Fast approaching the end of this long series looking at the state of the robotic pool cleaner industry. I have looked at all the heavy hitters in the business, from Aquabot to Dolphin, and now I will be examining Smartpool’s series.. Last week I looked at the BigFoot, the, well, big bot of the Smartpool line. I was impressed with the breadth of features, and the speed with which is can clean a pool. Today I will be looking at a somewhat smaller build from the company, the Direct Command Plus. Snappy name not withstanding, this is a fully featured bot, well, it has a few less bells and whistles, but all the core features are there and the bonuses on this build are impressive.
Think of it as a remote control mini BigFoot, though at 18 pounds calling it mini is a bit of a stretch. It has a similar look to the BigFoot, and includes the same dual drive motor as well. I lamented in my review of the BigFoot that it lacked remote control options, to take advantage of the added precision that comes with a dual drive system, so this bot may well rank slightly higher than it’s behemoth cousin.
Smartpool Direct Command Plus Design and Build Quality
While not as robust as the BigFoot the Direct Command Plus is still a hefty machine. The longevity of a build can be gleaned by taking a look at how compact, and heavy it is. I would not suggest you drop it of a high ledge, but you can at least rest assured that the Direct Command Plus will survive the occasional knock. There are two things to take into account when it comes to robotic pool cleaners. The fit of the parts and the manufacturer’s warranty. The Direct Command Plus is fit well, flush with no rattle.
As for the look of this bot, it shares a fair few similarities with the BigFoot, and I was not a fan of that build’s aesthetics. Not a huge sticking point, it does at least look like it will do the job well, but it is not the sleekest looking piece of tech on the market. The color is nicer at the very least, comes in either deep blue or dark grey, which is a damn sight easier on the eyes than garish orange.
Overall the look of the build is of little importance, unless you are debating between a few similarly specced builds. In which case you should by all means go for the one you like the look of. The more important part of this section is the fit of the build, and Smartpool have crafted yet another hardy machine.
Smartpool Direct Command Plus Features and Specs
It has been several months since I started reviewing robotic pool cleaners and in that time I have come to the conclusion that there are really only three things we need from them. They must be able to scrub a pool floor, that is to say remove algae. They must be able to filter and cleanse the water of the pool in a timely manner. And most importantly, they must be able to climb and clean the pool wall. There are other features that I think are fantastic, but it is these core three that really matter. Thankfully the Direct Command plus can do all three, and more besides.
The Direct Command Plus is made for in ground pools, so if you have an above ground cleaner you will have to look elsewhere. Max pool size is 20′ x 40′, with an 8′ max depth. The cable is 60′ and, though it is not advertised as such, it is a swivel cable.
The on board brushes are very powerful, but not harsh on the pool floor, and the vacuum is both powerful enough, and wide enough, to manage all kinds of debris, including the aforementioned acorns. Very little chance of a cycle stop here folks. The average cycle time is 3 hours, a respectable time, but there is also an options of a speedy 1 hour cleaning cycle. The Filter bag is extra large, so as to manage the larger debris, but it does make it a little more difficult to clean. It also climbs walls with the best of them, making it all the way to the top, scrubbing as it goes.
The key added feature here is the remote control options. You can use the remote to change the cycle on the fly or call the bot to you. But it doesn’t stop there. With a dual drive motor, this bot can turn on a dime, and you get true 1:1 control over the machine. I have seen bots without dual drive try direct remote control and to be honest, they feel a little flighty, still good, but not great.
Overall this is a great set of features. We have the core set that makes a bot worth buying in the first place, plus the added bonus of it being fully remote controlled. A quick clean cycle is another feature some firms package away for specific models, so it is nice to see it here as standard. All this does come with a price though. It makes using the Direct Command Plus more complicated, and add in a few legacy design issues and we have a bot that might not be the sum of its parts.
Smartpool Direct Command Plus Ease of Use
Robotic pool cleaners come in a couple varieties. The easy to use, plug ad play devices that I specialize in and the more complicated pump less systems that require you to either know a fair amount about your pool, or to hire someone to install it. I am not a fan, as the complexity I feel is unnecessary. In the former category I have noticed two further groups. The legacy design bots, and the modern design bots. Legacy bots use the older filter bag system, and tend to have bottom fitted filter chambers. They are more difficult to use as a result. Sadly the Direct Command Plus falls into this category.
Unlike the BigFoot, which is from the modern design school, the Direct Command is a bottom loaded filter bag based robotic pool cleaner. They are fine, and have no huge flaws to point out, but this is a 28 pound machine, so having to flip it over to change the filter bag is something of a chore. The filter bag itself is easy enough to clean, but it being a larger bag than normal adds to the difficulty, and it also makes it easier for the old human error to slide in, as an improperly fitted bag can cause debris to back up. There is also the matter of the remote. While I love the added functionality, there is no denying that by simply having remote control options you make a robotic pool cleaner harder to use. The learning curve is slight, but it still exists.
The other issues are based on the weight of the build. This big machine does not come with a caddy. The handle that is fitted by default is very short for a bot in this weight class. You will find yourself struggling with the cable for a little longer before you can reach out for the handle. Both minor issues, but ones that will not go away.
It may look like this bot is now a complete write off, but don’t let the negativity in this section put you off too much. Most robotic pool cleaners on the market at the moment still use bottom loading chambers and filter bags, so some of these issues will be present in other bots.
Smartpool Direct Command Plus Pricing, Value, & Discounts
The price section is probably my favorite. I get to talk about value, not only in terms of raw price, but also in terms of long term costs and the relative value of the warranty. First the base price. You can find the Direct Command Plus in the $900 to $1100 price range. I have seen some second hand models knock $200 off that price, but I would rather get a new one, keep the warranty intact. This is by no means a bad price, especially for a full remote control bot, but I think there are a few better options out there.
On to the running costs, and like Maytronics, we don’t have the exact energy information on the Direct Command Plus. Aquabot did us a solid by including them, but here we are again making estimates. You will have to look up the local price per kilowatt hour in your area, then factor in around 180W to get a rough idea of the per cycle costs.
I would love to be able to tell you that their limited warranty is on par with Hayward’s. But I cannot. At this time Smartpool have not replied to my inquiries regarding their warranty. This is an all too familiar thing in the robotic pool cleaner business, companies not having their warranty information freely available on their websites. My correspondence with Aquabot and Hayward has been very pleasant, with Maytronics, whose products I love, and Smartpool, whose products at least intrigue me, it has been somewhat less so. I will update this review, and all the others, as soon as i have more information at hand. I think we can assume that the warranty is similar to Hayward’s and it lasts 4 years.
Smartpool Direct Command Plus Conclusion
This is an interesting one. The size of the bot, and the general cumbersome nature of using it, may be offset well enough by the price and feature set to allow me to recommend it. If i had that to hand, and it covered what I would like it to cover, then I would have no issue calling this bot a winner. As it stands I have to advise you pass on it. For now at least, my opinion may change quite soon.
- You do not need to connect it to a pool pump.
- Cleans walls and the cove
- It is really good size
- Tangles are not an issue with the swivel cables.
- The remote options are cool.
- The warranty is pretty vague information wise.
- The handle is a too short for the design of this product.
- The price is fine, great in second hand, but add in the necessary caddy and we are verging on merely okay territory.