Robotic pool cleaners are the best thing since sliced bread for swimming pool owners, saving you from the worst part of the maintenance experience: vacuuming the bottom of the pool and scrubbing the waterline. I have talked to some people who claim they find doing this chore manually to be relaxing, but I think they are an outlier. Skimming the top of the pool on a sunny morning with a net for five minutes can be a zen-like moment, but spending half an hour or more with a tangle of hoses and splashing water to vacuum up the debris that accumulated on the pool bottom overnight? No thanks. Pool robot to the rescue. The latest model to be tested in my pool this summer is the M1 Ultra from WYBOT.
This one includes features like triple drive motors, a super-sized filter basket and optimal path cleaning, but adds a unique capability to the mix: solar power.
The WYBOT M1 Ultra solar-powered robotic pool cleaner
WYBOT M1 Ultra: Unboxing and Setup
It’s immediately apparent upon unboxing that this is very different from other battery-powered pool robots. This may interest you : Sono Motors Debuts Solar Trailers, Solar-Powered Refrigeration To Cut Some Diesel Usage In The World’s Current Diesel Fleet. It’s worth noting that the WYBOT M1 Ultra was a 2023 MUSE design award gold winner.
The robot itself looks familiar, but it is attached to a large, floating solar panel by a thick (but flexible) umbilical cord. That panel is substantial, measuring roughly 18 x 15 inches and is about 4 inches thick. The bottom of the panel can be removed to adjust the length of the tether cable (to a maximum of 13 feet). However, the two components cannot be physically separated.
The tether power cable between the two components can be adjusted in length
The solar panel component is also equipped with a magnetic charge port, which is much easier to use than the typical setup of a small port protected from water ingress by a rubber plug. Just snap the charger on.
Setup involves charging the robot and then connecting it to your Wi-Fi network, which is needed for app-based functionality. More on that shortly. When the M1 Ultra is ready to go, you drop it in the pool along with the tethered solar panel. The robot sinks to the bottom to do its thing, while the solar panel floats above it. This means you need to have the tether cable long enough to let the solar panel freely float on the surface at the deepest part of the pool.
When it’s ready to come out, the robot parks to the side and the front automatically pops up (a nice touch), making it easier to pull out with the included hook that connects to your standard pool pole. Then you hook the floating solar panel and pull it out. Or, you could leave the whole kit in the water to recharge using solar power–although it’s not a small object to avoid while using the pool.
WYBOT M1 Ultra Key Specs:
Dual PVC roller brushes
180μm large filter basket
Magnetic AC charging and/or solar charging
Smart route planning, 4 cleaning modes, app control
Pool size up to 2152 square feet, all surfaces and all shapes, depth to 13 feet
Weighs 30.1 pounds
24 month warranty, 30-day money back guarantee
How Well Does the Solar Charging Feature Work
The review unit I was sent had a European power plug, so until an adapter arrived, I was reliant on the M1 Ultra’s solar power to charge its battery. Read also : Fighting for Renewable Energy | 2022 | What Would You Fight For?.
Taking advantage of the sun
Fortunately, this worked better than I was expecting. Two to two and a half days of Canadian sun turned out to be sufficient to fully charge the 6400mAH battery and deliver roughly two hours of runtime.
The solar functionality delivers, but I’m not sure I’m sold on the permanently-tethered, two-component form factor. If you bring the M1 Ultra out of the pool for charging (and you’ll certainly have to pull it out at least once a week to empty its filter basket), it is a lot more awkward to carry around than a typical pool robot. It’s too bad the design didn’t offer a detachable cable that would address that issue.
This section is a two parter.
For basic cleaning–throw it in the pool and let it do its thing scrubbing and vacuuming the floor–the M1 Ultra did a great job. It has a very large, 180μm filter basket and powerful suction that pumps through 3,963 gallons of water per hour. Dual PVC roller brushes scrub the floor as it’s going along. The robot had no issues with the slope of the pool from shallow to deep. The bottom of the pool was spotless after cleaning and not slippery. The filter basket collected everything from fine muck to crabapples and it’s large enough that I only had to hose it out every few days.
The extra large filter basket captures everything from fine sediment to larger object and holds … [+] days’ worth
However, the advanced cleaning functions–including modes, timers, wall-scrubbing, Alexa/Google Assistant voice control, weather-based features and remote control–require app control. That means connecting the robot to Wi-Fi.
I could get to 99%, but never got all the way to connecting the pool robot to my network
And no matter what I did, I could not connect the review unit to my Wi-Fi network. I made at least a dozen attempts, including deleting and reinstalling the app, lugging both components inside the house to position them right beside my router and even attempting to connect directly to my ISP’s internet gateway Wi-Fi (in case my Orbi mesh system and its combined 2.4GHz/5GHz SSID was the problem).
Unfortunately I never was able to connect, so that meant I was only able to test the basic floor-cleaning capability. Maybe I had a defective unit. A quick scan online doesn’t show any other users or reviewers who were having the same problem.
The app adds a wide range of functionality to the WYBOT M1 Ultra pool cleaner, but without it you … [+] are left with basic floor cleaning capability
Should you buy the WYBOT M1 Ultra pool cleaner? Its $1599.99 MSRP means it is definitely priced at the premium end of the pool robot market. In terms of basic cleaning, it delivers–but you can spend far less to get this sort of functionality. The solar charging capability adds an environmentally-friendly spin to the M1 Ultra proposition (along with the option to just leave it in the pool for days at a time), but it does add a complication in the form of making it more awkward to carry than other pool robots.
The app-based features make this pool robot more compelling, but I was unable to access these. If you’re concerned about its wireless connectivity, as mentioned I have not seen any other reports of a similar issue. In addition, WYBOT offers a 30-day money back guarantee, so in the unlikely event that you ran into a similar issue, you could get a refund.
If you want a solar-powered pool cleaner that’s capable in its core function, with an extensive range of app-based features–and you have a healthy budget–the WYBOT M1 Ultra is worth considering.
Disclosure: Wybot provided an M1 Ultra pool robot for evaluation purposes but had no input into this review.