Robot vacuums that can also clean have been around for a while, but most make you remove the mop before they can vacuum your carpets—unless you like slightly damp carpets. iRobot’s latest bot looks to solve that problem with a retractable robot mop arm that can lift itself up and under the vacuum to mop when needed, and retract on top when not.
The Roomba Combo j7 Plus costs $1,099 and is available for pre-order today. It will ship on October 4th and is only sold with the auto emptying clean base at launch. The two-in-one vacuum mop uses a new combination of acoustic sensors to detect the different types of flooring in the home and “decide” when to raise its pad to avoid lint counts and when to lower it to clean hard types floors such as wood and tiles.
iRobot CEO Colin Engle said On the edge in an interview that this is the first “hands-free” two-in-one vacuum cleaner and mop robot – because, while other companies have washing pads on their vacuum cleaners in most other cases, the user must manually attach the mop to clean floors. Then they have to remove it when they want to vacuum carpets.
This is largely true. The $950 Roborock S7 Plus is a competing bot that can also pick up its pad when it walks across the carpet. However, it only rises by a few millimeters. In contrast, the Roomba Combo j7 Plus raises the cleaning pad completely, so there’s no chance of a wet carpet.
The Roomba Combo j7 Plus is essentially the Roomba j7 Plus robot vacuum with a built-in cleaning pad. It has a slightly smaller container to make room for a 210ml water tank and a larger 4400mAh battery to help power the mop. In most other respects it is identical. It has smart room mapping, scheduling and virtual restricted zones controlled in the app, and works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri Shortcuts for voice control. It also comes with iRobot’s Clean Base to automatically empty the bin, but users must fill the water tank manually.
Several manufacturers, such as Roborock and Ecovacs, have robot vacuums/mops with bases that can empty the bin and fill the robot’s water tank. But users may need to remove and attach cleaning pads to these robots, especially if they have thicker carpets.
The new Roomba’s cleaning tasks can be customized in the iRobot app, so it can be sent to vacuum the living room and then mop and vacuum the kitchen. Water levels can also be adjusted for deeper cleaning and can be set to clean an area twice. Angle said that in their testing, it was as effective as an oscillating motion that some other robot vacuums use to simulate floor scrubbing.
Interestingly, iRobot chose to simply add a pad to its flagship robot vacuum instead of producing an entirely new vacuum and cleaning bot. The design seems pretty simple – using aluminum alloy arms to raise and lower the pad and then placing it on top of the robot – and it doesn’t change the overall look of the vacuum at all.
And while it’s hard to see how it can clean as well as iRobot’s dedicated cleaning robot, the Braava Jet m6, Angle said the Combo was as effective as the Braava Jet in their tests. However, he said they still consider the Braava Jet combined with a Roomba robot vacuum to be “the ultimate cleaning experience” because the two robots can work simultaneously.
The Combo’s streamlined design means it can easily be incorporated into other iRobot models – such as the more budget-friendly Roomba i3 Plus Evo. Supposedly, iRobot started with the j7 because it is iRobot’s “smartest” robot.
I reviewed it earlier this year, and it does a good job of avoiding most common household items—including pet waste—thanks to its AI-powered brain. This means it’s less likely to derail while cleaning and more likely to actually get the job done.
The intelligence is powered in part by iRobot OS, an AI platform that helps the robot’s navigation system recognize more than 80 common objects, according to iRobot. Along with the new robot vacuum, iRobot is releasing an operating system update that adds the ability to identify more items.
The company says that iRobot OS 5 recognizes pet toys, pet bowls, litter boxes and backpacks, as well as shoes/slippers, socks, cables, headphones, clothes, towels and solid pet waste that it has already managed to notice and avoid.
The Roomba Combo j7 Plus leverages this intelligence with a new ability to automatically detect and recommend areas that may need more cleaning. The cleaning and vacuuming bot can autonomously suggest new “Clean Zones” around dishwashers, toilets, ovens/stoves, litter boxes and pet bowls. The user can then send the robot to clean the area using the app or a voice command to Alexa or Google Assistant. This capability also comes with the Braava Jet m6 and other Smart Mapping Roombas.
Another new feature coming to compatible Roombas with OS 5 is the ability to skip a room while cleaning. Now, instead of turning the whole thing off because the family is trying to watch TV, you can simply tell the robot to skip that room in the app or with a voice command.
iRobot was recently purchased by Amazon, though the deal has not closed and is currently under investigation by the FTC, in part because of concerns about how the company’s data on consumers’ homes could be used by Amazon to gain an unfair advantage in the space. iRobot recently received the TÜV SÜD cybersecurity mark for the Roomba j7 robot vacuum, which exceeds industry standards for protecting customer data from cybersecurity threats (but not from its owners).