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“You don’t need a robotic vacuum, you want one.” If any of their conversations were like this, it would be a very different dialogue now, after the pandemic. Nine to ten hours of office work, cooking, a trillion dishes waiting in the sink, and then cleaning. At a time like this, a robotic vacuum cleaner like iRobot products seemed like a really tempting option. This wasn’t exactly my situation, but lounging all day and enjoying free home-cooked food without paying a penny may have felt guilty about doing my part.

IRobot Roomba i3 + vacuum cleaner. Image: Tech2 / Priya Singh

I recently took over the biggest task of the day: cleaning. However, I cheated. My performance enhancer: an iRobot Roomba i3 + vacuum cleaner; I called her Irona. Irona was the name of a member of Richie Rich’s household robot staff, one I always dreamed of owning as a child.

via GIPHY

It doesn’t fight villains or turn into a helicopter, but it can communicate what it needs, acts with a simple voice command, manages to keep the place perfectly clean, and takes out the trash on its own. Cold!

But, like any other cool thing, it costs quite a bit of money.

A giant hockey puck that cleans

Image: Tech2 / Priya Singh

It looks subtle, it doesn’t take up much space but it definitely catches the eye. Image: Tech2 / Priya Singh

If you’ve seen a robot vacuum, you’ve seen them all. They all look the same: dull, black, round like a hockey puck, but much bigger and bulkier. The iRobot Roomba comes with a textured top that helps keep it clean and scratch-free. Unfortunately, it only comes in black. It has three physical buttons on the top: Cleansed, Home other Place. The Cleansed The button lights up in different colors as you perform different tasks. While cleaning, it glows white, blue when it returns to its docking station, and red while charging. Speaking of the base, it is a dust collecting charging unit for this vacuum cleaner. It looks subtle, it doesn’t take up much space but it definitely catches the eye. It also comes with a dust bag inside that can hold dirt for “60 days” depending on the amount of dirt in your home.

Image: Tech2 / Priya Singh

It also comes with a dust bag inside that can hold dirt for “60 days” depending on the amount of dirt in your home. Image: Tech2 / Priya Singh

Flipping the vacuum over, we see a dirt compartment or “Clean Base” as the company calls it, two rubber tires and a brush to sweep the edges.

Clumsy at first, but keeps the place squeaky clean!

To be honest, the first time I used this vacuum cleaner, it was quite frustrating to see it hit all the obstacles over and over again! I felt like a hopeless situation.

But, to my surprise, it learned to move around my house after a couple of tries. You can schedule a routine; make sure the charging base is connected at this time. I was disappointed to find that I couldn’t mark restricted areas or name the room while assigning a cleaning job, because the i3 + doesn’t come with smart mapping like its more expensive siblings.

I was comforted by the fact that he does his assigned work quite efficiently. It gobbled up dust and debris, eventually making its way effortlessly such as tables, chairs, the bed, or other obstacles. You can also choose between “One pass”, “Two passes” and “Automatic”, so that the i3 + cleans according to your preferences.

He even managed to pick up hair and tiny particles from the rugs. If you have pets that shed, you may want to take this more seriously. Unfortunately, he didn’t feel like he was about to fall down a ladder. So I learned the hard way that it is really important to make sure that stairs are not in your path, unless you want to supervise your automated cleaning robot.

The main feature of this vacuum cleaner is its automatic emptying container. Most of these products come with a small dust bin that must occasionally be emptied in the middle of a job, if your home is big enough. But this makes sure you don’t have to be a chaperone; It is emptied every time you return to your dock after finishing a cleaning job.

irobot dock

The main feature of this vacuum cleaner is its automatic emptying container. Image: Tech2 / Priya Singh

The i3 + is fairly quiet while cleaning, but light sleepers will still notice it, so avoid scheduling cleanings during bedtime. It gets noisy when emptying the trash, but that takes about 10 seconds so it’s not much of a hassle.

As for the battery, the company did not disclose the capacity of the battery, the unit was cleaned for about 80 minutes before it had to be charged. In particular, you cannot unplug the charging station even when the vacuum cleaner is fully charged, as the battery begins to drain.

Easy to use? Yes and no

The i3 + uses a companion I robot application compatible with Android and iOS. The app is easy to navigate and use, but it is restricted to a single user, which was quite unpleasant for me. Every time someone other than me had to give an order to the vacuum, they had to use the buttons or ask me to do it.

IRobot-1280 App

The app is easy to navigate and use, but it is restricted to a single user, which was quite unpleasant for me.

On the bright side, a simple voice command “ok Google, ask Irona to start vacuuming” got it going. The vacuum cleaner comes with support for Alexa and Google Assistant.

The app also shows you a map of the cleaned area and how long it took to complete. You can program routines for the vacuum and just sit back and relax!

Verdict

The iRobot Roomba i3 + is a fantastic vacuum cleaner with an easy-to-use app, efficient in cleaning and not noisy. You can get these features on competitive products, but the self-cleaning feature gives you an edge.

Should you buy it? Well that depends on whether you really NEED a robotic vacuum. Okay, it’s the pandemic and some of us are still working from home, so you can probably defend it. But can it defend its price of Rs 69,999? There are much cheaper options, like the Mi Robot Vacuum Mop-P for just Rs 24,999, but that needs a manual cleaning of the small dust bin. This makes sense for most small homes, but the Roomba has the advantage for larger homes, where most of the time it doesn’t intervene. We still think it should have come with the full complement of smart mapping features, considering its prodigious price.