Technophile

Trifo Max: Versatile, well-priced Robo-Cleaner

Mala Bhargava | Updated on November 18, 2020 Published on November 18, 2020

It looks rather like any other robot vacuum cleaner, but that triangular black window on the Trifo Max hides a video camera

You control the Max through the simple and effective Trifo app, and via Alexa voice control

An autonomous vacuum cleaner with app- and Alexa control, video camera, and powerful, noisy suction

The Trifo Max is a robotic vacuum cleaner, the type made popular by iRobot’s Roomba. They used to be expensive, but no longer. For ₹18,000, the Max packs very neat features, including a built-in video camera. It enters a crowded market: Eureka Forbes, iLife, sub-₹20,000 competitors such as Ecovacs Deebot 500 and Eufy… there’s even a sub-₹24,000 Roomba, though it doesn’t match up to the Max’s features.

Trifo who, you ask? Founded in 2016 in Santa Clara, California, Trifo is an AI home robot company. The entry model Max-S lists at ₹23,000 and sells for ₹18,000 on Amazon, in a deal on this year. The Max-P lists at ₹27,000 with a deal at ₹23,000. We tested the Max-P, which has 33 per cent more suction power and a “pet hair non-fur-tangle extractor”. The two models are otherwise identical and all our tests were at half suction power — it’s noisy at full power. So, we’ll refer to both models as the Max.

Also read: Cleaning robots making inroads into smaller towns

Like C-3PO in Star Wars, the Max is a robot with attitude. It speaks clearly and loudly enough to wake people up in the house, if you’re trying to use it at odd hours. It doesn’t mince its words: pick it up midway to take it up the stairs, and it will tell you sternly: “Please put me back on the ground!”

Video surveillance is a clever little feature you might have not have come across in robot vacuums. Touch the video button in the app and surveillance is on. It announces this loudly, so if you have a burglar, he’d better be deaf (though the app does let you turn the voice down, or off).

The charging base is small and too light. The Max returns to that base when it’s done, or when you tell it to stop cleaning, via Alexa or app or its home button — provided it has enough charge to get there. It does hunt around finding its way, bumping into a things a lot, though that improves over time. Twice in a month, it approached the very light charging-base from the side, knocking the base away, and then it kept hunting sadly. Fixing the base in place with double-sided tape helped.

Smart controls

Alexa

voice control mostly worked well – it was quick to set up and use, as long as the right words were used ― “Switch on my robot vacuum” ― which it was fussy about.

The Trifo app is simple and elegant. You use it to schedule cleaning, or manually control the Max remotely, or switch on the video. It also shows a map of the areas cleaned. The app lost internet connectivity twice in a month: Internet connection failure, it said. Server not responding, Alexa said. Even so, the Max itself worked fine, when started manually. A day later, everything was back to normal, so I’m guessing a server was down somewhere.

Also read: Milagrow launching 3 home-cleaners, including a Covid-19 killer!

The suction is powerful: rated at up to 4,000 Pa at full power (3,000 Pa for the Max-S) when it also sounds like a jet airliner taking off. At mid-power it’s more tolerable, and works well. If used at night, the suction is best kept really low (from the app). A 5,200 mAh battery kept the Max going for a little over 90 minutes at half power (it’s rated at 120 minutes at full charge). It was just enough for a fully-autonomous sweep of the entire house; the terrace needed another charge cycle. I’d love to see more battery capacity.

The Max claims wet-mop capability. But its water tank is tiny ― so small that we didn’t realise at first that this thin plastic add-on was a water-tank. It took about 50 ml of water. The manual says: “Change the pad and add clean water every 20 minutes.” This was impractical. They need to add a real water tank. They’re on it: a larger tank will be introduced for India. The current accessory is designed for carpeted US homes.

The Max doesn’t like it when the power fails and it’s on its charging base, it loudly proclaims: “Going back to the charging station!” And then it keeps hunting for the charging station’s signal, till power returns. They need to fix this with a software update. An update that’s on the cards: a future “save room layout” feature so it won’t need to re-learn room layouts when the charging station is moved to a new room. A geo-fence feature is also reportedly planned.

Furry Frenemies

A final note ― the Max is “inspired by our furry friends”, so says the carton. Well, the solitary furry friend in the house, a beagle, barked furiously at it for days it operated (yes, it’s loud). The beagle settled down finally, looking warily at it from a distance, but it didn’t ever really make friends.

The Max does everything it’s intended for, barring the impractical wet mopping. The video is a neat feature (though a mechanical camera shutter or blind to close would be nice, if you’re wary of internet-connected cameras in the house). It cleans well: it could be quieter. It’s talkative. It could be smarter about finding its way back without bumping into things (but it gets better as it learns) and about recognising a power failure. Overall, at this deal price, the Max, especially the entry Max-S, is terrific value.

Price: Max-S ₹23,000/Max-P ₹27,000 (sells at 18,000 and ₹23,000 respectively)*

Pros: Great price and features, easy app- and Alexa-control, video camera with surveillance mode

Cons: Noisy at higher suction; could do with more battery; needs to handle power cuts better.

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Published on November 18, 2020
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