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iRobot Roomba Combo j9+ review: a tale of two robots

irobot roomba combo j9 plus review feature
iRobot Roomba Combo j9+ review: a tale of two robots
MSRP $1,400.00
“The iRobot Roomba Combo j9+ is one of the best robot vacuums for plush carpets, thanks to its swinging mop arm design.”
  • Mop-lifting arm works flawlessly
  • Striking design for both robot and dock
  • Obstacle Image Review improves maps
  • Dustbin holds 60 days of debris
  • Simple setup
  • Doesn't rinse or dry the mopping pad
  • Loud during operation
  • Lackluster smartphone app

Robot vacuum and mop combos are a dime a dozen nowadays, with little separating each model beyond their name. Products today are capable of vacuuming and mopping, then emptying their dustbin without manual input, and they all feature companion smartphone apps to help customize their performance. The iRobot brand stands out from the pack, however, due to its unique mop-lifting arm — which retracts the mop to the top of the robot when traveling on carpet. This is a massive win for iRobot, as most robots from other brands can only pull their mopping pads up a few millimeters, causing them to drag along the top of plush carpets.

It’s a brilliant design choice, and one that makes the Roomba Combo j9+ look like a compelling addition to any home. Unfortunately, that brilliance in design isn’t carried throughout the rest of the iRobot Roomba Combo j9+, which stumbles on basic features. But if you’re willing to look beyond a few shortcomings, this robot might be a great fit for your home, especially if you’re worried about dirty mops mucking up the carpet.

A striking design

The iRobot Roomba Combo j9+ dock near indoor plants.
Jon Bitner / Digital Trends

The first thing you’ll notice about the iRobot Roomba Combo j9+ is its sleek design. The robot itself is circular, though without any mopping pads on the bottom, it looks much more streamlined than the competition. Instead, its tiny mop is located on a swing arm that stows away nicely on top of the unit. If you didn’t already know it was there, you might miss it.

The iRobot docking station is noticeably smaller than those offered by other companies like Ecovacs, giving you plenty of versatility when placing it. The majority of the dock is matte black, with various bevels and textures giving it a sophisticated look.

You’ll also get a nice wooden plate that sits on top of the unit, serving as a decorative table or stand. Place a few plants or knickknacks on top, and it looks like a modern piece of functional furniture. Compared to other models in this price range, the iRobot dock is impressive.

Hands-off operation

The inside of the Combo j9+ dock.
Jon Bitner / Digital Trends

Like all robot vacuums over $1,000, the Combo j9+ is designed to be autonomous. You can program a cleaning schedule using the smartphone app, and it’ll automatically go about its tasks without any manual input. Once it’s done, it’ll scurry back to its dock to empty its dustbin and charge its battery.

When traveling on carpet, it’ll bring its mop up to the top of the chassis — ensuring no water touches your floors. Then, when it detects hard floors and is ready to mop, it’ll lower the mop and begin scrubbing away. It never once detected the wrong type of flooring and always performed the proper operation throughout my home.

In other words, you won’t have to worry about the Combo j9+ accidentally trying to mop your carpets.

Toss in a dustbin that supports up to 60 days of debris before needing a change and a water reservoir that’ll wet the mop for around a month before needing a refill, and it’s clear that iRobot built the Combo j9+ to be a hands-free vacuum. When you do need to perform maintenance, the dustbin and water reservoir are easy to access, thanks to a swinging door design that gives you ample space to work.

Another cool feature is Dirt Detective. This allows the Combo j9+ to scan your home and figure out which room is dirtiest so it can tackle that section first. All told, it did an admirable job with both mopping and vacuuming, thanks to the option to turn on duplicate cleaning passes (meaning it passes through dirty sections of your home twice) and top-tier components like the dual rubber brushes and easily replaceable mop.

Struggling with the basics

The underside of the Roomba Combo j9+ robot vacuum and mop.
Jon Bitner / Digital Trends

While the iRobot Roomba Combo j9+ does a solid job of cleaning and uses an innovative mop design, it falls short on the basics. For one, the unit is quite noisy when operating, which is less than ideal if you’re running it in the morning before work or at night as you’re trying to sleep. It’s especially noisy on hard floors, though it still makes quite the racket when traveling on plush carpets.

Running the vacuum at night isn’t a great idea — not just because it’s loud, but because the robot doesn’t operate well in lowlight situations. It’ll shine a bright light in the direction it’s heading to help with navigation, but testing found that it struggled in dark areas and often needed rescuing.

During the day, it did a solid job of avoiding obstacles — including moving pets and stationary hazards like toys and shoes. After each run, it’ll show you images of hazards it encountered and let you choose whether these are permanent fixtures that should be avoided or temporary objects that’ll be removed before the next run. This cool feature, known as Obstacle Image Review, helped create a more reliable map of my home as the Combo j9+ performed more cleaning cycles.

Cleaning times were longer than expected, though they did get shorter with time. The first few runs took over 40 minutes to clean just 165 square feet. That eventually fell to around 30 minutes after nearly a dozen runs — though products like the Ecovacs X2 Omni and Roborock S8 Pro Ultra tend to work faster and quieter.

The iRobot smartphone app isn’t as versatile as you’d expect, with just the basics available. This includes changing the type of cleaning (such as vacuuming or vacuuming and mopping), setting a cleaning schedule, checking your cleaning history, and customizing maps with restricted zones and room labels.

It would have been nice to get live updates on the map, displaying which areas had been cleaned and where the robot currently was in the home (as Roomba done with other products). I also found it troublesome to send the robot back to its dock after a canceled cleaning, as sometimes it wouldn’t properly respond to my inputs through the app.

The Combo j9+ docking station is missing a few features that have been developed in other brands, such as the ability to rinse and dry its mop. This may sound frivolous, but having a dock that cleans its mop prevents the buildup of mildew and unpleasant odors. Since the iRobot dock doesn’t offer this feature, you’ll be on the hook for monitoring your mop and ensuring it stays clean.

Is this a $1,400 robot?

At the end of the day, the iRobot smartphone app is adequate to get the job done. And while the robot is a bit noisy and isn’t the best in lowlight situations, it still cleans as well as the leaders in the segment. But does it justify the $1,400 price tag?

The answer depends on several factors. If you’re in a home with plush carpets and don’t want to worry about dirty mops dragging across them, the swinging mop arm might be enough to sell you on the iRobot Roomba Combo j9+. It’s not the best robot vacuum and mop available, but it’s the only one that practically guarantees your carpets stay dry during a combined mopping and vacuuming cycle.

If you can find it on sale (iRobot loves to discount its products during shopping holidays), the Combo j9+ is a solid recommendation. Its regular $1,400 price tag is steep — and it doesn’t do enough to justify that price. But at $1,000, it’s a strong competitor.

Be sure to cross-shop with the Ecovacs X2 Omni and Roborock S8 Pro Ultra, as both offer similar features and are in the same price range as the iRobot Roomba Combo j9+.

Editors' Recommendations

Jon Bitner
Jon Bitner is a writer covering consumer electronics, technology, and gaming. His work has been published on various websites…
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