The Roomba Combo J7+ Robo Vac Promises No Snail Trails With Its Automatic Mop Retraction

The Roomba Combo J7+ Robo Vac Promises No Snail Trails With Its Automatic Mop Retraction

While robot vacuums have traditionally been seen as a more prestige appliance – the one your rich mate owns and you casually marvel at every time you visit – the cleaning device has been making its way into more homes. In a report published earlier this year, it was shown that the robot vacuum market has grown from “US$5.59 billion in 2021 to US$5.99 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.1%.”

More vacuum brands now offer more affordable models or devices that come bundled with additional cleaning features, so you get the most bang for your buck.

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the original Roomba, iRobot has launched one of its latest robot vacuum models, the Combo j7+, which comes with a somewhat unique design feature. Iterating from the iRobot j7, which was released in late 2021, the Combo j7+ can both vacuum, mop and comes equipped with a retractable mopping pad.

Gizmodo Australia was invited to Japan to check out the launch of iRobot’s Roomba Combo j7 series and to see if this robo-vac really is the future of smart cleaning.

Update 18/11: iRobot has reached out to clarify the runtime of the Combo j7+.

So what can the Roomba Combo j7+ do?

irobot roomba combo j7 02
Image: Chris Neill/Gizmodo Australia

It’s not hard to find robo-vacs that can both vacuum and mop – either separately or simultaneously – but, in most cases, these devices require the user to manually attach the mopping pads before letting it go clean.

Now, instead of having to manually swap around the vacuum’s mode, this Roomba will do it for you. When the Combo j7+ encounters an area it’s not meant to be mopping, it’ll automatically retract its mopping pad back to the top of its chassis. In other words, it won’t drag a damp and dirty trail through your carpeted living room.

Under its hood, the Combo has the same suction power as the Roomba j7 and uses the same auto-emptying Clean Base, along with the same body design (except for the obvious addition of the mopping pad function). According to iRobot, the Combo j7+ is designed for “for efficient cleaning”, and the brand has also overhauled its software, with the iRobot Genius becoming the iRobot OS, which is designed to “improve intelligence, personalisation and control”.

In terms of hands-free functions, the Combo j7+ can understand 600 different voice commands and is compatible with both Google and Alexa voice assistants. This recent OS update has also added Siri to its list of compatible assistants, but its available shortcuts and controls are limited to simpler commands.

The Combo j7+ has an obstacle sensor at the very front of the vacuum, along with three ultrasonic sensors on its underside, and its PrecisionVision Navigation helps it to learn and react in real-time. You’re able to create a Smart Map of your home over the course of one to three cleaning jobs, which will help to determine which areas in your floorplan are carpeted or not, along with any obstacle that it’ll need to avoid – like the edge of your couch.

Image: Chris Neill/Gizmodo Australia

It’s able to identify more than 80 common household objects – from basic things like cords to shoes and clothing, along with larger objects like toilets and home appliances – and will know to avoid them when cleaning. If you’re a pet owner, the Combo j7+ is also smart enough to avoid kitty litter trays, food bowls or rogue pet waste.

If the Roomba happens to make its way onto the carpet while the mop is down, these sensors will also help it sense that the terrain it’s on has changed, so it’ll need to retract the pad to avoid making a mess with a wet carpet.

Depending on what part of your home the Combo j7+ is in, you can customise your cleaning jobs. You can choose whether it needs to only vacuum or vacuum and mop specific rooms (aka Clean Zones), while also determining how many passes it’ll need to make in each area, to ensure a more thorough clean.

On the flip side, you can also create zones that you want your device to ignore. You can also limit the amount of liquid it’ll use when mopping, so you can avoid a smaller bathroom ending up with wet floors or your kitchen being under-mopped.

Our first impressions of the robo-vac

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Image: Chris Neill/Gizmodo Australia

When it comes to smart automation, I want its functionality to either be so far out of my line of sight that I don’t have to think about it or require minimal effort on my behalf to make it work. The robot exists to do the dirty work, blending seamlessly into my day-to-day life. We’ve seen this with the innovation of auto-empty stations, where the robo-vac will dump its load after running its cleaning cycle, so the user will only have to empty it maybe once every couple of weeks.

I think the Combo j7+ is a good step in that direction. There’s a lot of great hands-free functionality here – removing the manual process of having to swap out its mopping pad alone feeds into this idea of invisible, autonomous tech.

The use of real-time object detection and learning is also a great way to add some extra “smarts” to the robo-vac, while customising it to the unique features of your home. I can definitely understand the relief that pet owners would feel knowing that they don’t have to worry about the vacuum accidentally rolling through a dog turd and leaving a fun trail around your home.

Image: Chris Neill/Gizmodo Australia

The Clean Base doesn’t store water, so you’ll need to pop out the Combo’s tank and fill it up. When running, the Combo only expels fluid, never taking it in, so you won’t have to worry about grubby water sitting inside the vacuum for extended periods of time. Hopefully, a future design will incorporate some form of water storage in the Clean Base, so the robo-vac can replenish its fluids autonomously.

The Combo j7+ can run up to 120 minutes before needing to recharge, but it’s also programmed to return to its base fairly frequently, to empty out its dustbin and partially recharge itself, so it can complete the required task.

While iRobot did have active Combo j7+ vacuums on displays, I couldn’t get a grip on how good a job they do once it starts cleaning, as they were being run in controlled, clean environments. That said, in terms of responsiveness and environmental awareness, the Combo j7+ seems pretty sharp. It did a good job of avoiding obstacles and was quick to stop and retract its mop when approaching carpeted areas.

I’m keen to put this thing to the test in my mostly carpeted apartment, so expect a full review in the future.

By itself, the iRobot Roomba Combo j7 retails for $1,699, while the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+, which includes the Clean Base, will set you back $2,199.

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