieces of cereal away with the side brushes. However, the oatmeal cleaning test was a bit of an unmitigated disaster, the oats being flung to all corners of the room. It also struggled a little with the Mini-Wheats, but it did eventually manage to pick 1 out of 4 up after riding it around on the floor for a while.

Corners and Edges


One of the two categories that the iLife did better than average in, this robot cleaned up when it came to hugging edges and getting in the tightest corners, deserving a 6 out of 10. We used a testing pen to confine the robots, and then compared their effectiveness at cleaning up debris with before and after photos.

Ready to start the hardwood edge cleaning test!
Not bad  iLife  not bad at all.
 

This model performed the best at collecting flour spread on a hard floor, but it still managed to spread a decent amount of flour around and drag it along, rather than collecting it in the bin. The iLife's performance fell a little bit on the carpeted version of this test, as we noticed that the brushes got a little hung up on the carpet, and didn't always reach the edge.

Can the iLife match its hardwood performance?
....that'll do iLife  that'll do.
 

The twin brushes did capture some of the rice spread on the edges, but also flung a non-trivial amount away, both on hard floors and carpet.

Pet Hair


One of the banes of having furry friends in the house is the accumulations of hair that seem to end up all over the place. We used some donated pet hair to see how the iLife handled picking it up on hard surfaces, as well as short and fluffy carpet. The results were a little disheartening, with this model earning a poor score of 2 out of 10. While it did alright at picking up pet hair off of hard floors, it showed an abysmal performance at collecting pet hair off of carpet. Practically none of the hair was removed from the carpet, and of the tiny amount that was picked up, none actually made it inside the extractor bin, with the majority being trapped on the brush.

Is there even a brush under all that trapped hair?
Is there even a brush under all that trapped hair?

Ease of Use


This robot is decently easy to use, scoring above average with a 6 out of 10. This model comes with a remote, and most of the functionality is tied to that, from starting a spot clean to setting a cleaning schedule.

The iLife included a handy remote for controlling the vacuum and setting a schedule.
The iLife included a handy remote for controlling the vacuum and setting a schedule.

You do lose the schedule if you cycle power on the device, but there aren't many settings to adjust and cleaning can be initiated by a single button. Routine maintenance is also easy enough, emptying the bin after each use, washing the filter every 15-30 days and replacing it every 6 months.

Value


While this robot vacuum didn't perform as well as the high end models, it does cost about a third as much, making it a great value for those on a tight budget.

Conclusion


This model is a clear example of "you get what you pay for", with it being the least expensive and lowest performing. This model is exceptionally quiet, and could handle a single, relatively uncluttered room well - especially one that doesn't have a routinely huge mess (think kids or pets), but if you are looking at cleaning a whole home that gets decently messy, you might want to consider upgrading.
David Wise and Austin Palmer

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