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Hands-on with the Dyson 360 Vis Nav robot vacuum

The Dyson 360 Vis Naz, the British manufacturer’s new robot vacuum, has finally landed in the States. I just got my hands on the $1,199 machine ahead of its official launch on March 19th and have some early thoughts to share.

As only Dyson’s second attempt to enter the US robot vacuum market — the first being way back in 2016 — the Vis Nav has a lot riding on its giant wheels. With a whopping 65 air watts of suction, Dyson says it’s the most powerful robot vacuum you can buy. Combined with a largely unique design, and a really big, fluffy brush, there’s a lot to like here.

A complete redesign of Dyson’s 360 Eye, which was only briefly sold in the US, the Vis Nav is slimmer, shorter, and wider than its predecessor. The new design should mean it can get under furniture and better deal with large US homes. Both these were things the Eye struggled with and reasons Dyson decided not to sell its second robovac, the 360 Heurist, in America.

Unlike most robovacs, the Vis Nav has a D-shape, with a square head that holds the biggest, fluffiest, plushest robot vacuum brush I’ve ever touched. This thing is quite delightful! The brush is situated right at the front of the robot, meaning it should reach the edges of your rooms and into corners.

The Dyson 360 Vis Nav comes in one color: bluey purple.

I like big brushes and I cannot lie — the Vis Nav has the biggest roller brush I’ve ever seen on a robot vacuum.

A side-actuator brush uses the bot’s suction to drink up the dirt from baseboards instead of relying on a sweeper brush, like most bots. Underneath are two huge tank-like wheels that Dyson says can traverse obstacles up to 21 millimeters high. Its lower profile, 3.9 inches, should mean it can get under the sofa.

The Vis Nav is a vacuum cleaner that can move autonomously, not a robot that can also vacuum — these may seem like the same thing, but they’re not. Its one and only goal is to suck dirt off your floor. It doesn’t mop, watch your pets, or try to be anything other than a vacuum on wheels. Its impressive suction power is the closest any robovac has come to the power of a stick vac. Add in the Dyson Hyperdymium motor and you’ve got a serious vacuum.

The Vis Nav has roamed around my kitchen for the last hour and it’s loud

The vacuum can reach a top suction of 65 air watts with a standard pull of 10 to 10.5 air watts, according to Dyson’s John Ord. Even at that lower level, Ord says the Vis Nav has twice the suction power of its competitors. Most robot vac makers measure in pascals (PA); Ord declined to offer a direct comparison to PAs, instead saying air watts are the more accurate measurement of suction power. (It’s the measurement used for stick vacs, which are still more powerful than the Vis Nav. Dyson’s Gen5 stick vac pulls 280 air watts.)

However, the Vis Nav lacks most of the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect of robot vacuums that cost over $1,000. There’s no self-emptying dock, no mopping, no AI-powered obstacle avoidance, no lidar navigation, and no security camera function. It also only runs for a max of 65 minutes; even the most budget bot I’ve tested gets two hours. But in exchange, you get that suction power. If you constantly battle dust, dirt, and pet hair on your floors, this might be the bot for you.

On its first cleaning run in my house, the Vis Nav demolished a pile of dry oatmeal in seconds; other bots throw the flakes around with their side brush first and then take two or three passes to get it all up. This is because most robot vacs have shorter main brushes and side-sweeping brushes that push debris into their path — in theory. In practice, this sweeping motion can also spin those particles out of the robot’s reach. Dyson’s design appears to fix this problem. 

Sleek and stylish are not two words that spring to mind when looking at the Vis Nav. The Matrix and Bane? Perhaps.

The 0.5 liter dustbin can be easily removed with a handle.

With great suction power comes great noise. The Vis Nav has roamed around my kitchen for the last hour, and it’s loud, particularly when it detects dirt and kicks up to full power. I could also see the suction. When it passed some papers on a low shelf, they rustled in the robot’s wind! 

While I haven’t had time to test out its mapping yet (it’s a simultaneous localization and mapping system that uses an upward-facing, 360-degree camera), early impressions are its navigation is fluid.

It’s the biggest, fluffiest, plushest robot vacuum brush I’ve ever touched. It’s quite delightful!

It rolled smoothly around objects and seemingly intelligently navigated my floors. Initial reviews from Europe — where this vacuum launched last year — complained about its navigation prowess, but Dyson tells me the system has been improved ahead of the US release.

I hope that’s true, as it is a powerful machine roaming around my house. I feared for my daughter’s string bass when it rolled into it, and it really wanted to eat my large rug tassels—but it decided against it and navigated away.

Dyson says the Vis Nav has a “high-level processor” that “thinks and adapts” to the data it collects from 26 sensors to avoid obstacles, detect dust, and find walls. But without AI-powered obstacle avoidance, it doesn’t know what it’s avoiding (so yes, it could have a close encounter with pet poop). In its first run through my cluttered downstairs, nothing tripped it up, and it returned to base successfully. 

Emptying the bin is relatively mess free — a button on top of the handle opens the bottom of the bin. But it’s messier than an auto-empty dock.

The lack of a self-empty charging dock is a bit of a deal-breaker for me, but Dyson at least packed a huge 500ml bin on this thing, so it shouldn’t need emptying often. I loved the quick-release button for easy disposal without getting my hands dirty.

The other design decision I really don’t like is the color. This is a very big, very blue / purple robot with a serious sci-fi vibe. It does not go well with my midcentury decor. However, without a giant auto-empty dock to deal with and factoring in its lower profile, it’s feasible to hide this thing under a couch. (Although Dyson advises you shouldn’t do this). 

Here’s a look at some other features of the new robot Dyson is touting. As mentioned, I have had the Vis Nav for two hours, so I haven’t put any of these claims to the test. Look for my full review in the next few weeks.

  • A piezo sensor detects the amount of dust on the floor so the vacuum can automatically increase suction power.
  • A HEPA filter captures up to 99.99 percent of dust particles as small as 0.1 microns. The whole machine is a fully sealed HEPA filtration system to keep dust inside.
  • There are four cleaning modes: auto mode analyzes dust levels and adjusts suction powers; quick mode avoids edges and just cleans open areas; quiet mode; and boost mode for a deep clean.
  • The Vis Nav is controlled by the MyDyson app or the on-device LCD screen. It works with Amazon Alexa and Google Home for voice control and routines. It’s not compatible with Matter.
  • The app allows for mapping, room-specific cleaning, and assigning “restrictions” such as keep-out zones and no-climb zones.
  • According to Dyson’s Ord, images captured by the camera never leave the robot. “We only capture features from the image for navigation, which are stored on the device temporarily and then deleted.”

The Dyson 360 Vis Nav will be available starting March 19th at Dyson.com and select retailers for $1,199.

Photography by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

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