Robot vacuum cleaners aren't quite as attractive a proposition as they once were. The slow crawl back to normalcy has seen many of us go back to the traditional ways of keeping our homes clean. However, there's no denying the impact of the product segment, and indeed the utility of having a secondary cleaning tool at your disposal. Among the many brands in the segment is Ecovacs, which is a specialist in the space and focuses on robotic cleaning devices across various price segments.
A recent launch by Ecovacs, the Deebot N8 Pro is the product I'm reviewing here. Priced at Rs. 36,900 on Amazon, and compatible with the optional Rs. 17,900 Auto Empty Station, the Deebot N8 Pro promises a more hands-off approach to home cleaning, without having to spend too much. Is it everything it promises, or are more expensive alternatives from brands such as iRobot more capable at the job? Find out in this review.
The Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro has two sweeping brushes, in addition to a separate, removable mop fitting
The idea of the self-emptying docking station for robot vacuum cleaners isn't new, with iRobot being a notable name in the segment with this technology. Where the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro hopes to separate itself from the competition is in its pricing and capabilities. The N8 Pro offers both vacuum cleaning and mopping capabilities, while the optional Auto Empty Station handles the task of keeping the on-device dustbin clean.
All of this comes at a combined cost of Rs. 54,800, which is a fair bit more affordable than the iRobot Roomba j7+. The Auto Empty Station comes with two disposable dust bags included in the box, and you can purchase more as needed. Each 2.5L dust bag is rated to allow for up to 30 days of dirt disposal before needing to be replaced.
Apart from serving to empty the on-device dustbin, the Auto Empty Station also doubles up as the charging dock for the robot, which is able to drive up and park itself in place with no assistance from the user. It is expectedly large in order to accommodate the suction mechanism, and has a nifty lid at the top to access and replace the dust bag, as required.
The Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro is like much of the competition in terms of design, with a disc-like shape, a module up top for the laser navigation hardware, and two sweeping brushes at the front, in addition to the main roller brush in the vacuum zone. At the top is the power button (although it doesn't control the power, as such) and a lid, under which, are the on-device dust bin, Wi-Fi connection button, and sliding power switch that actually powers the N8 Pro on or off.
The device is available in a single white colour option for now, and has a flexible bumper at the front to handle slight bumps and collisions with furniture and other objects at home. The back has a large slot area for the mop fitting to be attached; interestingly, the device works in vacuum mode even with this fitting not attached, although the device admittedly looked strangely hollow when operating this way.
Two disposable dust bags come included with the Auto Empty Station
Included in the sales package of the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro are the standard (and much smaller) charging dock and power cable, mopping plate and replacement mopping pads, and the brushes to fix onto the robot. The Auto Empty Station comes with two dust bags, a power cable, and its own on-device dustbin. This will need to be fixed into the N8 Pro for it to work with the Auto Empty Station, since it has the openings for the suction mechanism which the regular dust bin does not have.
Many cleaning robots, including the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro, use laser-based LIDAR to navigate; it's widely considered the most accurate technology available on mainstream consumer-grade devices in this product segment. This also means that while the device has a fairly limited ‘field of vision' in the traditional sense, it is capable of seeing all that it needs to both, in well-lit conditions as well as in the dark.
Ecovacs additionally touts its TrueDetect 3D and TrueMapping technology, which are said to make the device a bit more effective at navigation. I didn't often have trouble with navigation on the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro, with the cleaning robot able to move around my home fairly easily and avoid heavy collisions with furniture and walls. In fact, in most cases, the N8 Pro was able to stop short of touching any obstacles, and only once partially drove over a minor ‘cliff' and got stuck.
Mapping was accurate for the large part with the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro. Room markings and divisions were well established, rugs were automatically detected and factored into the cleaning tasks, and small changes to the layout (such as moving furniture such as chairs and coffee tables around) didn't hassle the device too much. The map is also quick to respond to more permanent changes in the layout; changing the position of the dock didn't create any navigational or mapping issues, fortunately.
Although the difference in speed of movement is not very significant as compared to options such as the 360 S7, the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro was somewhat slower to get around and complete cleaning tasks, particularly when moving between rooms. The lack of pace wasn't inconvenient, but it wasn't particularly convenient either.
The Ecovacs Home app is used to manage and control the Deebot N8 Pro, as well as the functionality of the Auto Empty Station, when the robot is properly docked in place. The app is available on Android and iOS, and can be simultaneously logged in and used on multiple devices with the same account and device. You can also set the app up for use with Google Assistant and Alexa, with voice commands for limited controls over the device.
The setup process is fairly simple and took around ten minutes to complete for me. The app allows you to manage multiple homes and robots (if you have multiple Ecovacs devices across locations). Once complete, the home screen of the app shows basic details, including the connectivity and battery status of the robot, and lets you either quickly start an auto cleaning task or instruct the Deebot N8 Pro to return to the charging dock.
The app for the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro is available for both iOS and Android
There is also a Smart Cleaning section, which is where the majority of the app's functionality can be found. This includes the map (with real-time positioning and cleaning progress of the robot visible even during tasks), cleaning statistics and preferences, and map customisation settings for things such as virtual walls and no-go zones visible at the front. You can also set preferences for the Auto Empty Station, TrueDetect 3D obstacle avoidance, and scheduling for automatic operation, among other things.
The app is fairly detailed, and provides much control over the operation of the Deebot N8 Pro. It worked reliably even with heavy use, although I did notice some bugs with the map generation and connectivity on a couple of occasions. This is among the better apps I've used when it comes to cleaning robots, striking the right balance between simplicity and detailed controls.
Unlike the iRobot Roomba j7+, the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro can sweep, vacuum, and mop simultaneously. This makes it a more complete cleaning device, given that all of the functionality (along with the self-cleaning features) are available for much less than what the iRobot suite of products will cost you.
Indeed, the Ecovacs Deebot N8 more closely compares with my current top pick in the cleaning robot space, the 360 S7, but with the notable difference being compatibility with the rather sensibly priced Auto Empty Station. This does give it a bit of and edge in the overall comparison since it makes maintenance a lot easier, but you do need to keep in mind the fairly high cost of the dust bags and consumable parts on the Ecovacs products.
Comparing the cleaning performance of the two devices, the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro is a bit more powerful than the 360 S7 on paper, with a rated peak suction power of 2,600pa. However, this level of power is only attained when using the very noisy and power consuming ‘Max+' power setting in the app; the more reasonable power modes aren't quite as capable when it comes to vacuum cleaning. I often had to run the device twice over the same area to get a truly clean floor.
Mopping performance was similar — it usually took two runs to do what most other devices would be able to do in one. As mentioned earlier, the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro also moves a fair bit slower than competing devices, and thus takes a while longer to complete the task.
You'll need to attach the special dustbin to the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro if you intend to use it with the Auto Empty Station
It usually took around 40 minutes to clean my 900 square-foot home once over, and if I ran the device twice and split vacuum cleaning and mopping in different runs, it took around two hours of use per day to get the job done. This is fine if you have the time or plan to run the device on a schedule or remotely when you're away, but can be a bit disruptive (and loud) if you're at home while the Deebot N8 Pro is cleaning.
The Auto Empty Station can be set to automatically clean the dustbin after every task, but I preferred to operate this manually instead, which was as simple as tapping a button on the app when the robot was docked. The suction mechanism of the Auto Empty Station is quite loud, and runs for a few seconds to clean out the on-device dustbin. While much of the dust and dirt was removed, a little bit always seemed to remain in place until manually brushed out every couple of weeks.
The dust bag is rated for 30 days of use, but this naturally depends on the conditions of specific homes and can vary a fair bit based on the usage. I didn't have to change the dust bag during my time with the Deebot N8 Pro (a little less than 30 days in total), so it's likely to last for as long as the company claims, or perhaps even a bit longer.
Ecovacs doesn't mention the battery capacity on the Deebot N8 Pro, but the cleaning robot does have a fairly capable battery that can handle cleaning large spaces or making multiple cleaning runs on a single charge. I was able to vacuum clean my entire home once, followed by a mopping run with the vacuum on silent mode, with the battery level dropping to around 35 percent after this. Two simultaneous vacuum runs would leave around a 20 percent charge remaining.
This is pretty good, suggesting that the device could cover around 2,000 square feet in one go. As with competing devices, the Deebot N8 Pro is able to pause its current task to return to charge if the battery is low, and resume where it left off once charged up again. Charging with the Auto Empty Station took around three hours from the 20 percent level, suggesting that it would take perhaps four hours in total to charge a completely drained battery.
Ecovacs has been around in India for a while now, but the Deebot N8 Pro puts it firmly on the radar as one of the more noteworthy options that is worth considering. This is largely because of its compatibility with the Auto Empty Station, which makes this among the more affordable options with this functionality that you can purchase right now. A good companion app, decent navigational abilities, and good battery life help as well.
Perhaps the only drawback on the Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro is the somewhat underwhelming cleaning performance, which compels you to run it multiple times to achieve the same cleaning effect as some competing products. This isn't a massive setback though, and it might even be worth giving the device the extra time it takes since post-cleaning maintenance is reduced thanks to the Auto Empty Station. On the whole, the Deebot N8 Pro and Auto Empty Station are well worth considering for the value proposition and overall feature set on offer.
Price: Rs. 36,900 (Deebot N8 Pro), Rs. 17,900 (Auto Empty Station)
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