Roomba Discovery Robot
By Lawson Wong
Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto
Let's face it. We're either too darn busy or lazy to perform house chores. We have all fantasized about robots doing our cleaning ever since we caught glimpse of Rosie the Robot in an episode of "The Jetsons." IRobot makes our dreams come true with the $279.99 Roomba Discovery Robot Vacuum. Now you can relax while a robot does the cleaning. Well, at least the vacuuming.
What It Is
Robot vacuums have been around for years. Sporting an improved dust detection system, a larger dustbin capacity, and an uber-cool self-docking function, the Roomba Discovery has come a long way from its predecessors. Although the machine seems to be wandering around aimlessly, bumping into walls like a drunken sailor, the 20 x 15-inch robot is, in fact, following a set algorithm to best clean a room or an entire apartment. The Roomba Discovery offers three cleaning modes: Spot (area cleaning), Clean (up to an hour) and Max (cleans until it runs out of juice).
In The Box
The Roomba Discovery comes packaged with a self-charging docking station, an IR remote, a wall mount, additional filters, and a cleaning tool for maintaining the unit. Also, two included virtual wall units prevent Roomba from roaming anywhere you don't want it to go.
Clear The Room
Before setting the robot vacuum loose on your floors, you must get your space "Roomba-ready." The manual advises that "if you don't vacuum over it, don't use Roomba over it." Basically pick up any loose cables, rug tassels and other large debris. This can be a pain but you just have to do it once and keep it maintained. If you love clutter in your home, Roomba may not be for you.
Ready, Set, Roomba
Once I had my room Roomba-ready, I unleashed the beast. I set my little cleaning soldier in the living room and pressed the "Clean" button, and like a Hummer H1, the Roomba Discovery easily cruised over my obstacle course of power cables, thick area rugs and other knickknacks. Under 5 inches high, the flying saucer-shaped Roomba easily scooted under the couch, getting to places an upright could not, at least not without breaking out a gaggle of attachments. As a test, I sent Roomba on a direct path down the stairs but its many sensors detected the danger, saving it from committing robot hara-kiri. Must be that Third Law of Robotics.
The Roomba took an hour to clean an entire room, nearly 5 times longer than I would have taken with my trusty Dirt Devil. But with a bit more prepping of the room, I shaved nearly 20 minutes off the cleaning time. Though the Roomba may take longer, I look at it as time I'm not cleaning, and I can spend that extra time doing something else.
Though not the most powerful vacuum, the cleaning power adequately sucked up dirt, staples and even hair! My girlfriend sheds like an old English sheepdog so I'm sure it will work for all you pet lovers out there. For those with multiple long-hair pets, iRobot offers a special Roomba Discovery for Pets with an easy to clean brush. On the downside, the robot vacuum missed some spots. But only the clean-obsessed will be bothered.
The new dirt-detect mode worked like a charm. Whenever it recognized particularly dirty spots, its blue Dirt Detect light kicked on, giving that area extra attention.
A fully depleted unit will recharge in about 3 hours. In Max-mode, the unit ran for close to 2 hours before it automatically redocked itself into the charge station, like answering the call of the Mothership. Ingenious.
As with any machine, you will need to do a bit of upkeep on your cleaning buddy. The manual recommends changing the filter every 5 uses, but use your own discretion and change it when Roomba starts throwing out as much dirt as it catches. Clean its sensors if Roomba runs amok and crazily spins around in place. Most importantly, make sure to empty the dustbin after each big job or it will misbehave like an overfed baby and start spitting up all over your shag carpet.
The worst part of maintaining Roomba is cleaning hair tangled in the cleaning brush. Luckily, the Roomba comes with a nifty brush tool that makes the job easy.
Who's It For
The Roomba will never replace your uber-powerful Dyson super vac, but it will sweep the floors clean in a small apartment or any medium-sized room. Not only does the Roomba Discovery make for a nice conversion piece, it is a must-have for those with physical limitations or just simply hate to vacuum.
Also available: Roomba Scooba floor washer
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