Though I have now been allowed to roam the streets, shops, and bars of Auckland post-lockdown, for many months I was cooped up in my modest unit working from home, my wife working from another room.

It turns out making three meals a day while working and relaxing through most of your waking hours in the living room makes for a messy home, so I was glad when I was offered a fancy robot vacuum cleaner to review.

Surely it would take the tedium of floor cleaning off our long to-do list? Surely its steep $1399 price tag would mean it was the most intelligent hunk of white plastic I could place rather prominently in my house, resplendent on its white throne of an emptying station?

That’s right: the Ecovacs Deebot T9+ is a robot vacuum that not only can map a floor plan of your home room by room, it also promises to trundle back to its charging post and automatically empty its dusty innards into a housed bag, ready to roam again when triggered with an app.

I can report that having a robot vacuum cleaner in a lockdown feels like more of a hindrance than a convenience. It’s impossible to concentrate if you’ve set a roaring, automated disc off on a cleaning trail attempting to reach every nook and cranny while drowning out your Zoom call.

I found myself going on another jaunt around the local park when I needed to test it out just so I could be out when the little fella was lurching loudly through the house.

This is much more a product for Normal Times. The best thing about the T9+ is that when it’s set up and knows your floor plan, you can let it run while you’re out. If a robot vacuum cleaner cleans your house and no one is there to hear it, did it really happen?

This particular robot vacuum cleaner does what it says it can do, but with some frustrations. 

Awkward first date

Initial set-up involves letting the vacuum go for its maiden voyage around your property like a small circular dog sniffing every corner and surface of a new place.

A decent companion app for iOS or Android guides you through this first clean. The T9+ is equipped with an array of clever sensors on the front and top that not only help it to navigate obstacles but also creates a map of your house so on every subsequent clean you can be anywhere and check in on its progress.

The app shows a plan view of your property that you can also drill down into in 3D. You can manually add sofas, tables, and other obstacles. It did think my modest-sized bedroom was three rooms, but other than that it was quite accurate.

The little bot is pretty clever, but it’s not clever enough to avoid cables, of which there any many in any modern home.

Lamp leads, wifi router cables, phone chargers – whatever it is, the T9+ will conspire to suck it into its jaws and immediately get stuck, sending your phone a cry-for-help notification. Spider-like spinning brushes on the front of the unit are very good at cleaning but also very good at getting immediately tangled. 

It’s all very well lifting these obstacles out its way on the first run as recommended, but if you don’t want the machine to run over the cables next time and get stuck, you must use the app’s floor plan to manually cut off areas it shouldn’t go.

Applying the red virtual boundary line on a floor plan, via the app.



This is annoying, given it would be quite handy for a robot vacuum to go under my TV unit, small enough as it is, and get the dust that’s hard to reach, but I had to veto that corner of the room because of the number of leads the cleaner could ensnare.

Similarly, the T9+ had trouble navigating kitchen bar stools, and once got confused under my dining table in among chair legs, unable to escape. 

If I were to use the app to cordon off areas where the unit gets stuck, I’d have to use my old regular vacuum to clean several parts of my house separately. As the T9+ costs $1399, this is hard to stomach. 

After the somewhat frustrating first few hours, the vacuum does do a good job of cleaning. I was both impressed at and ashamed of how much dust and hair it gathered up over its first two back-to-back runs. 

You can tell what you’ve paid for: the vac has excellent suction and collects everything in its path. It also changes the level of suction immediately as it detects what type of floor it’s on. 

It runs around the floors quickly and manages to cover a lot of ground but it does seem erratic at times, flying through the kitchen at jaunty angles, only to return later when its inner computer realises it missed a spot. 

On automatically returning to its charging and emptying station, it blows all debris up into a separate removable bag that you can empty into the outdoor bin later. This is great, but I still found I had to upturn the unit on occasion to pull out tangled hair and dust from the rollers. 

The vacuum at its emptying station.



Perhaps I am not part of Ecovacs’ target market. My house is not large, and manual vacuuming takes only about 15 minutes. If it took more like an hour, maybe I’d be crowning the T9+ my gadget of the year. 

I have no lush open expanses of hardwood to explore. There are no pets whose fur could be a pain to deal with. 

Instead, I spent a lot of time untangling the unit from a cable – most frustrating is when that happens and you are out and about, knowing you’ll return to a half-clean house with the wifi plug pulled out the wall (this happened to me). 

In the box, you get a clip-on unit and a pack of 10 mop pads that can mop and shine any hardwood or tiled floor. This works pretty well, with the water-filled reservoir feeding the Velcro-attached pads as they buffed my kitchen tiles up nicely. The T9+’s American-accented voice speaks out loud, telling you to physically lift the unit over to an uncarpeted area to mop. 

Its sensors were good enough that it didn’t stray off the tiles and onto carpet. It’s a cool feature, though you’ll have to buy new packs of 10 pads for $19 as each is for single use only.

An air-freshener feature is also handy in theory, with the robot spraying puffs of fragrance behind it as it cleans. But the soapy scent of the fragrance that comes in the box smelled a little too “bathroom” and not enough “dinner party” for me to want to use it more than once. 

Once lockdown lifted and I was set free, I was inclined to run the T9+ more frequently and did enjoy the consistently clean carpets on my return home and the removal of one job from a mercifully shorter to-do list.

But if, like me, you have a small house, a robot vacuum is an indulgence that doesn’t seem worth the hassle or expense. This is likely true of all brands and models and not a knock on the T9+. 

With a bit of TLC, the T9+ is a perfectly competent robot vacuum with excellent cleaning ability, a smart floor-plan feature and very handy emptying station. 

But you really must ask yourself if you need one in the first place. If the answer is yes, then remember to set it off when you go out. And maybe buy some cable tidies.