ILIFE has followed up on their wildly successful ultra-budget robot vacuum the A4, with a new, more powerful A6 model. With a design refresh on the brush and cyclone system, it should work better on carpeted floors. It’s available now on Amazon for $280 – but ILIFE has given us one to giveaway to one lucky reader! Keep reading to find out what we thought of the ILIFE A6, to to enter to win one for yourself!
Design and Specifications
The most significant design change on the A6 is that iLife have done away with the bristles on the brush, and replaced it with an entirely rubberised design. They’ve called this the Bladeaway spiral blade , and along with an upgraded motor, it should perform better on deep carpets and rugs. The rubber brushes should also result in less tangling from long hairs, though this has never been a significant issue for us.
More importantly, it’s quite slim at just 2.8 inches in height, and 12.2 inches diameter. That’s o.2 of an inch slimmer than the previous A4, and means that it can still fit under most furniture to the clean the forgotten places.
Included in the package are:
- Replacement filter and Bladeaway rubber brushes.
- Charging dock, and cable.
- Virtual wall.
- Remote control.
- Batteries for the wall and remote.
Not found in the original A4 model, the virtual wall is a slightly upgraded version of the one included with other more recent ILIFE models (such as the X5, as reviewed). You place it down across a doorway, and an artificial infra-red beam makes the robot think it’s a wall, and therefore it won’t pass. In reality, we’ve never used the virtual wall much, because having a child means there’s always some random toy or tricycle in the way of most doors anyway. But you might, if you have an extensive house.
The battery is the biggest yet – the A6 should run up to 160 minutes. The dustbox feels like the largest yet as well, but there’s no actual specifications that have been released for its capacity, so whether it’s actually larger than the already large dust box of the A4 is subjective. For bigger houses, a large battery and dustbox have obvious benefits.
The dustbox also now features a magnetic latch system, making it easier than ever to empty.
The large spring-loaded wheels also allow for easy transition onto thick thick rugs, where other robots can sometimes get stuck.
Ease of Use
Nothing much has changed on the usability front from previous models: the ILIFE robots are as easy to use as you’d hope. A single button on the top of the device allows you to manually trigger a cleaning operation, but there’s also an infra red remote control. The remote includes a digital display for the current clock and scheduled cleaning time, as well as buttons to start a basic cleaning mode, spot, and edge clean. If you were feeling particularly lazy and wanted to direct the ILIFE A6 to one place, you can also use the directional keys to drive it over there.
Again, as with the rest of the ILIFE series, there is no Wi-Fi connectivity or smart home integration. That said, it would be trivial to hook up an DIY IR gateway to IFTTT, allowing you to automatically trigger cleaning once you’d left the house or from your phone.
When battery is low, the A6 will automatically return to it’s charging dock. Or rather, it’ll enter a low power mode and disable the suction, then randomly wander around until it’s within a few meters of the dock, at which point the sensor will guide it home perfectly. This haphazard and random method of finding home can, rarely, lead it to get stuck somewhere and run out of power. But for the most part it’ll go off and do its thing, go home, then you’ll just need to empty it.
One thing to be aware of if you’ve not owned a robot vacuum before (and that might be a deal breaker for you): anything with a drop sensor gets horribly confused by black surfaces, which don’t reflect light back. In our black carpeted bedroom, it merely gets stuck constantly turning around. This won’t be too much of an issue if you just have a say, a small black part of a rug – but it’ll turn away and won’t clean that area.
For comparison sake, we tested against an older ILIFE X5 model, which we use daily in our kitchen, and is specifically targeted toward hard flooring.
We laid down a line of scattered coffee grinds and broken teabags on a tiled kitchen floor. The results were a little surprising: the older X5 performed better, sucking up nearly everything in a straight line. The A6 pushed some aside, but cleaned up most of it. Left to it’s own devices, it would have cleaned up everything eventually, but just didn’t seem to have the same power on hard flooring.
We also tried a spot cleaning test to confirm, placing the robots in a similarly sized circle of dirt. Again, the X5 seemed to perform better than the A6, though the A6 was faster.
In theory, the higher suction power of the A6 should make it more adept at picking up larger objects, like cornflakes – but in this narrow and probably quite flawed testing, the X5 won out on hard surfaces. Whether this would translate to any difference in real world usage is debatable, but there it is.
On carpets, the X5 is generally less useful. It doesn’t have any kind of brush system – just a hole with suction. Still, we tested them both with scattered flour and a spot test again (we did try a line too, but with such narrow corridors they just weren’t being cooperative). For the spot testing, the A6 certainly did better – theX5 simply smushed the flour around a lot. You can see in the results below that the A6 almost completely cleaned it’s spot, while X5 left large bits in the middle unclean. This was taken midway through the test – unfortunately we couldn’t complete a spot clean either in such narrow corridors.
However, I should note that neither actually cleared all the mess – robot vacuums still don’t compare to an upright vacuum for getting around really deep grime – and the flour test is particularly gruelling. On deeper carpets, the rubber brush system of the A6 would be significantly more effective at daily cleaning.
Win an ILIFE A6!
Courtesy of ILIFE, we’ve got a new A6 model to give away to one lucky reader! To be in with a chance of winning, enter below.
Should You Buy an ILIFE A6 Robot Vacuum?
At the current price of $280, my recommendation would be to … wait a little. For hard surfaces only, the X5 is still the best choice, and can be found for around $150 on GearBest. For carpets, the A6 excels, but I don’t feel that it’s $100-worth better than the previous A4 model, which is still in stock for $180 on Amazon. The A6 features minor, iterative improvements – slightly better suction, a bigger battery, and a bigger dustbox – but nothing that drastically changes the game.
For two storey properties on a limited budget then, you might find it more convenient to buy two of the cheaper model instead. For those with particularly deep carpets or lots of pet hairs, it’s probably worth paying the premium for the $280 A6 – it’s the new king of the budget bunch.
The ILIFE A6 is great on carpets – but for hard floors, stick with the ILIFE X5. However, if your carpets aren’t that deep, consider buying two of the older (and cheaper) A4 model instead.