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iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ Robot Vacuum Mop Review: Effective, but Expensive

Among the oldest names in the business of consumer-grade cleaning robots, iRobot made the news in 2022 after Amazon announced that it would acquire it, subject to regulator approvals. With that plan seemingly on track, iRobot continues to progress with its plans all over, particularly in India where it has now launched its latest and most capable product yet. Touted as the first iRobot product to feature both vacuuming and wet-mopping abilities in one, the Roomba Combo j7+ is available now for Rs. 89,900.

The company’s product range has, thus far, been split across the two functions. Roomba devices offering vacuum cleaning, while its Braava devices offer wet mopping functionality. The expectation is that you’ll buy both and have them work together to clean your home. However, this also makes things quite expensive, and competing devices have for long offered products with a combination of the two functions.

The Roomba Combo j7+ is iRobot’s answer to this, promising more capable handling of both of these functions thanks to the company’s extensive experience, expertise, and software capabilities. However, at its price, it’s also considerably more expensive than competing options from Xiaomi, 360, and Ecovacs.

What does the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ offer, and how does it perform? Find out in this review.

irobot roomba combo j7plus review camera iRobot

The iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ uses a camera for navigation and visibility, along with a useful headlight for low-light effectiveness

iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ review: design

As mentioned, the concept of a robot which can vacuum and mop simultaneously isn’t new. Much of iRobot’s competition has offered this for some time now, while iRobot has maintained a split in its range; Roomba devices such as the regular j7+ are vacuum cleaners, while Braava devices such as the Jet M6 are mopping robots.

With the introduction of the Roomba Combo series, iRobot is now offering both vacuum cleaning and mopping in one device. However, as the ‘Roomba’ name suggests, this is a vacuum cleaner first, with mopping added as a secondary function, unlike on the Braava series where significantly more attention is put into the quality and capabilities of the mopping functionality. Users with a big budget and and eye for cleaning detail might still prefer the split range, but the Roomba Combo j7+ will appeal to those looking for a more efficient and cost-effective single device solution.

In terms of design, the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ is expectedly a lot like the Roomba j7+. The similarities include the general design and button at the top, the camera and ‘headlight’ at the front, and the flexible bumper to protect the robot from the light collisions that frequently take place while it’s working.

The underside features a single sweeping brush, rubber roller brushes for the main vacuum zone, and a vent for the automatic dirt disposal system to pull waste from the dustbin of the Roomba Combo j7+. The key differences in design are in two areas — the dustbin doubles up as a water tank for the mopping functionality, and the mop cloth attaches on a hinged mechanical apparatus which stays at the top of the Combo j7+ when not in use.

This has a couple of key advantages; you can easily access the mop cloth for cleaning when needed, and this also keeps the cloth away from the floor (including carpets and any messes) when not needed. It’s also quite impressive to watch when the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ extends or retracts the mop cloth.

Included in the sales package of the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ are an additional sweeping brush and dust filter (apart from the ones already attached to the device), two mop cloths designed specifically for use with this device, a single bottle of the recommended cleaning fluid to be added to the tank with water, and the Clean Base docking station, which itself comes with two disposal dirt bags. Notably, you can also buy the iRobot Roomba Combo j7 variant, which comes with the standard, non-self-emptying charging dock.

iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ review: navigation and mapping

Like the Roomba j7+, the Combo device also uses vSLAM (Visual Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) technology for navigation, working with its front-facing camera to not only create a map for basic navigation, but also spot and avoid obstacles more efficiently.

irobot roomba combo j7plus review close iRobot

The mop cloth attaches at the back of the device, with a mechanism which extends and retracts the cloth as needed

As before, the camera is aided by a headlight which illuminates when in use and is particularly handy when the j7+ is working in the dark. This is where camera-based robots tend to falter when compared to laser-based devices which can ‘see’ just as effectively in the dark, so it’s a useful touch that ensures the j7+ isn’t hampered in its movement even in poor lighting conditions.

Since I’ve tested an iRobot device previously, signing in to the iRobot app (available on iOS and Android) with my previously used login details immediately fetched the cleaning map and brought the robot up to speed with the layout of my house. There had been a few changes in the layout of the furniture, so I had the device do a mapping run nonetheless, after which the map was updated to the current layout with no trouble at all.

The map is also continuously tweaked with every run, and was considerably less buggy in terms of errors and mapping inaccuracies, as compared to the 360 S7 which I typically use.

That said, there were occasions where navigation and movement were iffy. The iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ drove off a ‘cliff’ once, fortunately a short one that didn’t damage or flip the robot but one it couldn’t climb back over on its own. On another occasion, it got itself stuck in a narrow gap between a sofa and a wall that should have been avoided in the first place.

Usefully, the device seemed to learn from its mistakes, and with a bit of tweaking of the map such as setting up no-go zones or virtual walls. That said, you can’t view the robot’s location on the map or the cleaning status while a cleaning task is in progress. You’ll have to wait till the task is completed, and the iRobot app generates a report for the task.

When moving around normally while cleaning, the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ is quite quick, and considerably faster than most other robot vacuum cleaners I’ve used. Initially, the device was a bit unpredictable in the paths it took, and sometimes appeared to be tentative — almost as though it was trying to figure out what to do next. After a few cleaning tasks, things fortunately became a bit more uniform and straightforward.

The app lets you set carpet zones, which the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ will specifically retract its mop for when cleaning, to avoid making a mess of your carpets. You can also set this for any regular hard floors as well if you like, demarcating areas you want to avoid getting wet for whatever reason. As a result, the device will sometimes stop to go through the retraction or extension process, which tends to slow the overall cleaning time down a bit. Ordinarily, the device had no trouble driving over carpeted areas in my home.

irobot roomba combo j7plus review dustbin tank iRobot

The dustbin of the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ doubles up as a water tank for the mopping functionality

The iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ needs to have a strong connection to your Wi-Fi in order to work with the app, so you’ll need to set up the docking station fairly close to your router. However, it was able to work even in rooms where Wi-Fi connectivity was sketchy, using its knowledge of the map to move around and return to the dock even with no direct line-of-sight to the Clean Base station.

iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ review: app

Arguably among the better designed and implemented apps for robot vacuum cleaners right now, the iRobot app (available on iOS and Android) is quite easily the most stable and easy to use in my opinion, among the various devices in this category. It’s also one that has changed very little over recent years, and as mentioned, fetched an existing map profile for my home as soon as I signed into the app.

Another useful feature that is surprisingly not present on all products in this category is the ability to log in with the same profile on multiple devices, allowing family members to also have control over the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+. In most other ways, it’s a straightforward and uncomplicated user experience, and one that generally works without any issues such as server delays or connection faults.

As before, you can also choose to empty the dust bin, modify the map or add new maps (useful if you have a multi-floor home), create cleaning schedules, view cleaning history, and view the estimated ‘health’ of the consumable components of the Roomba Combo j7+ such as the vacuum filter and brushes. While you can quickly start new jobs with custom preferences, you might prefer to create favourites, which will allow you to carry out most cleaning jobs with a single tap.

You can also usefully create cleaning ‘zones’, which can be a smaller section of a specific room, and then start a cleaning job or create a favourite job for that specific zone. It’s a bit more complicated on the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ than how the more navigationally-accurate Lidar-based cleaning robots handle this same function, but it’s a useful feature to have nonetheless, and covers for one of the main drawbacks of camera-based navigation.

irobot roomba combo j7plus review underside iRobot

Apart from the brushes, the underside has the vent for the Automatic Dirt Disposal system, which works with the included Clean Base docking station

The obvious changes in the app primarily pertain to the mopping functionality, including being able to view the level of water in the tank for mopping, specifying whether you want only vacuum cleaning or both vacuum cleaning and mopping in individual runs or favourite tasks, and differences in the map view when seeing completed runs where mopping and vacuuming are displayed in different shades.

The iRobot app also lets you activate smart home integrations as the device is compatible with Alexa, Google Home, and Siri, which can be used either on your smartphone or through smart speakers. You can also set up basic automations through the app itself, which uses your phone’s location (once you’ve given permission) to initiate cleaning either when you enter or leave your home.

iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ review: cleaning and battery life

Most cleaning robots from other brands offer more customisability, and the ability to set parameters such as suction power and the like. In comparison, iRobot continues to go with a simplified approach to cleaning, where the device decides on its own how much suction power to use depending on its own systems and algorithms. However, you do get to choose how many passes the robot makes when cleaning (one or two) and also set the water flow level when mopping.

Naturally, the highest level will release the most water, but will also empty the water tank faster. You might prefer a medium or low setting depending on the flooring of your home and other factors. I found that the ‘Standard’ setting was ideal for the predominantly granite floors of my home. ‘Eco’ barely gave the impression of an effective mopping run, while ‘Ultra’ was far too wet and emptied the tank before the device could even complete the run in my roughly 900-square-foot home. The ‘Standard’ level almost emptied the tank itself, but fortunately not before completing a mopping run.

iRobot does not recommend the use of off-the-shelf floor cleaners or additives, since these can damage the cleaning robot. The bundled liquid isn’t much and will run out quickly, so you’ll have to consider the cost of buying additional bottles directly from iRobot. Alternatively, you can just use regular water as the additive is entirely optional.
 Vacuum cleaning alone was a fair bit quicker than vacuum cleaning and mopping together, understandably, since the device didn’t have to slow down for carpet zones or spend time extending or retracting the mop cloth. A full run with only vacuum cleaning took around 45 minutes in my home, with mopping adding around 20 minutes to the time.

Cleaning individual rooms was naturally quicker, and was usually how I operated the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+, focusing on just one or two rooms per day. On the whole, the time was a fair bit longer than some other devices despite the faster speed of the robot itself, but this largely showed in the more careful and effective cleaning.

irobot roomba combo j7plus review logo iRobot

This is iRobot’s first product which can vacuum and mop simultaneously, although competitor products have offered this combination for a while now

Apart from the aforementioned effectiveness of the cleaning offered by the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+, the device is also reasonably quiet in regular operation. This isn’t to say that it makes no noise at all; you’ll still hear it at work even from a different room, but the noise isn’t unpleasant or disruptive in any way. If it’s dealing with a specific mess or spillage, you’ll hear the suction power bump up briefly, before reducing again once the mess is cleaned.

While I don’t have any rugs or carpets in my home, the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ was able to clean a few small mats quite well. The suction power was usually enough to handle everyday dust accumulation, and even small bits of food or scraps of paper fallen on the floor. This device can be used effectively as an everyday cleaning option, as long as you’re able to manually do a thorough job with both vacuum cleaning and mopping every few days.

The Clean Base docking station is the same as the one on the iRobot Roomba j7+, and ensures that you don’t have to manually clean out the on-device dustbin every few days. The docking station activates a powerful suction mechanism for a few seconds, to evacuate the dustbin on command. You can either trigger this manually through the app, or set the device to automatically clean out the dustbin after every cleaning task.

This dirt is stored in a dust bag in the Clean Base station, which will eventually get full and will need to be disposed of; iRobot claims that one bag is good for up to 60 days of cleaning. There is one additional bag provided with the device on purchase, but you’ll need to buy more from iRobot after this, priced at Rs. 1,890 for a pack of three.

For charging, the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ drives onto the docking station on its own after completing the task, or if the battery is running low while in the middle of a cleaning task. In the former case, it’ll stay docked and charged till it’s needed next, while in the latter case, it will charge to a reasonable level before automatically heading out to complete the job.

Since the app does not show specific battery levels, it’s hard to accurately gauge how long the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ can run on a single charge. In my experience, the device would drop to around the 25 percent battery level after a full vacuum-mop cleaning run of my home, so you could expect it to run for around 90 minutes before needing a charge.

The area that can be cleaned in this time entirely depends on the layout of your home, but it should be good to clean around 1,200-square-feet of hard flooring in one go, by my estimates. Charging itself is relatively slow, with the device taking a little under four hours to go from the 25 percent level to a full charge. This isn’t typically a problem if you use the device once or twice a day or for one room at a time, but the adequacy of the battery life entirely depends on the size of your home and how you use the Roomba Combo j7+.

Verdict

It took iRobot a while, but the company finally has a single product that can vacuum and mop simultaneously. The previous approach of dedicated products for each function admittedly offers better cleaning and functionality, but it’s likely to be too expensive and impractical for many. That’s where this product levels the playing field and brings iRobot back into the fray against the competition.

That said, at Rs. 89,900, the Roomba Combo j7+ is still among the higher priced products in the segment right now even before you factor in the higher cost of the consumable spare parts. Options from brands such as Xiaomi, Milagrow, and Ecovacs are much more affordable on the whole. If you do choose the iRobot device, you can be assured of a very good overall experience, with a good app, decent battery life, the self-cleaning station, and very effective cleaning across both vacuuming and mopping functions.

Price: Rs. 89,900

Rating: 8/10

Pros:

  • Effective vacuum cleaning and mopping
  • Automatic dirt disposal system is useful and works well
  • Careful, thoughtful navigation and cleaning
  • Mop gets out of the way when you don’t need it
  • Easy-to-use app, convenient smart home functionality

Cons:

  • Very expensive to buy and operate
  • Navigation needs improvement
  • Mapping and cleaning reports only visible after jobs are done

Apple unveiled its first mixed reality headset, the Apple Vision Pro, at its annual developer conference, along with new Mac models and upcoming software updates. We discuss all the most important announcements made by the company at WWDC 2023 on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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Source: www.gadgets360.com

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