iLife A4s Pro review: Simplicity is this robot vacuum’s strength

Apps enable robot vacuum capabilities we could only imagine a few years ago, but they frequently bring their share of headaches as well. Sophisticated features like multilevel mapping can be complicated, and the apps themselves are often finicky. It can be a lot to contend with when all you want is to clean up the trail of food crumbs your kids left in their wake.

Fortunately, there are still simple-but-competent cleaners like the iLife A4s Pro. This robot vacuum, which is an upgrade of the A4s, blends powerful suction with straightforward controls, an approach that keeps its price tag less than $200.

Superficially, the two vacuums are nearly identical, with the only obvious difference being the Pro is all black instead of gray. But the Pro has been reengineered to improve its cleaning abilities.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best robot vacuums, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

a4s auto iLIfe

The A4s Pro can automatically boost its suction power when it recognizes carpet.

The A4s Pro replaces the A4s’ V-shaped bristle roller brush with an “enhanced 2-in-1” brush that combines bristle with rubber extractors. This conforms better to uneven surfaces resulting in more dirt and dust pickup. The roller is also removable for easier cleaning.

The Pro has also increased the max suction power to 1500Pa from its predecessor’s top mark of 1000Pa, and it doubled the Spot mode suction from 1000Pa to 2000Pa. Both Auto and Edge cleaning mode suction have been boosted by 30 percent.

Finally, the Pro adds a small battery-powered device called the ElectroWall, which creates a three-meter virtual barrier to block the robot vacuum from entering restricted areas.

Setup and performance

With no app to install or Wi-Fi connection to make, setting up the vacuum is very straightforward. Plug in the charging dock, flip the vacuum’s power switch to “on” and set it on the charging contacts. iLife says it takes about five hours to fully charge the A4s Pro, which will give you about 100 minutes of runtime. While it’s charging, you can install the two included AA batteries into the ElectroWall and the two AAA batteries in the remote control.

a4s pro electrowall iLife

The ElectroWall creates a 3-meter barrier to keep the A4s Pro out of areas you don’t want it to clean.

Auto cleaning is the simplest way to use the A4s Pro. In this general cleaning mode, the robot vacuum cleans all areas it can reach, automatically boosting suction strength when it recognizes rugs or carpet. You can start auto cleaning by pressing the Auto button on top of the vacuum, and you can pause a cleaning by pressing it again. Pressing and holding the button for three seconds puts it into sleep mode.

The remote control gives you additional options. Once you set the local time, you can schedule a cleaning start time. The Pro will automatically start a cleaning job at that same time every day. If you want to cancel the cleaning on any particular day, you can just turn off of the robot.

The remote also gives you access to specialized cleaning modes. Spot mode cleans in a circular pattern to lift concentrated dirt; you press it when the vacuum encounters such an area while doing general cleaning, and it will automatically return to Auto cleaning mode when it’s done. For Edge mode, you place the Pro alongside a wall and press the Edge button on the remote. The vacuum will clean in this mode until it can’t detect any more edges, or you press the Edge button again to deactivate it.

a4s pro schedule iLife

You can schedule the A4s Pro to automatically clean at the same time each day.

The remote control also allows you to change suction power on the fly, or to manually direct the vacuum using an arrow pad.

The A4s Pro did a great job of cleaning my downstairs floor, which includes carpet, hardwood, and vinyl tile in different areas. It transitioned across these different surfaces smoothly, and did a nice job clearing them of dust, pet hair, food crumbs, and other debris. Its low 2.95-inch height enabled it to get under the couch and other low-clearance furniture with no problem. I used the ElectroWall to keep it from bumping into our dog’s food and water dishes, and that worked perfectly.

Of course, you don’t get the perks associated with higher-end, app-enabled robot vacuums. Without a sophisticated navigation system on board, the vacuum wanders the room changing direction only when its onboard sensors alert it to an obstacle or cliff. And when it returns to its dock, either to top off its battery or because it has completed a job, it’s not always in a straight line. There are also no voice alerts to let you know when, and why it’s stuck, just a series of beeps.

But one person’s perks are another person’s pain points, and if you prize simplicity and competence in your technology, the A4s Pro will make you very happy. If you have a large or multilevel home or otherwise complex floorplans, the features more advanced robots offer will probably give you a more efficient cleaning. In that case, a robot vacuum like the Roborock S6 MaxV would be a more appropriate option.

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PCWorld

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