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Sophisticated mapping and self-emptying dustbins are becoming standard fare for robot vacuums, but those high-end features don’t align with everyone’s cleaning needs and budget. The iRobot Roomba 694 ably fills a demand for an old-style robot cleaner with a low learning curve and a budget-friendly price tag.
The Roomba 694 measures 13.4 inches across and about 3.5 inches high. The top center of the robot is finished in glossy black and is ringed by matte black plastic. An auto-clean button sits in the center with Spot and Home buttons above and below it respectively. Wi-Fi and battery-level indicators are set into the top above these controls. The battery light glows orange when power is low and while the robot is charging; green when it has enough power to run. The dustbin slots in at the back and releases via a button on the top rear.
The 694 uses dual brush rollers, one bristle and one rubber, to sweep up debris from carpeted and hard-surface floors. A single three-spoked spinning brush grabs additional debris from wall edges and corners and guides it into the rolling brushes.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best robot vacuum cleaners, 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.
One advantage of a no-frills robot vacuum is that it’s extremely easy to set up. The Roomba 694’s small charging dock has minimal space requirements, and all you need to do is plug it in and set the robot on its charging contacts. iRobot recommends charging the Roomba 694 for three hours before first use. During this time, you can download the iRobot Home App, which provides a few additional ways to control the vacuum. To connect the Roomba 694 to your Wi-Fi, you press the Spot and Home buttons simultaneously for two seconds and then follow the prompts in the app to enter your login credentials.
You can initiate a cleaning job by pressing the Clean button on the robot or from the iRobot app. Additionally, you can connect it to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to enable voice commands through one of those services’ smart speakers.
Because it doesn’t include mapping navigation, the Roomba 694 simply moves in a straight line until it bumps into a wall, table leg, or other obstacle, it then adjusts its course. It cleans in this way until its battery runs low—which takes about 90 minutes—or its dustbin is full, at which point it returns to its dock to recharge or wait for you to empty it. This isn’t the most efficient cleaning pattern, so more often than not I used the app’s timed cleaning feature, which gives you options for 15-, 30-, and 45-minute cleaning jobs.
I quickly discovered that 15 minutes was plenty of time for the 694 to make a quick pass through my living room, kitchen, and entryway. Selecting this option added the 15-minute timed cleaning as a widget on the main page of the app, so I could easily run maintenance jobs as needed. The app also lets you schedule cleanings by selecting specific days and times or enabling geofencing, so that the 694 automatically cleans when it detects you’ve left your home. You can set up geofencing using IFTTT or through home automation systems from August, Ecobee, My Leviton, or MyQ.
The Roomba 694 did an impressive job picking up dust, crumbs, and pet hair from both carpeted and hard floors in my testing. Its efforts were helped by iRobot’s automatic dirt detection, which increases suction when it encounters high amounts of debris. I found dog hair tended to get wrapped around the Roomba 694’s brushes and needed to be regularly removed by hand, which was the only blemish on its otherwise solid performance.
Overall, the Roomba 694 is a capable cleaner and a decent value at $179.99. If you have modest needs and a budget, it’s a worthwhile option.