Honest Reviews

Honest reviews from dog owners who have bought and tried products.
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Roomba/Scooba Review

This will be a long review, as many people have tried out the Roomba and Scooba with varying degrees of success, so to give a good overview of everyone’s experience, I present, the Roomba/Scooba review. Pictured right is Kwest and his buddy the Roomba.

Dave K’s Review:

First, we have two siberians that are indoor dogs, so we have all the usual issues. In addition, our house is multi level (4, depending on how you count) and since the Roomba doesn't climb stairs, the 24/7 is out. Finally, we have several area rugs that are on top of carpeting as well as several that are on hardwood floors. Some have fringes and some don't.

I bought a Roomba about 2-3 months ago when iRobot had the Pet version on sale. The important point is that the one we bought was NOT the 500 series, which is the newest version. I can't get to the Web right now, but I think it was a 400 series and was a red unit that was in their clearance area. Another point that turned out to be key was that it came with a 30 day money back guarantee, including return shipping.

We used Roomba #1 for nearly the full 30 days. In a way, it's remarkable that it does as good a job as it does. It's not really a vacuum, as near as I can tell--rather, there are brushes that do the job. And, it's pretty amazing how much dirt and hair that you get during a cleaning cycle. Having said that, the earlier generation units have some major shortcomings that caused us to return it within the 30 day period.

First, it has trouble with rug fringes and cords. Essentially, it doesn't know what to do and just gets tangled up. In our case that meant that there were two large rooms that could not be cleaned with the Roomba. Second, and I guess this was the major "show stopper", the obstacle sensor of the earlier generation is strictly mechanical, which means that when it bumps into something it assumes it's a wall and turns in another direction. Furthermore, the bumper sits quite low, which means that an obstacle as short as 1/2" will stop it. In our case, the practical effect was that when it was on carpet, and ran into an area rug, it quite often perceived this as an obstacle, and turned around, unable to climb up onto the area rug. Since our living room has a 9x12 rug on carpet, that was pretty much a performance limiting feature. Between the area rug issue and the fringe issue, it would have been useful for less than half our living area.

It also had a couple of other minor problems--it would sometimes get stuck on the furnace vents in the floor; the brushes sometimes got loaded up pretty quickly, and, although they are easy to clean, it had to be done more frequently than ideal.

So, overall, I would probably give that version of the Roomba no more than 3/5 stars. It certainly does what they say it does, but there are shortcomings that for us did not make it a good value. However, when I called to arrange the return, I spoke to them about the issues, and they told me that the newest 500 series should be better in a couple of respect--in particular the cord and fringe issue, and, because it uses a different means of obstacle sensing, the thought it would do better on the area rugs. Nonetheless, I completed the return and did not purchase another one at that time.

Fast forward about 6 weeks. It so happened that one of my frequent flyer programs (United, in particular) has an option to use your miles for merchandise instead of flights if you meet certain criteria. In looking through that brochure, I noticed that one of the items that was available was the Roomba 560, which is, in fact, the new generation of machines. It took about 45K miles, so it wasn't totally trivial, but the price is $350, so we had not decided whether to buy it or not. So, here was an opportunity to get one for "free". (And, for those of you who think that flying United gets you ANYTHING free, you need to rethink that--the pain one goes through to get 45K miles, no matter by what method, should be worth WAY more--but it's not.) So, we got one.

Simply put, it's still not perfect, but it's getting pretty close. Now, I'd probably give it at least 4 stars and maybe even 4.5/5 stars. It appears to have no problem with the fringes or the cords. (You DO have
to be aware of "loops" of cord--it doesn't get twisted in it, but it also doesn't see a look of cord as an obstacle, so it will just keep on truckin' until something gives.) It also does MUCH better with the area rugs. It obviously has improved engineering in this regard as well as others. It also seems to clean a bit better--not sure what they've changed in that regard, but the way the dirt reservoir, filter and brushes work, it seems to collect substantially more dirt than the first one did.

A side benefit of the new obstacle avoidance technology is that it doesn't "crash" into things the way the first one did. In addition to the operational issues of the cleaner itself, the 560 also comes with new technology for the invisible walls. In particular, you can set it so that it's either an actual barrier, or, instead is a "lighthouse". Lighthouse mode is useful if you have an area that includes a couple of
rooms, for example. Despite it's behavior, Roomba doesn't really have any idea where it is. So, in a two room area, for example, it will go back and forth between rooms, rather than do on room and then go do the other. With the lighthouse, which you put at the entry to the second room, you are TELLING Roomba that there is a room boundary and that it should clean the first area entirely before it goes into the second area. I don't know if it really gets anything cleaner, but it's certainly more systematic. Finally, the 560 is the lowest level model that has scheduling. We've not tried it yet but intend to do sort of what you suggested--just have it clean SOMEPLACE every day--the scheduler would do that.

A brief word about battery life--this Roomba seems to have the ability to work for about 2 hours before it needs to be recharged. However, the good news is that it actually charges fairly quickly, so that on occasion, I've used it in three areas in a single day. (In our case, this means moving it up or down a flight of stairs, of course, so it's not completely automatic.)

It does have a couple of shortcomings that I would assume will someday be improved. The first is probably peculiar to our situation. When Roomba is on carpet, it will occasionally get caught under the edge of something. (A cabinet in one case and the futon in another.) Essentially, what happens is that the carpet has enough "give" that it will allow Roomba to get under an edge, but when it tries to move back, it's unable to do so. When this happens, intervention is required.

Secondly, the reservoir fills up fast enough that it really needs to be emptied after every cycle, not every 3 cycles like the instructions say. Cleaning Roomba takes about 2 minutes, so it's not a big deal particularly. Once in a while, if we have not run it for a while, the brushes will get dirty DURING a cycle and it will stop and ask you to clean it's brushes. Also not a big deal, but it DOES require intervention.

Finally, of course, it doesn't do stairs, so we can't toss our vacuum just yet. However, in summary, I now feel that it was a good use of miles, and, even if I hadn't been able to get it that way, I probably
would have bought one eventually. And, to that point, from time to time, Home Shopping Network (hsn.com) has a model 535 which supposedly has everything that the 560 has except the scheduling. You will not find the 535 listed at the iRobot site, so it must be one of these special model numbers specifically for HSN. And, I don't remember the cost, but it seems it was substantially less than $350.

Anyway, that's my view of this. It's a very good tool, but not perfect. However, it does keep me from having to run the vacuum and E only runs it rarely now. (this is a GOOD thing...)

Nancy P’s Review:

Oh yes - it is fantastic.

I recently bought a Scooba and it came with a free Roomba!

I bought the highest end Scooba because I have 2400 sq ft of tile and cannot keep up with 12 muddy paw prints. The best Scooba handles 850 sq ft at a time, which is why I picked that one. The free Roomba that came with it was just a side benefit - but now that I have both, I am really glad! It is really handy to just fire them up whenever you leave the house for an hour - turn them loose in an area and
they run until their battery loses charge (up to an hour for each).

As for the Scooba - well, it's not perfect, but it is *much* better than doing it yourself! You can tell where it "drove" on the tile - but the tile *is* clean and you can walk barefoot when it's done (as opposed to before, yeeuck). It is amazing how *dirty* the water is that comes out of Scooba when done cleaning a room, which shows is it is doing its job. Also - I cannot speak highly enough about the Virtual Wall that comes with Scooba/Roomba - you place the VW on the floor and point it such that the beam covers up to an 8 foot area - the vac will not cross the beam, so it acts like a wall. My set came with two VWs and I ordered a third (and asked Santa for a fourth . They make it super easy to define an area to confine your vac for a given cleaning session. You do need to be diligent about cleaning the vacs after each session, but that is minor compared to the work they save you!

I like to section off two rooms every time I leave the house - run Scooby in one and Ruby in the other (roomba is red so it's named Ruby

Highly recommend both!

Oh yea I forgot one thing -- hair getting wrapped around the brushes. Not the sibes hair but *my* long hair! Never thought I would be cursing my own hair, but it is harder to get unwound from the brushes than all the white fluffy puppy hair. Finally the boys are not to blame for hair.

The Virtual Walls are great for avoiding cords too.

One last thing - we have *no* rugs whatsoever, so this may be why the roomba works so fantastically for me and not so great for others.

Jason L’s Review:

we have the discovery and it certainly won't replace your regular vacuuming, it will make it much easier. We have to clean it after every use because as you can guess, the hair gets all wrapped up in the brushes. cleaning isn't a big deal though. So we run it at least every other night and it does a
real good job of keep the house clean, it gets under the couches and areas that we struggle to get to. We also use the scheduler and have it run at 6 in the morning.

The only negatives (and this is for every vacuum and not just the roomba) is
that you have to pick all small stuff up and keep cords out of the way. Pretty much just like a regular vacuum anything it can run over but shouldn't, should be picked up.

We highly recommend it and I recommend getting it with the scheduler, we bought ours without and had to later buy it. Nakita however will chase it around if we run it during the day

Laura A writes:

I love mine too, but find it really doesn't keep up with the hair... It's pretty funny actually, after about 20 minutes, it develops a "hair tail" that kind of drags behind it...Teeheehee... The only other negative about it (other than the obvious that it's not "SUPER DUTY" or anything - more for maintenance cleaning) is that it's LOUD. You won't be able to watch TV or anything with it running in the room.

Elizabeth P writes:

I have mine programmed to run at night - but there is no way to rely on it for all husky hair, that's for sure. We have all hardwood, so I use it in addition to the daily fur-maintenance. It is actually quite nice - it gets places that aren't always that easy with a standard vacuum or readily visible. I recommend it to lighten the load - but not to take care of all the fur.

Nichole R’s Review:

have two Roombas, and absolutely loved them...until they broke that is

The first one was one of the origionals and when it started doing wheel dances I learned how to take the whole thing apart and clean it out. Inconvenient, but not the end of the world. Considering the fine dust that gets blown into my house that the roomba was doing a great job picking up, not particularly unexpected. Then it grabed a thread out of one of my few rugs (something that had never happened before) and stripped the mechanism that turns the brush. End of Roomba #1.

My second Roomba, likewise, was a wonderful little guy that did a great job on the tile floors throughout my house. Until he knocked a dog toy out of the toy box and ran it over. Again, the mechanism that turns the brush was stripped and that was the end of Roomba #2. One week after it was out of waranty.

Unless they have changed the design recently, the socket that the brush fits into (the one that actually turns the brush) is made out of plastic. If the brush grabs something it shouldn't, this socket ends up stripped. It is not a replacable part...if it happens it means the end of your Roomba. This is a flaw that was well known by the company. As of a couple years ago they were doing nothing to fix it. (again, I don't have a new Roomba to say what they are like now) If you are fanatic about checking over your house and making sure there is nothing your Roomba can eat before turing it on, then this shouldn't be an issue. But even being careful I ended up having it happen.

Doesn't mean it's not a great product...like I said I loved mine until they broke and even bought a second one when the first one died. My only other complaint was they these critters aren't "easy keepers" and required a lot of maintanance to keep running well. They had to be cleaned out every time they were used, and the wear and tear they took from my "less than stellar" house cleaning seemed to really take a tole on them.

I'm now eyeing the "Dirt Dog". It's just a sweeper rather than a real vacuum, but it seems to be designed to withstand much more abuse. It won't do the great job vacuuming that the Roomba did, but it would be a huge help just to have something that picks up the bigger stuff the dogs track in (and the hair...even just picking up the hair would be wonderful).

And then there's the Scooba. I've been drooling over that little guy since it was put on the market. I may have to take the plunge...I went ahead and put it on my christmas list this year

Joice H points out:

Prototypes of both the Roomba and Scooba were home tested in a Siberian household (mine!). How's that for product endorsement? And occasionally we get to evaluate new models before they hit the market. However, I gave up using the Roomba because it's a round peg in a square hole problem -- the dust elephants would collect in the corners of the room where the round Roomba can't reach.

On the other hand, the latest model Scooba (the dark grey/black one) works great. I use it all the time, and I'm always blown away when cleaning it out to see the dirt it collected off the floors that I had just vacuumed. The new model also doesn't leave the snail trails like the earlier model blue ones.

By the way, the Roomba really does vacuum, not just sweep. The Dirt Dog has no vacuum; it's just a sweeper. The Roomba has downward looking optical sensors which help it detect stairs, but they also interpret wide dark lines (like a black border around an area rug) as an abyss, so they won't cross it (though you could physically move in on to the area rug and it'll stay within the borders).

I got extra battery packs which I keep charged up so if the one in use runs low on power, I can swap it out with the charged one and keep going instead of waiting for it to recharge.

With all of the reviews in, I would say the Roomba/Scooba might be ok for some, might not be ok for others.

Update:  One thing that we didn't take into account is a household with a dog that may have accidents... and the Roomba does what it does: clean... sorta.  Here is the viral post about a dutiful little Roomba that cleaned come hell or poop

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