Design & accessories

The S9 is traditional in appearance: a chunky white disc with a silver ring and a raised round platform in its centre. When you spot one of these – a Lidar tower – on a robot vacuum, it tends to bode well for the vac’s navigation and mapping capabilities.

Lidar involves the use of a laser, which bounces off objects and gives the robot a much more accurate perception of distance. The S9 uses a mixture of Lidar, sensors and other tech. Its navigation and mapping are excellent.

It comes with a mop attachment (which I’ll come back to) and a remote control, which you can use for a few basic functions, including driving the robot cleaner around to focus on a specific spot or spill. The S9 is also compatible with Google and Alexa home assistants, so you can use voice commands as well.

One of its best features is the dock, which doesn’t come with the usual plastic half moon that has to be placed by the charger for the cleaner to find and slot into. The problem with these is that the cleaner can easily shunt them around once it’s left the dock and, even if not, they become a magnet for dust and hair.

Instead, the 360 docks with a magnetic clip. It’s an attractive, clean and intelligent solution that we would love to see more widely used.

The S9 is 10cm high (Lidar tower included) and 35cm wide. It fit comfortably under the key pieces of furniture in my home but if you want to buy this, or any other robot vacuum, we suggest that you measure the height under your sofa, bed and other large pieces of furniture to find out how much of your home it’ll be able to access and whether it’s likely to get stuck.

Performance

The S9 is a good little mover. Unlike some robot vacs, which can get stuck in difficult situations, the S9 can back up when it finds itself trapped.

This makes up for the fact that it’s not the best climber. It uses its ability to reverse to help it manoeuvre over obstacles. One room in my home has a wide, 2cm high lip across the threshold that has beached other robot vacs but, using a combination of shunting back and forth (essentially making a many-more-than-three point turn) the S9 clambered over every time.

This manoeuvrability doesn’t always work in its favour. It had problems hopping over a wire and when another robot vac might pause, the S9 backed out, dragging the wire with it and almost pulling a lamp over as it went. Clearly, it has a powerful motor.

I always leave a few obstacles around while testing, to see how a robot vacuum cleaner reacts. But obviously, before you use one at home, you should tidy away wires and cables – even if it’s advertised that the vac can avoid them.

The S9 has a freakishly exact awareness of its own size. I watched, kind of fascinated, as it trundled between the legs of a chair, became trapped and shunted the chair across the room for a bit (again, that is some motor) then changed its angle fractionally and freed itself.

I’ve tested a lot of robot vacuum cleaners and I’ve never seen one try to get in that space, let alone figure a way out. Most use their collision detector and ricochet away, unperturbed. It’ll be a bit of a mixed blessing if you have cluttered home but it did mean that the S9 got absolutely everywhere and cleaned in corners and small spaces that its competitors had left untouched.

(All of this was with the anti-collision setting on. I tried it in both positions but I couldn’t spot any appreciable difference in the S9’s behaviour.)

The S9 is an extremely efficient navigator, vacuuming the room in smooth. tight stripes and leaving the floor perfectly clean behind it. Its suction power is an impressive 2,650 Pa – but that’s only on the strongest of its settings. The S9 has four modes: Quiet (600 Pa); Standard (1,000 Pa); Powerful (1,500 Pa) and Max (2,650 Pa).

On hard flooring, I used it largely on the Quiet mode, yet I found its cleaning ability to be excellent. I think the Max mode would only be necessary if you’d spilt a box of cereal on the floor.

Speaking of quiet, the Quiet mode is just that, at 55dB. The noise level goes up to 67dB on the highest setting, which is fairly loud, but you shouldn’t need to hear that often.