Defrosting the freezer, heating the home and even making a cup of coffee are just some of the activities that automation has taken away from us, with no need for us to think about engaging in the ‘doing process’. Vacuuming the home is a begrudging chore that most certainly have to do themselves daily. Just imagine rarely needing to push a manual cleaner again. . . Well, the iRobot Roomba 880, boasting a performance of meticulous cleaning on all floor types, wants to be exactly the product that enables this scenario to come about.
It’s ironically a very clean circular design; all black, so collected exterior dirt and scuffs on its body are discreetly less visible. But what’s really interesting are the dimensions of the Roomba 880, measuring 35cm in diameter and 9cm in height; a seemingly intentional height to fit just under so many pieces of furniture, as we witnessed at our studio, and of course, to travel underneath many beds with absolute ease. Additionally, transporting the 4kg Roomba 880 up and down stairs is made friendly by the incorporation of a hinged carry handle on top.
Modes & Configuring
The folks who crafted the Roomba 880 at iRobot have also inbuilt a quirky and rather likeable character, too. Usually beeping sounds, voice alerts and more than three lights on a product can become annoying after constant familiar usage, but here at the studio we have yet to grind our teeth regarding these occurring on the Roomba. It strikes a perfect harmony of helpful feedback through the sounds it makes when necessary, but most of the time just happily purrs away cleaning. Likewise the display is bright and futuristic in style, only telling you what is absolutely necessary, along with four buttons and the glaringly obvious gigantic centre ‘clean’ button. The four buttons are: Dock, Hour (setting the current time), Schedule and Spot Clean mode. The latter of which will just spiral a one metre radius for an intense clean; useful to get those menacing ice Crispies early in the morning. Should you want to be even more scrupulous, then the supplied remote control will be to your advantage, sporting all previously mentioned functionality, and what’s more you can even manoeuvre the cleaner in any direction via a D-pad.
AeroForce Cleaning System: Headlining the long list of features is the AeroForce cleaning system. It's the first time we’ve ever witnessed this kind of brush bar free cleaning method for floors. What replaces it? Two rubber threaded extractors, designed to basically, suck, collect and crumple dirt. Over the course of our testing it was glaringly obvious why this is a design characteristic that works well on an appliance that is automated, as you don’t need to get your hands dirty by pulling out any hair or trapped debris. We’ll get into how well it cleans a broad scope of debris later on, but the disadvantage is that this method is so effective at gobbling up larger debris, that a few chunky cables have been whisked into the Roomba. However, it always stopped and alerted us that it got itself into such a pickle.
Virtual Walls: The above mentioned problem can actually be diverted, as iRobot include 2 virtual wall gadgets in the box. They feature two modes: lighthouse, which seemingly casts a broad semi-circular barrier, ideal for keeping the iRobot away from precise areas and objects. Whereas the wall mode broadcasts a straight line barrier (up to 2.4 metres) of which the Roomba 880 will never cross. Generally speaking we found these two virtual barrier devices easy to use, and once they’re setup and located, they will only ever switch on when the Roomba is on and within the same room, so their battery life is automatically optimised and the automation continues!
iAdapt Technology: Optical, acoustic and proximity sensors perceive the surrounding environments of indoor spaces. Perimeters and obstacles in rooms are registered and remembered in cleaning sessions. Trepidation of furniture damage comes with all robotic styled products and whilst the Roomba admittedly touches furniture, it does so gently and usually all contact is via the spring-loaded bumper. What’s more, it never leaps downstairs and somehow the combination of sensors manage to detect the difference in pressure between a bookshelf and a curtain, as the Roomba always cleans underneath the latter at our studio. So we’re pretty impressed, all in all, with the efficiency of the Roomba 880, well - sort of. We say ‘sort of’ because whilst the Roomba travels in straight lines in the wide open spaces and we’re satisfied how close to walls it gets, we often spot it just randomly darting about in an illogical manner and sometimes just addictively cleaning an area that is visibly spotless. So we’re not overly confident that the onboard sensors for detecting dirt are completely competent 100% of the time.
Bin & Filter: All the witty automation thuds to a halt when the Roomba 880 fills up its bin. Thankfully the Roomba 880 tells you when it’s full via a symbol and iRobot have made it easy to slide the bin out of the cleaner and emptying just requires a good few taps on the side. Two HEPA filters are supplied in the box which are located in the bin assembly and are easy to remove. iRobot claim you need to replace these every so often, the timing of which will vary depending on how often you use the Roomba. We’ve so far managed to keep powering on with the original HEPA filter by simply using our Dyson handheld vacuum on max power mode to suck out all that dust. It comes up clean every time, and furthermore the filter is constructed from fibreglass so doesn't crumple-up under such extreme suction.
Battery Life & Charging
We weren't at all disappointed with the battery life. A large scale cleaning event, involving four different rooms of complex obstacles to get around, meant it managed to clean over 120m² before running out of electricity as we intentionally didn't switch the docking base on. When it is switched on the Roomba will usually find its way back to the base once satisfied with its cleaning, or if it’s running out of power it will return to the base for a top up and then deploy to finish where it left off.
Wooden Hard floor: The spring loaded wheels mean this robot cleaner gets nice and low against hard floors and transfers from carpet to wood without complication. That low profile, which iRobot refer to as the ‘Airflow Accelerator’, means the suction is touching the floor, and with the combination of the outward rotating brush that disturbs lodged debris, it consequently meant we saw wooden floors completely clean, with the assurance that the Roomba 880 covers the entire floor area of a room. To prove this we used our trusty Dyson DC59 Animal on max suction mode with the large motorised brush tool, and retrieved nothing the human eye could see in its translucent bin. This is when we realised that we could actually trust the Roomba to do a good job daily to clean our studio's wooden floors. Not to neglect to mention that thin rugs scattered on some of our wooden floors weren't chewed up by the cleaner and it also didn't pull them around either.
Carpets: We scattered a combined path of cornflakes, flour, wood chippings and some debris (cat hair & dust) previously collected in another cleaner for the iRobot Roomba 880 to tackle. In the case of the larger debris like the cornflakes, the Roomba 880 mostly whisked these up in a single pass. In contrast, the finer stuff, like the previously collected debris, took more effort and in general mostly vanished after 3-4 passes. Importantly, even though the cleaner dives all over the place, it managed to eventually repass these set out paths and the inbuilt detection of dirt meant it paid sniffer-dog style close attention to these areas. Although it’s not all good news, as the flour test was pretty much impossible to conduct on certain rugs because the fine flour embeds itself into the carpet and the iRobot couldn't build up enough traction. Despite sending the iRobot Roomba 880 into spot clean mode to try and give it every chance to collect all of the flour, it just couldn’t. Similarly this was a fault of the robotic Miele Scout RX1 which includes a brush bar. Having said this, the flour test isn't a real world condition but an extreme magnification of a possibility, and in general the iRobot cleaned very well.
The iRobot Roomba 880 is a robotic cleaner for the masses. It works with free and knowledgeable movement so it truly understands rooms and all the contained obstacles within them. Not to neglect to mention its powerful suction and rugged traction that manages to clean deep and deal with frightful pet hair and clumsy spilt morning cereal too. Whilst the newest iRobot won’t replace a traditional dedicated vacuum cleaner to the point that you can keep the latter locked away in the cupboard forever, it will effectively reduce the workload by accomplishing most daily floor vacuuming tasks all by itself.