September 23, 2023

iRobot’s latest robotic vacuums are smarter and extra highly effective, and the mopping bot can scrub your flooring extra deeply. At the least, that’s what the corporate is claiming because it launches its latest flagships: the $1,399 Roomba Combo j9 Plus vacuum / mop and the $899 j9 Plus vacuum. Each fashions can be found to pre-order now at within the US and Canada. iRobot additionally launched two midrange robotic vacuums that may mop final week.

iRobot is clearly feeling the pressure from its many, many rivals. These newest fashions give attention to bringing extra smarts, energy, and scrubbing motion to maintain up with the likes of Ecovacs, Roborock, and Dreame, who’re launching ever extra fantastical house cleansing bots.  

Let’s begin with the Combo j9 Plus. It has the identical retractable mop system because the Combo j7, which ingeniously lifts the robotic mop up and over the vacuum so it received’t contact your carpets. Many of the competitors offers with the issue of dragging soiled mops over the carpet by lifting up their mop pads a couple of millimeters, which may be a difficulty with higher-pile rugs.

I cherished the retractable mop once I examined the Combo j7, however the precise mopping was solely so-so — it didn’t actually scrub, and it was simply outclassed by the oscillating mop pads and spinning mop heads of combo vacs from Roborock and others.

iRobot’s reply to the competitors, which it calls SmartScrub, is really fairly good. Quite than redesign the mopping equipment, iRobot has your complete robotic transfer backwards and forwards, mimicking the best way you scrub the ground with a guide mop.

It doesn’t do that in each room; SmartScrub combines with one other new software program function referred to as Filth Detective (extra on this later) to focus on rooms prone to want it, corresponding to kitchens and entryways. You too can select to allow it on a room-by-room foundation within the app. Better of all, SmartScrub can also be coming to the Combo j7 Plus through a software program replace.

The Roomba Combo j9 Plus is iRobot’s latest flagship robotic and options increased suction energy and an auto-empty, charging dock that refills its mopping tank reservoir and doubles as a aspect desk.
Picture: iRobot

The Combo j9’s different new function is a redesigned auto-empty / charging dock that now robotically refills the mop’s water tank. That is one thing I felt was lacking once I reviewed the Combo j7 Plus; it’s important to refill that mop reservoir manually. 

The lower-priced $899 j9 Plus is a vacuum-only model of the Combo j9 Plus and comes with the identical dock because the j7. Each new fashions have the identical AI impediment avoidance that arrived on the Roomba line with the j7 — so will skirt frequent family litter and the canine poop that robotic vac firms assume is throughout our houses. It is necessary to notice this function makes use of a digital camera that’s on the vacuum.

The corporate additionally says that the j9 Plus fashions are Roomba’s strongest to this point. iRobot doesn’t launch Pa numbers however says it’s 100% extra highly effective than the i collection. (That mentioned, iRobot’s suction energy claims typically really feel intentionally obtuse — its web site says each the j collection and that i collection are 10 occasions as highly effective because the 600 collection, whereas the s9 is 40 occasions extra highly effective. Assuming the j9 is twice as highly effective because the i collection, that’s nonetheless solely half as highly effective because the s9. We’ve reached out to iRobot for clarification.)

The brand new bots will skirt frequent family litter and the canine poop that robotic vac firms assume is throughout our houses

Each new fashions ship with Model 7.0 of iRobot OS, which introduces an intriguing function referred to as Filth Detective. This learns which rooms in your house are the dirtiest and cleans these first. iRobot says this analyzes previous cleansing preferences, patterns, and timing to robotically prioritize rooms that want probably the most consideration.

Filth Detective works with a function launched in iRobot OS 6.0 that robotically identifies room varieties utilizing its onboard digital camera. So it guesses a room with a fridge and an oven could be the kitchen (you may alter these names within the app). It’s also good sufficient to know to scrub the lavatory final, avoiding the potential of smearing any rest room particles over your rugs. 

The Combo j9 dock provides a water tank (prime) and a bigger storage space for baggage and spare mop pads, plus a wooden accent desk on prime.
Picture: iRobot

The j9 Plus has the identical dock because the j7 Plus. It costs the robotic and robotically empties its bin.
Picture: iRobot

Curiously, the brand new dock for the Combo j9 doesn’t have a grimy water tank — a function on competitor docks from Roborock and Ecovacs. It’s because it doesn’t clear the mop pad; as a substitute, you’re anticipated to take away it and wash it. This does away with the potential for gunky grungy docks, an actual hazard with the brand new multifunction docks should you do not hold them clear. Nevertheless, the Roomba’s mop pad is thinner and smaller than the competitors’s, so I am skeptical as to how efficient it will likely be.

iRobot is lastly bringing suction-level choices to its vacuums

Roomba’s present auto-empty dock, which stays for j9 Plus, is the best-designed of the present crop of docks, wanting extra like a bit of furnishings than others. A enjoyable twist is that the brand new Combo j9 dock can be a bit of furnishings; they’ve designed the highest to be a aspect desk.

iRobot additionally says its new dock is far quieter than the earlier model when auto-emptying — a course of that on the present dock sounds rather a lot like a jet engine taking off in your front room. 

Talking of quiet, iRobot is lastly bringing suction-level choices to its vacuums. On the j9 fashions solely, now you can select between low, medium, and excessive suction ranges within the app. An choice on each different robotic vacuum cleaner on the market, iRobot hasn’t let customers have this kind of management earlier than. The principle profit is having the ability to let your vacuum run on low if you’re house with out it annoying you or your loved ones members.

The Filth Detective function on the Roomba j9 line will customise settings like suction energy and the variety of cleansing passes room by room. 
Picture: iRobot

I spoke to Colin Angle, iRobot’s CEO, forward of the launch, and he defined that the technique with these new robots is to get again to fundamentals with robotic vacuums. “The options you’re ‘supposed’ to need are spinning pads, lasers [lidar navigation], and lengthy battery life,” he mentioned. “However what you actually need are cleansing, ease of use, and can it get again to the dock.”

He’s not incorrect right here — it doesn’t matter what number of fancy includes a bot has; if it will get caught, it’s not going to scrub your home. In my testing of bots with spinning mops, I’ve observed they’re extra susceptible to getting caught; large flappy mops protruding the aspect are a particular journey hazard. Nevertheless, they do a superb job of scrubbing your flooring. We’ll need to see whether or not the Combo j9’s new scrubbing motion will make up for that after I get these new fashions in for testing.