If there’s one thing I've learned from passing cleaning duties over to a robot vac for a fortnight, it’s that we’re a long way from being ruled by an army of AI-powered overlords.
Don’t get me wrong, the Dyson 360 Eye is astonishingly smart for a vacuum cleaner, but it can still get confounded by a stray pair of undies. Learning to love this mothersucker means accepting its limitations - otherwise you’ll only end up frustrated that the future isn’t quite how you envisaged it.
Sadly, you’ll still have to reach for a regular vaccum, but only occasionally, and for a shorter amount of time than ever. It’s a real treat for the messy at heart, which is just as well considering the phenomenal price tag.
Design: ‘Eye, eye. Captain
Dyson prides itself on being a notch above everyone else when it comes to product design. That’s why the 360 Eye is the company's first robot vac, and has only turned up now - two whole decades since the company started working on the concept.
Is it worth the wait? Undoubtedly.
Taller, but significantly more compact than a Roomba, the 360 Eye actually works with a near-on identically sized cleaning area. While this round chunk of plastic is hardly a looker, it ain’t ugly either. Sat on its dock in the corner of your living room, it’s got the unmistakable air of something different and exciting.
As well as requesting the Wi-Fi code as soon as they walk through your front door, house guests are going to automatically ask, ‘Is that that a robot vacuum?’
It's a little more complicated than that, though. The 360 eye comes with one killer feature, and the clue's in the name. Dyson has slapped a 360-degree camera on the vac's head for seamless navigation around your house. With a constant grasp on all of its surroundings, the robot should be much less prone to being flummoxed by a table leg or the underside of your sofa.
The camera isn't the 360 Eye's only ace in the hole, either. It's also got a pair of frickin' tank tracks which have no trouble navigating over chunky carpets or dips in the floor, and Dyson’s famous cyclone tech for sucking up as much as gunk as possible. A serious amount of thought has gone into this vac.
Set-up: It’s all in the app
Disclosure time: we don’t spend a lot of time reviewing vacuums here at Stuff. With most weeks dropping the latest OnePlus or HTC Vive on our doorstep, the idea of assessing a Hoover for design and suction power isn’t all that appealing.
If, heaven forbid, we found ourselves testing vacs on the regular, the 360 Eye would still prove an almost entirely new challenge. You can’t just turn this thing on and check how much dust, dreck and hair it sucks up. Dyson could have stacked this thing to the nines with vacuuming tech, but if it can’t scoot around your home in a thorough fashion it’s near-on useless.
Spoiler alert: the 360 Eye has no such issue, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Before you can unleash it, you’ll need to set up the charging dock, connect it to your wi-fi and then.... Well, that’s it actually. The whole process takes less than two minutes as soon as you’ve chosen the correct position for your dock.
Think hard about this, because it’s actually the biggest stumbling block for the 360 Eye. The key to success? Don’t hide away your dock in a corner or tuck it behind a table. This robot finds its way home in part by scouting for the black and white markings on its A4-sized docking board. Naturally, it’ll need to be able to see these for the process to work.
This doesn’t mean the 360 Eye demands to be sat in pride of place in your living room. We found it worked fine sat in our flat’s hallway.
Performance: Great expectations
Ordering your vac to work is supremely easy. You can press the button behind its ‘Eye’ to do it manually, but when you can’t be arsed to shift your sweet cheeks from the couch (or want to arrange a remote clean when you’re away from home) a simple tap of the Dyson Link app will suffice.
First, indulge us in a spot of expectation management. If you’re spending £800 (almost S$1400) on a robot vacuum, you might well expect it to sweep up every last bit of dirt that’s plaguing your living room floor. And all at the push of the button.
Only Dyson’s 360 Eye comes close to delivering such a spotless vision of the future, but it’s still not perfect. You’ll need to quickly prep a room before letting the 360 Eye loose in it. This can only take a minute, but it does mean moving away any low lying objects (like odd socks, phone charging cables or scales) off the floor.
This Dyson also doesn’t like doorstops much at all. In fact, it’ll ram straight into them only to be slapped in the chops as thanks. Our advice? Stick a bag on top of them so the 360 Eye artful sweeps around it.
Oh, and all the standard robot vac maintenance issues also apply with this model. That means not moving its dock mid-clean, emptying out its dust tub about once every three cleans, and cleaving trapped hair off its rotating carbon fibre filaments and nylon bristles on a bi-monthly basis for for the best results.
While the 360 Eye might cost almost as much as it would to hire a cleaner once a week for a year, you’re still going to have to tidy up after it. And it won’t magically leave your bathroom smelling like lemons either.
Cleaning: Suck it and see
Right, onto the good stuff - and let’s be clear on this, there’s plenty of it. Dyson reckons the 360 Eye has twice the suction power of any competitive vacuum power, and that claim certainly bore out in our testing.
This thing is built to go to war with even the most messy of homes. A field that we have more than a little expertise in.
Upon returning from its first run with a full tub of feculence, we were overcome with a fearsome pang of shame. And then hid the results so our significant other would never find out about them.
Once you’ve done this initial ‘filth run’, you’ll only want to run the 360 Eye every other day or so, and its collection won’t prove anywhere as bountiful. Still, this thing rips through dust, dirt and hair like there’s no tomorrow. We’ve never had such a resplendent home since this Dyson moved in. Don’t ask us to try eating off the floor though.
Navigation: It's Hip to be square
As well as being more powerful than an iRobot Roomba or Neato Botvac Connected, this Robot is also more thorough as a cleaner too. Why? You can thank a combination of its slimline design and genius brains.
It might be taller than its rivals, but the 360 Eye still dared to dive under every bed, sofa and chair in our flat. It’s also compact enough to squeeze into gaps that other vacs can’t, and has the smarts to clean remarkably close to furniture edges. A series of infrared sensors will let your sofa live free from the fear of bumps and scratches.
When the 360 Eye does (infrequently) collide with the contents of your living room, it tends to do so slowly. Crucially, its plastic shell has been designed with wiggle room built in, so that it actually moves with any impact to lessen its force.
For the most part, watching this seemingly turn around a chair leg is mesmerising. This is also where the 360 Eye stands out against its its rivals.
Other models tend to roll back and forth up and down a room, like a lawnmover cutting the grass on a football pitch. Dyson divides a room into square segments and then cleans each square in full before moving onto the next one. The result? It’s less likely to miss a spot.
Smartphone App: Link to the future
Dyson’s handy Link app for iPhone and Android lets you easily check whether this is the case as well. The 360 Eye generates a floorplan-style map for every cleaning cycle, with stats for the metres squared it covered, time it took and recharges it had to go through.
It can be a tad temperamental at times, but Link has every feature you could hope for to help operate your vac from the office. Basically, you can schedule cleans with it, start an impromptu clean, check how your vac is getting on and give it a name. Ours is called ‘Jeeves’, because journalism sure ain’t gonna earn us butler money anytime soon.
Other than the whole robot thing, the major difference between cleaning with a Dyson 360 Eye and a cordless V8 Absolute is that it’ll take time to get the job done. Demolishing the dirt from the entire floor of our flat - that’s the bedroom, kitchen, living room and doorway corridor - took about four and a half hours on average.
Or in other words, that’s two half hour cleans, two hour and a half-ish recharges and another shorter clean.
Now that might sound like a long old shift for a ‘lil vac, and it is. But because you’re rarely at home when it’s on, the 360 Eye’s runtime is almost irrelevant. While the thing isn’t egregiously loud when at work, it’ll drown out whatever’s on TV like any vac when turned on. So again, you’re best off operating it remotely via Dyson Link.
Dyson 360 Eye Verdict
It takes a bit of work to get the best of out the Dyson 360 Eye. You’ll have to set up its dock just right, remove any substantial chunks of debris from its cleaning area and are best off out of your home when it’s on the move. Oh, and don’t forget you’ll have to stump up £800 (almost S$1400) for these myriad privileges.
After living with a 360 Eye for the last fortnight, none of this seems unreasonable.
Expensive as it undoubtedly is, the 360 Eye costs the same amount as a Roomba 980 and is a significantly more innovative product. Its camera makes for much smarter movement, those tank tracks are invaluable for traversing over carpets and small ledges, and the Dyson Link app makes all of this a doodle.
So while the Dyson 360 Eye may not be a flawless robot vac, but it’s the best one you can buy by far.