Samsung Navibot S SR8950 review

Although Samsung is well known for its TV sets, mobile phones and tablets, most people are surprised to hear that they are in the robot business as well. Since the Samsung floor cleaning robot was introduced in 2004, the company has been busy improving the product line, introducing a new generation every year for the past three years. A fifth generation model, dubbed the Navibot S SR8950, was one of our helpers at home for the past four weeks.

In practice

After leaving the dock, the robot turns around and starts to clean in lines. Interestingly, these lines are always in a slightly different angle. I assume this is deliberate in order to better cover areas that were missed on the last run. The Navibot S SR8950 is a systematically cleaning robot that covers the floor by traveling in parallel lines. The algorithm used to cover the etire area is a bit different than those of similar robots. When hitting an obstacle like a table leg, most other robots would try to go around and would continue cleaning in the same line behind the obstacle. Samsung Navibot instantly turns around and moves to the next parallel line. Although this could mean that large areas remain untouched, the robot goes back to the missed spaces when finished with the parallel lines.

Samsung Navibot S SR8950

The previous generation of Samsung Navibot robots had a hard time following walls or furniture when the wall was not exactly parallel to the robot’s predetermined path. The robot could only cover those walls using a trial-and-error method, drawing a sawtooth-shaped path. The new model does a nice job of adjusting to the exact degree of the wall; therefore, it can move faster and can do a much better job.

The Samsung Navibot S SR8950 moves fairly quickly, and only wastes some time when turning around. It has no laser or ultrasonic sensors to measure the distance to walls and furniture. It uses only the infrared (IR) sensors to detect when an obstacle is in close proximity (a few cm/in). Unlike other IR-based devices, the Navibot S series tries to avoid collisions with objects. This also means that it will not push objects away, so it will not go beyond couch skirts or curtains that reach the ground. The only exception is when the obstacle is black or has a dark, non-reflective surface; IR sensors don’t see those very well. Black chairs, table legs and black leather couches were hit constantly in our house. When cleaning around the couch, the robot tries to go into the couch every 5-10 cm since it cannot see it with the sensors and can only sense it through collision.

One of the biggest differentiating factors of the Navibot S SR8950 is the slim design. The Navibot S line is only 8 cm high, and it is the first robot that we’ve had that could easily pass under the child-proof gate installed at the top of our staircase. As far as I know, the new Navibot S line is the only full-featured robot with such a low profile. For those who have furniture that has less than 9 cm (3.54 in) ground clearance (but at least 8 cm - 3.14 in), the Navibot line is currently the only option to get those areas clean.

Samsung Navibot S SR8950 is the first robot that could pass under the gate

Unfortunately, the low profile is not without its issues. Although it can pass under more furniture than other robots, it also gets stuck more easily under the bottoms of some furniture. The robot tries to escape, but it often fails. This can happen to other robots as well, but this model seemed to have more issues with escaping from these situations than most other models.

As I have stated in many of my reviews, our house mostly has tile or laminate floor with a few areas of carpet laid on these hard floors. South Korean robots seem to be an ideal choice for our house, because these robots are designed especially for hard floors. The Navibot S SR8950 can climb easily to most carpets (up to 1 cm or 0.4 in), but does have some issues. First of all, small, thin carpets can bend if the robot tries to climb on them at one of the corners, and this could block the robot. (This happens to all robots.) On our larger (not high-quality) carpet, the brush bar of the robot pulls out and collects a large amount of lint. Other than the slight damage it causes, a large amount of lint can fill up the dust bin very quickly. If it is not emptied before the next run, the robot will then leave lint balls all over the house. The robot also has some issues when going in certain directions on the carpet. The brush (or some other parts) on the bottom seem to drag on the carpet.
Other than these few issues, the Navibot S SR8950 doesn’t get stuck too often. It has been very reliable doing the cleaning and returning to the charging base.

Lint was spread all over the house

Cleaning modes

The SR8950 offers four cleaning modes. In Auto mode the robot covers the floor line by line, returns to the missed areas, than after a single pass of the whole area, it finishes at the docking station. When a single charge of the battery is not enough to cover the entire area, the robot returns to the charger when the battery is depleted. Then, after a full charge, it resumes cleaning where it has left it off. At the end of the cycle, it goes around the detected edges to find openings to undiscovered areas, but edge cleaning is not sufficient. Despite side brushes, it leaves 2-2.5 cm (~1 in) untouched along walls and furniture. When the robot is stopped and restarted during cleaning, it will restart the entire cycle because it isn’t able to confirm it’s position within the house.

In Max mode the robot is a little more thorough. By definition it cleans until the battery is depleted. This is kind of weird for a robot with localization and mapping features, but makes sense. In this mode the robot breaks the floor into smaller blocks and starts cleaning by going around the edges of the first block. After cleaning the edge, it covers the inner area of the block, then moves to the next segment. When the entire area is covered, the robot returns to the first block and starts all over again, but now cleans the inner parts with lines perpendicular to that of the first run. In theory the robot can collect dust from even those areas that were missed by the first run due to misalignment. In some cases it goes around the edges in the opposite direction as well. If there is power for a third or a fourth run, the robot will modify the lines every time to offer a more thorough cleaning.

In Spot mode the robot cleans a 1.5×1.5 m area around the starting point if it is started in a totally obstacle-free area. If furniture (like table legs) block the way of the robot, it will turn around and start another segment instead of going around the obstacle. Unfortunately, these collisions totally disrupt the path, and large areas are missed. At the end of the spot mode, the robot stops at an outer point (not at the starting point).

The fourth mode is the Manual mode, available using the bundled remote control. The robot can go forward and turn left or right. Going backwards is not possible due to the lack of drop sensors behind the wheels.

Cleaning options

The Navibot S offers two more cleaning options that are available in all modes. The dust sensor can detect extra dirty areas where it will automatically turn on the second option, the Turbo mode. In Turbo mode the main brush rotates faster, providing a better cleaning but draining the battery more quickly.

Noise level

When run in Normal mode, the SR8950 is fairly quiet. I didn’t feel it was as quiet as the LG Roboking, but it is certainly close. Unfortunately, Turbo mode ruins this and makes the Navibot nearly as noisy as a Roomba.

Area blocking

The virtual walls that came with the robot worked as expected. The IR beams draw invisible lines in the room that the robot is not allowed to cross. The virtual walls are either on or off, so they either have to be left on all the time, or have to be turned on every time the robot is started (not possible with scheduled cleaning). The constantly running units drain the batteries in no time, and these large batteries are expensive; I recommend using rechargeable batteries. The length of the virtual barrier is approximately 2.5 m (6.5 ft).

Scheduling

The touch sensitive user interface only provides the most basic operations; therefore, most options such as setting the clock or setting up scheduling are only available using the IR remote control.
The Navibot S SR8950 offers two kinds of scheduling: it can be set to start at a certain time of the day, but only on one occasion, or it can be scheduled to start in seven predetermined times during the week. The latter requires the robot to be aware of the weekdays as well. A different time can be set for each day, and selected days can be skipped, if necessary. Setting up and canceling certain days is easy, so the robot can be quickly rescheduled if needed.

Docking

The robot did a fairly good job returning to the dock, but it often had a hard time finding the way back. A mapping robot should always know where to go to get some power, and it should be able to find the shortest route back to the spot. The Navibot S SR8950 often followed walls to get close to the dock, and could not solve the problem when the camera on the top was covered. When the IR signal of the dock is detected, the robot turns towards the charger and tries to connect. It has always succeeded, but can never do it on the first try. When the robot is started off the dock and finds the dock during cleaning, it will return to the dock when the battery is depleted. When the dock is not seen during cleaning, the robot returns to the starting point.

Samsung Navibot S SR8950

Recharging takes approximately 3 hours, and the dock consumes 1-20 Wh electricity during this process. It uses more electricity at the beginning, and the consumption reduces towards the end of the charging. In standby mode it consumes approximately 1 Wh.

Cleaning quality

The Navibot S SR8950 has no problem with debris and large particles, but it has issues with fine dust. After running the robot in Auto mode with the Turbo option off, the floor was dusty after vacuuming. I only got acceptable results when the Turbo mode and the Max mode were used together, but even in that mode the robot missed some areas.

The vacuum motor of the robot is built into the robot itself. The dirty air is sucked into the dustbin from the floor, where it first hits a large particle filter (that prevents clogging of the fine filter), then the fine HEPA filter. From the HEPA filter, the air flows into the robot through the opening behind (or in front of) the dust bin. There is one crucial element that seems to be missing: an exit point where the air flow leaves the robot.

picks up even larger objectsthe HEPA filter was pretty clean even after weeks of use

For a long time I had the impression that the Navibot S was simply a sweeper robot without a vacuuming function—but then why did they bother putting an air filter in the dust bin? So I began a small experiment: running the robot in manual mode without a dust bin. By holding a paper tissue to the air inlet on the robot I could confirm that there is some mild suction there, but I still could not see where the air leaves the robot. So I asked a smoker to exhale fumes into the air inlet to see where it left the robot. This experiment quickly revealed that the air exits out the front, right above the sensors window panel where the two plastic parts meet. But the airflow is so weak that it is nearly impossible to feel by hand.

The clever design is really a disadvantage here. The weak suction reduces the cleaning ability, which is not good news when we are talking about cleaning robots.

Maintenance

The amount of care the robot requires is a crucial factor when evaluating a robot. I want the robot to make my life easier, and I don't want to swap house cleaning for robot cleaning. Unfortunately, the Navibot S SR8950 requires a lot of attention. Its dust bin is fairly small and fills up with lint quickly (at least on carpet). If I neglect the full bin indicator, some of the dust and lint will be spread by the robot at the next run. We don’t have any pets, but both my wife and daughter have long hair. This can be challenging to some robots, and the SR8950 is one of those devices. Most of the hair is wrapped around the brush bar, and needs to be cleaned by hand. The same applies to the side brushes that also tend to roll up and accumulate hair around the mounting point. In this manner the Navibot S is similar to the Roomba 700 series. Both need quite a bit of maintenance.

The review is not over yet!

Next page: Conclusion

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