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Dyson 360 Vis Nav robot vacuum review: High on suction, low on features

Do you hate vacuuming? Do you like purple? Do you have $1,200? Then do I have a product for you. The Dyson 360 Vis Nav is a robot sweeper that looks like no other and, in some respects, vacuums like no other. Unfortunately, it’s also priced that way. That’s not a huge surprise; Dyson products have always fetched a premium, and I understand why: For the most part they’re fantastic. But with other robot vacs selling for as little as $100, and some adding mopping to the mix for just a little more, can this one justify such an exorbitant premium? (Spoiler alert: No.) Here’s my Dyson 360 Vis Nav review.

Rick Broida/Yahoo News

VERDICT: Even if you can afford it, the Dyson 360 Vis Nav isn’t a smart buy. While it does an admirable job sucking up dirt, it’s quite limited overall. Hard on the decor, too.

Pros

  • Distinctive, futuristic looks…
  • Easy-to-empty dustbin…
  • Considerable suction power…
  • Dyson app makes operation easy, especially setting up cleaning zones
Cons

  • …but also an eyesore
  • …but no self-emptying dock
  • …but no mop
  • Can get very loud
  • Short battery life
  • Insanely expensive
  • Tiny dustbin needs to be emptied often

$1,200 at Amazon

First things first: This is a vacuum and only a vacuum; it doesn’t mop, a feature you now find in every cleaner priced over $1,000 (and plenty priced below). What’s more, it doesn’t have a self-emptying dock for its dustbin, something that’s also a staple in even budget-priced robo-vacs. (Example: The Eufy L60, currently selling for $300.)

Assuming you’re still here after that bombshell, let’s talk about the Vis Nav’s design. The vast majority of robot vacuums are black or white, and most are circular as well. The glossy purple Vis Nav is shaped more like a letter D, with its roller brush on prominent display in the front (much like on an upright vac).

A close-up of the Dyson 360 Vis Nav connected to its charging dock.

As if the Dyson 360 Vis Nav wasn’t ostentatious enough already, there’s a weird placard affixed to the back of the dock. Maybe the checkered-flag symbols are supposed to add to the race-car theme? (Rick Broida/Yahoo News)

It’s really cool-looking, no question; very futuristic and sports car-like. The embedded silver dustbin reminds me of something you’d see under the hood of a vintage roadster. But the Vis Nav sticks out like a sore thumb in my house, and it’s entirely possible someone who lives here remarked, “What is that doing here? It’s not staying, is it?”

Not that other robot vacuums are especially attractive, but I can envision a lot of objections to this color. Not helping matters: The dock requires you to attach a weird placard to the backside (maybe to help with return navigation?), adding another weird and unappealing visual element to the setup.

At least actual setup is quite easy, starting with an illustrated first-steps guide. As with most such products, you plug in the dock (making sure to place it somewhere there’s a bit of space on either side), place the vacuum on it so it starts charging, then install the companion app on your phone.

That app, MyDyson, is excellent, one of the most straightforward and novice-friendly I’ve tried. It walks you through the remaining setup steps, culminating with a brief tutorial about getting your home ready for cleaning. Unfortunately, that includes things like removing any and all small items from the floor (cords, clothes, etc.), suggesting the Vis Nav isn’t smart enough to detect and navigate around them. More on that in a bit.

Once the robot performs an initial mapping of your space, you can designate individual rooms — nice if you want it to clean, say, just the kitchen after a marathon bread-making session has left flour all over the floor. Dyson’s app makes this “zoning” setup admirably easy, with a lot more handholding than you get from most vacuum apps and a lot less confusion overall. Just one shortcoming: You can’t spot-clean an individual area — say, just where the flour is. It’s an entire room or nothing.

Miscellaneous screenshots from the generally excellent MyDyson app.

Miscellaneous screenshots from the generally excellent MyDyson app. At left, the “heat map” showing where it detected the most dirt. Center: Choosing Boost mode means more power but multiple recharging sessions needed. Right: An error message resulting from an overloaded dustbin. But why didn’t it just say “empty dustbin”? (Rick Broida/Yahoo News)

The app also shows a “heat map” of where the Vis Nav encountered the most dust and debris during its last run. It looks really cool, and it informs where the robot will focus more cleaning efforts on subsequent runs, but it’s kind of superfluous data for the user. I’m reminded of Jerry Seinfeld’s response when the pilot announces everything he’s going to be doing during the flight: “Uh, yeah, fine. Just do whatever the hell it is you gotta do.”

The vacuum’s battery is good for around 65 minutes of cleaning, according to Dyson — definitely on the low side. Every other vacuum I’ve tested could cover the modestly sized main floor of my home without having to recharge; the Vis Nav had to return to the dock once to recharge.

To be fair, this ‘bot packs more suction power than most, though it’s a bit hard to quantify. Dyson doesn’t rely on the same Pa (Pascals) ratings as most other vacs; instead, the company indicates AW (Air Watts) power, in this case 65 AW. Dyson says that equates to “2x the suction of any other robot vacuum,” a pretty bold claim. To put that in perspective, the company’s V8 cordless vac offers 115 AW. That’s not to say the Vis Nav isn’t powerful, or more powerful than the competition, just that it’s beat by another Dyson product priced considerably less ($390 at this writing).

Dyson also promises 360-degree navigation bolstered by 26 sensors. I don’t know if it’s a fault of the hardware or the software, but during my initial cleaning run, the Vis Nav got stuck under an IKEA table. I’m really sick of robot vacuums that don’t know how tall they are and can’t gauge where they can fit. After I freed it from the table, I watched while it tried repeatedly to squeeze itself under it again. It didn’t get stuck again, thankfully, and eventually it gave up — until the next visit to this room, when it once again tried to get under the same table.

A photo of the Dyson Vis Nav getting stuck under an IKEA table.

The Vis Nav really wanted to get under this table, but it was just a hair too tall. If this robot has “visual navigation,” as its name suggests, why doesn’t it know its height limitations? (Rick Broida/Yahoo News)

On a subsequent cleaning, I tasked it with just the living room, which it polished off in just under 20 minutes. But afterward the app informed me the Vis Nav “needed attention,” which seemed odd given that it had successfully returned to the dock; it wasn’t stuck somewhere or snagged on a shoelace. The subsequent error message indicated a blockage, which I also found surprising given that it had only done one full cleaning and one small-ish room.

Turns out, the dustbin was full — like, really full. I’ve been spoiled by self-emptying robot vacs, which can go for weeks without needing dustbin attention. It’s a testament to the Vis Nav’s suction power that it collected so much dirt. But the comparatively tiny bin will need to be manually emptied after nearly every clean, and although it’s easy to do — slide it out, hold it over a trashcan, press an “eject” button — it gets to be a chore.

Once again, it’s all but inexcusable that Dyson would charge $1,200 for this machine and not include a self-emptying dock.

Meanwhile, the Vis Nav is noisy. I started off using Auto mode, which theoretically boosts suction where needed and reduces it where not. I get that a powerful vacuum is going to make noise, but it’s loud even when it’s just driving around, not actively vacuuming. There’s also a low-level grinding sound at times, to the point where I didn’t want to nearby the Vis Nav when it was running.

Other available cleaning modes include Quick, Quiet and Boost; I tried Quiet and it helped somewhat, but overall this is one of the noisier robot vacs I’ve tested.

That said, I can’t argue with results: It did a great job on carpets and rugs, and pretty well on hard floors. (I did occasionally find a few crumbs it missed.)

I come here not to bury Dyson, but to praise it: I’ve owned two of the company’s vacuums, a handheld and an upright, for over 14 years, and they’ve been flawless. I love them.

I do not love the 360 Vis Nav, despite it being one of the easiest robot vacuums to use and one of the most powerful (at least as evidenced by how much dirt it removed from my floors). I just can’t get past the price. It doesn’t empty itself. It doesn’t mop. It’s not smart enough to avoid simple obstacles like too-low tables and potentially ruinous ones like pet waste. And let me be blunt: It looks ridiculous. Cool, but ridiculous as a home appliance.

Would I feel differently if this had a price tag of, say, $600? I would, because then the disparity between this and other expensive robo-cleaners wouldn’t seem so large; I could more easily overlook the Vis Nav’s shortcomings. Dyson makes some incredible vacuums; this isn’t one of them.

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