back to article A Rumba with a Roomba

Don't tell me. I've heard it already. You've got the iPadFever. Or Obsession for iPhone 4. Or iMac Mini Madness. Apparently nearly everyone is contemplating dropping hundreds of not-as-big-as-they-were-once ones on an Apple product, and joining in the chorus of boring bores who bore on in boring detail about how lovely the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New models vs old models

    If you can - get the 560 rather than the replacement 555.

    The 560 comes with lighthouses that allow you to confine Gromit (come on you have to name them) to one room making sure that is spankingly clean before moving on to the next. The 555 only has a virtual wall which stops him from passing certain points.

    But Roombas are wonderful including the little reversing sound when he rolls off his charging station.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    "He sleeps at my feet as I write, his charging light glowing a soothing amber."

    Have you never *seen* the film of I, Robot? Be very afraid.

  3. Scho


    Could give us basic pricing and sourcing details in all of that rambling Ms Stob!

    How much did he set you back? Where abouts you got him from along with alternatives?

    Would a £20 vacuum cleaner and 10 minutes of graft be just as good!? :o)

    I admit some little robot would be quite nice to do my bidding but if he costs a small sum I'd rather use the vac and buy a PS3!

    1. David Shaw
      Thumb Up

      My Roomba came 'free'

      with supermarket points (Esselunga in Varese, Italy) similar robots are on the market at £400 - Samsung claims that theirs is more algorithmically intelligent than a Roomba, but is that £400 better?!

      The difference with the normal vacuum/Dyson is that you have to be bothered to get it from under the stairs, then do a half-hearted job for 20 mins - whilst the Roomba will wander around for a whole hour, 60 minutes of quietly nearly vacuuming/sweeping everything many times. And you just have to press a button.

      my Roomba 520 is going great after 2 years - but I think I have to buy some new rubber brushes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      UK prices

      Start at about £270 go up to £400ish depending on the model and what else they throw in the box.

      I have a 560 (recently discontinued but still available whilst stocks last) which cost about £350 for which you get the robot, mains supply, docking station, two navigation lighthouses, replacement filters and some maintenance tools. Further up the pricing you get bigger dust collectors and a remote control.


    Thumb Down

    Wait til you've had one a while

    You might get sick of constantly picking hair out of the brushes and having the corners of the room never vacuumed. Then your gearbox blows up, causing it to jump up and down while it goes forward, to an audible 'clunk-clunk-clunk' followed by the yankee voice 'Clean Roomba's brushes!'.. so you buy another gearbox off Ebay, with metal, sealed bearings that aren't supposed to choke up with pet hair and die... and 6 months later it dies too...

    'Clunk-Clunk-<cough>-<gasp>-Die..' :(

    Good concept. Flawed execution.

    My new Dyson on the other hand..... pure brilliance!

    1. Kleykenb


      You need to service your Roomba often, in fact, I recommend that you take out the brushes out after every (big) deployment. But the Roomba is made in such a way that maintenance is not a big job : the brushes are easy to remove and place back, the front wheel can easily be removed and cleaned as well.

      Without maintenance , however, you indeed will find that your Roomba will die on you sooner than you like but even then you can buy relatively cheaply the replacement parts : this device is clearly not designed following the throw-away phylosophy.

      1. EXAFLOPS'R'US
        Thumb Down

        yeah.. maintenance wasn't an issue

        I used to remove and clean the brushes, wheel, sensor etc every week.

        The gearbox bearings were a known design flaw, hence the revised gearbox.

        Short story is the Roomba doesn't survive a 1-cat, 2 bedroom apartment :(

        I spend only slightly more time vacuuming with the Dyson than I did cleaning the Roomba and I don't have to get my hands dirty on a weekly basis.

        1. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

          No prob here

          And we're a 2 cat household with them shedding like crazy one of them a mix with a main coone so there's piles of fur for it to gobble up.

          Do have the 563 Pet series... We actually have clean floors for more than a day now. Usually they would be covered by fur after that.

          Had it now for 3 months and still no issues. It is cleaned once per week completly. I.e. a pick to pull out all the hair from any nook and crany we can find.

      2. Mark 65


        With the need for regular service it sounds like it might just be easier to get off of one's arse and vacuum the floor or just get a cleaner if you're that lazy.

        1. anarchic-teapot


          Does having a back that's so badly damaged that you can't use a vacuum (or get a job that pays well enough to employ a cleaner) still qualify one as lazy?

          Enquiring minds and handicapped bodies wish to know.

          Anyway, I've been eyeing this device for a while. I reckon I'm going to have to invest soon. Thanks for the review.

          1. Mark 65


            If your back is so badly damaged that you cannot use an upright or cylinder vacuum cleaner then I'd imagine you'd be eligible for some kind of home help.

            Also, how are you going to pick it up to clean it as that'd involve bending down to floor level - somewhat further down than required when using a cylinder vacuum?

  5. DJ 2
    Thumb Up

    Left anything embarassing on the bedroom floor.

    Robby really does like empty condom packets. he goes looking for them then takes them back to his charging station to display for your mom when she comes to visit.

    I've only heard bad things about roomba's I'm perfectly happy with mine, it cleans under the bed!

  6. Billy 8

    I got one about three weeks ago

    And it really is the best thing "evah". Lying on the sofa with a g&t while a little robot scurries around cleaning the floor is a joy. My carpet is a kind of weird black corduroy affair (thanks, landlord!) that has always proven difficult to clean with a normal hoover - but the roomba got it spotless after about two goes.

    But yes - it does make you start to eye the rest of your living space and feel a little guilty that you're not keeping it quite as tidy as the roomba would like. If nothing else, sweeping all the dust and detritus onto the floor seems to make it happier ;-)

  7. Ian Ferguson


    Do they still just clean with a little rotating brush, as opposed to actual vacuuming? My housemate had one a few years ago, and I thought it suffered from dubious advertising.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It is a vacuum cleaner

      So don't worry. The rotating brush is there to bring dirt into reach of Roomba's terrifying maw.

  8. Kleykenb
    Thumb Up


    Yep, the Roomba IS indeed a great thing.

    However, people should be aware that when you use a Roomba there ARE 2 things you still need to do yourself (apart from turning it on) :

    - You need to prepare the room somwhat, meaning you probably will need to move shoes and such out of the way. Arguably this is something you may not needed to do before the Roomba because you would just push items aside as you went ;-)

    - The Roomba needs maintenance after every (big) vacuuming job. With maintenance I mean : the cleaning brushes need to be taken out and 'cleaned'. It's not a big job (takes aporimately 3 minutes or so) and the Roomba is build in such a way that it makes this maintenance easy (no screw-drivers or other tools involved)

    One of the extreme pro's of the Roomba lies in the wonderful fact that brushes and wheels and generally everything that could break can be ordered online AND for a reasonable price !

    We've had our Roomba for 2 months now and frankly, we couldn't live without anymore

  9. frank ly

    I am not alone!

    "... You know how a hard disk defragmenter, scurrying around its sectors in a neat graphical display, is the most hypnotically fascinating thing to watch? Of course you do. .."

    I thought I was the only one who did that and have been ashamed to tell anyone about it. I feel so much better now it's out in the open.

    1. Mitch Kent

      Even my old man...

      A complete computer novice, knows what defragmentation is because he would come into my room and wonder why all those blocks were being whisked around the screen as though I were playing some sort of game...

  10. Richard Parkin


    Does it have blu-ray?

  11. JimC

    We have a dog that chase vacuum cleaners...

    So could this also be a way of automatically exercising the dog? Should be even more entertaining to watch than the thing on its own...

    Actually that's an "I don't need to get my coat out" icon!

  12. Anonymous Coward

    I, for one....

    ...welcome our autonomous vacuuming servants.

  13. Monty Burns
    Thumb Up

    Long live Robby!

    Love my Robby (do we all call them that??). Be warned though, if you have a dog, turning him on (ooeerrr!) once or twice a week won't be good enough, ours comes on every week day whilst we are at work and the ground floor is now spotless!

    As metioned by a previous poster though, it can get a bit useless in corners/small gaps and dog hair can get piled up there - that said, Robby does a good job of pushing it all into a pile in these places making dog hair easy to pick up! :0)

    Our Robby is now 2 years old and cleaned twice a week. Never had a component fail and is still on his first sets of roller brush and sticky-out-the-side brush.

  14. Mystic Megabyte

    The great blackout of 2015 - from Wikibingooglehoo!

    On midsummer day 2015 the wind turbines that covered the entirety of the UK ground to a halt, stalled by a massive power demand.

    This was due to the coincidence of 30 million Roombas docking with their charging stations at exactly the same time as 50 million PCs rebooted after a Windows 10 upgrade patch.

    Some say that it was exacerbated by several million HP printers that were churning out a 20 page advert for triple gazing and a TV advert for shampoo that was so bright that several thousand 90" plasma screens actually melted.

    However, Apple denied that their ubiquitous iBrain implant did not force half the population to make an iCoffee at that time.

    Apple blamed instead Linux fanbois who were downloading Ubuntu 15.10 alpha.

    Due to the solar storm that allegedly wiped out all databases later that day it has never been proved who was actually responsible.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it trip the burglar alarm?

    We have indoors passive infra red sensors connected to our alarm; are these triggered by the Roomba?

  16. hyperoceanic
    Thumb Up

    Pawleys Peepholes

    "a discreditable amount of dust".

    Many thanks for that - I'll have to dig out my copy of "The Seeds of Time" for a re-read. Not seen it for thiry-odd years though, so it might be a bit dusty!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Both a front-Roomba and a back-Roomba

    I bought one about two years ago and it's worked fine with no problems. Not perfect, but more than enough to keep the dust bunnies and crumbs at bay.

    Early last spring an e-mail from iRobot plopped into my inbox. They invited my to beta trail a new model, which I did. I had to keep track and make comments on the testers blog for about 6 weeks. At the end of the trial, I got to keep betaBot and also got $100 to spend in the iRobot store.

    The front and back Roombas work well together and they're corralled off from interfering with one-another using the supplied virtual walls. They're programmed to automatically clean 5 day/week when I'm at work. I empty and clean them weekly and have replaced filters and the small 3-way edge brushes but nothing else. I have a replacement battery for the original one, but haven't replaced it yet since it's still going strong after 2 years.

    Love 'em.

  18. Tom Chiverton 1

    Come now

    You can't mention Roomba on El Reg without also talking about the laser-packing can you ?

  19. Anonymous Coward

    The future that the past promised us!

    The Roomba is brilliant - not so much in practice, where it flounders in unusually-shaped spaces and suffers premature death from indigestion on even the smallest traces of cat hair - but in being one of the few devices which genuinely match the future that the visionaries of the '50s promised us, but that the rest of the 20th century resolutely refused to deliver.

    Even better are those robotic lawn mowers which can mow to schedule and which find their way back to their charging station at the end of each chopping session. Admittedly, they are a good £1000 instead of £200, but one day... one day!

  20. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    Have a Discovery Series Roomba.

    Skippy is green, and noms cat hair all day long.

    He's getting a little long in the tooth though, it's about time to retire him to lighter duty and get a 560 to replace him on the front lines.

    A far better investment of a few hundred bucks than an iPad, that's for sure!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Trouble with Roomba is that it's made by a kill-bot company (seriously). So if you like giving your money to the military then go ahead, but I'm more interested in the alternatives. How about a nice comparative review, now that there are (I think) 3 to choose from?

  22. You're all dinosaurs

    Tiles of death

    I bought a second-hand original Roomba, but every time I set it on the kitchen floor, the edge detection that's supposed to stop it falling down stairs would get confused by the black-and-white floor tile pattern, and I'd find it hopelessly spinning around until its battery ran flat.

    I accept that the state of the art has advanced a long way in four years.

  23. Trokair 1


    Thank you Verity for once again shinning a brilliant light upon my otherwise drab existence. I had at one time pondered the possibility of acquiring a robotic servant but alas was unable to secure said plastic and metal henchmen. Most fortuitously your article has materialized at a time where I have had a substantial (relatively) windfall that would allow me to bend one of these soulless minions to my will. I have since contacted a proper vendor capable of summoning said creation and have arranged for the transfer of power following the end of my daily 8 hours in purgatory. I look forward on unleashing the monstrosity upon the remnants of the floor covering in my lair this evening.

  24. Andrew_F


    "Verity Stob declares she has no relationship with Roomba makers iRobot"

    For a review like that they ought to at least give you some freebies. I'm very tempted to get one now.

  25. RobS

    Heinlein's original spec was better

    In "door into summer" his automatic vacuum cleaner had a little tray on top into which the robot placed anything "larger than a quarter"

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