I just completed my research into buying a new robot cleaner for my 15k gallon 36 x 15 fiberglass pool with SWG. My pool has 2 seat areas, steps, and a ledge that runs the perimeter of the deep end. A challenge for robots certainly. I also have many leaves, acorns and a good bit of silt. So i put a lot of time into searching for the best robot for my needs. I wanted to buy from a local store for ease of service(although i have bought 2 previous robots online). I really wanted a robot that could hold a large amount of debris as well as filter fine particles and not get stuck on the steps/seats. I did not consider the 4 wheeled robots (like the Polaris P955 or the Aquabot Rapids 4WD) as I do not think that design is good for complicated pools from what I can tell.
I really appreciate all the great info & experience on this site so figured i would share what I learned through the process. It can be difficult to find info on pool robots (especially the newer models) and since I have now owned 3 different brands, I thought I would share my experiences.
I ended up buying the Maytronics Active 30i (aka S300i) from a local store in the Greenville, SC area, Upward Pool Supply. I decided on this model because of the large topload basket that incorporates a set of fine particle filters around the basket(you dont have to change out filters or cartridges), latest/newest design, 60 ft cord, ease of cleaning the debris basket, local service center, lightweight/smaller size(hoping this allows it to get seats/steps better), and a bluetooth app for remote control/programming. Also, several dealers I talked with both locally and over the phone have had very positive experiences so far. Apparently Maytronics is selling a lot of these S series/Active Series robots. The cons for this particular model IMHO are : shorter warranty ( 2 year bumper to bumper warranty), no 3rd brush on the bottom of the robot, unknown long term reliability and no anti swivel cord device included. Regarding reliability; one dealer said last year they encountered frequent issues with the power supply, but the issue seems to be fixed. Otherwise, dealers have sold many of these S series/Active series models and are not seeing returns or frequent mechanical issues currently.
I havent had the Active 30i long enough to review it but will keep you posted. First impression is good though. Also, a small point, but I really like the caddy. Its sturdy and well balanced with the power supply mounted at the top. Other caddies I have had were flimsy and poorly designed.
I demo'd 2 other robots before I purchased this one. Here are my impressions:
1. Polaris P825 (exclusive to Leslie Pool Supply): Decent robot with few bells & whistles. Top loading large debris basket very easy to clean & remove. A very good design and feature. Only has a 50 ft cord and no anti swivel device. Cleaned my pool well, similar to my Blue Diamond, except the basket does not catch any fine particles and there is no fine particle option to purchase. So after a few hours all the silt just settled back on the bottom of the pool effectively meaning the P825 just stirred things up. If there was a 2 micron basket or fine filter insert I probably would have kept it. Not sure who actually manufactures this machine so reliability & parts would be unknown as well.
2. Maytronics Dolphin M400: Excellent machine and I probably could have been happy with this one. Has all the great features (except does not have an included remote) including top loading cartridge filters that are very easy to remove and clean. It comes with 2 sets of cartridges - one set for fine particles and one for large debris. I was worried they may not be big enough for leaves, etc but I think they are plenty big and hold a lot of leaves as well as did a good job on the fine silt with the proper cartridges in place. It also has a 3rd brush on the bottom for extra scrubbing and has a 3 yr bumper to bumper warranty. Every dealer locally said they have had very few issues with this robot and recommend it highly. Actually was slightly cheaper than the Active 30i and the only reason I didnt buy the M400 is it did not even touch my steps, seat or deep end ledge. However, I usually have to brush them off anyway. So if for some reason my new Active 30i is a bust I will buy the M400 with no regrets.
Things I learned along the way:
1. Aquabot Elite/ Aquabot Rapids 1500/ Aquabot Rapids 2000: These robots look well designed and have every feature I want. 3 yr warranty, very large top loading fine 2 micron filters, 3rd underneath vibrating brush, anti swivel 60 ft cord,etc. Was going to purchase an Elite at poolexpress.com but after I talked with a large Aquabot Service center/dealer i was hesitant. Although Aquabot branded, they are made by Aquatron in Israel and parts are going to be very problematic unless a lot of units get sold. Most dealers wont even sell them yet because they are unsure of how these units are going to perform. There are NO reviews that I could find (there is 1 YouTube video but is more descriptive than review worthy)and I have not been very inspired by my Blue Diamond robot (made by Aquatron). Also, I have no local options for Aquabot service so I was reluctant to take the chance on such a new product. They may prove to be awesome though, time will tell.
2. It seems like the bottom loading robot pool cleaners are being edged out in nearly every brand. I have used bottom loaders with filter bags for several years and can say these top cartridge/top basket features really are better and much more convenient. For Maytronics the M200/M400/M500 all have top loading cartridges and essentially all that I saw at local stores. I wonder if we will see the prices drop on the bottom loaders over time which would possibly make robot pool cleaners more popular. The best bottom loaders IMHO are Dolphin DX5+S, Dolphin Triton Plus, Dolphin Premier, Aquabot Turbo Series, and possibly Blue Diamond. The Dolphins have the advantage of being able to use bag filters or bottom load filter panels while the others are filter bag only. These bottom loaders are essentially the same price as the newer models so I dont see a reason why I would buy one over the top load models.
3. Aquabot Turbo T (now discontinued) : owned this for several years(bought online at probotics.com) and it cleaned my pool amazingly, even the steps, seats, and ledge. I think the secret is the water jets on the bottom of the robot that continually jet flush water underneath the robot to stir up debris. I never minded cleaning the filter bags & even bought some disposable ones. But now seeing the newer topload alternatives I have been converted. After 4 years my Turbo T had so many repairs that I gave up. I. I was able to do a lot of the repairs myself, even replaced a pump. But that got too pricey. So, while I am partial to the Aquabot brand I heard too many mixed reviews on the reliability of the Aquabot Turbo T2 & T4 to pull the trigger and they remain in the $1200-$1500 range even after all these years. With no local Aquabot resources I decided to try a new brand this time.
4. Watertech Blue Diamond (Manufactured by Aquatron): Bought this 3 years ago from Poolsupplyworld.com due to a reputation for reliability, long 4 year warranty, fast cleaning (covers my whole pool in less than 2 hours), similar design to Aquabot except for the water jets, good reviews, and excellent price $800. It does a good job cleaning but not nearly as good as my old Aquabot Turbo T. If my pool were simpler I think it would be great. But...after its 2nd season it stopped working. Simple parts like tracks, brushes & propellers are more difficult to find and not interchangeable with Aquabot parts usually. Im fairly handy but was unable to diagnose anything simple so had to send it off for repair. Likely it will be out of service for a month or more and shipping was $40. I will say that Watertech Customer Service has been very helpful but hard to contact. Usually have to wait a day or so for them to call me back.
5. I love pool robots and I think they are incredibly convenient and effective. I dont have the time to manually vacuum my pool nor the money to pay a maintenance company. When they are working they are great, when they break they are a pain to fix. It seems that most robots will need some service & maintenance no matter what the brand. Replacing simple parts like brushes, tracks, propellers is easy and there are many youtube videos to assist you. Dont let that scare you off.
6. So what's the best robot??? Im not sure there is one honestly. If you have a rectangular pool with a couple of steps you will probably be happy with many of them. After all my research Imho the best of the best would be: Dolphin M400 & M500, Maytronics S-Series /Active Series, Aquabot Turbo T2& T4, Dolphin Triton Plus/DX5S/DX6/Premier(there are many in this Dolphin line up with each having a few subtle differences and many different names- read the Truth About Pool Cleaners article at sunplay.com). And Im excited to see how the new Aquabots (Elite, Rapids 1500/2000) shape up because they actually have more features than the ones listed, but just too new to know anything yet. One caveat, I did not look into or research the 4wheel drive robots like the Polaris P955/P9550 or the Aquabot Rapids 4WD which are both quite popular.
And lastly, I really wish the pool robot manufacturers would take a lesson from computer companies. Computers are priced low enough so that when it breaks, most people dont fix em, they replace them. If there were really good $500 Dolphins or Aquabots that lasted several years, then we wouldnt have to purchase a $500 replacement pump using mail in service, but could simply replace it with the newest model.
So that's my 2 cents worth. I talked to many a professional and several techs at Maytronics & Aquaproducts to form my opinions. But you know what they say about opinions....
Sorry for the long post, but I think this will now bring a close to my latest obsession.