The Dirt Detective: Roomba 770

The Dirt Detective: Roomba 770

Gregory Han
Jul 13, 2011

Product: iRobot Roomba 770
Price: $499.99
Rating: Recommend*

It wasn't that long time ago we invited a tidy house guest, the iRobot Scooba 230, for a short stay for review. As much as we liked the one-touch help of the wet/dry hard floor cleaner, it was a device we could equally live with or without. We've since invited over the Scooba's big brother, the Roomba 770, an updated robot vacuum with adaptive cleaning capabilities, new debris bin design and dual HEPA filtration. Here's what we think after living with the 770's custodial (or pardon our poor pun, dust-odial) services in our apartment the last few weeks...

iRobot is continually fine tuning the features of their robotic vacuum line, and the Roomba 770 includes many of their latest technologies and mechanical improvements. Speaking with the team it was obvious one of the primary goals of improving the Roomba experience was addressing maintenance/emptying of the disc-shaped floor cleaner. While the technology behind the 770's cleaning capabilities were notably upgraded, utilizing an optical acoustic detector to hunt down deeply embedded dust (think of it as dust bunny sonar), it might be the improved debris bin design and cleaning head/brush improvements that may lend itself to a better long term experience using a Roomba.

A senior technical product manager explained this AeroVac Series 2 Bin, as they've coined the receptacle, was engineered to both hold more debris and also keep hair from getting caught up onto the brush heads. Additionally, if hair, thread or other debris does get stuck on the brush head, a new design permits easy pop-out access for maintenance.

Turn on the Roomba 770 with the power button on top or with an included remote control and it immediately gets started with its cleaning duties. The first thing we noticed is the unit is a bit loud, the sound mostly emanating from the motorized wheels; the sound is a tradeoff of sorts, as the 770 is remarkably adept at traversing from hard to carpeted surfaces of different heights. Whether it was hardwood floors, vinyl flooring, tile, or our FLOR carpet tile of varying pile, the 770 transitioned without issue. Underneath are pair of burly wheels that remind us a little of the Mars Rover and the reason it can travel nearly anywhere. The unit occasionally is maybe a little too brutish in torque/speed, as our little robotic friend would batter ram into smaller items with enough force to move them. But then other occasions, the smart sensors guiding the 770 would result in some extremely precise navigation in tight quarters, giving a user confidence the Roomba isn't cutting corners while cleaning.

A timer and scheduling features can further simplify using the Roomba 770 on a daily basis. As pet owners we found the help of the 770 useful in cutting down the amount of serious vacuuming needed; in fact we were often surprised how much dust, hair and debris the unit was able to extract out of the rug and underneath our furniture, shaming us into realizing we're not as thorough with cleaning as we once believed. A pair of Auto Virtual Walls towers can also keep the unit to a bounded area, but to be honest, our apartment is so small we didn't need to use these. We also just enjoyed watching our cats flee all across the apartment from their robotic house guests (alas, no videos of our felines riding ontop).

When the 770 is finished, it automatically will return to a docking station to recharge (it can also be manually directed to return/finish with the remote or control button on top). The docking station should be stationed against a wall or near a heavy object, as the Roomba has a habit of pushing it back or to the side while attempting to dock, resulting in the unit doing a once over trip that sometimes seems ridiculous, since it's right there next to the dock. An improvement would be a heavier charging station base or suction cups. But once it docks, you're rewarded with a satisfying musical chime, notifying your Roomba is getting some rest and relaxation until the next time it's needed.

Bottom Line: Like any rating system, there are some situations where the range doesn't fully represent what you want to bestow upon a product. In this case, the loud operation volume and complementary, rather than replacement, value of the Roomba 770 makes the device a luxury rather than a necessity. But what the 770 did, it did very well…surprisingly well. The 770 didn't suffer from some of the navigational issues we faced with the Scooba 230, avoiding getting stuck while wheeling around various rooms of our apartment, and notably stopping to do persistent passes over areas with more dirt. Our floor and rug was noticeably cleaner each session.

Is it a vacuum replacement? No, not yet, since the small capacity, the limited utility (it won't clean anything beyond your floors), and a price which brings into the same league as a fairly expensive upright or canister model makes this more of a complementary device rather than a replacement. That being said, if you can afford the price tag, you'll definitely enjoy a state of the art robotic maid like we did. In just a few weeks with the Roomba 770 we learned it's the sort of luxury one can get accustomed to all too easily.

Pros: Impressive rug-to-hard surface transition performance, updated Dirt Detect Series 2 sensors are adept at picking up dirtier spots, remote control allows easy on/off control, updated bin design and and power management for longer use.

Cons: Noticeably loud, heavy and has tendency to bump into furniture with considerable force, expensive, can fill up quicker than you think, docking station needs suction cup bottom or heavier base.

Our Ratings:
Strong Recommend*
Weak Recommend
Don't Recommend

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.

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