- Excellent mopping performance.
- Smart self-cleaning mopping pads.
- Plenty of suction power.
- Overlapping cleaning pattern.
- Long battery life.
- Too tall to fit under most furniture.
- Does not work with 5GHz WiFi.
When you think about exciting technology, what comes to mind? A new game console? The latest iPhone? Whatever you thought of, it probably wasn’t a robot vacuum. That’s understandable. Old-school robot vacs weren’t all that impressive, and even seemed like a fad. But if you haven’t shopped for one in a while, you should reconsider. Today’s robot vacs can map your house, mop your floor, and even clean themselves. They’re a far cry from the “dumb” robot vacuums of years past.
Today, we’re going to review the Narwal Freo. This is a top-of-the-line robotic vacuum with a built-in pair of mopping pads. It provides up to 3,000Pa of suction, which is on the strong side for such a small device. And with its self-cleaning base station, you’ll have to do very little maintenance. But what else does it do to justify its premium price point? We’re about to take a deep dive into the Freo’s functions and capabilities. By the time we’re done, we’ll have more than enough information to render a fair verdict. Let’s get started, and see what we find!
The Narwal Freo has a disc-shaped form factor, like most robot vacuums. The housing is made from a glossy white plastic that seems reasonably durable. At 13.8 inches in diameter, it’s fairly wide. It will cover more area in a single pass than the typical robot vac. It’s also fairly tall, at 4.1 inches high including the LIDAR tower. That’s a bit too tall to fit under many types of furniture. But the added height does give the tower some extra visibility.
The base station is made from a similar white plastic to the vacuum. It has a roughly rectangular shape, with rounded edges and a slight backwards curve to the front panel. In total, it measures 16.3 inches long, 14.6 inches wide, and 17.1 inches tall. At the bottom is a wide slot where your vacuum sits when it’s not in operation. There’s a pair of cutouts in the sides near the top, which makes it easy to carry.
At the front right corner of the top panel, you’ll find a little round recessed LCD display. This gives you full control of the vacuum once you’ve performed initial setup with the app. It also has a child lock, which keeps children or pets from triggering a cleaning cycle.
It’s actually a touchscreen with a fair amount of functions. You can use it to enter the device settings and select specific cleaning modes. Additionally, you can view the robot’s status, battery life and pair it with the app using the QR code that’s displayed on-screen.
Along with the vacuum and the base station, you get a 31-ounce bottle of floor cleaner. This cleaner is specifically designed to work with the Freo’s mopping function. It’s also safe on virtually any floor surface, including hardwoods.
Drive and Brushes
Most of the Freo’s interesting features are located on the bottom of the housing. To begin with, there’s a small wheel at the front, which sits in a motorized, rotating sub-housing. This wheel doesn’t provide propulsion. Instead, it pivots from side to side in order to steer the vacuum.
Power is provided by a set of fatter, chunkier wheels towards the sides and rear. These wheels are incredibly capable, and can climb a 0.78-inch transition without any troubles. That’s as large a transition as you’ll typically find in the average house. You don’t have to worry about your vacuum getting stuck and failing to return to its base.
Towards the center of the bottom is a wide roller brush. This brush does most of the cleaning, and consists of alternating bristles and rubber flaps. The idea of the rubber flaps is to reduce tangling while still sweeping debris into the opening. To the front sides are a pair of dual brushes that spin horizontally. They collect dirt and dust from the sides of the unit and sweep it under the main roller, improving efficiency on solid floors.
Behind the main brush is a pair of dual mopping pads. These pads are very fluffy and absorbent, and are soft enough not to scratch your floor. Just keep in mind that if a pebble or other hard object gets caught in a pad, it could still cause scratching. The thing we liked most about these pads is that they’re triangular and their orientations are offset. This allows their cleaning areas to overlap, with zero gap in-between.
If you’d rather save money on a simpler vacuum, check out the Lefant m210 Pro. It’s a basic, tangle-free robot vac with a slot on the bottom instead of a brush. It’s great for pets and very affordable. But there’s no mopping function, it’s not as smart, and the suction isn’t nearly as strong.
The Freo can be set to three levels of suction, depending on your needs. The lowest produces a mere 48dB of sound, quieter than everyday speech. It’s not very strong, but it’s fine for lightly-soiled solid floors. The medium setting is more powerful, and is best for everyday cleaning. The strongest setting provides 3,000Pa of suction, more than your average robot vac. It’s strong enough to clean almost any mess, but will drain your battery faster. Along the same lines, there are three mop settings, ranging from very wet to normal to almost dry.
One of the things that impressed us the most about this vacuum was its smart features. To begin with, a surface detector senses whether you’re on a carpet or a solid floor. This is a common feature, but Narwal integrates the sensor with motors on the mopping pads and side brushes. When the vacuum senses carpet, the mopping pads will actually lift up off the floor. When the vacuum is also mopping, the side brushes will lift up when they pass over a previously-cleaned area. This prevents them from spreading dirt onto a freshly-mopped surface.
Along the same lines, there’s a “swing mode” that activates when your vacuum is running along a wall. It will stop every few inches and wiggle from side to side. This brings the side brushes and the mopping pads right up to your wall, so you don’t miss any spots.
Within about 10 minutes from unboxing, it was fully configured and ready for cleaning. In our experience, when using the Freo for a full cleaning cycle, it had no trouble with providing effective results. Not once did it “get lost” or become confused as to the type of floor it was on. We really love the ultra-plush pads that seem to provide a much better streak-free shine on our laminate, faux-wood floors.
If you’re primarily looking for raw power, a stick vacuum is a better choice. Take the Maircle S3 Pro, for example. It can provide up to 23,000Pa of suction, as much as some small shop vacs. Then again, it doesn’t clean your floor by itself.
Battery and Charging
The Narwal Freo runs on an internal battery, which can provide up to 3 ½ hours of battery life. Exactly how long will depend on your vacuuming and mopping modes. No matter how you cut it, though, you’re looking at a very long-lasting battery. When the charge level starts to get low, it will automatically return to base. Once it’s recharged, it will automatically resume its cleaning routine.
If you like the Freo but it seems too expensive, consider the Narwal T10. It’s an earlier version with a 2.5-hour battery life and fewer smart features. But it’s still far superior to your run-of-the-mill robot vacuum.
Setup and Maintenance
The Freo is designed to require as little maintenance as possible. Inside the base station are water and floor cleaner reservoirs, both of which require periodic refilling. It works best with the Narwall refill bottle, which you can purchase separately. That said, you can use any similar floor cleaner. But you may have to experiment to find one that has similar properties.
There’s also a dust hopper in the base, which the vacuum automatically empties into. When it’s full, it pulls out of the vacuum slot like a drawer. It’s fairly large, and it’s easy to empty out. Just hold it over your garbage can and press the button on the side. The dirt will drop out the bottom, and you’ll be ready to put it back into the vacuum base.
The base is also designed to automatically clean the mop pads. A built-in detection system will sense when they’re dirty, and dispense water and detergent into a tray. The pads will spin around, and the system will add clean water until it detects that the pads are clean. This ensures that you’re not spreading around yesterday’s mess on today’s clean floor.
If that’s not enough, the base will also dry your mopping pads. A pair of air tunnels channel 104-degree air under them, gently drying them and preventing mold growth. You can set the fans to run at three levels. The higher levels are louder, but cool the pads faster. The lower levels are quieter, but the pads will take a lot longer to dry out.
Once it was finished, it automatically returned to the base station, as expected. Here, it performed a full clean and dry cycle of the mopping pads. Once finished, we closely examined the underside and found both pads to be completely free of dirt and grime. Best of all, it didn’t use a lot of clean water to wash the pads. In fact, you could probably get through several weeks worth of cleaning and not have to re-fill the clean tank. The dirty tank, on the other hand, should be emptied periodically. Preferably, after each cleaning in order to prevent and smell of mold or mildew.
To use the Narwal Freo, you’ll first have to download the smartphone app. It’s free on Apple and Google Play, and installs in a few minutes. Keep in mind that it will only connect via 2.4GHz WiFi. If your router keeps trying to put it on 5GHz, you may have to temporarily disable your 5GHz channel.
Once the app is installed, you’ll be able to use the on-board controls. You can set the vacuum to four different modes: vacuum only, mop only, vacuum and mop, and vacuum then mop. With vacuum and mop, the Freo will run both functions simultaneously. With vacuum then mop, it will vacuum your entire floor, then do a second pass with the mop function.
After your floor is mapped, the vacuum will run in a neat zig-zag pattern. As it runs back and forth, it will overlap its previous path, so each square inch of floor gets cleaned twice. It also features active object avoidance. It won’t bump into kids, toys, or pets, even if they’re not on the digital map. Using the app, you can view your home’s map and name every room. You can also set a cleaning schedule, or make the vacuum clean a specific area.
Setting the Freo on its own cleaning schedule is a smart idea. But when you select a time, make sure it’s a time where there’s little to no foot traffic. In addition, it’s important to do a quick pick-up of any loose items or objects so it doesn’t have any difficulty with random obstacles.
We were glad to see that the app is extremely intuitive and easy to use. Not once did it crash or become unreponsive, like so many other chinese-based apps tend to do. Using the app in conjunction with the onboard touchscreen is a great experience. While you may only need to use one or the other, it’s nice to have the option to use either-or if desired.
The Narwal Freo is one of the most capable robotic vacuums on today’s market. It’s significantly more pricey than your run-of-the-mill robot vac. But if you’re willing to pay top dollar for top quality, you’re looking at a beautiful little appliance.
The inclusion of the self-cleaning base station is very nice. It works exactly as expected without any real qualms. Best of all, as it cleans week after week, it’ll intelligently learn your home layout and clean in the most effective manner as possible.
The functionality of the robot itself is wonderful. Regardless if it was on a plush rug or a smooth surface, it didn’t seem to have any problems differentiating the two. Since it automatically selects the proper mode based on floor type, unassisted cleaning is a beauty of the future that the Freo has mastered.
If you can justify the price tag and you want the best of the best in terms of smart features and performance, look no further. This is an all-in-one cleaning robot which we feel is designed and executed in the best way possible, ultimately making your life a bit easier.