Vacuum cleaner robot April 13, 2015 11:26 pm

Roomba 880 (870) Robotic Vacuum Review

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Note:  This is a translation of an article originally published on April 13, 2014 at our sister website:  www.kelrobot.fr

 

In 2014, iRobot released the latest version of its long-running and very successful Roomba brand of robotic vacuum. Following on the heels of the 600 and 700 series, which are still available for sale, comes the 800 series which we will review today.

The main improvements are better suction, new brushes which require less maintenance, a new longer-life battery (but less run-time per cleaning cycle) and a higher capacity ergonomic dust bin.

This robot is undeniably one of the best on the market and can definitely replace your canister vacuum. But, it’s also one of the most expensive (costing $699 US for the Model 880).

As of now, this series has two models, the 870 and 880. Compared to the Model 870, the 880 has some additional accessories and is compatible with Roomba’s Lighthouses.

 

The Roomba 880 robot comes with:

roomba-880-box-contents

  •  2 virtual walls (Lighthouses) including batteries

roomba-virtual-wall-lighthouse

The Lighthouses can be used in two ways. They can be configured to act as virtual walls which the Roomba will not cross; or they can be configured as virtual gates which will allow the Roomba to leave the current room when it has completed cleaning. The Roomba can work with additional lighthouses (LH) to handle a larger area.

Communication between the Roomba and the LH’s is via radio and infrared. The robot automatically activates the LH’s when it starts its cleaning job.

  • Roomba also comes with a remote control

roomba-880-remote-control

The signal on the remote control is quite weak, so you need to be fairly near the robot to control it. The button with three dots (. . .) commands the robot to return to its dock. We think it would have been clearer if the button had been labelled “Dock”.

  • 1 additional HEPA filter

roomba-870-filter

  • Finally, we have the docking station that Roomba will return to when it has completed its task, or when the battery charge gets low. This docking station is one of the smallest and most discrete we have seen:

roomba-880-base

Aesthetically, the Model 880 is very similar to the 780

There are a few differences from the previous series. Most noticeable is the addition of physical buttons on the 880 (as opposed to the virtual touch-screen buttons on the 780); as well as the change in color scheme. Where the 780 had a light-grey outer ring that transitioned to a black center, we feel the 880’s darker color makes it look more elegant.

Roomba 880

Roomba 880

 

Roomba 780

Roomba 780

Let’s take a closer look at these models:

On Top

The Control Panel

roomba-880-control-panel

The control panel is intuitive. The “Clean” button in the center of the robot is used to start and stop the cleaning cycle. Once the Roomba is fully charged, you simply touch that button to start cleaning (that’s pretty much standard procedure for all robotic vacuums).

The control panel also allows you to set the current day and time; program the cleaning schedule; or send the robot back to its charging base using the “Dock” button.

Indicators on the control panel include the battery charge status, dirt detection indicator (more on that later), bin full warning, an anti-tangle mode indicator and finally an LED display of troubleshooting information when something goes wrong.

iRobot has retained the integrated carrying handle, handy when you want to pick up the robot to move it from one floor to another:

roomba-880-carrying-handle

The dustbin has been improved. It now incorporates a hinged cover which keeps the bin closed while it is removed, preventing dust from escaping; unlike the dustbin on the Roomba 780. Once removed, the hatch is opened to empty the bin.

roomba-880-dustbin

The filter has also been improved. It can be conveniently accessed by opening another hinged door at the top of the dustbin:

roomba-880-filter

But what’s most remarkable is that it clogs far less than the filters on competitors’ robots! iRobot was smart to add a thin layer (perhaps nylon?) that allows air to pass through while trapping dust. In my opinion, this filter will break all records for longevity.

roomba-880-hepa-filter

iRobot did a terrific job with this new filter. It represents a marked improvement over the ones found on the Roomba 700 and 600 series.

On the Bottom

There’s only been one change here, but it’s a game changer. iRobot has replaced the standard brush that was prone to tangling with a new rubber “dirt extractor” that should result in dramatically less regular maintenance.

Roomba 880 dirt extractors

Roomba 880 bottom, showing new dirt extractors

Roomba 780 bottom

Roomba 780 bottom, showing traditional brushes

This is a real improvement that shows that iRobot listened to customer feedback when designing the new Roomba.

roomba-880-dirt-extractors

Despite the new design, hair still has a tendency to collect at the ends of the brush, requiring frequent maintenance to avoid damaging the brush bearings. Because the other elements of the model 880 are virtually identical, I refer you to my test of the Roomba 780 for further information.

Operation of the Roomba 880

Navigation

The Roomba 800 series robot moves randomly, unlike some robots which move methodically, and is not aware of its position in a room. Its random movement means that it will often go over the same area more than once. However, there is still a degree of intelligence to its actions. It uses iAdapt technology to monitor its sensors 64 times per second, and can perform any of its 40 behaviors in response to those sensors. Gradually, as it cleans, it calculates the optimal cleaning path and determines when to use its various behaviors.

It’s been several years since I last tested a Roomba. Despite its random movement, I guarantee it will properly clean an area of approximately 650 sq. ft. If you have a larger space, you will need to use additional lighthouses compatible with the Model 880. While it is possible that Roomba may miss an area during a cleaning cycle, the reality is that most people program their robots to clean several times per week. Under those conditions, Roomba should eventually cover every square inch.

Here is a video of the Roomba 880 cleaning an area of approximately 375 sq. ft. (filmed at 12 x normal speed)

It took 26 minutes to clean the space and Roomba covered the entire area. At the 1 minute 30 second time in the video, Roomba tried to sneak under my buffet and got stuck, sounding an error. In its defense, the buffet was slightly higher on one side. In this case, lowering one side (to block the Roomba) or raising one side (to allow proper access) would have solved the issue. That was the only problem Roomba had in my home. Otherwise, Roomba appeared to be able to go anywhere and get out of tight spots.

One strength compared to other robots that navigate randomly, is that Roomba is able to estimate the size of a room and adjust its cleaning time. As a result, Roomba will return to its base before expending its energy, thereby extending the battery’s life.

If you opt for the model 870 and your home is larger than 650 sq. ft., you’ll need to break the house up into smaller areas by closing some doors.

When returning to its base, Roomba may take longer than robots that use methodical navigation to find their base; however, in my tests, Roomba always had enough power left to eventually locate and connect to the docking station.

The Roomba goes Everywhere

Roomba is undoubtedly one of the best robots when it comes to escaping from tight spots. Compared to other robots, it is rare to find it stuck. If it gets tangled in wires or carpet fringes, Roomba will stop and reverse the main and side brushes to disengage itself from the obstacle.

Roomba has the ability to gently push against objects it encounters. This allows it to go behind curtains or past a bed skirt to clean under a bed. It can also push small obstacles out of its way while cleaning.

Other robots which use methodical navigation will treat objects such as curtains and bed skirts as boundaries and will not attempt to push past them.

In most cases, Roomba handles contact with obstacles gently; however sometimes, it may encounter a “difficult” object such as a the legs of a chair, in which case it may bounce around a bit. Overall, however, Roomba can handle situations where other robots would give up.

If you want to add additional padding to the bumper to protect your delicate furniture, you may be interested in these anti-shock bands for Roomba.

Suction

iRobot has developed the AeroForce vacuum system composed of two technologies: anti-tangle “debris extractors” and a high-powered airflow channel.

roomba-aeroforce

The counter-rotating extractors trap and break down dirt from any surface. The increased air speed through the channel translates into a corresponding increase in vacuum suction measured at ground level. We will see a bit later whether this results in any performance improvement.

Programming and Cleaning Modes

Roomba has two modes of operation: normal cleaning, described above, and spot cleaning. In spot cleaning mode, Roomba is placed in the middle of the area to clean, and it then travels in a spiral pattern – spiraling outward for about 3 feet diameter, and then spiralling back inward. As far as programming, Roomba can be set to vacuum automatically once per day, with the start time being adjustable on a daily basis.

Cleaning Cycle Length

There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that iRobot has improved the useful life of the battery. You now get double the charge cycles, compared to the batteries in the Roomba 780. The bad news is that to achieve this savings, iRobot has limited the run time of the new model to a maximum of 2 hours (compared to up to 3 hours for the Roomba 780). Despite this, the Roomba’s 2-hour run time and increased number of charging cycles still gives it the longest battery life among robotic vacuums.

Dirt Detection

One of the signature features of Roomba is its dirt detection capabilities. Using a combination of sound and visual sensors, Roomba does an excellent job of detecting especially dirty areas, and cleans them by going back and forth over the area several times.

Audible Messages and multi-language support

Roomba can provide troubleshooting messages in more than 16 languages – probably a record! And the audible messages allow even visually-impaired users to get an indication of the problem.

The sugar test: improved results!

To test the effectiveness of the Model 880, I repeated the same tests on hardwood and carpeted floors that had been done on the Model 780. The Model 880 picked up 42 grams of sugar (84%), compared to 36 grams (72%) for the Roomba 780. This puts the Model 880 at the same level of performance as the Kobold VR100!

Here is the test video:

On carpet, the Roomba 880 picked up 36 grams (72%) of the sugar, also an excellent result. At first, I was afraid that the new dirt extractor would not pick up as much dirt as the standard brushes on the Roomba 600 and 700 series, but that turned out to not be a factor. It appears the improved suction of the Model 880 was the determining factor.

Conclusion

The Roomba 880 is a success. Although the basic platform is identical to that of the preceeding models, iRobot has made some real improvements. This led to a test score of 16/20 for the Roomba 880 (a full point more than the Roomba 780), positioning the Roomba 880 among the very best of robotic vacuums.

Strengths

  • Very effective for cleaning – one of the best
  • The new dirt extractors require less maintenance than the previous model’s bristle brush
  • Despite its random navigation, it still covers the area to be cleaned
  • Acoustic and optical dirt sensors allow the robot to devote more time to particularly dirty areas
  • A relatively small charging base, allowing for discrete placement within your home
  • The robot can successfully negotiate a floor height transition of 2cm (approx. ¾ inch)
  • Roomba has many behaviors which allow it to extract itself from tight spots
  • Battery life

Weaknesses

  • It can take some time to find its charging base (a disadvantage of random navigation), but it will eventually be successful!
  • It can bump into obstacles quite abruptly when it is unable to detect them with sensors (when moving between legs of a chair, for example)
  • Individual hairs still have a tendency to wrap themselves around the ends of the brushes, potentially damaging the bearings
  • For larger areas, you will need lighthouses to break up the area into smaller pieces
  • The price

WhichRobots Rating : 16.1/20 (how we rate)

Now you know a bit more about the iRobot Roomba 800 Series. Other tests currently underway: robotic lawn mowers, robotic vacuum cleaners, scrubbing robots, drones, connected objects… stay tuned!

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