The Hobot 388 cleans windows efficiently with no water or mess to squeegee or wipe down afterwards. Although any windows cleaning is a chore, it certainly helps make the job easier.
The Hobot 388 is a Window cleaning robot with an app. GadgetGuy has never reviewed an automatic window cleaner before, so we did not know what to expect. So we asked our consumer panel what they thought was most important, and you can read that in the brief guide here.
There was some trepidation as I opened the box and found a relatively small device 295×148×95 mm x 915g looking not unlike a dual disk electric car polisher. The manual is pretty simple – it has basic information but perhaps not enough to know what to expect. Well, it beat all expectations, and the result was sparkling clean windows with a minimum of human intervention.
Price: RRP is $540, but there is a special price of $475 at the review time. Price excludes freight
Warranty: 12-months ACL
Hobot (Est 2010) is a Taiwanese company focused on home robot development. It holds patents for the Hobot design and several innovations.
First impressions – Hello Hobot
A few years ago, we bought our forever home on the Central Coast of NSW. It is right on Brisbane Water, not far from the Hawkesbury River mouth and across the bay to the North Sydney beaches. And we learned what it meant to have a sea change. Those fantastic water views come with a never-ending fight against saltwater’s corrosive effects. Clean windows – ha! Clean them one minute, and very soon, that fine salt spray settles on them again.
Let’s say that it is a great proving ground for the Hobot 388. Our test was five bi-fold doors approx. 650x2100mm panels or 1.37m per side (13.7m2 in total). It is smaller and lighter than I expected, and that is good – it has to ‘adhere’ gecko-like to glass, and I guess physics would preclude something much heavier. We will let the image do the talking – two cleaning pads (microfibre), a 15um ultrasonic spray unit, DC power (we will explain why later), some smarts and an app (not necessary for use).
Robot My Life made it very clear that the best results were with two passes. The first ‘dry’ removes dirt and detritus, preparing the surface for a ‘wet’ nano-spray pass later. If you don’t do two passes, you risk getting a streaky result.
So, we charged the device (a few hours) with its 24V/3.75/90W charger. But it is not battery operated. Hobot’s UPS (uninterruptable power supply) will hold suction for 20 minutes if it loses mains power.
It has a 4m DC extension cord to the power brick meaning maximum reach is about 5 metres from a power point. Don’t forget that you need to allow for vertical height as well. If you clean windows further away, you can use an AC extension cord but be aware that no robot window cleaner can support a heavy power cable as well.
We strongly recommend using an AC powered device outside with an HPM Electresafe Power Centre – it has an RCBO (Residual Current Breaker with Overload) to stop anyone from getting electrocuted by detecting a ground leakage. Respect 240V power!
Stage one – dry clean
Place a clean pair of microfibre pads on ‘wheels’, take it to a Window, turn it on. Hold the device on the window and flick the start switch. In a millisecond, it vacuum sticks to the glass and starts its cleaning pattern. We will come to the safety rope shortly. The 1.37m2 glass panels took precisely six minutes to clean. That is almost the claimed speed of four minutes per 1m2.
At first, we placed the device upright at the bottom of the panel, and it started cleaning, side-to-side, crab-like up the glass. Later we found it more efficient to place it at the top of the glass and let it clean down because it leaves the top pad dry to polish the glass. You can choose either direction as well as a bottom to top crawl to start the cleaning.
It is very efficient. The top pad acts more as an anchor point as it crabs sideways across the glass. Then it swings sideways to allow the bottom pad to clean the next few centimetres. The pads rotate against each other – more efficient than a single direction wipe.
It is excellent at edge cleaning as the pads protrude slightly outside the body and get right to the edge. It cleans all bar a small part of the top and bottom corners. The total time for 13.7m2 (five panels x two sides) was about an hour. But at 6 minutes per panel, that meant you had to be there to move it to the next panel – hardly unattended use.
Stage two – Wet wash
Wet wash is a misnomer. The water reservoir is probably about 30ml (2 tablespoons). It covered the test area of 13.7m2 beautifully with some left over. You can use water, but we used the supplied 200ml bottle of Hobot Window detergent. It comes in five-pack for $60 (special $55) plus shipping. Given its low use, stick with this instead of trying to find an alternative.
What if it falls – death dive?
It comes with a 4.5m safety tie rope and carabiner. At first, we religiously attached the rope to something to ensure that it would not smash onto the floor if it dropped. Once we finished all six outside panels, we started inside, and there was nothing to attach the safety rope to. So, we let it go commando style, and all was fine. It stuck like glue.
Don’t let me give you a false sense of security. It is just that the safety rope tie-off and the power cord length are two issues to consider. We would never use it on external windows or multi-story windows without the rope.
It comes with a pack of 12 (six pair) of grey microfibre pads that are washable and reusable. With proper care, these should last years. The replacement cost is $27. We also noted that there is a pack of 12 polishing cloths as well. We did not have these to test.
Results – Hobot 388 is great
OK, I could have gotten off my lazy backside and cleaned with window cleaner, washcloth and a squeegee to dry as I have done before. Yes, it is faster, but the Hobot 388 produces such superior, streak-free results that I vow never to wash a window again.
There are a few caveats to consider.
Time: It will take about twice as long as manual cleaning, so allow plenty of time.
Flyscreens or security screens: Most homes have insect screens, usually on the inside of the window. Removal of the screens may be as simple as turning a few clips or as difficult as breaking a few as well. Hobot 388 needs clear access.
Door handles and protrusions. Our bi-folds have lock and door handles, and these protrude over the glass stopping Hobot 388 from cleaning. Make sure you move these or tie them back.
Hopper, wind-out and slide up windows need a little attention. We tested on a wind-out window at approx. a 45° external angle, and it was fine. However, it cannot stick to similarly angled internal glass.
Safety rope – we have covered this but a reminder that you need to affix it to prevent death dives, especially on multi-level windows. We were confident enough to not worry about internal windows placing a pillow at the bottom of the window.
Wind and rain: You cannot use it in wet, windy or high humidity conditions. We noticed the nano-spray was occasionally blown away from the glass by seaside wind gusts. A still dry day is best.
Power: you need access to 240V
And the big one: Hobot 388 does a fantastic job on the glass, but you need to clean the windows frames, tracks and more to get the best overall cleaning result. While it was cleaning, I was busy scrubbing frames and vacuuming tracks. It merely reduces your workload by doing a better job than you can.
We have not tested it, but it will work on mirrors, ceramic tiles (even textured ones) and any non-porous surface. It has pressure change detection to keep it away from frameless glass edges.
The Hobot 388 is the best window cleaning robot we have ever tested. We have now tested its ‘square’ brother and it is just as good – differnet methods and different strenghts. This did the job brilliantly, and it will now attack the rest of the windows at Casa Shaw.
GadgetGuy’s pass mark is 8/10, and while we will give top marks, we have nothing to compare it with to provide a baseline. Because it meets or exceeds every aspect of our user panel’s guide, here, we will allocate 9/10. We reserve the right to rescore as we review more in this category.
Would I buy it?
That is an unreserved yes.
The Hobot 388 is the best window cleaning robot we have ever tested. In fact, it is the only one we have tested.
Value for money
Ease of use
Exceptional dry/wet two-pass streak-free finish
Reasonable speed at 1m2 each four minutes
A window cleaner solution miser – 10ml per 10m2
A no-surprises product that does exactly what it claims
The counter-rotating pads give it some ‘elbow’ grease
None really, except it’s the first we have reviewed in its category and we have no score baseline