What is the ILIFE A4s?
ILIFE was founded back in 2007 and is a Shanghai-based company that specializes in providing products for the intelligent robot cleaning industry – robot vacuums in particular. What makes the company unique in the market is that they offer a wide range of affordable robotics which includes both regular and 2-in-1 vacuum and mopping robots. If you’ve been on the fence about buying a robot vacuum cleaner, their new ILIFE A4s model might just give you the gentle nudge you need to get out your wallet.
The ILIFE A4s is an inexpensive chance to have your very own Wall-E cleaning up after you and your family (and yes, you will build an attachment to it). It might lack the bells and whistles of the more expensive robot vacuums, and can’t be controlled through an app (you have to use a remote – remember them?). However, significant improvements have been made to this model over their earlier A4 (which includes a more efficient battery, better suction, and a motorized brush). It’s also been very well received, especially by those who have hard flooring or thin carpets to maintain.
We bought one to write this ILIFE A4s review and to let you know if it lives up the hype. Read on!
- Battery Life – The A4s can clean for up to 140 minutes, which is quite impressive for an inexpensive robot vacuum.
- Multiple Cleaning Modes – The A4s is a simple machine which many will like, but it still comes with multiple cleaning modes which includes edge and spot cleaning. You can also schedule it to clean at certain times.
- HEPA Filtration – Those who are concerned with air quality in their home will appreciate the fact that this little robot comes with HEPA filtration. This will help to decrease bacteria, pollen and other allergens.
- Surprisingly Short – This isn’t usually a compliment, but in this case it is. At 7.4cm you’ll find the A4s can clean under most of your furniture.
- No Virtual Walls – It would be nice if the robot came with virtual walls or barriers to prevent it bumping into objects like pet water bowls.
- No Mapping – Although you can use this robot anywhere, the fact that it doesn’t use mapping means that sometimes it has trouble returning to dock.
ILIFE A4s Key Features
CyclonePower Cleaning System – The A4s uses two sweeper brushes at the front, which effectively brushes dirt and debris into the double ‘V’ shaped motorized bristled roller brush in the centre. The dirt and debris are then sucked up into the removable dirt receptacle for emptying.
Easy to Use Remote Control – Those who want a no-fuss robot vacuum cleaner will appreciate that little setup is required to get the A4s earning its keep. It’s possible to press a button on the robot to start cleaning automatically, but you can use the remote to do the same or use one of the multiple cleaning modes (i.e. edge and spot), set a schedule or even trigger the ‘max’ suction mode.
Mini-Room Technology – One problem that many robots without mapping have is that if placed in a small room, they will continue to clean until the battery needs to be recharged. This can sometimes mean that the room is cleaned excessively which uses more power and places unnecessary wear on the battery. With the mini-room mode enabled the robot will clean for a shorter period of time.
Battery and Charging
The ILIFE A4s uses a 14.4V lithium-ion battery which provides 120-140 minutes of fade-free suction on the standard mode, and around 60 minutes on the ‘max’ mode. The power difference between these two modes ranges from 600 to 1000 PA. Charging time takes approximately five hours, so owners can count their blessings that it is able to clean such a large area on one charge. The cleaning button also works as an indicator light – solid orange when the battery is low, flashing orange when it’s charging, and no light when it’s fully charged.
The A4s’ charging dock is quite a low profile and requires the robot vacuum to back up onto two charging pins. It also has a green indicator light to let you know when it’s plugged in and ready. Because the A4s doesn’t use mapping or camera vision, it follows a signal sent out by the charging dock. The robot usually has little issues finding its way back ‘home’ although sometimes it does need a helping hand. Just make sure the dock is in a clear, uncluttered area to prevent this from happening as best you can.
It’s worth noting that although you can use the A4s almost right away, to extend the battery life it’s recommended to charge the robot for 12-24 hours before you use it.
The ILIFE A4s is quite simplistic in design, and sort of resembles a grey UFO with ‘feelers’ where the side brushes poke out from the top. However, the two-tone grey styling (with brushed metallic-look top) is tasteful which means it won’t look out of place once it’s been set to work regardless of your home (or office) décor. It’s also very slim at 7.4cm and weighs 2.2kg. It has an infrared sensor-filled bumper which absorbs shock to prevent damage to both the robot and items it may occasionally run into – however, thanks to the improved anti-collision system over the original A4 this doesn’t happen too frequently. It also has sensors underneath to let it locate drops.
On top of the robot is a single button that can be used to select the automatic cleaning mode, pause cleaning, and re-start cleaning. It also acts as an indicator light, providing various signals such as the battery and cleaning status, and if it has an error (it will alternate between orange for the battery, green for cleaning, and red if there is an error). For the most part, you’ll likely use the included remote which allows you to easily control all robot functions.
Once capsized (try not to feel bad, robots go into a calm state when they are upside down), you’ll notice that the A4s uses two treaded wheels that have the ability to retract slightly to help it navigate noiselessly, and a front caster wheel that rotates 360 degrees to ensure it can spin on a dime. You’ll also be able to clearly see and maintain the side brushes, and motorized bristled roller brush. Included in the box are two spare side brushes when the old ones become worn, and the motorized roller brush can be accessed by first removing the yellow brush guard – allowing you to cut away any tangled hair or debris. It’s all been cleverly designed, though it would have been nicer if the main brush was wider.
On the rear of the robot, as with the majority of competitors, you’ll find the 0.45-litre dirt receptacle and filtration system. This is contained in one unit which is removed with a release button, and by pulling it away from the unit. It then opens up like a butterfly for you to empty which is perhaps not the most elegant design and you will need to use your hands or the included cleaning brush to get most of the dirt out of it. Here you can also clean the main primary filter and a sponge filter (by running under tap water and leaving to dry), and by replacing the HEPA filter when necessary – which is usually every six months. Until those six months are up just brush off the HEPA filter and use tap water for everything else (which includes the bin). A spare HEPA filter is included in the box.
For such an affordable unit, the build quality isn’t left to question and it should be able to handle most, if not all, of what you throw at it (figuratively speaking).
Setup Process, Remote Functionality and Cleaning Pattern
There isn’t too much of a setup process with the ILIFE A4s. All you need to do is unbox it and the accessories, remove all the protective foam and film and place it on the dock to charge for 12-24 hours. As with most robot vacuum cleaners, it’s important for the dock to be placed against a wall with clear space on either side and in front of it so the A4s won’t have problems clocking in and out. Usually, a meter of clearance or so on either side and in front is recommended, though you can see what you can get away with and adjust the area if it has issues.
Once it has charged, you can simply press the “clean” button on the A4s to get it to start vacuuming automatically, or you can take advantage of the remote control’s functions. Using the remote (within a four-meter radius), you can set daily cleaning schedules, and set one of the following modes:
- Auto – Sadly you can’t use the A4s to herd your pets, but you can select the auto cleaning mode which means it will start cleaning your floor and return to dock once the battery is low.
- Spot – This function is best used if you are to pick up the A4s and move it to a particularly dirty area. Once selected it will start cleaning in a rotating fashion while gradually increasing its radius.
- Edge – Place the A4s along your skirting board and select this function to have it start cleaning the edges.
- Max – Lastly, you have the option to turn on the ‘max’ mode which will increase the suction power. Many people are happy with the standard setting, although this may be beneficial if you have a lot of carpeted areas to clean.
One of the negative points about the A4s is that it lacks mapping and has a bit of a random cleaning pattern. It would be more efficient and easier to know where it has cleaned if it was more systematic. However, due to the efficiency of the battery, it’s more than capable of cleaning up to 2100 square feet on a single charge. Most long-term owners had no complaints about areas being left dirty. The A4s can and will complain though:
- One beep means the side wheels or side brushes may need to be cleaned.
- Two beeps mean the cliff or bumper sensor has failed. You’ll have to check if the bumper is blocked and can move back and forth freely.
- Three beeps mean that the main unit is stuck and needs to be moved, and started again.
- Four beeps mean that the main roller brush is stuck and likely needs to be removed and cleaned.
The ILIFE A4s doesn’t have virtual barriers so if you’d like it to skip a certain room you’ll have to close the door or place a physical barrier over it. This also means that it may occasionally bump into a water bowl if you have pets.
The ILIFE A4s may have some limitations, but performance isn’t necessarily one of them. It does a superb job of picking up dirt, hair and all sorts of debris (i.e. oats, rice and flour) from the floor. The only issue is that because it lacks a memory of where it has cleaned there is a good chance that it may miss a few bits here and there. This is where the longer 120-140 minute runtime comes into play so it’s able to cover areas it might have missed on the initial passing.
Having said this, one advantage of not having a mapping function is that if you reckon the floor is clean enough and you have other areas of the house to clean you can just pick it up and move it (though you’ll soon be referring to ‘it’ by name). You can also easily use the spot cleaning function, though it would have been nice if it was possible to turn this and the edge mode on without the remote. It did a little better on carpet than hard flooring, especially with regards to ‘fluffing’ the carpets, making it easier to see where it has yet to venture.
The A4s is recommended as a budget robot vacuum for those with pets, but you will need to remove the motorized roller brush and cut away the hair quite often. Luckily this is easy to do, as is removing and emptying the bin and cleaning the filters. As it only holds 0.45 litres you may find you’ll need to empty it every day, but this is a small price to pay for not having to drag the main vacuum cleaner out as often though.
Other areas worth mentioning was that it stops itself taking a leap of faith off stairs – at times seeming quite timid of dangerous drops. It’s also very quiet at around 65dB which means many people choose to schedule it at night time while they are sleeping and can wake up to a cleaner home. The ‘max’ mode is louder and arguably, you’ll likely use this function often if you have lots of carpeting, but still not loud enough to prevent you watching your favourite series on Netflix comfortably.
As for the cons, it was very quick to get ensnared in cables though less frequently than the previous model due to the upgraded tangle-free sensors. Still, the cables capturing it seemingly unawares will have you thinking of a horrifying nature documentary. Considering that it’s low enough to easily get under office furniture, beds, as well as certain sofas and cabinets, this can happen more frequently than with other robot vacuums. It also had a hard time climbing onto thick rugs but is generally good at traversing small enough obstacles such as room dividers.
The ILIFE A4s is a no-frills type of robot vacuum cleaner for those on a budget, but it does incredibly well, especially when pitted against giants such as Neato and iRobot. In fact, due to the price, you’ll find that many people get more than one to clean different floors or areas of their home at once. ILIFE also offers a two-year warranty when most robot vacuum manufacturers only offer one, and this can be further extended when purchasing on Amazon.
You won’t be throwing away your main vacuum cleaner if you buy an A4s, but you will find that you’ll need to take it out far less often. The A4s is designed for maintenance, and while it does this in a seemingly haphazard sort of way with its random cleaning pattern, you will notice your home to be cleaner after just a couple of days. Some of the functionality can’t be compared to the more expensive robots such as the Botvac D7 which we reviewed here but considering it’s around a quarter of the price, who can complain about that.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the ILIFE A4s dimensions?
31cm in diameter and 7.6cm in height.
Is the A4s good at avoiding stairs?
Yes, the A4s can easily locate and avoid drop-offs using its sensors.
Do I need batteries for the remote control?
The A4s’ remote control uses two AAA batteries. However, batteries are included in the box.
Will this work with black carpets?
The sensors aren’t able to work properly if you have black carpets.
Will this learn the layout of a floor or room?
No, this robot doesn’t feature mapping.
Will this work for those with pets?
Yes. It works very well at picking up pet hair, especially on hard flooring. However, you will likely need to clean the motorized brush more often.
How much does the ILIFE A4s weight?