Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Smartpool Direct Command – Robotic Pool Cleaner Review

I started these reviews of Smartpool bots with the Direct Command Plus, and here I am now taking a look at the vanilla Direct Command. I walked away from the DC Plus more than a little impressed, a 1:1 remote control bot at that price is very hard to come by, and as it is one of the few cleaners in Smartpool’s stable that comes with all of my personal core features as standard it ranked very highly on my list of best bots in that price range. The Direct Command is very similar to the Plus, and the biggest change this time is the price. And That is something I am happy to see around half the time.

I have been reviewing robotic pool cleaners for a long time now. I know the ins and outs of the machines themselves, I know how to spot a shoddy build, and I know the market that each of the firms aim for. If you are looking for the tip of the top or the brim of the bottom then check out the range of options from Aquabot. If you price features as well as fees then Dolphin might be what you’re looking for. When the when you are after oodles of options in the consumer corner, then Hayward have you covered. But if you are shopping around for a fully featured bot in a very low price range then Smartpool may well be the best around.

Smartpool bots have been a little up and down for me. Some of their builds are amazing, both in terms of core features and price, but a few are very close to the bottom of my list of top cleaners on the market.

Smartpool Direct Command Design and Build Quality

One of their major selling points is the longevity of their machines. They are simple, and compact, and hardy enough to take a few blows before dying. Not many bots out there can say the same. There are two things to know before buying a robotic pool cleaner from anyone. First get to know your warranty, second, give your new robotic pool cleaner a bit of a shake. If you hear rattling sound, then you may have a factory defect. The Direct Command is a robust machine, with a flush finish. No rattle here.

As for the overall appearance, you cannot beat Smartpool in the ugly department. There may be a few designs from other companies that are as lackluster. Not one of Smartpool builds appeals to me aesthetically, making them unique in this biz. I will be the first to admit that appearance is not that important, but I still think it should be considered, especially when you are debating between a few different bots in the same price range.

Again, another home run in terms of build quality, with a strike out in the looks department. Glad I was able to keep my metaphors within the same game for a change. The Direct Command lacks a few design points. It makes up for it in terms of core features, read on and be impressed.

Smartpool Direct Command Features and Specs

This is the last time I will be able to say this, as I have now reached the end of my robotic pool cleaner reviews, but it must be known to all who venture forth to buy one of these products. There are really only three features that a robotic pool cleaner must have to be considered for purchase. The pool floor cleaning brushes must be strong enough to break up debris of any size. The filter must be able to clear a pool well enough within a cycle and the bot must, I repeat, must be able to climb the pool wall. And I mean from a 90 degree angle, none of that, “It’ll climb the wall if there is a smooth transition” crap. The Direct Command can do all that, and more besides.

If you are looking for an above ground cleaner head over to my Aquabot reviews, they offer an range of above ground cleaners, and a few can even climb the pool wall. The maximum size a pool can be for the direct command is 20 ‘ x 40 ‘ with an 8 ‘  depth. Anything larger and you’ll have to look elsewhere, or pilot the bot manually the whole time, that could work too. The 60 ‘ cable is a swivel cable, which massively reduces tangles. Tangling is the biggest cause of stoppages, so seeing that here is fantastic.

The base mounted brushes are Smartpool’s standard. Highly powered, but with softer bristles. This allows this bot to break up all kinds of debris, while be gentle on the tile bottomed floor, leaving no marks. The vacuum ports are wide, wider than most models on the market, which lessens the power of their suction in exchange for the ability to pick up larger debris with ease. A trapped acorn or twig is the number two reason for a stoppage, so it is nice to see Smartpool paying attention to this. Cycle time is three hours, long enough to filter the pool water, and this bot makes the pool wall transition with ease.

There is one bonus feature worth talking about with this bot. Not only can you set the cycle on the fly, but you can also assume direct control. With the motor, you can guide this little bot to anywhere you like, turning easily, with true 1:1 control. A number of remote control bots out there do not have a dual drive motor, and need to make long alzy turning arcs to get anywhere. Other features include the rapid vent system, that detects when it is being lifted and drains the water from the chassis, making it a little lighter.

This is a nice build. It takes the core feature st and adds to it in a meaningful way. I consider remot4e control options to be nearly as important as the core feature set, so it is the first thing I look for in a bot that has the three. The next thing I look at is price, but there are a few ease of use issues you have to be made aware of before we can talk about that. So Let’s dig in.

Smartpool Direct Command Ease of Use

I have learned a lot in the last few weeks, not just about the companies that make the cleaners, or the feature set that is most ideal, but also about the types of cleaners that are available. There is another core type of cleaner out there, the more difficult to use external pump cleaner. Best to stick to the simpler models, their internal pump is plenty powerful enough to clean a pool and keep it crystal cleaner.

The Direct Command is a Legacy build, not an inherently bad thing, but it has a few quirks that can be a little irritating with regards to day to day use. The Direct Command’s use of a bottom mounted filter chamber and a filter bag, expanded or not, is a little vexing. Having to flip the bot over every time you want to change the bag gets old quick, and a filter bag is more prone to user error, so beware when replacing it. A fold in the wrong place can lead to stoppages, and after acorns and a tangled cable this is the number three cause of stops.

The control options via remote were a major boon to the Direct Command in the features section, and placed it above most of its peers in the Smartpool stable, but here it is a minor black mark. It adds an layer of complexity to the bot, you have to take the time to learn how to use it. I suppose you could just ignore it, if you really want, which is why I have it as a minor mark.

The weight of the build is the last issue. It might be light, but getting it to and from the pool without a caddy is cumbersome, and removing it from the pool with so short a handle is bothersome. Not all that difficult, but still another annoyance to add to the pile. The rapid drain system is a feather in its cap here though, but it does not render the issue moot, merely makes it more palatable.

The issues presented here might seem small, but that is only because they are small. Modern robotic pool cleaners, both Ultra Moderns and Legacy Designs, are both extremely easy to use. The core features and design philosophy is the same. The issues I describe here are minor, and should not be considered deal breakers for anyone, but it is up to you.

Smartpool Direct Command Pricing, Value, & Discounts

Here we are in the pricing section, the place where the choice is made for most of us. Myself included. I pace a lot of weight in this section. The Direct Command is in the $700 to $900 range, and while it is nice to see true 1:1 remote control in the sub $1k range, I am a little less than enthused by that price. I like to take a moment here to talk about what a robotic pool cleaner is. It is a time investment.

Now a moment on the cycle costs. It is never a huge figure, I’ll be the first to admit that, but it is something that will add up very time, so please take it into account. I had to assume a power consumption of 180 W and extrapolate on a few common price per kilowatt hours. Please take a moment to ook up your own and slot in the 180 W figure. You will come up with a figure of 10c per cycle, give or take a few cents.

The warranty section is usually one I look forward to writing. I spend a fair amount of my time reading warranties, I review products after all, so I have gotten pretty god at spotting good ones, and decerning the bad ones. The limited warranty offered by Smartpool on the Direct Command is 2 year long, but beyond that i can tell you nothing. They have not released the full warranty information on their product line. I have contacted them about this and am awaiting a reply. A limited warranty can be bad or it can be good, just compare the Aquabot limited warranty to the Hayward one and you’ll see what I mean.

Smartpool Direct Command Conclusion

I don’t know if 1:1 remote control options are enough to justify so high a price. It is something I have noticed with the Smartpool bots, now at the end of my robotic pool cleaner reviews. Their low cost models are all great, and their flagship, the BigFoot is one of the best products on the market. But this, and the 11i that steals its chassis, are simply okay bots. I would recommend them if they lowered the price to be a little more competitive. Remember that Smartpool build long lasting bots, so if you see it second hand you might be able to snag a bargain.

Pros:

  • Works out of the box
  • Cleans everything
  • It is a big beast, capable of withstanding the elements and even vacuuming acorns.
  • Swivel cable is great, makes tangles less likely, thus saving you time and money.
  • Dual drive motor allows the bot to move around with ease.
  • Remote control options are always a pleasant surprise.

Cons:

  • The warranty information is vague, I am waiting for more information on this.
  • The handle is a little short, and for such a weighty build that is an issue.
  • The price leaves a lot to be desired. Getting it second hand is a good option.
Barry W Stanton
Irish born writer who drinks too much caffeine and reads too much Terry Pratchett. I enjoy long walks on the server and Korean cuisine.
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