iRobot Roomba 880 Review by Janyce Raynolds
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iRobot has been in kind of a rut lately. They still make great robot vacuum cleaners but there hasn’t been anything radically new for quite a while, just gradual improvements. Until now, that is. That’s all changed with the introduction of the Roomba 880. This is, to use the cliché, a game changer.
For sure, the Roomba 880 looks and operates like a familiar iRobot vacuum cleaner from the past 10+ years. The case is still circular – measuring the now-standard 13.9 inches in diameter and 3.6 inches in height. It weighs an ample but not massive 8.4 lbs.
That round form still sports a familiar look, too. It’s black with some subtle trim. Just to look at it, most buyers couldn’t tell it apart from a half-dozen other models. That is, unless they were intimately knowledgable about the iRobot lineup.
The 880 houses the standard (for iRobot) three circular side brushes. They make sure that, despite the disc shape, the vacuum cleaner can still get the stuff in the corners.
When it gets close to barriers, whether walls or furniture, the molded, soft-touch bumpers prevent damage to either one. The Light-Touch bumper sensors can even distinguish between hard barriers and soft ones. It will glide past the soft ones – bed skirts, curtains, and the like – to keep on going.
This model sports a HEPA filter that was introduced a couple of years ago, a very nice upgrade to the line that was long overdue. You empty the bin the same way, and that way is very easy and efficient. Here, it did get enlarged 60%, which is great, especially since the stronger suction picks up so much more now.
All that (and the features detailed below) in the same easy-to-operate package. Press the big Clean button on the top and go. If you want to schedule when that happens, no worries. That’s simple, too. The 880 houses the same touch-sensitive controls found on the Roomba 790.
Detection & Navigation
The similarities to past models continues with the key navigation components. There’s iAdapt, of course; the algorithms that let the Roomba travel across your floors and carpets in that odd way many have seen on videos.
Navigation efficiency is enhanced by the Dirt Detect Series 2 technology, which allows the Roomba 880 to give extra attention to the dirtier spots. It blends seamlessly with iRobot’s Persistent Pass cleaning feature. It makes the vacuum cleaner go back and forth over the same spot multiple times, if needed.
There’s a special feature that makes this area even more interesting. Pressing the Spot button on top causes the 880 to circle three feet from its starting point to concentrate on a particularly dirty section, if desired.
Also, the 880 makes use of Virtual Wall Lighthouses – the little cubes that send out signals the base unit can detect. That way it “knows” where openings to a floor or room are. It will stay inside the perimeter you set until the room is finished. Then it travels on to the next room in orderly fashion. Or it can be used as a Virtual Wall to block off-limit areas in your home. Two units come in the box.
AeroForce Performance Cleaning System
All that and more is well known about Roomba robot vacuum cleaners. Part of the “more”, however, use to include rotating brushes on the bottom. Sometimes they were more trouble than a robot was worth. Other iRobot models still use them. If you have pets that shed a lot, you might spend more time digging out hair than using a robot vacuum cleaner saves you.
In fact, Roomba cleaning brushes sometimes became so much trouble buyers looked to other brands seeking relief. The tangle-free AeroForce rollers on the 880 were designed to overcome all that, and it’s not an exaggeration to say they succeeded wildly.
It’s also not an exaggeration to say this is revolutionary. I dislike buzzwords and that is typically one of the worst. But the AeroForce component motivates me to make an exception.
See the AeroForce “brush” system in action in this short 2 min video:
The “brushes” are now a pair of counter-rotating rubberized rollers on the base of the Roomba. If that’s all there were, they would be interesting but not a major innovation. They do a good deal more than eliminate bristles that retain hair, though.
In order to get that to work it’s necessary to shape the long “bumps” around the cylinder just so. iRobot did. It was also necessary to configure the slot between them just so in order not to dissipate the suction power. iRobot calls that: Airflow Accelerator. Far from just a buzzphrase, iRobot claims to have upped that ability about 500% in the Roomba 880 compared to other Roomba models.
I can’t see where they got that number but tests show vacuum power has increased significantly. Even the 790 lagged behind some competitors by about 20%. The 880 is now ahead of those models (like the Neato Signature Pro) by about 20% in cleaning power on various surfaces. A nice jump.
All the above is the reason I’m gushing over the new Roomba 880. I love great engineering, and part of being great in that field is to make a product that really works.
Normally, it would be too soon to tell how well all this will work over the long run. But most of the 880’s parts and features have been around in other models for years, granted with gradual improvements. No reason to expect them not to work in this unit as well.
That leaves the AeroForce “brush” system as the only piece left as a possible long-term weakness. Experience already shows they work superbly.
Gone, now, are the lengthy episodes of pulling off and clearing out hair from bristly rollers. That means much less time spent fiddling with it, which is after all the biggest reason you get a robot vacuum cleaner in the first place.
It also makes for a much healthier experience overall, too. The HEPA filter was a big boon to allergy sufferers in particular. All that could be undone by having to get intimate with all that dust and hair. No longer.
XLife Charging System
Most of the Roomba 880 charging system, like the other features, is the same as some other models, like the 790. It leaves and returns to the station and recharges without supervision. By now, that gets a yawn. That’s the fate of all technology. But iRobot did something everyone has been trying for some time: doubling the battery life.
“XLife” is another of those marketing words that triggers my annoyance meter. Or rather, it would except that iRobot produced a power plant that delivers twice as many cleaning cycles before replacement time. That represents a significant operational savings over the life of a robot vacuum cleaner.
The iRobot Roomba 880 isn’t perfect. It’s still expensive compared to other manufacturers, some of which work as well as other Roomba models. It still has that distinctive iRobot floor pattern that some love and makes other users scratch their heads.
But the new AeroForce “brush” system is a major leap ahead. I predict it will ultimately be found on other Roomba models. This brand is again a serious competitor in robot vacuum cleaners.