Review: EcoVac's new Deebot T9 Plus robot-vacuum a beloved pet that cleans as it goes - but with a few issues

robot vac review
The Deebot T9+ is less like a personal cleaner, and more like the best kind of household pet. Photo credit: Newshub.

Even amid a series of online horror stories regarding pet 'poopocalypses' or the eating of a woman's hair, the idea of an automatic robot vacuum has always appealed to me .

Vacuuming is one of my least favourite household tasks, even while using my beloved Dyson - the hallmark of millennial success. 

But while I've been biding my time, many different robotic vacuums have been flooding the market. Anecdotally, Roomba is probably the best known brand in New Zealand, but Roborock, Eufy's RoboVac and EcoVac also all come with solid reviews. 

EcoVac actually claims to be the world's leading home service robotics maker and recently announced the sale of its 20 millionth robot vacuum. 

This month it launched its flagship Deebot T9 Plus in NZ - the first in the range to have a built-in air freshener, an auto empty station, and a range of technologies in mapping, mopping and obstacle avoidance.

I've been trying the T9 for a couple of weeks now and here are my thoughts. 

The good

The main drawcard of the T9 can probably be applied to any robot vacuum, but as it's my first, bear with me while I wax lyrical about it.

Even a few weeks of use has not dulled the novelty of being able to order a small, robotic vacuum cleaner - named Greg, in my case, after my favourite Succession character - to clean my home, no matter where I am in the city. 

It is truly a sign of the modern times and coming home to sparkling floors is what I imagine it must feel like to have a cleaner - except one you don't have to do a panicked clean up before they arrive. 

Upon setup, the T9 runs an initial mapping roam of the house, evaluating large obstacles to avoid - think kitchen islands, coffee tables, lamps and other permanent fixtures. It figures out which floors are carpeted and which are hard, and can even distinguish between separate rooms. 

The Deebot T9+ and it's handy charging station.
The Deebot T9+ and it's handy charging station. Photo credit: Newshub.

All of this builds a map of your house which is then stored in the machine for its future knowledge. The mapping process does have a few weak spots - more on that later. 

But no matter your household surface, the T9 has got it covered.

For our upstairs carpeted areas, the air freshener attachment meant not only were the carpets vacuumed - even under the bed which normally can't be reached - they were also left with a pleasant, fresh scent. 

For our downstairs 'hardwood' (vinyl) flooring, I just clicked on the attached mopping plate, which uses an oscillator and water to mop the floors as it vacuums. 

I'm a human with the power of a brain and ambidextrous hands, and I can't mop while I vacuum, so colour me impressed. 

If, like my mum, you're particularly concerned that a robotic vacuum can't "reach the corners", the T9 comes with rotating brush attachments that whir at high speed 'catching' dust and debris along the wall and in corners, blowing it into its path so they can be sucked up. 

This sounds a bit creepy, like Greg is a dust eating monster; to be honest, it does look a bit creepy, but it is no doubt very effective. 

The map can be tracked on your phone no matter where you are, with separate rooms clarified by colour.
The map can be tracked on your phone no matter where you are, with separate rooms clarified by colour. Photo credit: Newshub.

The whole cleaning period can be tracked on your Ecovac app, so even if you're out at work or coffee you can monitor on your phone and see the areas that have been cleaned so far. This is particularly satisfying to check because the map gives you the real time tracked path your vacuum is taking. 

Upon cleaning completion, the T9 returns to its little bed - sorry, charging station - and automatically empties into the dust bag. 

Honestly, I've wanted a dog for a very long time and Greg the T9 fills that void - at least a little while I continue to wear my partner down. It is actually like having a little pet that roams around the house but instead of making a mess, it cleans it up. 

At times I found myself talking to the T9: Greeting it as it oscillated around my feet in the office, or apologising with an "excuse me" if I had to step over it to make a coffee.

Please note it is now week nine of Auckland's lockdown - I make no apologies for talking to my vacuum cleaner. 

The bad

All that excitement that comes with having a new pet? The T9 brings much of the nuisance with it too. Despite its mapping feature, it has a tendency to get lost or confused. 

After it had mapped our carpeted second floor I set it to do its thing, first making sure all pesky cords (which it has a tendency to munch up) off the ground, clothes on bed, shoes out of far flung corners etc.

Once I was satisfied I 'set and forget' it to go work downstairs - only to get a panicked alert on my app 10 minutes later that the Deebot was tangled and needed rescuing. 

I raced upstairs to find Greg in my previously closed wardrobe, tangled in a shirt and beeping pitifully at me to help.

"How did you get in there?" I scolded it before detangling, setting it outside and shutting the door firmly. 

But just like a nughty puppy he doesn't learn quickly - not five minutes later I found it banging away at the wardrobe door, desperate to get back in. 

vacuum eating clothes in my wardrobe
That's a brand new Superette blouse, Greg.... Photo credit: Newshub.

So no, it's not quite the dreamy, relaxing vibe you think having an automatic vacuum might be.   

Despite its impressive object avoidance technologies, it will try to eat whatever cords it comes across, meaning it's important to do a scan of the area first. 

It also has a tendency to take a slightly manic route around the house. There were a lot of bizarre diagonal shortcuts taken that meant it had to come back and clean the same spot minutes later. But hey, if you're at work, you won't notice any of that. 

The verdict

If you're looking to lessen your household load, the T9 is a stunning choice of robotic vacuum, despite the issues described above. The app is pretty intuitive, the technology is impressive and it's an efficient way to keep the house tidy. It's not going to replace an hour's hard work with an Electrolux, steam mop and some elbow grease, but it's not meant to. 

Instead, its a great way to lessen the load furing a workday, and come back to an abode much more spick and span than the one you left. 

And at the very least, if your kids or partner are begging for a pet, stick some little ears on it and let it fill the void. It will become part of the family in no time. 

Newshub was supplied an Ecovac Deebot T9 for this review.