The Best Automatic Pool Cleaner

Dolphin Nautilus Robotic Pool Cleaner with Swivel Cable

Our Top Pick for 2016: Dolphin Nautilus Robotic Pool Cleaner with Swivel Cable
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $624.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

As you gaze down into your pool, you might see numerous pieces of debris that just naturally fall to the bottom. Hair, leaves and even algae can cover the pool’s bottom surface. You can’t allow any loved ones to swim in this pool until it’s clean. However, the pool’s filter can’t perform all of the cleaning work. Your cleanliness solution is found in automatic pool cleaners. These robotic devices crawl across the pool’s bottom surface and suck up every piece of debris possible. You’re left with an incredibly clean and healthy pool for everyone to enjoy. These machines can cost several hundred dollars, however. Carefully research your pool-cleaner options, and select the model that works for your needs.

Table of contents

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Quiet, Powerful Suction Cleaner
Scrubs, Vacuums And Filters
Intelligent Navigation
Automatically Regulates Water Flow
Cleans All Pool Surfaces In 3 Hours
All Surface Cleaning For Vinyl Liner, Fiberglass And Concrete Pools
Scuff-resistant Long-life Hoses
Easy-to-clean Cartridge Filter
Quick Drain System
36-fin Disc Increases Adhesion To Pool Surface
Patented Swivel Cable Helps Prevent Tangling
40′ Power Cord
Works With Low-speed Pumps For Maximum Efficiency.
No Pre-installation Needed
Designed Specifically For Aboveground And Smaller In Ground Pools

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Dolphin Nautilus Robotic Pool Cleaner with Swivel Cable

Dolphin Nautilus Robotic Pool Cleaner with Swivel Cable Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $624.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerWith a deep-blue hue and black accents, the Nautilus Robotic pool cleaner from Dolphin is the top pick for almost any pool. It has a compact design that allows it to creep around the pool with ease. Generally, most consumers praise this cleaner for its thorough coverage and reliable mechanics experienced season after season. This cleaner is priced at the high end, however, so you’ll need to examine this product in great detail before purchasing it. Although there are a few drawbacks to its design, it has largely positive reviews for your pool-cleaning needs.

With a 60-foot cable, the Dolphin pool cleaner can cover a pool that’s as large as 50-feet long. There’s no need to struggle with the cleaner by repositioning it at various times during the cleaning process either. The cable’s length allows the unit to simply glide about the pool’s floor in order to catch all of the debris hidden below. In most cases, you can clean a large pool in about three hours. You simply set it up and allow it to perform its work. The internal scanning mechanism will catch all of the areas necessary for a clean pool.

Some pools have many tiny corners. They might have decorative coves and corners that divide out the shallow area from the deep end. Other cleaners usually have problems covering these areas, but the Dolphin model is different. It climbs walls along straight or curved sections without missing a beat. You’ll notice that stuck debris, such as algae, is quickly sucked up by the Dolphin cleaner. It’s a rare occurrence when the unit doesn’t catch every piece of debris in those tight spaces.

Consumers often have a concern about the cleaner’s filter. These components must be cleaned out on a regular basis so that the device can continue to clean as efficiently as possible. Dolphin designed this cleaner with some intuitive filters. They’re incredibly easy to locate and remove. The cleaner comes with two filters, referred to as the cartridge and spring clean-up, that are designated for light and heavy-duty cleaning purposes, respectively. Dual filters are a distinct design benefit of this product that makes it incredibly popular with pool owners.

There are a few drawbacks to this filter, however. Although it grabs onto walls with no problems, it has issues with steps. The rectangular body shape makes it difficult for the unit to maneuver up and down the stairs. If your pool has wide or very few stairs, this drawback won’t affect you as much as others. Pools with small and numerous stairs will see obvious missteps by the cleaner around these areas. You’ll need to keep a close eye on the cleaning quality with stair-filled pools.

Another drawback to the Nautilus is the power source. You have to plug this cleaner into an electrical outlet. Although this isn’t an unusual feature, it creates a minor risk of electrical shock. Pay close attention to the power cord as you plug it in each time. If it’s even slightly frayed, don’t use it. Any moisture touching an exposed wire can be dangerous. With a solid cord, you shouldn’t have any problems with power as you drive the cleaner forward. Overall, it’s simply another factor to pay attention to as the seasons fly by.

Consumers love the included swivel cable that attaches to the cleaner. At its connection point, the cable moves in a full, 360-degree circle. You won’t experience any tangled cables or strained cords. The Dolphin cleaner can move in almost any direction, and the cord remains perfectly straight. For pool owners who remember problematic cords of the past, this design feature is worth the extra money.

Because this automatic pool cleaner is electrically driven, consumers might be concerned about power usage. Dolphin designed this product with a built-in timer. After the unit has been working for about three hours, the timer will activate and shut off the cleaner. You can leave the house with the cleaner running and not worry about it operating for eight hours at a time. If the pool still needs cleaning after three hours, simply turn it back on.

Dolphin backs their product up with a one-year warranty. Covered items usually include worn or defective parts. The manufacturer also covers the labor associated with the repair. In many cases, consumers are liable for the labor costs when warranty work is performed. Dolphin wants their customers to have a trouble-free experience with their product, which makes warrantied parts and labor a major perk with the Nautilus unit.

Pool owners are always concerned about automatic pool cleaners connecting to the filter. The pool’s filter might experience extreme backwash and other issues as a result of this connection. Dolphin bypasses the filter and maintains the product as a self-sufficient unit. At the end of the day, you’ll have a clean pool with a cleaner that can withstand several seasons of use.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): BARACUDA G3 Advanced Suction Side Automatic Pool Cleaner

BARACUDA G3 Advanced Suction Side Automatic Pool Cleaner

View it on Amazon for $699.95*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerAn unusual top pick among the best automatic pool cleaners is the G3 from BARACUDA. At first glance, this cleaner almost looks like a shark. It has many pointed ends along its circular shape. This cleaner might be a formidable shark because it eats up debris with no problems. As you compare all of the cleaners on your short list, keep this model in mind because it will maintain the busiest pools with ease.

Consumers report that this pool cleaner is extremely easy to assemble. Connect the three main parts, including the hose, wheel and disc, and your cleaner is ready to be used. Verify that each part is properly connected, however. A loose hose or wheel deflector can reduce the effectiveness of this product. The included instructions are relatively clear so that you can assemble the product without any confusion.

With a perfectly assembled unit, it’s ready to be powered up. The manufacturer didn’t want to use an electrical source for this unit. As an alternative, BARACUDA decided to construct the cleaner with a suction-side design. The cleaner’s hose connects into the pool’s skimmer, which provides the necessary suction for the unit. With an operational suction line, the G3 moves through the water as it sucks up any debris. There’s no need for another power source because of the strong suction provided by the pool.

There has been some consumer complaints noting that the cleaner didn’t pick up every item at the bottom of the pool. It’s important to remember that this cleaner is designed to work on small- to medium-size particles. If you have larger items, such as acorns, they won’t be picked up by the suction in the pool water. You’ll need to clean this waste with another tool, such as the pool net. The suction and product’s size won’t support large-size debris.

The G3 is perfectly designed for a small- to medium-size pool. The hose runs to a 36-foot length, which is enough length for most pools. Large pools will definitely need a longer hose. The benefit of a short hose is the storage ease. As you pull the G3 out of the water, you don’t have too much hose to coil and store away. When you’re in a hurry to open the pool up to loved ones, this rapid storage ease is a major perk.

You might wonder about the cleaner’s shape as you research its various benefits. In fact, it’s a flat disc with 36 fins that decorate its edge. This design is attractive, and it has a functional aspect too. The disc’s shape allows it to stick to the pool’s bottom surface better than other designs. As a result, you’ll notice fewer missed spots as it thoroughly covers the pool’s surfaces.

Watch the G3 as it moves about the pool’s ground surface. It doesn’t just vacuum the floor, it actually scrubs the surface too. Algae, mildew and other substances are notorious for sticking to any pool surface. The G3 crosses the pool’s floor, climbs up the walls and moves around other obstacles, such as lights. Your pool will be clean across every surface, including those small crevices.

Some consumers report that they’re using less chlorine as a result of this cleaner’s efficient design. If you run the G3 each day for about three hours, the water and pool surface will be as clean as possible. As a result, you don’t have to add so much chlorine to the pool in order to rid the water of bacteria and other microorganisms. You can use the minimum amount of chlorine that’s necessary to keep the water safe. Once you pay for the cleaner, saving money is easy as you use fewer jugs of chlorine each week.

Some consumers have reported issues with the unit stopping midway through its cleaning cycle. Although this might have been a user’s error, BARACUDA does stand by its products with a 90-day warranty on the G3. In fact, there’s also a lifetime warranty on the diaphragm. If you do experience a problem, simply contact the manufacturer with your concerns. BARACUDA will try to troubleshoot your product down to the smallest detail. With the right care, the G3 will serve your pool for many seasons.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Smartpool NC22 SmartKleen-Robotic Pool Cleaner

Smartpool NC22 SmartKleen-Robotic Pool Cleaner

View it on Amazon for $299.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe third place pool cleaner goes to the SmartKleen NC22 model by Smartpool. This automatic cleaner has more of an industrial look to its design. With a beige housing and black base, the cleaner isn’t an outstanding decoration for your pool, but it performs well. When you need a workhouse in your pool, the SmartKleen model is a generally reliable product. Take a look at both the positive and negative aspects to this model before making that next pool purchase.

The majority of pool cleaners today are designed for in-ground pools that have a solid, concrete surface. This model, however, has a more flexible design. You can use it on fiberglass, concrete and vinyl liners. With this fact in mind, it’s possible to clean your above-ground pool with this machine while knowing that the surface won’t be damaged by the suction action. Thousands of pools are constructed at the above-ground level, so this machine is a valuable addition to those households.

For consumers who’re concerned about lifting the cleaner out of the water, the SmartKleen offers a unique way to maintain its light, 18-pound weight. Pull the unit from the water, and it activates the quick-drain system. Any water trapped in the product will quickly stream out of it as you move it onto the pool’s edge. As a result, struggling with the unit’s weight will be a problem of the past.

A drawback noted by several consumers is the cord’s durability. It’s relatively thin with narrow wires hidden inside of it. You might be tempted to pull the unit out of the water by the cord, but avoid this convenience. The cord can break with this habit, and the manufacturer’s warranty won’t cover the mishap. In fact, the unit’s instructions state that you shouldn’t pull on the cord as a general rule.

Although this pool cleaner doesn’t have as much moving power as other models on the market, it will reliably climb the pool’s walls as it sucks up debris. The manufacturer outfitted this unit with durable wheels designed with ample traction. They grasp onto the pool’s surface and won’t let go until you pull the cleaner out of the water.

Smartpool added a helpful mechanism between the brushes and port in order to enhance the suction power. With powerful suction running throughout the unit, you’ll be able to pick up the most difficult items across the pool’s surface, including acorns. Watch the unit during one of its sweeps, and you’ll see a clear path being made across the surface.

Set the unit in the pool and allow it to do its work. You don’t have to worry about shutting the product off because it’s outfitted with an automatic shutoff feature. After two hours, the unit will shut off and save you money over time.

Consumers are starkly divided on their opinions about the SmartKleen because of tangled-cord issues. In many cases, consumers report that their unit needs to be babysat as the cord slowly twists and turns. Ideally, add the cleaner to your pool with a tangle-free cord. Coil the cord back up when you’re done. You should be able to avoid any major tangle issues when proper maintenance is involved. At the end of the day, you’ll have a clean pool with a reliable cleaner ready for the next debris-removal session.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Intex Auto Pool Cleaner

Intex Auto Pool Cleaner

View it on Amazon for $51.15*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickWhen you want a pool cleaner that costs less than $100, the Intex model is a perfect choice for your cleaning needs. It has a rectangular body with blue accents that give it some personality. In fact, the bright accents allow you to pinpoint this cleaner in your pool if it’s a particularly dark or cloudy day. This pool cleaner is a specialty design, however, so it won’t work for every pool. Examine some of the details regarding this model so that you can make an educated, purchasing decision.

Before you even consider this cleaner, examine your pool. This product is meant to clean Intex above-ground pools only. Its suction is perfectly matched to the Intex’s pool surface. If you apply this cleaner to any other pool, it may not work very well. Your Intex pool should also have 1.5-inch hose fittings. The unit won’t fit any other Intex fittings.

Above-ground pools are normally small- to medium-size designs. Because of this fact, Intex added a 24-foot hose to their cleaner. The hose is long enough to stretch across a medium-size pool while compact enough to avoid tangling in a smaller pool environment. Other pool cleaners might have a 50-foot hose, but that’s not necessary for this unit’s applications. With a smart design, you’ll have a hose-and-cleaner system that’s affordable and useful during each swimming season.

The cleaner derives its power from the pool’s pump. It takes this water pressure and converts it into suction. This powerful force allows the cleaner to suck up debris while moving it physically forward. Inside of the unit is a screen which acts as a capturing device. The fine mesh will catch almost all of the debris while allowing the clean water to rush out of the unit. You’re left with a beautifully clean pool.

Some consumers are concerned about a few drawbacks to the Intex unit. Leaving debris on the pool’s surface is a major concern. However, there might be a simple reason why some consumers have debris issues. The Intex cleaner requires a certain water volume from the pool’s pump. The cleaner and pump must work in harmony to filter out the debris. Before you buy the Intex model, match your pump to the unit’s specifications. You’ll have no problems with the right water flow moving through the unit.

Consumers are largely pleased with the thick hose that comes with the Intex unit. Because it resides at almost a vertical angle with the unit’s top half, the hose doesn’t have a tendency to get tangled. In most cases, the hose and unit will last for several seasons without any issues. The Intex product is a quality unit that should make your top-pick list as you shop for pool cleaners.


Pre-purchase considerations

Quality Plastic Parts

Your pool cleaner will mostly float through its work as it sweeps the pool’s floor and walls, but it should still have a durable housing. Look for cleaners with thick plastic as its outer cover. Plastic is corrosion resistant and tends to flex as it’s stretched or squeezed. The unit should be placed into a storage area when its not in use, however. Quality plastic parts will still break down over time if the unit is always sitting in the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Use a gentle motion to remove and add the unit to the water too. Most cleaners can last for several seasons with a caring family.

Cable/Hose Flexibility

If you watch your cleaner perform its work, you’ll notice that it covers a lot of ground with many twists and turns. The unit is normally connected to a hose or cable for powering needs, however. Research your unit before buying it, and read specifically about the cable’s flexibility. If the hose or cable tends to wear down over a short time period, you may want to look at a different model. These parts need to be able to swivel and twist without much damage to the materials. Ideally, they should always be floating in a relaxed position for the best cleaning processes.

Suction Power

The pool cleaner’s suction power is one of the most important concerns because it’s directly related to the unit’s efficacy. Verify if the unit is electrically powered or connected to your pool’s pump. Each power source must match the cleaner’s specifications. Excessive force will only cause the unit to break down, but weak power will leave your pool with a lot of debris at the bottom. Look for strong suction power that will power the unit forward while sucking up as much tiny and large debris as possible. You’ll be able to rely on these models for a clean pool.

Wheel Design

Pool cleaners have the unusual job of climbing walls and maneuvering around underwater obstacles. Because of these core duties, the cleaner should have a rugged wheel design. The wheels will have some traction to their surfaces that is similar to car tires. Wheels are normally made of formed plastic, which reduces the chances of wear on the traction over the years. If your cleaner’s wheels seem to slip on the pool’s surface, however, they might be wearing down. Some cleaners can have their wheels replaced by the manufacturer in these cases.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Your pool is part of the property’s overall value, so it makes sense to care for it by using automatic pool cleaners. A heavy-duty cleaner might seem like the best choice, but it has one major drawback. Large cleaners will often have a heavy weight too. In fact, some consumers report that they can’t even lift the cleaner out of the pool. Your pool may look spectacular for an open house, for example, but the cleaner remains in the water because of its difficult weight. Use common sense during your research process. Choose a quality machine that you can maneuver outside of the water. In the end, automatic pool cleaners should perform their job while remaining in storage otherwise. Your property value will soar as a result.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. Sunplay, Dolphin Nautilus Pool Cleaner, Sunplay.com
  2. Leslie’s Swimming Pool Supplies, Baracuda G3 – Suction Side Pool Cleaner, Lesliespool.com
  3. Smartpool, SmartKleen® (NC22) Robotic Cleaner, Smartpool.com
  4. In the Swim, Intex Auto Pool Cleaner, Intheswim.com

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