Product: Mint Automatic Floor Cleaner Price: $249 Rating: Recommend* It was at the Las Vegas Convention Center at CES earlier this year we first encountered the white Yves Behar designed Mint prototype, merrily sweeping up dust and dirt purposely spilled by the Mint staff, impressing a curious crowd with its friendly design and navigation system. In a growing field of robotic technology cleaners, the Mint was aiming to differentiate from the competition, simplifying the interface, and offering a "less is more" experience for household floor cleaning duties. Now it was time to see how it would do in a real-world setting... The top control panel is all you'll really need to learn how to use. Turn it on, alongside the Northstar Navigation Cube, choose from dry or wet surface cleaning and let the Mint do its thing. The design philosophy of Evolution Robotics's Mint versus the popular iRobot Roomba is similar to the philosophical differences between Apple and Google's offerings: one aims to simplify features, while the other aims to incorporate as many as possible. The physical design magnifies the comparison further, with the Mint looking arguably like something Apple might offer if they jumped into the cleaning appliance market. Nowhere is this more evident than the top control panel of the Mint, where just three icon-labeled buttons are offered with nothing else by the Mint branding tastefully on a corner. After charging the unit overnight (sort of a bummer for an impatient type like ourselves who wanted to get cleaning right away), we positioned the Northstar Navigation cube onto our living room coffee table, turned on the Mint (a friendly chime welcomes and alerts you it is on) after adding a dry sweeping cloth, and then watched as it journeyed across our living room like the cleaning droid of our dreams. Choose between a wet or dry cloth pad. Swiffer disposable pads can also be used, but we liked the eco-friendly reusable inserts best. It should be noted the Mint isn't a vacuum like iRobot's units. The Mint uses reusable or disposable Swiffer-style cloths to pick up lighter debris and pet hair onto the cleaning cloths. Hardwood floor owners and people with pets will specifically benefit from having the cleaning services of the Mint to fill-in inbetween more serious vacuuming sessions; the amount of debris picked up during a single cleaning session was actually surprising, since we think of ourselves as atypically fond of vacuuming. Thanks to the low profile, oversized modernist Chiclet gum design, the Mint easily gets under furnishings where we obviously forgot to vacuum or sweep. Our cats also seemed to find the unit to their amusement. The Mint performed well at cleaning up our hardwood floors of small sized debris, pushing and catching them onto the cleaning cloth. For the most part, the Mint was able to navigate furnishings without issue, though one tight spot left it stuck and stranded Another way the Mint differs from the competition is its Northstar Navigation system. The GPS-based system is derived from the same tech inside those Sony Aibo robotic canines that were all the rage years back. The nav system directs the Mint to sweep across as much surface area as possible without too much overlap, utilizing proximity and directional sensors in the unit orchestrated by infrared lights sent up and bounced back from the base unit down to the Mint. If you've got stairs, no need to worry. The Mint has an edge detection unit which prevents it from taking a suicidal leap.
Pet hair and dust galore!The Mint also does a decent job of cleaning kitchen floors with the wet cloth. Although the Mint is not engineered to clean carpet, it did traverse across some low pile FLOR carpet tiles, revealing itself to be capable of handling less-than-ideal surfaces. The two times the Mint found itself in trouble was while navigating inbetween a wall and the home office task chair, and also later finding itself wedged underneath a stove (we found out only after noticing we didn't hear its motors from the other room, and we ran to its aid like a worried pet owner with a new pup). The unit can sometimes drift over to other unintended rooms, since the nav system does not limit it to specific boundaries. Each situation magnifies robotic navigation is still in its infancy, and is still prone to common household pitfalls that require occasional human observation. Though not as thorough as washing the floors by hand, the Mint did leave the kitchen floors much nicer, and the proof was all there on the pad. In the kitchen, partnered with the wet cleaning cloth and some Mrs. Meyers all purpose cleaner, the Mint was switched onto a Mop function and let loose. A half hour later, the floors not only looked cleaner, but the proof was right there on the cleaning cloth; the unit's 4lbs weight provides enough surface pressure to remove surface stains capably. Admittedly, the Mint is nowhere as thorough as hand cleaning the floor, but we could easily get used to relying upon a weekly schedule with the Mint doing kitchen duty, partnered with a monthly hands-on thorough cleaning for spic 'n span floors. Improvements we'd love to see in version 2.0: daily and weekly scheduling via a wi-fi interface. Imagine being able to program a customized schedule, while also possibly offering feedback which rooms had the most debris cleaned, perhaps with a GPS-based visual mapping system to show the "where" and "how much was cleaned". Also a cradle charging system for the unit to automatically return to would make any future Mint model more hassle-free; it doesn't take that much effort to plug-in, but enough to warrant a note that you're responsible for keeping it properly juiced up for duty. Overall, the Mint offers what we'd call a "charming" impression. It's not as tech-laden as the Roomba, but that's part of its appeal. Carpet and rug owners should stick to vacuuming, but if hard surface flooring is what you need, the Mint does it pretty well and at a reasonable price. And pet owners will likely find the unit coming back with a (disturbing) bonanza of their pet's shed coats. Do we need a Mint? Hardly, as sweeping and vacuuming by hand isn't too difficult. But do we want one now? Certainly, as the white little robot quickly proved its capable ability to reduce cleaning duties over the span of the week, leaving us more time for work and play. Pros: Yves Behar design, simple and friendly user interface, navigates furnishings well, able to perform several cleanings before recharge is needed, very capable dust and pet hair cleaning performance. Cons: No scheduled/automatic cleaning or charging, can occasionally find itself stuck in a tight corner, not a replacement for vacuum. Our Ratings: Strong Recommend Recommend* Weak Recommend Don't Recommend Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.