Robot vacuums are becoming extremely popular these days with their ease of use, their time-saving nature and the fact that they can now function at a level that will clean most surfaces to an acceptable level.
iRobot recently released their new Roomba j7+, complete with auto-emptying dock and some new smart features. We have had one on the go for a few weeks now and have come away impressed with the functionality it provides – read on to hear the finer details.
|Accurate navigation with obstacle avoidance||Mapping can be time consuming|
|Alexa and Google Assistant support||No mopping|
|Cliff sensors to prevent falls|
What is it?
To those of you who have seen, used or read about robot vacuums before this iRobot Roomba j7+ will come as no surprise. It is a round robot vacuum which comes with a self-emptying dock along with a spare bag for the bin within the dock and a spare brush and filter. The front of the vacuum houses a camera and light to help it to navigate through your house along with identify and either clean or avoid obstacles within its path. It uses its smarts to help identify these and will send you pictures to decide whether you want to clean the obstacle up or not.
The top of the vacuum includes a single button for starting, stopping and returning the vacuum to the dock. Underneath is of course where all the cleaning hardware is located. There is just a single cleaning brush underneath the vacuum which can be problematic for some cleaning areas such as next to the plinth in the kitchen. The suction component of the vacuum includes two rubber rollers which roll in opposite directions to prevent hair wrapping around them — something I’ve had issues with when using other robot vacuums in the past. These rollers seem to clean well although they don’t leave a smooth finish on the carpet after cleaning it.
I’ve always been concerned about my robot vacuum falling down the stairs but the Roomba j7+ includes a Cliff Sensor underneath to detect when the vacuum is about to topple over a cliff and reverse its direction. I tested it out (with a bean bag on the stairs underneath just in case) and it worked as designed.
The self-emptying dock includes a 0.4 litre bin which doesn’t sound huge but actually holds quite a bit of debris. iRobot say the bag should last 60 days but my house is not that dirty so it should last longer. The bags do add to the cost of the vacuum because the bags are single use only so it is another factor to take into account when considering whether to purchase this robot vacuum. In saying that it is a pain having to remember to empty a robot vacuum bin yourself every day or two so the self-emptying bin is well worth it for me — keep in mind that if you buy iRobot-branded bags you will pay more. eBay has aftermarket bags to fit the same thing for as little as $18 for a pack of 12.
iRobot has introduced their new Genius 3.0 software with the Roomba j7+ and the new smarts it provides promise some advanced features. The best new feature for me was the “Clean While I’m Away” is a feature where the robot uses your phone’s GPS to determine if you are away from home – you can set it to clean when you are away from home, which is certainly my preference. Although not overly loud it is a bit disturbing if you’re trying to watch Netflix or grade some papers etc. The vacuum will also stop when your phone returns to the boundary of the map – the only negative thing here though is that it does require an IFTTT account to work. It would be so much better if it was straight out built into the app, after all you are giving the iRobot app location permissions anyway.
Setup and use
Connecting the robot vacuum was a piece of cake with it just asking you to make an account and enter your Wi-Fi password once it had found the vacuum. Considering how long these folks at iRobot has been doing these robot vacuums I’m not surprised how easy it was to setup.
The Roomba j7+ offers to perform a mapping run for you — to may your floor obviously. The app can store multiple maps/floors as well as save zones and rooms with the ability to name all of the above to make it easy to perform a vacuum run using voice and from memory.
Sounds great but for me the first run of mapping that took quite a while to complete because it kept getting stuck underneath a couch I have (all robot vacuums get stuck underneath it but normally after a single sticking episode other vacuums can work around that). Every time I tried to redo the map run the vacuum would end up back there every single time – haven’t had that before. Of course, I could have just done the original mapping while I was home but, who has time for that? In the end I solved it by placing cushions in front of the couch to stop it getting stuck. Once it has finished mapping you name each room, set up no go zones and borders, along with other zones (eg. eating area) and you are good to go. One feature I liked was that the map updates with each full clean, giving you the option to save it each time (eg. you may get a new piece of furniture etc).
Within the app you can set favourite cleans such as “Clean the kitchen”, “vacuum everywhere” etc. Favourites that can be set are specific rooms, zones or the entire map. This are the same options available to “new job+”. The way I use my robot vacuum is to set it up to do a scheduled clean of the entire map every 2 days. If I need specific cleans, I will just ask it to do that. My issue with the cleaning was that you could only ask it to clean a saved zone or a specific room each time. I couldn’t set a one-off area clean (such as where I may have dropped certain substances on the floor). Other vacuums allow you to draw an area on the map and ask the vacuum to just clean that — you do not have to save that area as a zone as you would with the Roomba j7+.
The app also has some smarts to it, deciding where there is a dining table and offering to set up a cleaning zone around it for example. This Smart Map coaching is part of the new Genius 3.0 software update.
Smart digital assistant control
As with any good smart home product these days, the iRobot Roomba j7+ works with Google Assistant and Alexa. Once connected to your Wi-Fi, your Assistant app will “see it” and allow you to add it to your list of devices in your home.
Supported controls include telling your robot to clean specific areas/zones in your home, a specific room, multiple rooms or the entire map. The full list of controls available can be found over at the iRobot website. As I have more than one robot vacuum attached to my Google Home and Alexa accounts I had to tell the digital assistant which vacuum to vacuum with (Alexa did ask me which vacuum to use when I just said to start vacuuming, Google Assistant ignored me): Hey Google, tell Roomba to start vacuuming
How well does it clean?
Room sized clean, daily clean, or extra clean – extra clean is obviously a deeper clean, covering the entire space twice. A room-sized cleans balances room size with cleaning time, cleaning larger rooms once and smaller rooms 2-3 times – this was the option I went for.
The daily clean went well, and it was nice to come home to a clean house every second day – although the brushes do leave a strange track on the carpet so it doesn’t give the smooth clean look a normal vacuum gives.
I tested the vacuum on both carpet and hard floor with spilled coco pops (some crushed — no milk) and flour (spilled but not rubbed into the carpet). The Roomba j7+ performed perfectly on the hardwood floor but not as well on the carpet. It cleaned up basically all of the coco pops and most of the flour on the carpet – just traces were left on the carpet. It was a bit disappointing, but flour is an annoying thing and to be honest, how often do you spill that on your carpet and if you do, you should not expect a robot vacuum to have the suction power to effectively clean it all away.
A couple of smart things happens while the vacuum is cleaning, If it encounters an obstacle, it will send you an image of it (to your phone) where you can then ask it to avoid it or clean it. Its object avoidance worked extremely well with it avoiding everything I threw in its way. At the same it is performing these tasks it is also on the lookout for dirtier than usual locations. This Dirt Detect mode causes the light ring on the top of the robot to flash blue and it will move back and forwards over the dirty area until its sensors detect the area as clean — extremely handy that it can detect whether it has actually cleaned the areas you are asking of it.
Would I recommend it?
As a vacuum itself the iRobot Roomba j7+ is outstanding. Its smart features and ease of use offer an easy-to-use cleaning experience — although I would have preferred an easy way to perform a one-off clean of a small dirty area. The app is great and the integration with Google Assistant and Alexa also leads to easier use.
One big downside of the vacuum is that it is a vacuum only. Although it apparently works in conjunction with iRobot mopping systems, the Roomba j7+ does not have the ability to mop at the same time as it vacuums like others from Ecovacs and more do. If all you want is a vacuum then this is certainly worth a close look at.
The Roomba j7+ is not cheap but none of the top-of-the-line robot vacuums are — you get what you pay for. If I was in the market to purchase a robot vacuum the Roomba j7+ would be one I would closely consider.
The Roomba j7+ robot vacuum with Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal is available for $1,799 AUD and $1,899 NZD on www.shopirobot.com.au and www.shopirobot.co.nz. The Roomba j7 robot vacuum can also be purchased without the Clean Base starting at $1,299 and $1,399 on www.shopirobot.com.au and www.shopirobot.co.nz.