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“Work smarter, not harder.” It’s an axiom that works well for virtually any endeavor, but is especially fitting for cleaning.
It’s a job no one enjoys and most people would be happy to avoid. The biggest cleaning innovation of the last decade has been a small collection of robotic assistants that can tidy up for us, and to do it better, they’ve naturally gotten smarter, worked harder and lasted longer. iRobot’s Roomba is a perfect example. The latest model, the 770 Vacuum Cleaning Robot ($499.99 direct), is smarter and more powerful than models we saw nearly a decade ago. And when necessary, the Roomba 770 will put some real elbow grease into the job to clean especially dirty spots. (I know, I know, it doesn’t have elbows or arms.) Is this latest Roomba a perfect replacement for your old-fashioned, hand-powered vacuum? Not quite, but for certain environments and some people, it’s a perfect solution.
iRobot’s autonomous cleaning bot has been around since 2002, when it launched with a single $200 model. Now there are options that run the gamut from $200 all the way up to the tricked-out Roomba 780, which costs nearly $600. The 770 model I tested is virtually identical, but its remote is simpler and it doesn’t have the 780’s attractive silver detailing. The Roomba also faces some new competition from companies as big as LG and startups like Neato and Mint.
Design and How the Roomba Works
The Roomba 770 stands roughly 3.6 inches high and weighs 8.4 pounds. Overall, it’s grown a bit since its earliest days, and as the Roomba has grown into a more powerful vacuum, it’s gotten a bit louder, though still nowhere near the ear-pounding levels of today’s hand-powered, upright vacuums.
Early Roombas were plagued by repair issues: Dirt and hair would make its way into the gearbox and eventually render the robot vacs unusable. iRobot’s latest Roomba seals away the gearbox and also makes the rest of the robot far easier to clean. Brushes, squeegees, and filters all detach easily from the base, and the iRobot 770 ships with a variety of cleaning devices to remove hair from the brushes.
A crucial component for any vacuum is the dust and debris bin. Naturally, larger, more traditional vacuums offer far more capacity than Roomba, but iRobot has, with each robot vacuum update, redesigned the bin and added space. The 770 is no exception: it’s now a single, removable chamber with more capacity than I’ve ever seen on a Roomba.
Since Roomba is a robot that cleans on its own, its dirt detection system is a critical tool in the fight against dirty carpets, tile, and hardwood floors. iRobot has always used a proprietary cleaning algorithm to drive the Roomba: It’s one of the reasons its cleaning path looks so haphazard. There is a method to the madness, though. That algorithm works in concert with a variety of dirt sensors. In addition to acoustic sensors that actually hear the dirt as it hits the machine, Roomba 770 now has optical sensors to see it as well.
Perhaps the most obvious change in the Roomba is that, on occasion, it now vacuums just like you do. When the Roomba detects a particularly grimy spot on your hard floor or carpet, it begins an aggressive back and forth vacuuming motion, iRobot calls this “Persistent Path” cleaning. One competing robotic vacuum, Neato, pretty much vacuums this way the whole time, with a systematic approach that breaks the room into grids and then moves back and forth and back and forth to clean them. The Mint Automatic Floor Cleaner ($249.95, 3.5 stars), on the other hand, uses a beacon to tell where it is in the room and instead of traditional vacuum parts runs a Swiffer dust and debris catcher over the surface. It works about as well you would using a Swiffer floor broom.
Roomba can manage rooms and homes of virtually any size, though it cannot go up and down steps. In fact, it can’t vacuum steps at all. It ships with a docking station/charging base and will find it on its own when it’s running low on juice. iRobot told me the battery charging algorithm has been improved so the battery has an overall longer life (two years or more). The Roomba’s battery is user replaceable, and a new cell will cost you between $50 and $70.
Though the Roomba ships with a remote, which you can use to start the Roomba cleaning or even guide it to a certain spot and control its cleaning pattern, it’s just as easy to use Roomba’s on-board controls. Over the years, Roomba’s interface and controls have remained pleasingly simple and straightforward. There’s still a large Clean button in the center, and just a handful of buttons to control the on-screen, blue LED interface. In my tests, I used it to set Roomba on a once-a-week (every Tuesday at 11AM) cleaning schedule.
Roomba 770 Cleans Up
So how does the Roomba do with dirt? Quite well. Overall, I saw fewer crop-circles and noticed that Roomba moves quite a bit faster than earlier editions. In fact, it seemed somewhat more purposeful in its cleaning activities. Even though my rug didn’t look particularly dirty, when I picked up the Roomba and removed the bin (you can also do this when it’s on the floor), I was startled to see a substantial amount of dirt, dust and debris. Even the new HEPA filters were clogged (iRobot recommends you clean them between each vacuuming).
Scheduling worked flawlessly, but only after an initial hiccup where the fully charged Roomba lost its data and time setting. I reset it and the error did not recur.
iRobot integrates anti-tangle technology, which is supposed to prevent the Roomba from getting stuck on rug tassels and other strings and wires that might be hanging around, but the pull string for my blinds was almost the bot’s undoing. It got caught and I had to help remove it. When I went on vacation and returned, Roomba had stuck to its schedule, but also got hopelessly tangled on the same string. I’ve since moved it out of the way. Still, the Roomba’s ability to detect other objects and stairs and work around these obstacles remains remarkable, and when I wanted to confine the Roomba to a space, I used of the included virtual walls.
As vacuums go, the Roomba 770 does a good job of cleaning up most debris. I’d say 90 percent of what I dropped on the floor got picked up. It’s still slower than a traditional vacuum, but then you can’t set and forget a Hoover. A standard vacuum typically does a better job of cleaning, perhaps, because our own natural sensors for dirt are still better than Roomba’s. On the other hand, you might vacuum more often if you didn’t have to push a vacuum yourself. Granted, the Roomba 770 is expensive compared with some traditional vacuums, and there is a much less-expensive $300 Roomba option. That model, the iRobot Roomba 530, though, eschews the updated dirt detection system, won’t tell you when its dirt bin is full, cannot navigate from room to room and lacks HEPA filters. It’s also less powerful than the 770. If you’re going to go the automated cleaning route, you might as well get something that truly knows its way around dirt and your home. A standard vacuum will save you money, but not your precious time, and isn’t time money?
iRobot Roomba 770 Pros and Cons
- The control pad is easy to use. You just control the Roomba with your fingertips.
- The self-charging is amazing. When the Roomba’s battery is low, then the vacuum will return to the dock and recharge itself.
- The full bin indicator lets you know when it is time to empty the bin.
- The cleaning strokes of the Roomba offers extensive cleaning in dirty areas. The back-and-forth motion gets all the dirt picked up.
- The Roomba gets the edges of the wall, curtains and under furniture. It does more cleaning than I would normally (this goes for all of the robotic vacuums).
- The dual HEPA filter gets all dust and dander off the floor.
- It allows for several room cleaning or a one room cleaning.
- A longer lasting battery.
- The scheduling allows up to seven times a week to be scheduled.
- A full 30-day warranty
- The Roomba is louder than what I expected in this tiny vacuum.
- It doesn’t always get in fine lines. The cracks of wood floors is one area where if small sand is present, then it doesn’t pick up great in this area.
- It sometimes forgets where the dock is.
- The CD that is provided for a manual is a hassle if you have any questions or problem with the Roomba.
- The bin could be bigger. It picks up a lot of dirt and the bin fills up pretty fast.
iRobot Roomba 770 Features
- Advanced Cleaning Head: Designed with pet owners in mind, the new cleaning head provides superior performance for picking up pet hair, dirt, dust, allergens and more
- AeroVac™ Series 2 Bin: Employs a powerful vacuum to vigorously pull debris and hair off brushes into the bin. The distributed air collection and clog-resistant design of the AeroVac Series 2 Bin optimizes vacuum effectiveness and dirt and hair packing efficiency.
- Dual HEPA Air Filters: Capture dust particles as fine as 0.3 microns, limiting the recirculation of fine particles and leaving fresher, healthier air behind
- Clean under the bed and other hard-to-reach areas.
- Roomba provides comprehensive cleaning coverage – vacuuming in tight spots, under and around furniture and along baseboards.
- Persistent Pass Cleaning Method: Employs a back and forth cleaning pattern to apply elbow grease in areas where it senses excessive dirt
- iAdapt Technology monitors the cleaning environment more than 60 times per second, using multiple sensors (like cliff detection) and dozens of behaviors (including wall following) to clean your home.
- Molded Soft-Touch Bumper: Cushions the contact made between Roomba’s bumper and walls, furniture and other objects, protecting household items while it cleans
- Dirt Detect Series 2: Uses optical and acoustic sensors to find dirt and debris, performing concentrated cleaning in the dirtiest areas and ensuring the whole floor is clean
- Roomba knows which areas to clean – and those to avoid. Auto Virtual Wall® barriers emit an infrared beam that Roomba won’t cross, keeping the robot in the rooms you want to clean and out of the ones you don’t. Plus, Roomba charges itself, going back to its Home Base® to dock and recharge between cleanings.
- Extended-Life Power Management: Roomba 770 uses sophisticated power management software to deliver up to 50% longer battery life than previous Roomba generations, ensuring hundreds of cleaning cycles under proper use
- On-Board Scheduling: Cleans when it’s convenient for you, up to 7 times per week
What’s In The Box:
- 1 iRobot Roomba 770
- 1 Rechargeable Battery
- 1 Battery Charger (3-hour charge time)
- 1 Compact Self-Charging Home Base
- 2 Auto Virtual Walls (each requires 2 C batteries, not included)
- 1 Extra Filter
- 2 Brush Cleaning Tools
- 1 Remote Control
- 1 Instructional DVD
- 1-Year Manufacturer’s Limited Warranty On Robot, 6-Month Manufacturer’s Limited Warranty On Battery
- Package Dimensions: 19 x 5 x 21.5 inches
- Package Weight: 14.5 lbs.
- Robot Dimensions: 13.9 inches in diameter, 3.6 inches in height
- Robot Weight: 8.4 lbs.
iRobot Roomba 700 Series Manual
You can download iRobot Roomba 700 series manual from our site by this link. You can use it for 770 too.