When it comes to smart-home solutions, none are quite as elegant as Tapo's early entries into the smart vacuum space. It's got a clean finish, handy features, and voice control for a reasonable price you won't be disappointed with.
You’ve probably heard of TP-Link before. Heck, you’ve probably got one of the company’s WiFi routers somewhere nearby. As for the company’s other ventures – you’re probably in the dark. Like Tapo, the brand’s own smart-home company that’s responsible for, among other things, the RV10 – a smart robotic vacuum that’s at the centre of this review.
The smart robot-vac industry has come a long way since Electrolux introduced the Trilobite in 1996. These days, you can find them ranging from R700 up to R20,000 or more. But, as with most tech, most people will find the sweet spot somewhere in the middle. Enter Tapo’s RV10 which seems to offer the best of both worlds – a reasonable R4,400 price, app support, mopping functionality and voice commands. You’ll be losing out on Lidar, carpet detection when mopping and the ability for Amazon to map out your entire house, but for that price, it’s hard to complain.
Keeping things simple
When it comes to the RV10, what you see is what you get. That’s the vacuum contraption itself, and an accompanying dock that’ll handle charging. Both do a good job of blending into the background and hardly took up any room. Tapo’s other, more-premium models – like the RV10 Plus – might not be quite as trip-resistant as the RV10 was for us. That’s due to the Plus’ larger-than-usual dock that’ll automatically dispense its dirt after a clean.
Our model, the plain ol’ RV10, doesn’t have a self-filling bin to attach itself to. That meant the task of cleaning out the vacuum’s innards fell to us. We didn’t mind. Tapo’s dedicated nearly half of the RV10’s underbelly to the dust and water containers, which means cleaning out the catcher isn’t necessary as often as you might think.
Joining the RV10’s undercarriage are the vacuum’s two-wheelers with a third that’s in charge of controlling the direction. Sitting underneath those are the device’s main detachable brush (which helped us remove cat hairs), a HEPA filter, and three downward-facing sensors that’ll tell the motor to give a little more juice when crossing an obstacle (or encountering a carpet).
Not fussed about functionality and just want this thing to look pretty while it works? If a purely white, plastic casing suits your home’s aesthetic, you won’t mind the RV10. Tapo’s kept things simple here, only covering the white plastic on the top with a simple Tapo logo and three-button system that’ll control some basic features, even if it’s your own voice and app that’ll do most of the hard work. The only stand-out from the RV10’s simplicity is an even simpler all-black bumper that indicates the device’s front, and acts as the vacuum’s main detector for obstacles, in place of a premium Lidar system.
Sucker for Dust
The lack of a Lidar system sounds like an issue, but it isn’t. For one, Lidar isn’t cheap. It’ll jack up the vacuum’s price considerably. For another, it’ll go about mapping your house for hours – using a laser and camera setup that’ll take pictures of your home (and by extension, you) before coming up with an often-inaccurate map that the manufacturer could sell on if it wished. Tapo’s solution of gyroscope navigation is a simpler and more elegant workaround that wastes no time getting down to business.
Initially, we were worried that an almost entirely carpeted house would be an issue for the RV10. But when it came time to set the thing free, it handled our carpeted, two-cat household and the messes that come with them without much hassle. That’s probably thanks to the RV10’s 2,000 Pascal suction power.
We hardly noticed any stray hairs in its wake, though we did notice the device tripping itself up around loose cables. It’s probably worth tidying those up before letting the RV10 off its leash if you value the items on the other end of them.
Give it free rein, and it’ll move around the given space in a rather efficient zigzag pattern that won’t stop until the battery starts blaring. For us, that happened around 2 hours and 35 minutes into a clean, before the RV10 found its own way back to the dock and began charging itself. It took around 1 hour and 45 minutes to fully charge up the 2,600mAh battery from almost empty to 100%.
We were satisfied with that, though it does fall short of the 3 hours Tapo claims for a full charge. In our case, that’s because of the RV10’s ability to detect carpet and boost the suction power to accommodate the extra legwork. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means, but a carpeted house won’t net a full three-hour session.
When it came time to mop, we didn’t give the RV10 much leeway. We filled up the 300ml water tank, hidden in the dust tray, and let it get to work. We kept a close eye on it to make sure it wasn’t making more of a mess. Our fears were unfounded, with the app giving us control over three different water levels, with the lowest suiting our humble kitchen, and leaving enough water for a second round before needing a refill. Just keep those free-standing carpets out of the RV10’s way. While it can detect carpets, that won’t stop it from giving your carpets a quick wash.
Our only complaint is that the RV10 is a bit of a loud bugger. Again, that might be due to our fibrous floors. It’s still quieter than a regular vacuum and easily countered with a pair of headphones or earbuds. For a house not plagued by woollen sheathes, you shouldn’t have the same issue.
“Alexa, tell Tapo to vacuum”
It’s not difficult to control the RV10 through its physical buttons and the accompanying TP-Link Tapo app, the whole experience is elevated if you’re an Alexa or Google Home owner. It’s already got some basic Alexa commands built in that simplify the process.
“Alexa, ask Tapo to vacuum at 9:30 am,” or “Alexa, tell Tapo to charge” are phrases that seemed to work best. Don’t ask it to do anything too complicated, or you’ll be repeating instructions a lot. Keep it simple and use the app for anything more difficult when needed.
TP-Link Tapo RV10 verdict
If you’re on the lookout for an inexpensive way to keep the floors clean (without just doing it yourself), you can’t go wrong with the Tapo RV10. We found ourselves looking past the gyroscope navigation and louder-than-usual machinery on our carpeted floors for the reasonable R4,400 price tag and mopping capabilities that got the job done without any hassle.