Swimming pools are black holes of maintenance, so I was eager to try one of the new pool-cleaning robots—namely, the AquaSense Beatbot Pro ($2,199)—to see if it could alleviate this pain point. On its maiden voyage, I tossed the twenty-four pound Beatbot into a pool that had been under cover for all of winter. The robot reassuringly started bubbling away and swimming in a tight circle, seeming to get a sense of the place, before tilting at 45 degrees and descending into a pool so murky, I lost sight of the bot just below the surface.

For the next three hours, I could occasionally see a brown cloud of dust move towards the surface, but as the day passed without the bot surfacing, I feared it was lost to the murky depths until it could be retrieved manually. I returned a few more times in the following weeks to see how the bot fared in increasingly clear water, though, and was both impressed and entertained by the Beatbot. Still, I think pool-cleaning robots have a long way to go before they are as helpful as robot vacuums or lawnmowers, and while the Beatbot wasn’t without utility, it is neither as cost-effective or functional as more traditional pool-cleaning systems.

The Beatbot is heavy but holds a solid charge

The BeatBot comes ready to go out of the box—there’s no assembly. There’s a dock, the robot itself, and, if you purchase it, an additional cartridge of water-clarifying cleaner. Docking works a lot like it would with a vacuum or lawnmower: There are two metal plates on the dock to align the robot to deliver the charge. Unlike those other machines, the BeatBot won’t dock itself; when it’s done, the robot will bubble to the surface of the pool, and you’ll need to retrieve it, wash out the filter, and place the robot on the dock. When it’s time to clean, you have to put it back in the pool.

At 24 pounds, the Beatbot is certainly not light, and I struggled to imagine someone with any physical challenges being able to routinely move the bot around safely. It does charge quickly, though, and it doesn’t exhaust the charge easily while working. It also holds onto a charge spectacularly. The bot rested at the bottom of a murky pool for ten days and still emerged with a 65% charge. 

Robots are best suited for maintenance of an already clean pool, and can’t be relied on to do seasonal cleanings like this.
Credit: Amanda Blum

The Beatbot lacks common robot features

My main issue with the Beatbot is that the app doesn’t do much, and it should. Sure, the robot was easy to pair via Bluetooth, which then allowed you to connect it to wifi. You can name the robot and choose if the bot should clean the floor, the walls, the surface, or any combination thereof. There are no buttons to start the bot—you simply toss it in the pool and it starts up.

Here is the main failure point of pool robots: Once in the pool, whether on the surface or below, you lose contact with the robot entirely. It just shows as “offline” in the app. That means you can’t cancel the job, ask the bot to return to the surface, or even track where it is in the pool. If the pool is clear enough, you can see the bot, but often it won’t be. Also, if the pool is freezing, no one wants to jump in to retrieve it, even if you can see it. In most cases, your vacuum or lawnmower will estimate how long a job will take, but the poolbot doesn’t. Aquabot estimates a deep clean will take three hours, but even a “quick clean,” which is just one sweep across the floor of the pool, took almost three hours in a relatively clean, medium-sized pool. 

I was surprisingly bothered by the lack of control I had over the bot during this process—I just had to trust it would surface, and when it didn’t, I realized how much I appreciated the ability to control my other robots while they were working. When a robot mower is going, you can see it on an interactive map—where it’s mowed and where it hasn’t, same for your vacuum. You can see where it is if it gets stuck, but you can also track progress and, in a number of cases, direct the robot to come to you using a remote control. On successful cleanings, the Beatbot did eventually bubble to the top and remain there, at the side of the pool, waiting for me. But it occurred to me that the battery was not infinite, and if I was not there to retrieve it, the battery would eventually die, and the robot would sink. A robot that requires you to be there to put it in the pool and take it out on a tight timetable isn’t very autonomous.  

Poor documentation and support

This led me to complaint number two: Increasingly, I’m finding that the support for robots is hard to access, as it is slow and often unhelpful. Many of the companies that make these robots are offshore, as is Aquasense. There’s a finite online FAQ for the bot, and not a lot of documentation beyond that to search through. Out of nine phone calls during business hours on a Wednesday, seven of them went to voicemail. On the two calls I got though (both times to the same support tech), I had difficulty understanding the directions the representative offered due to a language barrier. Basic questions didn’t have an answer, and the best the tech could do was offer to leave a message for technical support, who would be in overnight.

At first, I asked how to change the wifi network, which is a basic operation on most robots, but for the BeatBot requires you to delete the robot entirely, and add it from scratch, using the new network. This would mean having to delete your map and cleaning history just to change your wifi password. On the second call, I asked how to cancel a cycle or how long to wait until I could ascertain the bot was lost, and the operator simply couldn’t answer, and kept repeating it would come to the surface when it was done (as above, it did not). 

After a three hour run just across the floor of this medium sized pool, the Beatbot still left visible dirt on the pool floor.
Credit: Amanda Blum

Even on the day when the pool was already the clearest, with just some collected dirt on the bottom and 20-30 small leaves floating on top, the robot took three hours to do a middling job on the pool floor. While it got 85% of the dirt, it left obvious, large pools of it on the steps and in the corners. What was frustrating is that I watched it linger in those corners multiple times. 

Why you’re better off with traditional pool cleaners

Most people with in-ground pools have a filtration system, which does some of the work of cleaning the water, but also have a pool vacuum that attaches to the water hose. Some require you to manually move the vacuum about, which is physically taxing. Many pools have automatic cleaners that roll around the pool autonomously on a schedule and just remain in the water constantly, attached to the water line. These cleaners vary widely in price, from as little as $30 to the $500-600 range. At $2,199, the Beatbot simply doesn’t compete, nor is the Beatbot the only poolbot on the market.

Traditional pool cleaners to consider:

POOLWHALE Portable Pool Vacuum Jet Underwater Cleaner $24.99

POOL BLASTER Max Cordless Pool Vacuum $189.99

Polaris Vac-Sweep 280 $599

Hayward Navigator Pro Suction Pool Cleaner $349

Hayward Poolvergnuegen Suction Pool Cleaner $429

Other robot pool vacuums:

AIPER Scuba S1 Cordless Robotic Pool Cleaner $549.99

Dolphin Nautilus CC Supreme Wi-Fi Robotic Pool Vacuum $1,499

Polaris Freedom Cordless Robotic Pool Cleaner $1,399

Aquasense relayed through a representative that they looked forward to updates of the software in the future that may address some of my concerns. The robot should be able to connect to wifi from the surface of the pool, and the bot could be programmed to surface occasionally to do so. This alone would solve many issues, like being able to cancel a cleaning routine or updating a map. You’d likely still need another vacuum on top of the Beatbot for seasonal cleaning, as the Beatbot is basically just there to maintain a mostly clean pool, and does that so-so. At the current price, the Beatbot should work as flawlessly as similarly priced robot vacuums or lawn mowers and I found it falls far short of that.