Dyson has always been a company that's keen to sit on the cutting edge of consumer technology. It was the first manufacturer to sell bagless vacuum cleaners in the 1990s, and since then has turned its attention to products as wide-ranging as washing machines and even hairdryers, in the shape of the .
Given its vacuum cleaner specialization and high-tech ambitions, it’s perhaps surprising that Dyson took as long as it has to get into the robotic vacuum cleaner market, given that iRobot’s Roombas have been around for over a decade.
But in 2016 Dyson finally released the Dyson 360 Eye. It’s compact, it’s quiet, and it’s easily controlled by a companion app. It also costs a whopping $999 (£799, around AU$1,270).
It's another dependable piece of technology, the likes of which we’ve come to expect from Dyson. But can it do enough to stand out against iRobot, which has to date dominated the robotic vacuum market?
Design and build quality
Looking at the Dyson 360 Eye compared to, say, the , the machine seems a great deal more compact, although this is only true of its width. The cleaner is just 23cm wide, which is a great deal narrower than the Roomba 980’s massive 35cm.
This small girth is, in theory, great if your home is filled with narrow gaps that the 360 Eye needs to squeeze through. This wasn’t much of a benefit for us, but depending on the layout of your home you might find it more helpful.
However, the downside of this lack of width is the robot’s height, which at 12cm is taller than the Roomba’s 9cm. This ended up being more of an issue for us, as it meant the cleaner was unable to fit underneath one of our raised sofas that the Roomba had no trouble with, but again whether this is an issue for you will depend on the layout of your home and its furniture.
On the top of the device is a single button for starting and stopping the machine, which also doubles as a status indicator light that informs you when the robot’s bin is full, its battery is low, or it’s encountered an error. It’s neatly designed, and does exactly what you need it to do.
In the center of the top of the device is the titular ‘Eye’, which views 360 degrees around the Dyson and allows it to find its way around your home. This sounds impressive, but in practice we found the machine was about as efficient at finding its way around the house than other cleaners.
Underneath the machine is the device’s single brush bar, which sweeps the floor as the 360 Eye drives around. This bar stretches almost the entire width of the machine and can be easily removed for cleaning.
The Dyson 360 Eye comes with a charging station that you set up against a wall. The station is certainly minimalist, consisting of a couple of charging pads on the bottom and a four-square pattern on the top that enables the Dyson’s ‘eye’ to locate it. The station’s plug even has built-in cable management, to allow you to tuck away the power chord no matter how close the station is to a plug.
Unlike with the Roomba 980, you don’t get any additional devices to place around your house to tell the Dyson where to clean. It will do an entire floor, with no option to limit its scope aside from physically placing barriers.
Overall we like the functional design of the 360 Eye, although we do wish it looked a little more modern overall. Dyson’s signature grey plastic might have looked space-age back in the 90s when the company was first making vacuum cleaners, but it’s starting to look a little dated compared to modern appliances.
For a machine that's designed to get into every dirty nook and cranny in your home it should come as no surprise that the Dyson 360 Eye accumulates its fair share of dust and dirt on its internals.
Thankfully the whole machine has been designed to be taken apart so that you can easily clean each piece, which you can do with little more than running water.
The item you’ll spend the most amount of time cleaning, not surprisingly, is the device’s dust bin, which is at the front of the machine and which is removed using a small release catch on the top of the machine. Just pop the bin off, take out the filter, and you can easily empty the bin. It’s also easy to detach and clean the device’s air filters.
Finally, the brush bar can also be completely removed, which we found invaluable for removing the longer hair that became entangled around it over time.
Maintaining the Dyson 360 Eye is as painless as it could be, and it’s refreshing to see a company focusing on allowing you to clean parts rather than simply replacing them when they get dusty.
You’ll have to replace these parts eventually, but the robot’s design makes it easy to take care of them and maximise their lifespan.
Like other robot vacuum cleaners, the Dyson 360 Eye comes with a companion app which you can use to schedule regular cleans. You have the option of scheduling cleans on different days at different times that repeat from week to week.
The app will also give you information about the Eye's past activity, including detailed floor plans of your house. It’s interesting information to look at, but in practice your floor plan is unlikely to change much between cleans.
It’s nice to have the additional functionality the app provides, but if you’re anything like us you’re likely to set the 360 Eye to do a daily clean at the same time and never open the app again.
Let’s get down to business – how well does the Dyson 360 Eye actually clean your carpet?
Dyson advertises that its machine has “twice the suction of any other robot vacuum”, but in practice we found that this doesn’t quite translate to twice the cleaning ability.
The 360 Eye is a vacuum cleaner that works best when you’re using it regularly. When we had it set up to automatically do a clean once a day, our house looked pretty consistently clean. Its 40-minute battery life was more than enough to make it around the ground floor of our house where it was located, and it’s a great deal quieter than the Roomba 980.
Better still, the Dyson’s bin would take a couple of runs to fill, so we could afford to forget to empty it out occasionally and still get the benefits of it doing a clean.
That said, the robot was much less effective when the house needed a deep clean. One morning after having had lots of people in the house the night before we set the Dyson to work on a carpet that had seen dozens of shoes worn in from outside, only to find that it still needed vacuuming manually once the Dyson was done.
In other words, this is a robot that responds best to a ‘little and often’ approach to vacuuming.
The same could also be said of the machine’s closest competitor, the Roomba 980, although that machine is able, to a certain extent, to know when a bit of floor is especially dirty and go over it a second time.
The Dyson 360 Eye also lacks the side brushes of the Roomba 980, which allow the latter to clean the edges of your room slightly better, although neither machine is especially proficient in this area.
Another issue with the 360 Eye, as with all robot vacuum cleaners, is that it had a tendency to get stuck on various objects around our home. It was slightly better than the Roomba 980 in this regard, the side brushes on which meant that shoe laces were a constant hazard, but it would nevertheless get stuck on guitar stands on a regular basis.
You can avoid these issues by ‘Dyson-proofing’ your home before you leave, but given that the machine works best when it’s vacuuming daily, this can quickly become a hassle.
The Dyson 360 Eye is a nicely designed machine. It’s small and compact, runs quietly, and does a decent job of keeping your house clean, although you’ll need to make sure you run it fairly regularly.
The app is well designed and easy to use, and while the additional information it gives you might not be that useful, it’s interesting to look at.
Finally, the machine is designed in such a way that it’s very easy to maintain and clean. Its consumable parts can all be detached and cleaned, and as long as you're diligent about cleaning them this should keep them working for the longest-possible time before they need to be replaced.
Although the machine is compact, it’s a little taller than the competition. Whether this is an issue for you, however, will depend entirely on the layout and furniture in your home.
You might need to use the machine a couple of times to get your home as clean as you’d like it to be. The Dyson 360 Eye is most effective if you take a ‘little and often’ approach to cleaning, rather than doing one big clean a week.
The Dyson 360 Eye is an amazingly engineered robot vacuum cleaner. It’s solidly built, runs quietly and efficiently, and is engineered in a way that makes it very easy to maintain.
It’s main competition is the iRobot Roomba 980. They’re both expensive machines, although at the time of writing the Dyson is a fraction cheaper, and for our money is the slightly better machine.
And if you’re prepared to spend the amount of money a robot vacuum cleaner costs, then you won’t be disappointed by the Dyson, and the company’s formidable build quality should keep it running for years to come.