My review of the iRobot Roomba j7+
Like most office workers, two years ago at the start of the pandemic my employer moved our non-operational staff from the office to the home. Although my wife and son initially had to work remotely too, they didn't stay long and have since then returned to work and school. Yet, here I still sit the only human being at home for eight hours a day.
Despite being busy because I'm working the family has come to expect during my breaks from my workday to be that person to do an extra load of laundry, vacuum the floor, start the dishwasher, or let the dog out. The argument goes now that now I'm essentially a stay at home Dad that doesn't have the commute time to and from work...I can use that extra hour in the day doing family chores. Mind you, I'm still putting in eight hours of work for the office and my break times away from work computer need to be limited to 5 to 10 minutes. That's not much time to get the expected or unexpected tasks done at home. I'm grateful that I don't do all the housework manually thanks to robotic vacuum cleaners.
Let me introduce you to my new iRobot Roomba j7+ which the wife bought me for Christmas and as a replacement to older Roomba 960.
Family History with Robot Vacuum Cleaners
As mentioned in the opening paragraphs, we've only owned two robot vacuum cleaners the iRobot Roomba 960 and the Roomba j7+. We purchased the Roomba 960 a few years ago but at the time we had house cleaners that came biweekly to clean the things we were reluctant to clean ourselves. So in other words we seldom used the Roomba 960 and had little need for it the first year we owned it. But the pandemic changed all that. Our house cleaners decided that a pandemic was a good reason to retire the business. Plus, I never comfortable seeing people doing work at my house on tasks I always felt the family should be doing themselves anyway. So that's when we put the older Roomba to work by scheduling it to clean house twice a week.
It was a disappointing experience to say the least. If my experience with the Roomba 960 could be summarized in a tweet, it would be this tweet.
Signs that you're doing it wrong: When you spend more time maintaining and fixing your robot vacuum than the time you would have spent running an "old fashion" vacuum cleaner in the house. #irobot
— Bryan Ruby (@brubyusa) October 4, 2020
The amount of time I spent removing the dirt from the bin, cleaning the rollers, shaking the dirt out of the filter, and getting the Roomba out of a tight jam was mind boggling. It's not that the vacuum cleaner didn't do a nice job cleaning (just as good as a human) but that the Roomba required a lot of attention and maintenance so that it would continue to function. In the end, I increasingly found the I found the Roomba 960 robot vacuum to be too too much of a distraction from my work. I loved the concept of automating the vacuum process, appreciated how much dirt was picked up by the Roomba 960, but I found myself also wanting something better.
The iRobot Roomba j7+
The Roomba j7+ is part of a iRobot's j Series robot vacuums. Overall the series is designed to be adapt and adjust better to home obstacles with improved navigation and improved algorithms compared to previous models. It is designed to aim for the kitchen crumbs while avoiding electrical chords and pet waste. To tell you how serious iRobot is in showing that it's addressed the short comings of previous Roomba's for pet owners, the manufacturer has even provided with the j7 and j7+ vacuums a Pet Owner Official Promise (that's right, this is abbreviated as P.O.O.P.). With P.O.O.P. iRobot will replace your Roomba j7 or j7+ robot for free it it is soiled due to a failure to avoid solid cat or dog waste.
Although introduced in previous Roomba vacuum cleaners, the most important feature of the j7+ for me is its ability to self-empty its own bin. What a fantastic realization that I'm no longer spending two to four times during a full house vacuuming emptying the bin as I did with the Roomba 960. The robot self-empties waste into a dust bag found in the home clean base. According to iRoomba this bag will need to be replaced about every 60 days. Occasionally, I do find I need to empty the bin in the robot itself for the occasional heavier weighted cereal or pebble but that's only about once a week.
The underside of the Roomba j7 is almost identical to the Roomba i3 and very similar to the Roomba 960 with all three vacuums having dual multi-surface rubber brushes. These brushes allow the j7 to vacuum both carpet and hard floors. What's more impressive to me is that with the j7's improved navigation it's able to know where it's already vacuumed and will reduce it's suction power when in "travel mode" making it a more power efficient robot and quieter robot than the previous model I've owned. While the battery capacity at 2210 mAh for the j7+ is less than it was for my 960 at 2600 mAh, because of the efficiency of the j7+ the battery life is roughly the same as the 960. When the j7+'s battery is low it is capable of automatically dock to the home page, recharge, and then resume cleaning where it left off.
As mentioned earlier, mapping and navigation is improved with the j Series of vacuum robots. In part, this navigation improvement is because the Roomba j7+ not only contains a camera but also a gyroscope. Unlike my previous model, the mapping is of better quality and detail capable of detecting not only where the robot needs to vacuum but also where one room ends and another begins. This feature allows the Roomba j7+ to be assigned to clean the whole house or clean by zone where you specify which rooms you wish Roomba to vacuum.
While the Roomba j7+ is Wi-Fi capable, I'm pleased to find that it is capable to connect to a home network at both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency band. Having more than one Wi-Fi access point in the house there are times I need to reduce interference by turning off the 2.4 GHz frequency band and rely fully on the 5 GHz Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, I could never do this with devices like the Roomba 960 that are only capable of connecting to the network via 2.4 GHz.
My only complaint with the Roomba j7+ is that it only contains one physical button to start vacuuming or sending the robot back to it's home base. Unlike previous models which had three separate buttons for sending the robot home, to clean, and to spot clean the i7+ has a single all-in-button that requires a learning curve. I found the single clean button confusing and it took me awhile to figure out that you press the single button to start, pause, and resume. If you wish the j7+ to end its vacuum job and return home you press the button for 2 to 5 seconds. I assume this single button approach is done for cost saving measures and iRobot expects the user to more easily access the features of the Roomba j7 via an app on their Android and iOS phones. I adapted to this change but I still don't like it.
Roomba j7+ Included Components
The iRobot Roomba j7+ (7550) package that we purchased included the following components in the box:
- 1 Roomba® j7 Robot Vacuum
- 1 Clean Base® Automatic Dirt Disposal
- 2 Dirt Disposal Bags
- 1 North American Line Cord
- 1 Extra High-Efficiency Filter
- 1 Extra Corner Brush (black)
Roomba j7+ Price
At the time of this writing the manufacturer suggested retail price for the iRoomba Roomba j7+ Self Emptying Robot Vacuum (7550) is $850. But historically, iRobot has offered manufacturer discounts and retail stores have offered sales of their Roomba for a lower price.
When purchasing the Roomba j7+, I recommend you look for sales online and retails stores near you before you buy. For instance as of this writing iRobot is offering the j7+ for $250 less than their MSRP. The j7+ can be found at Amazon for a very reasonable price (affiliate link). You may also be able purchase the Roomba j7 without the Clean Base (affiliate link) for an even lower price but I wouldn't recommend purchasing a robot vacuum cleaner that didn't feature self-emptying as an option.
When you're paying $400 to $1000 for a robot vacuum it's really difficult to recommend someone buy one of these devices when they already have a fully functioning "old fashion" vacuum cleaner. As much as I appreciated what my older Roomba 960 got right there were enough negatives that I couldn't recommend the product to just anyone. I get it. However, if you've been waiting to purchase a robot vacuum cleaner until they have improved and shown their convenience is worth the price, I think that time has arrived via the iRobot Roomba j7+.
In my opinion, the Roomba j7+ is so much better and requires so little assistance compared to previous models that I believe this is the right product for any home. As far as telework buddies, the Roomba j7+ is the right fit for my home office. Unlike the previous model I owned, I find myself no longer getting distracted and no longer serving the robot vacuum so it can do its job. Once setup, the Roomba j7+ just works. For a change the robot vacuum is finally doing its job without me so I can finally focus on my own work.
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A version of this article was originally posted at the After Work Pub.