Lockdown is not only pushing us back into our concrete caves but the situation outside is far worse than before. Staying behind locked doors is sensible but not always fun, especially when the daily chores seem to have a vendetta against you and somehow the dirty dishes keep piling up. Well, iRobot doesn’t have a magical robot that bounces around the sink and cleans the dishes but it does have a magical robot that bounces around the house and gobbles up dirt.
It’s also equipped with new tech to keep the dirt, debris and anything unwanted away from your floors.
Unlike the traditional robo-vacs, the i3 isn’t equipped with regular brushes to sweep dirt into its dustbin. The i3 comes with two rubberised brushes that have rubber blades to toss-up dirt through its vacuum cavity and push it into the dustbin. The reason why iRobot has gone with this approach is to minimize hair and pet fur getting entangled in the brushes and therefore this needs lower maintenance. It also avoids getting stuck on shoelaces and wires lying around the house. It really does work, especially on carpets where most of the pet hair is hard to pick out. The rubberised brushes do a great job of cleaning carpets.
Although there are downsides to it too. Since these are essentially rubber blades on two rolls and not bristles, it’s not going to sweep off everything on tiled floors (which is more common here in India). Our Roborock S6 MaxV is a wee-bit thorough with the cleaning. Especially in the intelligence area too.
For a whopping ₹69,900 you get the iRobot Roomba i3 and the automatic dirt disposal. If you go for separate purchases, the i3 costs ₹49,900. For that much, the Roomba i3 isn’t the cheapest or even the smartest. It uses a bunch of sensors to knock around the house, cleaning it as it goes. This is not the most efficient way to clean your house. Sure, you can just pick up the robot and place it in the room you want it to clean and shut the door behind so it doesn’t wander off to the next room or the hallway. This kind of manual labour is more frequent with the Roomba i3 than the equally expensive Roborock S5 Max. One of the major drawbacks of the i3 is its lack of house mapping. You cannot direct the i3 to a place you want and if your home isn’t compartmentalised via doors, it’s easy for the Roomba to wander off and leave certain spots uncleaned.
iRobot has one of the most pretty looking apps for robot vacuum cleaners but it isn’t the most helpful, or rather the app is empty because of the lack of features on this fifty thousand rupee vacuum cleaner. The i3 doesn’t have a LiDAR scanner which would’ve helped it navigate the house with pinpoint accuracy. Something the Roborock has and uses it excellently. Another chink in the armour is that it can only vacuum clean and not swab. This is forgiven since this is a mid-level vacuum cleaner but if you draw an apple to apple comparison, the similarly priced Roborock S5 Max comes equipped with more cleaning features (swab too) and the aforementioned LiDAR scanner.
Possibly the only saving grace for the Roomba i3 is to add a ₹20,000-worth Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal into the mix. We had the iRobot Roomba i3+ for review which came with the dirt disposal system. The cleaning base charges and pulls the dirt from the i3’s dustbin and dumps it into a dirt disposal bag. It all happens automatically and to be honest, is quite cool from a technical standpoint. But, it’s only cool when it works. Nearly 8 of 10 times, we get a clogging error because the green rubber flap on the i3 clogs up and doesn’t let the dust get sucked into the automatic dustbin. You have to manually remove the Roomba i3’s dustbin from the rear, shake it up so that the exit isn’t clogged and then try to initiate the vacuuming process on the base to suck up the dirt into the automatic dirt disposal base. It’s an effort!
Let’s say you don’t have a furball cat that sheds 24/7, and those two times that the dirt disposal actually works is great. Now there’s an additional expensive waiting for you when you open the lid to the dustbin to replace the dirt disposal bags every few weeks. Depending on your frequency and how dirty your house can get, the bags can fill up after three weeks or even in five. You cannot empty the bag easily and reuse it as much as possible. It’s a custom made bag called the AllergenLock bag. According to iRobot it uses four layers of allergen blocking material to trap 99% of pollen and mold, and a ‘High-Efficiency Filter’ captures 99% of mold, pollen, dust mites, and cat and dog allergens. You can buy a set of three here from iRobot for ₹1,490 and you get two in the box with the Roomba i3+.
There’s also the matter of cleaning the Roomba i3’s dustbin for maintenance and cleaning its air filter every two weeks or so. You’ll also need to replace the air filter once it’s clogged beyond recognition.
The iRobot Roomba i3+ costs a wallet-crushing ₹69,900 and for that much money, the robot vacuum cleaner is quite capable of cleaning the house but not as efficiently or smartly as we’d like. There’s no scope for cleaning particular spots or rooms through the app and you can kiss intelligent navigation goodbye. The i3 knocks around intuitively with the help of some sensors but that won’t stop it from exploring other areas without your permission. The automatic dustbin base adds twenty grand to the i3’s (₹49,900 without the automatic base) already steep price for the features and sadly that the automatic base is a hit or miss at doing its job.
Even when it’s not in use the Roomba i3 also doesn’t go into standby or sleep state, if the charging dock is powered off (which it will be if you have an Indian parent looking sternly at switches), the i3 loses its charge sitting idly on the docking station. So every time you want to use the robot, you have to either keep the plug on at all times or turn it on a few hours before using the bot.
We recommend exploring the more expensive Roombas or allow yourself to indulge in the LiDAR capabilities of Roborock’s vacuum cleaners.