iRobot Roomba i3+ vacuum cleaner Review: The price of lazy is not cheap

“You don't need a robotic vacuum cleaner, you want one.” If any of your conversations ever went like that, it would be a very different dialogue now, post-pandemic. Nine to ten hours of office work, cooking, a zillion dishes waiting in the sink and then comes cleaning. At a time like this, a robotic vacuum cleaner like the iRobot products seemed like a really tempting option. This wasn’t exactly my situation, but lounging all day and enjoying free home-cooked food without paying a penny may have guilted me into doing my bit.

Image: Tech2/Priya Singh

I recently took up the biggest chore of the day: cleaning. I cheated, however. My performance enhancer: an iRobot Roomba i3+ vacuum cleaner; I named her Irona. Irona was the name of a member of Richie Rich's robot household staff, one that I always dreamt of having back when I was a kid.

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This one doesn’t quite fight villains or turn into a helicopter, but it can communicate what it needs, acts on simple voice command, manages to keep the place squeaky-clean and takes the trash out on its own! Cool!

But, like every other cool thing, it costs a bit of money.

A giant, cleaning hockey puck

Image: Tech2/Priya Singh

If you’ve seen one robot vacuum cleaner, you’ve seen them all. They all look the same: boring, black, round like a hockey puck, just a lot bigger and bulkier. The iRobot Roomba comes with a textured top that helps keep it scratch free and clean. Unfortunately, it only comes in black. It features three physical buttons on top: Clean, Home and Spot. The Clean button lights up in different colours while performing different tasks. While cleaning, it glows white, blue when it is returning to its docking station and red while charging. Speaking of the dock, it is a dust-collecting charging unit for this vacuum cleaner. It looks subtle, does not occupy a lot of space but definitely catches the eye. It also comes with a dust bag inside it that can hold dirt for “60 days”, depending on the amount of dirt in your house.

Image: Tech2/Priya Singh

Flipping over the vacuum cleaner, we see a dirt compartment or “Clean Base” as the company calls it, two rubber tyres and an edge sweeping brush.

Clumsy at first, but keeps the place squeaky clean!

To be honest, the first time I used this vacuum cleaner, it was quite frustrating to watch it bump into every obstacle over and over again! It felt like a hopeless situation to me.

But, to my surprise, it learnt its way around my house after a couple of attempts. You can schedule a routine; ensure that the charging dock is plugged in at the time. I was disappointed to find that I could not mark any restricted areas or assign a name for the room while assigning a cleaning job, because the i3+ does not come with smart mapping like it's pricier siblings.

I took comfort in the fact that it does the assigned job quite efficiently. It gobbled up dust and debris, and eventually made its way around stuff effortlessly such as with tables, chairs, the bed or other obstacles. You can also choose between “One Pass”, “Two Pass” and “Automatic”, so that the i3+ cleans according to your preferences.

It even managed to pick up hair and tiny particles from carpets. If you have shedding pets, you might want to look into this more seriously. Unfortunately, it did not sense that it was about to fall down a staircase. Thus, I learned the hard way that it is really important to ensure that stairs are not on its route, unless you want to supervise your automatic cleaning robot.

The headline feature of this vacuum cleaner is its self-emptying bin. Most such products come with a tiny dust container which occasionally needs to be emptied in the middle of a job, if your house is large enough. But this one makes sure that you don't have to chaperone it; it empties itself every time it returns to its dock after finishing a cleaning job.

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The i3+ is quite quiet while cleaning, but light sleepers will still notice, so avoid scheduling cleanups during bedtime. It gets noisy while emptying the bin, but that lasts about 10 seconds, so it is not much bother.

As for the battery, the company did not reveal the battery capacity, the unit did clean for about 80 minutes before it needed to charge. Notably, you cannot unplug the charging station even when the vacuum cleaner is fully charged, as the battery starts draining.

User-friendly? Yes and no

The i3+ uses a companion iRobot app compatible with both Android and iOS. The app is easy to navigate and use, but it is restricted to only one user, which was quite off-putting for me. Every time someone other than me had to give the vacuum cleaner a command, they had to use the buttons, or ask me to do it.

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On the bright side, a simple "ok Google, ask Irona to start vacuuming" voice command got it going. The vacuum cleaner comes with support for Alexa and Google Assistant.

The app also shows you a map of the cleaned area and how much time it took to complete. You can schedule routines for the vacuum cleaner, and just sit back and relax!

Verdict

The iRobot Roomba i3+ is a fantastic vacuum cleaner with a user-friendly app, efficient at cleaning and isn't noisy. You can get these features in competing products, but the self-cleaning feature gives it an edge.

Should you buy it? Well, that depends on whether you really NEED a robotic vacuum cleaner. Okay, it’s the pandemic and some of us are still working from home, so you probably can make the case for it. But can you make the case for its Rs 69,999 price tag? There are much cheaper options such as the Mi Robot Vacuum Mop-P at just Rs 24,999, but that needs manual cleaning of the tiny dust bin. This makes sense for most small households, but the Roomba has the edge for larger homes, where it is hands-off for the most part. We still think that it should have come with the full complement of smart mapping features, considering its prodigious price.



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