With basic map control and a self-emptying base, the Shark IQ Robot XL Vacuum R101AEW has features of a much more expensive robot vacuum. It cleans well for everyday dust, too. The flip side is that the app is a bit basic and edge cleaning performance isn’t the best, but these may be tradeoffs you can accept for relatively hassle-free operation.
- Well priced
- Decent navigation
- Cleans regular dirt well
- Map needs managing carefully
- Edge performance could be better
- TypeThis is a robot vacuum cleaner. Its base automatically empties the robot’s dust cup into a larger one, making this largely maintenance-free cleaning
- ConnectionYou can control this robot vacuum cleaner using the app, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant
Robot vacuum cleaners are only self-sufficient to a point: they need their small bins to be emptied regularly. The Shark IQ Robot XL Vacuum R101AEW with Self-Empty Base solves that with a self-emptying base that sucks dust out of the robot into a larger dust cup.
More intelligence, including map control, than the basic Shark robots, this is a good mid-range robot with a great price: it’s cheaper than many high-end robot vacuum cleaners that don’t have the self-emptying capabilities.
Design and features
- Chunky base with large dust cup
- Basic map control and no-go areas
- Simple app
Unbox the Shark R101AEW and it’s the huge base that stands out. As with the iRobot i7+, the large base is there because it contains both a dust cup and a vacuum to suck dirt out of the robot when it docks.
You can see the connector at the bottom of the dock, which creates a secure connection to the robot for dust removal. It’s a little like a shuttle docking at a space station.
The standard robot vacuum cleaner also has a small 0.17qrts bin that you can empty manually if you need to. It’s worth pulling this out from time to time so that you can clean the filter at the front of it, keeping the robot operating at its maximum efficiency.
While iRobot uses disposable bags in its self-emptying base, Shark has used a bagless dust cup instead. This just pulls out of the side and flips open at the bottom when you need to empty it. As there’s no bag, there’s no ongoing cost to running this vacuum cleaner. This bin holds up to 30 days of dust and debris in Shark’s words.
Aside from the self-emptying base, the Shark R101AEW is a rather standard robot vacuum cleaner. As with most models, it’s round (3.5 x 12.9 x 12.6in) and quite low: it will fit under a lot of furniture without too much hassle.
There are buttons on the top to start a clean and to return to the cleaner to the dock. Manual control like this is always handy, as you can quickly get the robot cleaning without having to reach for your phone.
Flip the robot over, and you’ll see that this model has two side brushes for getting dust away from the edges of rooms. Two brushes should mean that the Shark R101AEW can approach an edge from either side and still pick up everything.
There’s also a single motorised floor brush, which is one of Shark’s self-cleaning models: it won’t get hair wrapped around it.
You get proper intelligence and control by hooking the cleaner up to the app and your Wi-Fi network. Unlike the previous Shark vacuum cleaner that I reviewed, the Shark ION Robot Vacuum Cleaner, this model has proper mapping available. After a cleaning cycle or two, the robot will generate a map of your home.
Make sure that the mapping runs are done with the maximum amount of space exposed and obstacles removed. I failed to move a few items on the first attempt and the Shark R101AEW refused to clean those spots in subsequent cleans. The mapping on the Roborock S7 is far better, updating the map each time it runs, so that the robot always hits every available space.
Once the Shark R101AEW has made a map, you can partition it into rooms, and set no-go zones. Shark also includes some magnetic tape in the box if you want a physical barrier on the floor.
With your map and rooms created, you can build schedules and tell the robot not only when to clean, but where to clean.
Likewise, you can select rooms to clean when you start a manual session. You do lose some advanced features that other models, such as Roborock’s cleaners have, such as the ability to select a spot area to clean on the map. I find that really useful, say cleaning up the prep area in the kitchen after cooking a meal.
Finally, you get Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support, so you can start a clean using your voice.
- Gets the basics right
- Edge performance could be better
- Self-emptying is excellent
As this robot has a degree of proper navigation, it’s a more able mover than the dumber Shark ION. That said, it did manage to get itself stuck between the wheels of an office chair the first time out; moving the chair away from a wall a little fixed that issue.
Generally, navigation was good and the robot made its way around my test area without a problem. As its bin gets full, the Shark R101AEW will make the occasional visit to the base to suck out dirt from the dust cup.
And, as the robot knows when it’s covered the map area, it will return to the dock when it’s finished cleaning.
To test the Shark R101AEW out, I used my standard tests. I started with the carpet test, sprinkling a teaspoon of flour onto my carpet. After a complete cycle, most of the dust was gone, although it left a chunk of dust behind where coverage wasn’t so good.
Hard floor performance was much better, picking up practically all of my test dust. The robot did manage to push some dirt into the strip that separates the vinyl floor from the carpet, though.
Finally, the edge test wasn’t quite as impressive. Here, I sprinkled a teaspoon of flour up to the kitchen plinth. From the result, you can see where the robot’s side brushes have made contact with the mess, but were unable to pull the dust into the suction path for full removal.
Given the price, the results are actually quite good. The level of dust I put down is more than you’d reasonably expect in your average house, so day-to-day, the Shark R101AEW will do a good job.
Battery life is around 90 minutes, which in practice is enough to clean the floor of a regular home.
I measured the robot at a reasonable 61.6dB: that’s around average for a robot cleaner and is loud enough to hear but not so loud that you can’t stay in the same room.
Should you buy it?
If you want a well-priced vacuum cleaner that can empty itself, you’ll struggle to find a cleaner much cheaper than this. It’s also a decent performer for regular dirt.
If you want more control over how and when the robot cleans, there are more advanced products. You can also buy robots with more power that will perform a deeper clean.
Cheaper than many vacuum cleaners that don’t have a self-emptying base, the Shark R101AEW is a decent performer. Its app is a little basic but gets the main features right, while the robot vacuum cleaner will cope with everyday messes with ease.
If you want more performance, mopping, better mapping and excellent edge performance, the Roborock S7 is a more accomplished cleaner. For other alternatives, check out my guide to the best robot vacuum cleaner.
How we test
Unlike other sites, we test every robot vacuum cleaner we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.
Used as our main robot vacuum cleaner for the review period
We test for at least a week
Tested with real-world dirt in real-world situations for fair comparisons with other vacuum cleaners
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You can use it with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
The basic dust cup is quite small, but the base will hold 30 days of dirt.