Eufy’s flagship RoboVacs are some of the most loved robot vacuums on the market. They are small, attractive, easy to use, and very reasonably-priced. I reviewed the 11+ in 2017, and its positive attributes almost eclipsed the fact that … well, it just wasn’t great at cleaning.
This year, Eufy’s new 11S Max offers the upgraded version of the same small, slim, attractive robot vacuum. Now Eufy claims that it has a max suction power of 2 kilopascals (for comparison, the Coral vacuum has 2.7 kPa; a typical handheld vacuum might produce around 1.7 kPa). When the vacuum’s brushes start rotating slower on high-pile carpeting, they trigger the vacuum’s suction fan motor to amp up the suction power. For such a small, light vacuum, it’s pretty effective at agitating and cleaning my dog-hairy carpets.
My main gripe with the 11S Max is philosophical: It uses an outdated navigation technology. Instead of mapping software, the 11S Max uses “bounce” navigation technology, which sends the bot ping-ponging around your house at random until the battery runs out.
A few years ago, bounce technology was par for the course for budget robot vacs. But nowadays, even more more affordable robot vacs have mapping software, which is a much more effective, thorough, and energy-efficient way to clean your house.
If your budget maxes out at $200, the 11S Max is probably one of the best affordable robot vacuums you can buy. But if you have room to go slightly higher, you might want to investigate whether you can swing a smart vacuum instead.
Lust for Life
The 11S Max looks pretty much exactly like the 11+. It’s 2.85 inches tall, slim enough to fit under my couch, with no threatening red laser eyes or gun turrets poking out of its glass top. To set it up, I plugged in the stand and put the batteries in the remote. The robot vacuum ran for an impressive two hours and took a little over four hours to charge.
The dustbin is an upgraded and respectable 0.6 liters, which I filled up to the brim with dog hair every time I ran it. There’s no sensor to alert you when the bin is full, but Eufy states that most people will probably be able to run it two or three times to fill it.
For a vacuum with such powerful suction, it’s remarkably quiet. I measured it at 60 decibels on hardwood, and between 60 and 65 on carpet, depending on if BoostIQ was activated. For reference, 60 decibels was low enough for me to watch the season finale of Fleabag while it was cleaning.
Infrared and drop sensors helped the 11S Max do a much better job of navigating than its predecessor. It adroitly avoided the step in my kitchen and navigated its way out of bot booby traps, like my children’s scooters piled in a corner.
In fact, the only household items that gave it serious trouble were shoelaces dangling off the shoe rack and a small accent table with a domed base. The 11S Max spent so much time and energy ramming up against the table base’s slanted sides, that I eventually moved the stool to the garage while it was vacuuming. The long hair from my daughter and I didn’t snarl the carpet brush.
The 11S Max does have edge-cleaning capabilities, and if you set the vac to auto-clean, it will combine both random and edge-cleaning pathways. I did see it follow a few edges, like under my kitchen cabinets and along a wall. However, when the cabinet ended, it went back to happily bouncing. I consistently found debris left over in high-traffic areas of my house, like by the shoe rack and under my children’s chairs at the kitchen table.
For some people, it’s a bonus to not have to download yet another app and tediously connect your robot vacuum to your home network and your phone. Certainly, I felt that way when it came to Eufy’s Wi-Fi-free baby monitor. Sometimes, it feels like a revelation to just plug in a device and use it.
The 11S Max has a single button on top to power it on, but it also comes with a remote that requires two AAA batteries. The remote has manual directional control, along with other functions like boosting the suction power, returning it to the dock, and spot-cleaning. You can also schedule cleanings with the remote, but only daily, not weekly or every other day as you can with Eufy’s Wi-Fi-enabled vacuums.
Overall, the 11S Max is simple and easy to use. But I just can’t get over how hilariously outdated bounce-cleaning is. I ran the 11S Max for the full two hours. When the battery finally started to die, it was in my bedroom.
It beeped sadly to and fro for awhile, trying to find the door. Honestly, it stood about as much chance of randomly finding its way back to the dock as I did of finding Atahualpa’s Incan treasure by pointing a divining stick at a map. When I could no longer bear its pathetic attempts, I picked it up to return it home. The button flashed and it died in my hands. It was like a scene from the end of Where the Red Fern Grows.
A mapping vacuum can edge-clean more effectively; it can cover your whole house, and find its way back to the dock to charge. It just wasn’t worth it to pick up all the old Band-Aids and tangled pieces of ribbon in my house and hope that a random robot path might happen go over that spot. And it’s not worth starting the robot vacuum and leaving to run errands, if the bot is going to die under your bedroom dresser and not make its way back home.
After a week, I found myself using the 11S Max as just a quick touch-up measure before friends came over. I could push the 30-minute quick clean button to send it on an emergency sweep for dog hair tumbleweeds while I washed dirty dishes and swiped at the bathroom mirror to signal to our friends that our house isn’t a malarial swamp.
If that’s what you need a robot vacuum for, then the 11S Max is a great pick. Its suction power and carpet brush agitated my carpets enough to fill one or two bin-loads with dog hair. It’s remarkably quiet, and it’s one of the few robot vacuums on the market that is attractive enough not to scare my two-year-old son.
But if you need something quicker and more thorough, Ecovacs and Roborock now offer cleaning robots with mapping technology for about a hundred dollars more, and I think mapping tech is worth it. What can I say? Bounce is not back.