Rise of the Cleaning Robots: A Review of the Roomba 980 and Braava 380t

It’s official! Robots will take over the world. They’ve already taken over my home and I love them. We were recently provided with an iRobot Roomba 980 vacuum and its floor sweeping / mopping sidekick the Braava 380t to review.

Thinking about a robot vacumm cleaner? We recently reviewed the iRobot Roomba 980 vacuum and its floor sweeping / mopping sidekick the Braava 380t.

I have to admit before I tried them, I was a bit dubious of the vacuum robots. Would they really clean the carpet and floors as well as I could? Would they fall down the stairs? Would they suck up pieces of LEGO? The answers were yes, no and depends on the size of the LEGO. ( Regular LEGO size was fine but those tiny pieces were goners – easily retrieved though)

The first thing that surprised me was how easy it was to get started. With the Roomba 980, it was a case of taking it out of the box, charging it using its Home Base and then pressing the large Clean button and off it went.

iRobot Roomba 980 and Braava Review

It’s fascinating watching how the Roomba 980 cleans. Using iAdapt 2.0 Navigation, it maps out a series of small areas to clean. Using this map, it tracks where it’s been and where it needs to go to clean the entire area. It even knows the difference between hard floors and carpeted floors. It adjusts accordingly using the AeroForce Cleaning System with Carpet Boost. And if the Roomba comes across an area which has more dust or dirt (like a kids room!), it detects and cleans the area more thoroughly.

Its visual navigation system cleans an entire level of your home on one cleaning cycle. (If you have a 2-storey place, you’ll need to physically move the Roomba). If it’s runs out of battery, it returns to its Home Base to charge and then sets off to clean again once charged. Don’t worry if you have steps, the unit has a Cliff-detection sensors which allows the Roomba to avoid stairs and other dangerous drop-offs.

If there’s areas that you don’t want it to clean, you can use the supplied Virtual Wall barriers. These are small beacons which pulse to block openings or keep the Roomba away from things such as dog bowls or floor vases. There’s two units supplied with the Roomba 980.

You can also schedule your Roomba to clean while you’re away using the Roomba app which connects to the unit using your WiFi network.  The 980 is iRobot’s first app controlled vacuuming robot and it’s pretty cool to program the Roomba with your smartphone.

RoombaApp

You can schedule days and times to clean as well as set options such as Number of Cleaning Passes if you want deeper cleaning and Edge Clean which cleans along walls and furniture legs.

RoombaApp3

I programmed it to vacuum on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9:30am so it could clean while I was out at work or running errands. It was wonderful coming home to a freshly vacuumed house.

RoombaApp2

And yes, I did check the unit to make sure that it did work. It actually displays a Full Bin indicator which tells you you need to empty the vacuum bin. If I was ever in doubt that the machine works, just looking at what it sucked out of the carpets quickly convinced me. It’s also good to be able to rescue any tiny LEGO bits that may have been sucked up.

Using the Roomba on a schedule also helped in encouraging us to keep our house cleaner. Knowing that it was scheduled to run meant that we picked up clutter off the floor and tidied up enabling the Roomba to clean without impediments.

The $1499 price tag for the Roomba 980 might put some people off. However, if you break down the price and consider how much time you can save by getting an robot vacuum, it’s easy to justify the cost. In the few weeks that we tested the unit, I estimate that it has saved me 3 hours a week vacuuming. Over the course of a year, that’s 156 hours saved. If you estimate using the Roomba for three years, it works out to $10 a week not having to vacuum. It’s cheaper than a cleaner and easier than nagging your husband to do the vacuuming. (Talking about you Mr Mummy Project).

Equally cool is the iRobot Braava 380t (RRP $599) which sweeps and mops – perfect for tiled and hardwood floors. Using a supplied microfibre cloth, the Braava glides along the floor and collects dust. Like the Roomba, it uses ‘iAdapt 2.0’ technology to track where it has been and where it needs to go. Using a GPS cube, it covers a distance of 93 metres square.

You can also use it to mop by filling the unit up with water and switching it to mop function. It’s easy switching it from the sweeping function to mop. It’s a matter of changing the head, filling it with water and using the supplied cleaning pad. The mopping function is impressive as it dispenses a small amount of water to mop an area of 32 metres square.

Unfortunately, unlike the Roomba, you can’t put the Braava on a schedule to clean while you’re away. However, it’s easy enough to set it to work and sit back and relax with a coffee and magazine. Unlike the Roomba, this unit is incredibly quiet. You can barely hear it and a couple of times, I had to check if it was still mopping.

It’s interesting to watch the Braava move. When it sweeps it moves in a up and down straight pattern while it mops alternating to the left and then to the right to optimise coverage.

After using both robots for the past few weeks, I would recommend them for busy families. Not only they do work incredibly well to clean your floors, it gives you some precious free time. Now, if I could just find a robot to wash, dry, fold and put away laundry, that would be wonderful!

For more information about iRobot Roomba and iRobot Braava, visit the iRobot website.

Disclosure: The Mummy Project received review units of iRobot Roomba 980 vacuum and iRobot Braava 380t to review. All opinions are my own.

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