- Clever integration of the mop
- Rather compact station despite automatic emptying
- Effective obstacle detection
- Clear and functional application
- Not very effective suction on long pile carpet
- Washing not very effective
A 2-in-1 robot will never do the job, as well as two dedicated devices, as iRobot explained to us a little over a year ago. At the end of 2022, a certain Roomba Combo J7 arrived on the market, namely a revisited Roomba J7 enriched with a mop to allow it to wash the floor in addition to vacuuming it. To distinguish itself from the competition, which it had previously refused to copy, the American giant proposes a new system: the mop is placed on a support that folds down on top of the robot as soon as it detects a carpet to avoid getting it wet.
For the rest, this Combo version has the same equipment as the classic Roomba J7, except for the collector, which is reduced and coupled to a water tank. It also has two central brushes associated with a side brush that sends the waste to be vacuumed up, not forgetting the front camera that allows it to map the house and identify certain obstacles thanks to artificial intelligence. The Roomba Combo J7 is also equipped with a charging station capable of emptying its collector in the Plus version we are testing here. The whole set is sold at a recommended retail price of £999.
Convenience of use
The Roomba Combo J7+ is very similar to the Roomba J7+. It is a relatively compact robot. By relying on a single front-facing camera to map the house and avoid obstacles, it avoids the laser rangefinder added on top of most of its competitors, such as the Roborock S7 MaxV or Ecovacs’ Deebot X1 Turbo and is less than 9cm high. The iRobot robot is virtually flat, with a metal disc in the centre and a manual launch button. The finishes are particularly well done.
Of course, the highlight of this new Roomba is on the back. A smallholder is provided to add a mop. Placed on top of the robot, it deploys to bring the mop in contact with the floor thanks to a metal arm on each side and raises it as soon as it detects a carpet or a rug to continue vacuuming without risking soaking them. A particularly ingenious system. The Roborock S7 can also raise its mop, but the distance to the floor is limited to a few millimetres, and long-pile carpets may still touch it. Some robots also offer rotating pads that can be removed and inserted into the station, such as the Ezviz RS2, but this system is a little more efficient but requires two passes to clean the whole house, whereas the Roomba Combo J7+ can clean all floors in one pass.
To moisten the mop, the familiar collector of the Roomba J7 has been enhanced with a second compartment that acts as a tank. The latter can hold 210 ml of water instead of 400 ml for the dustpan. In both cases, the capacity is low, but it is a little less severe for dust. The station is designed to suck it up and store it in a bag to relieve the user of emptying it after each use.
Since it offers automatic emptying, this station is logically larger than a simple charging station but relatively compact. Nothing new, though. It’s the same base as the Roomba J7 Plus, which also has two central brushes and a small side brush to send the dirt to the latter.
Instead of a classic laser rangefinder, the Roomba Combo J7+ prefers to rely on a camera to navigate. The camera does, however, allow it to map out the house and clean it room by room. However, the method could be better. While robots with a rangefinder usually start by vacuuming along the walls before sweeping the room’s interior in a zigzag pattern, the latest Roomba goes straight out of its station and starts the usual back and forth at the first wall or obstacle that triggers its pressure sensors.
In general, it rarely bothers to go around obstacles, which can, unfortunately, cause it to miss areas, such as between chair legs or tables. On the other hand, it does not hesitate to make contact. The noise of the shocks can certainly irritate, but the iRobot robot has the advantage of going under curtains.
Thanks to its camera, the latest Roomba should also be able to recognise certain obstacles, although, unfortunately, it was unable to prove this during our test. Such encounters are supposed to result in photos that the application should then show to the user, but none appeared during our tests. A pity, then. Nevertheless, the traps we deliberately set with a tea towel and a cable were avoided, and they were also positioned on the map generated at the end of the route. This is the most important thing. On the other hand, the Roomba again fails to clean all around.
Some accessible areas remain hopelessly dirty. By simply walking across the room, it needs to clean properly along the walls or in the corners. This is unfortunate as it is pretty effective in these areas when it ventures into them with its side brush. However, the latter has the disadvantage of getting caught in carpets, thus complicating the robot’s ascent. On the other hand, we could climb our chair’s sledge leg easily.
At the end of its journey, the Roomba Combo J7 did not even pick up half of the 100g of sawdust scattered around our laboratory. It should also be noted that although it estimated that it had finished cleaning our laboratory after 19 minutes, it took another 5 minutes to find its station. It seems to have got lost by passing under some furniture along the wall, which could be due to the choice of a camera rather than a laser rangefinder to navigate, even though the latter seemed to work quite well, even in the dark, thanks to the small flash that accompanies it.
We had high expectations of the Roomba Combo J7+, and it’s certainly not all doom and gloom for iRobot’s first high-end 2-in-1 robot. The integration of the mop is particularly clever. The Roomba Combo J7+ also does an excellent job of avoiding obstacles but also misses out on a fair amount of dust. iRobot’s navigation system ages poorly against the competition’s rangefinders and needs to allow it to cover surfaces adequately.
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