(Pocket-lint) - Robot vacuum cleaners have been around for a few years now, and like a good bottle of whiskey, they've got significantly better with age. The technology within these home helpers has vastly improved and though they might not be able to climb stairs just yet, many of them have some excellent features on board.
The Roomba i7+ is the latest all-singing, all-dancing robot vacuum from iRobot - and while it doesn't actually sing or dance, it does empty its own bin. Yes, really. It might have a price tag double that of the excellent Roborock S6, but the i7+ has earnt its place in our home.
- Circular shape
- Premium finish
- Refined design
The iRobot Roomba i7+ looks like most other robot vacuum cleaners (except Neato robots that have a distinct D-shaped design), with its round shape. It's very similar to the iRobot Roomba 980 but with a few design tweaks - such as capacitive buttons and slimmer bezels in the centre.
Like the Roomba 980, the Roomba i7+ has a combination of black and grey colourways, which does mean dust that settles on it is more visible - but the mixture of gloss and matte finishes results in a premium look, as you would expect for its price.
Within the glossy black section on the top of the i7+ are three buttons and the hidden sensors, all of which sit almost flush to the surface, resulting in a seamless design. The only properly raised element of the i7+ is a small circle at the very top - a feature found on other iRobot robot cleaners.
Plastic, predominantly matte bumpers, surround the edges of the Roomba i7+, though there is some glossy detailing here too. We've been using this robot for a couple of months and it has picked up some scratches within the glossy areas, but we like the design detail nonetheless.
On the back of the i7+ there is a button for pushing out the bin, though you shouldn't need to use that thanks to the automatic dirt disposal feature - more on that in a minute.
There's also a hole for the Automatic Dirt Disposal, along with flexible Dual Multi-Surface Rubber Brushes and an Edge-Sweeping Brush that has been specially designed at a 27-degree angle to drag dirt away from the edges of rooms. You'll also see the contact charging points and several other sensors around the circumference.
Base needs space
- Requires plug nearby
- Needs space either side
- Dirt bag has capacity of 30 robot bins
While the Roomba i7+ is pretty standard in terms of robot vacuum design, its Automatic Dirt Disposal feature is unique. And it's brilliant.
Like the robot itself, the Clean Base has a combination of glossy and matte plastic elements. There's a large rectangular box that sits vertically up the wall, while a flat base at the bottom of the box houses and charges the robot when it is not cleaning.
Inside the large box is where you'll find the dirt disposal bags (you get two included), while the flat base has a hole that lines up with the Automatic Dirt Disposal hole on the underside of the i7+. There's then a pipe - which you can't see - that will transfer the contents from the robot's bin into the dirt bag, either automatically or at the tap of a button on the iRobot app. It can do this around 30 times, which ought to be a month's worth of cleaning.
It's a brilliant system that removes one of the limiting factors of a robot vacuum cleaner - a full internal dustbin. The only problem is that the Clean Base with Automatic Dirt Disposal unit itself is pretty big and will take up quite a lot of space compared to a standard robot vacuum cleaning docking station. So you'll want to be careful as to where this is placed.
It also requires space either side of it - so you can't just pop in a corner out of the way. Instead, it will be on show in your home. While the design is perfectly pleasant, it's not something that blends in subtly.
- High-Efficiency Filter
- Cliff Detect sensors
- Dual Mode Virtual Wall Barrier
- Scheduling and app control
Automatic Dirt Disposal isn't the only feature the iRobot Roomba i7+ has among its attributes though. It has Cliff Detect sensors to stop the robot falling down the stairs and the dirt bin itself is washable so you can wash out any remaining dirt - remember to remove the filter first though.
A Dual Mode Virtual Wall Barrier device - which is included - is great for keeping the robot itself away from the cat's water bowls, or shutting off a room without closing the door too. The small matte black plastic unit has two modes (straight line from it or circle around it) and it runs on two AA batteries (also included). It's much neater and easier than using strips on the floor to create a barrier as some robot vacuum cleaners do.
There's also a High-Efficiency Filter that is said to capture 99 per cent of mould, pollen, dust mites, dog and cat allergens, while the iAdapt 3.0 Navigation with vSLAM technology helps the i7+ navigate your home and clean it efficiently by creating visual landmarks to keep track of where it's been and where it has yet to clean.
The iRobot Roomba i7+ has all the other robot vacuum cleaner features you'd expect too, including app control, scheduling and various options within the app, including giving it a name, choosing how the robot cleans, and showing you a cleaning history.
Imprint mapping and specific room cleaning
- Learns your home and builds a map
- Map is customisable in iRobot app
- Schedule individual room for cleaning
- Google Assistant/Alexa compatible
It's the Imprint Smart Mapping that is one of the iRobot Roomba i7+'s best features though. Intelligent mapping isn't unique to the i7+, some other robot vacuum cleaners have it on board, like the Roborock S6, but it is an excellent feature nonetheless.
Imprint Smart Mapping allows the i7+ to learn your home and build a map, which you can then customise in the iRobot app. It takes a few days for the i7+ to learn and build the map - this will vary depending on the size of your house and how much you allow the robot to clean - but the process can be sped up by performing training runs.
Once the map is created, you'll be able to add in room dividers and room labels in the iRobot app, after which you can schedule the i7+ to just clean the kitchen at 10am on a Friday morning, for example.
The iRobot Roomba i7+ is also compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistants, so if you have a Google Assistant-enabled device like Google Home, or an Alexa-enabled device like Amazon Echo, you can say: "Hey Google/Alexa, tell [name of i7+, if you've named it something else] to start cleaning the living room" and the Roomba i7+ will leave its base and crack on.
- Around 75-minute battery life
- Great cleaning capabilities
- Flexible Dual Multi-Surface Rubber Brushes
- Edge-Sweeping Brush
So how does this £1200 robot vacuum cleaner perform? Excellently for the most part, though it isn't without flaws. As with all robot vacuum cleaners, having a relatively clutter-free home is necessary - if you have cables everywhere or shoes with laces lying around then it will get stuck.
The iRobot Roomba i7+ handles different floor types remarkably well, though, as well as varying floor levels. Downstairs in our home, we have tiles in the kitchen, parquet with three different rugs on in the dining room and hallway, carpet in the living room, foam mats and a rug in the playroom, laminate and a medium pile rug in the office and tiles in the porch and downstairs bathroom. Needless to say, quite a few different floor types. The i7+ managed to clean our home without any issues though, moving seamlessly around.
It's also worth mentioning that the kitchen is around 2-inches higher than the rest of downstairs and while the step has a threshold over it to create a slope, that's still a big difference in level that the i7+ handles day-to-day.
A deep-pile sheepskin rug upstairs did cause some issues, but aside from that, the i7+ is a dream in terms of cleaning capabilities. It rarely misses a speck of dirt, cleaning in efficient lines and sliding under sofas and chairs like nobody's business. It's not the quietest of robots, though, especially not when emptying its bin.
The battery life is pretty good too. It's claimed the Roomba i7+ will offer 90-minutes before it needs charging, and while we only managed to make it do 75 of the 90 minutes, that was typically enough to clean downstairs so, again, we didn't mind too much.
Where its flaws occasionally shine through are the Automatic Dirt Disposal element. We found this feature worked well 90 per cent of the time, with the robot automatically going back to its base to empty its bin before returning to the same position to continue cleaning.
Occasionally, however, the robot's bin got full mid-way through a cleaning job and we would have to go and empty the bin, or return the robot to the base manually for it to empty it itself. For some reason, the process wasn't automatic on the odd occasion. We also found the i7+ would sometimes run out of battery, not leaving itself enough juice to return to its charging base, which was a little annoying.
Lastly, specific room cleaning worked well, though it is important to set clear dividers in the map, otherwise the robot might move briefly into the next room before it returns to the base.
The iRobot Roomba i7+ is an absolutely brilliant robot vacuum cleaner. The Imprint Smart Mapping system is fantastic, allowing you to schedule the cleaning of specific rooms, while the Automatic Dirt Disposal function is brilliant - well, when it works as it should.
Really the only things that let the i7+ down are its mighty expensive price tag and the size of the Automatic Dirt Disposal base, which requires a pretty large space to function properly, as well as proximity to a plug, making placement options fairly limited in many homes.
Overall, though, if you can swallow that hefty price, the Roomba i7+ offers superb cleaning capabilities, pretty much hassle-free use and setup and some excellent functions like the dirt disposal and smart mapping that make it an absolute dream addition to the home.
Our cats hate it, but after two months of use we'd now be lost without it.
The Roborock S6 is significantly cheaper than the iRobot Roomba i7+ but it too offers an intelligent mapping system, along with superb cleaning capabilities and multiple control settings. It might not have automatic dirt disposal, but it is half the price of the i7+.
Neato D6 Connected
The Neato D6 Connected offers a pleasing design, high-quality easy clean filters, great edge cleaning and an accurate mapping system. Like the Roborock S6, it is quite a bit cheaper than the iRobot Roomba i7+, though its small side brush does get stuck sometimes and it isn't the quietest robot we've tested.