For the entirety of the two years I’ve coexisted with my dog, Cila, my house — previously a stronghold of order and peace — morphed into a wasteland of blonde fur tumbleweeds that materialised as if by magic, even when I’d spent the entire afternoon prior cleaning the space from top to bottom. I’d assumed that short of vacuuming my house virtually every day, multiple times a day, I’d have to come to terms with living like this, surrounded on all sides by my good girl’s no good shedding. That was until I met the Roomba i3+, a destroyer of dust bunnies and my secret to floors so clean I feel like I’m living in an entirely new home — no thanks at all to my pup.
The Roomba i3+ is the latest release from the smart vacuum maker iRobot and will officially replace the older Roomba 960. Starting at $US400 ($564), this puck-shaped vacuum certainly isn’t the cheapest cleaning robot you can buy, but the companion emptying stand — which when purchased with the vacuum brings the total cost to $US600 ($846) — definitely makes this one to consider. iRobot has introduced features on this mid-tier vacuum that are typically reserved for its premium models, vacuums that can run you upwards of a grand. Now, to be clear, you’re not getting all the premium goodies available on those top-tier wonder robots, and we’ll get to that in a bit. But after a couple of weeks with the Roomba i3+, I think it just might be the best iRobot option for most people.
iRobot Roomba i3+
WHAT IS IT?
A mid-tier robot helper with premium features.
Starts at $US400 ($564)
Additional self-emptying Clean Base means it can vacuum for weeks on end without your intervention.
Doesn't support zoning that's featured on more expensive models.
Getting back to Cila’s ungodly shedding for a moment, I have tried everything — everything, I say! — to try and tame her Jindo fur. “I’m so sorry about the mess,” I’d say to arriving guests, practically sweating from the previous two hours I’d spent attempting to sweep it all up before they arrived. But no matter! Just as soon as she came happily trotting into the room I’d just cleaned, no doubt awaiting a pat or a treat, her fur would again appear everywhere as if I’d never cleaned at all. This is how I’d been living prior to testing the Roomba i3+, and my primary interest was whether the vacuum could handle not only the dust that can build up on my hardwood floors but the fur. So much fur.
I’ve run this vacuum several times while I’ve been testing it throughout my home, and I’ve consistently been impressed by the amount of dirt and grime it was able to suck up. (Roomba says its suction is about 10 times as powerful as that of Roomba 600 series.) It self-emptied its Clean Base about four times the first time it cleaned my home, which was nice because it meant I didn’t have to involve myself with emptying its bin and could go about my other chores without a second thought. So, too, did the robot return itself to its home base when it ran out of juice so it could recharge before resuming its job. And that’s essentially what you’re paying 200 extra clams for with the Clean Base: a mostly human intervention-free experience. Truthfully, I think it’s worth every penny if you’re already on the fence. It seems like a lot for a charging stand, but if you’re considering dropping the dough for the vacuum, I’d definitely recommend getting the base as well.
Now, the Roomba i3+ did a great job on my hardwood floors, but I couldn’t believe the number it did on a rug in my bedroom. After a couple of sessions with the Roomba i3+, I can safely say this this rug, which is a pet fur magnet — so naturally it’s the place that Cila spends a majority of her time — has not been this clean since the day we unboxed it. The first time I ran a cycle over it, the Roomba i3+ left little tufts of hair that it had managed to miraculously spin out of the rug. When I ran the vacuum again, the robot cleaner sucked them up and left me with an utterly pristine bedroom environment. Reader, hear me when I say that I nearly cried.
I will say I was surprised that after using the vacuum for a number of weeks that its brushes had not morphed into rats’ nests of dog hair and god knows whatever other unholy gnar has been tracked into my home. So when the iRobot app notified me last week that my vacuum had become nonfunctional and that I needed to clear its brushes, I’d thought that surely the culprit was dog hair. It wasn’t. The Roomba i3+ had happened upon a disturbingly large shard of glass that I was able to quickly and safely remove. Because the vacuum was already open, I also checked either side of its twin rubber brushes and was pleasantly surprised to find that Cila’s passive damage to this poor, unsuspecting robot helper had been minimal. Only a tiny bit of pet hair had been wrapped around either of the vacuum’s two brushes — a small miracle, really. Once the glass was removed, the vacuum resumed its job without issue.
As for its ability to clean my floors more generally, again, the suction was fantastic. I will note, though, that the Roomba i3+ wasn’t always able to fully clear dust along the sideboards of my home — those I still had to get myself while mopping. But the ease of turning a vacuum that pairs itself to an emptying stand means that my actual interactions with the vacuum were fairly minimal, shard of glass notwithstanding. Roomba says the bag in the charging stand will hold up to 60 days’ worth of vacuum waste. And that means I do not even have to think about emptying the bag for quite a while, a luxury that I feel more than justifies the extra bank you’ll drop on the self-emptying stand.
So, why the hell would you buy a more expensive model when this one checks so many of the same boxes as iRobot’s premium vacuums, including the fancy self-emptying charging dock? Well, the primary difference between this and iRobot’s pricier models is mapping capabilities and the ability to zone its cleaning. When I wanted to run my vacuum, I let it just kind of do its thing, and it managed pretty successfully to get all the necessary nooks and crannies (some baseboard coverage excepted). And if I wanted it to cover a single room, I just shut it in. But I can see how this would be a problem in an open-layout home, for example, where a roving robot cleaning everything in its path may not necessarily be ideal. I also had to clear any stray wires, shoes, and pet bowls from the floor prior to cleaning, which wasn’t a huge deal for me but might be for someone living in a larger home. And those are the folks who should look at the more premium vacuums in iRobot’s line, such as the Roomba i7+ ($US800 ($1,128)) or Roomba s9+ ($US1,100 ($1,552)). Those vacuums are capable of learning your home and can navigate Clean Zones and Keep Out Zones, something the Roomba i3+ can’t do.
But even without those features, the Roomba i3+ performed exceptionally well. Better than I’d hoped, even. And if you’ve known the unique frustration of seasonal shedding, buddy, this is the vacuum for you. Most good bag vacuums worth their salt are going to run you a few hundred bucks, at least. But if it’s a good robot vacuum you seek, this is the one I’d recommend. And again, the vacuum is good enough on its own, so you could definitely pick up the i3 puck and save the Clean Base for a future purchase (though you’ll save $US50 ($71) buying them together). But if you can swing it, the ease of the i3+ experience and its ability to control virtually untamable pet hair more than justified its steep price tag.
- The Roomba i3+ is a $US600 ($846) smart vacuum and self-emptying stand, an iRobot feature typically found on its pricier models. The vacuum alone is $US400 ($564).
- The vacuum handled pet hair, hardwood floors, and carpeting beautifully, but it did have some trouble with cleaning the spaces along baseboards in some rooms.
- This model is missing the premium zoning capabilities of iRobot’s more expensive vacuums, meaning you’ll have to clear your floors of stray shoes and wires before a job.
- Minimal human intervention means this is a good option for folks who don’t want to think too much about the cleaning process and would rather let the robovac do its thing.