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iRobot Roomba Combo j9+ vs. iRobot Roomba Combo Essential: Which is better for you?

The iRobot Roomba Combo j9+ is one of the most versatile robots of 2024, making it easy to keep all types of floors clean without getting your hands dirty. Along with the ability to vacuum and mop in a single run, it can automatically empty its dustbin, which makes it a shockingly autonomous addition to any home. However, some of those same skills can be found in the affordable Roomba Combo Essential Robot, which carries a much more agreeable price tag.

That begs the question — should you opt for the cheaper Roomba Combo Essential, or is the Roomba Combo j9+ a worthwhile investment? From vacuuming and mopping performance to additional features and more, here’s a look at these two unique robot vacuums to help you decide which is better for your needs.

Pricing and availability

The iRobot Roomba Combo Essential mopping a floor.

The Roomba Combo j9+ costs $1,400 and is readily available at a variety of retailers. The Roomba Combo Essential Robot is much more affordable at just $275 and is available through the iRobot website. The j9+ looks much more premium (as you’d expect), with a bronze accent in the center of the robot and a gorgeous docking station. The Combo Essential looks like a watered-down version of the j9+, as it boasts a similar circular design, but doesn’t have any unique accents or design cues to draw your eyes. Its docking station is also much smaller — though this could make it easier to find a spot for it in your home.

When it comes to pricing, there’s no denying the Combo Essential is more attractive.

Winner: Roomba Combo Essential Robot


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

Unfortunately, iRobot doesn’t advertise suction levels for its robot vacuums. That means there are no specific numbers we can use to compare the Combo j9+ to the Combo Essential. However, our testing of the j9+ revealed a device that excelled at cleaning carpets. Along with three different suction levels and a Carpet Boost feature to better clean dirty floors, it uses dual rubber brushes to pull debris out of carpet and prevent tangles. There’s also a side brush to help clean crevices and edges.

Once the j9+ is done cleaning, it’ll return to its dock and automatically empty its dustbin into the docking station. Depending on how dirty your home is, the dustbin can go up to 60 days before needing to be replaced.

The Roomba Combo Essential also features three suction levels, though instead of using a dual rubber brush system, it opts for a single V-shaped brush. It also uses a side brush like the more expensive j9+ to clean edges and corners. Those specs aren’t quite as compelling as everything on the j9+, but it should be enough firepower to provide decent cleaning for most homes.

Winner: Roomba Combo j9+


The Roomba Combo Essential mopping.

Mopping is where the Roomba Combo j9+ really outshines the Combo Essential. The j9+ won’t just mop your floors (it has multiple water levels available via the mobile app), but it’ll also automatically refill its water bin for up to 30 days thanks to the water reservoir in the docking station. Better yet, its mopping plate is mounted on a swinging arm that will lift the mop completely off the floor when traveling on carpet, docking it on top of the robot and ensuring carpets and rugs stay dry. Toss in SmartScrub technology that applies pressure to the floor while scrubbing back and forth, and it’s a great option for homes with both hard floors and carpet.

By comparison, the Combo Essential is pretty underwhelming. Its dock doesn’t have a water reservoir, so you’ll likely need to refill it after each mopping cycle. It also doesn’t use a swinging arm to stow away its mop when traveling on carpet. As for its actual mopping technique, it doesn’t employ the SmartScrub technology, meaning it essentially just drags the wet mop across your floors to clean them.

Winner: Roomba Combo j9+

Additional features

iRobot Roomba Combo j9+ smart vacuum and mop near kids and pets

There aren’t many additional features on the Roomba Combo Essential. Aside from its ability to perform basic mopping and vacuuming skills, it also can be controlled via a voice assistant or through the mobile app. If its battery starts getting low during a cleaning run, it’ll automatically head to its dock to charge.

Most of the additional features found on the Roomba Combo j9+ come courtesy of its docking station. It’s here that the vacuum will automatically refill its water tank or empty its dustbin, and it makes the device much more autonomous than the Roomba Combo Essential. Support for CarpetBoost and SmartScrub are also nice features, allowing the robot to detect the optimal settings for tackling all types of floors.

In short, all these extra features make the Roomba Combo j9+ a more hands-off device than the Essential. While it’s nice that the Essential will mop and vacuum floors, you’ll still be checking in on it after every task to make sure it’s ready for the next one. With the Combo j9+, you can go multiple days (possibly weeks) without any intervention.

Winner: Roomba Combo j9+

Should you pick up the expensive robot or the budget robot?

While the price of the Roomba Combo Essential is mighty enticing, it’s not quite automated enough to deserve a spot in your home. If your home only has hard floors, then it might be worth checking out, as its lack of a stowable mop won’t impact you. But if you’re in a home with both carpets and hard floors, it’s less than ideal. You’ll also be constantly interacting with the device to fill up its water tanks and empty its dustbin — and at that point, you might as well just invest in a good cordless vacuum and a Swiffer.

Instead, most buyers would be better served by saving up for the premium Roomba Combo j9+. Its price is shockingly high, but its performance is much more automated. And if you’re buying a robot vacuum to get rid of mopping and vacuuming from your to-do list, the j9+ does just that. Capable of mopping floors, vacuuming carpets, and then emptying its bin and refilling its water tank, it’s a powerful home assistant that takes care of itself. You’ll have to check in periodically to make sure everything is running as expected — and you’ll still need to replace mopping pads and perform routine maintenance — but it comes much closer to achieving the dream of a self-sustaining robot vacuum than the Roomba Combo Essential does.

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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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