So far, the story of this year’s robot vacuum market has been the march of low priced, capable devices bringing automated cleaning to an increasing number of homes across the globe. While lacking the bells and whistles of premium lines, we’ve been impressed with the solid performance of vacuums like the Shark ION Robot 750, Ecovacs Deebot 901 and Eufy Robovac11S.
At the top end of the market, however, category leaders like iRobot continue to innovate. Take the new iRobot Roomba i7 and i7+, for instance. Seeking new levels of performance and convenience, these new Roombas may look familiar but pack fully upgraded internals, delivering improved suction and pick-up, smarter mapping and, with the i7+, automatic dirt disposal.
No longer will you need to empty a tiny dust bin after every clean – the i7+ takes care of it for you. At the end of a clean, the i7+ returns to its charging station, which is a new model with a large, overhanging waste bin known as the Clean Base. Dust and debris are sucked out of the Roomba and neatly deposited in an enclosed bag with sufficient capacity for up to 30 cleans. It’s just one of a number of enhancements that iRobot hopes will woo you away from low-cost competitors and convince you to invest in an altogether more refined experience.
Today, we’re looking at the $949 Roomba i7+, which includes the enhanced charging station and automatic dirt disposal feature. If you prefer a more traditional robot vacuum, the company’s Roomba i7 base model is priced at $699. If offers all of the features of the i7+, apart from automatic dirt disposal, but you can upgrade the internal bin and charging station at a later date for $299.
Reimagined, inside and out
At first glance, the Roomba i7+ looks like every robot vacuum you’ve ever seen, but this new model has been reimagined inside and out. Under the hood, an upgraded processor and increased RAM unlocks new features, while a redesigned cleaning head, boasting dual multi-surface rubber brushes and power-lifting suction promises ten times the air power and twice the cleaning performance of Roomba’s previous range-topper.
Embedded cameras and sensors drive Roomba’s latest smart mapping features, which allows the robot to learn the layout of each room on each floor of your home. While it’s quite happy to clean throughout, a quick tap on iRobot HOME app allows you to select an individual room for cleaning or instruct the device using Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant.
At first glance, the Roomba i7+ looks like every robot vacuum you’ve ever seen.
The robot learns about your home with each clean – a sensor on the underside detects areas attracting more dirt (such as high-traffic hallways) and cleans those floors more thoroughly. A redesigned, washable dust bin can now be rinsed to stay clean while even the i7’s manual controls have been switched from mechanical buttons to a new, touch-sensitive design.
Arriving in an impressively large box comprising the robot, charging station, and accessories (including a spare bag, front edge-sweeping brush, filter and virtual wall barrier), the Roomba i7+ takes a little time to set up. It ships fully assembled and partially charged, but you’ll need to find a suitable location for the tall charging station, then install and configure the iRobot Home app (iOS/Android supported). iRobot recommends the Roomba’s Lithium-Ion battery is charged for three hours before first run, after which the robot will automatically return to its charging station when it needs a top-up.
Bulky, fussy Clean Base is tough to tuck away
One drawback of using the i7+’s large Clean Base is that it’s more difficult to hide the vacuum away when not in use. We find flatter charging stations often fit under cabinets, allowing robot vacuums to come and go as they please. With the i7+ that’s not possible, so if you wish to tuck the Roomba away, you may need to find a spacious utility room or large closet with a power outlet.
The issue is compounded when you realize just how fussy the Clean Base is about positioning. iRobot recommends the fancy charging station is given at least four feet of space at its front and 1.5 feet at each side. Scout around your home for a suitable location with a power outlet, and you may find that to be a challenge – particularly in smaller homes and apartments. Any less space, and you can inadvertently create a “virtual wall” that blocks a chunk of your floor plan from being mapped – an issue we experienced several times during tests. This isn’t a problem we’ve faced with cheaper mapping robots, and we’d expect a thousand-dollar model to be more accommodating.
Quiet and capable cleaning
When you launch the i7+’s first run, you’ll find the vacuum to be reasonably quiet when cleaning. An integrated (rather coarse) speaker announces the Roomba’s status, so you can keep track of events without being glued to the app, although iRobot recommends that you hang around during that first clean. The single edge-sweeping brush (rather than the two found on many competitors) means that the vacuum needs to attack edges of the room in multiple directions, and we were a little surprised to see the device bump into table legs and other furniture more often than expected during its first clean. However, the robot was able to clamber over rugs and floor breaks with relative ease and, when it became stuck on the corner of a rug, managed to free itself and continue cleaning.
Unlike some robot vacuums that initially display floor plans in real time as they scan, you’ll need to wait until the i7 has completed its first run before viewing results. We launched our first run without fully charging the robot, so the i7 needed to return to the charging station before completion. We were pleased to see the iRobot Home app give a clear indication of charging time and that dirt was automatically removed on each return. The Clean Base is fitted with a very powerful vacuum, which makes a racket during disposal. While it’s both effective and convenient, you’ll certainly know it’s being used.
After three runs, your map is created, and Roomba will guess how your floor space is divided into distinct rooms. Customizing the plan is easy: create straight lines on the map to mark divisions, then tap and label each room. Now you can command the Roomba i7 to clean specific rooms on an ad-hoc basis or defined schedule – both are simple to manage.
Multi-floor mapping adds real convenience
Persistent mapping – a feature that allows the i7 to store and recall multiple floor plans – seems like an obvious addition for a robot vacuum, but it’s one that many models lack. It’s inclusion here is a real bonus. Obviously, you’ll need to spend time mapping each floor of your home, but once that’s done, you can simply carry the i7 upstairs and set it to work.
Edge cleaning was far better than from budget robot vacuums we’ve tested.
We loved the i7’s cleaning performance, which was first class. Edge cleaning was far better than budget robot vacuums we’ve tested, and automatic spot cleaning was initiated on a couple of occasions when the robot detected an area requiring more attention.
Obviously, with the advent of the Clean Base, i7+ owners will need to purchase dirt disposal bags on a semi-regular basis. Priced at $15 for a pack of three, the bags are more expensive than we anticipated, but iRobot tells us a pack should last for six months, so it shouldn’t require a significant outlay. If the idea of being locked into consumable purchases makes you shudder, the base i7 model has a more traditional and bigger waste bin that you empty after each clean.
Each bag is equipped with a plastic top panel that slides neatly into the Clean Base for accurate fitting. You’ll be alerted when it’s time to swap bags and, as you pull out the full bag, a plastic panel slides over the opening, preventing dust from flying everywhere. It’s a neat design.
Smart voice controls not so smart
We were eager to try out Roomba’s voice controls, and first linked our iRobot account to our Google Home device. Sadly, despite being successfully linked in the Google Home app, when trying out a command, the assistant repeatedly advised us to — you guessed it — link our account. Repeating through the steps multiple times, we finally linked up our accounts, only to be told that the Roomba “wasn’t responding to commands at this time.”
Thankfully, our experience with Alexa was far better, with accounts linked quickly and the i7+ responding appropriately to voice commands with almost instant results. We’ll keep trying with Google Assistant, and update this review if and when we have some success.Our Take
It would be easy – if a little lazy – to call the Roomba i7+ “the iPhone of robot vacuums” given its high price tag and premium features, but that certainly seems to be where this model is positioned. At $949, the i7+ is very expensive, especially considering the swathe of budget competitors entering the market. But with this innovative robot vacuum, iRobot has achieved a new standard of class-leading convenience and performance that busy, affluent home-owners will love.
That said, the i7+ still has room for improvement. The issues we experienced with Google Home can be fixed in software, while the fussy requirements for clear space around the Clean Base may be trickier to resolve. But overall, if you have the cash, the Roomba i7+ is a fantastic addition to the smart home.
The iRobot Roomba i7+ is protected by a one-year warranty. Given the price point, we’d love to see iRobot offer extended warranty options to protect that initial investment, but right now that’s not an option.
Is there a better alternative?
While few, if any, competitors can match the Roomba i7+ on features and performance, there are certainly cheaper devices that may better suit your budget. At $699, the base Roomba i7 offers all of the same features as the range-topping model, aside from automatic dirt disposal. Otherwise, take a look at the $300 Ecovacs Deebot 901. It only offers single floor mapping and won’t clean as thoroughly as the Roomba i7, but voice control, virtual boundaries, and low price means that it’s a great value alternative.
How long will it last?
With a 25-year history in consumer robotics and a raft of devices deployed around the world, we have few concerns about iRobot’s track record. As with any robot vacuum, the i7+ is likely to get its fair share of knocks and bumps while cleaning your home, and we’d feel more comfortable with a longer warranty period. To protect your investment, be sure to pay attention to the company’s guidelines for device care, particularly with regard to regular cleaning and replacement of consumable parts, all of which are available at iRobot’s website.
Should you buy it?
If you have deep pockets, a spacious home, and you’re seeking the very latest in home cleaning tech, you’ll love the convenient, feature-packed Roomba i7+.