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iRobot Roomba 800 series review

Roomba 800

We go hands-on with iRobot's future of home vacuuming

Cleaning your home can be a hassle, particularly if you have pets, but American robotics company iRobot has just launched a brand new line of consumer vacuum cleaning robots to help make those irritating house chores a thing of the past. The vacuuming Roomba 800 Series builds on iRobot’s already market leading Roomba 700 series by improving its suction, performance and ease of use, while the floor-scrubbing Scooba 450 uses a new three-cycle cleaning process to mop your floors effectively and hygienically. We were there at the European launch of iRobot’s new robots to bring you our initial impressions.

Read our round-up of the best vacuum cleaners

Roomba 800 About the size of a dinner plate, the Roomba 800 is virtually maintenance free thanks to its pair of cylinders on the rear of the robot

The Roomba 800 Series has changed drastically since the Roomba 780. Instead of bristle brushes, the 800 Series uses a newly invented pair of cylinders called AeroForce Extractors. These are made from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), and the whole robot has been designed from the ground up around these two cylinders. By removing the brushes, the cylinders create a more streamlined and accelerated airflow to help amplify suction, and iRobot claims it can remove up to 50 per cent more dirt, debris, dust and hair on your floor than older 700 models.

“[TPU] is a special material that’s hard enough but flexible enough, which is one of the best materials we could find for the AeroForce extractors,” VP Sales & Marketing for Overseas Marc Dinee told Expert Reviews. “It’s about extracting the fine dust, bringing it up and lifting it up and with the suction of the AeroFlow.”

The counter-rotation of the extractors also helps break down any debris it finds, meaning the Roomba will require far less maintenance than its predecessors. This is also helped by the 800’s larger bin, which can hold 60 per cent more dirt than previous models, so you don’t have to empty it as often. But the 800’s biggest innovation comes from its innate ability to eliminate tangled hair.

Roomba 800 By using cylinders instead of brushes, you won’t need to clean the robot itself once it’s finished vacuuming

“Ever since we first launched the Roomba, hair was a huge problem, especially pet hair,” says Colin Angle, iRobot’s CEO and co-founder. “It got into the brushes and you found yourself having to clean the brushes, and that’s not okay. If you have to go and clean the brushes on your Roomba, somehow that’s worse than cleaning the brushes on your upright vacuum cleaner, because the whole idea of Roomba is that you put it in your home, you turn it on and you’re done. That’s why we looked very, very strictly at any time you have to touch your Roomba.

“By keeping the extractor as a cylinder, it keeps the hair on the outside of the cylinder, and the extractors actually work like a conveyor belt, carrying the hair directly into the bin instead of wrapping round the extractors. You don’t have to clean the brushes any more. This idea that we can have a robot that we can put into your home, turn on and once a week empty the bin, we’ve achieved that.”

The Roomba 800 series will also have all the key features of previous Roomba models, including a HEPA filter to enable fine debris capture, a back and forth cleaning pattern that imitates a realistic cleaning action, dirt detection technology to help put extra focus on areas that need deeper cleans, Virtual Wall barriers to confine the Roomba to a specific room and Virtual Wall Lighthouses to guide the Roomba from room to room.

The Roomba 800 series comes with a brand new battery as well that doubles the number of cleaning cycles available over the robot’s lifetime. iRobot told us it could last up to five years, and it doesn’t take long to charge either, as a full charge takes just three hours.

Roomba and Scooba The Virtual Wall barrier uses an infrared beam to keep the Roomba out of certain areas

One thing that hasn’t been improved, though, is the Roomba’s collision detection. When we tested the Roomba 780, we found it wasn’t able to avoid low-profile objects such as laptops or our own feet as it made its rounds round our house. Instead, it simply bumped into them at full speed.

iRobot explained that these objects were most likely below the Roomba’s sensor window, but its deliberate bumping actually helps the Roomba to extend its coverage, providing a more thorough clean as it works out the precise borders of your room. It’s a shame this hasn’t been ironed out, but we’d say it’s a fairly small concern when the rest of the Roomba is so easy to use.

Roomba and Scooba The Roomba 800 works on every type of surface, so you can use it in every room of your home

iRobot has put a lot of work into refreshing the Roomba 800 series’ interface as well. It was already fairly simple – all you needed to do was press a button and the Roomba automatically started cleaning your room – but iRobot told us it wanted the Roomba 800 series to be just as beautiful as everything else in your living room.

“I didn’t think [the 700 series] was elegant enough,” said Dinee. “Our consumers told us that this robot is living in the living room so they also want it to be as beautiful as their TV and their hi-fi, so we had to integrate this design dimension. We want to make beautiful products that are easy to use, so that was important.”

After seeing the Roomba 880 series in action, it’s clear this robot is a huge improvement over its predecessor. Our only concern is the price. Much like the Roomba 780, the amount of money you’ll need to spend to get your hands on one of these robots isn’t exactly small, as the Roomba 870 will retail for £600 while the Roomba 880 will cost £700. This is approximately three times more expensive than a traditional upright vacuum, but as Dinee told us, it’s the peace of mind that you’ll never have to do any manual cleaning again that makes these robots so unique. It’s certainly tempting, but we’ll be sure to bring you a definitive answer once we get our hands on review samples in the coming months.

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