Roomba is back with a model that can handle mopping, in addition to its vacuuming, complete with its own self-emptying dust bin. The iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ is a hybrid unit that can pull double duty to clean floors, although it won’t empty its dirty water or refill clean water by itself.
While evaluating the Roomba Combo j7+, there were a few questions that kept coming up. First, the most obvious, does its performance and price combination make it a good value for someone who wants basic, automated cleaning? Second, apart from its own performance, how does it fare when compared to some of the competing brands out there making large strides in creating a name for themselves in the cleaning space?
I kept hanging on to those two main questions because the landscape for robot vacuums is expanding rapidly. Decent ones, like the Roborock Q5+, are getting cheaper as more premium robovacs come onto the market. The Roomba Combo j7+ retails for nearly $1,000, which makes it a premium product.
After several weeks of testing the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ in my home, I found it sits somewhere in middle. It’s a competent suctioning and mopping assistant. But there are some features it’s missing that make it seem a little expensive (at full retail price) to recommend without any caveats.
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My biggest surprise, checking in with iRobot again after a little hiatus, was that its vacuums are still heavy-handed when it comes to feeling their way around rooms. Sure, they’ve learned to go in straight lines so the carpet pattern is pleasing, but the Combo j7+ was fairly aggressive in how it got to that point.
Out of the box, the initial floor mapping was aggressive. The vacuum bumped into dining chairs hard enough to scoot them out of place. It bumped into walls loud enough to hear from other rooms. The lack of LiDAR on the Combo j7+ unit was noticeable. I tested multiple units from other manufacturers with the LiDAR technology this year and it made a world of difference in mapping speed and the delicacy of moving around rooms.
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The Combo j7+ still bumped into walls after its mapping in subsequent cleanings, but it did so with less force than its first time. It would occasionally still scoot dining chairs too, but that was less frequent as well. The company uses what it calls PrecisionVision Navigation to recognize objects. And it did a respectable job of snapping pictures of objects that were in its way and asking about them in its app, later, after it finished its assigned jobs.
Most of the time the pictures it asked about were temporary objects like a sock or cardboard boxes. I would let it know those items should be gone by the time it cleaned again. Occasionally, it would ask about an area that I could then add as a no-go zone to the map. This learning method of asking about items the Combo j7+ saw worked well, partly due to the mobile app experience being exceptionally designed.
Within the iRobot Home mobile app (available for Android and iPhone), setting up a new cleaning job was straightforward and easy to do with a few taps. Scheduling common jobs to be repeated was similarly just as easy to accomplish. The information I saw was all displayed beautifully. By far, iRobot has the least complicated robot vacuum app that I’ve used.
One knock against it, however, is that the app does sacrifice some functionality for visual clarity. There’s no way to watch where the vacuum was cleaning on the map in real time. This is possible for other vacuums, like the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra, in their apps. I could view where the Roomba Combo j7+ had cleaned on the map in the history section, after the fact, but not while it was happening.
Likely because the Roomba Combo j7+ was fairly aggressive in how it moved about different rooms, it did manage to pick up most visible crumbs and dust. It cleaned as well as other premium robot vacuums I’ve tested. Of course, these types of vacuums do get graded on a slight curve compared to more traditional stick vacs which are more powerful and guided by human hands. But, again, the Combo j7+ suctioned and mopped well, both on hardwood floors and carpet.
I crunched up chips and dropped them across a hardwood kitchen floor to see how well it did with big, obvious messes. I also sprinkled some baking soda across the carpet to inspect its ability to suck up finer dirt particles. The baking soda did need two passes for complete removal, but in both cases, it picked up the debris.
There aren’t multiple levels of suction available on this vacuum so I needed to do two passes of the whole room to get the residual white power in the carpet. Also, there’s no option to spot clean like other vacuums have. That would have been handy for singling out the affected area. Zones can be created, but those are generally meant to be larger areas across different rooms.
One of the highly touted features by iRobot is that this vacuum can avoid pet accidents, purposefully. I didn’t have real (or fake) pet waste to test this feature, but other attempts I’ve seen where people try to recreate this fared well.
It’s not unique for these devices to do both vacuuming and mopping, but the way the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ does its mopping is interesting. When not in use, the mop cloth sits on top of the unit. When it’s needed it will swivel down underneath it. The idea here is to completely avoid having a damp cloth rub against carpet areas. It mostly worked, but I still noticed the mop sliding along the edges of a rug in the kitchen while it was mopping the hardwood floor.
This swivel mechanism is most effective without multiple flooring types in close proximity. Otherwise, it still functions the way all other hybrid cleaning robots do and a damp cloth might touch your carpet at some point. In all cases, with the Combo j7+ and other devices, I haven’t noticed it doing any damage or causing any visual problems.
The mopping element on the Roomba Combo j7+ did a worthy job wiping down my floors and removing tiny drips of sauce and water spots in the kitchen. It couldn’t deliver the same mopping experience as a person would, but you shouldn’t expect it to—because it’s not one.
It’s nice to have the mopping capability if you need it but needing to manually empty and refill the water readily makes the feature less appealing to use regularly. The benefit of other units that have cleaning stations that will empty the dirty water and refill clean water automatically is tremendous. I didn’t mind emptying and refilling water every 10-14 days on other vacuum stations.
Part of not wanting to vacuum regularly is also not wanting to deal with the ancillary parts of cleaning often either. To that end, the Combo j7+ will empty dust automatically into a bag within its charging dock. This has worked great and since the amount of dust and dirt it collected on a daily basis was minimal, I haven’t had to deal with replacing the dust bag over the first month. The company says the bag capacity will accommodate up to 60 days of dirt, but of course, I assume that could vary greatly depending on multiple factors.
As good as the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+ vacuum and emptying station is, it’s still a hard sell at full retail price. Compared only against itself, it vacuums and mops well. It’s consistent with its respectable performance. Its lack of LiDAR technology, however, means that it could almost certainly be doing a better job of mapping and not running into furniture and walls. It also lacked a spot-clean ability likely tied to this precision technology. Since competing devices with that type of computer vision aren’t much more expensive it makes its absence here more apparent.
If you don’t have an overly complicated home layout, the usability of the mobile app is of utmost importance, or you want a constant cleaning experience then you should be heavily considering the Roomba Combo j7+. It’s a workhorse that cleans as advertised.
Here’s What We Like
- Worthy cleaning performance
- Efficient with its time
- Well-designed mobile app
- Compact self-emptying station
And What We Don’t
- No spot cleaning
- Slightly aggressive in bumping into furniture and walls
- No real-time map tracking
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