Can a robot vacuum be all-terrain? The Shark Ion Robot R85 certainly tries to leave no surface un-vacuumed. It's mostly successful, and thanks to its app, you'll know when it needs assistance.
Our version of the Shark Ion Robot R85 came with a slim, battery-powered hand vacuum that also docks in the robot's base — which raises the overall price to $399. In an odd way, this is a tacit admission that your robot vacuum won't reach every nook and cranny, but the hand vacuum is also helpful for cleaning couch cushions. But if you’re looking for one of the most effective robot vacuums, the R85 is it. That's why it's our current top pick for best robot vacuums.
If the Eufy RoboVac 11s is a sleek sports car, then the Shark Ion Robot R85 is a rugged Jeep Wrangler. At 3.4 inches high, it's not as low-profile as the 2.85-inch 11s, but it is shorter than the 3.7-inch iRobot Roomba 690. While it couldn't fit under our low-clearance couch, it easily disappeared under the other chairs in our living room.
The top of the Ion is a mixture of dark gray and black, with three buttons: Clean, Dock and Max. Lighted indicators for error, charge level and Wi-Fi appear above the physical buttons. The Ion's manual has a long list of error-light combinations and sounds, which is helpful if your phone isn't around, but we'd prefer the app decode the errors for us.
Flip the Ion over, and you'll find two large, springy rubber wheels and a small roller wheel up front. Two single-spoke brushes flank either side of that wheel. The single-spoke brushes are less robust than the three-spoked ones on the RoboVac 11s, but we didn't miss the extra spokes of the RoboVac, which tended to get tangled with hair.
The Ion features a single roller brush of bristles on twisted rubber fins. The short, stiff bristles were easier to clean than the thicker brushes and fins on the RoboVac 11s. Behind the roller brush are two small, stationary brush pieces.
Releasing the dustbin on the Ion Robot was easy enough; simply depress the rear edge of the vacuum. Though the bin is a clamshell design like on the RoboVac 11s, it's made much more elegant by a second release button that keeps it shut until you've reached the garbage can. Compared to the bin on the dust-spreading 11s and the experience of having to fish out debris from the Roomba 690's dustbin, the Ion Robot provided a pleasant experience — if you can call anything involving dust "pleasant."
Compared to the bin on the dust-spreading 11s and the experience of having to fish out debris from the Roomba 690's dustbin, the Ion Robot offered a pleasant experience — if you can call anything involving dust pleasant.
While the optional vac/base combo isn't super attractive, the hand vac adds some heft to the base, which helps to stop the robot vac from pushing the base around during docking. One quibble: We wish the two included hand-vac attachments either fit into the base or came with an organizer of some sort, as they seem destined to be immediately lost.
The Shark Ion requires an app (Android or iOS) and a 2.5-GHz Wi-Fi network (sorry, no 5 GHz) if you want to control the vacuum without bending down. Like the Roomba 690, you set up the Ion using its own Wi-Fi network and then connect it to your home network.
Once it's connected, you can start or stop cleanings and select Normal, Quiet or Max cleaning settings. The app is also where you can schedule cleanings, see historical cleaning data and receive notifications about what's happening with the Ion. Most of the notifications we got were related to the vacuum getting stuck and finishing cleanings, though it also issued an "uneven surface" warning every time we picked the vacuum up.
Hitting Clean on the app sent the Ion Robot off on its way with gusto and a happy chime. We tested it on the first floor of a mostly open-floor-plan house with a mix of hardwood floors, thin rugs, doormats and a thick, shag carpet with 2.25-inch pile.
During its initial trip, the Ion Robot skipped the hardwood-floor bathroom and the front part of the living room. The Roomba 690 did the same thing. Just like the 690, the Ion corrected its path during its second run through the house, thoroughly cleaning both areas.
Unlike the RoboVac 11s, which got stuck on the edge of a thick shag rug, and the iRobot Roomba 690, which ignored the rug entirely, the Ion Robot easily climbed onto the high-pile carpet and confidently worked its way back and forth across the difficult terrain. But then our phone lit up with notifications, and the bot played a sad, troubled chime. According to the app, the vacuum stopped cleaning, because the cliff sensors were blocked, likely due to the thickness of the carpet.
The Ion Robot did a solid job aggressively picking up dust and debris. And it was truly aggressive. Equipped with a front bumper similar to the Roomba 690's, the Ion slowed when approaching walls and other objects but still bumped into them somewhat forcefully. We were sitting in a chair when the Ion bumped into it, and we were surprised by how strong it hit. We thought it was our 55-pound dog instead of a 6.6-pound robot.
Included with the Shark Ion is 8 feet of "bot boundary" tape, which will help prevent the vacuum from venturing into areas you don't want it to go.
The Ion Robot performed very well in our lab tests, picking up an average of 94 percent of all debris (Cheerios, kitty litter and dog hair) on both carpet and hardwood surfaces. That's better than the iRobot Roomba 690 (89.2 percent) and the Eufy Robovac 11s (85.8 percent), as well as our best overall robot vacuum, the Samsung PowerBot R7070 (87.9 percent). However, the Powerbot was able to complete its runs in an average time of just 27 minutes and 30 seconds, compared to 1 hour and 2 minutes for the Shark.
The Shark Ion was particularly impressive with dog hair, cleaning up 98.5 percent of the stuff on carpet and 77.5 percent on hardwood, for an overall average of 88 percent. With that result, the Shark Ion bested the RoboVac 11s (67.5), Roomba 690 (73.3 percent) and Samsung PowerBot (81.5 percent).
The Ion Robot performed well in our lab tests, picking up an average of 94 percent of all debris on both carpet and hardwood surfaces.
In our kitty litter tests, the Ion Robot picked up 94 percent of the granules. The bot performed just below the Roomba 690, which sucked up an average of 94.9 percent of the litter, but 4 points better than the RoboVac 11s. However, we noted that there were litter granules on the underside, front and even top of the vacuum after cleaning.
Though not as attractive as the Eufy RoboVac 11s, the Ion is slightly quieter, measuring 59.2 decibels in our tests compared to the 11s' 62.5 decibels.
It might not be the fastest, but the Shark Ion Robot R85 quickly cleaned a path to our heart. Not only did it perform exceptionally well in our lab tests, but also, it impressed us in our home. Its dustbin is incredibly easy to clean, and the app makes it easy to keep an eye the robot on as it roams the house. While we're not fans of Shark's "bot boundary" strip solution, it's a compromise we're willing to make in the fight against dog hair. Our suggestion: Unless you find a good deal, ditch the hand-vac combo and go for the solo version. It's hard to beat this bot's performance for the price.
Credit: Tom's Guide