Friday, December 2, 2022

Smartpool 9i – Robotic Pool Cleaner Review

Here we are on the final week of robotic pool cleaner reviews. Only five bots left in the Smartpool stable, and all of them are clone bots. I have spent the last several months getting to know the tech, watching the bots in action and figuring out the niches of all the big players. The Aquabot line is perfect for entry level and very high end customers, Dolphin have the mid range bots shored up tight and Hayward’s bots all come with some great consumer options at the checkout counter. Smartpool have been a little up and down. Some of their bots are excellent value for money, being very study builds, with a plethora of useful features, while others have left much to be desired. Today we will be looking at the 9i, a Scrubber 60 clone, that finally elevates the i series of cleaners into the big leagues.

The 9i is a more compact riff on the BigFoot, and as a result it is both very robust, and filled with the feature set that we need from a cleaner. This 13 pound bot is a little simplistic looking, but I do not ask for much from a build, and thankfully this one delivers, unlike the 7i etc. Being so much lighter than the BigFoot the lack of caddy is not much of an issue, but still something to consider.

Smartpool 9i Design and Build Quality

Continuing on from the 7i, the 9i is another standard Smartpool build. Meaning that it is one of the most robust builds on the market Few bots will last as long as a Smartpool, and fewer still can take a hit like one too. It is one of my favorite things about them, as any minor drop can be fatal for a robotic pool cleaner. Here we can rest assured that that is not the case. There is one or to things that need to be taken into account when buying a robotic pool cleaner. The first is to verify the quality of the warranty, and the second is to give the bot a bit of a shake the first time you take it out of the box. If you hear rattle then it is likely that you have a build fault, and you’ll need to make use of that warranty. Doing this early can save you a headache later.

Onto the look of the build, and I have made no attempt to hide my distaste for the Smartpool bot’s aesthetics. The use of a sturdy black plastic finish in the i series earns them some points for style, but the look of the core build is uninspired. While I freely admit that the look of the bot is not that important, it can play a role when deciding between similarly specced machines, so please pay attention to your own opinion. There are plenty of machines out there that not only come with a full complement of features, but also look damn cool too.

The core design here is wonderful. It is laser focused on being easy to use and solid. Few other robotic pool cleaners can claim to be so resistant to damage, and for that alone it is a worthy consideration. The issue with it is purely in terms of looks, and as I said, that should not rank too highly on anyone’s list of requirements.

Smartpool 9i Features and Specs

I don’t think it is fair to call myself an expert in robotic pool cleaners. But over the last several months I have been able to pick out key features, those three without which a robotic pool cleaner can be called terrible. there have been a few that I have had to call worthless. The three features are, the ability to clean a floor, breaking up large debris and algae for vacuuming. A strong enough filter to clear a pool in the time it takes to finish a cycle and the ability to climb and clean a wall. The 9i can do all of those things, I am happy to say, putting it way above the 7i, which was not a climber.

There are a fair few above ground models, and if you look through the Aquabot range you will find a few that climb too. Max pool size here is 20 ‘ x 40 ‘, with a max depth of 8 ‘. The cord is 60 ; in length, and it is a swivel cable. A number of bots from Smartpool did not use a swivel cable, which increases the likelihood of tangling, the number one cause of cycle stoppages. So I am very glad to see this feature present.

The scrubbing brushes are bottom mounted, and are Smartpool’s standard high power brushes. The bristles are a little finer than ost, so it is powerful enough to break up the larger debris, and soft enough to not scour a tile bottomed pool, a handy combo to have. The vacuum ports are wider than normal, allowing it to pick up acorns and twigs, and the filter bag is larger too, to accommodate this. I am quite pleased to see this little bot make that 90 degree transition to the pool wall, climbing from bottom to top, cleaning well all the way.

Unfortunately, while the build comes with all of the core features I like, it does not have much in the way of bells and whistles. There is a dual drive motor, allowing it to spin on a dime, but it does not have a remote control, so it seems a little wasted here. The build can detect when it is being lifted out of the water, and rapidly vents held water, making it a little easier to pull out. There are few features that I would like to saee added to be honest, maybe a remote, but that’s about it.

It might be light on features, but this is still a well rounded bot nonetheless. If you are looking for the basics, in an affordable price range this is a contender, but there are a few ease of use issues that must be addressed first.

Smartpool 9i Ease of Use

On the market right now are two fundamentally different kind of robotic pool cleaner. The Easy to use all in one models, and the less easy to use, external pump models. There is still a niche for those older models, but it grows ever smaller. I prefer my robotic pool cleaner to be as simple to operate as possible, so I focus on the all in one models. I find the pumps that come with them are plenty powerful enough in there own right, limiting the need for the older style pool cleaners. If you are after an industrial pool cleaner, then maybe then you would be better served. The 9i is a plug and play pool cleaner. Simply plug it in and drop it in the pool. Getting it going is as simple as hitting the cycle button on the power supply.

There are a few issues with the model, and most of them are a result of what IU call legacy design solutions. There are two kinds of all in one model. Legacy builds, and the Ultra moderns. Legacy builds have bottom mounted filter chambers, and use filter bags instead of cartridges. The technology behind robotic pool cleaners is coming along in leaps and bounds, so it is not much of surprise to see last gen tech still being sold. After all, it still works, and very well, but they have some minor day to day annoyances that do not exist in the ultra moderns.

A bottom mounted filter chamber requires you to flip the bot over when it is full. In contrast to the top mounted models. It does not sound like much, but this is not a light machine. The 9i is 13 pounds, and stout. The issue with filter bags is mostly an end user thing. Filter bags are more prone to user error, and an improperly fitted bag can lead to cycle stoppages. Cleaning it out is a little more irritating than it needs to be too.

The weight of the bot comes with issues of its own. Having to cart the thing from shed to pool without a caddy is a chore, and the shortness of the handle, even at its full extent, leaves much to be desired when removing it from the pool.

The issues I present here are by no means real deal breakers. They are annoyances at best. That’s the thing about robotic pool cleaners these days. All companies are focused on creating easy to use products, fire and forget robots that do all the work, and let you relax. I have to find fault with them, and these are the faults. They hold true across most builds, as no company has upgraded their entire range of cleaners as yet. At its core, this is a very easy to use device.

Smartpool 9i Pricing, Value, & Discounts

Here we are again in the pricing section. The place where the choice is really made. Most of the cleaners I review all have the core features, and what issues exist with them are largly universal. Sure there is the rare bot that ticks all the boxes, but they tend to do poorly in the pricing section. The 9i is in the $600 to $800 price range, and for all that you get this is a decent price. The longevity of a Smartpool cleaner will really help shore up the lack of features in comparison to their rivals. I always make a point to remind my readers of what a robotic pool cleaner really is. it is an investment in free time. Buying any bot will save you hours of your life, and depending on how you value those hours, it will pay you back well within a year.

Now to the secondary costs. The price per cycle. With the Smartpool bots I have had to make a few guesses, but seen as most of their builds are a little smaller than average, I would judge an average cycle to cost around 10c. Perhaps a little more or less depending on your provider.

I spend a lot of time reviewing products, and so I pride myself on my ability to judge a warranty. I was able to tell you that the limited warranty from Aquabot was a little less than stellar, though their full warranty is pretty good. The Hayward limited warranty is wonderful, especially by comparison. I bring these up here as they limited warranty, 3 years on the 9i, offered by Smartpool is an unknown. It could go either way. I have sent emails to them through channels trying to get the written warranty, but have yet to get word back.

Smartpool 9i Conclusion

Here we are again in this weird grey area that Smartpool like to occupy. The bot today is actually pretty good. It runs well, and it is built to last. There are a few legacy issues with it, but they are share those with lots of bots. The only reason I would advise caution is due to that warranty. If I had it in front of me and it was only okay I could still recommend this bot, I know someone who has been running one of these for years without issue.

Pros:

  • Works right from the start
  • Cleans walls and the cove
  • Light weight bot, mitigates
  • 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. The remote control function increases the utility too.
  • Light weight bot, 13 pounds total.
  • The price is good for what you get. Second hand price is amazing for what you get. Ups and sort of downs here.
  • Small bot, so the price per cycle will be closer to the lower end of the estimate.

Cons:

  • The warranty information is light on the ground, I am waiting for more information on this
  • Leagacy design issues. They are not a major black mark, but still have to be considered, knowing that there are bots out there that do not have these problems.
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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