iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ Review: Beautiful Vacuum, but Directionless
It wasn’t great, but at least it developed a pretty accurate map of my house. It automatically designated which surfaces were carpeted and which were hardwood, and I was able to designate no-drive zones and clean zones—especially dirty or high-traffic areas—in the app. The mop arm came down reliably in the kitchen, although the first few passes were always dry, and the arm doesn’t scrub as reliably as the Shark or the Ecovacs versions. I checked after every cleaning run and never found a wet carpet.
Overall, as you might have guessed from my mapping session, its navigation capabilities were disappointing. This came as a shock, as iRobot had honed its skills developing robots for the military. For as long as I’ve been testing robot vacuums, iRobot vacuums have consistently come out on top—but unfortunately, companies like Roborock and Shark have quickly caught up.
Checking the Combo j7+’s history in the iRobot Home app, it’s dismal. Four out of seven of the past daily runs have had errors or interruptions of various kinds. In previous years, I might have excused it—after all, my house is large, has different surfaces, and is filled with messy children and multiple animals. Robot vacuum cleaners that occasionally close the doors on themselves and trap themselves in the bathroom are just part of the game.
However, I started running the Combo 7+ at the same time as the Roborock Q5+, and the Roborock effortlessly completed cleaning runs that the Combo j7+ repeatedly struggled with. Sometimes when I try to see what the problems were, the app simply crashes on me.
The increased functionality also meant that battery life suffered. The water tank is so small (a mere 212 milliliters!) that it had to be refilled to clean my modest-sized kitchen—about 20 feet by 12 feet. I also appreciate iRobot’s auto-empty canister feature, which means the vacuum travels back to the dock to empty itself, rather than dragging dog hair across the floor. With a bin having a capacity of only 0.3 liters (most bins have a capacity of at least twice that), this meant that the battery often ran out before any cleaning run was completed.
Most of the cleaning runs take about four or five hours to complete, which means I forget when a run isn’t complete. Every once in a while we all scare the living bejesus out of us when we sit down to dinner and a vacuum I assumed was dormant suddenly wakes up and turns off to finish a cleaning run I started at noon.
It doesn’t help that iRobot’s auto-empty feature is loud. I measured the auto-empty volume at about 95 decibels—15 to 20 decibels louder than other robot vacuums when they empty automatically.
Ultimately, I found the experience of using the iRobot app annoying enough to recommend the Shark instead. That’s not to say the Shark is perfect – $600 is still a lot to pay for a vacuum mop where you still have to switch out the bin, can’t mop and vacuum at the same time, and often find yourself wash. . However, the $1,100 iRobot is by no means double the vacuum. I still recommend iRobot’s cheaper (and cameraless) 600, 900, or i3 and i5 series, but this one is just too expensive to be that unreliable.