iRobot Roomba 660 review

Cleaning your house is a bore, but sadly one that has to be done from time to time unless you are happy to live in a dirt-invested hovel - we doubt that - so is a robot vacuum cleaner the answer? We set one to work in the Pocket-lint office to find out.

Design

For those looking to bandy around tech jargon, the 660 features iRobot's new Aerovac Technology that ensures an optimised airflow, and a redesigned brush that makes it easier to remove hair and fur for the Roomba 600 to pick up.

That doesn’t stop it looking like a large ice hockey puck, but still, that design shape allows it to bash its way around your house like a man who's had too many glasses of wine at a Christmas party.

That circular design, now familiar to anyone who has seen the iRobot Roomba range before, also means it can work its way around your living room sliding under tables and chairs with minimal fuss. New for the 660 is a coloured top - hey, vacuum cleaners need to look good too - but it's very much  as we've seen before, but with better technology inside.

That means a throng of buttons on top, with the big glowing "clean" button being hard to avoid, and taking centre stage. Flip the little blighter over and you get access to the dirt tray and brushes. All are easily serviceable and you get an array of cleaning tools and replacement parts in the box to keep you going - should you run into problems.

Size-wise and it's around the size of a large circular tray or one of those under plates you get in posh restaurants. Around the edge are the bumpers, so it won't mark your walls.

Performance

Charge it up, and then set it free: it really is as easy as that with the Roomba 660. Having a timer switch means you can set it to clean when you've gone to work, or to bed, and thanks to the charging dock the cleaner knows to head back to get more power when it is running low. Yes, it really is autonomous.

It does a good job of getting carpets clean, but it does take its time about doing it. We've found that the best solution is to set it regularly and often - in our case during the night when we are out, so not to over-burden it. Once you've done the initial sweep, any worries that the dirt tray won't be big enough goes away. Unless you spend your days dropping Cornflakes all over the floor you'll be fine.

Over the past two weeks of testing it in this manner, we've had a nice clean carpet in the office every day.

Dirt Direct is a sensor that locates the dirtiest areas of a room, it then concentrates its efforts on said patch. There's also a virtual wall option, which ensures the Roomba 600 Series won’t go into areas that are out of bounds. 

Where the Roomba 660 doesn't work in the same way against a traditional vacuum cleaner is when you need it to clean a specific area on your carpet. There is a "spot" mode on the Roomba 660, however it is still quicker to opt for a more traditional cleaner, as you can control where and how much effort is needed to clean. We found ourselves ultimately just getting frustrated with it, especially from a speed point of view, although on the plus side we were able to sit back and grab a coffee.

You'll also find that the power clearly isn't as good as a traditional cleaner, especially compared to the new range of Dyson cleaners like the DC50. Again that shouldn't be a problem for most once you've got yourself into a good cleaning routine, but if you've got kids and pets with regularly dirty feet, you might find that the Roomba 660 isn't really up to the job.

Scheduling cleans

The Roomba 660 has a built-in timer and can be set to come on at any time of the day, seven days a week. To stop it going places it's not supposed to, you get an invisible wall device in the box that creates a beam that the Roomba can't cross, and it knows not to throw itself down a flight of stairs too.


Scheduling cleans is as easy as pressing a couple of buttons. You can set the day and time of the clean, if you only want once a week, no problem. If you want it to clean midday on a Tuesday and then 3am on a Thursday, that's fine too. It's here that the robot vacuum cleaner really does win out over a more traditional cleaner.

The iRobot Roomba 600 Series vacuum cleaning robots work on carpets, tiles and both laminated and wooden floors with pricing starting from £299.

Verdict

Roomba 660 sits at the top of the new 600 series that replaces the Roomba 500 series. Improved sensors, better sucking power, and a splash of colour all go to helping improve what is already a good device - albeit with the same limitations as before.

The real appeal of the Roomba 600 Series remains the robotic prowess and for the lazy, that can't be beat, but if you are someone who uses there vacuum cleaner to reactively deal with dirt then this probably isn't for you.

No, the Roomba 660 is for those who like to proactively tackle dust and dirt in their house, while at the same time saving themselves from having to spend every night cleaning the living room.

If that sounds like you, and you aren't interested in spending in the region of £400 for the Roomba 700 series, the Roomba 660 will do you very nicely - just don’t give away your traditional vacuum cleaner yet.