The iRobot Roomba line is an example of strength in depth. Most innovators in manufacturing offer multiple superior products, not just one outstanding model. That’s true here, for sure. But, it’s possible to feel you’re suffering from too much of a good thing.
The Roomba 600 series (630 – 650) and 700 series (760 – 770 – 780 – 790) is a perfect example. Both are filled with fine units and deciding which one is right for you can be a challenge. Rather than examine each single ‘tree’, it can be useful to examine the forest and look for general similarities and differences. That helps narrow the field to focus on one or two models for later review.
|Features||Roomba 6xx||Roomba 7xx|
|Price Range||$349 - $399||$449 - $699|
|Control Panel (Buttons)||760 - 770|
|Control Panel (Touchpad)||780 - 790|
|Dirt Detection (acoustic sensors)|
|Dirt Detection (optical sensors)||770 - 780 -790|
|Full Bin Indicator||770-780-790|
|Bin Type||AeroVac||AeroVac Series 2|
|Virtual Walls||760 - 770|
|Virtual Lighthouses||780 - 790|
|Virtual Wall Halo||optional||optional|
|Remote Control||760 - 770 - 780|
|Wireless Command Center||790|
First, a few words about what the Roomba 600 series and the 700 series have in common.
All Roomba models have roughly the same weight and dimensions – a round, disc-like body of approx. 14″ in diameter and under 4″ high. That low level lets them get under the bed or high couches with ease. It makes it possible for the robot to scoot beneath many floor-length curtains without difficulty. Some earlier Roomba models did occasionally get fabric caught up in the rollers. Fortunately, iRobot has made great strides overcoming that problem. The round shape is more than just an esthetic issue, too. Square corners make bumps against furniture more troublesome. It makes placing collision sensors more difficult. On the other hand, a squared body (like the Neato XV-11) does have the advantage near walls. Design is always about tradeoffs.
All current Roombas also share similar sensor systems. Each model in both series incorporates Dirt Detect or Dirt Detect 2 to let the Roomba intelligently ‘know’ what kind of debris it has to confront. Some house only acoustic sensors (Dirt Detect) – best for detecting hard items like sand. Others add optical sensors (Dirt Detect 2), which do a better job of identifying soft material like dustballs.
– iAdapt Responsive Cleaning Technology
Similarly, all Roombas have a ‘brain’ containing firmware (a type of software) that houses algorithms guiding the robot. Using sensors that gather info on the room layout, as well as those determining dirt levels, the iAdapt system tells the robot where and how to move. In one room the Roomba may spend a relatively large amount of time going over one area. In another it may go over a path only once. Eventually it will cover everything, but where it goes and how many times is dynamic. That’s a big advantage over simpler robot vacuum cleaners that ‘mindlessly’ go back and forth once or twice over each section.
– Control Panel
Lastly, all Roomba robots have some mechanism for letting you exercise a certain amount of control over the vacuum cleaner. All of them have buttons on the top that let you do that. In one instance that might be something as simple as the Clean button on the case. You hit it and the Roomba takes off on its rounds. The rest is automatic. In another scenario, you might want to determine a schedule for the Roomba to follow.
General (and Specific) Differences
Now, let’s take a look at some of the differences among the different models. That leads us to a discussion of the general (and specific) variation between the 600 series and 700 series, as well as unique features within the two.
– Control Panel (Buttons vs Touchpad)
I mentioned differences in the buttons on the case. The distinction here, which some will judge important others trivial, is that some models have depressible buttons, others have a touchpad. That difference cuts across the lines, though. The Roomba 630 and 650 have buttons but so do the 760 and 770. It’s only the highest end 780 and 790 models that feature a touchpad. I like many of the features of the higher end models but I prefer old-fashioned pushable buttons. Let your personal preference be your guide.
– Sensors (Dirt Detect vs Dirt Detect 2)
A more important difference is the sensor system. Some models feature the older, simpler Dirt Detect while others sport the Dirt Detect 2. The first is limited to just the acoustic sensor I described above. The latter adds optical sensors. Here again the difference cuts across the lines. The Dirt Detect 2 system is offered only in the 770 and up models; it’s missing from the 760 unit. In any case, the key is that the Dirt Detect 2 lets the robot detect a bigger variety of debris. By sensing when a section needs extra attention the Roomba can trigger an iAdapt algorithm called Persistent Pass Cleaning. The robot spends more time in a particular area.
– Bin (AeroVac vs AeroVac 2)
Another difference between the 600 series and the 700 series lies in the bin. The Roomba 600 models have an AeroVac; the 700 series offers the improved AeroVac 2 bin. The original AeroVac bin was designed to move air in such a way as to pull hair off the rollers more easily and compress it into the back of the bin. The AeroVac 2 has improved on that ability. Also, the newer design has a slightly larger storage capacity, thanks to a redesigned filter housing.
– Filter (Standard vs HEPA)
One truly important difference between the two Roomba series is in the filter systems. The 600 models offer a decent set of standard filters to avoid returning dust into the room as the unit vacuums. The 700 series goes beyond that to incorporate HEPA-like filters. They do a better job than ordinary filters in keeping the air free of small potential allergens.
– Room-to-Room Navigation (Virtual Walls vs Virtual LightHouses)
Many Roomba models are designed to do only one room per charging session. It will operate for about an hour, then return to the charging station. Extra units called Virtual Walls send a signal to prevent the Roomba wandering through a doorway by accident. Virtual Lighthouses do that but add the ability to intelligently guide the Roomba from one room to the next. Here, too, iRobot doesn’t have a sharp distinction between the two lines. The Lighthouses work only with the 780 and 790 models.
– Remote Control
There’s no remote control for the Roomba 600 series. The handheld that comes with the 760, 770 and 780 is an infrared unit. That means you need a line-of-sight to the vacuum cleaner in order for it to receive the signal. By contrast, the remote (called a Command Center) for the 790 works by radio frequency. That makes it possible for the signal to go through walls and even the ceiling. That means you can turn the robot on/off or direct it from another room, a big benefit for those who have difficulty getting around.
– On-Board Scheduling
A scheduling feature is available on all models except on the 630. The control panel on the Roomba allows you to schedule it to start automatically at any desired time, up to seven times a week. You can even use the Wireless Command Center that comes with the 790 to schedule the Roomba from a distance.
There are a number of differences between the iRobot Roomba 600 models and the Roomba 700 series. One thing they all have in common, though, is quality design and construction and – most importantly – proven cleaning power.