You pull the cover away from your above ground pool and find that sparkling clean pool filled with leaves, dirt and, gasp, green stuff growing in patches. There are two alternatives. You can spend the rest of your morning cleaning that pool manually, or you drop in your robotic above ground pool vacuum, turn it on, and let it go to work.
Don’t you have a robot vacuum for your pool? You need some help, but finding the best above ground pool vacuum for your situation can be a challenge. Here are our choices and some of our reasoning behind the ranks.
Why an above ground pool robotic vacuum?
Unlike below ground pools, above ground pools typically have only one filter intake and one return line. The small number of intakes and outlets limit the filtration capacity of the entire system. Most above ground pools depend on activity in the pool to keep debris and dirt suspended in the water so that the filtration system can effectively remove them.
Above ground pools that sit idle for much of the workweek often experience problems with cleanliness. The small filtration systems can’t move enough water to keep the pools clean, or the design of the pool creates quiet areas in the pool where debris and dirt settle. Some system is needed to either keep the debris and dirt suspended or mechanically remove it from the pool.
Robotic pool vacuums designed for above ground pools are the best answer. They work when told with minimal attention, and keep your pool sparkling clean and ready for you to use. Robotic vacuums bring back the enthusiasm and pleasure of owning an above ground pool by turning maintenance time into pool time.
What we Looked for in a Robotic Vacuum
Of course, one of the main things we looked for in a robotic above ground pool vacuum is cleaning power. After all, the whole reason for having a robotic pool vacuum is, so you don’t need to do the cleaning yourself.
In addition to this all-important feature, we considered several other factors in making our decision.
- Ease of Use
- Quality of Construction
- Customer Service
The Overall Picture
In surveying the robotic pool vacuums, it became apparent that almost every model and manufacturer have some shortcomings. In general, robotic above ground pool vacuums all exhibit some known issues
Reliability – Almost every above-ground pool robotic vacuum seems to have short service lives. Customer comments on all the sites we surveyed consistently mentioned only getting one to two years of service from their robotic vacuum.
A short service life probably shouldn’t be surprising. These are appliances that operate submerged in swimming pool water for long periods. Robotic vacuums are required to move, which implies seals around drive mechanisms and where electrical wires enter motor casings.
Water tends to magnify the smallest defect or imperfection. Water under pressure is even worse, finding its way through what seems to be the tightest seal. Couple water with the need for manufacturer’s inclination to keep costs down means compromises in quality control and construction methods.
Customer Service – Customer comments overflow with remarks about the quality of customer service from the various manufacturers. They fill the entire range from glowing praise to outright disgust. Unfortunately, the bad seems to outweigh the good.
The unfortunate truth is that customer service is often a reflection of the new retail paradigm. The problem of customer service is, I fear, especially true in markets dominated by companies who depend on third-party wholesalers to market the products in the United States.
The emphasis on selling products rather than building a customer has become prevalent as the online marketplace has grown. This trend makes the adage “buyer beware” even more appropriate for purchasers today.
How our Picks Fare
On to the reviews! We chose five different robotic above ground pool vacuums for our list. We included on bonus review. We will explain that choice in just a bit. You may be surprised at how the rankings lineup on our list.
When we considered the factors on our list with price, we were surprised as well at the results. AS it turns out, price is sometimes not a very reliable indicator of value or product quality. Our top pick goes to show that there are good buys out there if you take the time to find them.
Look at our comparison table.
|Name||Item Weight||Shipping Weight||Dimensions||Manufacturer|
|Aquabot Pool Rover S2 40||26.9 lbs.||26.9 lbs.||20 x 20 x 19 in.||Aqua Products, Inc.|
|Aquabot Pool Rover Junior||10 lbs.||28.6 lbs.||21 x 18 x 19 in.||Aqua Products, Inc.|
|Dolphin Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner||34.4 lbs.||34.5 lbs.||20 x 24 x 20 in.||Maytronics|
|Aquabot X4 Above Ground Pool Vacuum||36.8 lbs.||36.8 lbs.||20.4 x 20 x 18.2 in.||Aquaproducts|
|Hayward Aquabug Suction Above-Ground Pool Cleaner||15.9 lbs.||17.25 lbs.||40.3 x 12.9 x 12.7 in.||Hayward|
|Intex Pool Cleaner for Above Ground Pools||15.3 lbs.||17.5 lbs.||13.4 x 12.2 x 23.4 in.||Intex|
Best Overal Choice – Aquabot Pool Rover S2 40
Our overall pick for the number one robotic pool above ground pool vac on our list comes from Aqua Products. A big influence on our decision is the fact that this is a US company. Aqua Products introduced the first robotic pool vacuum to the market in 1982 and has continued to innovate and lead in the robotic pool vacuum industry since that time.
The S2 40 features an upgraded power supply and the lower profile of the chassis allow the S2 40 to manage curved transitions on pool wall to floor areas. Several other upgrades make the S2 40 more attractive. The lower profile housing and smoother curves, while not adding anything to the functionality, do make the unit more visually appealing.
Pool shape should not be a problem for the S2 40. The autonomous cleaning controller keeps the S2 40 from becoming stalled in corners or unusually shaped pools. The large soft wheels can navigate bumps, folds and contours easily and won’t damage vinyl pool liners.
The impressive list of features includes:
- All surface cleaning capability and vinyl safe.
- Equipped with Aqua Products patented Hydro-Robotic Technology.
- The power supply is switchable for either 120 volts or 240-volt use.
- The S2 40 comes with a 40-foot power cable and non-tangle technology.
- Top Access Filters
- Timer setting for one hour or two hours.
- Aqua Products NeverStucktm™ Technology.
- Flows 70 gallons per minute of water through the filters for massive cleaning power
- 2-micron bag filtration.
- One-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Most users of the Aquabot Pool Rover S2 40 are quick to praise the effectiveness at cleaning debris from the pool down to the smallest particles. Many consumers praise Aqua Products customer service when there is an issue with one of their products. Among consumers who use the S2 40, the Pros listed include:
- The Price and features are very competitive in the robotic pool vacuum arena.
- Easy to set up and use.
- When you follow the directions and read the manual, this pool vacuum does an amazing job.
- Handles uneven bottoms and contours easily.
- The non-tangle feature on the cord works extremely well.
- Customer service is helpful when needed.
- Lacks bottom brushes.
The top-loading filter feature seems to be one of the features getting the most attention. Many users note that the S2 40 does such a good job of getting even the smallest debris and dust that the superfine filter bags need frequent cleaning when the pool is very dirty. The top-loading filter feature is much more convenient.
There do seem to be some issues with the S2 40. Some users have experienced problems with the design and some of the upgraded features. It isn’t clear from the comments and reviews if these problems are due to manufacturing problems or users failing to read and follow the directions and tips included in the user manual.
- The S2 40 vacuum is mainly a manual operation. There are switches to set the timer and not much more.
- Sometimes the filter bags get sucked into the motor cage and tear
- The S2 40 doesn’t have a handle to help with lifting it out of the pool.
Surprisingly, the S2 40 is still competitively priced. At just over $300, the S2 40 is priced well below some of the other models from other manufacturers that offer the same level of features. For the price, the Aquabot Pool Rover S2 40 ranks number one our list of above ground robotic pool vacuums.
Best at Leaves and Larger Debris – Aquabot Pool Rover Junior
Built by Aqua Products, the Aquabot Pool Rover Junior gets the next to the top-ranked spot on our list. There are several good reasons for this pick, not the least of which are features for the price on the Aquabot Pool Rover Junior.
The Aquabot Pool Rover Junior is an autonomous pool maintenance unit that employs hose-free technology to maintain the cleanliness of your pool with a minimum of attention and maintenance. Among the features that make the Aquabot Pool Rover Junior out best pick are:
- The Pool Rover Junior has a 2-micron reusable filter that captures even the finest debris in your pool.
- No-Hose technology makes using the Pool Rover Junior easy and quick. The unit is completely self-contained and doesn’t depend on your pool’s filter system or pump to operate.
- The wide wheels make the Pool Rover Junior safe to use on any pool surface, including vinyl. The larger diameter and extra-wide treads allow the Pool Rover Junior to easily glide over ripples and contours on the pool bottom without damaging the pool or making the Pool Rover Junior unstable.
- A 40-foot power cord makes the Pool Rover Junior suitable for most above ground pool sizes.
- Aqua Products employs hydro-robotic technology for fewer moving parts and better pool cleaning.
A review of customer comments generates a lengthy list of pros for the Pool Rover Junior. Among some of the things mentioned most frequently are:
- Ease of use.
- Picks almost everything.
- Easy to clean reusable filter bags
- Good customer service and support
- Works well to remove leaves and larger debris
Along with the good comes the bad. Most of the negative comments from consumers centered on problems with power issues and water/corrosion issues. The most mentioned cons are:
- The flap valve sticks easily, and the unit won’t reverse direction
- Power supply failed
- Corrosion on the motor casing
- No bottom brushes to scrub the pool bottom.
One other con appeared several times in the comments. The Pool Rover Junior doesn’t clean up the walls of the pool. Aqua Products plainly state this in their brochure but many people mentioned this as a problem.
With an online price at under $300, the Aquabot Pool Rover Junior brings an impressive range of features and cleaning ability for the price. The Pool Rover Junior does have some shortcomings, but, in our opinion, the features versus price evaluation are clear.
Best at Algae Removal – Dolphin Nautilus Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner
The Dolphin Nautilus Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner is not purely an above-ground vacuum. This vacuum will work as well for in-ground pools. The specifications for the Dolphin show that this vacuum is safe for vinyl lined pools.
Maytronics manufactures the Dolphin Nautilus Robotic pool vacuum and has been in the robotic pool vacuum business for more than 30 years. The Dolphin Nautilus is an autonomous robotic pool vacuum that is independent of your pool filtration system. No hoses, connections, or booster pumps are required to put the Dolphin Nautilus to work in your pool.
The Dolphin Nautilus does offer an impressive list of features. Many of these are unavailable on models intended only for above ground pool cleaning. The features included as standard with the Dolphin Nautilus Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner are:
- Plug and Play Single-button Operation.
- CleverClean microprocessor technology eliminates random pattern cleaning by scanning the pool and planning the cleaning pattern.
- Dual scrubbing brushes clean the bottom and sides of the pool efficiently and effectively.
- Extra-large bottom loading filters
- Anti-Tangling cord swivel for worry-free operation.
- Requires no booster pumps, long hoses, or strain on your pool filter system.
- Includes an oversized leaf and debris bag
- Moves up to 75 gallons of water per minute through the filters.
- Suitable for all pool surfaces and pools up to 55 feet in length
- The 60-foot cable is one of the longest in the industry for exceptional reach.
- Maytronics offers a 3-year limited warranty.
Consumers lavish high marks in their comments on the Dolphin Nautilus vacuum. Many compare the Nautilus to much more expensive vacuums for reliability and cleaning ability. The Dolphin may be overkill for many above ground pools, but if you have a larger above ground pool with a contoured bottom, you may want to consider the Dolphin. Users point to several features in their comments.
- Best filters
- Long Life
- Convenient and easy to use
- Picks up sand and other fine dust.
- Works well on leaves.
- Leaf bag works well and is easy to clean
- Does a good job on pools with sloping bottoms and curved sides
Just like any other device, the Dolphin Nautilus has its problems. Some of them are mechanical and others have more to do with the company that manufactures the vacuum. Some of the cons listed most often by users of the Dolphin Nautilus are:
- The filters could be finer. The vacuum seems to leave some very fine material in the pool
- The Nautilus will only run for 90 minutes before it goes into sleep mode.
- If the filters are full, the flapper doors don’t close properly and when you lift it from the pool, dirt and debris backwash out of the vacuum and into the pool.
- There is no handle to grab when lifting the Dolphin Nautilus from the pool, which makes it awkward.
The Dolphin Nautilus Automatic Robotic Pool Vacuum gets the best consumer ranking of the robotic vacuums that we reviewed. The price of this vacuum puts it in the third rank position. There are mixed reviews on the effectiveness of the wall cleaning features in above ground pools, which is the biggest difference between the Dolphin and the #1 and #2 ranked vacuums.
The many features and the wall-crawling ability certainly are attractive. However, the price point at almost twice that of our #1 and #2 picks makes it questionable whether the features can offset the price difference.
Best Accessory Value – Aquabot X4 Above Ground Pool Vacuum
Another option from Aqua Products is the Aquabot X4 above ground pool vacuum. Like our other picks, the Aquabot X4 is feature-rich. This model from Aqua Products has a more sophisticated mapping system that reportedly maps the pool for future reference while cleaning.
The AutoX™ pool mapping technology uses onboard microchip technology and proprietary algorithms to build an onboard map of your pool. The system chooses the best pool cleaning cycle and pattern for your pool. The optimized cleaning solution saves time and energy, making the Aquabot X4 one of the most economical robotic vacuums operate.
The Aquabot X4 also features all-wheel drive technology for increased traction and more stable directional control as it traverses the pool bottom. Additional features include:
- 3600 Anti-tangle swivel on the power cord
- Top loading extra-large filter cartridge
- Free transport caddy included with the vacuum
- 3-year manufacturer’s warranty
- No hoses, connectors or booster pumps required
- AutoX pool mapping
- Works in pools up to 60 feet
- 60-foot power cable
- Flows 70.4 gallons per minute
- Plug and Play technology for easy setup and use
The Aquabot X4 robotic vacuum scores near the middle of the pack among consumers. Comments from users of the X4 are, for the most part, positive. Consumers find that the Aquabot X4 works well and is reliable. Comments most often seen in reviewing comments are:
- Cleans well
- Handles very fine dust and sand as well as larger debris and leaves
- Easy to set up and use
- The Aquabot is powerful and the brush does a good job of getting debris
- Has a nice long power cord that doesn’t tangle as the vacuum works in the pool
- The included caddy is a great feature
Again, the same sort of negative comments as with the other robotic vacuums in this list. Quality control issues and customer service issues dominate most negative reviews found in a survey online. There are a few other issues that users mention, such as:
- It isn’t very good at edges. The center-mounted brush can’t get in close to tight corners.
- No remote control.
- Cleaning the filters can be a problem. The filter screens are easily damaged if a high-pressure spray is used.
- The instructions could be clearer and more easily understandable.
At #4, the Aquabot X4 offers more features than most of the other vacuums on our list. However, it also comes in as the most expensive robotic vacuum on our list which puts it slightly below the others. The many comments about the quality of customer service and the level of quality control in the manufacture and packaging of the Aquabot X4 drop the vacuum down the ranking.
Despite some of the criticisms, the Aquabot X4 is a fantastic robotic vacuum. The technology and features put it firmly into the rankings at number 4 on our list.
Best Suction-Side Vacuum – Hayward Aquabug Above-Ground Pool Cleaner
Our #5 pick is a different option from our first four list entries. The Hayward Aquabug above-ground pool cleaner is a suction-side pool vacuum. The Aquabug depends on your pool’s filter system for power and to remove dirt and debris from the pool floor.
The Aquabug has no power-cords or needs for a booster pump to operate. You connect the hose to the suction inlet on your pool and let it go to work. The Aquabug works its way around the floor of the pool cleaning small debris and dust.
Suction side vacuums are typically less expensive than the stand-alone robotic units, which make them attractive to budget-conscious pool owners. The Aquabug features are not as comprehensive as the other robotic vacuums on our list but this suction-side vacuum can still make pool maintenance less of a chore.
Notable features of the Aquabug include:
- Proprietary Turbine/Gearing system to ensure gentle movement over the pool floor
- SmartDrive system means faster and more in-depth cleaning of the pool.
- The Aquabug Deluxe Bumper Ring reduces friction on pool walls
- No filters to change or clean. Your pool filter system does the heavy lifting.
- No power cords or power supplies
Product reviews of the Hayward Aquabug Above-Ground Pool Cleaner follow the entire robotic pool vacuum trend. The Aquabug gets good reviews, especially in the area of reliability and longevity. The reliability is probably due to the much simpler mechanics of the suction-side design. Consumer reviews include:
- The Aquabug is simple and quick to launch in the pool.
- Much quieter than the other robotic vacuums I have used.
- Much more affordable than the other robotic vacuums.
- My kids love the design
- Keeps my above ground pool clean and sparkling.
The Aquabug does have its limitations and its problems. Many complaints seem to reflect a misunderstanding of the differences in a true robotic stand-alone vacuum and a simple suction side cleaner. Some of the more applicable complaints include:
- There are some reports that the Aquabug has damaged vinyl pool liners.
- Some users report that the Aquabug doesn’t work if the pool floor is uneven or has wrinkles
- Will not pick up heavy or large debris.
- Hoses must be stored straight and cannot be coiled.
- Tends to tip over.
If you understand what you are buying and set your expectations based on the features of the Aquabot, you probably won’t be disappointed. This little suction-side vacuum should handle light-duty cleaning of a flat pool bottom. Don’t expect it to handle heavy debris or large objects.
For less than $200, you can add the convenience of a robotic vacuum to your above ground pool and that gits the Aquabug a spot at #5 on our list of robotic above ground pool vacuums.
Bonus Review Best Above Ground Pool Vacuum for Intex
If you have any experience with Intex pools, you are aware of the frustration of attaching any third-party accessory to either the suction-side or supply-side of the filter system. The Intex Pool Cleaner is the answer to many of those problems.
The Intex Pool Cleaner is for use in Intex above ground pools. It could be used with other pools but finding adapters to make the required connections can be problematic. If you own an Intex pool, this may be the best option if you want an auto pool cleaner.
The Intex Pool Cleaner includes:
- Pressure side operation
- 24 feet of hose included with the Aquabot
- Uses a debris net to capture larger debris.
- The vacuum depends on your pool filter to trap smaller debris, dust and sand.
The Intex Pool Cleaner gets decent reviews among online reviewers. Many of the consumers reviewing the vacuum rate it well. Some of the more common positive comments are:
- Easy to install and use
- Easy to assemble
- Excellent documentation and instructions
- Good value for the money
- Cleans small debris and sand
- Very affordable
Consumers using the Intex Pool Cleaner found several problem points with the Intex Pool Cleaner. Some of the most common include:
- The floor of the pool needs to be very smooth for the vacuum to work.
- The small wheels have problems navigating wrinkles or uneven spots in the liner
- The skimmer net needs frequent cleaning, especially if you get a lot of leaves in the pool.
- Some areas in pools larger than 24 feet are not reachable with the included hose.
Despite the shortcomings, if you are an Intex pool owner, your best option for a robotic pool vacuum at a very good price is the Intex Pool Cleaner. It does have some shortcomings, but for the price, it is certainly affordable enough to justify the reduction in the time spent on pool maintenance
More Pleasure, Less Work
If spending more time enjoying your pool and less time on the drudgery of cleaning and maintenance, then you should certainly consider purchasing a robotic pool vacuum. The conditions around your pool, the amount of use it gets, and your budget are the big factors in making your decision.
Hopefully, this list will aid you in making your choice of an above ground pool vacuum. After all, the whole reason you put in a pool is to relax and enjoy the cool sparkling water and not hours of labor, keeping your pool in top condition.