iRobot’s new Roomba might fix some of the biggest issues with robot vacuums

The Roomba Combo j9+ sucking up some cereal on a carpet in a kitchen
(Image credit: iRobot)

iRobot has announced two new robot vacuums in its Roomba line, the Roomba j9+ and Roomba Combo j9+, and they come with some serious upgrades over previous models. Not only are they more capable cleaners (they're already looking like some of the best robot vacuums out there), iRobot promises that they’re a lot smarter too – with a prettier docking station to boot that offers both fashion and function.

Thanks to its new and improved real-time navigation, the Roomba can recognize a slew of common floor obstructions like shoes, chords, backpacks, and pet bowls and avoid them so it isn’t as likely to get into trouble while cleaning your home.

iRobot also says this new vacuum can tell the difference between pet waste and, say, a pile of popcorn. It's something other robot vacuums may struggle with, and sometimes with disastrous consequences. The brand is so confident with the quality of its smart object detection that it has a Pet Owner Official Promise in which it pledges to replace any Roomba j9+ that doesn’t avoid pet waste.

Best of all, the Combo j9+ has the same improved mop design found on the Roomba Combo j7+ model. Usually, the mop attachment sits underneath the robot; it drops down when needed and rises up when not. However, even in the raised position, there’s not often an awful lot of clearance between the mop and floor so it’s not uncommon for the mop to brush along objects when your robot is straddling two surfaces of different heights – such as a hard floor and a thick rug. This can lead to some of the dirt transferring from the mop to the rug and other surfaces, turning your cleaning robot into a dirt-spreading machine.

Both the Combo j9+ and Combo j7+ have a mop that folds down from a compartment on top of the Roomba while in use, and when it’s done it folds back up – meaning there’s no chance of it accidentally brushing along surfaces it shouldn’t. Plus it’s super easy to change the mop head to clean it and replace it with a new one while the vacuum is docked in a base station.

A Roomba j9+ navigating a child's room which has socks and boots strewn over it - and a girl drawing on the floor.

(Image credit: iRobot)

Speaking of the base station, it’s also getting a refreshed design to turn it into a piece of furniture you aren’t ashamed to show off in your home. As Colin Angle (CEO and co-founder of iRobot) put it in a briefing we attended ahead of this announcement, “Whether you like it or not, your docking station is going to be on display… it’s not like a small charging station you can hide behind your couch.” 

With this in mind, iRobot has tried to take a more fashion-focused approach. You’ll still get a dock that can automatically charge your Roomba and empty it (with storage for up to 60 days worth of dirt – and 30 days of clean water for Roombas with a mop) but it’s now clad in black textured plastic and a faux wooden top that you could decorate with a couple of houseplants, or put it by your couch to use the station as a small table. The design actually looks quite pretty and could hide in plain sight in a modern-styled home.

iRobot acknowledged that this fashion-focused design falls apart if the station gets grimy and smelly, so it’s taking steps to help it stay clean. The new mop placement will help prevent your Roomba from smearing it in dirt, and because the station only stores clean water rather than dirty liquid it shouldn’t have a tank you need to spend lots of time cleaning each month to avoid odor.

That said, to really know how well the new Roomba and base station designs work we’ll need to try them out for ourselves – there’s only so much we can learn from a five-minute demonstration.

If you’re already sold on the new Roomba designs then they’ll be up for pre-sale in Europe beginning September 11 – with international availability coming later in September and 2023 (we don’t have exact dates yet). The base Roomba j9+ robot vacuum will set you back $899 / £999 while the Combo model with a mop will cost $1,399 / £1,249. We’re waiting to hear back about pricing and availability in Australia, but they’d be around AU$1,400 and AU$2,185 respectively based on exchange rates.

The Roomba Combo j9+ sits in its dock in a person's living room while a person pets their dog on the couch

(Image credit: iRobot)

Improvements for your existing Roomba 

iRobot isn’t just launching new Roombas in the coming months, it’s also rolling out a new iRobot OS 7 update with its j9+ and Combo j9+ models. Best of all, one of the new features will come to your current j7+, if you have one.

The j9+ exclusive feature is Dirt Detective. Based on its cleaning history and your habits, iRobot says, your Roomba will automatically learn which rooms it should prioritize on a clean, how it should best clean each room, and which rooms it should tackle last – such as only mopping your bathroom after it’s done with the rest of your home.

Both the j9+ and j7+ lines will be getting SmartScrub. Rather than just wiping over your floors, if there’s a tough mess you can instruct your Roomba to scrub the floor with consistent downward pressure and a forward and backward motion – like a human would when they’re scrubbing a floor. According to iRobot, this feature provides two times deeper scrubbing compared to a typical robot vacuum. 

Again, we’ll have to try this feature out to see how effective it is in practice, but it certainly sounds like a solid improvement for the new Roomba and the existing j7+.

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Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.