Thursday, September 29, 2022

Smartpool SmartKleen – Robotic Pool Cleaner Review

I started reviewing robotic pool cleaners a few months back, and in that time I believe I have learned a great many things. I know which features are required for any robotic pool cleaner. I know the strengths and weaknesses of the big names in the robotic pool cleaning business. I know that Aquabot are good for above ground entry level bots. I know that Dolphin have a range of mid range bots that are fully featured. I know that Hayward may lack variety, but make up for it with their purchasing options. And right now I know that Smartpool offer a range of low cost fully featured bots. The SmartKleen is one such bot.

Taking a bit of a break from the in ground pool cleaners, the SmartKleen is an in ground bot, with an advanced AI, allowing it to map a pool much more quickly than is usual for a Smartpool build. This translates into a cheaper to run model, which is always a blessing. There is one major downside to this in ground model. It cannot climb walls. Most of the time I would call this a deal breaker, but that is only with reference to in ground models.

Smartpool SmartKleen Design and Build Quality

smartpool-kleen-machine-featured
The Kleen Machine

I have a few issues with this next set of above ground pool cleaners,. but I cannot fault their construction. Smartpool know how to build a good bot, that will stand the test of time. I think it is easy to argue that they make the most robust builds on the market. Tightly constructed, and dense. There are a few things that need to be taken into account when you buy a robotic pool cleaner. Well, two things. The first is to take a scan through the warranty. The second is to give the bot a shake. If you hear rattle, then you are likely to have a factory fault, and need to make use of that warranty. Shouldn’t be an issue with a Smartpool build, but it never hurts to check.

Onto the aesthetics, and unfortunately this one leaves me a little cold. It’s a nice enough bubble design, but the off white finish leaves a lot to be desired. The three bots I reviewed this week are essentially the same build. The SmartKleen, the Kleen Machine and the 4i all share the same body, and while the internals are a little different, there is very little to differentiate, beyond the color. For that reason, the 4i is the best of the three, it being black and all.

As is sometimes the case with a bot, I love the construction, build quality is nice and high, but dislike the look. Not a huge deal,, normally, but in this case with the 4i and the Kleen Machine being so similar to it, and aimed at the same niche, I think it becomes more important which of the three you like.

Smartpool SmartKleen Features and Specs

I have been reviewing robotic pool cleaners for a long time now. In that time I have narrowed down a few features that I consider must haves. Three things any robotic pool cleaner must be able to do for me to be able to recommend you buy it. First, it must clean the pool floor well. Second, it must be able to filter the pool water thoroughly. And lastly is it must be able to climb walls. Since instituting this mandate I have not come across a bot that cannot do all three. That changes this week, with three bots that cannot climb walls.

The SmartKleen is an above ground pool cleaning robot, so if you have an in ground pool you’ll have to look elsewhere. Might I suggest the vast majority of my articles on robotic pool cleaners, as in ground far out numbers above ground models. The bot comes with a 40 ‘ power cord, but unfortunately it is not a swivel cable. It is thus more prone to getting tangled, resulting in cycle stoppages. If you are having problems like this then fit some pool noodles to the cord, it will lessen the problem. Though it is still not a problem we see on more modern machines.

While the brushes that are fitted to the base are great at breaking up algae and other clumped up debris, it cannot climb walls. I have already mentioned that this makes it impossible for me to recommend, and I stand by that, but if you don’t mind cleaning the wall yourself this can still be a decent purchase, especially considering how cheap it is. Average cycle time is 2 hours, a little shorter than most, but seen as it is build for smaller pools this is not surprising. The on board AI is fairly clever, able ton map a pool in one cycle, and it does not require walls to turn, which is a nice touch.

The filter bag is large capacity, though I have heard reports of it becoming full before a cycle finishes, really depends on how badly your pool needs cleaned. Add in the fact that the suction ports are larger too and we have a bot that does not have a problem picking up larger debris as well. There is also a 2 hour shut off feature, not much but considering the relative drought of features I’ll take what I can get.

Overall this is a poor showing. While it can do exactly what it sets out to do, it does not match up to my requirements. A niche product if ever there was one, but I feel like if you are required to clean any part of your pool by hand then it defeats the purpose of buying a bot in the first place. It is up to you really.

Smartpool SmartKleen Ease of Use

The old style external pump systems, and the newer internal pump systems. I am not a fan of the external systems, as they require extensive set up with your pools pump, and far less user friendly as a result. The all in one models are much easier to get your head around, and in this category at least, the SmartKleen is fantastic. It does fall into the legacy design build of the new school, meaning there are a few features of the build that are less than desirable.

The two main issues are the use of a filter bag and the filter chamber placement. Ultra Modern bots, in contrast to the legacy design bots, use a cartridge system and have the filter chamber top mounted for convenience. A bottom mounted chamber means we have to flip the whole thing over to get at the bag. The downside of a bag is both in the effort required to clean it and the fact that it allows for more human error. An improperly fit bag is more prone to obstruction, and thus cycle stoppages.

Other issues revolve around the weight of the build. I am sure that 18 pounds was once “Revolutionarily light” but it is not the case these days. Busing this bot from the shed to the pool is a bit of a chore, especially seen as it does not come with a caddy. The handle is a little on the short side too, so lifting it out of the water is a bigger hassle than it needs to be. There is a rapid drain system included though, as soon as it detects that it is being lifted it vents the excess water, making it a little lighter.

These are not big issues. All robotic pool cleaners are design with ease of use in mind, so I have to go into the nitty gritty to find problems. If you think that any of these issues are too much, then by all means look elsewhere, but the vast majority of builds still suffer from legacy design restraints. Overall this is still a remarkably easy to use product.

Smartpool SmartKleen Pricing, Value, & Discounts

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The 4i

I love the price section. It is here where we can write off a machine entirely, and with the SmartKleen we would be able to do just that with ease, were the price too high. Unfortunately the low price of the SmartKleen re contextualizes the whole review. $300 to $400 is an excellent price for a feature lite build like this. I tend to talk about the relative value of time here. Any cleaner gives you back time, and you will get your time back quickly on this product.

Now we need to talk about the long term costs of owning a robotic pool cleaner. The running costs are small, but they add up over time. Aquabot is the only firm that releases the ful energy information on their line of bots. Here I am forced to make an educated guess regarding the PW, a smaller bot like this likely draws 160 W, or there abouts.  implore my readers to get to know the cost of running their appliances.

Now a word on the warranty. Unfortunately Smartpool do not release the warranty information online. I have contacted them directly, asking for access to the full written warranty, but as yet they have no responded. What I do know of the SmartKleen is that it comes with a 2 year limited warranty. Without the full written warranty I cannot make a value judgement at this time, I will update this review when I receive what I need fro Smartpool.

Smartpool SmartKleen Conclusion

Much like the Kleen Machine and the 4i, the SmartKleen is tough to recommend carte blanche. It has numerous issues, lack of a swivel cable, legacy design features and of course the inability to climb a pool wall. They are all real concerns. But that price lessens the impact. It very nearly makes it worth your money. And if you are in the niche, that is to say someone looking for a low cost cleaner that will free up some of your time, with an above ground pool and you have never owned a bot before, then yeah, it is a good fit. But I would recommend the 4i over the SmartKleen. They are the same bot, but the 4i looks a little nicer.

Pros:

  • Works out of the box
  • 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.

Cons:

  • The warranty information is really not that detailed.
  • 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 alone would have killed it.
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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