For most people, there is no essential Roomba if you can use your own vacuum. They’re nice to have and do a job, but you’ll get better results if you can put the work in yourself. They also require more management than Rosie the robot. The Jetsons Where The red dwarf Krytan. You’ll come down to earth with a bump when you see that oversized hockey puck crashing into your baseboards, wondering where the future we were promised has gone. But, if you judge the new Combo J7+ on its own merits, it holds its own much better than many of its rivals.
The Roomba Combo J7+ is iRobot’s first “true” two-in-one robot vacuum and mop, doing both hands-free. There’s no need to add or remove a mop pad between missions, and none of the dreaded risk of cross-contamination. After all, if your two-in-one is infused with dirty water, it might get its juices all over your freshly vacuumed carpets and rugs. It’s a global problem, but iRobot thinks it’s a big hurdle for people buying a high-end floor cleaning robot.
iRobot’s solution is to have the Combo J7+ hold its mop and pad on top of its chassis, only pulling it down when needed. The machine’s sensors identify when it’s rolling on hardwood versus carpet and lower the pad accordingly. It’s a pretty clever piece of engineering, and the engineers at iRobot deserve kudos for coming up with such an elegant solution. All you have to do is fill the tank with water and cleaning solution, and activate a mission from the iRobot App, choosing your dosage level (Eco, Standard or Ultra) before starting. press Start.
I’ve had the Combo J7+ in my house for three weeks now, installed in my hallway, as the main floor of my house is a mix of hardwood, laminate and carpet. My kids, who have to take a dirt road to get to school, love chasing mud and debris in my hallway when they get home. Plus it means I can send it off after dinner to clean the kitchen floor to deal with the usual raft of crumbs created by the kids. Although most often I choose to clean the floors mid-morning when my kids can’t complain about the noise the Clean Base makes.
The Combo J7+ is the first Roomba to ship with iRobot OS 5.0, which improves the company’s work to avoid dangerous hazards. (I don’t know if I can say “roll in a pile of dog poop and spread it on your carpets” in a way that’s brand safe, so just use your own euphemism.) After each mission, you’ll be asked to review the obstacles the robot has detected during the journey, letting it know if the pair of sneakers you left by the back door is a temporary or permanent prop for the future. The big point, however, is that the camera’s computer vision identifies these dangers and avoids them without having to run into them.
I will say that I found the early mapping is a little more frustrating than I expected. Part of that was because I had to put everything away after my kids before I could send the machine for a spin. And that he was fairly regularly overtaken by my welcome mat and the threshold between the hallway and the kitchen. I, really, wish there was a way to use my phone – with its loadout of location tech – to help build the map. For example, I’d be happy to sketch a rough outline of the ground floor of my house with my phone at dead reckoning, which you think would help speed up the process.
To be fair, that power has increased exponentially over the time I’ve had the Roomba in my house. A few days ago, the system asked me if I wanted to create a dedicated cleaning zone around the kitchen table, without any prompting from me. This is obviously a great way to target areas of dirt buildup without having to redo the whole kitchen floor every night. Credit in its place, the Roomba took a good feel for where everything is in my house and where it should be directing its energies.
The machine does a great job removing small loose particles from the soil, but it still leaves the odd outlier. Not to mention that, despite many promises that you won’t need a lot of micromanagement, you’ll be refilling Roomba’s water tank very frequently. The container holds 210ml (about 7 ounces) of water, good enough for 40 square meters (430 square feet) of high dose soil, just about enough for my modest UK ground floor. But if you’re in a McMansion with floors the length and width of a football field, you might need to fill the Roomba up in the middle of a job.
In the US, the Combo J7+ comes with the clean base, which will set you back $1,099.99 – quite a massive change. Elsewhere you can pick it up without a base, but if you’re buying a Roomba for convenience, the base makes a lot of sense. The base is not only where your machine will recharge, but it has its own vacuum that sucks up any debris Roomba picks up and deposits it in its own bag. If I have one complaint, it’s that I wish Roomba itself had some of the power of the Clean Base’s own suction, which is about as powerful (and loud) as a gasoline engine. reaction. I also wish there was a way to disable this feature.
There are parts of iRobot’s sales pitch that almost leave me irritable shrugging my shoulders in hostile indifference. Like being able to command your Roomba to clean a specific high-traffic area by barking a command to the voice assistant of your choice. I think using a voice assistant became obsolete after the third time you tried to impress your neighbors by changing the color of your living room lights in 2013. Yes, for the elderly and those with accessibility needs, a good voice assistant connection is vital, but it’s also something that leaves me cold. Especially when it’s much easier to activate a mission from the app, which is beautifully simple to do.
But, despite my objections, I found this gadget to find its way into my regular routine more than I ever imagined. It’s actually a treat to come home from the school errand, see a pile of dirt on the floor, and be able to magically remove it with the press of a button. And setting it to clean the floor as well means the number of times I have to clean it myself has dropped dramatically. It might not replace your vacuum or mop, but that means you won’t have to use them as often as you normally do.
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