Last week, we got an opportunity to go hands-on with what's probably the next big tech upgrade for robot vacuums.
The new Roomba i7+ from iRobot is naturally equipped with the company's latest software upgrades, app options, and navigational tweaks. But what sets the i7+ apart from Roombas past is that it does one thing no other robot vacuum can: empty itself.
This new functionality—a "Clean Base" that has an additional vacuum in it—means the i7+ can suction debris out of its dust bin and into a filtered bag, seriously simplifying the clean-up process. This could be a big step forward for robot vacs.
The Incremental Improvements
Of course, not everything here is revolutionary. As you'd probably expect, the i7+ primarily makes incremental improvements upon previous models. One such upgrade is the new iAdapt 3.0 version–an improved robotics system that uses visual contrast cues within the environment to help the new Roomba navigate.
A dorsal-mounted camera allows the i7+ to efficiently navigate an entire floor with or without the dock or lighthouses that are usually required to see it safely from wall to wall and corner to corner.
The cleaning pattern has also received a huge upgrade. The 980 made cleaning maps, but they didn't effect the next cleaning cycle, which wasn't terribly efficient.
The new i7+ will have "Imprint," a feature that allows the unit to remember up to ten floor plans sketched out during previous cleanings. Combined with iAdapt 3.0, the i7+ will spend one cleaning cycle mapping a room, and on subsequent runs should perfectly cover every inch of floor.
After cleaning you may want to open up the dust bin. Older, high-end iRobots contained a motor in there, and while that increased the unit's overall power, it also made it harder to clean.
The motor is elsewhere now, so now you'll be able to rinse the bin in the sink without worrying that you could short something out. We have to give iRobot props for dealing with this major consumer complaint—it was one of the biggest drawbacks for previous Roombas.
While the i7+ can clean an entire floor, there are times when you'll just want to give a single room a once over. Fortunately, the Imprint maps allow you to virtually cordon off and label areas for cleaning.
For example, if you have an open concept style house or floor plan, you should be able to draw lines in the app to mark off and label an area as the kitchen. Say, "Hey Alexa, clean the kitchen," and off the i7+ goes.
For those of us that don't own an Alexa or Google Home device, worry not: you can do all this in the iRobot app, too.
More impressively, we found that you can schedule the unit to clean certain areas via the app. A great real-world application would be setting the i7+ to clean the front entrance everyday after your kids come home from school. This feature takes setting and forgetting to a whole new level.
Of course, the most exciting improvement overall is the self-emptying feature. We watched the i7+ roll up to its Clean Base dock, activating a vacuum that suctioned all the debris out of the bin and into a bag.
The bag is like what you'd find on a high-end vacuum like a Miele Cat&Dog. The bag can hold about 30 cleaning cycles' worth of dust, so you won't have to empty constantly.
We also noticed that each bag self seals when removed, which means you and your family will never have to breathe or touch what's inside. Plus, iRobot claims that these bags act as an additional filter—making the whole process cleaner than ever.
The i7+ comes in somewhat different variations, which affects cost:
- i7+ without Clean Base: $649
- i7+ with Clean Base: $949
- Clean Base (standalone): $299
- Clean Base bags: $14.99 (pack of three)
iRobot also said that consumers should expect the 980 to be slowly phased out as the i7+ rolls out.
While the i7+ has a lot of cool features—its ability to self-empty and accept voice commands to clean individual rooms might be game-changers—I do think it's worth mentioning that a lot of the technology here isn't new for the industry.
For example, Ecovacs already has a Deebot that can clean individual rooms on command—it's not voice-activated, but you can do it in the app. And the i7+'s new visual contrast navigation system was implemented by Dyson years ago, so it isn't exactly unique.
Still, there's nothing wrong with not fixing something if it ain't broken, and we're still super excited to get the i7+ into our lab to put it through its paces in a more stringent environment. Check back soon for the full review and lab results.