What is the Vorwerk Kobold VR200?
Thanks to its policy of selling direct, there’s every chance that you haven’t heard of vacuum cleaner firm Vorwerk. Yet, it’s a large company. Large enough, in fact, to have bought Neato – the robot vacuum cleaner company. Thus, we have the Vorwerk Kobold VR200, a robot vacuum cleaner that has more than a passing resemblance to the Neato Botvac Connected.
This is no bad thing, since Neato makes some of the best robot cleaners on the market, with smart navigation and capable cleaning. With the Kobold VR200, however, it’s the comparatively high price and lack of Alexa support that slightly let the side down.
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Vorwerk Kobold VR200 – Build quality and design
The Kobold VR200 has the distinctive D-shaped design of Neato’s robot vacuum cleaners, which means that it can more easily navigate into corners.
As with Neato’s kit, the Kobold VR200 is thin yet wide, as opposed to the thicker and narrower in the way of the Dyson 360 Eye. Both designs come with their advantages and disadvantages. The thinner design means that the VR200 can squeeze under furniture more easily than Dyson; the wide body, on the other hand, means that it can struggle to navigate through tighter spots such as chair legs.
As with other robot vacuum cleaners, the Kobold VR200 uses a combination of suction and rotating brush bar to pick up debris. The brush bar isn’t full width, so there’s a spinning corner brush on the front right-hand side that sweeps dust from the edges of rooms into the suction path.
At launch, the Kobold VR200 wasn’t network-connected, so the touch controls and LCD provide access to everything from starting a regular clean to the scheduling tool. It’s straightforward enough to make changes, although I had to tap a little harder at times to register an input.
Fortunately, a recent firmware update has added Wi-Fi and app control, so there’s no need to use the on-robot controls.
One of the issues with Neato’s design was that the carry handle and the bin release couldn’t so easily be distinguished. As a result, it was far too easy to flip the bin out rather than picking up the robot.
Vorwerk has made a crucial design change: there’s a clear pop-up handle for carrying, and a separate push-button to release the bin.
Vorwerk Kobold VR200 – Features
From the control panel on the front, you can start a regular clean (the robot cleans as far as it can get) or a spot clean (1.5m x 2m). You can do the same thing using the remote control, although that also gives you the option of a manual mode, where you can drive the vacuum cleaner around. The latter is fun for about two minutes, but a little fiddly to make it a practical cleaning option.
More usefully, with the most recent firmware you get full control over the robot via your Android or iOS smartphone. This provides access to all of the modes above, and you can activate the VR200 from anywhere. Scheduling is far easier from the smartphone app, too, letting you programme a regular clean.
Sadly, there’s no Amazon Alexa or Google Home support built in, so you can’t start the VR200 cleaning with a voice command. And, there’s no IFTTT support either, so you can’t pause cleaning when you get a phone call, for example. These features are available on Neato’s range of Connected products, however.
Related: Amazon Alexa guide
If there are places that you don’t want the VR200 to go – such as a prized rug – there are magnetic strips that you can lay down.
There are two cleaning modes: Eco and normal. In Eco mode the VR200 is quieter, and battery life is extended to 90 minutes. However, battery life isn’t really much of a problem, since the VR200 can return to its charger part way through a clean.
Emptying the VR200 is as easy as opening up the robot’s lid, removing the bin, pulling out the filter and tipping out the debris. There’s also a small indent on top, around the same size as the crevice tool for the Vorwerk Kobold VK200. It’s an easier, if not vastly more expensive, way of emptying the VR200. The VR200’s dustbin is comparatively small, so you’ll most likely need to empty it after each use.
Under the top flap is the USB port for firmware upgrades, too. Firmware has to be downloaded to a USB drive and then plugged into the provided extension cable, which connects to the VR200’s micro-USB port. It’s an easy enough procedure, although it would be better if future updates were handled over-the-air.
Related: Google Assistant guide
Vorwerk Kobold VR200 – Performance
Neato’s strength comes from its excellent navigation – it uses laser navigation to map a room sensibly. Vorwerk has inherited this intelligence for the Kobold VR200.
Starting a clean, the VR200 moved neatly around the room, avoiding any obstacles. Sensibly, it navigates so that its corner brush moves against edges.
While the VR200 could fit under my sofas, it struggled to navigate my dining room chairs; it couldn’t make it through the legs. Getting around other obstacles was generally easier, although the VR200 did mount the cat bed and became stuck – the tank-tracked Dyson 360 Eye is a little more powerful.
Use the VR200 near stairs and you don’t have to worry about it falling to its doom as it has an edge sensor that stops this from happening.
To test it, I spread a flour mixture against the edge of a room, placed a cross in the middle of the floor, and did the same thing on a test bit of carpet.
Starting the VR200 off on Eco mode, cleaning performance was excellent, with the cleaner getting right up against the edges of our room. Our spilt flour was mostly picked up, although some was pushed into indents in the floor. Switching to normal mode, the VR200 still failed to pick up these bits.
In the middle of the room, most of the flour was removed, with only trace amounts left behind.
Carpet performance was similar, with the majority of the flour picked up, with the VR200 leaving only a small amount behind.
That’s very good for a robot cleaner, but it’s important to remember that this type of vacuum is for maintenance, rather than a replacement for corded or cordless cleaners. Realistically, for larger spills you’ll still need to turn to a regular cleaner.
Vorwerk Kobold VR200 – How loud is it?
Running in Eco mode, I measured the VR200 at 68.5dB on hard flooring. This isn’t quiet, but I could happily engage in a conversation over the VR200 without too much trouble. On full power, the VR200 is a little louder at 69.7dB.
Why buy the Vorwerk Kobold VR200?
A powerful and smart robot vacuum cleaner, there’s plenty to like about the VR200. There are two main issues to be aware of, however. First, there’s the high price; it’s cheaper to buy the Neato Botvac Connected. Second, if you buy a Neato Botvac Connected, you also get Alexa control and IFTTT, with Google Home support also available in the US.
If you’re buying the Kobold VR200 as part of a package with the VK200, it makes sense; if you’re buying a standalone product, go with the Neato Botvac Connected, Neato Botvac D7 Connected or Dyson Eye 360.
A smart and powerful robot vacuum cleaner, but the Neato products with which is shares its tech offer better value and have more features.