Fans of the Roomba will be excited to hear that iRobot has just released its first new robot vacuum in years, the iRobot Roomba j7+. The j7+ keep the Roomba tradition of smart floor sweepers, but this latest version—much to my surprise—does not add mopping functions, though it does have some thoughtful redesign touches as well as new smarts.
iRobot j7+ robot vacuum review
I received a sample of the iRobot Roomba j7+ with Clean Base Dirt Disposal unit to test and review in my home. I’ll tell you what’s new and if it seems improved, how well the bot cleans, how the new features work and if I can recommend this bot for your home cleaning needs.
A quick word about the mopping thing: Many robot vacuum companies are making dual vacuum and mops all in one device. I find it interesting and surprising that iRobot has not gone this route, meaning if you want mopping in your iRobot world, you will still need to purchase the separate m6 mopping robot, which I’ve reviewed here. It’s a solid bot, but having two bots does take up additional space and costs more. But ‘nuff said on this topic. Let’s get to the j7+…
Getting started: Creating a map for robot vacuum smarts
For this bot to work effectively, you need it to first map your space. Essentially your Roomba will go out all over your house and use its cameras and sensors to draw an accurate floorplan of your home. Then you can use that to do room-specific cleaning.
Creating the smart map will take several passes. You can make this happen all in one day by repeatedly sending the bot out on suction-less mapping missions, or you can just instruct it to go out and clean over a few days. The app will tell you when it’s had enough time in your house to generate the automatic map.
View the map, make adjustments and label rooms
Next up you’ll have to view the map and label rooms. This will involve essentially putting dividers between rooms or spaces, and assigning each room a label, and I can say my bot did a very accurate job of mapping my space. The labeling and naming is pretty straightforward and is easy enough to manage, though the app is a bit slow and plodding when saving your information and changes, but it will make smart suggestion for room labels (and it guessed most of mine correctly!)
Once you have all of your rooms labelled and assigned, you’ll be able to schedule or initiate room specific cleanings on the spot whenever you want. More on that in a bit…
iRobot j7+: What’s in the box?
In the box you get the round Roomba robot, the newly redesigned Clean Base Dirt Disposal and cord, two sealed dirt disposal bags, plus an extra corner brush.
Meet iRobot Roomba j7+
The Roomba j7+ is a self guided robot vacuum. It has all of the features of the existing iRobot vacuums, but it does have some subtle differences and some new tricks.
The navigation camera is now located on the front of the unit, rather than the top. This helps the j7+ steer itself more accurately according to iRobot, as well as provide photo information (more on that later).
The unit has been redesigned in the looks department but also for an even more gentle cleaning experience: It moves more quietly, and this version can also turn off the vacuum mode while it travels between cleaning areas. It also ‘sees’ its environment better so doesn’t need to bump forcefully into your furniture and baseboards.
iRobot Roomba j7+: What’s New? Design.
The new j7+ boasts a shorter Clean Base disposal unit, designed to fit under a table and keep it out of sight. This will be welcome news for Roomba fans, as the older style of Clean Base it much taller and tends to stick out in the home or apartment. Fluted panels give the design a bit more interest and a leather pull tab on the base lid also softens the look.
The bags used inside the clean base hold all the dirt from the robot, so you never need to touch the dustbin to empty it. Each bag should hold up to 60 bin-emptyings before needed to be swapped out.
The Roomba robot itself has also kind of been updated for a more modern look: instead of the all-black plastic, there’s now the addition of a spun metal centre.
While the small metal panel and leather pull-tab are nice touches, both of these devices still look pretty utilitarian and robotic. A really inspired redesign would probably utilize a faux wood wrap on the base station and more of a choice of colours in the bots. In my own, never requested opinion, a nice Scandi-inspired white-and-wood look would be the ultimate re-design. But I digress…
New Features: iRobot Roomba j7+
iRobot has made some improvements to the Roomba, most of them focused on how and how well it cleans—and a significant part of the development budget went to improving hazard recognition.
Hazard recognition and poop avoidance
The j7+ features upgraded hazard recognition, and the engineers spent a lot of time and energy training Roomba to both identify and avoid commonly dropped items like headphones, phone cords, socks, and more. More importantly for pet owners, iRobot promises that the j7+ will avoid solid pet waste, so no more poop-op-floor-art upon arriving home.
iRobot tells me this will soon be followed by more object recognition objects such as shoes and socks via a software update in the near future, and that as time goes on, iRobot will continue to add more objects to the list of items that tend to prevent a Roomba from completing its work.
Luckily I have well trained younger dogs, so the poop thing was not some thing I got to try first hand. But we do have plenty of situations where a dog toys, cords and cables, and more will end up on the floor. In my experience using the new j7+ the hazard recognition seemed to work. I left some cords deliberately in its path and it didn’t get tangled.
Photo alerts about obstacles
If the j7+ finds an unknown obstacle, it will take a photo of what it sees, send it to your phone, and let you decide whether it should register this as a permanent or temporary hazard. If you just forgot something that morning, mark it as temporary and Roomba will just clean that area next time. If it’s something permanent, like a new potted plant, you can steer your bot permanently away.
After a few uses, you’ll get push notifications asking you to review these alerts, or you can look them up manually.
To access the reports, go into your History, choose the clean and then pull up the drawer from the bottom of the app screen.
Doing this helps make the bot smarter not just for me but for everyone.
AI Learning for gentler cleaning plus geofencing
The j7+ features intuitive AI learning to clean your space better. It does this by slowing when reaching a wall or furniture, to avoid forceful collisions.
Did I notice a gentler clean. I didn’t really. The j7 still banged mightily into things like baseboards and some furniture.
The new iRobot Roomba j7+ will also recognize when you’re not in the space, through your phone’s location services and geofencing, and can clean when you’re away, and stop when you return.
How to set a geofence schedule on j7+
How to set up go to Schedules, New Schedule and click on Automation at the top. You can choose what it will clean and what will trigger the start or the stop; you can use your location via your smartphone, when your August door lock unlocks or engages, when you garage door opens or closes and more.
Cleaning time estimations
Another new and handy feature is estimated cleaning times. Previously the s9 and i7 bots would just do their thing and while you could limit cleaning to certain rooms, you never knew how long the bot was going to be. Estimates are handy, since if you have guests coming over, you can see how long it would take to clean the living room and kitchen area and plan accordingly.
It seems like you need a few passes for the bot to learn how long areas should take, so this might not pop up for you right away.
Clean just a room or one area
If you want your bot to clean just one or two rooms or areas, hit the New Job button and choose the rooms. You do need a finished map for this to work.
Previous iterations of even the smarter Roombas still required you to manually set and maintain a cleaning schedule. But the new j7+ can start to take note of when you repeatedly said the bot to clean and suggest an automatic schedule, so you don’t always have to do it.
It takes a while for it to learn your habits and schedules, so I’ve not been presented with this option just yet.
Using Roomba vacuum and iRobot m6 mop together
iRobot j7+ will also work in tandem with iRobot’s m6 mop. Like the iRobot Roomba s9 and i7, I’m able to link these two bots together for tandem floor cleaning. This means the vacuum will go out first and pick up all the debris, then it essentially tags in your mopping robot to finish up strong with a wipe down. You can choose this option when you create a schedule, or during at-the-moment cleaning.
How well does iRobot j7+ clean?
I put all my vacuums through the same tests; I get them to sweep up finer things like flour or sugar, middle sized bits like rice or oatmeal and bigger cracker pieces, on both carpet and hard floors.
The robot does a pretty good job at vacuuming and what it might miss on one pass, it usually gets on another.
The j7+ seemed a bit haphazard, but I suspect it’s still in its learning phase. I’ve tested some bots out where they go in very deliberate overlapping lines. The j7 was all over the place and seemed to cover the same ground multiple times while leaving other areas un-vacuumed. Once I even set it up to clean a small zone to get some flour off the floor and though I sent it to that exact area twice, it missed it both times. It could be because it’s white powder on a white floor?
But.. Another time, I sent it out to clean and it seemed to zero in on oatmeal crumbs, backing up and taking a couple of runs at the area like it was targeting it for a deeper clean. Reading up I learned this is the Dirt Detect mode. When the robot detects an especially dirty area, it will engage Dirt Detect mode, moving in a forwards/backwards motion to clean the area more thoroughly. The light ring indicator will ﬂash blue. It was pretty cool to see it in action.
So far the j7 is keeping things clean and it’s its working its way up to some of those even smarter features.
Spot cleaning on iRobot j7+?
I had the hardest time trying to figure out if the new j7 still does spot cleaning. Spot clean sends the robot in widening circles to target a specific area wherever you place it. There’s no longer a spot clean button like on other iRobot bots, I saw nothing in the app, and I couldn’t figure it out.
I finally called iRobot customer service to ask and they told me the Spot Cleaning feature is not available on the j7+, and that because the robot has advanced mapping features that let you create commonly cleaned zones, you can just use the mapping or voice assistance to direct it to a specific location in the home.
I’m actually disappointed with that since I found the spot cleaning feature handy. It was easy just to put the bot down somewhere and press the button. Now I need to create a zone to do this, which adds steps.
The j7 seems quieter to me than other vacuums; maybe just a bit, but it’s not quite as noticeable as before. ?
When it comes to the emptying though, it’s like Hercules taking off; it’s loud and prolonged and will wake up anyone in the house.
How does iRobot j7+ compare to i7+ and s9+?
If you are shopping one of the smarter and more expensive Roombas, they do all largely the same basic job; sweeping and vacuuming your floors on their own. If you already have the i7+ or s9+, should you upgrade? In a word: Maybe. If you think the hazard recognition, perhaps in particular the poop detection would be in valuable in your home, that alone would make it worth the upgrade. While the new hazard recognition, gentler cleaning, smarter scheduling and minor re-designs are all cool, they are probably not must haves for existing i7+ or s9+ owners. If you have a much older bot, or no robot vacuum at all, the new j7+ gives you plenty of reasons to make the move now.
Overall review: iRobot j7+
Overall, the j7+ is the first major evolution for the Roomba in years, and a chance to improve over earlier models. The hazard recognition feature is vastly improved, and with the opportunity to review what the bot is seeing, you can help make it even smarter. It keeps the bot from getting stuck or tangled, meaning it completes more jobs for you.
The bot cleans well and I like the new design; it is a bit less industrial. iRobot bots are super easy to set up and schedule
Downsides? It does take a few passes to get your space mapped and early on in your bots life it won’t be as thorough, deliberate or as good as it will be the more you use it, so patience, grasshopper. The other downside is that if you want mopping capabilities, you do still need a second iRobot mopping bot, which can weigh heavily on the household budget.
But overall I really like having an iRobot bot in my home and I can recommend it for you. The Roomba j7+ robot vacuum with Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal retails for $1049.99 CAD and the Roomba j7 robot vacuum without the Clean Base can be purchased for $799.99 CAD from Amazon, below, or iRobot’s website.
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