For a company that first exploded (no pun intended) onto the scene with its military-based bomb disposal robotics, iRobot have become quite specialised in developing the cutest little "smart" domestic
slaves assistants on the market.
The Braava Jet 240 is the latest in its line-up of floor cleaning robots, and if you're willing to put in a little bit of work beforehand, it could just be a better alternative than that steam mop you keep eyeing off on the shopping channel. You know, provided you don't have that much space to mop.
What Is It?
DJ Roomba's taller, slightly stockier (but less rotund), cousin. With a range of 20-ish square metres, it's a step down in floor coverage from the 380t that came before it, but like the T-1000 to the T-800, it focuses much more on quality over quantity.
With only one button, iRobot has designed the $479 Braava Jet around simplicity of use. Charge the battery pack with the included wall plug, add some water to the reservoir, slide on a cleaning pad and put your feet up. There's a water nozzle to spray the floor, three different types of washable cleaning pads (according to the box, you can wash them up to 50 times, and then throw them out), detergent, and a vibrating cleaning head that "increases agitation" to get those hard to lift coffee drip stains out from under the bag that you've been using for a bin for the last two weeks, you monster.
What's It Good At?
Unsurprisingly, mopping your floors. Yes, you may have to give them a quick sweep first (or let your Roomba do it for you), but the result is a cleaner floor. We tested in comparison to a 15-year old with a Steam Mop, and the little Braava Jet completed the task to a pretty similar standard, albeit with less noise (also it started when we pressed the button, in stark contrast to the teenager).
It's pretty impressive at navigating those often complex shapes in a kitchen, including the rounded corners of the dishwasher base and fridge. Floor coverage (though admittedly our test kitchen isn't a huge space) is pretty close to 100 per cent, if we’re eyeballing it, and the floor is dry almost immediately thanks to the cleaning pad.
A "full" wet mop cycle involves covering the floor area three times (twice for a damp mop, and once for a dust cycle).
What's It Not Good At?
Well, a couple of things. The Braava Jet is supposed to be able to detect carpet, and avoid it automatically, though we've left it alone twice now, only to find it having a good old crack at mopping around the desk, a few feet off the tiles nearby.
You can set an "invisible wall" that it won't traverse past - you hold the "Clean" button from a powered off state until two solid blue lines appear on the top of its case. Annoyingly though, it still tried to make another break for freedom and rolled onto the carpet after we'd followed these instructions.
Storage becomes another small issue, too. Unlike the Roomba, there's no "Home" for it to return to and charge, so you'll need to find somewhere for it. The manual suggests storing it upright on the side the battery compartment is, but that did result in water leaking from the reservoir. Not sure if that was human or robot error here though.
The battery charger itself is another thing. It's kinda huge, and with the power prongs situated in the centre, there's not much chance of getting anything to plug in next to it, even on a powerboard with extra-wide slots.
Should You Buy It?
Well, that depends. Firstly, do you already have a steam mop and a teenager? If so, and you can deal with the grumbling, then probably not. Nor should you if you have a rather large tiled or wooden floorspace in your house or apartment – the range means you’d be charging constantly, and carting it from room to room – though for an apartment dweller like me, with two small bathrooms and a tiled kitchen, it'll easily cover all three spaces.
That said, at $479 – which would get you two or three decent steam mops – I wish it was a little more hands-off. Sure, it's half the price of iRobot's Roomba 980, but when you have to fill it, change the cleaning pads, charge the battery, move it to the room you want to mop and put it away somewhere afterward - maybe I'll just do it myself. At least I know to stop at the carpet.