iRobot Roomba 790 Review by Janyce Raynolds
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In a nutshell, the iRobot Roomba 790 is a Roomba 780 that comes with a radio frequency based remote control. Of course, if you aren’t familiar with the 780, or are interested in what that remote control really adds, that description is pretty useless. So, I’ll explore the details – and answer the question whether upgrading to the 790 is worth it.
Design and Specs
Like all Roomba robot vacuum cleaners the 790 is a round, low-to-the-ground cleaner that saves you most of the trouble of pushing a traditional model.
It measures 13.9″ in diameter x 3.6″ high and weighs 8.4 lbs. That’s pretty compact but it’s large enough to do a good sized room in an hour. For comparison, the fine Neato XV-11 is about 13″ × 12.5″ × 3.9″ and weighs 8.6 lbs.
During operation, the 790 utilizes a series of sensors to detect the amount and type of debris it has to consume. One nifty method uses an acoustic sensor to judge small and hard things like sand. The optical sensor is geared toward larger, softer objects like dustballs.
Using the sensors, it also ‘judges’ just how dirty the floor is so it can adjust how long to spend in one room. That’s another feature that sets Roomba above much of the competition because this method actually works pretty well.
An extra dirty floor will cause the 790 to make multiple passes over the same area in an effort to get it thoroughly cleaned. That reduces the times you have to get out the full-sized model. At the same time, it’s estimating the dimensions of the room. It then ‘decides’ the best way to move around the room for maximum coverage with minimum battery use.
One of the more interesting and well-done basic features of the 790 is its anti-tangle ‘intelligence’. If you have frilly rugs, long curtains, or just accidental yarn on the floor, the 790 can sense when something has become entangled in the brushes. It then auto-reverses to try to undo the problem.
As the 790 operates in the same way as the 780 please read the Roomba 780 review to learn more about the basic specs and features.
Wireless Command Center.
The truly distinguishing feature of the Roomba 790 is its new Command Center, a fancy term for the remote control. In this case, ‘fancy’ isn’t an insult; this thing really is a cut above. It operates via radio frequency so the remote needs to ‘pair’ with the vacuum cleaner.
Other iRobot models use IR – infra red – remote controls and therefore have to be pointed directly at the robot. This one will operate even through walls. That pairing is easily and reliably performed. Just place the small unit atop the robot for a few seconds then power everything up. Hold down the Left and Right arrow buttons on the remote. Done.
The system will, for example, let you spot clean an area by using the remote like a game-unit controller.
You can use the Command Center to manually direct the 790 around if you want. You can also use it to schedule your 790 to clean at a later time, up to seven times per week.
The unit is powered by 4-AA batteries and will operate up to about 25 feet away.
Barrier Devices. Roomba was an innovator in the robot vacuum cleaner niche in several ways. One of the more important, but less noted, is their barrier and guidance technology.
The 790, like its brethren, comes with a set of (in this case, three) Virtual Wall Lighthouses. These small, battery-powered stands are placed where you want the Roomba to go when it’s finished the starting room, typically at the doorframe between two rooms. They send out an invisible signal that the 790 receives, signaling it to travel to the next room and continue cleaning.
They have a dual purpose, though. They can also operate like a slightly older idea: Virtual Walls. In this mode, instead of directing the 790 into the next room they confine it to the present one. Very handy if you don’t want the robot to wander due to children playing in the bedroom or simply because you want the cleaner to concentrate on one room only.
The Walls are even adjustable, up to about 8 feet. You can select a range for the barrier so the robot won’t even get close to that bedroom. Very useful if you want to place the Wall conveniently at a door opening but have a light table nearby you don’t want disturbed.
When the 790 does make contact with objects in the room – such as furniture – it does so very gently thanks to the molded, soft-touch bumper.
Charger. Like most other Roomba models, the 790 comes paired with a charging station to which it returns at the end. Most manufacturers have something similar but the iRobot version actually works and, usually, works well.
It has to have enough juice to get back to the charger, of course, so it begins the journey before it dies. It almost always makes it back. It does require that the robot reach the dock and line up to the contacts, an action it typically accomplishes with ease. The 790 requires about three hours to fully recharge.
Filters and Brushes. The brushes aren’t just among the best in the robot vacuum cleaner business; they’re easily detachable. Ditto the filters. Besides the two HEPA filters the replacement kit comes with three side brushes, two bristle brushes, and two beater brushes.
Fortunately you don’t have to dump them all in the bottom of the closet. The 790 kit comes with an accessory carrying case to keep everything organized.
The iRobot Roomba 790 is currently the company’s top of the line model. Not surprisingly, it carries their top of the line price. At $100 more than the 780, that’s effectively the cost of the Command Center wireless remote control.
Is that premium worth the price? That’s something only you can answer, of course. Personally, I find the buttons on the robot itself so easy to use, and the automatic nature of the Roomba itself so complete, that even this gadget freak rebels at the thought. Still, it’s pretty tempting.
Once paired, you could use it to start the unit manually, which saves you from having to bend over. Similarly, you can use the remote control to direct the Roomba 790 back to its dock, again eliminating the need to bend over and carry it back. That’s rarely needed but when it is it can be important. Those options alone could make it worth it for some buyers.