Looking for a robotic pool cleaner for your in-ground or above ground pool?
You’ve come to the right place.
Unlike other kinds of automatic pool cleaners, a robotic pool cleaner is self-contained and doesn’t rely on your pool pump or filter.
Robot pool cleaners also require no installation, are super-energy efficient and require almost no maintenance (other than emptying the debris bin).
In this buying guide, we review the best robotic pool vacuum cleaners of 2021 for both in-ground and above-ground pools.
Questions We Answer In This Guide
What's in This Buying Guide
Table of Contents
Robotic Pool Cleaners We Review In This Guide
Best Robotic Pool Cleaners: Comparison Table
- Top pick overall
Motor driven (Tracks)
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus
- Best value
Motor driven (Tracks)
Aquabot Pool Rover S2-40
- Best for above-ground/vinyl pools
Jet driven (Wheels)
Dolphin Triton PS
- Best for in-ground pools
Motor & Jet driven (Tracks)
- Best for extra-large pools
Motor driven (Tracks)
- Best new model
Motor driven (Tracks)
Polaris F9550 Sport
- Best wall climber
Motor & Jet driven (Wheels)
- Best commercial cleaner
Motor driven (Tracks)
- Best Aquabot
Motor driven (Tracks)
- Best Hayward
Motor driven (Tracks)
Pentair Prowler 920
- Best Pentair
Motor driven (Tracks)
- Best cordless
Motor driven (Tracks)
Best Robotic Pool Cleaners: Our Reviews
The Dolphin Premier is one of the best robotic pool cleaners for in-ground pools. It’s also one of the most expensive.
It makes up for it by making sure you never have to clean the pool yourself or pay someone to do it. It scrubs and vacuums the pool, covering every inch on the floor and walls.
Like other robotic cleaners, the Dolphin Premier doesn’t need any installation. Just plug the power unit into a GFCI outlet and drop the robot into the water.
When in the pool, the Premier doesn’t move randomly. It’s equipped with SmartNav software, which scans the pool to determine the best cleaning path.
SmartNav also allows the robot to know where it has cleaned and where it has yet to cover, ensuring it doesn’t miss any spots or go over the same areas repeatedly.
As it moves, a rotating brush power-scrubs the surface of the pool, removing algae, calcification, and any other grime stuck to the pool.
Thanks to the powerful 3,000 RPM DC motors and the HyperGrip dual tracks, it’s able to scrub to the waterline. The only place that is struggling to clean are the steps.
After the brush agitates debris, the integrated vacuum suctions the water through the filters where debris is trapped.
The Premier comes with several filters for different types of debris. They include a micro-filter for fine bits like sand and a debris bag for leaves, twigs, and acorns.
Switching from one media to another is easy and quick.
The only thing we don’t like about the filters is that they are only accessible from the bottom. You have to turn the robot over to remove them, which is a bit inconvenient.
But overall, the Dolphin Premier is an excellent choice for in-ground pool owners. It cleans well, it’s easy to maintain, and it’s reliable.
The Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus provides the best balance of value and affordability.
It’s cheaper than most other Dolphin pool cleaners but comes with several high-end features and impressive cleaning performance.
Like the Premier, the Nautilus CC Plus also comes with pool scanning software (CleverClean) that improves cleaning efficiency and ensures full coverage.
Using two brushes, it scrubs algae and grime off the pool surface. It cleans the floor, goes up the wall, and scrubs up to the waterline to leave the pool sparkling clean.
But it struggles a bit with the stairs. At most, it’ll clean the bottom two steps. This is a common problem with robotic vacuum cleaners (and other automatic cleaners as well).
All the debris is sucked into two large cartridges. One of the cartridges traps leaves and other large debris, while the other focuses on finer particles such as sand and algae.
This dual filtration design significantly improves cleaning performance. For convenience, both filters are accessible from the top – no need to turn the cleaner over the remove them.
One other feature you’ll love, especially if you have a busy schedule, is the weekly scheduler.
Instead of lagging the heavy cleaner to the poolside every time you want to clean, just leave it in the pool and set it to clean automatically daily, every other day or twice a week.
But remember to take it out at least once a week to empty the filters and when you are adding chemicals to the pool. Don’t leave it in the water during winter.
Overall, the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus is one of the best robotic pool cleaners you’ll get at this price.
Aquabot pool robots are generally cheaper than the Dolphin models from Maytronics. But the build quality and reliability are not as good.
But for the price, the Pool Rover S2-40 is a good bargain. It may not last as long as a Dolphin cleaner, but it cleans well.
It’s certainly better than most suction and pressure side cleaners.
The S2-40 cleans the floor, cove, and part of the wall. It only vacuums debris into a top-access filter bag but doesn’t have a scrubbing brush.
If your pool has a lot of gunk and grime stuck on the walls and floor, we recommend manually scrubbing it first before deploying the Pool Rover to vacuum. Alternatively, get an above ground pool cleaner with a brush such as the Dolphin E10 (we review it further below).
But for everyday cleaning, the S2-40 does an excellent job.
The 2-micron filter bag catches everything from leaves and acorns to sand and algae. It’s easily accessible from the top.
But cleaning it is a bit tedious compared to a filter cartridge.
Consider buying a spare bag when you order the Pool Rover S2-40 to ensure you always have a bag ready when one is drying.
The Aquabot Pool Rover doesn’t have a fancy navigation system. It just moves randomly on four wheels until it covers most of the pool.
The wheels are safe for all kinds of pool surfaces, including vinyl-lined pools.
Instead of the usual drive motors most pool robots use to move around the pool, the Pool Rover S2-40 relies on Hydro-Robotic Technology, a jet-driven navigation system that uses the force of water to steer the robot.
While the S2-40 is not the most advanced pool robot or even one of the most powerful, it’s perfectly suited to above ground pools.
The scrubbing power, high mobility, and large filter capacity of the Dolphin Tritons PS make it an excellent choice for cleaning in-ground pools.
It’s equipped with CleverClean technology, which allows it to choose the best cleaning path and efficiently cover the entire pool in two hours.
But just because it cleans fast doesn’t mean it does a poor job compared to slower pool robots. If anything, it cleans more thoroughly.
A fast-spinning active brush attacks algae and debris stuck on the pool floor and walls.
The dislodged debris is sucked into a massive top-loading filter cartridge that captures everything from leaves to fine sand.
The cartridge is big enough that you don’t need to lift the cleaner and empty it in the middle of a cleaning session. In fact, most pool owners find that they only need to make it empty on a weekly.
The Triton PS covers almost the entire pool. It has some trouble climbing up the steps, but this is common with most robotic pool cleaners.
But it navigates other areas easily, scrubbing up to the waterline.
When tackling vertical surfaces, it uses PowerStream mobility, a jet-driven system that allows the cleaner to grip the walls more strongly to avoid tipping over or slipping.
The two tracks also provide excellent traction and ensure the robot doesn’t get stuck on the drain, steps, and other tricky areas.
The Dolphin Triton is surprisingly light. It takes little effort to pull it out of the water. The fast water release design makes it even easier to get it out of the pool.
Filter access is at the top, so you don’t have to turn the robot over. A minor design feature, though super convenient.
Like most other Dolphin models, you can set a weekly schedule so that the robot can clean even when you are away. The scheduler provides daily, 2x a week, and 3x a week programming options
The Dolphin Sigma robotic pool cleaner cleans extra-large in-ground pools of up to 50 feet long. That covers even large 40’ residential pools.
To cover the larger area efficiently, it relies on scanning software to map out the best cleaning path and ensure it doesn’t miss any spots.
It also has a gyroscope that improves navigation on vertical surfaces and steps.
The Dolphin sigma combines its smart navigation with powerful cleaning features. The most notable is a pair of scrubbing brushes that leave the pool floor and walls free of dirt, algae and calcium deposits.
A powerful vacuum then pulls the debris into two top-access high-capacity filters. The filters capture both large and fine bits of debris.
The vacuum, brushes, and tracks are powered by three – yes, three – DC motors. It’s one of the most powerful in-ground robot vacuum cleaners.
The extra power doesn’t mean it’s power-greedy. In fact, it’s much more efficient than traditional suction and pressure automatic pool cleaners. According to Maytronics, it uses 90% less power than other automatic cleaners.
You can set the robot to clean automatically daily, twice a week, or three times a week. The scheduling function is available through the power unit or via Bluetooth.
Yes, the Sigma has Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to control it using your phone. It’s more of a gimmick really, it doesn’t work smoothly.
You can use it to navigate the robot manually for spot cleaning, but the response is slow, making it frustrating to use.
Overall, Dolphin Sigma is the best buy for homes with large in-ground pools. It’s expensive, but it delivers the best cleaning performance.
The Dolphin E10 is one of the newest models from Maytronics. It’s designed for above ground pools of up to 30 feet long.
It’s a bit more expensive compared to other above-ground robotic pool cleaners, but it has the cleaning performance and features you typically get with a high-end in-ground pool robot.
One of these features is CleverClean technology, the same pool scanning software used in models like the Triton PS and Nautilus CC Plus.
It allows the E10 to clean the pool quickly and efficiently in just 1.5hrs.
Unlike most above ground pool cleaners that move on wheels, the E10 has tracks that give it better traction in the pool.
It moves along the floor without getting stuck and can even partially climb some pool walls. The cord also doesn’t get tangled around the ladder, so you can leave it in when the robot is cleaning.
But at times, the cord can get tangled around itself since it is non-swivel, which is a bit disappointing considering the price and the fact that it is a Maytronics product.
For cleaning, the Dolphin E10 relies on two components: the active brush and the powerful vacuum.
An active brush rotates twice as fast as normal brushes, dislodging debris, and dead algae from the pool liner.
If your above ground pool tends to have a lot of grime stuck on the pool floor, the Dolphin E10 is a better choice over the brushless Aquabot Pool Rover S2-40.
The vacuum then sucks the loose debris into a large filter basket.
The basket is top-loading, so it’s easy to access. It’s also easy to clean with a quick hose down, unlike messy filter bags.
The only filter limitation is that it doesn’t trap fine debris like sand and silt. For that, you have to buy a separate Dolphin Ultra-Fine filter basket.
We highly recommend getting it. Without it, the E10 will not be benificial for everyday pool cleaning.
The Dolphin E10 is easy to use. Unlike other automatic pool cleaners, you don’t have to connect any hoses.
Its lightweight design makes it easy to handle. We also love its simple one-button operation.
If you’ve struggled with robotic pool cleaners that won’t go up the pool walls, forcing you to brush them manually, we recommend the Polaris F9550 Sport Robotic Pool Cleaner.
It doesn’t come cheap – it’s in the same price range as top Dolphin models –but it’s worth it for in-ground pool owners who want full coverage.
The F9550 Sport pool cleaner is a 4-wheel drive beast that has no trouble to scale the pool wall. A rear water propulsion system and ActivMotion Sensor Technology also significantly improve the cleaner’s navigation and mobility.
For cleaning, it relies on oscillating brushes to attack algae, dirt, and other debris deposits stuck on the pool floor and walls.
Using proprietary Vortex Vacuum Technology, it then sucks up all the debris, including large pieces like leaves and acorns, into an easy-to-clean filter canister.
The robot has a dirty canister indicator, so you’ll know when it’s time to empty it.
That’s not the only tech we love in the Polaris F9550 Sport.
It also comes with a motion-sensing remote control that’s truly handy for spot cleaning. It takes a few tries to learn how to use it, but it works great with a fast response from the robot.
If the robot misses a few spots, you can manually navigate it to clean them.
But that’s not all the remote control does. It has a convenient feature called Easy Lift System. Press a button on the remote, and the robot automatically rises to the surface where you can easily grab it.
As you lift the robot, it quickly empties the water inside to make it easier to lift.
The power unit also has a couple of features we love.
It has the usual weekly schedule that allows you to set days when you want the robot to clean the pool automatically.
Also, it has multiple cleaning modes, a feature lacking in Dolphin robots. You can set the robot to clean the floor, floor, and wall, waterline only, or select a custom mode.
The Polaris Polaris F9550 Sport is not just the best wall climber; it’s also one of the best in-ground robotic pool cleaners.
In terms of cleaning performance, it’s right up there with Dolphin models but leads them when it comes to features, tech, and versatility.
Looking for a robot pool cleaner for a spa, hotel, country club, or any commercial swimming pool?
We recommend the Dolphin Odyssey. As you would expect, it costs more than a standard Dolphin in-ground pool cleaner.
But it has the power to match.
It features three commercial-grade DC motors that power multiple brushes and the huge tracks the robot moves on.
For efficient navigation, which is essential in large commercial and public pools, the Odyssey relies on SmartNav 3.0 pool scanning. Instead of wandering randomly in the pool, it follows the most optimal cleaning path.
It also boasts a 3-axis gyroscope, which improves the robot’s navigation on the floor and walls.
Talking of walls, the Dolphin Odyssery covers just about every inch of the pool up to the waterline. This dramatically reduces the amount of manual cleaning required.
As the robot navigates across the floor and scales the walls, triple cleaning brushes attack algae, calcification, and any other dirt stuck on the pool surface.
This makes it easier for the powerful onboard vacuum to suction the debris into the dual fine and ultra-fine filter basket.
The Dolphin Odyssey comes with a remote control that you can use to navigate the robot to any spots it might have missed or places that need extra attention.
- Quick Clean – Offers a quick 90-minute cleaning cycle, in addition to a standard 3-hour cycle.
- Standard – The standard version has just one 3-hour cleaning cycle. It’s slightly cheaper than the Quick Clean version. Also, it comes with a 1-year warranty, compared to 3 years of the Plus and QC.
- Plus – Comes with a wireless remote control for manual steering. The remote control is handy for spot cleaning.
Pentair is best known for their reliable and long lasting Kreepy Krauly suction pool cleaners. They also make robotic pool cleaners.
The Pentair Prowler 920 is one of their best robotic cleaners for inground pools.
Similar to the Hayward Tigershark, the Prowler 920 is not a cheaper alternative to Dolphin pool cleaners. It’s just as expensive as premium Dolphin models. If you want a budget-friendly inground pool cleaner, go with the Aquabot X4.
But the Pentair Prowler 920 has the features and cleaning performance to match its price tag. Let’s start with cleaning performance.
The Prowler 920 cleans pools up to 50 feet long. It moves on tracks, which provide a strong enough grip for the cleaner to effortlessly drive over drains and climb walls.
The Prowler 920 has two brushes to scrub dirt and algae from the pool wall and floor. One of these is an active brush, meaning it rotates quickly for a more thorough scrubbing.
The cleaner then vacuums the debris into the filter basket. You can choose between two filter cartridges based on the kind of debris you want to remove. The large filter removes leaves, bugs and other large bits of debris. The fine filter is useful for removing silt, sand and algae.
The filter basket is accessible from the top, so it’s easy to remove and clean.
You can set the Prowler 920 to clean your pool automatically on specific days. Use the scheduling button on the power supply to set it to clean daily, every other day or every three days.
The main issue customers have with the Pentair Prowler 920 is the extremely short warranty – just 60 days. Considering the price of the cleaner, a longer warranty would be a big improvement.
What is a Robotic Pool Cleaner?
There are three types of automatic pool cleaners: pressure-side, suction side, and robotic pool cleaners.
Of the three, robotic cleaners are the easiest to use and clean the best. Unlike the other two, a robotic cleaner doesn’t rely on your pool pump or filter. So you don’t need to set up any hoses.
A robotic cleaner is self-contained with its own onboard vacuum, scrubbing brush, and filter bag or basket.
It is also self-powered. Most use motors to drive wheels or tracks as well as power the brushes and vacuum. Some create water jets to push them around the pool.
Most robot vacuums have a simple one-button operation. Just plug the power unit into a GFCI outlet and place the robot in the water.
It’ll automatically clean the pool, scrubbing, vacuuming, and filtering as it goes.
How to Choose the Right Robotic Pool Cleaner
With so many models in the market and prices all over the map, it can be challenging to choose the right robot pool cleaner for your needs.
Here’s a helpful buying guide with the most essential features to look for in a robotic pool cleaner.
1. Type of Pool
Robotic pool cleaners are designed for either above ground or in-ground pools. Make sure you select the right one for your pool.
Above ground, pool cleaners are typically smaller and cheaper. In-ground pool cleaners are bigger, have more features, and are more expensive.
If you have a small in-ground pool (less than 30ft long), you can do with an above ground pool.
The Best Robotic Pool Cleaner for Inground Pools
Here is a summary of the 5 best robotic pool cleaners for in-ground pools from our buying guide. They all feature powerful cleaning performance, and can clean large pools between 40 and 60 feet long.
The Best Robotic Pool Cleaner for Above Ground Pools
Here are our top picks for above ground pools. These cleaners are smaller, cheaper and are designed to clean pools up to 30 feet long.
2. Pool Size
Check the maximum pool size the robotic cleaner is designed for. If it’s not mentioned, check the length of the cable and then minus 10ft.
Most in-ground robot cleaners come with a 60’ cable, meaning they can cover a pool up to 50ft long. Some models like the Polaris F9550 Sport can clean 60’ pools (70’ cable).
Most above ground robotic pool cleaners have a 40’ cable, meaning they clean pools up to 30ft long.
3. Coverage (Floor Only or Floor and Wall?)
What kind of coverage does the robot pool cleaner provide?
A good quality in-ground pool cleaner should provide full coverage of floor, steps, walls, and waterline.
But some have problems climbing pool walls. Check customer reviews to see what users say about the robot’s wall-scaling ability.
Most won’t clean all the steps – usually just the first two.
For above-ground cleaners, most only clean the floor and part of the wall. But if it’s a 90-degree wall (no radius), it’ll likely stick to the just the floor.
Knowing the cleaner’s coverage gives you an idea of how much manual cleaning you’ll need to do.
4. Smart Navigation
Pool cleaners with smart navigation scan the pool to determine the best cleaning path and ensure there are no missed sports.
Smart navigation is common in in-ground robotic pool cleaners though it’s available in some above-ground ones as well.
It increases cleaning efficiency and reduces cleaning time.
If you want a robotic pool cleaner with smart navigation, you’ll have to pay more. Cheaper robots without any navigation software clean almost as well, but they take longer and tend to miss some spots.
The robot’s filtration system is very important for cleaning performance. Here’s what to look for.
The following accessories are not must-have but are nice to have.
Remote control: With the remote control, you can manually navigate the robot to pay attention to specific areas or clean missed spots.
Caddy: A caddy is handy for storing the power unit and transporting the power unit and robot cleaner to and from storage.
7. Programmable Cycles and Scheduler
A weekly scheduler is helpful if you spend most of your days away from home. You can set the robot to clean automatically on certain days.
But first, make sure it’s okay to leave the robot in the water for more than several hours. Look it up in the manual or check with the manufacturer.
Also, check if the control panel on the power unit has programmable cycles that allow you to select the cleaning mode or how long the robot cleaner will run.
Programmable cycles are handy if there are times when you want just a quick clean and other times a deep clean.
Types Of Robotic Pool Cleaners
Beyond above ground and in-ground, there aren’t any other major classifications for robotic pool cleaners.
But we can group them roughly based on various features and technologies.
Wheel-drive robotic pool cleaners: These are robot cleaners that move on wheels. Some models like the Polaris F9550 Sport have 4-wheels drive to increase power and traction.
Track-driven robotic pool cleaners: These robot cleaners use tracks instead of wheels. Tracks generally provide better grip and traction, especially when climbing the pool wall. Most Maytronics Dolphin pool cleaners move on tracks.
Jet-drive robotic pool cleaners: Most wheel and track-driven pool robots rely on a motor to power the wheels/tracks. Others rely on powerful water jets to drive and navigate around the pool.
Combined robotic pool cleaners: These have at least two mobility systems; usually, wheels or tracks and water jets. The jet system provides extra power and traction.
The Benefits of Using a Robotic Pool Cleaner
Saves You Time
A robotic pool cleaner won’t completely take over all pool cleaning – you may still have to scrub the steps or part of the wall – but it saves you hours in pool maintenance.
Instead of spending your weekends’ scrubbing and vacuuming the pool, you have more time to enjoy your clean pool.
Saves You Money
Most pool owners spend over $100 on monthly pool cleaning services.
A good quality robotic pool cleaner is expensive, especially if it is for an in-ground pool, but the savings more than makeup for the initial cost.
With a robotic pool cleaner, you don’t need pool cleaning services.
You’ll also find that you can do with fewer pool chemicals since the pool stays cleaner (more on that next) and the robotic cleaner circulates the water to ensure even chemical distribution.
Keeps Your Pool Cleaner
Most pool owners scrub and vacuum their pool once a week. Cleaning more frequently than that is time-consuming and expensive.
A robotic vacuum cleaner can clean the pool daily with barely any added costs. This keeps your pool cleaner and healthier.
For convenience, most robot vacuum cleaners come with a weekly scheduler. You can set it to clean the pool automatically on certain days.
Easy to Set Up
Robotic pool cleaners are plug-and-play. Unlike other automatic cleaners, there are no hoses to connect.
This makes set up easy and quick. You can take the cleaner out of storage and have it cleaning in less than five minutes.
Robotic pool cleaners run on very little power. So even if you use it every day, it consumes much less energy than other automatic pool cleaners that require the pump to stay on when they are cleaning.
Frequently Asked Questions About Robotic Pool Cleaners
Are robotic pool cleaners any good?
Robotic pool cleaners make pool maintenance easier, cheaper, and more effective. They scrub the pool and pick up large and small debris.
Most robotic pool cleaners can climb the wall and clean up to the waterline.
Can I leave a robotic pool cleaner in the pool?
Usually, yes, you can leave a robotic pool cleaner in the pool for a limited period – around one week. You can even set it to clean automatically on specific days.
But check the user manual for manufacturer recommendations. Some robotic cleaners shouldn’t be left in the water for more than 24 hours to prevent damage to some parts.
You should always take the cleaner out of the pool when balancing chemicals and when you close the pool.
How often should I run a robotic pool cleaner?
It depends on how dirty your pool gets and how often you use it. Since robotic pool cleaners use very little power, there is no harm in running it daily.
If the cleaner has a weekly scheduler, use it to set daily, 2x, or 3x a week auto-cleaning so that you don’t have to start the cleaner every time manually.
How long do robotic pool cleaners last?
It depends on the quality of the unit and how well you maintain it. High-quality brands like Dolphin and Polaris can easily last 7-10 years, while cheaper brands such as Aquabot last between 3-5 years.
Of course, you may need to replace certain parts within the lifetime of the cleaner.
Can my robotic pool cleaner collect leaves?
Yes, any robotic pool cleaner will collect leaves in your pool. What some cleaners struggle with is the finer debris like sand, silt and algae.
If your pool often gets a lot of sand or algae, make sure you get a robotic pool cleaner with a filter fine enough to capture it.
With some Dolphin pool cleaners, you have to buy an ultra-fine filter separately.
Don’t forget to empty the filter basket when it gets full. Otherwise, it’ll stop picking up any more leaves and debris.
A robotic pool cleaner allows you to spend less time (and money) maintaining the pool and more time enjoying it.
It’s one of the most expensive pool accessories, but it’s worth it.
If you are already using a pressure or suction pool cleaner, consider upgrading to one of the robotic pool cleaners we’ve reviewed in this buying guide.