US-based iRobot has been making robotic vacuum cleaners for decades now and we have seen those circular bots moving around a house in many Holylwood movies and television series. Last year, the company finally made its debut in India with its range of Roomba vacuuming and Braava mopping bots. We spent a considerable time with the Roomba 886, which is currently the most expensive in the range with a price tag of Rs 69,990. We have extensively tested the Roomba 886 at our home and office, and here’s our review.
The Roomba 886, as you might have guessed by now, is circular in shape and looks like a frying pan. The round vacuum cleaner has bumpers up front, as well as sensors that prevents the bot from falling down the stairs. The top is given a sleek black finish with a huge power button, a display and four buttons for different functions (more on that later).
At the back is the removable compartment that collects dust and dirt, which can be easily popped out with a push of a button. There is also a filter that keeps the dust from falling out and is especially useful for those with allergies. At the bottom are a trio of rotating brushes to push the debris in towards what the company calls ‘AeroForce extractors’. The overall look and feel is familiar for those who have used a Roomba before.
Before we get on with how the Roomba 886 performed, let’s first quickly answer the question — ‘Why should you buy a Roomba?’ The bot vacuum cleaner will appeal to those who have a busy work-life and don’t have enough time to be at home for a maid or do the cleaning themselves. The bot vacuum cleaners are smart enough to do the cleaning for you with little or no manual labor.
With that out of the way, let’s get on to our experience with the Roomba 886. The bot is fairly easy to operate and doesn’t really require much technical expertise. With just a few button presses the Roomba was ready to get on with its work. You can either hit the clean button for the Roomba to start moving around the room immediately, or schedule it to start automatically on a particular day and at a particular time.
We tested the Roomba in our office where the majority of floor space is covered by carpets, and on marble floors at home. There’s a difference in performance levels, and it’s clear that the bot is more comfortable on carpets. We scheduled it to start cleaning everyday at10AM for a week, and right on time it would power up and leave its charging dock to go on cleaning rounds.
On the first couple of rounds the Roomba bumped into obstacles quite a bit as it was charting its way across the room. But with each round it learnt its way and bumped into the same obstacles less often. The first time we powered up the bot at home, it nearly gave our poor old maid a heart attack. While vacuum cleaners are a common sight at Indian homes, one that moves around on its own isn’t.
There are no wires jutting out of the Roomba and iRobot says that its AeroForce extractors are tangle free as well. The company claims the 886 has up to five times more suction power than previous models. Dust and small pieces of dirt were easy gobbled up by the bot. We did however come across instances where the Roomba started struggling after a particularly large knot of hair got tangled into the extractors. It was the same case with the threaded design of our carpet as well.
The Roomba 886 does manage to cover most of the spaces in a room, and only the tightest of corners are sometimes left untouched. In such cases you would think that iRobot would have opted for a square-ish design by now, which are better for corners. The company has also bundled in an accessory, which is a beacon of sorts that communicates with the Roomba. You can either set it to beckon the bot towards it to clean a particular area, or make it work as an geo fence to keep the bot from passing it. The last feature is great when you want the Roomba to avoid going into a particular area or room.
One of best features on the Roomba 886 is its ability to automatically stop cleaning and head for the docking station when it runs low on charge. Alternatively, you can also hit the Dock button for the Roomba to return to its charging station. Speaking of charging, it takes around 4-5 hours to fully charge the bot, but it depletes in less than two.
So far so good, but we did have a couple of issues with the Roomba 886, and one of them is with how loud it is. Yes vacuum cleaners are all usually loud, but you would think for a bot that is smart enough to do its own work, it could be a tad quieter. One word of advice — do not schedule it to start cleaning early in the morning. We learnt this the hard way when we were rudely awoken by the Roomba powering up for its cleaning round.
This is the age of Internet of Things, and a companion app for the Roomba is sorely missed. We wish there was a smartphone app that could have been used to schedule cleaning rounds, and also for notifications when the round of cleaning for the day was done.
The Roomba 886 is not cheap by any means with a hefty price tag of Rs 69,990. Even with the ongoing Rs 10,000 discount, this Roomba is not cheap. Being automated and requiring little to no manual labor, the Roomba is a boon for busy urban households. If the 800-series is out of the budget, you could go for the 600 series, with prices starting from Rs 32,900. Yet simple calculations will tell you that hiring a maid is still more affordable, who will also mop the floors, something the Roomba doesn’t. For mopping you will have to buy the iRobot Braava 390T, which will set you back by Rs 27,900.