I have been reviewing these robotic pool cleaners now for the last several months. In that time I have learned about the companies behind the products in addition to the products themselves. I know that Maytronics’s Dolphin bots span the gamut, but their mid range machines are amazing. I know that Aquabot have a nice variety of low cost cleaners and that Hayward are the best when it comes to consumer variety, allowing you to tailor your package. I also know that Smartpool are a bit of a mixed bag. This weeks 7i is a great little cleaner, but last weeks bots, Kleen Machine, SmartKleen and the 4i, were all a little less than amazing. Comparing them all to the first bot of theirs I reviews, the BigFoot, and they are all a little lackluster.
There is really only one difference between last weeks bots and this one. They couldn’t climb. The 7i is a riff on the 4i, but with added wall cleaning capabilities. This allows it to hit all three of my feature prerequisites, thus allowing me to recommend it. But there are a few things you need to know before shelling out the cash. The legacy design issues are still here for one thing.
Smartpool 7i Design and Build Quality
First a look at the build quality, and this is something that Smartpool excel at. All of their bots are hardy little machines, more than up to taking a knock or two. The 7i is as robust as the 4i, and the derivatives thereof, by virtue of being essentially the same bot. Remember the two golden rules about buying a bot. First make sure the warranty is up to code, and secondly give the cleaner a bit of a shake once you get it home. If you hear rattle then either the bag is not properly fitted or you have a manufacturer’s fault and you’ll have to return it, this is why I mentioned the warranty first. Few things more annoying than buying a new bot, seeing it run for a week or so before it craps out. This will help prevent that.
As to the look of the build, well, it’s the same as the last three. The 4i, Kleen Machine and the SmartKleen. Not terrific looking machines, but not exactly eye sores either. I have never been a big fan of wheeled bots, so some personal bias is coming in here, but at least the 7i, and the i series in general is black. The SmartKleen is a dismal off white color. Out of the four of them, the 4i and the 7i are the best, with the 7i edging it out in terms of features, but that will be reflected in the pricing section.
Overall, the usual fare from Smartpool. A sturdy build, one that given the right starting conditions will stand the test of time, combined with a less than amazing looking body.
Smartpool 7i Features and Specs
I have, in the last few months, come up with a list of features that I consider must haves. If a robotic pool cleaner does not have these three features, then I am much more inclined to write it off entirely. I have done so only twice, so it is clear that most firms agree with my list of prerequisites. First, the scrubbing brushes must be powerful enough to break up algae, second the filter must be able to leave a pool crystal clear in one cycle and finally it must be able to climb a pool wall. The discount bots from Smartpool have not fared quite o well with that last one, but the 7i variant finally manages to jump that last hurdle.
The 7i is billed as an in ground pool cleaner, but seen as it is identical to the 4i et al, with a longer cable, then I think it will be fine in an above ground pool too. The cable is 60 ‘ long, but it is not a swivel cable. Swivel cables are tangle resistant, and if you have owned a robotic pool cleaner in the past you will know that tangles are the number one cause of cycle stoppages. There is a trick you can do to prevent tangles in the event that the bot you bought does not come with a swivel cable. Buy a few pool noodles and wrap the cable with them, this will reduce the chances of a snag or stop during the cycle.
The scrubbing brushes fitted to the bottom of the cleaner are Smartpool standard, and I really do rather like them. They are a little overcharged, but also a little softer. So they have no trouble breaking up debris for vacuuming, but not at the expense of scouring your pool floor. The vacuum openings are a little wider than most too, so while their is a mite less suction, it more than makes up for that by being able to pick up acorns and other large debris. Average cycle time is 3 hours, a little longer than the others in the range, but considering it is meant for larger pools this is not too much of a surprise.
The path finding AI is pretty impressive with this range. The bot is able to map your pool and run an optimized cycle after the first one, saving money in the long run, and does not require finding a wall to turn. The pièce de résistance with this model is the ability to climb walls. Now, normally I call this feature a simple must have, but seen as the last three bots in this range could not do it, I will laud it here. Scream from the rooftops in thanks and praise.
The filter chamber is on the bottom, a problem I will talk about in a moment, and the filter bag is larger than normal, allowing it to last a little longer between emptying. This bot is very bare bones, but there is wires in there holding the skeleton up. By my own small list of must have features, it passes. Everything else is bells and whistles, not necessary, and when we look at the price of this build we shall be ever more impressed. But we have the Ease of Use section to get through first. And it is here where we will find out what I mean by Legacy Design features.
Smartpool 7i Ease of Use
Pool cleaners come in a couple of different models right now. The old style external pump systems, and the newer internal systems. I do not bother with the older style, they require you to set them up with your pools pump system, and that extra level of complication would knock the vast majority of them out of the running i this section. Instead I focus on the easy to use all in one options. They are all for the most part great, and the pumps in them are plenty powerful enough to filter your pool well. They also come in two flavors. The Legacy Design builds, and the Ultra Modern cleaners. The 7i is a Legacy Design model, but that is not a truly terrible thing, it does come with a few niggles and annoyances that may put you off.
The Legacy Design issues with the 7i are two fold. The Filter chamber is bottom mounted and the filter chamber is fitted with a bag. Being mounted on the bottom of a cleaner is such an old school move. You have to flip the bot over to replace the filter bag, something that more modern cleaners do not require. At 18 pounds this is not a light machine, though it would have been when this bot was designed. The use of a filter bag is not inherently worse than a cartridge, but they are harder to clean and they are more prone to human error. It is much easier to fit a filter bag wrongly, and end up with a blockage. Cycle stops cost money after all.
The other issues are related to the weight of the build. It might not sound like much, but 18 pounds is a fairly hefty weight to carry, especially if you are slight of build. Having to get this bot from shed to pool is a hassle, and doubly so seen as it does not come with a caddy. Many robotic pool cleaners come with a caddy, and I would like to see it become standard in the business. As for getting it in and out of the pool, the handle is a little on the short side. There is a nice rapid drain system that triggers when the bot realizes it is out of water, very useful when taking it out of the water, so they did put some thought into this issues, but I feel like they could have gone a step beyond.
I know that the issues I describe here may seem petty, but this is the world of robotic pool cleaners, and in terms of ease of use, the vast majority of them nail it. You just have to plug most of them in, drop them in the pool and hit the cycle button. I have ton get down ton brass tacks, to the nitty gritty, if I am to find any issues with any bot. If you feel like any of these problems will be too much for you, there are other options, keep an eye out for Ultra Modern designs in my reviews.Smartpool’s own BigFoot fits the bill.
Smartpool 7i Pricing, Value, & Discounts
Here is where the choice is really made for most of us. I have already told you this robotic pool cleaner can do what you need it to do, so the only question that really remains is, how much does it cost? The price range on these bots is $400 to $500, which is an excellent price for a climbing bot. I was swayed somewhat by the other bots in this range, the 4i that cannot climb, by virtue of their low price points, but in hindsight you are much better off spending the extra $100 and getting the 7i. It falls at the upper end of the 4i’s price range anyway.
I always like to point out that any robotic pool cleaner on the market right now will save you time. Think about the hours you use to spend cleaning your pool, and imagine having them back. Depending on how you value an hour of your time, any robotic pool cleaner will pay you back in full within a year. The 7i can do it in 6 months, and that fact alone makes it worth considering.
Now to the per cycle costs, and here we have to make an educated guess. Aquabot is the only company who have released the full energy information on their range of robotic pool cleaners to me. Let us assume 160 W for this bot, seen as it is smaller than most. Factor in a few common price per kilowatt hours and we get an average cycle cost of 12c.
Since I look at warranties for a living, I have gotten pretty good at spotting good ones from bad ones. Smartpool’s limited warranty could go either way, I do not know as they have not released the full written warranty to me. I have gotten in contact with them, and have yet to receive a reply. I will of course update my Smartpool reviews as and when they get in contact.
Smartpool 7i Conclusion
This is a no brainer. Take the 4i, add in the missing climbing feature and bump the price up by a small amount. It really is a bargain, and an excellent first choice in terms of robotic pool cleaner. There is always the option of upgrading later, once you figure out what features you want added on. There are a few issues, the legacy design features are a little annoying, but beyond that the 7i is a terrific entry level cleaner.
- Works as soon as you open it, 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.
- Can climb walls! This needs to be known.
- The information on the warranty is pretty vague.
- The handle is short and that could be a problem.
- There is no swivel cable attached
- Design issues.