Yujin iClebo Arte review

Besides the two consumer electronics giants of South Korea there is a third company who we have to mention when we talk about robotic vacuum cleaners. That is Yujin Robotics, the maker of iClebo robots. Their newest robot was announced at CES 2012 and become available last summer in Korea. I was lucky enough the get an early model for a long term use.

In Practice

The iClebo Arte has a few distinctive features: it is quiet, it runs for about 3 hours on one charge, it is among the slimmest of all vacuum cleaners and of course it covers the floor in a methodical way.

The low noise level becomes obvious right after it leaves the dock. It is not silent as the manufacturer would like to suggest, but a lot quieter than a Roomba, not to mention the Neato XV-11. I have measured 62 dB, and it is bearable to stay in the same room with the robot while it is on a cleaning mission. Unlike other systematic robots, the Arte is not dividing the floor into blocks, instead it starts to cover the whole area line after line. Because it has side brushes on both sides, it doesn’t need to go along the edges of walls and furniture, it will clean them during the regular pattern. When it hits an obstacle in a line, it moves to the next one, missing the whole line behind the obstacle, but due to the mapping feature it remembers those missed areas and it will cover those later. It is awesome to see how it goes back to all the missed areas and covers them precisely. All this is made possible by the camera pointed to the ceiling.

A fairly unique feature of the iClebo Arte is the way it overlaps these lines. Those robot makers who only make randomly moving robots often criticize systematic robots that those regularly miss lines due to improper positioning. The Arte is not only precise with navigation, but it overlaps each line with the next one so even if one line gets misaligned, the floor will still be covered everywhere (most of the times).

The last lines, along walls or furniture are nicely aligned to the fix line, so the robot covers it with a slanted (if necessary) straight line, instead of going in saw-toothed pattern. When the calculations based on the gyro sensor and the wheel rotations are off, the robot can nicely correct the path based on the camera's image. The iClebo Arte can still operate when the camera is covered (or in dark room) but in that case only the bumpers, the rotation sensors, the gyro sensors and the IR sensors are working. In our test the robot worked perfectly for 12 minutes than the lines started to slant a bit. In some areas it would have meant missed spots, but the robot decided to redo some parts to close the gap on the distorted map. It did most of the area, but eventually missed about 10-15% of it. So the camera on this robot is an extremely important tool for navigation.

Cleaning modes

The iClebo Arte provides several different cleaning. It can cover the whole are in a systematic fashion, but if someone is more comfortable with the random pattern, the Arte can do that as well. The Max mode is the combination of the two where the robot first cleans the floor line after line, than switches to random pattern and keeps cleaning while the battery lasts. In Spot mode the robot cleans approximately 3 sq m (32 sq ft) starting from the side of the square shaped area. These modes can be combined with climb mode where the Arte climbs on obstacles up to 2 cm in height. The second program modifier is the mop holder attachment that improves the cleaning quality of the robot.

Reliability of the robot was ok. It got stuck a few times, mostly on small toys or strings from toys, but not more often than any of its high class competitors would. Thanks to the active mapping and navigation system it never had a problem returning to the dock.

Scheduling

The iClebo Arte provides a very simple, basic scheduling. It can be run at a given time every day. This is a lot better than the delayed start method that other Korean robots offer, but it would be nice to be able to set different times for different days of the week or skip certain days entirely in the schedule.

Cleaning quality

The systematic floor coverage of the Arte is awesome. It might miss spaces sometimes, but when I was following its path, it always covered every spot of our complicated floor plan. The overlapping lines really ensure that large portion of the floor is covered by two passes. The robot avoids collisions, so it doesn’t go behind curtains that reach to the floor or couch skirts. On the other hand this behavior helps keeping the noise level down. Every time I checked the dust bin of the Arte after vacuuming, it always had a considerable amount of dust and breadcrumbs inside. If I only evaluated the robot based on that, I would say that it does a nice job collecting dirt in the house. Although our floor was mostly clean, without the mopping cloth I didn’t have the same clean feeling after the robot as I usually have after the Neato or the Roomba. I often spotted breadcrumbs or soil on the floor after the Arte finished cleaning, what was disappointing from a robot in this class. The microfiber mopping cloth does a great job picking up most the remaining bits, but than this robot is more like a sweeping and mopping bot, than a vacuum cleaner.

After watching the robot for quite a few times I found two areas where the robot needs improvement. First of all it should have a much stronger vacuum motor. Currently Arte follows the typical Korean design scheme where the robot has no air exhaust opening on the case. This design doesn’t allow a strong vacuum to be used. The other thing I noticed was that the fast side brushes often kicked large particles, breadcrumbs or soil too far to the other side of the robot, where it missed it completely. I’m not sure how the brush or the rotation speed should be modified, but now dirt is often tossed to already cleaned areas.

Docking

When the robot is started from the docking station (either scheduled or manual start) it will return to the dock once the whole area is covered. When the robot is started somewhere else, it will return to that spot when done. It is very nice how the iClebo Arte can return to a known spot so precisely. Docking itself has never been an issue, but Arte cannot handle situations when it is accidentally knocked off the dock. Other robots try to reconnect, the Arte just stands there waiting for help.


Maintenance

The most disappointing aspect of the robot is the amount of maintenance and care it requires. Cleaning the dust bin is fairly easy and simple, but the brushes collect a huge amount of hair. In fact they pick up and tangle all hair they get in contact with. I cannot remember hair being collected in the dust bin, while the main brush was full of them even after only a few days of cleaning.


The included cleaning tool comes handy removing the hair, but it is still a disgusting process. And hair cumulates not only on the main brush, but also on the axles of all three brushes. After a few runs huge amount of hair can be pulled off of them. The side brush mount seems to be well protected against hair and dust, but the drive part of the main brush seems to pull in hair, like older Roomba robots did. I didn’t disassembled the robot to see how much of the hair got inside, but I’m afraid that in the long run it can cause problems.

The review is not over yet!

Next page: Conclusion

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