Battle Of The Cleaning Robots: iRobot Braava 380T Vs. Deebot Ozmo 601
It’s funny how the path of ascendance for Chinese tech upstarts seem to always involve competing with an American product with a lower-cased “I” in its name. In the smartphone world, Huawei, Xiaomi and Vivo are ultimately competing with the iPhone more than they are against each other; and in the world of robot cleaners, Suzhou-based Ecovacs Robotics’ rapid rise means its products are constantly being compared with those from Massachusetts-based iRobot.
During an online search for the best robot cleaners, iRobot and Ecovacs–respectively the number one and two in global sales–will almost certainly top most lists. In fact, the tech website Wirecutter (a Forbes partner) last year picked from a selection of top entry-level robot cleaners and Ecovacs’ Deebot N79 came out on top, with iRobot’s Roomba 690 as runner-up.
Since then, Ecovacs has released a new robot mopping machine–the Deebot Ozmo 601–that is meant to take on iRobot’s best-selling Braava 380T. Ecovacs loaned me a unit to review, but since my friend has raved about her Braava 380T for months, I opted for a comparison of both models.
First, let’s look at the design. The Ozmo 601’s design follows Ecovacs’ previous robot cleaners, in that it’s a circular device measuring around 13-inches in diameter. It has a V-shaped brush and two rotating fan-like brushes at the bottom. iRobot’s Braava 380T, meanwhile, has a blocky design without the brushes — in fact, it only has wheels and the mop head on the bottom for a relatively simple base. It’s also a bit smaller in size.
The Braava requires a separate small box-shaped device which iRobot calls “NorthStar” navigation system to help the Braava scan and track the room. Meanwhile, Ozmo 601 uses a built-in infrared sensor to navigate its surroundings.
Both units come with microfiber cloths for mopping, but the Braava has an advantage in that it can use third-party Swiffer-style cloths while the Ozmo can only use Ecovacs’ own line of clothes.
For the first test we purposely spilled some tea on dusty tile floors and set both machines loose. It’s worth noting that the Ozmo can be turned on and controlled with an app or the included remote control, while the Braava must be turned on manually by pressing a button on the machine’s body. Once on though, both machines soaked up the tea and wiped the dust considerably, though it’s worth noting that the Braava operates much quieter. The Ozomo wasn’t loud by any means — just not whisper quiet like the Braava.
Because the Braava has that dedicated room-mapping box, it was able to move more swiftly and knew exactly when and where to turn compared to the Ozomo which scans the room in real time and moves at a more deliberate pace. Both were able to reach under the couch, but neither are safe from getting tangled by cords and smartphone charging cables.
For the second test, we placed cracker crumbs with some dog hair on the floor, and this is where the Ozmo’s additional vacuuming feature makes the difference. As you can see in the video below, the Braava acted more like a plow truck than a cleaner, pushing crumbs into a corner. This is somewhat helpful, making it easy to scoop up the crumbs later, but the Ozmo managed to suck up the crumbs leaving much less manual work for the user. The Braava’s cloth also wasn’t too adept at picking up the stray dog hair. Perhaps this is why the Ecovacs insists we use the company’s own cloth.
Neither could clean the minor grout that has a tendency to occupy the space between floor tiles. These robot cleaners can help maintain cleanliness, but if you’re the type to walk around your house in shoes, you can’t expect either the Deebot or the Braava to work magic.
Overall, the Deebot Ozmo 601 is a more up-to-date robot cleaner that fits into the current IoT/Smart Home buzz — you can control the Ozmo 601 away from home via an app, and it can return to its charging dock automatically while the Braava cannot.
But iRobot’s Braava 380T, at $ 299, is $ 100 cheaper than Deebot’s offering, and it takes up less space in the home, not just because it’s smaller but because it docks vertically.