iRobot has announced a $700 robotic vacuum known as the Roomba 960.
The company makes a top-of-the-range WiFi-connected Roomba 980, which sells for $900. Now it has come up with a more affordable option which has a less powerful motor and battery, but still has a WiFi connection.
Roomba 960 robot vacuum hits the market
Other features inherited from its bigger brother include floor mapping and app control. At $700 the Roomba 960 sells for the same price as rival Neato BotVac Connected, but offers smartphone connectivity which could convince techy users to invest in the iRobot device.
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The Roomba 960 is able to map your rooms and adapt its navigation in order to clean multiple rooms at a time. Inbuilt sensors will even spot especially dirty areas, and the device can run for 75 minutes in between charges. According to iRobot, the Roomba 980 has two hours of battery life and the BotVac connected can run for three.
iRobot has included brushes and debris extractors in order to clean even hard-to-reach areas, and the Roomba 960 performs up to five times better than cheaper models in the range.
Thanks to an accompanying app you can schedule and customize cleaning via Bluetooth or WiFi. The robotic cleaning market is becoming increasingly crowded, and one major rival is the $1,000 Dyson 360 Eye.
iRobot Braava made for cleaning hard floors
iRobot also makes a robotic mop known as the Braava, made for cleaning wood and tile floors. The water-spitting version is cheaper than the Roomba at just $199, and now integrates with the iRobot mobile app.
However the Braava does not have a charging dock that it automatically returns to when its battery gets low. Instead you have to remove a battery from the device and plug it into a wall charger. This takes away many of the benefits of a smartphone app because you still have to physically interact with the robot.
More physical interaction is required in order to change the cleaning pads that the Braava uses to scrub the floor, and top up the water tank. Another downside is that the Braava has less sophisticated sensors than the Roomba, and it requires more assistance in setting cleaning boundaries. However you can set invisible boundaries using the app.
According to reviewers, the Braava does an admirable job on most stains. However tougher areas are sometimes left uncleaned.
Is it worth investing in robotic cleaning devices?
If you are considering investing in a Braava it’s worth noting that the unit costs $199, compared to $900 for the Roomba 980. However it is necessary to buy cleaning pads for the Braava, and costs can soon mount up when a box of 10 pads costs $7.99. Reusable pads cost $20, but iRobot recommends that you only use them 50 times. Either way you will have some running costs to add to the $199 base price.
While the Braava may be a good addition to your home if you are particularly squeamish about cleaning hard floors, its capabilities remain limited when compared to the Roomba range. Robotic cleaning technology continues to improve, but at this stage it looks like you might be better off sticking with good old-fashioned elbow grease to get your floors sparkling clean.
On the other hand, robot vacuums are far more autonomous and take a lot of the stress out of keeping your home clean. If you want to buy a cleaning robot that you can leave to work by itself, the Roomba 960 is a more affordable solution than the 980 or the Dyson.