Robot vacuums are no longer prohibitively expensive. Even models with the ability to connect to your phone or respond to voice assistant commands can be had at entry-level prices, like our Editors’ Choice, the $229 Ecovacs Deebot N79S. So why spend more? In some cases the answer is simple. iRobot’s $950 Roomba i7+ can literally empty itself. In the case of the $329.99 Deebot 601, however, it’s a little less clear. The Deebot 601 does everything the N79S can, with longer battery life and the ability to clean in different patterns, but it isn’t terribly durable and doesn’t excel at navigation. You’re better off saving the extra $100 and picking up the N79S instead.
At 13.9 inches in diameter and 3.3 inches tall, the circular Deebot 601 is well-suited for low-clearance furniture. It has an all-black plastic body with a sleek glossy finish. The top is minimal, with a power button to enable different cleaning modes, a Wi-Fi indicator light, and a cleaning mode light lined up next to one another. I’m concerned about durability, however—part of the front bumper peeled off after only a few weeks of testing.
The back is home to the power switch and reset button, along with a removable dust bin and release button. On the bottom you’ll find the main roller brush, dual spin brushes, charging contacts, anti-drop sensors, two main treads, and a swivel wheel.
The Deebot 601 comes with a docking station, a cleaning tool (to wipe off the bristles and brush on the bottom), and a remote control. The remote has a directional pad, along with buttons for different cleaning modes and to return the vacuum back to the dock.
Setup, App, and Voice Control
While you can use the 601 on its own, you can also pair it with your phone. Download the Ecovacs Home app, available for Android and iOS, turn the vacuum on, and hold the reset button until you hear a beep. The app will guide you through the setup process, which involves connecting the vacuum to your home Wi-Fi network.
The app has three different cleaning modes to choose from: Auto Cleaning, Edge to Edge, and Spot. Auto Cleaning mode, which Ecovacs suggests for carpets, follows a random cleaning pattern as the vacuum is set free to clean the entire house. Edge to Edge targets all the corners of your home, and Spot is for one specific area. For bare floors, there’s a programmed cleaning pattern called Hard Floor mode. When toggled, the vacuum cleans in an S-shaped pattern, which isn’t available on the less expensive Deebot N79S.
The app also lets you schedule the vacuum to automatically start cleaning on a specific day and time, change cleaning patterns, switch the power from standard to maximum, access your cleaning history, and more. Under the Accessories Usage tab, you can view how much time you have left before you should replace the brushes. After using the 601 for a couple of weeks, both the main brush and side brush were still at 100 percent, while the filter was at 99 percent, so you won’t have to change them too often.
When the 601 is running, the app shows its status on the left, including the amount of surface area cleaned so far and the amount of time it’s been vacuuming for. Battery status is in the upper right corner, and the middle shows a visual pattern of the vacuum moving in real time.
Notifications live in a separate tab. I received messages alerting me of things like the main brush being tangled, the vacuum not being on the floor, or simply a low battery. When you tap on a specific notification, it explains how to fix the issue. But I found notifications were slow, and I wouldn’t receive an alert until about a minute or two after the vacuum had already encountered the issue.
Unfortunately, the Ecovacs Home app doesn’t include any steering controls. The Deebot N79S, on the other hand, connects to the Ecovacs app instead of the Home app, which includes a control pad you can use to steer from your phone.
I connected the 601 to my Google Home speaker using the Google Home app; it’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa. After connecting it, I used Google Assistant voice commands to start the vacuum and send it back to the dock.
The Deebot 601 is strong enough to suck up most messes, but it isn’t the most autonomous vacuum we’ve tested. It often got stuck on cords or tangled up with hair, requiring manual intervention. It also takes a while to maneuver itself out of crowded areas.
As with many affordable robot vacuums, the 601 struggles with figuring out where it has and hasn’t already cleaned. When set to Auto mode, it has a tendency to skip over rooms entirely, or will spend most of its time in one room and much less elsewhere. It also struggled with finding its way back to the dock in testing, leaving me to manually place it there myself when it took too long.
It can take a few tries for the vacuum to make it over tall thresholds, like molding on the floor between rooms. I also recommend moving any thick, shaggy obstacles out of the way. My bathroom rug proved to be too thick for the Deebot to pass over, so it would spend time pushing it to the side rather than vacuuming.
It performed better in Edge to Edge mode, recognizing all the corners of my apartment. Even though its round shape isn’t the best for this specific job, the dual brushes help to sweep dust toward it. As mentioned before, its height allows the 601 to slide underneath beds, dressers, and other low areas with ease. And, while you can definitely hear it vacuuming, the Deebot is relatively quiet.
I tested how well the vacuum sucks up different materials on hardwood floors using standard suction power. It did well with sand, picking up almost all of the particles. But it struggled with cat litter, leaving a slight film of debris that I had to direct it back over. I then tried rolled oats, and while the vacuum has the suction power to pull them in, its brushes swiped most of them away in opposite directions, creating an even bigger mess than I started with. Larger objects like Cheerios were scooped up without issue. And while the Deebot is capable of picking up hair, it would often spit it back out in the form of a hairball, leaving me to pick it up myself.
On the plus side, the Deebot has a nice, large dustbin. I was able to run it multiple times before having to dump out what was collected throughout my apartment.
When it comes to battery life, Ecovacs says the Deebot 601 can last up to 120 minutes. On Auto clean mode, it lasted about 112 minutes before I received an alert that its battery was running low, which was enough to clean through all of the rooms in my relatively small apartment more than once. That’s nearly on par with the iLife A4s, which has the longest battery life of all the budget robot vacuums we’ve tested. It’s also longer than the Deebot N79S, which lasted 95 minutes in our tests.
If you live in a home that consists of very little clutter, wide open spaces, and hardwood floors, the Deebot 601 is a decent choice for keeping things clean. But there’s simply not much of a reason to buy it instead of the Deebot N79S, which has almost the exact same features for $100 less (not to mention the ability to steer the vacuum from your phone). For something that can better handle cluttered spaces, meanwhile, check out the $375 iRobot Roomba 690. It comes with many of the same features as the Deebot 601, including app control and voice assistant compatibility, but its dual-mode virtual walls make it worth the extra money. You can use them to keep the vacuum from entering rooms or touching certain objects, for an even more autonomous cleaning experience.