The Roomba is all but a cultural touchstone now, an emblem of automation and a sort of next age for the home appliance. To think that this was built upon a thing that you still had to empty and clean out – every... single... time...
iRobot has finally made that encumbrance a thing of the past with the Roomba i7+, a vastly improved version of its leading robot vacuum. Now, Roomba can start vacuuming your house with a brief utterance to your smart speaker, and it now even empties its dust bin into a larger, easily manageable dock that doubles as a trash can – automatically.
This is the next logical step for Roomba, and at first glance (and touch), we’re very much here for it.
Price and availability
The Roomba i7+ is available for pre-order right now, and will start shipping on September 12 for $699 (about £530, AU$940) on its own or for $949 (about £715, AU$1,270) with the Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal dock included.
For those keeping score, the current best robot vacuum from iRobot, the Roomba 980, called for $899 (about £680, AU$1,200) at launch, so it’s only another 50 bucks or quid than you’re used to from iRobot’s flagship vacuums. Similarly, the Roomba i7+ on its own costs the same as the Roomba 960 did at launch, an impressive feat considering the smarts inside.
If you’re comparing this against competing high-end robot vacuums, the Roomba i7+ remains largely competitive with its rivals – at least without the fancy, new dock. Neato’s best vacuum, the Botvac D7 Connected, costs just as much, while Shark’s best competitor comes in at $200 (about £150, AU$270) less than either option.
Design and performance
The Roomba i7+ looks an awful lot like its predecessors at first glance, but contains so many more differences once you flip the machine upside-down. Before getting into that, one thing about the vacuum’s shell that’s markedly different here is that the LED now blinks and shines different colors depending on its current state.
Once you flip the vacuum over, you’ll immediately notice some improvements to the rubber rollers that pull in dirt, as there are now more – and more refined – grooves for better pickup. Also, the dust bin that’s attached to the vacuum has been improved, both for easier emptying manually and automatically.
Automatic emptying is handled via a new vacuum port that, when the vacuum is docked, attaches to a vacuum port in the dock that immediately sucks up whatever is in the dust bin into the Clean Base. The dust and debris is then stored in disposable bags that can hold up to 30 bins’ worth of debris.
At that point, you’ll be alerted to replace the bag via the connected iRobot app for smartphones. These ‘Dirt Disposal’ bags are available via iRobot for $14.99 per pack of three bags.
This alleviates what is arguably the most annoying part of using a robot vacuum: emptying the bin. However, it’s clear that this product introduces a cost of operation that few, if any, other robot vacuums require.
That said, even if you run your Roomba i7+ daily, that adds up to a rather tiny operating cost of around 15 bucks or quid every two to three months. That’s not too shabby, but you might bristle at how much cash iRobot stands to make on these bag replacements.
As for how the Roomba i7+ performs, iRobot has vastly improved its leading vacuum’s smart navigation capabilities. Now, rather than just map a single room and forget it after the job is done, the Roomba i7+ uploads maps of every room in your home securely to iRobot’s cloud servers.
However, your Roomba i7+ won’t come out of box knowing how every room in your home is laid out. It will have to learn them through its first few cleanings. During this process, the cleaning pattern of the Roomba i7+ will look much like that of the Roomba 980, as viewable through the companion app.
Then, once your Roomba i7+ has uploaded detailed maps of your room layouts, it will assume a much more efficient cleaning pattern of pacing across each room in as straight of lines as possible. iRobot calls this ‘Imprint Smart Mapping,’ and claims that this new method will save both energy and time.
The mapping system can strangely remember only up to 10 floor plans at a time, which you can name either with set names or custom names. We imagine this is both because iRobot isn’t charging users to store their floor plans in its cloud servers and that its servers only have so much space for everyone’s Roomba i7+ maps.
Once you rope Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant AI services into the mix, this robot vacuum’s value proposition blows wide open. Once connected with either service through the iRobot companion app, you can quite literally say, “Hey Google, clean Joey’s room,” and the Roomba i7+ will undock and bee-line it straight for the room you requested.
This is the true power of iRobot’s new mapping system, as it drills the process of getting your Roomba to clean a room down to a single sentence uttered. All you have to worry about is emptying the Clean Base once a month or so – and cleaning the vacuum’s rollers every so often.
The iRobot Roomba i7+ is an impressive new development for iRobot’s line of robot vacuums, and a logical next step for the product category. Roomba was already enough for us to leave sweeping and vacuuming ourselves in the dust, but now it’s practically irresistible.
That’s not to say that you won’t pay dearly for this ultimate evolution of Roomba, even after you’ve put up the price of entry. You’ll just have to decide whether both the upfront and recurring costs of owning this Roomba are worth the level of convenience it offers. We’ll be making sure of just that in a full review soon enough.