If you like your house floors clean, want to avoid as much work as possible, and have a bit of money to spare, the Roomba 880 vacuum cleaner may be for you. In retrospect, only the last factor should be the deciding factor, and whether the robotic cleaner provides enough bang to justify its $700 price tag is the topic of this review.
The Roomba 880 is iRobot’s newest and most advanced addition to its line of robotic vacuum cleaners. The newest feature to this model is the AeroForce cleaning system, which introduces AeroForce Extractors in place of traditional bristles. These extractors are unique, in that they create an inward suction significantly more powerful than in previous models, making the Roomba 880 a more effective machine. The addition of the extractors in place of bristles also lessens the likelihood of the Roomba getting tangled with objects. A second new feature is the battery, termed XLife, which doubles its single charge life. Like its predecessors, it has a circular, simplistic design with a large power button in the center. It has just five buttons for power, docking (charging), time, scheduling, and spot. There are two cleaning modes, one that allows the user to schedule a comprehensive cycle, and the other, called spot, which quickly targets area within a three foot radius around its current location. It comes with a Home Base charging dock, two Virtual Wall/Lighthouse sensors, an additional HEPA filter, and a remote control. The Virtual Wall sensors are used to either limit the Roomba to a particular area, such as a kitchen or bedroom, or to assist it in moving from room-to-room when in Lighthouse Mode. The remote is extremely convenient, allowing the user to take control of the Roomba’s functions and steer it to a particular location. The design and features of the Roomba 880 are clearly a step up from previous models, including and improving on all existing functions.
The performance of the Roomba 880 is good, but not quite at the level of an upright vacuum cleaner. Various tests on pet hair, debris, sawdust, and other types of dirt have shown that, though the Roomba picks up a good amount of the dirt, it does leave some behind. The performance varies largely with the type of ground material; hardwood floors are cleaned more efficiently than thick carpets. Another shortcoming is the organization of the floor; the Roomba can fit under sofas and tables, but will not be able to access small corners because of its circular design. This suggests that the Roomba’s sensors and shape could use some work. Additionally, the Roomba is not free of noise. Though the noise level is lower than that of most upright vacuum cleaners, it is loud enough to be a distraction.
The convenience of the Roomba 880, though impressive, must be put into context. The device is convenient in the sense that it requires little effort from the user. As previously mentioned, the minimalist interface and remote control make it plug-and-play, allowing even the most novice users to operate it with ease. Apart from turning it on and specifying the time schedule, no further action from the user is needed. For advanced users, the included Virtual Wall sensors allow more specific configurations. The only major user interaction it requires is the maintenance, which includes cleaning the dust bin and sensors, and replacing the filter. However, these tasks are very simple, and other than cleaning the dust bin, need be done only periodically. The convenience does forego efficiency for ease of use, unfortunately. It is difficult to gauge the amount of time needed to clean with the Roomba, and as a result, manually operating a vacuum cleaner is far more efficient. Finally, as described previously, the Roomba may not pick up all dirt; in this sense, manually vacuuming and monitoring the ground yourself is again more efficient.
The question that begs an answer is whether the Roomba 880 is worth the $700. Customer reviews have mentioned the exact problems described above, and though it adds new features, it is questionable if they are cost effective. The Roomba is the most powerful robotic vacuum cleaner on the market, and if you value its convenience and don’t mind a few missed spots, it will certainly suit your needs. However, it may be wise to compare the 880 model to previous models, and see if you truly need the extra features, since the lowest model sells for half the price. To see the 880 in action, check out this video.