Trifo Emma robot vacuum cleaner review

Budget robot vacuum cleaners do exist

Emma Trifo on rug during testing
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Trifo Emma offers excellent suction, but it isn’t smart enough to really reap the benefits of being a robot vacuum for the average user. However, in relatively small spaces that simply require a regular once-over, it does the job.

Pros

  • +

    Suction is good on hard floors and soft carpet

  • +

    Good at hair pickup

  • +

    Average clearance height (84mm)

Cons

  • -

    Not very intelligent, gets lost

  • -

    Application leaves a lot to be desired

  • -

    Struggled with thicker rugs and carpets

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One-minute review

Trifo is a relative newbie in the smart home space, offering a variety of robot vacuums including the Trifo Emma (available exclusively as the Trifo Emma Pet in the US, which comes with greater suction power and a pet hair extractor). A budget robot vacuum cleaner with a detachable mopping pad, it’s designed specifically with pet owners in mind.

It’s the most affordable model of the three in Trifo’s range, superseded by the Ollie Ultra and the top-of-the-range Lucy Ultra. As such, buyers should expect it to be less feature-heavy and intelligent than its siblings. However, even with this in mind, it should deliver more – especially given how well its rivals in the same price range perform.

While we were impressed by the Trifo Emma’s suction on hard floors and soft carpets, it isn’t really a very intelligent robot vacuum. At times, watching it meander around a room proved a frustrating experience. Despite our best efforts, we just couldn’t get the Trifo Emma to clean the room in an logical manner; it repeatedly lost its bearings – and its base. This meant it would constantly remap the room it was cleaning, failing to cover every inch of the floor. In addition, only twice in our three-week testing period did the Emma manage to find its way home.

Given that the Emma repeatedly cleans the same areas, its otherwise decent 110-minute run-time and 0.15-gallon / 0.6-litre dust box capacity will prove unsuitable for larger homes, multiple-room floor plans, and those expecting thorough cleans.

While it does offer some degree of bump protection with its front buffer, the Trifo Emma can only detect walls; chair and furniture legs (and people, as one now-sore ankle came to learn) are free game. As such, this isn’t a vacuum we’d recommend using in well-furnished rooms – especially not if anything is likely to take a tumble – unless you can be there to offer constant supervision.

The app offers a couple of useful features, such as suction control (which is a slider, rather than pre-defined settings), scheduling and manual control. It’s pretty basic, and has a useful setup tutorial; but the app lacks finer details – room zoning, for example – offered by smarter models. 

All in all, the Trifo Emma will suit those on a budget with a small, simple and fairly unfurnished space looking for a robot vacuum for regular touch-up cleans. Everyone else would be better off saving up a little more for a smarter, more efficient model as featured in our list of the best robot vacuum cleaners on the market.

Trifo Emma price & availability

  • List price: $299 / £149.99

The Trifo Emma retails for £149.99 in the UK, and is sold exclusively as the Emma Pet in the US for $299. It’s available exclusively through Amazon in the UK, and in the US it can also be picked up via Trifo’s website, plus US retailers such as Amazon and Target. Trifo doesn’t currently ship directly to Australia; however, we have seen the Emma appear on some sites for AU$399. 

We’d say the Trifo Emma is reasonable in terms of value, although the Eufy RoboVac 11S – our favorite budget robot vacuum cleaner – is cheaper in the US and performed better in tests.

Value: 4 / 5

Trifo Emma design

  •  0.15-gallon / 0.6-litre dust box 
  •  Slider to control suction power (app-only) 
  •  Easy to remove dust bin 

The Trifo Emma robot vacuum isn’t a thing of beauty, but it certainly isn’t the worst appliance we’ve seen in terms of design. Standing at 3.3in / 8.4cm in height, it offers fairly good clearance for cleaning under furniture, and has a diameter of 14.2in / 36cm. However, it’s pretty hefty at 12lbs / 5.5kg.

In the box, the Trifo Emma arrives with its plastic charging dock, which is fairly small at 6.4 x 5.6 x 3.9in (162 x 142 x 100mm), a HEPA filter for the dust bin, and a water tank with 10 mop pads.

The main body of the machine is black, with a brushed silver lid on its top, under which sits the 0.15-gallon / 0.6-litre dust bin. Here you’ll also find the Wi-Fi indicator and reset button, while a cut-out on the lid houses the on-off button and home button. The dust bin is easy to remove  – simply hold down the button labeled “push”, and while there isn’t an indicator to let you know when it’s full, the transparent lid makes it easy to see how many dust bunnies you’ve collected.

HEPA filter with the Emma Trifo

Dust bin and filter is easy to remove (Image credit: Future)

On the underside of the vacuum you’ll find the roller brush and a non-removable (and therefore non-replaceable) rotating side brush. There’s one omnidirectional wheel and two straight wheels, plus two velcro strips for attaching the mop pad and tank, and two metal bars that connect to the dock to charge the device.

The plastic tank for the mop pad holds 0.02 gallons / 100ml of water, which won’t be sufficient for cleaning your whole home. And since the device suffers some mapping and general intelligence difficulties, we wouldn’t recommend using this feature at all in a partially carpeted home in case the device leaks.

On the front of the Emma is a bumper that wraps halfway around the machine, helping to protect the device, and any obstacles it may bump into, against damage. It’s here that you’ll also find the IR sensor, which in theory will guide the robot back to its dock – we’ll come back to that later.

Looking at the Trifo Emma from the top

There's bumper at the front of the Emma Trifo, and the manual buttons are on the top (Image credit: Future)

Setting up the Trifo Emma is pretty simple. You can set off the robot vacuum cleaning manually by clicking the home button, or you can do so using the Trifo app – however, for the latter you’ll require 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. While the Trifo Emma doesn’t remember its cleaning maps, there are perks to having the app. Namely, for controlling the level of clean, manual steering and scheduling. Note that the Trifo Emma is also compatible with Alexa voice control.

Design: 4 / 5

Trifo Emma performance

  •  No object detection 
  •  Bad pathfinding and location mapping  
  •  Bumps into things despite slow speed 

Consider a budget-friendly robot vacuum, and you’d expect it to arrive missing many of the high-intelligence features you’d find in some of the best robot vacuums – something that plays out with the Trifo Emma. However, at Emma’s price point, you’d still expect strong suction, good pathfinding, and to feel comfortable leaving it to get on with the job – and it’s these expectations that are only somewhat met.

In terms of suction and power, the Trifo Emma mainly delivered. It collected flour from hard floors with ease on a medium setting, and also managed to pick up oats without much contest. 

It did struggle somewhat on our thick carpet – even on full suction, it dragged flour around rather than clearing it all, and the rotating side brush flicked oats away from the vacuum. It did manage to pick up some isolated debris on a standard clean; so it’s mostly just unsuitable for spillages on carpet. The Emma vacuum handled the jump up to our thick rug well, but then hopped and bounced its way across it when going against the grain, which naturally resulted in an uneven clean.

Using the Trifo Emma on carpet

Trifo Emma struggled on thick carpet (Image credit: Future)

The day after we’d used our Dyson V8 to clean the floor, the Trifo Emma still managed to pick up a good amount of dust and debris, especially from some of those hard-to-reach areas of the home.

However, pathfinding isn’t really a strong suit for Trifo Emma. While it often started cleaning in a logical, forward and back path, we found it would only do this for about 30% of its cleaning time. The rest of the time, it opted to either skirt the entire room and furnishings, or inexplicably make diagonal paths, often going over ground it had already covered. 

It struggled to maneuver around furniture, too, ramming fairly forcefully into legs and frequently becoming stuck. In every test, it would get lost under our dining table and spend the duration of its clean trying – and failing – to escape, before proclaiming that it had completed cleaning (it hadn’t). Since the Trifo Emma is a fairly heavy machine, and despite it moving pretty slowly, the impacts were forceful. As such, we wouldn’t recommend using it in rooms where you may have items that could easily be knocked over and damaged. However, the robot vacuum is consistently good at recognizing walls, slowing down before impact.

Trifo Emma stuck around furniture

Trifo Emma got stuck around furniture (Image credit: Future)

When it came to finding its way home, the Emma’s track record of navigating back to its base wasn’t the best. Only once in our testing period did it find its way – and that was after our quickest, least powerful clean (25% suction). Every other time, it spent around 15 minutes bumping around before giving up; we had to manually steer it home on one occasion, which led to a pretty confusing floor map that demonstrates just how poor it is at mapping. 

Trifo Emma mapping

Navigating back to base was a challenge for Trifo Emma (Image credit: Future)

In the app, we also noticed that, mid-clean, the Trifo Emma would suddenly decide its base was in a completely different spot in the room. This would see it re-map the entire room and somehow still miss half the areas it hadn’t finished cleaning before the error occurred. We did contact Trifo’s support about this matter, and while they were responsive, the issues continued through testing – and we can see that other customers have experienced similar issues.

Trifo Emma remapping

Trifo Emma was often unable to find the base (Image credit: Future)

In terms of noise, the Trifo Emma is a little noisy, especially on full suction. Nevertheless, the sound it emits is neither unpleasant nor grating. Trifo states the Emma’s max volume is 70dB, and on-test we found this to be accurate; the vacuum registered at around 65dB on average, making it a little louder than the similarly priced Eufy Robovac 11s (60dB max).

Unfortunately, we found the mop pad more hassle than it was worth, especially given the mapping issues we’ve mentioned above. In the main, the pain comes from needing to fill the small-capacity tank every 15-20 minutes – which involves pausing the clean, overturning the machine and re-filling. In our testing room, there’s carpet bordering a hard floor, and we had to stop testing to protect the carpet when we saw the mop pad was trailing across it; this isn’t great for preserving the longevity, look and feel of carpeted floors.

It’s worth noting that the Trifo Emma isn’t advertised as a smart or high-performing robot vacuum. Trifo’s higher-tier products, the Lucy and Ollie, fill this requirement. However, we’d still say that compared to other robot vacuums at a similar price point, the Trifo Emma could do better. It would perhaps be good for a hard-floored, fairly furniture-light space such as a kitchen, pantry or wet room – or a room mostly occupied by pets. For a bigger living space, it’s too regularly lost and too blunt in its approach.

Performance: 2.5/5

Trifo Emma app

The Trifo App is free to download and offers a few value-adding features such as suction control, manual steering and scheduling – which is rare in more affordable robot vacuum cleaners such as the Trifo Emma. There are no extra-smart features such as room zoning, which is a shame.

You can monitor the robot’s mapping, cleaning time and cleaning history from the app, too; but it’s worth remembering that the vacuum doesn’t remember its previous routes, so this is mostly to help jog your own memory. 

One thing we did notice is that the app can be pretty laggy, and this is especially noticeable when using it to control the robot vacuum. We played with this a few times, mostly to redirect the vacuum to its station once it had finished cleaning, and there was a three-second delay between using the joystick control and a response from the vacuum. This was especially annoying when it came to turning the machine. 

App: 3/5

Trifo Emma battery

In terms of battery life, we found the manufacturer's claims of 110 minutes of battery life accurate in that the Emma will just about last that long in the Eco setting; but this offers barely any suction. However, for cleaning at a deeper level you can expect to see a drastically shorter runtime of around 50-70 minutes. 

On full suction, our test model lasted 50-60 minutes; some days, the power seemed to drain quicker, but we couldn’t find any sensible reasons for this. Add to this the fact that the Emma can’t remember where it is, where it’s cleaned and that it goes over certain areas it’s already cleaned and we’re not confident many homes would be cleaned sufficiently in an hour with this unit. 

We’d advise a minimum suction of 25% to give a carpeted home a quick dust-up, which lasted an average of 80 minutes on test. Emma takes roughly three hours to recharge.

Battery: 3/5

Trifo Emma on charging doc

The Trifo Emma takes roughly three hours to recharge (Image credit: Future)

Emma Trifo score card

Swipe to scroll horizontally
AttributeNotesScore
ValueIt’s not cheap, but the Trifo Emma is far more affordable than premium models. If you’re ready to make some fairly large concessions on intelligence, it’s priced just right.4 / 5
DesignAll in all, it’s definitely robust in construction and design, and for its price feels pretty well made4 / 5
PerformanceUnfortunately, the Emma robot vacuum shows great promise, especially if Trifo can patch some of the weird buggy mapping issues. As it is right now, though, it isn’t quite there. 2.5 / 5
AppIt’s great to see a model at this price arrive with a companion app, but Trifo could have done a bit more to make it worthwhile – especially if you’re needing to manually control your Trifo Emma.3 / 5
BatteryThe claimed runtime was achieved on Eco, but it lacked suction. Deeper cleans lasted 60 minutes which is almost half the claimed time.3 / 5

Should I buy?

Buy it if...

You want regular touch-up cleans without the trimmings

While we weren’t impressed with the Trifo Emma’s mapping (or lack thereof), nor its app, we will say that the dust bin was pretty full after each clean, so there’s something to be said for its suction power. 

You want a vacuum that will fit under most furniture

With a height of 84mm, the Trifo Emma is comfortably mid-range in terms of robot vacuum height, meaning it can clear beneath most furniture around the home. It had no trouble with our low sofas and cupboards. 

You want a simple cleaner

The Trifo Emma is cheap and cheerful, that’s for sure. It isn’t quite as good as the Eufy RoboVac 11S, but if you need a vacuum with good clearance and some control, it’s a great alternative.

Don't buy it if...

You have lots of rugs

While it handled some floor coverings such as our bathroom mats well, the Trifo Emma struggled with our thick-knit living room rug, hopping along the surface when going against the grain and losing its orientation in the process, throwing off the whole mapping process as a result.

You want precision

The Trifo Emma just can’t compete with some of the best robot vacuums out there when it comes to intelligence. It goes over areas it’s already cleaned while missing others altogether. It’s fine if you just need something to whizz around to pick up some of the daily dust, but it’s not for deep cleans.

You have delicate furnishings 

Generally, the best detection care will only be seen in the top-of-the-line robot vacuums; but the Trifo Emma really does bash into things. It’s good at slowing down for walls and larger obstacles, but chair and table legs and stands seem to be out of its field of view.

  • First reviewed: October 2022
Josephine Watson
Managing Editor, Lifestyle

Josephine Watson (@JosieWatson) is TechRadar's Managing Editor - Lifestyle. Josephine has previously written on a variety of topics, from pop culture to gaming and even the energy industry, joining TechRadar to support general site management. She is a smart home nerd, as well as an advocate for internet safety and education, and has also made a point of using her position to fight for progression in the treatment of diversity and inclusion, mental health, and neurodiversity in corporate settings. Generally, you'll find her watching Disney movies, playing on her Switch, or showing people pictures of her cats, Mr. Smith and Heady.