iRobot has, after a two year gap, finally released a new version of their robotic floor cleaner: the Scooba 450. So, how does it stack up against the two previous offerings: the Scooba 230 or the Scooba 390?
I’m not sure I’ve ever had a tougher call to make. There are lots of similarities, of course. But there are a few differences that might make some stand up and take notice of the new scrubber. Here, the devil – or angel – is definitely in the details.
|Scooba 230||Scooba 390||Scooba 450|
|Floor Coverage||Up to 150 Sq. Ft.||Up to 425 Sq. Ft.||Up to 300 Sq. Ft.|
|- Sealed Wood|
|- Waxed Floors|
|- Laminate Flooring|
|Room Confinement||Virtual Wall||Virtual Wall||Virtual Wall|
|Weight||3 lbs||8.6 lbs||8.3 lbs|
|Review||Scooba 230||Scooba 390||Scooba 450|
|Where to Buy?||Best Price||Best Price||Best Price|
The Scooba 450, like its predecessors, features the same basic disc shape. There is one major difference, though, between the 230 and the 390 or the newest model. The 230 is a mere 6.5 inches in diameter. The 390 is 14.8 inches across. The 450 is roughly the same at 14.4 inches in diameter.
The smaller size of the 230 has both a pro and a con. The downside is obvious; it cleans less area in the same amount of movement. So, it has to move twice as fast (which it doesn’t) or twice the time to clean the same amount of floor. The benefit is less obvious but still valid; if you have some tight spots to clean, it can actually be preferred. Bathrooms, for example, often have areas – such as those around the toilet – where the 230 will often do a better job.
The difference in weight is similarly stark, if less important. The 230 weighs just 3 lbs, where the 390 and 450 tip the scales at around 8 1/2 lbs (8.6 for the 390, 8.3 for the 450).
“Less important” is not “zero importance”, though. The 230 is easier to lift and carry. Still, you only do that twice on average: once to put it down and another time at the end of the job. And the water weight tends to balance the difference anyway. More relevant to how it functions, being too light can produce easier slippage on a wet floor.
The actual cleansing mechanism itself is of even more importance. There, the differences between the Scooba 230 and the 390 or the 450 are really pronounced.
The 230 has a very basic – and, unfortunately, static – scrubbing mechanism. It moves across the floor in the usual iRobot random pattern, but the underneath just scrapes along. The 390 and 450 have a roller with rotating brushes, with the expected increase in cleaning power.
The 450 uses a 4-step process, though the company actually calls them three cycles. The first step vacuums up grit, dirt, small food particles, and other debris you’d expect to find on the average kitchen floor.
Immediately after, it lays down a layer of water to pre-soak any stains and “works it in” with the rubberized squeegee behind the roller. Then it runs back around and lays down the proprietary liquid cleaning detergent. During this step the roller with bristles is doing its job at 600 rpm, providing plenty of hard-core scrubbing.
Right behind is the squeegee to help lap up any excess fluid. As the squeegee is working, the vacuum is sucking up now-dirty water into the retaining tank. You can judge how effective it is when you empty the tank at the end of the session.
All that said, the 390 does pretty much the same. Apart from improved iAdapt algorithms, which are constantly being enhanced as the software is upgraded, I can’t see anything significantly new here with the 450.
The 390 was said to get 98% of gunk (and bacteria) off the floor, whereas the 230 got “only” 97%. The 450 is claimed to get “up to 99.3%”. Even assuming such accurate figures could be measured under real-world conditions, I can’t see how it makes enough difference to justify the much higher price of the new unit.
Area Coverage & Battery / Session Times
Another, more important, difference between the 230 and the 390 or 450 are the session lifetimes. Naturally, that directly correlates with what you care about: the area covered on a single charge.
The area the 230 is rated for is up to 150 square feet. In practice, it actually gets about 60-100 square feet done in the longest possible session, 40 minutes, depending on your room layout. Still, even at the lower figure, a 6′ x 10′ kitchen is pretty substantial. And, for bathrooms, the optional 20 minute session is probably adequate for a lot of users.
The 390 is rated for a much-larger 425 square feet and it can do that in real-world usage. Oddly, despite being about the same size, the Scooba 450 is rated “only” up to 300 square feet. Early tests show that’s fairly realistic.
I have no idea why it’s so much less than the older 390. Maybe the company had complaints about overstating the spec, even though at least some buyers did get the higher coverage during real use.
Like the 230 and 390, there are two session-length options available on the 450. If you have a pair of smaller areas to clean, you can use the 20-minute session selection for each and do both before having to recharge.
There is one nice new feature on the 450: “verbal cues”. The robot announces some of the problems it encounters – low battery or being hung up and the like – during a session. The 230 and 390 relied solely on a pattern of beeps. None has an LCD to report them, so that can be a help. Not enough to justify a $100 increase in the (full retail) price, but still a nice enhancement.
Charging Dock & Maintenance
All three models lack any kind of “return to charging station when done” ability. Likewise, it has no scheduling ability.
That’s not a big loss, imho. You have to fill the tanks with fresh water and solution to get started. At the end of a floor cleaning session you generally want to empty the dirty water and clean up the unit pretty soon after anyway. Once the gunk on the outside dries it becomes much harder to clean off. So, at either end of the session, you’re generally going to be nearby.
The 450 does offer something the others don’t: an (optional) Drying Dock. Despite their similar bodies, it doesn’t fit the 390.
It’s a bit pricy – retail it goes for about $80 from the iRobot website. That will probably come down once Amazon merchants start offering it. Even at half that, I don’t know how often I’d use it. Drying out by air works pretty quickly in my house and I see only a modest advantage to hanging it vertically.
As far as cleaning overall goes, it’s a breeze. The tanks are easy to remove and fill. The brushes don’t pick up that much stuff, even though my floors contain a fair amount of black Belgian Shepherd hair.
One reason for that is the pre-cleaning vacuum step. The other is the ability of the 450 to stop active cleaning a few minutes before the end of the session and clean itself. It lays down a layer of water and goes through a self-cleaning cycle. It’s actually kind of fun to watch.
The Scooba 230 is clearly designed for smaller rooms – bathrooms, small kitchens, and so forth. The Scooba 390 and Scooba 450 can tackle the larger rooms like big kitchen floors and dining rooms. All use the same Virtual Walls. All of them work well. But there just aren’t enough differences between the two larger models to justify the higher price tag of the 450. After a two year gap, that’s a big disappointment.