The cleaning robot space has many products from numerous brands today, but one of the earliest big names in the segment is American company iRobot. The original Roomba cleaning robot was launched in 2002, and its successors have become progressively better over the years in terms of core vacuuming capabilities as well as other features such as smart connectivity and battery life. One of iRobot's newest products in India takes automation of the cleaning process a step further, with automatic dirt disposal.
Priced at Rs. 69,900 in India, the iRobot Roomba i3+ comes with the company's Clean Base charging base station, which doubles up as a dirt collection system for the robot. This means that you won't have to empty the vacuum bin on the robot every few days, as is needed to be done on most cleaning robots. How does this work, and is the iRobot Roomba i3+ worth the price? Find out in this review.
The Clean Base docking station contains a vacuum mechanism and dust bag to clear out the robot's dustbin after every completed cleaning
What is the iRobot Roomba i3+, and what's in the box?
Most of the cleaning robots I've reviewed in recent months have been capable of both vacuum cleaning and mopping, but iRobot splits these two functions across separate products. The Braava range, with products such as the iRobot Braava Jet M6 exclusively mop, while the Roomba range is meant only for vacuum cleaning. In keeping with that, the iRobot Roomba i3+ is exclusively a robot vacuum cleaner, with no mopping capabilities.
A brush on the right side of the iRobot Roomba i3+ sweeps dirt into the vacuum zone of the robot. For movement, there are two mechanised wheels at the sides, and a third free wheel at the front for balance. The dust bin for the vacuum cleaner is at the back and can be removed easily if needed, while the charging contact points are at the front. Unlike most cleaning robots, there is no lid to access the inside of the iRobot Roomba i3+. The device has two rubber vacuum rollers, which can be removed for cleaning as needed.
Instead, the device has a textured finish at the top, with three buttons - Power / Clean, Home, and Spot Clean. The front has a large bumper to protect the iRobot Roomba i3+ from the shocks of bumping into objects and walls, and a module that contains the Reactive Sensor setup, which helps the device navigate around the home and find its way back to the docking station.
Also included in the box is the Clean Base docking station for the iRobot Roomba i3+. While most docking stations are small enough to slide under a sofa or sit inconspicuously in a corner, the Clean Base dock is a tall, large contraption that will need to be properly positioned for the robot to reach. The top of the Clean Base has a lid which lets you access the dirt bag, while the bottom has the charging contacts for the robot.
What makes the Clean Base unique is its ability to suck dirt out of the dust bin in the Roomba and deposit it into its own dust bag. This means you don't need to periodically and manually empty out the dust bin on the robot, but while it might sound convenient, there are some caveats, which I'll talk about later in this review. It's also worth pointing out here that you can buy the Rs. 49,900 iRobot Roomba i3, which is the same cleaning robot, but it comes with a normal charging dock instead of the more advanced Clean Base unit.
The iRobot Roomba i3+ has two mechanised wheels to move around, and a single sweeping brush
iRobot Roomba i3+ navigation and mapping
The navigation system on the iRobot Roomba i3+ is quite different from what I've seen on many of the mid-range and high-end devices I've reviewed. Reactive Sensor navigation works a bit better than the basic camera-based navigation used by devices such as the ILife A9s and Trifo Max Pet, but isn't quite as impressive as the laser-based navigation seen on devices such as the 360 S7.
Neither as quick, nor as intuitive as laser-based devices in detecting obstacles such as the legs of furniture, the Roomba i3+ was a bit clumsy as it moved around my house, often bumping into things quite violently. The cleaning path it takes is unpredictable, with the robot seemingly randomly choosing where to go rather than following any pattern or system. There's also no scope for giving the robot specific instructions such as which rooms to clean and what order to follow. You can't even even remote control the device to guide it manually.
All you can do is hit the ‘Clean' button on either the device or in the app, which makes the Roomba i3+ clean all areas it can physically reach, but in an order and path of its own choosing. There is some form of mapping for the robot, but this is only to see the extent of its cleaning after the job is done; you can't use the map to detect where the device is, set no-go zones, or even specify areas to clean, as is the case with much of the competition. You can create virtual walls to prevent the robot from accessing certain areas, but this needs the Rs. 5,900 Virtual Wall Barrier kit.
There were a few occasions when the device got itself stuck in ways that needed me to free it, but this didn't happen too often, as long as I remembered to pick up loose rugs and mats, and moved some obstacles such as a clothes drying rack out of the way when the robot was working. Although there were some issues with navigation and mapping, the iRobot Roomba i3+ always found its way back to the docking station without any trouble during my time with it.
iRobot Roomba i3+ app
Like the iRobot Braava Jet M6, the Roomba i3+ is supported by the iRobot Home app, which is available for iOS and Android devices. While it can be argued that the app is simpler and a lot easier to use than most other manufacturers' apps for cleaning robots, this also reflects its lack of customisation options and inability to control the specifics of the Roomba i3+.
The app shows the status of the cleaning robot front and centre, including its current battery level. There's also an option to empty the bin (when it's docked on the Clean Base). As you scroll down, there are options to start a vacuuming job immediately, or create a custom job with a time limit for cleaning before the robot returns to the dock. The default cleaning task doesn't have a time limit, and will run until the device decides your home is cleaned entirely, or its battery runs low.
The app is simple and easy to use, but also lacks customisation options and any ability to control specific functions of the cleaning robot
You can review past cleaning tasks with a map of the areas covered and other basic statistics such as area covered and time taken. The map highlights areas where the robot detected more dirt and increased its power, but all of this is just information for the user. You can also use the app to create cleaning schedules, and change basic settings including the UI language, Wi-Fi connection, cleaning and Clean Base preferences, and more.
The Roomba i3+ charts its own path, controls its own suction power, and does its job entirely on its own without any input from the user. One thing the app does let you do is start a cleaning job from anywhere in the world, provided the robot is connected to your home Wi-Fi and your smartphone is connected to the Internet.
iRobot Roomba i3+ cleaning
As mentioned, iRobot splits cleaning functions across its Roomba and Braava product ranges, and the Roomba i3+ exclusively sweeps and sucks up dirt using its vacuum cleaner; there's no mopping with this device. However, the iRobot Roomba i3+ is particularly good at vacuuming, and is also extremely easy to operate. There isn't much to do beyond hitting the start or stop button.
The iRobot Roomba i3+ decides when to increase power depending on its sensors detecting particularly dirty patches or messy dry spills. That said, it is loud at all times, even when it's running at a lower suction power. The sensors on the device help it detect specific messes that need more effort to clean up, and the robot was also able to double back on areas that required more thorough cleaning.
The company doesn't specify the peak suction power of the iRobot Roomba i3+, only stating that the device has 10 times the lifting ability of the Roomba 600 series, its entry-level robot vacuum cleaner which is priced at Rs. 26,900. While I can only roughly guess without actual figures, the iRobot Roomba i3+ seems to be roughly on par with the Milagrow iMap 10.0, which is rated at 2,700pa for suction power.
This is more than enough for everyday dust and dirt accumulation, and even occasional dry spillage such as food crumbs. The Roomba i3+ worked well enough to ensure the hard floors in my home were cleaned, and was capable of proper cleaning on both granite and PVC tiled surfaces. It also managed to go under most furniture to clean areas that were hard to reach manually. However, the iRobot Roomba i3+ isn't quite powerful enough for homes with pets. You need much more suction power to handle fur and dander, with devices such as the Trifo Max Pet better suited to such homes.
A small vent at the bottom of the iRobot Roomba i3+ lines up with the Clean Base to allow the on-device dustbin to be cleaned
iRobot Roomba i3+ automatic dirt disposal
Dirt is deposited in the Roomba's dustbin, which is only large enough to hold what would typically be picked up in a single cleaning of my 600-square-foot home. With most cleaning robots, this dustbin has to be manually cleaned out every few days – equivalent to 3-4 full cleanings of my home. However, the iRobot Roomba i3+ has a unique way of dealing with this.
The rather large docking station of the iRobot Roomba i3+ is the size it is for exactly this purpose – to clean out the smaller dustbin on the robot after every cleaning job. An opening at the bottom of the dustbin lines up with the tubing on the dock, which then uses its own suction system to quickly pull dirt out of the robot and deposit it into a disposable dirt bag within the dock itself. The dock gets very loud when pulling dirt from the robot, but the resulting empty dustbin means that you don't have to manually clean the robot at all.
It's worth mentioning here that the dirt bag isn't reusable; once full, you need to remove it and replace it with a fresh dirt bag. The sales package only includes two of these, each of which is rated for 60 days of use before needing to be disposed of. The bags are priced at Rs. 1,660 for a pack of three, so the convenience of not having to manually clean the dust bin is somewhat expensive. Other consumable parts such as replacement brushes and filters are also on the expensive side.
I did face some issues with the dock during my time with the iRobot Roomba i3+. The app once reported that the dirt bag was full just a few days after installing it, and a quick look confirmed that it wasn't full at all; this was fixed by removing the bag and simply re-inserting it. Another issue I faced on multiple occasions was alerts about a blockage in the vacuum tubing on the dock. No such blockage was visible even after going through several troubleshooting steps, which involved opening up the tubing to check. The dirt disposal function continued to work normally all through these issues, so the warnings seemed a bit ridiculous and bothersome to have to continuously deal with.
The top of the device has three buttons and the module for the Reactive Sensor navigation
iRobot Roomba i3+ battery, charging
As is the case with the Roomba i3+'s suction power, iRobot does not specify its battery capacity, and the app doesn't provide specific battery level information either. Instead, you get a small indicator in the app which shows only a rough battery level. This is perhaps where things get too simple; I'd have liked more detailed statistics on this.
The battery level would drop to around half after a single cleaning of my 600-square-foot home, which would take around 40 minutes to complete. After this, the robot would return to the dock on its own to charge. It is capable of doing this if its battery is running low even when the cleaning task isn't complete, and it will resume where it left off after charging. Continuously running the device without allowing it to return to the dock had it go for around 85 minutes before it would no longer run without charging, which is quite average in this segment.
The area this might cover largely depends on the layout of your home and the kind of surfaces that need to be cleaned, as well as the number of times the robot will have to increase suction power to pick up larger messes. However, I can estimate that it will cover a home of around 1000 square feet in size on a single charge, making it adequate for most urban Indian apartments.
Charging is simple enough, with the robot docking on the charging station on its own after completing a cleaning job. It took under two hours to top up the battery after a single cleaning of my home, and a little over three hours after the battery had been fully drained by continuously running the device.
The iRobot Roomba i3+ is a rather expensive cleaning robot, especially considering that it is only capable of vacuum cleaning, whereas many similarly priced or more affordable options can both vacuum and mop. At Rs. 69,900, this is an expensive option, and you'll wind up spending much more if you factor in the cost of a separate mopping robot such as the iRobot Braava Jet M6 plus all the consumables you'll need. However, the device is very good at its job, and not having to manually clean out its dust bin is a very useful touch.
The automatic dirt disposal feature is convenient and works well, making this one of the easiest robot vacuum cleaners to use right now. That said, all of this convenience comes by way of expensive accessories and consumables that need frequent replacement, which will only add to the already high cost of the iRobot Roomba i3+. Some issues with the app, odd navigation, noisy operation, and the lack of control are also factors worth considering before you buy this robot vacuum cleaner.
However, this is an effective, thorough, and surprisingly intuitive cleaning robot, achieving what it sets out to do with an impressive level of efficiency. If you're willing to overlook the high price, multiple quirks and the lack of smarts, the iRobot Roomba i3+ is a very good cleaning robot at its core.
Price: Rs. 69,900
- Very good at vacuuming
- Clean Base automatic dirt disposal
- Intuitive cleaning, knows where there's more dirt to pick up
- Easy to use
- App often tossed up non-existent errors
- Clumsy navigation
- Basic mapping, can't set no-go zones without accessories
- Expensive to buy and operate
- Average battery life
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