Budget-priced robot vacuums with advanced features remain something of a novelty. Some earlier Ecovacs models have defied convention with a smattering premium perks, such as app control Google Home and Amazon Alexa integration. The company did this exceptionally well with its Deebot N79S, our current top pick in the budget category. The Deebot 601, which includes all those aforementioned perks, isn’t quite as successful.
The 601 measures 13.9 by 13.9 by 3.27 inches, with a low enough profile to get beneath most low-clearance furniture and edge its way under cabinets. A master power button is recessed in the side of the vacuum, and on top is a single multi-function button for powering down and waking up the 601, as well as initiating and pausing Auto cleanings.
A pair of spinning brushes on the underside of the vacuum sweep along wall edges, and there’s a main roller brush composed of both bristles and rubber strips for tackling multiple floor surfaces. The dustbin slots into the rear like a drawer.
The 601 ships with a charging station that’s about half the size of most, and a remote control that includes the same Auto button that’s on the vacuum along with Pause and Spot Cleaning buttons.
Setup and performance
The 601 can be controlled from its multi-function button, remote control, or companion app. This last requires some setup to connect the robot vacuum to your Wi-Fi network. I had some problems early on that I saw echoed in Amazon reviews, due to confusion around this Deebot model and its app.
The 601’s instruction manual tells you to download the “Ecovacs” app. However, the Deebot 601 is not included in the list of compatible robot vacuums, though the Deebot Ozmo 601—which is a different, mapping-and-mopping robot vacuum—is. If you’re not aware of the difference between the two models and try to use this option, you’ll find the app times out trying to find the robot and it won’t connect.
It turns out the app you actually need to use is called “Ecovacs Home,” a detail Ecovacs includes in some fine print at the bottom of the Ecovacs app’s setup screen. Once I had the correct app downloaded, it walked me through the Wi-Fi setup in about a minute.
As befits a budget vacuum cleaner, the 601 does not use laser navigation to map your floor plan. It relies solely on its bumper and other sensors to feel its way around the room. That typically translates into an erratic trajectory.
The 601, however, uses a couple of pre-programmed patterns to do its dirty work. In default Auto cleaning mode, the 601 cleans in random diagonal swaths optimized for carpets. A separate hard-floor mode, which can be activated in the app, uses an S-pattern.
These generally worked well. The vacuum moved smoothly over the low-pile carpet and hardwood in my downstairs area, though its side brushes did tend to snare device-charging cords and electrical cables. In these instances the 601 emits an alert beep and pushes a notification through the app. You are similarly notified when the battery starts running low.
Even with the preset patterns, the 601 was pretty irregular in its cleaning path, steering clear of some walls and furniture while bumping over and over into others. At one point, it ping-ponged triangularly between my patio door, Christmas tree, and some bookshelves for several minutes until I picked it up and moved it to another patch of floor.
Needless to say, this resulted inconsistent cleaning. Where the 601 did vacuum, it sucked up crumbs, dirt, and pet hair pretty well. Unfortunately, not all areas of the floor got the same attention.
The 601’s navigation issues extended to it finding its dock. After one cleaning, for example, it passed in front of it three times before setting off across the room in search of home.
The Ecovacs Home app keeps you apprised of cleaning details during jobs, including the area cleaned, duration, and battery status. It also allows basic scheduling of cleanings and includes a Find My Deebot feature that triggers the 601 to beep so you can locate it.
The Deebot 601 is an able cleaner, but I found I had to babysit to ensure it did a thorough job. Its haphazard approach reminds why mapping capabilities are such a premium feature. If you’d rather not have to supervise every cleaning job, try the Deebot 901, which puts mapping within grasp of modest budgets.