iRobot produces several lines of excellent robot vacuum cleaners, such as the top-of-the-line Roomba 790. At the same time, it does carry a hefty price tag and sports a number of features you may not need. By contrast, the Roomba 630 has many of those same features yet is priced much lower.
Which is right for you: the Roomba 630 (currently the least expensive unit in the 600 series) or the Roomba 790 (currently the most expensive unit in the 700 series)? Let’s look at the details.
|Features||Roomba 630||Roomba 790|
|Full Bin Indicator|
|Dirt Detection (acoustic sensors)|
|Dirt Detection (optical sensors)|
|Room Confinement||Virtual Wall||Virtual Lighthouse|
|Virtual Wall Halo||optional||optional|
|IR Remote Control|
|Wireless Command Center|
|Weight||7.9 lbs||8.4 lbs|
|Review||Roomba 630||Roomba 790|
|Where to Buy?||Best Price||Best Price|
Design and Specs
Both the 630 and the 790 share the same common design of all Roombas. The 630 is just 13.4″ in diameter and weighs only 7.9 lbs. The 790 is still only 13.9″ wide and weighs 8.4 lbs. Not enough difference to move most buyers one way or the other, especially since both are just 3.6 inches high.
Their esthetic difference comes down to whether you prefer gray with dark highlights around the rim or light blue with gray highlights. Not something even those who care about such things – like me – are likely to put a lot of emphasis on. Call it a draw here.
Both models also offer similar cleaning power. There’s nothing in the specs to show that the motor in the 790 is more powerful and actual use bears that out.
Each has the iRobot 3-Stage Cleaning system. That consists of side brushes to scoop hair and dust from room edges, counter-rotating front brushes to get everything encountered in front, and that powerful vacuum to pull it all into the easy-to-empty bin.
AeroVac vs AeroVac 2 Bin
Granted, the bin on each model is a little different. The 630 houses the AeroVac design and the 790 the AeroVac 2 design. The latter is slightly larger and packs hair and dust balls a little better. You’d have to empty the 630 about 30% more often, assuming you started with the same amount of debris in each case. But for most buyers this will be a minor factor.
A potentially less minor factor for some is the bin indicator. The 790 has an LED that lights up when the bin is full. The 630 requires you to check (or estimate) when it needs emptying.
All Roombas, including the 630 and 790 models, utilize iRobot’s iAdapt guidance system.
Those algorithms are what guide the robot intelligently around the floor and from room to room. They determine, based on sensors, how and how long the room should be covered. That’s why, when in operation, you may observe the robot do something other than simply go back and forth with small shifts of path.
No big advantage here for either model.
Virtual Walls vs Virtual Lighthouses
There is a significant advantage for the Roomba 790 in one form of navigation: room to room. The 790 can utilize Virtual Lighthouses; the 630 is limited to Virtual Walls.
An iRobot Virtual Wall is a supplemental unit that’s typically placed at a doorframe to prevent the Roomba from accidentally wandering into another room. It sends out a beam that the robot can detect, causing the unit to back away.
The Virtual Lighthouse can operate that way but it can also guide the robot into a room intelligently. That optimizes battery life and makes it possible to do more than one room in a session.
How big that advantage is depends on your circumstances. The battery life of each model is nearly identical: about an hour of vacuuming per charge. If you have a room or two that take much less time – and many will – then it might well be a big benefit to do others in the same session.
By the way, you can also purchase additional Virtual Lighthouses (the 790 package comes with three) to cover additional rooms. Ditto Virtual Walls for the 630 (the 630 package comes with only one).
Dirt Detect vs Dirt Detect 2
The navigation system works in conjunction with sensors inside the robot, with different ones performing different roles. All Roombas ‘sense’ the layout of the room and feed that info to the iAdapt system. Beyond that, the 630 and 790 part company.
The 630 houses the Dirt Detect system, an acoustic sensor mechanism that tells the robot whether and what kind of debris it has encountered. The acoustic sensor is better at detecting sand and other hard material than an optical sensor, which is better at sensing dustballs and the like. The optical sensor is found inside the Dirt Detect 2 of the 790 which incorporates acoustic sensors as well.
Standard vs HEPA Filters
For some buyers the differences in the filter system of the Roomba 790 versus the 630 can be more important. The filters in the 630 do a good job of keeping dirt vacuumed up from re-entering the room air. They’re easy to clean and, when needed, easy (and relatively inexpensive) to replace. The filters in the 790 are HEPA-like and that can be a major benefit to allergy sufferers.
I say “HEPA-like” because the HEPA filters inside the 790 are not True HEPA filters, a designation a filter earns only by meeting specific criteria. In brief, it must filter 99.97% of all particles down to 0.3 microns in size. On the downside, HEPA filters are more difficult to clean and more expensive to replace.
Local vs Remote Control
Possibly the biggest differentiator between the Roomba 630 and the Roomba 790 – apart from price – is the control system. Each houses a set of local menu options selectable via the robot case. The 630 features physical buttons while the 790 has a touchpad panel. Arguably, which is better may come down to a matter of taste.
However, the two models offer drastically different remote control mechanisms.
The 630 has no remote control. You press Clean on the top and let it go. It returns automatically (most of the time) to the charging station when it finishes a session.
By contrast, and it’s a big one, the 790 comes with a wireless handheld unit that houses the latest technology. It sends out signals via RF (radio frequency) rather than IR (infrared), making it able to control the robot through walls (and some ceilings).
Is that important? No “one size fits all” answer is possible here. If you’re a couch potato you can get up to move the robot if it gets stuck. If you’re an invalid, that Wireless Command Center (as iRobot calls it) can be hugely important.
However, you will pay quite a premium to get that feature. As of this writing that amounts to $350. Of course, for that you get other features besides the Command Center – such as scheduling ability, which the 630 lacks – but the remote is one major difference.
Is the extra cash for the Roomba 790 justified? Would you be just as well off with a Roomba 630? They offer similar cleaning ability but the HEPA-like filters, the Virtual Lighthouses, and the added scheduling and remote control of the high-end unit will cause some to opt for the higher end model. Others will be satisfied with a unit that houses most of the same cleaning technology.