Roomba Robot Vacuum

Ever since the Roomba robot vacuum was introduced in September last year – spawning similar products from other manufacturers – iRobot has added two new models to the Roomba family this month. The Roomba Pro features a “spot cleaning” mode which focuses on a user-specified area, while the Roomba Pro Elite includes a remote control allowing for more cleaning options.

I, however, settled for the original Roomba, which I got from eBay at $50 less than what The Sharper Image, Crutchfield, Brookstone, Amazon or other retailers offered. It came with a good-sized rechargeable NiMH battery, which takes 12 hours to charge completely, though I think this is necessary considering the task at hand. A “virtual wall” unit is included so you can prevent the Roomba from crawling into areas beyond which you want it to clean, though it is equipped with sensors that prevent it from falling down stairs.

The box says, “Automatically cleans your floors while you enjoy life!” I beg to differ, unless you consider watching it do its job of cleaning your floors part of life’s enjoyment, which it so amusingly performs! It’s so fun to watch it do its job that I’d recommend you grab a cup of coffee and sit on the kitchen table, or whatever room you’re cleaning, and enjoy the seemingly intelligent robot go around obstacles and manage to get itself out of tight situations.

Its low profile allows it to go places where you’d normally have to reach far with any cleaning implement: under beds, couches and cabinets. The Roomba’s main enemies are rugs and fabric floormats, which will most certainly get stuck in its roller brushes. It is smart enough, however, to turn itself off and give an audible warning that it’s stuck. At this point, you simply lift it up using the attached handle and set it back down elsewhere. It is so good that I’ve never actually seen it miss a spot.

I left it cleaning my upstairs bedroom and could hear it bump into walls while I worked downstairs. The vacuum noise is pertty audible, though you can still hold a decent conversation while it does its job. I did hear something crash on the upstairs floor and discovered that it managed to nudge a hair dryer off a stool – it is quite strong in that sense, so don’t be surprised if your room ends up a little redecorated afterwards. I do not recommend that you let the Roomba do its job in the presence of children, as my nephew was so tempted to ride on it and I managed to stop him before he did.

Though I’m not exactly the neat and tidy guy with the Architectural Digest apartment, I was still amazed at the amount of gunk the Roomba managed to pick off my floor. The dust compartment isn’t exactly big, so it is recommended that you empty it out after every cleaning cycle. There are two, tiny rubber arms that extend beyond the circular Roomba that allows it to reach beyond its round limits, and pick the dust off those floor edges and kickboards.

All in all I’m very satisfied with my Roomba purchase, and suffice it to say that my house is a whole lot cleaner these days.

August 2003