Though less revered than Dyson, iRobot, makers of the genre-defining Roomba robot vacuums, is no less dominant.
By way of quiet and fairly confusing tech advances (and videos of pets mounting them), the Roomba has come to define the robot vacuum. They’re priced from $300 to $950, all Roomba modelsdesigned for the time-deficient (or somewhat lethargic) homemaker, but none are quite so advanced or expensive as iRobot’s latest: the Roomba i7+.
Its fact sheet of features and functions is long and impressive, but is it any better than what’s already out there? I ran it through my Brooklyn apartment close to a hundred times to find out.
The Good: The i7+ is the only robot vacuum cleaner that’s ever been able to empty itself. It does so on a reasonably sized black command center called Clean Base that you plug into the wall. It can even detect when it’s full or jammed and go home to empty before finishing up its duties. The i7+ is one of very few vacuums that allows you to not only schedule cleans on your phone, but go as far as mapping your home and allowing you to select specific rooms for cleaning. Finally, it’s also able to identify the dirtiest area of your home and will run over those spots more often to ensure comprehensive cleaning.
Who It’s For: It handles pet hair just fine, so no worries if you have a little friend (or two), but the i7+ is probably best-suited to small- to medium-sized homes, as it can clear the whole floor in one charge; however, those with larger homes shouldn’t be dissuaded by this — you’re going to be hard-pressed to find vacuum that can clean for longer.
Watch Out For: Many of the the classic complaints people have with robot vacuums are still present with the i7+. It’s a bit loud (roughly 60 decibels, according to an app on my phone), it spazzes out if a door isn’t fully ajar and it requires fairly long charging times. The dust emptying box is very useful but also takes up a chunk of space in your home and isn’t exactly the nicest looking thing, either.
Alternatives: To be clear: there are no other robot vacuums that empty themselves — if that’s what you’re in for, there isn’t a true alternative. If you want a robot vacuum that you can name and send to clean the apartment when you leave for work, Roomba’s older (and cheaper) models are much more affordable. Plus they’re frequently on sale (the Roomba 675, in particular, is discounted often and can still be controlled by iRobot’s app). If its the ability to schedule and choose specific rooms to clean, the Eufy 30 ($270) is a decent option that’s much more affordable.
Review: Setting up your cleaner is rather easy — plug in the home base, allow your Roomba to charge for about three hours and sync iRobot’s smartphone app to the machine. After naming my machine (I went with a weird and not very funny Twister reference in Paxton), I set it off on its initial foray through my apartment.
Lost among the self-emptying and specific-scheduling hype is the machine’s built-in memory. During its maiden voyage, it will locate walls, stairs, bookcases and the like, but it is not going to be very efficient. However, the i7+ remembers its first go-round, and after every run, it will display a percentage of optimization to let you know how close it is to creating the ideal (read: fastest) path to cleaning.
In my 675-square-foot Brooklyn apartment, this meant that its first run took a little over an hour, its second a little under an hour and its third right at 43 minutes. After the third, the app alerted me it had successfully optimized the cleaning path (further missions have remained in the 42- to 44-minute range consistently).
Because I live in that rather small apartment in Brooklyn, the saving of a few minutes isn’t all that impactful, but if you live in a home that’s large enough to command runtimes around the 90-minute max, it could mean the difference between clearing every room in one run and having to wait a few hours for another.
Once mapped (even after just the first run), you can begin labeling the rooms and zones of your home (you can also use Alexa or Google Assistant to tell it to clean certain areas: “Paxton, clean the kitchen”). Supremely helpful for the more open concept livers among us, the smart mapping system allows you to add dividers and “walls” that the vacuum will recognize when scheduling — meaning that even if the kitchen leads right into the living room, you can segment the two for individual room cleaning (I also used this to stop the vacuum from going under my media console and getting caught up in all the wires).
Oddly enough, the star of the show — the self-emptying home base — was not all that interesting, which is exactly what I’d hoped. At roughly 19 by 12 inches, it’s much larger than other robo-vac bases, but the ability to completely ignore my vacuum (apart from scheduling on my phone) is legitimately satisfying. The base holds up to thirty full loads from the vacuum which, even with a very hairy dog, has yet to fill after almost two months of use (iRobot says three months is the average).
Its cleaning performance has been heaped with praise hundreds of times over, and I had a similar experience. Thanks to iRobot’s staple Dirt Detect tech, areas my dog litters with fur and pieces of her bone are run over three or four times more than areas that don’t receive the same abuse. Frankly, other than dark corners behind pots of plants there wasn’t much touching up to do in Paxton’s wake.
Its only real mess-ups were not even its own. Prior to testing the i7+, I hadn’t use a robot vacuum in a few years, which means I forgot that leaving cords and bags on the floor amount to traps. So while this robo-vac is the most hands-off and effective at actual vacuuming, it still requires a fairly consistent space to clean (e.g. keep bedroom doors open and get charging cables off the carpet).
Verdict: The iRobot i7+ is the most effective robot vacuum at accomplishing what robot vacuums originally set out to do — that is, shrink your chore list and do so with a noticeable difference in cleanliness. Its self-emptying capabilities are a natural, needed and downright welcome addition to the world of robot vacuums, and the app that controls it is simple and effective. The price is high, but if the prospect of not vacuuming for the foreseeable future makes you feel warm and cozy inside, it just might be worth it.
What Others Are Saying:
• “The i7+ is an impressive robot vacuum with unique features that you won’t find on lesser models. I don’t necessarily think it’s worth five times the cost of a standard vacuum, but once this technology trickles down to lower-end models, it will be very nice to have.” — Dan Seifert, The Verge
• “The whole point of buying a robot vacuum is to make your life easier. It’s easy to be seduced by the promise of automated cleaning, and not realize that it’s actually much more work to maintain a robot vacuum than to just push a regular one around. The Roomba i7+ all but eliminates the few remaining robovac pain points, including some that I wasn’t aware were aggravating to begin with. It empties its own bin! My God!” — Adrienne So, Wired
• “Personally though, if I had a pile of money to play around with, I would totally buy the Roomba i7+ before any other vacuum—robot, cordless, plug-in, whatever. The self-emptying feature and targeted cleaning options mark a new high point for low-effort cleaning.” — Liam McCabe, Wirecutter
Max Runtime: 90 minutes
Charge time (no battery to full): 3 hours
Robot Size: 13.34 x 3.63 inches
Robot Weight: 7.44 pounds
Home Base Size: 19 x 12 inches:
iRobot provided this product for review.
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