Newest Review: ... room (I always leave mine running until the battery runs out) you have to remember that during this time you are off living your life.... more
I've seen the future - but it's not quite here yet
iRobot Roomba DVU00009
Member Name: LadyAudley
iRobot Roomba DVU00009
Date: 06/01/08, updated on 06/01/08 (129 review reads)
Advantages: Useful cleaning aid
Disadvantages: Battery life, build quality
A robot to do all the household chores? Surely that's everyone's dream?
I first heard about Roomba about five years ago. They're created by the slightly disturbingly named (for Asimov fans at least) iRobot corporation, a company that makes much more hitech systems (including robots for the American military, which may put some people off!) The concept sounded intriguing - a battery powered robotic hoover that you just turn on and leave to scurry around the room. It can sense walls and stairs, so when it hits them, it just turns around and heads off in another direction.
Then videos started appearing on websites in the States, showing a little circular disk flying round the room, busily cleaning the floor (scaring animals witless in the process) and beeping oh-so-cutely. I fell in love immediately, and had to get one.
Roomba is dead easy to set up, requiring no programming, and only a short initial charge before it's ready to go. Depending on the package you buy, it comes with one or two units which act as "virtual walls" that you can set up to confine the Roomba to a particular space - useful if your home is open plan. Once charged, all you need to do is to tell it how long you want it to clean (by pressing 'small', 'medium' or 'large' sized room buttons), and press "go", and off it scuttles. A small brush whirs out of one side for cleaning edges, while rotating brushes on the underside sweep up any debris on the floor. It's fascinating to watch- in fact, in the first month or so, I think my friends and I spent more time setting up Roomba obstacle courses than we did actually using it to clean!!
The stair and wall detector (which is mounted in the front of the machine) works brilliantly to steer Rooma: once it picks them up, simply spins round and heads off in a different direction. The robot's program actually does a pretty decent job of cleaning the floor too, covering the whole area fairly thoroughly.
Cleaning isn't too bad - though unfortunately, it's still no substitute for a proper hoover, so don't even think about buying this as a replacement. It simply won't pick up the same amount of debris and dirt, but it does do a fairly decent job of tidying up, so that you can go a bit longer before you lug the hoover round the house. Dirt is swept up into two little reservoirs - you have to remember to empty both - and is easily thrown away at the end of a cycle.
The Roomba also "talks" - though don't expect a dinner table conversation about the great Russian novelists. It has a "happy" beep that it emits when it's cleaning, another to tell you it's finished and a sad little moan that it makes if it gets stuck on rugs or under furniture (not too much of a problem, but does occasionally happen). There's also a tone to tell you that it needs recharging. To do this, you either plug it into the mains, or pop it onto a charging unit (depending on the model you have). A recharge takes anything between three and seven hours for one hour of cleaning power, so don't expect to use it again in five minutes.
The major disadvantages, however, are battery life and reliability. Batteries for these units are really expensive - around £60, and to my annoyance, mine went dead in just over a year even though I followed all the manufacturer's instructions to the letter. You have to be really careful here, because if you don't charge the battery correctly first time through, the Roomba will never work properly.
Build quality isn't first class, either, and with lots of little moving parts, the Roomba is also liable to break quite easily - in a year, the tread fell off one of the tyres, and the cleaning brush got badly bent out of shape. Since these units cost between £120 and £150, I expected something a bit better.
All in all, I think this product represents the future of home cleaning, but as yet, the execution is lacking. Better build quality and improved battery life are needed before it becomes a domestic necessity. However, it does offer some cleaning help, and I can see it being a great aid for older people, or those with disabilities.
Summary: A great design, but the execution is still lacking
|Ease of use:|