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Roomba by iRobot - vacuum cleaner of the future ======================================
Roomba is the second generation of this amazing robotic vacuum cleaner. In this form it is green in colour, circular and about 30cm in diameter. It weighs a few kilos but is not too heavy. It is designed to automatically vacuum your flat or house.
Prices started a few years ago at stratospheric levels (typically £700-£1000). Thankfully this is now down to a much more consumer friendly level.
I purchased this from www.electricshopping.com for £147.90 including delivery in January 2006.
It is now the largest selling robotic vacuum cleaner.
The top has several buttons to activate various cleaning modes and power on and off. There is an inbuilt carry handle and a release button for the collection bin.
Why Buy? --------------- Saves hours of cleaning time each week and encourages cleaning on a far more regular basis. Cool toy to show off to the mates (ok, that maybe a bloke selling point). Hours of fun watching the dogs play with Roomba (or is it the other way round).
Operation -------------- Put Roomba in the room, pick up any loose objects, cables or obstructions, press 'Clean' and come back 45 minutes later. It is that easy. I would not recommend leaving it in the company of pets or children for safety reasons.
It begins by spiralling around until it finds a wall. It follows that wall and calculates how long it will take to clean a room. In practice this works on square rooms but not weird shaped or obstacles when you may need to tell to max clean.
Roomba will move in a seemingly random mode but does eventually cover all spaces.
There is a spring front edge to the vacuum to protect objects it runs into. So far no problems with this at all and no damage at all. The system appears to work.
The Cleaning Mechanism --------------------------------- This is a 3 stage process. The first is a small horizontally rotating brush on the underside that sweeps debris into the main vertically rotating main brushes. The main brushes are preceded by 2 small rubber strips that help gather on hard floors. Finally the main vacuum sucks up all material found. The mechanism will automatically change for different floor types. We have used it on laminate wood, solid wood and carpet from short to medium pile. All entirely successfully.
Cleaning Modes ---------------------- Roomba has 3 cleaning modes - room, spot and max. The basic setting will clean an average room in about 45 minutes. Roomba spirals and follows walls to eventually cover the whole floor. It will go under beds, tables, and so on. Spot cleaning is for dry spills or high dirt areas and Roomba will intelligently clean the area for 1-2 minutes. Max cleaning keeps Roomba going until it runs out of battery, unlike normal mode when it will stop once it has completed a cycle. Max mode will clean up to 300sq.m.
How Good a Clean? --------------------------- We were amazed just how much dust and hair the Roomba picked up (and continues to do so). It is superior to the Vax upright we have. The floors and carpets really look quite impressive.
As a round object, it cannot get into tight corners nor right up to the wall. You will need to periodically cover these areas with another vacuum.
Overall really impressive and quite surprisingly so for such a compact machine.
Collection Bin ------------------- Easily removed by pressing a button on the top of the unit, it slides out to reveal the debris. Inside the collection bin is also the filter, which you also need to remove to remove the larger bits. Version 2 of the Roomba apparently can pick up 3 times as much dirt as the first model - nevertheless, it is still a small bin and needs emptying after each cleaning session.
Virtual Wall Unit ------------------------ In order to stop the robot wandering outside a designated room or area, iRobot supply a virtual wall unit. Basically this is an infra-red beam projector that the Roomba can sense and will not pass through the beam.
Remote Control ---------------------- Ok - this seems like a gimmick and is definitely aimed at the lads. You can turn the machine on and off, move it around, tell Roomba to intensely clean a specific area. This is probably more useful if you have invested in the optional charging stand and you want to start up the Roomba from you chair. In reality I find this less useful other than to turn off the unit once seated or to chase the dogs around the room (not really) :)
The Charging -------------------- Again, the newer model contains an improved battery. Claimed cleaning time is up to 2 hours but in our experience it is nearer 1 hour. I think this depends on the configuration of your room. The more the robot has to turn, backup and manoeuvre seems to eat up the power much faster. Charging time is long.. We find that it takes 7 hours to charge up the battery (so overnight is optimal). The SE model has a 3 hour charger. Claimed performance is 3 average sized rooms. We find 2 is more reasonable.
The Cleaning Tool ------------------------- A small pick and cutting blade to keep the brushes clean and moving without burning out the motors. This is an essential maintenance operation. We tend to clean the machine after each cycle. The combination of wife's long hair and dog hair makes for a formidable challenge. This would actually be an excellent tool to include with all vacuum cleaners.
Stairs -------- Unfortunately this is an area Roomba cannot cover. It does however sense the step (with 4 built in sensors) and will not fall over. We have found that a shallow step does confuse it and it will 'have a go' at crossing the step. This usually ends up with Roomba on it's back crying for help (literally). The main stairs are not a problem. I would recommend supervision on the first clean until you know where Roomba will and will not go. Use the virtual wall unit to block those steps that Roomba wants to 'have a go' at.
Pets ------- Roomba handles pet hair really well. With 2 shedding dogs it is a boon and really helps on keeping the hair under control. Pets react to Roomba less well. It is a noisy machine that seems to follow them around. I would not let Roomba alone with my Labrador - she has a tendency to try and grab poor Roomba by the infra-red sensor and I would not want to come back to a pile of 'spare parts'. Hopefully with a little more time, she will become used to it.
Noise --------- Definitely a weakness of the Roomba, at 80dB you cannot comfortably have it running whilst in the same room for long. Best to let it get on with cleaning whilst you do other things.
What's In The Box ------------------------- Manuals in many languages The unit and rechargeable battery Charging unit and power lead Hair cutting and cleaning device for the rollers 3 filters Remote control (no batteries - takes 2 * AA size) 1 virtual wall unit (no batteries - takes 2 * D size)
Other Notes ----------------- Roomba cannot handle water or wet (you need the Scooba for that).
Roomba is not HEPA filter certified and I notice it with my hayfever. Seems to be getting better though as the cleaning becomes more frequent. It does have the advantage of cleaning under things where you might not ordinarily vacuum.
The UK Roomba comes with a 2 year warranty.
Do not activate an infra-red alarm system with Roomba active in the room (obvious I know) but ….. you learn the hard way otherwise :(
Conclusion ---------------- I can highly recommended this vacuum. Not only a great time saver but really does a great job keeping the house clean.
Very few cons, perhaps the noise being the worst aspect.
Pros are many but the best is the robotic use - just set it going and go and have a cup of tea, put your feet up. A win every time :)
I am now seriously considering the floor cleaning companion (Scooba) and a robotic lawn mower.
These really are just a gimmick as there is no way they can cover all the tasks a regular vac with attachments can handle. I'm just toooooo impatient to have a machine like this. Get the vac out, quick run over the carpet, pack it away, done! Good review though. Trish x
WillyWumbo 25.03.2006 18:06
Great review, so informative and insightful. :) WW
Soundsexciting 24.03.2006 13:42
great review. I've been waiting for someone to write a comprehensive review before I jumped in and bought one. Nice one