What is the iRobot Roomba 880?
The Roomba 880 is one of the more advanced robot cleaners from the pioneers at iRobot. I first tested a Roomba almost a decade ago and while things haven’t changed much cosmetically, lots has changed on the inside. The Roomba 880 offers learning and adaptive navigation with multiple sensors, a high efficiency vacuum and a dual contra-rotating brush system to literally grab dirt from your floors.
Its round shape and low-slung design make it adept at navigating obstacles, corners and furniture with rotating side brushes to get cleaning close to the edge. In use, what looks like a completely random cleaning path is designed to give complete coverage and, with its criss-cross pattern and dirt senor technology ensuring effective cleaning.
iRobot Roomba 880 – Setup
You can tell iRobot has been in the robot vacuum cleaner business a long time because the second line in the manual tells you that it’s not a toy and that small children and pets should be supervised when it is in use. Given the amount of YouTube videos involving Roombas and pets, we assume it means supervised from your smart phone camera. In fact, the 880’s the power switch is now a huge button in the middle, which means a strategically placed cat will actually turn the machine off. There goes our £250 You’ve Been Framed cash.
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In addition to the large power/clean button the top, elsewhere the Roomba 880 is superbly designed with four large control buttons, several indicator lights and a large LED segment display showing time and day of the week. The docking station is a compact unit that allows the Roomba to dock close to the wall and this model comes with two of iRobot’s Virtual Wall accessories.
These small battery powered columns can be placed around the home and set-up to act as a doorway barrier, a marker point between rooms to ensure effective cleaning of one before it moves to another, or to give a halo area that the Roomba won’t enter – such as around dogs water bowls. You also get a spare filter, which will need replacing every couple of months, and a handy remote control. For those who really like a gadget to go with their robot, iRobot’s Wireless Command Centre is an optional accessory (around £70) that replicates the controls and display of the Roomba 880 on a handheld device.
The Roomba itself is very easy to set-up and is pushed onto the dock to charge. The dust bin removes easily from the back but is an odd shape and contains the HEPA-class filter assembly, which reduces the capacity to approximately half a litre.
In front of this are the two counter-rotating rollers. Rather than a mix of rubber and brushes like other robot vacs we have tested, these are all-rubber with little blades that squeeze together to pick up debris. As on its first outing we found a yogurt pot lid in the dust bin, we can certainly vouch for its pick up abilities as other robots vacs would have skimmed over this.
At the leading edge of the machine is a small turret sensor for room mapping navigation. This is complemented by a semi-circular spring-loaded bumper at the front of the robot. The principle being that the Roomba will only bump into obstacle the once and the sensor marks the positions so it can adapt and miss it next pass.
iRobot Roomba 880 – Cleaning Modes
iRobot keeps things simple as there are just three modes. Clean does an automated clean of the entire room until it has covered every area. Spot mode effects a spiralling manoeuvre out to about 1-metre in diameter around the point where the Roomba was placed for quick clean ups, and Home cancels either mode and sends it back to the dock.
When cleaning, the Roomba is constantly looking to the floor for dirtier patches using a combination of optical and acoustic sensors. When the machine finds a particularly debris filled area, its Persistent Pass feature ensures it will go back and forth over the area until it is clean.
This worked very well and in all our test areas of carpet powder on the hard floor, the Roomba went back over these areas at least one more time. The Spot mode is also extremely effective as its tight spiral pattern moves out with a good cleaning overlap and then spirals back in to where it first started cleaning all the way.
In use the Roomba 880 is not the quietest robot vac we have used, but it’s far from the noisiest either. Measuring 69dB on hard floors and just 67dB on carpet, the noise output is considerably lower than a traditional vacuum cleaner.
Potentially more disturbing noise wise is the initial scopes of the room where the unit bumps into many room obstacles before mapping and noting where they are for the next pass. The bumping is not as soft touch as iRobot’s marketing materials would have you believe and you can hear the bumps from other rooms, particularly at night.