iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ in-home trial
One of iRobot’s flagship robot vacs, the j7 ($2399), has recently had an upgrade with the addition of mopping capability and the word Combo appended to its name.
iRobot has taken a different approach to robot vac mopping than other manufacturers, which either use a fixed mop head that must be clipped on every time you want to mop, or a lifting mop head that automatically raises a few millimetres when the robot encounters carpet.
iRobot’s mop head lives on top of the bot’s body until its services are required, in which case it quickly flips down underneath the bot and onto the floor. It’s a quite magical little mechanism, but you’ve got to wonder why iRobot went to all that trouble when a simple lifting mop head must be so much easier to engineer and more reliable in the long run?
At least with the Combo there’s no chance of the wet mopping pad coming into contact with your long-pile carpets if it’s sitting on top of the body.
Aside from the mopping unit, the Combo is very similar in design to its older j7 sibling, with the only other obvious difference being a new water tank on the side of the bin unit. This does reduce the bin capacity, but this is a + model that comes with an auto-empty dock. The smaller bin shouldn’t be a big deal, unless you have a multi-storey home and are using the vac on a different floor, in which case the bin would quickly fill up, requiring manual intervention.
In the box you get a spare mopping pad, along with some proprietary mopping solution. Be warned! It’s only a small bottle and it’s $25 for additional solution from iRobot’s website. Most other mopping vacs only use tap water, though, so you could probably do away with the solution anyway.
Setup and mapping
Setup is very similar to the j7. iRobot’s app is easy to use and connect the bot to, but I’m still not a fan of how its bots map your home. iRobot doesn’t use LIDAR mapping like a lot of its competitors, instead sticking to its “VSLAM” system. Slam is the operative word here, as the bot does like bashing into objects on its explorations of your home, and the front bumper tends to get quite marked.
LIDAR bots take more logical paths when mapping – generally finding the edges of rooms and working their way around until all the space is mapped. The j7 Combo uses a camera and bumper sensors to map, and just heads off in straight lines until it bumps into something, then changes direction and repeats.
Eventually you do get pretty accurate maps, but it does take a long time – nearly 2 hours for the four rooms on our top floor, about four times as long as most other bots I’ve trialled. But hey, you only need to do this once.
Another frustration of the VSLAM system is that you don’t get live updates of the bot’s progress during cleaning, so you can’t tell if it’s missed any areas. You do, however, get a map at the end of the cleaning showing the route it’s taken.
I also noticed that the j7 Combo would often go over certain areas multiple times and there seemed no real logic to its cleaning route. But our test results show that the j7 models are capable cleaners, so this probably isn’t a major issue.
iRobot has improved its app and added the capability to specify individual rooms that require cleaning multiple times. But the ability to nominate cleaning for specific areas could do with some improvement. Currently, you have to set up a ”clean zone“ before you can clean an area, which is a bit fiddly if you just want to send the bot out to clean up a spill. Other bots let you quickly draw an area on their maps to send the unit to clean.
The j7 Combo performs similarly to the j7 on carpet and hard floor, so check our test results and in-home trial article for more details. Suffice to say that model is one of the best for carpet cleaning currently available and is excellent on hard floor too.
If you set the Combo to do any mopping, it will vacuum the floor first before dropping the mop head and mopping. That seems a bit odd, as surely it could vac and mop at the same time, like most of its rivals do? The floor does get reasonably wet during mopping and the bot does a good job of shifting most common stains – as good as any of the other hybrid mopping vacs we’ve trialled.
Should you buy a Roomba j7+ Combo?
The standard j7 is one of our top-rated robot vacs, so the addition of mopping with the Combo unit makes it a good option for households with a mix of hard floor and carpet. It does have some mapping and app quirks, but it’s almost worth the $2,400 price tag just to watch the cool mopping head mechanism over and over…