ProsImpressive cleaning capability; robust voice-control functionality; very competitive price
ConsRoom navigation can be a little hit-or-miss; smartphone app is somewhat basic
Here at The Tech Buyer's Guru, we love testing Smart Home gear, but the reality is that most products that fall under the Smart Home umbrella today are more appropriately referred to as home automation products. So it's pretty exciting to test a product that has some actual smarts, in the sense that it can complete tasks without user intervention. We're talking about robotic vaccums, and ironically, this is probably one of the very first categories of Smart Home products ever released, arriving long before the term Smart Home had ever been uttered.
Why review a robotic vaccum now? Well, with the advent of lots of new connected technology, plus several new players in the market, it's never been a better time to check out (or revisit) robotic vacuums. In this review, we'll be taking the Shark Ion Robot 750 Vacuum for a spin, and in the process, it's going to do quite a bit of spinning of its own!
Before we dive into our review, we should mention that while the Shark Ion Robot 750 is a brand-new product (having been released in September 2017), parent company SharkNinja has been around for a while, and thus is not a long-shot Kickstarter hopeful. It was founded in Canada in 1995, and has an extensive lineup of upright vacuums and kitchen appliances, including its very popular Ninja food processor. In other words, it's actually a veteran in the home product arena.
Update: Check out The Tech Buyer's Guru demonstrating the Shark Ion Robot in the November 15, 2017 tech segment of the Portland Today Show!
Description and Features
The Ion Robot 750 doesn't break any new ground in terms of industrial design. In fact, if you didn't look at its branding, you'd probably just assume it was an iRobot Roomba. Like its more established competitor, which it's clearly inspired by, the Ion Robot 750 is a circular device. It measures about 12.5" in circumference (a bit more in front due to the bumper, a bit less in back), 3.5" tall, and weighs just under 5.5 pounds. In other words, it's portable, but big enough to make its presence known. It comes in a cool slate grey color, with black and silver accents, the design broken up somewhat by the chunky rubber bumper on the front end.
In the box, you get the all-important charging dock (which is where the robot lives most of the time), some clip-on brushes (notably one for each side of the robot, as opposed to just one on the iRobot models), and an innovative magnetic strip called the "BotBoundary", which you can cut and set out to keep the Ion Robot 750 in a specific area. Shark thoughtfully includes two pivoting hinges to go with the nine feet of magnetic tape, but we honestly wouldn't mind if it included more tape for larger areas (additional rolls of tape are available for $20). The tape is particularly helpful for laying across doorways that you don't want the robot to enter or exit, or alternatively around furniture or play areas that would otherwise trip up your robot.
As with all robotic vacuums, the Ion Robot 750 has top-mounted controls, and they are pretty self-explanatory. You have the Clean button for whole-room cleaning, the Spot button for targeted area cleaning, and the Dock button, for sending the robot home to charge. There are also two display lights, one being a three-bar battery level indicator, and the other being a WiFi indicator, which lights up blue when connected or red when disconnected.
It's in the connectivity department where the Ion Robot 750 really gets interesting. It communicates with your home network via WiFi, which allows you to control it via your smartphone (even when you're miles away!), or via voice commands using an Amazon Echo or Google Home device. Note that a nearly identical model, the Ion Robot 720, is marketed at the exact same retail price, with the one difference being that it drops the built-in WiFi in exchange for a handheld remote. As far as we're concerned, that model should only be considered by people who don't own smartphones, i.e., basically no one at all. If you're into tech, you probably have a smartphone, and you most definitely want to go for the Ion Robot 750 over the 720.
In the screenshots shown here, you can see the two main control panels within the Shark Ion Robot smartphone app. This is very much a work in progress, given how basic the controls are, but it's a start. You can initiate or stop a cleaning, send the robot to its dock, sound a chime to find your robot, or schedule cleanings (only one cleaning can be scheduled per day). Dive deeper into the settings and you can register your device, set up additional robots, or view error notifications. One major flaw in the app is the inability to reset your wireless connection, for instance if you change your router password or take the robot to a new location. At the time of this writing, the only way to reset your WiFi connection is to delete the robot from the app and set it up as a new robot. We certainly hope Shark can add more robust WiFi options in the future.
In terms of its actual "smarts", Shark has stayed fairly basic. Some of the high-end Roomba models from iRobot have room mapping technology, but Shark decided to optimize the Ion Robot to target a very competitive pricepoint. Therefore, it instead relies on a pre-set course, which it will continue on until it encounteres an obstacle, at which point it will restart its course. Note that some competitors also use cameras for navigation, but Shark's market research found that many consumers were concerned about privacy issues related to a camera-equipped robot, so Shark left that feature off as well.
All right, let's move on to how the Shark Ion Robot 750 works in real-world use!