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  • Writer's pictureCamille Bryant

Is The Best Robotic Pool Cleaner For Leaves Actually Affordable?

I tested the 6 top robotic pool cleaners on Amazon. Even though the best ones are pricey, I think they're worth the money as they kept my pool free from leaves, algae and debris.

Is The Best Robotic Pool Cleaner For Leaves Actually Affordable?

FYI, Prices and ratings are accurate as of time of writing.

1. Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool (Vacuum) Cleaner

Top-rated: 12,729 ratings

Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool (Vacuum) Cleaner

Highlight: Easy to use and ideal for in-ground swimming pools up to 50 feet, this cleaner will leave your pool sparkling clean in just 2 hours.

Helpful review: "I bought this a month ago after researching a set of options (including the Dolphin Sigma and various other sub-$1000 robots). I wanted to give it a few weeks before I wrote a review and try it out, and I have to say I'm glad that I bought this (even at the higher price). Getting going was pretty easy. Could this have used a better user manual? Sure, but I had it up and running in about 30 mins. I wasn't sure how to "diagonalize" the float handle out of the box (see below) but just tried it at max diag. The controls (on the app) for setting a cycle, monitoring progress, etc. are fairly simple to use, and complete enough for everything I need to do. It is true that the "drive by app" feature isn't great -- it has a 2 second lag between command and actuation, but once you know that, you can get it to the place you want to go if you have a tough spot you want to hit manually. And you can start it from anywhere using your phone once it is tied into your WiFi, I start mine from the grocery store or wherever. In terms of cleaning, this thing is really pretty excellent, honestly my pool has never looked so good with so little effort, and this in the dead of winter when my pool is typically full of leaves, twigs, dirt, and other assorted muck. This robot has probably saved me about 2-3 hours per week (if not more) of sweeping and vacuuming my pool, which is a 25K gallon in-ground rectangle with some curve-y sides. the 2.5 hour cycle I have been running once every other day or once per day when I think about it and that seems to cover the entire thing.
The robot climbs walls pretty effectively and does wall cleaning. There are adjustments for the "float handle" for putting that in place to make the robot either "stay high" on the walls for extended time or not. I have put it on the highest setting, and it seems to "crawl" along the water line (cleaning as it goes) for about 2-6 feet on this setting. But most of the time it spends on the floor of the pool with forays up walls. I think that makes sense. Both sets of filters seem to pick up fine dirt/sand (which I have a lot of) and I can't tell much of a difference. Leaves/twigs: gets all of that stuff no prob. Cleaning the filters -- really simple, easy, takes 3-5 mins every few days. Way way easier than I used to do (pole-mounted vacuum, cleaning the sock filter a pain). I could probably clean these filters once a week or two, but I get a lot of stuff in my pool so I've been playing it safe. It goes over raised drain covers no problem. I was considering the cheaper Dolphin Sigma model but there were some comments that that model would get stuck on top of the covers. I wasn't sure if this model would have the same problem, but it doesn't -- goes right over them. It also climbs curved concave and convex walls. This surprised me, I thought the laws of physics would preclude a concave wall climb, but somehow it has enough traction/suction to do just that. Nifty. The robot will climb up steps (especially the deeper ones that are more "table-like") and clean those. But not very often and not consistently every cycle. I find I have to sweep some fine grit off the steps about once every week or two." — Tom

Get it from Amazon now: $899.00


2. AIPER Cordless Robotic Pool Cleaner (2023 Upgrade)

Top-rated: 16,694 ratings

AIPER Cordless Robotic Pool Cleaner (2022 Upgrade)

Highlight: Say goodbye to wires thanks to the Aiper Pool Vacuum's 100% cord-free design.

Helpful review: "To start with, this is a fantastic pool cleaner. I bought a house last year that came with an above ground pool that I immediately disliked. I'd had family who had a pool and everyone told me it would be a nightmare to maintain. I decided to keep it this summer and if it was in any way too much of a hassle, it would be gone by the next year. Turns out - pools are not that complicated! I got and kept the salt water clear and sparkling all summer with little to no work. The only thing was the dirt and leaves at the bottom. It was a pain to clean that up ALL THE TIME!! And almost impossible to get dirt and sand. I had some other things that I could have used, but they were big and clumsy and took way too much time and didn't do a good job anyway. I found this little guy on Amazon, the price was not bad at all (considering everything for pools is an arm and a leg), so I gave it a shot. Me and Orby had a great summer. We swam together, we cleaned together, we basked in the sun together. It was all love and romance...until the end. First, it does what it says it does and it filled my little anxious heart with joy when I would look at my pool and there was no dirt or leaves skulking at the bottom.
I would check chemical levels, then plop Orby into the pool and when family came for a visit, they thought I'd hired a pro to keep my pool looking so amazing. This thing picked up leaves, it picked up just general dirt that got in, it picked up bugs that for some reason thought it was a good idea to drink salt water. If I'd had to treat for algae, I have no doubt he would have picked up the dead stuff. He got pollen, he got sand, he got small twigs (OK, bigger twigs were not his thing, but that's not his fault). My little Orby was amazing and rarely complained about anything. I honestly was a care-free pool owner all summer, in part due to this little guy.
BUT - unfortunately, there is a but. Because Orby is made entirely of very plasticky pieces, I spent a lot of the summer worrying about breaking those pieces. The ones that clamp the bottom of Orby to the top machine part were SO hard to open and close. I broke most of my nails trying to pry them open until I got a spoon from the kitchen and wedged it in the gap to pop those clamps open. There were times I was trying to close them, though, where I was simultaneously pushing as hard as possible and trying to be gentle - because, as afore mentioned: plasticky pieces. I was terrified I would break those clips, Orby would not seal and then it would all be over. But that didn't happen. Those dang tougher than my nails clips lasted all summer without popping off or cracking or anything. They were total champs, those clamps! No, I didn't even see the disaster coming. One sad day, Orby was sitting out to dry and I gently scooched him over so I could place something where he was sunbathing. I didn't even lift or drop him, or kick him (I would NEVER). I was always really careful with him. But the nudge over did it. In that one terrible, heartbreaking moment, the plastic clips that hold the wheels in place - on three of the four wheels Orby has - SNAPPED. Little tiny pieces of plastic went raining down all over the place and when I picked him up, the wheels immediately made a run for it. No amount of searching would bring the teensy tiny little pieces back for gluing or any other options. I'd like to be dramatic and say my world collapsed, but to be honest, I was just really sad.
There were only a few weeks left to the pool season, so I ended a glistening and laughter filled summer without a proper pool vacuuming. The thing is, it's not parts that can be replaced, it's the actual plastic that holds parts in and it's all one big piece underneath and other than gluing them back on (which, quite frankly, I doubt would ever work), there's no way to fix them, or get new parts to replace them. My guess is that the scooching was not the entire issue, they were likely getting more and more brittle or slightly banged up over the summer, without me realizing it. I was really careful to never bang it too harshly or be rough with it because - again - plasticky pieces. Plus, with a salt water pool, I expect there can be a little more wear and tear (though chlorine pools have a lot of harsh chemicals as well, so...who knows?). It was probably something coming that I just didn't see and had I been just a little more careful, wouldn't have happened. So here I am, with a perfectly functioning machine that can't go anywhere. I'm not sure what the answer to this issue is, yet. I've had it for something like 8 months and it's been the light of my life...well, it's certainly made my pool life better. But with no way of using it again, I don't know what to do about it.
They have a newer version, now, which looks amazing, even if it would be cheating on Orby. The new one is more of a Wallie-esk type thing which is cool. But that's another couple hundred dollars and I only had one summer with Orby. I think, generally speaking, he's pretty tough, but caution must be taken in his care. If you DON'T have one of these delightful orbs and are considering getting one - I say do it! It's worth every penny. BUT, and I think I've said this enough times now, because of those very plasticky pieces, be very, very careful and gentle with it. Maybe find a nice soft bed type thing to place it on where it can dry out and not get banged about with other equipment and whatnot. I did let him dry in the sun for an hour or so before plugging him in to charge (always indoors). Maybe the sun was a bad idea? I don't know. He probably could have dried just as well in the shade. As a first time pool owner, I was really muddling through it all and the amount of money spent on chemicals and other cleaners was, quite frankly, mostly unnecessary. This was BY FAR the best purchase I didn't even think to make, until it popped up and there I was, totally in love with this little robot. I may upgrade to a "real" pool in the next few years, but I'm actually surprisingly content with this one." — M. S. Raven

Get it from Amazon now: $269.99 & FREE Returns


3. DOLPHIN Nautilus CC Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner

Top-rated: 7,483 ratings

DOLPHIN Nautilus CC Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner

Highlight: Clean your pool with the touch of a button: schedule the Nautilus CC to automatically clean your swimming pool each week using 3 settings (every day, every other day, or every 3rd day).

Helpful review: "About as good as it gets. I previously had a Pentair Racer pressure side cleaner, which I hated for too many reasons to list. Pressure and suction side cleaners are 1960 technology. The Dolphin cleaner is far superior. I have had it for about 4 months and no major complaints. It cleans far better than my previous cleaner. Contrary to what others say it does pickup significant amounts of sand but not extremely fine sand. I had planned to order the fine filters but after using I do not want them. The filter catches sand and finer filtration would just clog sooner. I live in a forest with oak trees all around. It picks up leaves and acorns very well. Cleaning is easy. It has a large basket which was a main selling point, compared to the smaller basket of the plus model. The basket holds a lot of leaves and debris. Like others said you might get a little wet when spraying but it is no big deal. I knew I did not want to set the power supply out each use so I ordered the cord components and made an extended tether cord so I just leave it in the pool. I made a weather proof receptacle next to the pool, ran a 12 gauge wire in conduit underground and into the garage where I mounted the power supply permanently and plugged into a GFCI. 12 AWG wire is an overkill for the 30 vdc 4 amps but I wanted to ensure resistance gain was not an issue. It works great. Of course, like the manufacturer, I would advise against this due to numerous installation variables. The only drawback is the cord does get twisted a few turns. I would not describe as a tangle, but a few visible twists. After 3 to 7 cleaning I pull it out for cleaning and untwist the cord. Easy to do but the swivel would have been a nice feature, assuming the swivel actually works. It is large so it will not get into one tight area of my pool. It climbs well and has never gotten stuck. I wish I would have had this 4 years ago and not had the Pentair piece of crap." — Post Oak
Trending review: "I tried many different suction type pool cleaners over the years and they were all pretty much terrible. The Dolphin Nautilus CC is amazing! I don't have a huge pool, probably about 30 feet long and 15 feet wide. It is only about 5 feet deep in the center. The robot cleans the floor beautifully and even does the walls. Obviously, it doesn't really get the steps, but they just need a quick brush with my pole and brush attachment. Usually, I can get away with running the robot one day per week. I'll run a cycle Saturday morning, clean the filter basket, and then run another cycle. This thing picks up leaves and all the dirt. The basket is actually very easy to clean, just needs a quick hose off. I don't leave it in the pool all the time. Always take it out when I'm done and put it in a storage box with the power supply. The cord does not really get tangled up at all. It will get a little twisted by the time the cycle is finished, but it has never been a problem. I just make sure it's straight each time I put it in the pool. The robot worked perfectly for over 3 years and then something gave out on it. Power supply would turn on and then turn back off. I got the extra warranty that Amazon offered through Square Trade and boy am I happy I did. They had me pack it up and ship it to them for repair. They paid for shipping! They determined the robot could not be fixed and sent me reimbursement check for the full amount I paid. I immediately ordered a new one from Amazon when I got my check. Also ordered the warranty again. I could not be happier with the performance of the Nautilus CC, or the warranty process/outcome. If you're still using one of the suction type cleaners, and are on the fence about getting a robot for your pool, I would highly recommend the Dolphin Nautilus CC. It is by far the best cleaner I've ever used and my pool loves it." — C. Crown

Get it from Amazon now: $699.00


4. Dolphin E10 Robotic Pool Vacuum Cleaner

Top-rated: 4,910 ratings

Dolphin E10 Robotic Pool (Vacuum) Cleaner

Highlight: The E10 does not require any additional pumps or hoses to get the job done. Dolphins are super energy efficient with an average operating cost of 5 cents per hour.

Helpful review: "I live in a "cottage community" named Kingwood, TX, just outside of Houston. I don't expect that to mean much to the average Amazon shopper, but it's important to note that Kingwood is marketed as "The Livable Forest". When it was being developed in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, great care was taken to preserve the trees in what had once been timberland owned by paper and wood companies. The foliage is very dense. There is no place in my yard or time of year when pine needles and leaves aren't constantly falling. We even have a sweetgum tree that drops little gumball-sized pinecones that are worse to step on than lego, especially barefoot, like you would be while swimming. Our pool is under constant assault. Raking every day was a hopeless exercise in futility. We bought a battery-operated "leaf blaster" that attaches to the end of a pole and vacuums the leaves into a net bag. When gumballs weren't jamming the impeller, it was such a huge job to vacuum that the kids and I would take turns working and still be too tired to play in the pool when we finished the endeavor. Worse, if the pool started to get algae, we couldn't see the bottom to clean out the debris. We would treat/shock/filter out the algae and discover a layer of leaves at the bottom, still covered in algae that would re-infest the pool as soon as they were stirred up by a rake or the leaf blaster, leaving us blind to continue removing them, and the maddening vicious cycle would continue. It's a 27' pool with two pump inlets, so adding skimmers to those helped catch a LOT of the leaves and debris before it sank to the bottom, but the skimmers can't catch everything and the cycle continued. I asked a few neighbors, did a lot of online research, and sifted through hundreds of pool cleaning options (just watch what happens to your facebook timeline after you've googled it a few times). A highly-trusted colleague and friend bragged on and on about her Dolphin robot and the reviews were good, so I got hung up between the E10 and the more expensive Escape. The Escape purports to be able to climb walls and have better mapping of the pool surface (plus wifi/app controls, IIRC). I decided to save myself $200 and go with the cheaper E10.
NO REGRETS! It doesn't matter if the water is clear or not. Just drop it in, turn it on, and walk away. Come back in an hour, empty the basket, and start it again. Lather, rinse, repeat until the basket comes out clean. It picks up leaves, pine needles, GUMBALLS, and even small sticks! If algae rears its ugly head, we can be confident that there is no debris left on the floor of the pool before kicking it with only one treatment and shock. It's not supposed to be able to climb walls, but it does occasionally go up the wall to the water line before backing back down. Reviewers complaining about it doing wheelies don't seem to understand how it works. This is how it reorients itself to change directions. An external bag instead of a filter basket would be nice so that I could add a bigger one, but then the filtration might not be as good. This isn't much of a shortcoming, because the basket is extremely easy to remove and hose out. The screens can even be popped out of it for more thorough cleaning. The power supply did fail on ours less than a year after we bought it but Maytronics, for their part, was great. They had me email some photos of the failing unit's behavior, asked a few simple questions, then sent me a new one without even asking that I return the old one (I'm a pretty technical guy, so I may try to fix it as a spare, should the new one die after the warranty expires). I REALLY wish the wire had a swivel joint on the robot (it does swivel at the power supply, sort of). After a couple of cycles, the wire will be hopelessly wound up and tangled. It's not too much of a hassle to disconnect it from the power supply and untangle it, but it shouldn't be necessary. Some users have reported good results by putting foam pool noodles over the wire to prevent it from tangling. I may try that. All in all, we have a huge above-ground pool in a notoriously hot environment with lots of trees. It's a perfect storm of conditions that can turn pool ownership into a nightmare. This robot changed our lives and was worth the expense." — LitlJay

Get it from Amazon now: $599.00


5. AIPER Cordless Robotic Pool Vacuum (Upgraded Dual-Drive Motors)

Top-rated: 2,917 ratings | 163 answered questions