iLife has carved out a nice little niche for itself in the robot vacuum world— their vacuums are relatively inexpensive, but offer solid performance. In fact, the company's iLife V3s Pro is currently one of our top picks on our best robot mops page. The iLife Shinebot W400 is the company's first robot that is solely for washing floors. Unlike the $169 iRobot Braava jet 240, it comes with reusable microfiber cleaning brush roll. But does it clean well enough to justify the nearly $100 premium?
Placing the iLife Shinebot W400 and the iRobot Braava jet 240 side by side, it's hard to believe they share a common purpose. The Braava jet 240 has a small footprint and more closely resembles a child's toy. Meanwhile, the iLife Shinebot W400 is tall, bulky and dressed in black with dark gray accents. Make no mistake — this robot is here to clean.
The iLife Shinebot W400 measures 11.5 x 11.1 x 4.6 inches and tips the scale at 7.72 pounds empty. It looks more like a typical robot vacuum than the 6.7 x 7 x 3.3 inch, rectangular iRobot Braava jet 240. The W400 cleaning behemoth is nearly twice as tall as a regular robot vacuum. The additional height allows for two onboard water chambers, one for clean and one for dirty water.
The Shinebot W400 is essentially two large pieces that snap together where the microfiber brush roll meets the magnetized scraper squeegee on the bot's undercarriage. Two wheels jut out slightly on either side of the scraper. A very small nose wheel guides it forward. The lower piece houses the motor, battery and brush roll, while the upper piece houses the two water tanks, the squeegee and a small, red filter vent.
Along the top of the iLife Shinebot W400, a silver button proclaiming "Clean" is placed front and center, flanked by a "Mode" button on the left and an "i" button the right. As you might expect, the Mode button switches between four cleaning patterns: Area, path, spot and edge. The i button replays voice alerts issued by the machine. There's also a silver eject button for separating the two pieces and a silver carrying handle.
The Shinebot W400 must be manually placed on its dock to charge. It must also be manually removed. While the dock prevents damage to your floors, we found it a little odd that iLife didn't give the bot the ability to navigate to its home base.
Setup & cleanup
There's no smartphone app to connect you to the iLife Shinebot W400; a small black remote does the job instead. Out of the box, the W400 required more setup than the iRobot Braava jet 240. In addition to filling the transparent clean tank with water — a more straightforward process than with the Braava jet — there is a thin magnetic squeegee scraper that must be attached. I was surprised at the amount of force required to remove this magnetic piece should you attach it incorrectly, as I initially did. A blue arrow on the underside of the W400 corresponds to a small hole on the scraper to show how to properly attach it, but the magnet is forceful enough to attach in any direction. Aside from the scraper, the numerous removable components of the Shinebot W400 come apart easily.
Preparing the W400 to mop is relatively quick, but cleaning up after it cleans is another matter entirely. After each use, iLife recommends cleaning the dirty-water tank, the microfiber brush roll, the scraper and the filter with running water. Then the parts must be left out to air dry. As I looked at the robot parts strewn across my kitchen counter, I realized that this endeavor was only slightly less cumbersome than wringing out a traditional mop.
iLife recommends replacing the microfiber brush roll and small filter after three to five months of use. Thankfully, a second brush roll is included in the box. While this a reasonable amount of replacement time, and much less wasteful than iRobot’s disposable cleaning pads, the only place I found that sold replacement brush rolls was eBay.
The iLife Shinebot W400 cleans using only clean water combined with a roller brush and a stiff rubber squeegee. Whereas the iRobot Braava jet 240 pads include a water-activated cleaner, the W400 relies on good old-fashioned robotic elbow grease. I was pleasantly surprised with the bot's results using just water. The dirty-water tank captured way more dirt than I even thought was on my floors.
I tested the iLife Shinebot W400 and the iRobot Braava jet 240 in a 70-square-foot area of hardwood floor in my kitchen. The W400 cleaned the space in 13 minutes and 44 seconds. By comparison, the Braava jet 240 with its blue wet-mopping pad took 31 minutes and 9 seconds. My floors were noticeably wetter after the Shinebot W400 finished versus the Braava jet 240. Despite the Shinebot W400 leaving more water on the floor, the floors dried within a few minutes on most of the test runs.
When the Shinebot W400 was done cleaning the floor, I swabbed a damp, white paper towel over a section of floor. There was noticeably less dirt on the towel than after the W400 was done cleaning than there was after the Braava jet 240’s wet-mopping mode.
Much like iLife's vacuum robots, the Shinebot W400 had a penchant for retracing its steps. On one run, despite my attempts to send it elsewhere, the machine focused itself on one small section of my dining room and continued to return there to clean — adding more and more water to that section of hardwood floor. Like the Braava jet 240, I wouldn't let the W400 clean without close supervision.
Though the bot was overly exuberant cleaning some areas, it was very careful to avoid all types of rugs. Unlike the Braava jet 240, the Shinebot W400 never attempted to journey on to the thin rug in our dining room or even bump against it more than once or twice.
The Shinebot W400 was louder than the near-silent Braava jet 240 while cleaning, but much quieter than a traditional robot vacuum. We could easily hold a conversation and hear the TV over the bot without pumping up the volume.
Robotic mops still have a long way to go before they are as independent and nimble as the best of their vacuuming counterparts. For $249, the iLife Shinebot W400 is an interesting value proposition. It cleans more thoroughly than the $169 iRobot Braava jet 240, but it requires more care and attention after it finishes cleaning your floors. However, it's less wasteful than the Braava jet as it doesn't need disposable cleaning pads nor does it immediately require purchasing reusable cleaning pads. Though the upfront cost is more than the Braava jet 240, the price evens out after a couple years of ownership. Plus, the W400 is the better floor cleaner — as long as you don't mind spending time cleaning the robot itself.