As much as we love the best robot vacuums and their mop-wielding siblings, that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. So we're intrigued by the new iRobot Roomba Combo J9+ and Roomba J9+, which promise cleverer cleaning without the downsides. Both devices are available for pre-order in the US and Europe from today.
iRobot has identified three common annoyances with robo-vacs: stained rugs from dirty mops, inadequate obstacle avoidance and related hardware shortcomings, and some robots' inability to get smarter the more they clean. And the firm reckons it's solved all three.
iRobot Roomba Combo J9+ and Roomba J9+: new features at a glance
The new Roomba Combo J9+ is the firm's new flagship mopping vacuum cleaner. It has a new auto-retracting mopping system to prevent the robot from making wet messes, and it has a new auto-fit dock that automatically empties debris and refills the water tank.
The J9+ doesn't have the mops, but iRobot says it's its smartest robot vacuum cleaner yet: it delivers "more powerful pickup performance and more pet features than any other robot vacuum".
Both devices benefit from the latest generation of iRobot's operating system, which learns from past cleans to deliver more efficient, prioritised cleaning.
Smarter software for cleverer cleaning
Both of the new iRobots come with iRobot OS 7, which is designed to clean better. For mop-enabled models such as the Roomba Combo J9+ and the previous Combo J7+ that means back-and-forth scrubbing with consistent downward pressure to get rid of more stubborn stains. iRobot says that the scrubbing is now 2x deeper than before.
Both models of Roomba also benefit from a feature called Dirt Detective. This analyses previous cleans to identify which rooms need the most attention, which rooms are priority (based on previous timings) and how much cleaning it needs to do in each room – so for example it'll know the difference between, say, a family room in constant use and a dining room that's used less frequently and therefore doesn't need cleaned as often. It's designed to ensure your Roomba goes where it's needed most, first.
Both the Roomba Combo J9+ and J9+ Robot Vacuum have support for Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, and their PrecisionVision navigation helps them plan ahead and avoid obstacles. They also get iRobot's amusingly named P.O.O.P. (Pet Owners Official Promise): if your iRobot ever accidentally sweeps over accidental pet messes, you're guaranteed a replacement.
The smartest, most powerful iRobot yet?
iRobot claims that the J9+ has 100% more suction power than the i-series iRobots and a longer battery life than its predecessor, the J7 series. With Carpet Boost technology, a 3-Stage Cleaning System and Dual Rubber Brushes, the Roomba j9+ automatically detects floor type and adjusts its cleaning power to do everything from sweeping up dust to lifting and removing trapped pet hair from deep carpets. It'll empty itself automatically, and the base doesn't need emptied for about two months.
Mopping without the mess
The Roomba Combo J9+ has the same suction and smarts as the Roomba J9+, but this time it comes with a four-stage cleaning system and what iRobot calls DRI: Dry Rugl Intelligence. That uses the navigation system to identify rugs and ensure it doesn't touch them with wet mopping pads: those pads retract when they get close to carpet, ensuring you don't get the same wet messes that some automated moppers often leave in their wake.
The big difference between this model and the Combo J7+ is that the older Roomba requires manual refilling; the J9+ does it for you. However, for the moment iRobot isn't going down the route of automatic mop washing: speaking to PC Magazine, CEO Colin Angle said that automatic mop washing docks "get messy quickly and start to smell" because the pads aren't being disinfected; while the idea is sound "nobody has figured out how to do it well".
iRobot Roomba Combo J9+ and Roomba J9+: price and availability
The iRobot Roomba Combo J9+ has a recommended retail price of £1,249 / $1,399. The previous Combo J7+ remains available with a reduced price of £799 / $999, although it's currently out of stock on iRobot's UK website.
The iRobot Roomba J9+ Robot Vacuum has an RRP of £999 / $899.
Both devices are available to order now on the iRobot site for delivery in the next few weeks. Meanwhile the iRobot OS 7.0 Update is rolling out to compatible Roombas worldwide.