iRobot has been making Roombas for over a decade – they’re the most iconic and widely recognized bots in the robotic vacuum game. The Roomba 880 is the most advanced model yet. Sporting a new-and-improved brush system and suction chamber, this little robot is supposedly the best carpet cleaner in iRobot’s entire lineup.
It also carries a much higher price tag than the rest of the pack, $700 – the 600 series is $400 cheaper. To see if the 880 is actually worth the extra cash, we put it to the test in a series of rigorous cleaning experiments. How’d it do? Keep reading to find out.
Configuration & Setup
The 880 is one of the easiest products to set up that we’ve ever encountered. iRobot has been in the robot game for nearly 25 years, and the company has clearly spent a time streamlining ease of use.
Once the bot is charged up sufficiently, you’re only a few button presses away from having your entire weekly cleaning schedule programmed and ready to go. The uber-simplified quick-start guide that comes with it ensures that even the most tech-challenged users will have Roomba up and running within minutes; we’ve got to give iRobot props for easy configuration.
We would, however, appreciate the ability to do all of this from a smartphone app. Network connectivity and mobile control is something that ought to be standard with the Roomba by now, and we’re disappointed that iRobot’s flagship model doesn’t include something that seems so obvious these days.
Features & Design
Aesthetically, the Roomba 880 is almost exactly like its lower-end brethren. It’s got the same circular design that Roombas have rocked since day one, and the only real difference you can see is the jet-black glossy finish that makes it look more sleek and classy than the rest of the bunch.
To the naked eye it doesn’t look much different, but under the hood the 880 has a few features you can’t get in other models. Most notable among these is the redesigned suction system. iRobot has revamped the brushes and intake system in its 800-series bots so that they sit lower to the floor and supposedly pull out more dirt – but we’ll get to that in a minute. Also included in the 800 (and also 700) series models is a HEPA filter, which helps Roomba keep allergens out of the air while it works.
The redesigned “AeroForce” suction system is, unfortunately, the only feature that really sets the 880 apart from the rest of the Roomba lineup. But the bot does come with a remote control and two “Lighthouse” beacons that can be used to set up invisible barriers that Roomba cannot cross.
Performance & Use
To test its cleaning abilities, we put this thing through the ringer. For the first week, we just set the bot loose in the office and let it run wild. This was mostly to test its navigational abilities and battery life. Not to brag, but our office has considerably more square footage than the average household.
During these initial experiments, Roomba didn’t fare so well. Numerous times we found it dead and motionless in some random corner, presumably after it had run itself dry and failed to make its way back to the charging dock.
To get a better idea of the bot’s limitations, we shrunk down the boundaries using the included Lighthouse modules to set up virtual barriers. With only a hallway and a handful of medium-sized rooms to clean, the 880 did a much better job navigating, and made it back to its charging base most of the time — unless it got stuck on something, or the brushes tangled up.
Based on these tests, the Roomba 880 can reliably cover up to 1,500 or even 1,700 square feet — fairly impressive for a bot that doesn’t strategically plan its route. Any bigger and it starts to struggle.
Navigational performance was one thing, but testing Roomba’s cleaning performance required completely different procedures. To test the bot’s dirt-sucking skills, we set up a different experiment.
After running this test a few times, it was clear that Roomba’s cleaning powers aren’t exaggerated.
Once the room was set up, we concocted a mixture of dirt and debris in a wide range of different sizes and textures. There was fine dust, coarse dirt, long hair, short hair, flat stuff (we used oatmeal), chunky stuff (granola, cheerios) and even a couple nerf darts just to keep things interesting. We measured out 70 grams of this horrible concoction and scattered it across the room. Then, equipped with a new filter and a full charge, we set it loose on the room, with a GoPro to watch the bot’s progress.
After running this test a few times, it was clear that Roomba’s cleaning powers aren’t exaggerated. Despite bouncing around in a seemingly random, disorganized fashion, it cleaned our test room extremely thoroughly. Of the 70 grams of debris we started with, it picked up 64.6 grams on the first run, and 66.1 on the second. It missed a few bits of debris in certain “hard-to-reach” corner areas (why iRobot sticks with the circular design is puzzling), but for the most part, the 880 was extremely thorough.
That said, during the first trial Roomba faltered a few times and required outside help to continue doing its job. Both times it was because something had gotten stuck in the brush assembly. The new AeroForce extractor is designed to be tangle free, but we found that if you throw enough long hair at it, it can run into problems. Large objects like Nerf darts and Lego bricks are also a bit too much for Roomba to swallow as well, but the same can be said of most vacuum cleaners — we can’t knock iRobot for this.
We can ding the company for not including Wi-Fi and smartphone-based alerts in their flagship vacuum, however. When the 880 gasped, choked up, and ultimately stopped running, we didn’t know until we walked past the room and saw it lying there motionless. At times like these, we would’ve appreciated a notification of some sort. Instead we were left blissfully unaware that anything had gone wrong.
While there’s no denying that this vacuum does a great job at cleaning floors, we’re just not convinced that the extra features it boasts make it worth the exorbitant pricetag. We were very impressed by how easy the Roomba 880 was to set up and start using, and also with how thoroughly it cleaned our floors, but in comparison to the 700 or 600 series bots it’s really not all that much better.
Sure, it’ll pull out a bit more dirt from your carpet, and it’s got a HEPA filter, so if you have allergies this bot might be worth the extra dough. Otherwise you’re better off with a lower-end model.
We really like the 880 — but we hope iRobot brings a few more features to the next generation.
- Easy Setup
- Superior cleaning performance
- Large dustbin
- No smartphone/network connectivity
- Long charge time