Owning a swimming pool can be ultimate in fun and relaxation for you and your family. Cleaning and maintaining a swimming pool, definitely less so. Fortunately, the Dolphin Nautilus Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner is here to do the work for you! From the hundreds of automated pool cleaners we put through their paces, the Nautilus sets the standard for performance, reliability, versatility, ease of use and excellent value for money.
One of the highest regarded out there, the Dolphin Nautilus Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner was perhaps an obvious choice for our Top Pick. Boasting the ultimate in user-friendly plug-in-and-go design, the Nautilus scrubs, cleans and vacuums pool floors and walls while filtering and cleaning your pool water all in one self-contained unit with no additional connections or programming needed.
Including the ultimate in features and technology to make cleaning your pool the next to effortless, you won’t find better than the Polaris 9550 Sport Robotic Pool Cleaner. Featuring such unique features as four wheel drive to get in and out of tight spots and a 7-day programmable timer, 9550 Sport sports a price tag to match its virtues. We found the 9550 Sport to be the absolute last word in set-and-forget pool cleaning.
If you’re looking for a clean pool at a price that won’t send you off the deep end, the XtremepowerUS Automatic Pool Cleaner might be what you’re looking for. Powered using your pool’s own filtration system, the ultimate in low-tech and low-maintenance.
Table of Contents
- Automatic pool cleaners: working so you don’t have to
- Helping you choose: what’s right for you?
- How we picked
- Our Top Pick: Dolphin Nautilus Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Our Step Up Pick: Polaris 9550 Sport Robotic Pool Cleaner
- Our Budget Pick: XtremepowerUS Automatic Pool Cleaner
- Our Specialised picks
- Best for above-ground pools
- Best for pools plagued by leaves
- For the cleanest clean
- The competition
- Wrapping it up
Automated pool cleaners: working so you don’t have to
Contrary to what certain niche films might have you believe, manually cleaning a swimming pool is more often than not a time consuming chore. Every hour you’re spending on scrubbing, skimming and vacuuming are hours you’re not enjoy that crystal clear water like you ought to be. Fortunately automatic pool cleaner have come a long way in the last several years and will now do the bulk of the work for you. Technology and design have gone up and prices have come down, so if you haven’t already joined the poolside revolution we’re happy to be your guide.
Helping you choose: what’s right for you?
There are three basic types of automated pool cleaner, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Suction-side cleaners connect directly to your pool’s own filtration system and use the vortex to move around and vacuum debris off of the swimming pool floor. Most models will agitate and scrub the pool floor and walls as well, also saving you another job. Suction-side cleaners deposit debris into your pool’s filter, which makes them especially effective at cleaning up the finer particles other automatic cleaners may miss. Since suction-side cleaners are essentially composed of just a head and a hose, they almost always the least expensive option. As for the downside, since the cleaner connects directly to your pool’s filtration system, it is generally unsuited for situations where larger debris such as leaves, twigs and grass frequently gets into your pool. If your filter becomes clogged with larger debris it will reduce the amount of suction, rendering the cleaner ineffective. That being said, if you have an indoor pool or are in an area where large debris rarely gets into your pool, then a suction-side cleaner may be your best bet.
Pressure-side cleaners use water pressure from a pump to keep your swimming pool clean. Some models can be connected to your pool’s main circulation pump, while others may use a dedicated or booster pump. The water pressure drives the cleaner around the pool and forces dirt and debris into an attached bag. They are perfect for pools in leafy areas with heavy debris as they don’t suck leaves and debris into your pool filter or pump basket, thereby taking the load off your filtration system and reducing overall maintenance. The rub to this though is that pressure-side cleaners are generally not the best at filtering out smaller particles such as sand and fine dirt, nor do they scrub your pool surface. However, if your pool is located outdoors and surrounded by trees or if you get a lot of larger debris in your swimming pool, then a pressure-side cleaner may be best way to go.
Robotic cleaners are generally the most advanced type of cleaners, driven by electric motors inside the unit and operate independently of your pool entirely. The cleaner is powered through a low-voltage transformer that plugs into a regular power socket. It vacuums debris straight into its own filter by a dedicated pump inside the unit and usually has some form of computer assistance to learn the geography of your pool and guides itself around. Some models even have on-board diagnostics to help resolve any technical issues, and some feature a remote control that allows you to manoeuvre the cleaner around your pool. They will also scrub floors and walls using brushes up to the upper edge of your pool, some even above the water line. Robotic cleaners also serve as a supplemental way to circulate and filter water in your pool while putting no excess strain on your existing pump and filtration unit. Some even offer filtration finer than your existing pool pump, reducing the need for maintenance and, potentially, the amount of pool chemicals you will need to keep your water clear. While some models can be equipped with different filters to accommodate different cleaning, most robotic cleaners are suited to smaller debris situations. All this comes at a price, however, with robotic cleaners being the most expensive of the three varieties. Also, being the most advanced they require the most care and upkeep.
How we picked
Even with our helpful guide, the literal hundreds of wildly varying pool cleaner options can make choosing one a daunting task. In our selection of the best of the best, there were several considerations that we looked for in each and every pool cleaner.
Construction, durability and reliability were perhaps first and foremost in our selection process. While the draws of lightweight construction and a low price can be big selling points, even the cheapest automatic pool cleaner will set you back a little. A well-constructed and well maintained pool will last for several years and, perhaps more than that, a flimsily made pool cleaner just won’t work properly and will require constant attention, defeating the purpose of buying one in the first place. And as we said at the start: hours spent cleaning your swimming pool are hours spent not enjoying it.
For a device that you’re essentially buying do to a job for you, user friendliness was another vital consideration in our selection. Following on from reliability, a pool cleaner that is frustrating to use or requires constant care or monitoring largely defeats the purpose of having one. How easy is it to set up and get going? If it has an on-board filter, is it easy to access and clean? Does it clean thoroughly on the first go or does it need several attempts to get it right? In short, we regarded pool cleaners that you can simply set up, leave to do their thing and put away again very highly indeed.
Although pool cleaners generally fit into one of the three categories listed above, versatility proved to be another consideration. Features that make an automatic pool cleaner right for many situations over just one, such as changeable settings, filters and other optional equipment also rated highly in our considerations.
Finally, value for money was of upmost importance in our selection. One might argue that what’s a little more on top of an investment that already may set you back a lot in installing a pool, but no-one should pay more than they have to for the pleasure of having the hard work done for you.
Our Top Pick: Dolphin Nautilus Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner
Offering exceptional design and construction, features, versatility and value for money, the Dolphin Nautilus Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner is an obvious choice for out Top Pick.
The Nautilus Plus is a robotic pool cleaner and as such requires only a power socket to start cleaning. While it is billed as an in-ground cleaner, several reviewers state that they use the Nautilus Plus in their above-ground pools and couldn’t be happier. The Nautilus scrubs and vacuums and all pool surface types including vinyl, cement, gunite, tile, pebble and fiberglass, and cleans pools floors, walls up to the waterline, and steps depending on their size. Recommended for medium to large pool sizes ‘ up to 50 feet ‘ it also filters water at a rate of 4,233 gallon per hour, providing a boost to your pool’s regular filtration system and helping to circulate water. This supplementary filtering provided by Nautilus Plus means cleaner, clearer water and can reduce the need to backwash your pool filter by as much as 30%.
The Nautilus Plus’s unique cartridge filtration system is one of the reasons that helped make it our top pick. It uses an interchangeable on-board dual filter system and there are two types of filters available: a mesh screen for filtering large debris and pleated polyester fibre to trap fine particles. This allows you to cater your cleaning regime according to your situation; whether you’re plagued with leaves, grass, dirt, sand and anything in between. There’s also an optional bag attachment that can replace the filter cartridges for heavy debris or when the big post-winter scrub is needed. Unlike other models, the Nautilus Plus’s filters are accessible from the top of the unit, making removing the cartridges for cleaning or replacement a breeze. Adding to this versatility is also a choice of three scrubbing brushes, each designed to provide optimal traction on different pool surfaces.
On top of this cleaning brawn lies plenty of brains. The Nautilus Plus contains an on-board computer that, on its first use, learns the dimensions, shape and geography of your pool and uses that information to clean in the shortest time possible on subsequent cleanings. This feature can save you time and money in that a standard cleaning takes under three hours and uses only $0.15 worth of electricity.
Another smart features of the Nautilus Plus usually only seen on more expensive cleaners is the ability to perform three-point turns. This reduces the amount of redundant moving around the unit would otherwise have to do to negotiate turns, saving time and on running costs. There’s also the unique swivelling mechanism that eliminates the risk of a twisted power cord interfering with the unit while it’s cleaning. Should something go wrong with your Nautilus Plus, many of the components are modular and can be easily ordered and replaced by the average user without the expense and hassle of bringing the cleaner to a technician ‘ an often underrated feature.
With added features included in the Nautilus Plus such as the dual filters, top hatch access and ability to perform tight turns, the extra cost is well worth it. In short, the Dolphin Nautilus Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner offers an exceptionally well-performing pool cleaner suitable for all medium to large pools where all you have to do is plug it in and set it to go. The Nautilis Plus offers remarkable value for money, boasting features usually only seen in models retailing at twice the price.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Weighing in at 22lbs, the Nautilus Plus is on the heavier side as far as pool cleaners go. Although fitted with a carrying handle, the added weight of the water when lifting the Nautilus Plus out of your pool can pose a challenge. Some reviewers complained the Nautilus Plus’s bumpers left black marks on the inclines of their pools during its initial orientation run, but removed them on subsequent cleaning runs.
Looking more like a sporty SUV than a pool cleaner and boasting the ultimate in features and technology to make cleaning your pool the next to effortless, you won’t find better than the Polaris 9550 Sport Robotic Pool Cleaner. The 9550 Sport is excellent value for money, offering performance and features you would otherwise pay a lot more for.
As is the case with our Top Pick, the 9550 Sport is a robotic pool cleaner and requires only a power socket to start cleaning. With its solid-blade brushes it scrubs and vacuums and all pool surfaces types and cleans pools floors, steps and walls including the waterline. Recommended for medium to large pool sizes ‘ up to 60 feet ‘ the 9550 Sport comes with a 70 foot power cord so you’re unlikely to be caught short. The cord itself floats, making it far less likely to interfere with the unit while cleaning. Featuring actual four wheel drive the Sport 9550 can turn on a dime, negotiate steps and is practically impossible to get stuck or hung up on inclines. The unit uses an accelerometer to automatically sense its position and orientation and adjusts the cleaner for the optimal cleaning action. This feature also serves to reduce cord tangling and optimizes the pool cleaning path resulting in a faster clean.
The filtration system features a wide suction intake, making large debris no problem and the filter canisters are available in three different levels of filtration, making the 9550 Sport suitable for all pool situations. Due to the immense capacity of its debris canisters, the Sport 9550 is able to maintain constant suction power up to loads of 150 ounces ‘ up to four times that of comparable cleaners. The canisters are top-loaded and are easy to remove and clean ‘ so much so that you never actually have to come in contact with the dirt and debris.
Perhaps the 9550 Sport’s biggest draw is the sheer ease of use facilitated by its dazzling array of features combined with its programmable control unit. Using the included control unit while seated comfortably poolside you can start the 9550 Sport cleaning, choose between two levels of cleaning, choose where you want it to clean, select the pattern of cleaning, send it back to the surface for collection, or programme a 7-day cleaning cycle for the ultimate set-and-forget cleaning routine. The levels of cleaning are also programmable, allowing for cycles of just the pool floor, floor and walls or the waterline of up to 3.5 hours. The control unit also features a light-up alert to tell you when the filter canisters require emptying, saving you having to get the 9550 Sport out of the pool and check manually. Also included is a remote control that lets you literally point and click at where you want the 9550 Sport to go for spot-cleaning, as well and starting and stopping, and sending it back to the surface. This ‘Lift System’ feature tells the cleaner to stop what it is doing and return to the side of the pool, climb the wall and wait for you to remove it using the handle. Once you start pulling it from the water it will expel most of the water from the filter back into the pool, which makes it much lighter and easier to haul out. The 9550 Sport also comes with a powder-coated metal caddy to store and easily transport the unit, the controller and the 70 feet of cord.
With its outstanding design and features, the Polaris 9550 Sport Robotic Pool Cleaner might be the absolute last word in set-and-forget pool cleaning. With a price to match its merits, the 9550 Sport still seems like a low price to pay for years of such convenience.
Our Budget Pick: XtremepowerUS Automatic Pool Cleaner
If you’re looking for a clean pool at a budget price, the XtremepowerUS Automatic Pool Cleaner is what you want. Suitable for both in-ground and above-ground pools deeper than three feet and all pool surfaces, this suction-side cleaner attached directly to your pool’s own filtration system and comes with everything you need to get started. Ideal for smaller pools up to 32 feet and with pumps at least a 3/4hp or 1600ghp, the XtremepowerUS’s simplicity is a big selling point, not requiring any additional tools, pumps or power and being compatible with all sorts of filtration systems.
The XtremepowerUS large circular head scrubs the pool floor and walls as it moves along powered by the suction of your pool’s pump and deposits debris into your pool’s filter. As such it makes it especially effective at cleaning up the finer particles other automatic cleaners may miss. The downside to this is that all suction-side cleaners will loses power in the event of heavy debris or lots of dirt filling the filter, so it may not be the best choice for pools surrounded by leaf-shedding trees.
While being decidedly low-tech, the XtremepowerUS Automatic Pool Cleaner presents an automated pool cleaning solution that comes with everything you need to get sucking.
Our Specialised Picks
Best for above-ground pools
For the rigid above-ground pool, the Hayward Above-Ground Automatic Cleaner offers four differently adorable designs. These suction-side pool cleaners feature a unique turbine and gear system that eliminates the ‘thump’ noise that can be an issue with other suction-side cleaners. They all also feature programmed steering unique to suction-side pool cleaners to clean faster and more thoroughly than random cleaners. Easy to construct, the Hayward works with your existing filtration system and no additional tools, power or equipment to use. Finally, they all are circular in design and feature a bumper ring, meaning there are no sharp corners to dent your above-ground investment and it also minimizes friction for easy movement away from walls.
Best for pools plagued by leaves
Amazon’s #1 best-selling pressure-side cleaner, the Polaris Vac-Sweep 280 Pressure-Side Pool Cleaner is perhaps the ultimate pool leaf-buster. Recommended for in-ground pools and for all surface types, the Vac-Sweep 280 sucks, sweeps and scrubs the bottom and walls and is specialised at capturing large debris, such as leaves, acorns and pebbles in its single chamber filter bag. As it requires the use of a booster pump, it runs entirely independent of your pool’s pump and filtration system, keeping your water cleaner and the need to clean the filter reduced. An in-line back-up valve automatically frees the Vac-Sweep 280 if it gets cornered and keeps it cleaning without interruption. Another smart feature is the tail sweep hose and scrubber that cleans any smaller debris left behind the area behind the cleaner as it moves along.
For the cleanest clean
Resembling something you could use to break a siege line, the Aquabot Turbo T4 Robotic Swimming Pool Cleaner is a serious piece of kit. This cleaning powerhouse is an in-ground robotic pool cleaner that will clean and scrub floors, walls and the waterline, and is suitable for all surfaces excepting tile pools. Powered by twin motors, the Turbo T4 filters water at an astounding 5,000 gallons per hour while the self-contained 19-quart capacity filters catch all debris types down to two microns (0.00008 inches) in size ‘ that’s finer than most drinking water filters. There’s brain behind the muscle too, with the Turbo T4 equipped with a microprocessor-guided automatic mode that can clean a 50 foot length pool in less than one hour and an obstacle detection sensory network avoids getting stuck while cleaning. The manual modes can also be operated via a 6-button remote control. All this cleaning power comes at a cost, though, and what narrowly kept the Turbo T4 from being our Step Up Pick was it sheer weight ‘ 50lbs ‘ and that removing and cleaning the filter just wasn’t as simple and user-friendly as with the Polaris 9550 Sport Robotic Pool Cleaner. However, if raw cleaning power is paramount to your needs, you needn’t look any further than the Turbo T4.
A close contender for our Top Pick was the Aquabot X4, a robotic cleaner for both in-ground and above-ground pools of all surface types. Equipped with two ultra-fine mesh filtration baskets to capture debris down to two microns in size that total 190 cubic inches in volume and with a filtration volume of 5000 gallons per hour, the X4 serious when it comes to cleaning. The filter baskets are accessible from the top of the unit, which is a big plus for ease of cleaning and changing. Features of the X4 include four-wheel drive and optional changeable wheels for slick surfaces, a programmable control panel that alerts you when the filter baskets are full, an anti-tangle swivelling power cord that floats, computerised pool mapping, and an included caddy for easy transportation. The X4 is also remarkably energy efficient, using only 180W resulting in a cost of only $0.05 per an average clean. You’d be hard pressed to argue that the X4 doesn’t offer outstanding power and convenience for your money.
Another pressure-side cleaner specialising in the collection of leaves and large debris is the Pentair Kreepy Krauly Legend. Requiring a booster pump, the Legend features a stable four wheel design with front-wheel drive for better traction going up inclines, a large intake for easy handling of larger debris, a tail sweep hose and scrubber, and a smartly designed high-capacity filter bag with twist-lock connections and snap-lock emptying. With these qualities The Legend is certainly a strong contender for those looking for a pressure-side cleaner.
The popular Baracuda G3 Advanced Suction-Side Automatic Pool Cleaner was a compelling candidate for our Budget Pick. This suction-side cleaner connects to your pool’s existing filtration system and is designed to work with lower-powered pumps, making it ideal for smaller pools. Suitable for use in all in-ground pool surfaces, the G3 Advanced is built tough and features a 36-fin disc to increases adhesion to pool surface and avoid getting hung-up, and an optional scrubbing disc.
Suited to medium sized in-ground pools up to 40 feet in length, the Hayward TigerShark QC Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner is another excellent example of plug-in-and-forget pool cleaning. The TigerShark QC will clean and scrub all areas of you pool and features an easy to clean cartridge filter that catches particles down to five microns in size, computerised pool mapping, and a quick cleaning cycle that can make short work of a dirty pool in 90 minutes. Optional extras include ‘spring clean’ coarse filter cartridges for larger debris and a caddy for easy transport. Another close contender for our Top Pick, we felt that the TigerShark QC was just edged out in the value for money stakes by our top pick, the Dolphin Nautilus Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner.
Wrapping it up
Hopefully, through our exhaustive selection process, we’ve made choosing the right pool cleaner to make light work of your dirty pool a little less daunting. In our considerations for making our selection of recommended pool cleaners, construction, features, versatility and user friendliness were all paramount. In the Dolphin Nautilus Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner you will find all of these as well as unparalleled value for money. In the Polaris 9550 Sport Robotic Pool Cleaner you will find a pool cleaner that offers exceptional design, outstanding features and unparalleled ease of use with a price to match. In the XtremepowerUS Automatic Pool Cleaner you will find an automatic pool cleaner without the frills at a price that won’t send you off the deep end.