iRobot Roomba 780 Review by Janyce Raynolds
What iRobot has accomplished with their latest vacuum cleaner – the Roomba 780 – is nothing short of amazing. That word may sound like hype but in this case it’s fully justified. Here’s why…
Like other Roomba models the iRobot 780 is a circular disk, measuring 13.9″ in diameter and 3.6″ high. That makes it large enough to do a moderate room in minimal time yet small enough to still make it under the bed and other hard-to-reach areas.
At 8.4 lbs you won’t have trouble moving it around, either. That’s rarely necessary, though, thanks to the Roomba’s ability to find the included recharging station when it’s done vacuuming. The Home Base seeking feature isn’t perfect; the 780 does get stuck sometimes but it approaches 100% closer than anything I’ve seen yet.
Inside that compact frame iRobot has packed the most sophisticated Roomba robot yet. The Cleaning Head Module (CHM) has been redesigned to resolve many of the problems that plagued older units from time to time. That includes hardier brushes and an improved vacuum that better frees hair and other debris from them.
The most obvious physical button is still one you can use practically out of the box: the big “Clean” button in the center. Like other Roombas, it’s practically effortless to schedule the 780 to start automatically at any desired time, up to seven times a week. Just choose the day and time of day and with a few taps you can set any of seven cleaning times. The gentle blue LEDs on top show you clearly what you’ve set.
That effort is now even less thanks to this model’s capacitive touch-sensitive controls. The other models use physical buttons that are far from hard to operate, but the new style does give the 780 a nice contemporary high-tech look and feel.
3-Stage Cleaning Mechanism
What’s amazing, and what no review can capture – it requires a demonstration – is just how strong the dirt sucking power of this robot really is.
Like other Roomba models, the Roomba 780 uses iRobot’s patented 3-stage cleaning system. One stage – in front – consists of a pair of horizontally rotating brushes that resemble airplane propellers. They gently swish dirt and hair from walls and crevices to loosen it for pickup by stage two.
The second stage is a pair of stiff counter-rotating vertical brushes. That is, the brushes roll the way the one in your standup vacuum cleaner does, only one moves clockwise, the other counter-clockwise. They take everything the first stage loosens as well as lots more on the floor and scoops all up into the vacuum chamber.
The third stage is that vacuum chamber, driven by a 30W motor powered by a rechargeable battery unit. HEPA filters help to capture more dust particles as small as 0.3 microns, though they do require replacement about every two to three months. At a cost of about $20 for three sets of two it’s not a big deal to replace them.
The dust bin design gets the iRobot treatment here, too. That is, like every new generation, it gets a little bigger and a little better. The AeroVac Series 2 Bin now holds more and is easier to empty completely and to clean out.
One feature I particularly appreciate is the accurate Full Bin indicator. The 780 isn’t heavy but I prefer not to tip it over just to check the bin. It’s clear, so it’s easy to see the amount it contains, but the highly visible Full Bin indicator brings it one step closer to fully automated functioning.
Maintenance in general is easier with this model than previous designs. The hair and threads that inevitably find their way around the parts are easier to remove thanks to simpler disassembly. Looks like iRobot has been learning a few lessons from the legendary Dyson, which is as easy to take apart and clean as anything on the market.
Dirt Detect 2 – Persistent Pass Cleaning
What’s equally amazing is the intelligence built into the design, both from the sensing perspective and how the vacuum cleaner reacts to what it detects.
The Roomba 780 has a set of infrared sensors that can optically detect a wider variety of dirt passing into the system. Likewise, the robot has acoustic sensors to add still more information about the size and density of debris getting sucked up. The name – Dirt Detect 2 – may or may not sing to you but you’ll like the results.
This combination lets the vacuum cleaner ‘judge’ how dirty the area is and spend more time there via repeat passes. The 780 improves on that repetitive behavior over other models using something the company calls Persistent Pass Cleaning. It’s just what it sounds like: the Roomba moves back and forth repeatedly when it senses more vacuuming is required to get the floor or rug truly clean.
Virtual Wall Lighthouses
One other effect of the improved CHM is that this Roomba rarely gets stuck or lost in another room, unable to return to the Home Base charger. One thing that helps is the new Virtual Wall devices that accompany the Roomba 780.
These can operate in Virtual Wall mode – as they do in other models – to restrain the robot to a single room. But unlike their cousins they can also operate as “Virtual Lighthouses” that allow controlled access to another room.
Other models could wander unconstrained to a second room and clean it. The Lighthouses make it possible for the 780 to stay in one room until it’s finished, then move onto the next, instead of wandering around more or less randomly. The result is more intelligent pathing and more efficient battery usage.
Also helping battery usage is the Extended Life Power Management, a new algorithm that does just what it sounds like. By controlling more intelligently where and how the 780 moves iRobot has squeezed 50% more life out of the same battery.
Virtual Wall Halo
Although navigation as a whole has improved, it’s hard to quantify. The iRobot 780 now exhibits a better ability to cover an area efficiently.
iAdapt Responsive Technology offers the same robotic behaviors as earlier models, partnered with the ability of the Roomba to sense the surroundings 60 times per second. But the front bumper, while more sensitive than past models, can still strike an end table quite hard.
Luckily, iRobot offers an (optional) Virtual Wall Halo for use with the 780. That’s a small Virtual Wall-like unit you place near your pet’s food and water bowls to tell the Roomba to avoid it without even a bump.
Using something like that near delicate furniture would be an option in some cases, but the ‘Halo’ extends to only about 20 inches in diameter. Sometimes it’s easier just to move the furniture before unleashing your Roomba.
The Roomba has long been a way not just to vacuum dirty floors and carpets but to make your living area healthier as well. It’s not an air purifier by any means but it does help reduce dust and pollen in the home. Buyers frequently notice that their allergic reactions lessen after a Roomba session.
That benefit comes from powerful suction and a pair of fine HEPA filters, but also simply because of how frequently the cleaner will be used. A good standup or canister model will typically have more suction power. But the Roomba 780 can run a couple of hours a day, every day, far more than you are likely to dedicate to cleaning. Also, since the unit is so short it will go under the bed (and some couches) to places you would frequently neglect. I know I do!
Also, the 780 (like other models) can pick up dust and dirt that even your standup might leave behind. The company claims the 780 will remove “up to 98% of dirt, dust, and pet hair”. “Up to” claims are always a little tricky but in this case I can well believe it. Run your regular vacuum cleaner then the 780 over the same area. You’ll discover that the Roomba’s bin does contain material.
I don’t personally set a high value on the remote control for a robot vacuum cleaner. I’d find one more useful for my robot lawnmower, since it has to be directed to a shed. But there are those rare times, that it could come in handy. Having a bad back means minimizing those times you want to bend over, twist, and stretch to retrieve something. Your milage may vary; you may use it frequently. If you do, you’ll find it couldn’t be simpler and the reach of the IR beam/sensor is admittedly pretty impressive.
The iRobot Roomba 780 represents an evolutionary advance over other models in the line. True, it’s far from the least expensive model but, for those who can afford it, the extra cost is certainly justified by all the improvements in feature and function. Yes, I think “evolutionary” is not too strong a word in this case.