Half a year ago Vorwerk introduced the Kobold VR200 vacuum cleaning robot as a successor to the VR100. Since I was fully satisfied with the VR100 so far I have been struggling for a long time with myself - but finally the urge to buy a new toy won. The robot was also improved in some areas, from which we benefit clearly in our apartment. Time for a little comparison of the two household servants.
- Scope of delivery
- Optical differences
- Suction throughput
Scope of delivery
The VR200 gets delivered in one package that contains everything you need for the operation of the robot. This includes the robot itself, the base station, a remote control, a 4 meter magnetic barrier tape (which can be trimmed easily using scissors), the manual, a side brush and filter. The battery is built into the robot and can probably only be exchanged by the Vorwerk service (same as with the VR100).
With the remote control one can start, stop or control the robot from a safe distance. It's really useful if you want to hide the base station under the couch, or if the robot gets stuck at a hard to reach place – like under the bed.
I don't quite understand why Vorwerk chose to use the Stone Age infrared technology for remote control of the robot instead of leveraging WLAN or Bluetooth. But I am pretty sure that the successor of the VR200 will feature that.
With the most recent firmware version it is now also possible to remote control the robot using a smartphone app for iOS and Android over WiFi.
The base station, used to charge the robot, was unfortunately deteriorated in comparison to the one delivered with the VR100. The latter one could be opened to take out the power supply. Which could then be used to charge the robot directly, or to use its cord as an extension to be able to put the base station in a greater distance to the electrical outlet. Both are no longer possible. The cable of the new base station has a length of approximately 2 meters and a plug with earthing contact.
Vorwerk retained the usual colors of the current product lines (black, white, and green) for the VR200. The new design looks – in my eyes – a bit more modern and delicate. The white surface is now composed of glossy plastic, the front and back is now streamlined. He has become a bit flatter (9cm vs. 10cm), but also minimal wider and longer. My subjective impression after the unpacking was that the VR200 is more fragile than the VR100. I also do not quite understand why Vorwerk has chosen to use a shiny surface. As a result, dust and hair on the device can be seen pretty easily. Also, I suspect that it won't take too long until the first scratches appear. A carrying handle has also been added by Vorwerk which looks somewhat cheap (because it's made of plastic) and which I don't fully trust.
The display is now covered by a black bar so that it is practically invisible when turned off. In contrast to the VR100 a color screen is now used. The keys to operate the menu are now touch sensitive. The green power switch has moved to the front of the robot, as well as the battery indicator. The dust container is now located under a cover on the top of the robot, which can be opened by pressing a button. This was necessary since there is now a hole in the dust container, which makes it possible to empty it using a standard vacuum cleaner (no Vorwerk required). Manually emptying it into the tash can is, of course, still possible.
A lot has changed on the bottom side of the robot, as can be clearly seen on the photo above. The long rotating brush has been moved much closer to the side. It is likely to positively affect the dust absorption when the robot is driving along the edges of a room. The rotating side brush has moved into the front edge, which possibly is an advantage when vacuuming in corners. The side brush itself is also different to the one of the VR100, and is seemingly no longer magnetically at its bottom side (while it's still being held in place by a magnet). Sometimes it happened that the side brush of the VR100 got stuck on one of the metal brackets of our couch. In the photo one can also spot the climbin aids of the two wheels.
The new Kobold was greatly enhanced in terms of sensors. Here is a short overview for comparison with the VR100:
|Wall follow sensors||1||1|
I consider the new sensors on the laser tower and the ultrasound sensors in the bumper to be the most useful. When the robot tries to drive under a piece of furniture which is too low for the laser tower, it notices this now and aborts the attempt. Also, using the ultrasound detectors, it detects obstacles which are located directly in-path. The VR100 would sometimes bump into stuff at full speed instead. I cannot say anything about the new floor sensors though, because we don't have any areas in our apartment where the robot could fall down.
Nothing earth-shattering has changed regarding the navigation. The VR200 uses the same patterns and does the same mistakes as the VR100. For example, both robots do an evasive manoeuvre with a – in my opionion – too large radius if they hit an obstacle. Also, the VR200 sometimes approaches border areas in an angle too acute, and then hits the border with its bumper. Which causes it to back up and reapproch the border again. Nevertheless, the navigation performance of both robots is very good. It happens very rarely that they get lost or forget to clean an area.
Generally, the robots first drive along the walls of a room to measure its dimensions. They also often recognize passages to other rooms and then try to clean one room after another. Once a room has been fully detected, they start to move in lanes inside of the room. Obstacles within a track are then simply bypassed.
The suction process is interrupted when the battery is running low. The VR200 (as well as the VR100) then returns to its base station, recharges and continues where it stopped before. The battery life has not changed noticeably in comparison to its predecessor. Both robots fail to completely clean the scarce 100sqm of our apartment within one battery charge.
Thanks to its climbing aids, the VR200 now manages to visit foreign places which have never been seen by a vacuum cleaning robot before! For example, we have thresholds of about 2 to 3cm in our apartment, which the VR100 could never get over. The VR200 also easily manages to climb over the brackets of our couch.
Both robots have no problems with carpets, as long as these are not too high (1-2cm are probably no problem) or fringed. However, we have a very thin rug in our living room, which both robots love to push around or fold.
Areas, which should not be visited by the robots, can be blocked using the magnetic barrier tape.
I cannot say much about the suction throughput. Vorwerk only provides the flow rate in the technical data sheet, which is around 12-13 l/s for the VR200 and 8,8 l/s for the VR100. For comparison: the Vorwerk Tiger vacuum cleaner has a throughput of 41l/s. But one can certainly say that both robots have no problems at all to clean up the dust of a normal household. At least if you don't have small children. Difficulties arise with poorly accessible areas. But this this is an issue that can be solved only by the software.
Vorwerk has improved the rear air outlet of the VR200, and now directs the airflow upwards. This avoids whirling up dust behind the robot. Addionally, there is now an ECO-mode, which quiets down the robot a little bit (67dB instead of 70 dB according to Vorwerk).
The software of the VR200 was visually pimped up, but not much has changed regarding the offered functionality. It no longer states "Neato" on the main screen, but instead displays "Kobold". New sounds have been added to it. Now the robot can alert you of various events using new, low quality squeaky sounds that one can luckily turn off completely. The menu offers the following cleaning options (among some other settings):
- Cleaning (all rooms)
- Spot cleaning
Using the timetable it is possible to schedule automatic cleaning sessions for every day of the week.
I hope that a later firmware update will bring the possibility to directly select a room to be cleaned. Currently it is neither possible to name rooms, nor to save the recorded paths and room dimensions in any way. Each time one starts a cleaning session the robot has to explore his environment again.
The menu structure remained relatively similar to that of the VR100, so I will not dwell further on it. Updating the software has been greatly enhanced with the VR200. While the VR100 had to be connected to the PC via USB cable, now the firmware can be updated using a simple USB stick. Also, the updater software for Windows is no longer required.
Cleaning the VR200 remained as simple as cleaning the VR100. The side brush is only held in place by a magnet, and thus can be easily detached. Then just pull off hair wrapped around it and reattach the brush. The dust container – as already described – can be emptied into the trash can or by using a vacuum cleaner. Every now and then it's also necessary to clean the long rotating brush. For this purpose, you simply remove the base plate and take it out. In the VR100 there was also a drive belt which needed to be put correctly over the brush after reinserting it. This is no longer required because the drive belt is no longer visible to the user.
The VR200 is a positive development over the already very good VR100. Vorwerk still offers both robots in its online shop. The VR100 is currently available for 599€, the VR200 costs 749€. Whether you benefit from the improvements of the VR200, and whether that justifies the 150€ extra charge, can not be answered in general. The VR200 scores when climbing over obstacles and when passing low furniture (through its lower height and the sensors on the laser tower). Also advantageous are the new dust container and remote control. If you already own a VR100, and don't miss anything of the things just mentioned, then I'd stick with it. If you don't own any Vorwerk robots yet at all, I recommend the 30 days return policy of Vorwerk, which allows to simply try out both robots and see which one fits best for you.
It looks like Vorwerk discontinued the VR100. It is no longer available in the online shop.
Vorwerk released a firmware update for the VR200 a few months ago which enables the built in WiFi module. With this it is now possible to remote control the robot using a smartphone app for iOS and Android – at least if you are able to connect the robot to your wireless LAN. For me this didn't work because the software seems to have problems with long passwords.