iRobot Roomba guide: Everything you need to know about the robo vacuums

Don't be a sucker – brush up on your Roomba knowledge

Roomba guide: All you need to know
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No company in the smart home has become quite as synonymous with an entire product category as Roomba has. While we test a wide range of robot vacuums here at The Ambient, go ask a stranger on the street to identify any of them and chances are their response will always be the same: "That's a Roomba. Please leave me alone."

Of course, the company is actually called iRobot, and while it certainly has a firm hold on the robo vac market, there are plenty of pretenders to the Roomba throne – many of which you'll find in our best robot vacuums roundup.

Below, we'll explain how Roomba's robo vacs work before breaking down the differences between the different models and delving into smart assistants, mops, and other key features.


Roomba: How they actually work

Ok, so if you want a more in-depth explainer on the ins and outs of robot vacuums, we suggest heading to the guide mentioned above, but we'll give you a brief summary here. Roombas are designed to be as autonomous as possible: you push a button (or set a schedule) and they start running around and cleaning your floors, utilizing a combination of brushes and suction to dig out grime.

Most of iRobot's current lineup use optical sensors to scan the room to track light and dark patterns – essentially letting it "map" the space around it so as to avoid bumping into chair legs.

Some of the cheaper/older models (and we'll explain which further down) have a more basic sensing technology to help them pinball their way around the place. Broadly speaking, the more you pay, the smarter your Roomba will be at finding its way around the house.

iRobot also sells an accessory called a Virtual Wall Barrier – a tiny tower you can put up and have it tell the Roomba not to enter a certain area.

Roomba: The vacuum models

iRobot Roomba guide: Everything you need to know about the robo vacuums

S Series

Buy now: Amazon | $1,099

The S Series is the top dog of the range and comprises two models: the S9 and the S9+. The key difference is also the most obvious here: the disposal tower that comes with the S9+, which means you no longer have to worry about emptying your Roomba (but you will eventually have to empty the tower obviously).

Runtime on both is around 75 minutes and both have a new D-shape design (Roombas have historically been round) that makes them more effective at cleaning corners. Should it run out of power, it will return to its charging station to power up before automatically resuming work – a feature also found on the I Series below.

The other key difference? The price. $1,099.99 for the "base" S9 model and $1,399.99 for the tower of terror.

iRobot Roomba guide: Everything you need to know about the robo vacuums

I Series

Buy now: Amazon | $699

The I Series models – i7 and i7+ - follow the more traditional round design of Roomba's fleet, meaning they're less adept at hitting those corners. The suction is also less powerful than the S models – 10x instead of 40x – but you get iRobot's vSLAM navigation tech.

Read this: Roomba i7+ review

While not the top of the range, the I Series still gives an effective clean, and you have the option of a disposal tower here too with the i7+ model.

iRobot Roomba guide: Everything you need to know about the robo vacuums

900 Series

Buy now: Amazon | $549

We've used the Roomba 980 plenty here at The Ambient, and can confirm it does a decent clean, but suction takes a hit compared to those above. There are some variations within the two key models of the 900 series, the 960 and 980.

Read this: Roomba 980 review

The latter gets carpet boost technology and 120 minutes of battery life, while the 960 runs for 75 minutes. You also get two virtual wall barriers with the 980, while the 960 comes with only one.

iRobot Roomba guide: Everything you need to know about the robo vacuums

E Series and 600 Series

Buy now: Amazon | $250

At the lowest end of the spectrum right now are the Roomba 600 and E5 models. Both of these have more random navigation mechanisms (ie none of the smart mapping of other models) and lack special abilities such as targeting specified rooms and Recharge and Resume. But if you're on a budget, these can still do the basics pretty well.

The $374.99 E5 is the slightly better of the two, as it comes with brushless rollers and a single virtual wall barrier included. The 600 models vary slightly between the US and UK, but they're the cheapest of the lot, starting at $250.

Roomba: Smart assistants

Roomba can integrate with both Alexa and Google Assistant. Once you've hooked them up, you'll be able to ask your assistant of choice to start, pause, resume and stop cleans. If you want to get more specific, you can ask Roomba (via Alexa/Google Assistant) to clean a specific room and even set a schedule, with a command like, "Alexa, ask Roomba to schedule a cleaning job on Monday at 3pm".

Also, if you have more than one Roomba in your home, you'll need to specify to Google/Alexa which one you're talking about.

Here's a list of commands to try...

"Hey Google/Alexa, ask Roomba to start cleaning."
"Hey Google/Alexa, ask Roomba to pause vacuuming."
"Hey Google/Alexa, ask Roomba to resume cleaning."
"Hey Google/Alexa, ask Roomba to stop cleaning."
"Hey Google/Alexa, have Roomba go home."
"Hey Google/Alexa, ask Roomba what is it doing?"
"Hey Google/Alexa, where is Roomba."
"Hey Google/Alexa, ask Roomba to schedule a cleaning job on [day] at [time]."

iRobot Roomba guide: Everything you need to know about the robo vacuums

Roomba: The Braava mops

Oh, you thought it all ended with robot vacuums? That's cute. You're wrong. Roomba also has a small lineup of mops named Braava, which clean the floor by firing jet sprays of water to loosen grime and then running over it with its pads.

The latest of the bunch is the M6, which costs $499 and does the works. It can also work in tandem with the Roomba vacuums, so when one finishes a cleaning job the Braava will know to start. The 200 Series also has a jet but costs less (and lacks some of the M6's features) while the 300 Series doesn't have a jet at all but cleans more thoroughly than the 200.

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