Maybe it’s mundane to say there’re many similarities between the iRobot Scooba 230 and the Scooba 390 floor washing robots. Well, sometimes, life is mundane. But even those similarities can be interesting. And when you examine the differences things get downright exciting.
|Scooba 230||Scooba 390|
|Floor Coverage||Up to 150 Sq. Ft.||Up to 425 Sq. Ft.|
|- Sealed Wood|
|- Waxed Floors|
|- Laminate Flooring|
|Room Confinement||Virtual Wall||Virtual Wall|
|Weight||3 lbs||8.6 lbs|
|Review||Scooba 230||Scooba 390|
|Where to Buy?||Best Price||Best Price|
Basic Design and Specs
The iRobot Scooba 230 and Scooba 390 both resemble many of the vacuum cleaners in the iRobot lineup. They both have the same round, high-tech-looking black-and-gray case with a big button on the top.
But “resemble” can be a pretty loose term. The 390 measures 14.8″ in diameter, where the 230 is a miniature 6.5″ across. The weight difference is even more dramatic; the 390 tips the scales at 8.6 lbs while the 230 is just 3 lbs. Granted, neither is going to strain your back lifting it from place to place, but if you want that “place” to include a bathroom with hard-to-reach nooks the 230 might be a better bet.
That button on the top is pretty much the same in each model. It lets you start the floor washing robot with a tap, whereupon it starts to do the traditional iRobot jig. It will roll across the floor, back and forth, back and forth, essentially until the battery runs low.
That’s where the big weight difference can come into play in a more important way. The 230 can handle most floors with no problem. But there are times when the wheels will slip, especially if the unit hits a very slick spot at an edge and doesn’t bounce away. The Scooba is smart but sometimes not smart enough to realize it’s not moving across the floor. It can sit in one spot cleaning away until the battery dies. Advantage: 390.
Utilizing much of the same technology found in the Roomba robot vacuum cleaners, the Scooba 230 uses a 3-stage cleaning process. It lays down a cleaning liquid. Then, it gently scrubs and, lastly, squeegees up the excess. The 390 features a 4-stage cleaning processs by adding a vacuuming stage before it starts washing the floor.
The differences in the brush mechanism design gives the Scooba 390 another advantage. The one on the 230 is static; it just scrapes the floor as the unit moves across it. The brush on the 390 is part of a roller system on a rotating axle. That helps it clean better – picking up hair better and in general scrubbing more – but it also aids in preventing the 390 from suffering the occasional wheel spinning fate of the 230.
On the upside, both the Scooba 230 and the Scooba 390 use the same internal electronics and sensors for navigation. It’s essentially the same system used in the vacuum cleaner line: iAdapt. The IR sensors give the robot a ‘view’ of the terrain and the internal program lets it map out a series of paths to follow. However, the 390 offers the ability to select three different cleaning patterns: wall-following, spiral, or criss-cross.
On the other hand, each model is equipped with sensors and intelligence to detect an edge and avoid falling off a cliff. If you use either the 230 or the 390 to clean an upstairs hallway the robot won’t fall down the stairs.
There’s another common mechanism each model can use to prevent going astray, one that handles flat areas as well as cliffs: Virtual Walls. These small units – which resemble tiny external computer stereo speakers – send out an invisible beam the main unit can detect. Place one at the edge of the kitchen floor, for instance, and the robot won’t go past the “barrier”.
Area and Battery Life
One place the Scooba 230 and the 390 differ substantially, however, is their respective cleaning lifetime per session, and therefore the area covered.
The 230 will last about 40 minutes, or two 20 minute sessions. There’s a selectable option to choose between “short cycle” and “long cycle”. As a consequence, it can cover an area of about 10 feet by 6 feet with no problem. It’s rated for anything up to 150 square feet per charging session but I haven’t seen it achieve that in practice. That may be possible if you have no corners for it go around or nooks to get in and out of, just straight back and forth motion.
By comparison, the 390 is rated for up to 425 square feet and that coverage is achievable in real-world use. Here again, it helps if there aren’t too many corners, obstacles, and so forth. But, provided you have a fairly open rectangular floor it should last that long. If you don’t need that longer you might want the 230 anyway just because of its superior ability to get into (and out of) tight spots.
Keep in mind, though, that both models lack two features offered by most of the vacuum cleaner robots. Neither can be scheduled and there’s no charging station. Since you usually will want to clean the robot after a session anyway that might not matter much.
Preparation and Clean Up
Each is about as easy to fill as it is to clean. You get started by filling the tanks with warm water and special iRobot-made enzymatic detergent. The tank placement differs a little between the two but neither is difficult to get at.
Everything comes apart without great effort and snaps together securely. Leaks are possible if you bought a lemon, but that happens a low percentage of the time. Very few Scooba 230 or 390 units have this problem, judging by Amazon and other site reviews.
By the way, that soap ain’t cheap (around $12 for a 16 oz bottle, as of this writing), but it does work well. It also goes a long way if you use it sparingly. Nothing says you can’t use just water if that’s all your floors require.
Giving a general recommendation to choose between the Scooba 230 and the Scooba 390 is probably impossible.
The 390 costs substantially more – currently about $500, compared to $280 for the 230. The smaller size of the 230 makes it more useful for bathrooms and other places with tight nooks. On the other hand, if your floors are larger the longer-lasting 390 offers a big benefit.
On the other hand the fact that both the 230 and 390 require post-floor-cleaning maintenance limits their convenience. You’ll have to judge in your situation if it isn’t easier just to use a Swiffer or mop.