iLife A8 Robotic Vacuum Review
Avg. consumer rating = 87/100
In this review we look at iLife’s flagship A-series robotic vacuum, the A8. This machine has impressive navigation which works very well in large open areas. A 90 minute run time helps the unit cover a large area and the slim profile makes it able to get under low furniture. In addition, owners are pleased that the A8 has a MAX power mode and also an edge cleaning mode. However, the systematic navigation is sometimes rendered ineffective in areas with lots of obstructions like tables, chairs, etc., and we wish the A8 came with a means to create “no-go” areas. There is no magnetic tape and there are no blocking beacons.
Consumer ratings are limited for this vacuum as it is relatively new. Hopefully more will become available over the next few months. At this time we were only able to find 5 reviews – as seen in the table below. While this sample size is too small to determine a reliable score, we have still done the math and come up with an overall average of 4.36 stars out of 5, or 87.2 out of 100.
|4.2 stars out of 5
|5 stars out of 5
Owner comments along with our own testing and investigation have provided the following A8 pros and cons:
- Has 2 power modes
- Includes an edge-cleaning mode
- Coverage is organized and systematic
- Often finds the docking station reasonably quickly
- Slim profile gets under low furniture
- No magnetic tape or blocking beacons (no electrowalls)
- Systematic coverage is not too effective in room full of obstacles
- No series of charging lights (cannot tell charge on battery)
You can see more A8 owner comments on Amazon.
WHAT”S IN THE BOX?
- iLife A8 robotic vacuum
- Charging home base (docking station)
- Remote control
- Charging unit (adapter)
- Cleaning tool
- 2 extra side brushes
- 1 extra high performance filter
- Additional brushroll for bare floors and pet hair
- User manual / Quick start guide / Warranty card
SIZE & WEIGHT
The A8 looks pretty much like most other robotic vacuums and is circular with a diameter of 31 cm (12.2 inches). The vacuum is perhaps a little thinner than some other machines at 7.2 cm (2.8 inches). The front half of the unit is also surrounded by a rubber bumper so furniture and walls are protected when it bumps into them. The iLife A8 weighs in at 2.75 kg, or about 6 lbs. The dust canister on this unit has a capacity of 0.3 litres (0.08 gallons) which is a little small.
PREPARING YOUR CLEANING AREA
Like all robotic vacuums one has to prepare the area to be cleaned before starting the vacuum. Typically this means tucking away wires and cords, and removing toys or other items on the floor. The vacuum is capable of moving around larger obstacles (chairs, tables, cabinets, etc.). However even after this initial “preparation” we find it is best to run the vacuum and watch it for a while. Robotic vacuums have a tendency to find problem areas that you did not consider initially.
In the case of the A8, we did not get too many surprises after preparing our cleaning area, however we did run into one. We have a marble ledge in front of our fireplace with a number of items on it we would prefer not to move. The ledge is about 1 foot by 6 feet and 1 inch thick. The A8 has a tendency to try and climb onto this and it is sometimes successful and other times it is not. The issue is that you cannot stop the A8 from trying to access this area. There are no electrowalls or magnetic tape that allow you to create no-go zones. We wish the unit came with some means of cordoning off areas but it does not.
NAVIGATION & AREA COVERAGE
The A8 has something iLife calls PanoView Navigation. This essentially means that it has a panoramic camera that is used to compute an intelligent cleaning pattern. This is very apparent when you run the vacuum. It seems to hesitate and look around when first turned on as it gathers info, then it sets about vacuuming in a back and forth pattern.
In rooms with large open areas this kind of navigation pays dividends as the machine can cover an area much quicker than a unit using a more random navigation approach. However we did find that rooms full of obstacles (chairs, table, cabinets, etc.) make it difficult for the unit to really take much advantage of this approach. It will sometimes miss an area and go back to the docking station as though it has finished everything. It is likely you would have to run the A8 multiple times to get full area coverage (similar to other robotic vacuums we have reviewed).
When we compared the A8 navigation to that of the Shark ION Robot 750 the intelligent A8 navigation was very apparent. In an enclosed rectangular environment there was no comparison and the area covered in a given timeframe by the iLife robot was much higher than that of the Shark (which seems to have a much more random navigation pattern). The Shark had a tendency to vacuum the same areas multiple times, while this happened very little with the iLife. However when we placed a host of obstacles in the rectangular area we found that the iLife navigation was sufficiently disrupted that it didn’t make much difference.
The A8 also has cliff sensors (on the undersiide of the vacuum) which stop it from falling off a set of stairs or any edge. They work well. It also has extra large wheels which are designed to help it move over different surfaces and avoid obstacles. The wheels seem to work fine but we didn’t really notice that they work any better than the kind of wheels we’ve seen on other robotic machines.
In addition, this vacuum comes with something iLife are calling iVoice assistance. Essentially the vacuum speaks to you to give you instructions, tell you what it is doing, or to request assistance. This is both a hit and a miss. Sometimes a warning light or audible beep may be just as effective. Other times the instructions can be rather specific and the spoken words are helpful. The machine does have something of an accent, although it is reasonably clear for native English speakers. In the video below I turned the vacuum on then used the remote to tell it to dock so you can hear the audio:
Cleaning is accomplished via two spinning side brushes, a main brushroll in the center and, of course, suction. The two spinning side brushes are designed to pull in debris from the sides and also to help clean in corners and along edges. They work fairly well but for loose debris they can also fling or scatter it about (we experienced this when using the vacuum on lentils).
The bristle brushroll is useful on carpets and works pretty much the same way the brushroll on a traditional vacuum cleaner works. The A8 actually comes with 2 brushrolls and it is a simple matter to swap one for the other (they pop out and go back in quickly and easily). 1 brushroll has bristles and is designed for carpet while the other brushroll is rubber and is better on hard floors. The rubber brushroll also limits hair/string/thread tangling.
The A8 has 4 different cleaning modes:
- Auto mode: This is the default cleaning mode. It has standard power and cleans in a back and forth pattern.
- MAX mode: Same as Auto mode but with increased suction and typically a shorter run time. It is useful for particularly dirty or dusty areas.
- Point mode: Cleans in an outward spiral pattern. Useful if there is a small focused area you want cleaned. It will return to the point where it started when finished.
- Edge cleaning mode: Cleans along wall edges and borders.
So how well does the A8 pick up? We put down 12.00 grams of lentils on low pile carpet and ran the A8 and the Shark RV750 on a one-pass straight track. See image below.
The A8 ran straight down the path and picked up 11.71 grams in the one-pass. Is this good or bad compared to the Shark? It’s hard to say as it was virtually impossible to get the Shark to move along the straight path. It bumped into the side walls and turned around and so on. We ultimately gave up. Off the top of our heads it seems that the A8 pick up of 11.71/ 12.00 (97.6%) is pretty good. But until we can get some solid comparisons it is hard to see where it stands in terms of the competition.
NAVIGATION & CLEANING TESTS
We decided to run a few additional tests to show the differences in navigation and cleaning between the Shark RV750 and the iLife A8. We created a small robotic vacuum “playpen” and put down a measured amount of debris (lentils and chili flakes). We used a very sensitive digital scale to measure debris weight (see below)
In the first video below you can see the iLife on Automatic mode. We sped the videos up to make them easier to watch.
iLife A8 - Automatic Mode
Lentils: 22.61 grams
Chili Flakes: 3.28 grams
Total debris weight before run: 25.89 grams
Total cleaning time: 3 minutes 27 seconds (stops when it feels it is done)
Total debris weight picked up: 23.25 grams
Percent of debris picked up: 23.25/25.89 = 89.8%
We like the systematic navigation approach of the iLife and it covers a given area very quickly. However it would be nice if there was a way to tell it to keep running, or to maybe redo an area twice. Because despite picking up almost 90% of the debris the first time around, why not go around again and pick up more? If you have a large area to clean perhaps multiple passes doesn’t make sense as you have to consider run time, but for a smaller area it may be a good idea.
iLife A8 - MAX Mode
Lentils: 22.59 grams
Chili Flakes: 3.28 grams
Total debris weight before run: 25.87 grams
Total cleaning time: 3 minutes 20 seconds (stops when it feels it is done)
Total debris weight picked up: 23.71 grams
Percent of debris picked up: 23.71/25.87 = 91.7%
As the above shows MAX mode shortened the run time from 3:27 to 3:20. It also increased pickup from 89.8% to 91.7%. However MAX mode will undoubtedly shorten the vacuum run time.
Lentils: 22.59 grams
Chili Flakes: 3.30 grams
Total debris weight before run: 25.89 grams
Total cleaning time: 3 minutes 27 seconds (does not stop on own, we stopped it at this time)
Total debris weight picked up: 20.16 grams
Percent of debris picked up: 20.16/25.89 = 77.9%
We ran the RV750 several times and due to the random nature of the navigation % pickup varied widely although it did not get above 90%. It should also be pointed out that we stopped the RV750 at 3min 27 seconds so we could compare it to the A8 which stopped at exactly 3min 27 seconds. However the RV750 does not stop on its own (unlike the A8) and it would keep running until the battery was drawn down. If you let it continue to run it would undoubtedly result in a very good % pickup but as the robotic vacuums operate differently we decided a fixed time for both was as good a means as any to do a comparison. It is also worth reiterating that when yoiu introduce enough obstacles (chairs, tables, etc) to the testing area the A8 systematic navigation does not appear to show any advantages over the RV750.
In addition, we would like to point out that the RV750 is a little louder than the A8. There is no sound in the sped up videos so you cannot hear the difference, but it is noticeable when you are running the vacuums. In our opinion the A8 is fairly quiet.
RUN TIME & RECHARGE TIME
The iLife A8 is powered by a 2600mAh lithium ion battery. iLife claims a run time of up to 90 minutes which is quite a long run time (we have not tested the run time to see if it really lasts that long). However recharge time - from a fully depleted battery to a fully charged battery – is a bit lengthy at 5 hours.
There is an Auto button/light on top of the robot and it will pulse orange when the unit is charging. It also turns green when the charging is complete. We do note that there is no way to tell how far along the charging is, or how much charge is left when the vacuum is running. Some vacuums today have 3 light bars or buttons that are used to give an indication of battery charge: 1 bar is low, 2 is medium, 3 is high. A simple system like this would have been nice on the A8.
If, while cleaning, the unit starts to run very low on battery power and needs to recharge, it will automatically return to the docking station to get charged up. When it is charged it will resume cleaning at the previous co-ordinates where it finished last time. This is a logical and efficient cleaning approach.
Note: You can keep the A8 fully charged all the time by ensuring the power switch (kind of hidden on the side of the vacuum) stays in the ON position.
The brushroll is easy to remove and iLife suggests you clean it once per week. You can usually visually inspect this to see how much hair and debris are tangled in it. If it is a lot then you may have to clean it more frequently.
The two front spinning brushes also need to be removed occasionally and any dust and hair removed from the cavity. The brushes need to be able to spin freely. These also have to be replaced when worn but we were pleased to find 2 extras in the box.
The front wheel also needs to be removed and cleaned frequently (iLife suggest one to two times per week although ours doesn’t get dirty that quickly). You need to remove any hair around the wheel axle and in the wheel cavity. I was able to pull this wheel out with my hand and it pops back in fairly easily.
Of course you have to empty the dust canister when it is full. We find that we empty it after every single cleaning session. The canister is small and, depending on how clean your floors are, it can get full quite quickly.
The vacuum has a primary filter, a sponge filter, and a high-performance filter. They are all very easy to access. The primary filter and sponge filter can be rinsed with water and put back into the vacuum (when completely dry). You can tap dust and debris off the high performance filter (do so over a garbage bin). However iLife also states you should replace the high performance filter about once per month – you cannot wash this one. There is an extra one provided when you buy the A8.
You should wipe the cliff sensors and charging contact points clean – these are on the underside of the robot. And the charging points on the docking station need to be clean or else you run the risk of the unit not charging.
Controls on the vacuum are fairly simple and there is a power switch on the side of the unit and an “Auto” button on the top. To use these controls you turn the power switch ON and press the “Auto” button and it will start cleaning in Auto Mode (described above in section on Cleaning Ability). However the A8 also comes with a remote control with an LCD screen which ads a host of other options:
Remote controls include:
- Clean/Pause button
- Max power button
- Scheduling button
- Clock setting button
- Point mode cleaning button
- Docking button
- Border mode cleaning button
We’ve used all of these and they control the machine as indicated – no problems. The scheduling does work just fine but it is a little limited. It allows you to program it to run once per day, 7 days per week. But it must be the same time every day. There is no separate programming for different days of the week. The remote uses two AAA batteries (not included).
Also, this vacuum does not have a smartphone app.
WARRANTY & MANUAL
The manual provided with the vacuum is fairly comprehensive and it covers safety instructions, product parts, how to use, maintenance, and troubleshooting. The vacuum also carries a limited warranty that is good for 1-year from the date of purchase.