Above ground pools come with their own unique maintenance challenges, and not every robotic pool cleaner is up to the job. Many owners of above ground pool owners opt to manually vacuum and clean their pool themselves in order to bypass making the financial investment of a robotic pool cleaner that isn’t built specifically to handle the hitches you often find above the ground. However, Maytronics has refined and developed the Dolphin Escape robotic pool cleaner to excel at just that – and at one of the lowest price points you’ll find on the market. With this bot in tow, we found an above ground pool in need of some serious TLC and decided to see how it faced those challenges.
Assembling the Escape
The Dolphin Escape came packaged securely and free of damage. We had read reviews that assembly was simple, but we didn’t realize how simple it would be. Within five minutes of unboxing it, we had removed all the plastic coverings and plugged the cleaner in to its power supply unit. Simply drop the Escape into the water, let it sink to the bottom, and press the power supply button.
The Look and Feel
Weighing just over 13 pounds while dry, the Escape feels light and nimble. Although it doesn’t weigh a ton, the design of it still looks and feels sturdy enough to take on daily pool cleanings if need be. The outer plastic is heavy duty and durable, and the tread on the belt and bristles are forces to be reckoned with against the dirtiest and most slippery underwater obstacles. And with just one button on the power supply, you won’t feel any sense of panic or dread at figuring out how to operate the thing – there’s one button.
The Escape at Work
With assembly taken care of easily, it was time to drop the Dolphin Escape into the water and see how it ran.
The above ground pool we chose for testing was very dirty. Having not been cleaned since the winter months passed, the bottom of the pool was noticeably darker with dirt and algae. There were plenty of leaves, acorn, and pollen floating thanks to nearby trees, and the pool is also a favorite swimming spot of the family dog. So, it was dirty enough to give the Escape a run for its money.
Once it settled onto the bottom of the pool and started running, you could see a distinct difference in color immediately. It scrubbed and sucked up all of the fine dirt and algae that had been congealing on the bottom, revealing a brighter and cleaner difference at once. It was kind of hypnotic, actually, to watch it run back and forth and magically leave behind a trail of pristine pool surface. This is thanks to Dolphin’s patented HyberBrush. The intensely durable bristles we mentioned before are powered to spin twice as fast as traditional pool brushes. As a result, you can see the Escape doesn’t just vacuum the pool, it actually scrubs it.
The Escape’s product specifications say it’s designed to clean and scrub just the floor, but it actually went above and beyond and cleaned the walls of the pool as well. It didn’t always make it to the waterline to grab and buildup there, but it did a very good job climbing and cleaning the walls. We believe this is because of the patented Hypergrip continuous tracks on the wheels of the Escape. Instead of a plain and conventional wheel, it’s equipped with continuous rubber tracks that cling to slippery surfaces.
On top of that, the Escape navigated obstacles intelligently. It glided over the drain without pausing or wasting time and energy backing up to go around it, and it even rose to the challenge of scrubbing the hard-to-reach corners of the pool.
Many pool cleaners wander around aimlessly. While the Escape doesn’t have the intelligence to map and memorize your pool, it is equipped with SmartNav 2.0. This software scans the base of your pool and tells the robot where it has and hasn’t been so it doesn’t overlap cleaning paths or waste time on a job. We watched it as it traversed our test pool, and it didn’t linger anywhere too long, nor did it miss any obvious strips.
The cleaning time clocked in at about 90 minutes. It did a surprisingly thorough cleaning job for such a short time. If the pool had been bigger or if there were many more leaves, sticks, dirt, and miscellaneous debris, we could easily have cleaned the filter and tossed it back in for a second run without any hassle.
What’s the Verdict?
All in all, the Dolphin Escape cleaned extremely well, even better than we anticipated for a robotic pool cleaner of this price range.
The Filter Doesn’t Lie
Visually we saw a striking contrast from the state of the above ground pool beforehand to after the Escape went to work. But it’s a different story when you pop open the bot itself and look inside the filtration system.
The canister is oversized, but in a good way. Dolphin designers chose an oversized filter cartridge that holds 60% more debris than traditional cartridges, and it has none of the headache that comes with tedious debris bags. The cartridge was filled with all sorts of leaves, acorns, muck, and various other types of debris. It even grabbed dog hair and a few smaller kids toys that had been abandoned at the bottom of the pool.
The filter itself was substantially darkened with fine dirt and algae, which is a promising sign of the Escape’s underwater cleaning ability. You also have the option to pay more for an ultra-fine filter that grabs even more sediment, which is a good idea if you live in an area with lots of wind or silty/sandy top soil. But even fitted with the standard filter, the Escape’s filtration system shows off its hard work, that’s for sure.
Like a Well-Oiled Machine
We have to give props to Dolphin for creating a symbiotic relationship of power and efficiency in the Escape. We mentioned the brushes that spin twice the speed of regular robotic pool cleaner brushes, but there are other working parts that make for an excellent final product. The vacuum itself is bi-directional, so it picks up contaminants going both forward and in reverse. Unlike other robotic pool cleaners on the market, it uses two DC motors as opposed to weaker AC motors, so the Escape is able to power itself efficiently and filter an impressive 75 gallons of water per minute.
The Dolphin Escape comes with a two-year warranty. Other models by the Dolphin offer usually have this standard two-year warranty. The two-year limited warranty isn’t pro-rated or limited to the number of hours or cycles you use the Escape. And the 30-day return policy is there if you decide this model isn’t right for your pool.
Room for Improvement
At this price point, there’s really not much to critique about the Dolphin Escape. But we’ll try anyway.
Above ground pool cleaners from Maytronics’ Dolphin line don’t usually have the brand’s patented anti-swivel device on their cords. To get one, you can upgrade to one of their in-ground robots, which also work beautifully for above ground pools. The Escape has a 40-foot thermoplastic rubber cable that is designed to reduce the frictional drag, but no swivel. We didn’t notice much tangling with our few test runs, probably because it’s a shorter and well-designed cable. However, you may experience some mild cord tangling with regular usage.
Why Do You Want This Robotic Pool Cleaner?
Ease of Maintenance
As far as maintaining robotic pool cleaners goes, this one is about as simple as it gets. Like most on the market, the Escape recommends cleaning the filter and canister after each cleaning job. This is incredibly easy. When you open the filtration system, the handle for the canister immediately pops up. Unlike the filter bags of the old days, the canister not only traps debris well, but it is a breeze to remove it, too. Spray it down with a hose and dump out any larger items like leaves, sticks, or acorns. The filter removes seamlessly as well, requiring a light dousing with the hose to remove fine dirt. Pop it back into place and leave it be. It’s that straightforward.
The Dolphin Escape is a fantastic value. As a true robotic cleaner with a microprocessor control, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat that number. It’s simple, elegantly designed, and powerful. You get more for your money with the Escape than you might think.
Whatever the upfront cost, you’re saving money in the long run with the Escape’s energy efficiency. It uses DC motors instead of traditional AC motors, meaning it reduces your energy costs up to 90% more than old-school AC-powered cleaners. Dolphin estimates it costs approximately 5 cents an hour to operate, so you won’t eat into your electric bill by using it all summer.
Cleans Like a Pro
Dolphin products are often the enemy of pool maintenance companies. The Escape is no exception. We tried to set it up for failure with an extraordinarily dirty pool, but it still sucked up gunk, debris, and algae that had been sitting stagnant for weeks. More than that, it did its job easily and without the hassle of a convoluted operating system, tedious maintenance, or having to completely outsource the cleaning process.
If you’re looking for a low-maintenance, reasonably priced robotic cleaner for your above ground pool, the Dolphin Escape is your answer. Save yourself the backache and sweat of manually cleaning your pool, and steer clear of cheaper, generic pool cleaner options. The Escape’s above-ground-specific design is the perfect accompaniment to pool life, essentially letting you toss it in the water, press a button, and walk away. Plus, features like energy efficiency and its lightweight handling make it easy on your wallet and back. Let the Escape do the hard work for you so you can free up time for what’s really important – enjoying that pool of yours.