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It’s clear smart robot vacuums are continuing to get smarter, but I can’t say I was expecting the latest evolutionary leap: the ability to recognize and avoid pet poop. While none of my companion animals is prone to accidents, it’s not hard to imagine the mess that would result from a robot colliding with that particular hazard.
I expect, then, there’s a welcoming market for iRobot’s Roomba j7+, which uses the company’s new obstacle avoidance technology to identify and steer clear of pet waste during its cleaning runs. iRobot has so much faith in its technology that it’s offering the Roomba j7+ with a P.O.O.P. (Pet Owner Official Promise) guarantee: If your robot plows into pet poop within the first year of your purchase, the company will send you a new robot at no cost to you.
Dodging Fido’s accidents isn’t the j7+’s only smart trick. It can detect and route itself around a host of common household objects like power cords, toys, socks, and shoes, based on your feedback. It can leverage your geolocation service to clean when you’re away. It responds to voice controls via Amazon Alexa and Google assistant. And it automatically empties its dustbin into its Clean Base, a combination charging dock and dirt receptacle, after every cleaning job. This accessory is included when you buy the model j7+ for $849.99; you can buy the robot with a conventional charging dock—the Roomba j7—for $649.99.
The J7 and J7+ are the first Roombas to use iRobot’s PrecisionVision Navigation technology, which allows the robot to recognize and avoid obstacles in its path. As part of this innovation, iRobot has moved the camera from the top of the robot, where it was located in previous Roomba’s, such as the s9+, to the front to give it a wider viewing field and enable it to see objects on the floor. The camera has been paired with an LED that works like a headlight to illuminate the path in front of the robot.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best robot vacuums, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.
On the underside, the J7+ looks very much like the Roomba i3+, with a pair of multi-surface rubber brushes. a single edge-sweeping brush, two drive wheels, an omnidirectional wheel, and various sensors.
The self-emptying Clean Base, on the other hand, has been completely redesigned. It’s noticeably more squat, measuring just 13.25 inches high—significantly shorter than the i3+’s towering 19 inches. While it still doesn’t blend naturally with your home furnishings, it’s much less imposing. A leather tab makes it easier to open the base’s lid and access the current dust bag, and storage for spare bags is built in.
To set up the j7+, you just plug in the Clean Base and set the robot on the charging pins. You’ll need the iRobot Home app to control the robot, but the connection process is simple and prompt-driven. The j7+ connected to my Wi-Fi network in less than a minute.
The first few times you run the j7+, it will map your space for more efficient navigation. You can speed up this process by sending it on a mapping-only run rather than having it map as it cleans. You’ll also want to ensure the area is well lit, as PrecisionVision Navigation uses visible light to help it get around. As the J7+ generates a map, it will attempt to create room divisions. This was pretty accurate even with my downstairs level’s open floorplan.
You can edit the completed map by adding or removing boundary lines, labeling rooms, and creating no-go zones. Once the map is to your liking, you can clean individual rooms or smaller “zones” within them, schedule targeted cleaning jobs (great for regularly tackling high-traffic areas like entryways), and otherwise customize your vacuuming.
Michael Ansaldo / IDG
The j7+ easily maneuvered around my living room furniture and traversed the thresholds between the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and entryway. It successfully navigated around power strips, device chargers, footwear, and pet toys. (I couldn’t test its ability to steer around pet poop, but as mentioned, iRobot stands behind this feature.) When it encounters an object, the j7+ snaps an image of it and pushes it to you in a notification for review. You can mark the object as a temporary obstacle, not an obstacle, or add a Keep-Out Zone around it. This enables the robot to continuously learn about your space and adapt its cleaning as needed.
The robot was just as impressive in its cleaning. It dutifully sucked up dust, pet hair, food crumbs, and even cat litter, leaving my floors noticeably cleaner. After each cleaning, the robot docks and its contents are automatically emptied into the Clean Base’s dust bag. The process takes 10 or so seconds, during which you must endure some loud suction sounds, about on par with older-model standup vacuums. But the tradeoff for not having to handle the vacuum’s dustbin is worth it. iRobot says each dust bag will hold about 60 days of dirt, but that will vary with your cleaning frequency and the cleanliness of your floors. roomba j7 app Roomba
The iRobot Home app keeps a detailed history of each cleaning job, including the square footage it covered, the duration of the job, the number of obstacles it encountered, and whether or not it emptied the dustbin. It also shows on the map where it cleaned, so you can perform future cleanings accordingly.
In all, the j7+ is another winning Roomba. It performed about as well as the s9+, the only Roomba above it in iRobot’s product tier, but its obstacle avoidance feature and smaller Clean Base as well as lower price will likely make it a much more attractive option for most users. For those same reasons, it also earns our Editors’ Pick.