Trying to compare the new iRobot Roomba 870 to the Roomba 880 is a puzzling task. The 870 just IS the 880, minus a couple of features. Are those features worth spending an extra $100 for? Ah, that’s the question…
|Roomba 870||Roomba 880|
|Block Off-Limit Areas||Virtual Wall||Virtual Lighthouse|
|Room-to-Room Navigation||Virtual Lighthouse|
|Virtual Wall Halo||optional||optional|
|Full Bin Indicator|
|Wireless Command Center||optional|
|Weight||8.4 lbs||8.4 lbs|
|Review||Roomba 870||Roomba 880|
|Where to Buy?||Best Price||Best Price|
The Roomba 870 and 880 have the same case design. Each measures not quite 14 inches in diameter and tops out at 3.6 inches high.
Both do a better job of getting up to the edges of the wall than past models. The inclusion of a triplet of brushes arrange din a triangle sees to that. Past models would leave a gap of about a quarter of an inch around the edge because of the round body design.
Where it counts even more, inside the unit, the 870 and 880 are nearly identical.
Both models utilize the new AeroForce vacuum technology. Far from a mere marketing buzzword, it’s actually a considerable re-design from Roomba robot vacuum cleaner models of the past.
Even relatively recent units relied on brushes to scrape dirt and debris into the airflow path, which then gets shoved into the bin. The Roomba 800 Series use a cleverly designed pair of rubber rollers, combined with specially shaped molding and high air power. The net result might sound as if it would pick up less. But the engineering is so ingenius that it actually gets about “50% more than previous models”, according to iRobot.
When I see a number like that I instinctively get suspicious. Robot vacuum cleaner manufacturers all tend to lay down easy-to-pick up items (like rice or corn flakes) to arrive at their stats. That also creates an impressive visual in videos. Luckily, the 880 has been tested by many geeks and the figure holds up in real-world use under real-life conditions.
Further, each model houses the same fine HEPA filter to minimize dust returning to the air through the exhaust. You shouldn’t expect either cleaner to do the job of a home air purifier, even a relatively low-end one. But it does significantly help prevent robotic vacuuming from making the situation worse.
Both of these high-end Roombas make use of the latest iAdapt algorithms and sensors to make all that suction power effective. You might not care for the somewhat random pattern of the 870 or 880 as it crawls across the floor. Personally, I’m partial to the Neato methodology. But there’s no denying it works.
Both use Dirt Detect 2 to sense when and where the dirt is greatest. It works even better these days. With Persistent Pass, the 870 or 880 will concentrate for a while on an area it detects has more dirt or debris. It can make spiral passes around a section that would benefit from more attention.
And, since the 870 is a bit newer, its firmware might have some bug fixes and intelligence that an 880 manufactured six months ago might lack. But, it’s no big effort to update the software on the older model, so that’s not a sticking point. And, anything coming out of the factory now (as opposed to merely sitting on the shelf), would have those latest bits anyway.
The most immediate difference any potential buyer will spot when checking on the two options is a $100 price difference. Naturally, that’s only true as I write this. Once the 870 is released “into the wild”, i.e. Amazon, et al, the price could be anything – including the same.
It’s hard at first glance to see where that comes from, since the hardware variances are minimal. So, what are the big differences? They lie in the elements of hands-free operation.
Virtual Walls / Virtual Lighthouses
The Roomba 870 lacks a daughter board that would support RF (radio frequency) emission and detection. That’s a fancy way of saying there is a bit of electronics inside the 880 that’s absent in the newer 870. That may sound backwards – and to me it is – but no doubt iRobot has their reasons.
The net effect to you is that the 870 doesn’t work with the company’s proprietary Virtual Lighthouse. It’s limited to functioning with the iRobot Virtual Wall, of which there are two in the 870’s box.
Virtual Walls keep the robot cleaner from crossing a boundary. If, for example, you don’t want the Roomba to ever go into the children’s playroom, a Wall is a good way to prevent it. A Lighthouse, by contrast, uses an RF (radio frequency) beam to actually “encourage” the vacuum cleaner into another area. The onboard intelligence keeps track of where the robot goes, allotting up to 25 minutes per room or leaving when the battery is low.
A Lighthouse can operate in Lighthouse mode or Wall mode.
The other difference, and it’s hard to label it major or minor since it’s such an individual thing, is that the 870 lacks the remote control unit.
The remote control unit looks a lot like one for an ordinary TV, though much simplified. It houses a rubber circle you depress to direct the 880 manually Forward, Right, or Left. There are buttons that allow you to command the robot to Spot Clean or Dock.
The fact that the 870 model doesn’t provide one in the box is, in my view, a small loss. Probably there are handicapped individuals who could benefit from it. But the Roomba operates so well automatically that the occasions are few when anyone would really need it. Most times, it’s just a toy.
By contrast, the Wireless Command Center that comes with the Roomba 790 is actually more full-featured. It’s available as an option for the 880 for the true tech geek, like yours truly, who must have every possible gadget. It has three separate direction buttons that make direction control much easier than the rubber circle of the 880’s remote.
There is one situation when the remote would conceivably come in handy in a practical way: if your room arrangement is very unusual. If it holds tiny nooks and crannies that the Roomba can’t navigate in and out of consistently, you could use the remote to get the 880 into them. You could use the controller to direct it to manually to clean that area. Personally, I would find that more trouble than it’s worth, but to each her own.
The Roomba 870 and Roomba 880 are nearly identical inside and out. The 870 lacks support for Virtual Lighthouses and doesn’t come with the remote control unit. If those are not important to you, by all means save yourself $100 and opt for the 870.