After last weeks less than stellar look at the Kleen Machine from Smartpool you might expect this week to juxtapose it with a better build from the firm. I wish that were the case, but instead we have to look at the 4i. Excellent name for a bot, screams ultra modern cool. Very Intel. Unfortunately that is where the excellence stops. I have noticed that a lot of robotic pool cleaning firms re brand their bots. Dolphin are famous for it, having the same build on sale in multiple locations under different names. This is to get around exclusivity contracts, and it is great for consumers. When the bot is good at the very least. The 4i is a re hash of last weeks Kleen Machine, and my opinion stands.
The 4i does not offer the core feature set, those three little features that I require on a robotic pool cleaner before I can sign off on it. Some bots have won me over without them in the past, through a combination of an excellent price and a good look. Not featuring legacy design features helps too, but the Kleen Machine, and by extension the 4i, cannot even claim those features. It is as bare bones a build as you could imagine, and without the wiring to hold it up it becomes a pile on the pool floor.
So let’s dive right in, see what it is about this cleaner that has gotten me so riled with indignation.
Smartpool 4i Design and Build Quality
I have not been too subtle so far with my less than impressed state after looking into this set of robotic pool cleaners. The SmartKleen, Kleen Machine and the 4i are not the most fully featured, and they aren’t much to look at, but they are at least very hardy machines. Smartpool can build a robotic pool cleaner that can take a knock or two. An admirably trait, and one that is certainly a feather in their cap. Remember t give the bot a bit of a shake if you buy it, any rattle you hear indicated a manufacturer’s fault, and you should make use of your warranty in that case.
Now a word on the aesthetics. I am not a fan of the SmartKleen, Kleen Machine and 4i’s look. It is irregular and underwhelming. The color scheme on the 4i is good though, a simple black finish all round. Hard to go wrong with that. I am a little unhappy with the placement of the filter chamber, as the build looks like a simple retool could have had it top mounted, but I will go into detail in the ease of use section.
Not a lot to say about this one. Smartpool build a sturdy bot, they are famous for their longevity, hardly news. The look of the build may not sound too important, and normally it wouldn’t be. But in the case of the bot clones you are likely going to want to take into account which one looks the best, and in this case it is the 4i.
Smartpool 4i Features and Specs
It has been many months since I started reviewing robotic pool cleaners, and I would not call myself an expert. There is always something new to learn. But in that time I have come up with a short form list. Three features that fundamentally show the value in a cleaner. It must have powerful scrubbing brushes, a small number of models have trouble with larger debris and algae. It must be able to fully filter a pool on a single cycle, nothing worse than murky pool water. Most importantly it must be able to climb walls, what is the point of a bot that makes you clean the pool yourself sometimes?
Well that is the question I am trying to figure out. The 4i, and it’s identical brothers, cannot climb walls. It reduces their utility and makes it very hard, if nor impossible to recommend. The issues with the machines do not stop there though. It is an above ground cleaner, with a 40′ cable. Said cable is not a swivel cable, and as a result is more prone to tangling. There is something you can do to fix that though, pick up a few cheap pool noodles and fit them to the cable. This should stop it from tangling too often. It is the solution to a problem that just doesn’t exist in more modern robotic pool cleaners.
On the bright side the 4i does have the Smartpool standard scrubbing brushes fitted on the bottom. They are hardy, enough to break up debris, but soft enough to not scour the pool floor. The suction ports a fitted close by, and are wider than most bots, so it has no trouble picking up even the largest debris, acorns and the like. The cycle time is around 2 hours, which is shorter than the average, but seen as it is for smaller pools this should not come as a shock. The 4i bots all come with some decent path finding, which allows them to map a pool in a single cycle, saving you money in the long run. It also knows to turn without coming across a wall.
The filter bag is bottom mounted, and enlarged. I will advise you to check the bag often, especially if the pool has not been cleaned in a while. I have reports of the bag overflowing when it is too stuffed, a common problem with filter bag systems. Finally, there is a 2 hour shut off timer with the model. It isn’t much of a feature to end on, but with these bots I have to take what I can get.
Short on features, and missing something I deem very important. It is difficult to recommend this one, the lack of climbing alone makes it less than many other bots on the market. It does have one saving grace. The fact that it is one of the least expensive options on the market a the moment. All three, SmartKleen, Kleen Machine and the 4i are very reasonably price. They would need to be with their sparse feature set. Is it enough to save them though?
Smartpool 4i Ease of Use
Robotic pool cleaners can be broken down into two core types. The easy to use all in one models, and the less easy to use external pump models. I do not bother with those older builds, as I feel they are too complicated. You buy a robotic pool cleaner to make your life easier, to free up your time, not to gain in depth technical knowledge regarding plumbing. So I focus on the all in one models. Internal pumps these days are more than powerful enough to filter a pool well. All in one models can be broken down into two further categories. The Legacy Design builds and the Ultra Modern bots. The 4i, as a re brand of the Kleen Machine, is a Legacy bot.
A Legacy Design bot is not inherently inferior to the Ultra Moderns in terms of function, they merely have a few quirks that make day to day use a little more cumbersome. This is why I don’t talk about the distinction until the Ease of Use Section. The 4i’s issues are two fold. First the filter system It is bottom mounted, meaning you have to flip the bot over when you want to change out the filter bag. A heavy bot this, so you come ton loath changing out the bag. Speaking of which, the use of a filter bag system is the second issue. Filter bags are more prone to human error, improperly fitting the bag can cause blockages, and stop the cycle. Not a problem with a newer cartridge system.
The Other issues relate to the weight of the cleaner. Getting the 4i from A to B is made more difficult than it has to be by the absence of a caddy. A fair number of models come with a caddy, and I am a strong proponent of seeing this piece of equipment become standard. Getting the bot in and pout of the pool is harder too, as the handle is shorter than would like. There is a fast drain system that comes with all the Smartpool bots though, which goes a long way to making the act of removing it from the pool a little easier.
The issues I describe sound petty, I know. In the world of robotic pool cleaners ease of use is paramount, and so there is little to complain about. If you know you will find these issues too much to deal with then there are options, though all of them are going to cost you a little extra. Overall, this is still a remarkably easy to use product, there are far better reasons to not buy the 4i.
Smartpool 4i Pricing, Value, & Discounts
I love the pricing section. I usually use it to write off a bot, but here I don’t think that is necessary. There are a whole host of issues with these three bots. But. The 4i is one of the least expensive models on the market, costing between $300 and $400. I have seen it second hand for even cheaper, and at that price it is a far more attractive bot. I always point out that any robotic pool cleaner, even one where you have to occasionally clean the pool walls, will save you time. Depending on how you value an hour, any robotic pool cleaner will have paid you back in a year. The 4i, considering it’s low price, will likely do so in a month.
Now to the post per cycle. Seen as Smartpool have not released the exact power consumption information for their bots, so we are forced to make a few estimates here. Aquabot is pretty much the only firm that does make the information available, so kudos to them. The 4i is a smaller bot, so let’s slot 160W into the equation. On average a cycle will cost you around 10c. A little more in some areas and a little less in others, it depends on the price per kilowatt hour in your area, so please make sure to find that out from your supplier. It might not sound like a lot of money, but it will add up over time. Too few folk know how much it cost to run their appliances, and for long term financial analysis it is imperative that you find out.
I spend so much of my time reading warranties. I feel like a review is not complete without a look at one. I can tell a good one from a bad one, but here I can’t tell you much. Smartpool have yet to send me the full warranty details. I have emailed them and will update this review, and my other reviews, as soon as they respond. In the meantime the 4i comes with a limited 2 year manufacturer’s warranty. The Hayward limited warranty was fantastic, but the Aquabot limited warranty was less than worth it. It makes it somewhat difficult to judge this.
Smartpool 4i Conclusion
If it weren’t for the price of this bot I would write it off completely. The downsides are numerous, it can’t climb a wall, it has legacy filter features and there is no swivel cable, but that price. It saves it. If you don’t mind having to clean a pool wall every so often then this is a very tempting product. If you are debating between the 4i, SmartKleen and the Kleen Machine, they are all similarly priced, and the 4i is the best looking If I had more information on the warranty I could even recommend it, though not strongly.
- Works out of the box, no need to connect it to a pool pump.
- A slight machine that is capable of withstanding the elements and can even vacuum acorns.
- That price is amazing. Very easy to afford this one, possible to use it as a stepping stone to greater things.
- The warranty information is light on the ground, I am waiting for more information on this.
- The handle is a little short, and for such a weighty build that is an issue.
- There is no swivel cable, and while there is a trick to reduce tangling, it’s absence is conspicuous.
- Legacy design issues.
- It cannot climb a wall, were it not for the price and the look that alone would have killed it.