Review Narwal Robotics review: The world’s first self-cleaning vacuum robot
A wiping vacuum robot that cleans its microfiber cloths on its own?! Sounds ingenious at first. The question is: Can the robot also keep up with the established top models in other respects? Is the Narwal vacuum robot the most technologically exciting household robot of the year? We have already tested it here (thank you Narwal Robotics!).
- Narwal Robotics Vacuum Robot
- at Kickstarter
The financing target of the Kickstarter campaign for the robot was achieved within 11 minutes. Meanwhile the campaign is still running, because the manufacturer would like to include an Alexa and Google Home control with a software update. Whoever co-financed the robot will receive it as planned in September 2019. We already have it here and will tell you whether the Narwal on the ground is really as gigantic as its namesake in the Arctic Ocean.
Technical data: Comparison to RoboRock S6
Perhaps the product name comes from the fact that the whale with its lung (there no gills) must appear sometime again and again, in order to catch breath with its blowhole. Maybe this “breathing” is the cleaning at the station. But why of all things a narwhal, the unicorn of the oceans, is not directly comprehensible.
The direct comparison to the best vacuum robot currently available:
|Suction power||1800 pa||2000 pa|
|App||iOS and Android so far as Chinese APK||Xiaomi Home (Android, iOS)|
|Navigation||Laser Room Measurement||Laser Room Measurement|
|Noise level||45 dB (wipe function), 68 dB (on highest suction level)||47 dB (wipe function), 58 dB (on highest suction level)|
|Charging time||2.5 h||3 h|
|Working time||3 h||2.5 h|
|Battery||5800 mAh||5200 mAh|
|Dust chamber/water tank||0.4 l/water tank in charging station||0.48 l/0.16 l|
|Weight||3.62 kg||3.6 kg|
|Dimensions||34.5 x 31.4 x 10.6 cm (very high)||35.3 x 35.0 x 9.65 cm|
|Inclinations||15°, over 2 cm||25°, over 2.5 cm|
|CE mark||expected yes||for International version|
❌ Alexa and Google Home control (under development)
The technical data sheet does not provide a clear favourite in the race for the title “Best Vacuum Robot”. Suction power somewhat lower, significantly shorter charging time, longer working time, minimally smaller dust chamber, no voice control yet, somewhat higher, larger battery, lower gradient overcoming. So the comparison of the technical data between the Narwal and the S6 can be summarized. Of course the Narwal wants to defeat the S6 especially in the wiping function.
In case anyone’s wondering right now: Yes, we just have all three models here in the editorial office (or for comparative test drives in my apartment). Say: We will let them compete in all imaginable competitions over the next weeks. This also means that you can put any question you can think of about the three robots in our comments. May the games begin.
Packaging and scope of delivery
Who ordered the Narwal or co-financed with Kickstarter, may look forward to a monster of a package. Of course, a charging station that is also a vacuum robot washing system cannot be packed into any mini carton device.
The scope of delivery includes not only the vacuum robot:
- gigantic, but extremely stylish charging station
- four wiping mops (two must be mounted on the underside)
- 4 m magnetic tape (for shutting off areas that the robot should not travel)
- four brush heads (two must be mounted on the underside for suction)
- large cleaning tool
- Quick Start Guide & WLAN Connection Guide
Extremely entertaining, but understandable: The Quick Start Guide and the WLAN connection instructions are both on printed pages. It seems that Narwal Robotics is not yet ready to produce the manual in manual format. No problem, at least they’re taking the trouble.
What exactly is 4 m of magnetic tape included in the scope of delivery? The room layout in the app should allow you to draw no-go zones and virtual walls.
Design and Processing: New Xiaomi Competitor?
Visually, Narwal Robotics has certainly copied a little from the competition: The resemblance to the Mi Robot cannot be denied, but the shape is somewhat different. Measuring 34.5 x 31.4 x 10.6 cm, the robot is quite tall, so you have to check the furniture to see if it fits underneath. However, the robot does not have the five meters in length and one and a half tons in weight of a full-grown narwhal. Only 3.62 kg. 😉
The processing of the vacuum robot can be called “sexy” in good conscience. The Narwal looks good, doesn’t look clunky and the workmanship is (as with Xiaomi) first class. Nothing jolts, no processing errors can be found. But well, the vacuum robot isn’t cheap either, you can expect a cool look and very good workmanship.
Nice detail: The Narwal logo is printed on the LDS.
The charging station: charging and cleaning the battery
If you want to play the sourpuss now, you can say that the robot does not clean itself, but is cleaned by its loading/washing station. A car is not self-cleaning just because it is driven into a car wash. But hey, you have to advertise something.
Of course, you have to plug the charging station into an electrical outlet before use, an EU charging cable is kindly included. The input for the power cable is on the back.
The station is equipped with two 5 l water tanks, one for dirty (brown tank), one for fresh water (blue tank). Of course you have to refill the fresh water from time to time.
The Narwal recognizes by its built in algorithm during the execution of the wiping function, when its two wiping mops attached on the underside have so much dirt taken up that these must be cleaned. When this happens, he returns directly to his charging station, where his microfiber cloths are washed, and then goes back to work.
After a very short loading time of 2.5 hours, the Narwal is ready for operation for a working time of 3 hours. These are top values to be proud of. Such a working time can also be used to clean rooms above 150 m². But only suction, not wiping. The water tank is not located under the flap on the upper side as is the case with conventional models, the water tanks in the station supply the mops with moisture. More about that later.
Display of the charging station
When a charging station is as exciting as the vacuum robot itself: The display is very nice to look at, but does not necessarily have a particularly important function. The Narwal logo is included again, and there are also two self-explanatory buttons next to the circular display.
Pressing the house symbol button instructs the robot to drive back to the charging station. You can also use this to start the mapping process, since you can’t start the robot while it’s in the station using the control on the top. The other button starts and stops the cleaning process. Of course you can do both via App.
In addition to the logo, the display also shows various symbols that are more informal in nature. The individual symbols are briefly listed with their meanings:
- Broom: Vacuum robot starts in the next operation vacuuming, not wiping.
- Lightning with battery charge: Battery charge level.
- Data connection symbol: Existing WLAN connection to the robot.
- Container with liquid: Indicates whether water must be filled in or not.
The display is not a touch screen, nothing can be pressed here. Nevertheless, I am in love with this washing and charging station. Something so big and futuristic in the living room, that makes the vacuum robot tester heart (is that the word?) beat faster.
The charging station also detects whether the robot is vacuuming or wiping at the next start by means of the attachments (wiping mops or brushes) attached to the underside of the robot.
Mode of operation and performance without app
Before you can start a cleaning, you have to decide (unfortunately): Wiping mops or brush heads? Both at the same time is unfortunately not possible. The vacuum robot does not vacuum and wipe at the same time.
Narwhals “suck up” their prey downright in order to feed, perhaps the name of the manufacturer comes from it. Finally, their first model has a suction power of 1800 pa, which corresponds to the suction power of the Mi Robot or 360 S6. Ergo a strong value. The RoboRock S50 (2000 pa) does not quite match this value, but the difference is not big.
Contrary to what has been announced, the Narwal vacuum robot does bring an operating volume of 45 dB to the sound level meter, but this only applies when the wiping function is used. During the suction process, the noise level is 68 dB. Considering that the average vacuum robot works with a volume of more than 65 dB, this is not a new value. For comparison: We humans talk to each other at a volume of 60 dB.
Because the robot works with a direct suction system on the underside of the intake hood, the suction performance cannot be compared with that of the new Roborock S6. Ideally, a vacuum robot should have a central brush in front of the hood, which also brushes off the floor. In addition, the collected dust is then filtered again in front of the dust chamber. The cleaning result really good on hard floors, but on carpets the Narwal diminishes.
Bored voice, high working speed
Fun-Fact: The spoken “voice of the vacuum robot” is extremely bored. On the other hand, when the robot is switched on or when entering the charging station, extremely mystical noises are heard. Almost cinematic. These fit perfectly into an underwater world in which one imagines the mystical “unicorn of the seas”. Really beautiful! And as for the bored voice: maybe narwhals are not the most enthusiastic animals.
He finds the charging station quickly and reliably after the work is done and the battery level has fallen. The recovery is made much easier, however, if the Narwal has also started from there.
The speed at which the Narwal works is striking: In less than 8 minutes it cleans an area of 26 m². Thereby only 4% battery life goes down. There one notices the 5800 mAh large battery. Above all, it can be said with a clear conscience that the robot can be used for rooms above 200 m². Of course, these values always depend on the individual conditions in the four walls, but this is still very noticeable.
The App “Narwel”: First Impression
During our trial period it was not yet possible to download the app “Narwel” from the App Store or Google Play. Narwal Robotics provided us with an APK (a test version, so to speak). Soon the app will also be freely accessible and we will provide you with the information here. Of course you should get a first impression.
Since the Narwal models for all those who co-financed the Kickstarter campaign will only be sent out in September, most of the problems will be eliminated. Just because you’ve seen it, the icons will help you deal with the Chinese language without Google Translator. Press the gear once, press the next appearing menu item and select “English”.
Connecting to the WLAN
It doesn’t really get any more complicated on that one. We already know from Roborock vacuum robots that pressing two controls simultaneously resets the WLAN. This must also be done for the Narwal to connect to the WLAN.
Of course, the smartphone must be in the same WLAN as the one in which you want to integrate the robot. What we already know from other models and have implemented very well is the selection of the vacuum robot in the WLAN connections. Simply select “Narwel…” as WLAN on the smartphone and the integration process starts.
Like many vacuum robots with App control, the Narwal is also supplied with firmware updates and upgrades for the device. These must be carried out at the charging station, as depending on their size they also require some battery power.
The vacuum robot is still in the Kickstarter campaign and will only be sent to its supporters in September, so some updates will follow here. But it will be very exciting to see how the update policy of Narwal Robotics will look like in the future. After all, Xiaomi is always happy to provide some new features via update.
Laser room measurement and mapping of the Narwal
With the laser distance sensor (LDS), the vacuum robot measures the four walls and creates a virtual map (mapping), which it displays in the app. The room layout is also part of the game, so that it can be determined that the robot only vacuums in certain areas or avoids areas. The map is also updated when the robot detects changes.
If you use our trial version of the app, you quickly notice that a lot of things are still being worked on. If you want to use the individual functions, you often read “Coming soon”. In addition, the app has some bugs that have to be fixed before the official release. However, the manufacturer has assured us that everything will be revised.
The following things are still missing from the mapping, but they will come:
- The exact trip of the robot is not traceable on the map.
- not live comprehensible, how many m² have already been cleaned.
- not live comprehensible, how long the working time amounts to.
- Maps cannot yet be saved.
However, it can be seen that the Narwal prefers a different way of driving than the new Roborock S6. The S6 divides a space into quadrants, which it then travels in straight paths. The Narwal travels first the complete space, before he then travels in straight paths. In addition, it travels some places more frequently than others. The LED on the upper side lights up continuously in different colours during cleaning, but has no deeper meaning.
The wiping function with independent cleaning
Now the decisive test area: the wiping function of the Narwal vacuum robot, the core of the brand new device. Does it replace manual wiping with the mop? Normally I know it like this from vacuum robots with a wiping function: The focus is clearly on vacuuming, but you can still pack a water tank with a microfiber cloth stuck to the back of the robot, so that the robot then pulls vacuuming behind it. Sufficient for cleaning fresh, superficial stains. The Narwal wants to do more.
In the charging station, the Narwal makes his microfiber cloths on the underside wet and then gets going. However, the robot must first create and save a card in suction mode before using the wipe function.
In this way, the robot orients itself better and can draw no-go zones in the future, i.e. areas that the robot should not move. I’m thinking especially of carpets that shouldn’t get wet. A carpet detection like the Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 930 is not (yet?) included in the software package.
Wiping function of the Narwal vacuum robot under test
When the wipes are dry, the Narwal returns to the base to add new cleaning fluid. I find the principle behind it absolutely ingenious: In several test drives, the Narwal recognized that his wiping mop contained hardly any liquid – and drove back to the station on his own! Strong! During the wiping function, the operating volume is only 45 dB, which makes it possible to sleep at the same time.
Mini minus point: The Narwal leaves minimal wheel tracks, if it drives with its tires a second time over an already wet place. However, this can be avoided with a map created beforehand, since the robot then knows the premises and normally does not drive over a spot twice.
Of course you can see the ability of the wipe function in the video better, so we will provide you with the appropriate media in the next few days. I have recorded a small excerpt for you to visualize:
Preliminary conclusion: buy a Narwal vacuum robot?
The Narwal was financed within 11 minutes in the Kickstarter campaign. Those who co-financed can look forward to a really interesting and powerful model – when everything will be as it should be by September.
Of course we will continue to test the robot and the conclusion will change over the next few weeks. But that can already be said: The potential to become one of the best vacuum robots on the market is definitely there. The bitter aftertaste: As expected, the release price is $800 for all those who don’t finance via Kickstarter. But at least the voice control via Amazon Alexa and Google Home is added. A lot of money, but also many functions.
Why does the narwhal have his horn?
Finally, there is a question to be answered about the name of the vacuum robot: Why does the narwhal have his horn at the front?
In fact, the narwhal’s horn is a tusk, which can be up to three meters long and protrudes from the upper lip. Only the males possess a tooth, but there are also some females who own the horn-like bit.
Originally, researchers believed that the unicorn was a secondary sexual characteristic, such as the tail feather wheel in peacocks. Even more widespread is the assumption that the male narwhals used it for fighting or to use the horn as a kind of pimple to penetrate ice walls in the Arctic Ocean. Then, in 2006, scientists came to the conclusion that the tusk is an extraordinary sensory organ used by narwhals to locate prey and orient themselves in the sea.To the gadget