I test robot vacuums for a living – the Narwal Freo X Plus is the best you can get for $400

Narwal Freo X Plus robot vacuum and mop

When I say my young kids are constantly making a mess to challenge my robot vacuum, this is what I mean.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The Narwal Freo X Plus is a robot vacuum and mop available for $400.
  • With millimeter-precision obstacle avoidance, a tangle-free design, and strong LiDAR mapping features, the Narwal Freo X Plus rarely gets stuck. It also features unique dust compression tech that stores debris for up to seven weeks before needing to be emptied.
  • I wish the Narwal Freo X Plus performed as well on carpets as on hard floors, as it can leave debris behind on carpets. Its mopping feature also left me wanting, but it’s appropriate for this price range.

Robot vacuums are getting increasingly expensive, so it’s rare to see a midrange unit perform as well as some of the flagship robots I’ve tested. I’ve been testing the Narwal Freo X Plus for over a month now and can honestly say it performs way better than it should for a $400 robot vacuum.

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The Narwal Freo X Plus is one of the few robot vacuums I’ve tested where the device rarely gets a brush roller tangled up on an object. The vacuum can suck an object up or avoid it if it’s too large. This is one of the most important features in a robot vacuum for my home as I have three little kids and a dog.

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As someone with 14 robot vacuums in their home, I was stumped when I first inspected the Freo X Plus brush roller. It’s unique, sitting at a 50-degree angle in the robot, with cone-shaped rubber strips and unequal sides. Instead of having an air opening in the middle of the vacuum, the brush roller is held by one end in the robot’s brush enclosure. The air and debris are directed to the other end, where the suction nozzle is found. 

Because of this design, the robot vacuum rarely gets tangled on hair, as most hair tangles slide off to the side as the brush rolls rapidly. The design also enables the Narwal Freo X Plus to pick up larger debris without getting tangled, like juice box straw wrappers, which seem to tangle most of my home’s robot vacuums. 

Narwal Freo X Plus robot vacuum and mop

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

My only complaint with the vacuum feature is that I wish it performed better on the carpet. The Freo X Plus did well on my home’s hardwood and tile floors but left some debris — especially small crumbs — on the carpet,  I’m unsure if the brush roller doesn’t get low enough to pick up debris effectively, but I can’t always rely on the Freo X Plus to give my carpets a freshly vacuumed feeling.

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A standout feature of this robot vacuum is the dustbin’s compression technology. The Narwal Freo X Plus doesn’t require users to empty the dustbin after each cleaning session, and it doesn’t have a self-emptying dustbin, as you can deduce by the charging station’s compact size. Instead, the vacuum has a large dustbin that holds up to one liter of debris and compresses it to allow up to seven weeks’ worth of storage without emptying.

Narwal Freo X Plus robot vacuum and mop

The Narwal Freo X Plus robot vacuum’s large dustbin can hold up to seven weeks of debris.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

If you think seven weeks of debris sounds gross, the robot uses heat to dry the dustbin, preventing smells and bacteria growth. I used the Freo X Plus for over a month in one of the most disgusting rooms in my home and I never once got a whiff of bad odor. 

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I didn’t empty the dustbin until it was time to write this review, and then I found that the debris it had picked up was bone dry and easy to discard in the trash. 

Narwal Freo X Plus robot vacuum and mop

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

I tested the Freo X Plus in our carpeted TV room, adjacent to our kids’ playroom. Here, we have family movie and pizza nights, and our kids take endless snacks to munch on while they watch Bluey. The room sees a lot of traffic and carpet messes, crumbs, food debris, paper pieces, stickers, and more. In this room, previously, I tested the SwitchBot K10, a tiny robot vacuum with a self-emptying dustbin. However, the SwitchBot’s object avoidance wasn’t great and the vacuum got stuck on larger pieces of paper or small toys. 

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The Freo X Plus has kept our TV room clean, except for a few crumbs. I can send the vacuum to clean, even when I haven’t picked up every toy off the floor. Its LiDAR 360-degree scanning system creates a comprehensive map and sets the robot on an optimized path to ensure thorough coverage. 

This robot vacuum also has a removable mopping pad and a few extras in the box, including one with a scrubbing surface for a deeper clean. The Freo X Plus mopping feature isn’t the best robot mop available; it doesn’t have a self-washing system and is more of a bonus feature than a true deep-cleaning mop. The mop can leave a few messes behind, so it is best for light cleaning.

Narwal Freo X Plus robot vacuum and mop

One of the mop pads on the Narwal Freo X Plus robot vacuum and mop.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The mop lifts when going over carpets to prevent them from getting wet. However, the mop only lifts about nine millimeters, enough for short-pile carpets but not medium-pile rugs. My TV room has a short-pile carpet, so I haven’t had an issue with the carpet getting wet. 

ZDNET’s buying advice

The Narwal Freo X Plus is best suited for homes with mostly hard floors and pets or for maintaining hard floors between deeper cleans. As a robot vacuum, it performs very well on hard floors, even on hair, with some room for improvement over carpets. Its mopping feature can keep floors clean, but I wouldn’t rely on it to remove muddy footprints off the floor. 

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Overall, the Freo X Plus robot vacuum is surprisingly great for a $400 price tag, especially considering how effectively it cleans up without getting stuck on debris. I also appreciate the hands-off cleaning option with up to seven weeks of dust collection.

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