iRobot Roomba s9+ review

  update time:2020-04-30 07:51:30  

There are dozens of robot vacuums under $500 that will get your floors reasonably clean and pick up most of the crumbs from under the table. So is it really worth spending twice that for a robot vacuum? Our iRobot Roomba s9+ review finds that there’s a lot to like about this intelligent floor cleaner. In fact, it’s one of the best robot vacuums available today. But its price of $1,000 makes it one of the most expensive robot vacuums, too.

The iRobot Roomba s9+ aims to elevate the task of vacuuming to a human level-- by vacuuming more where it’s needed and avoiding places where it’s not. This Wi-Fi-connected mapping robot is one of the most intelligent robot vacuums I have encountered. Plus, it’s paired with a self-emptying base designed to limit exposure to dust. Once it’s set up, the only help the Roomba s9+ needs is replacing the vacuum bag when it’s full. The best part: The s9+ works as advertised.

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Roomba S9+: Price and availability

Intelligence doesn’t come cheap. The robot vacuum and its Clean Base — known as the Roomba s9+ — is available on Amazon for $1,099. Roomba also sells the vacuum without the self-emptying Clean Base, but calls this model the Roomba s9; as of this review, it was listed for $899 on Amazon. Should you change your mind at a later date, the Clean Base is available separately for $249 from iRobot. 

Keep in mind, the Clean Base requires disposable bags. The company claims one bag will hold about 30 bins worth of debris. Replacement bags are available for $14 through Amazon.

Roomba S9+: Design

Can a robot vacuum have sex appeal? Because the Roomba s9 is a good-looking bot. A recessed brushed bronze disc sits in the center, concealing the removable onboard dustbin and filter. A recessed grey handle on the bin lifts up for easy removal. Pop open the filter cover and the filter gently raises itself. 

Subtle lines suggesting movement are etched into the black plastic surrounding the recessed bronze disc. When the Roomba s9+ is cleaning, white light zooms around the edge of the disc. The light changes to blue when the bot is headed toward its base and solid red when something goes wrong. A pleasing chime accompanies the light show when the s9+ is sent on a task.

iRobot Roomba s9+ review

iRobot’s first D-shaped robot vacuum, the S9+ uses iRobot’s new  “PerfectEdge Technology” which it claims will allow the bot to get closer to corners and edges. Aesthetically, the s9’s D-shape is less jarring than the Neato Botvac D7. The Roomba looks more like a circle that was gently stretched out to a square on one side, where the D7 has more pronounced, hard-edged corners. The s9 measures 12.3 inches wide, almost an inch shorter than the 13.2-inch Botvac D7. At 3.5 inches, the Roomba is shorter than the 3.9-inch D7, too.

We immediately noticed the weight of the Roomba s9+ as we removed it from its box. It wasn’t just our imagination: The s9+ tipped the scales at 8.15 pounds, a full 2.45 pounds heavier than the Shark IQ. We didn’t mind the extra weight as it gave the s9 a more solid feel. The weight difference wasn’t as noticeable compared to the Neato Botvac D7 and the Roomba i7, which weighed in at 7.5 pounds and 7.44 pounds, respectively.

The upper right corner of the iRobot Roomba s9+ has a large “Clean” button flanked by a smaller home icon and a target icon for spot cleaning mode. Like the buttons on the Roomba i7, they sense your finger’s proximity and are touch sensitive.

Flip the Roomba s9+ over and you’ll find two extra large green rubber rollers that closely resemble the shorter set found on the Roomba i7. The rolls on the s9 span nearly the entire length of the vacuum’s straight edge. One end of each roller is partly hollow, making it difficult to remove the hair and fur that collect inside of it. A small five-spoke brush sits near the front of the s9, just to the left of the rollers.

Though the base looks nearly identical to the Clean Base that accompanies the Roomba i7, they are different. iRobot moved the evacuation port to the center of the base on the s Series, which gives the whole base a sleeker and less clunky look. However, both versions still use disposable vacuum bags, which are available in packs of three for $14.99. While I don’t love the idea of buying vacuum bags, there was a lot less dust flying around than when we emptied the bagless disposal base on the Shark IQ.

Roomba S9+: Setup & Mapping

We placed the Clean Base on a hardwood floor with 1.5 feet of clearance on both sides and 4 feet of space in front of it. The vacuum sits on a slight incline on the base, which has indents for the wheels to hold it in place. There’s an infrared window on the Clean Base which aids the s9+ in finding its way home. 

The iRobot app (for iOS and Android) smoothly guided us through connecting the s9+ to our home network. The iRobot app is the de facto remote control for the vac. It worked flawlessly with our iPhone 11 Pro and we liked that we didn’t have to keep track of another remote control. 

The Roomba s9+ starts mapping a floor the first time it starts  cleaning. There’s also an option for “training runs” which allows the bot to map without actually cleaning. It took the vacuum three runs (two cleaning, one training) to create a map of my first floor. It worked flawlessly, unlike the Shark IQ, which took 11 runs to successfully map my floor—and only after Shark sent us three vacuums. 

Want to map a different floor? Bring the s9+ and the Clean Base up the stairs and put the vac to work. Like the Roomba i7, iRobot says its Imprint Smart Mapping will support 10 maps.

Once a map is created, it can be refined and customized, though the app tries its best to anticipate room boundaries. The app initially inserted five boundary lines for our first floor. One room demarcation was spot on, but the other lines needed a little finessing. No problem there, as the app makes it easy to insert and remove virtual boundaries. From there, we were able to name our rooms. The process was far more refined than it was on the SharkClean app used with the Shark IQ, which requires the user to resize boxes to create boundaries. 

The app also supports “keep out” zones. I drew a box around our dog’s food bowls and the Roomba s9+ successfully avoided it. In comparison, the Shark app doesn’t have the option to exclude small spaces, which meant the IQ couldn’t avoid moving the bowls.

The s9+ is surprisingly strong. At one point, it got stuck under a rectangular bar stool, and instead of fumbling around, it began moving the stool across the floor. 

Roomba S9+: Performance

For $1,099 with the Clean Base, I expected a lot from the iRobot Roomba s9+. Thankfully, it mostly delivered. 

One frustration with the Roomba s9+ — it’s loud. Everything about it is loud. The Clean Base was just as loud as the jet engine-sounding base that came with the Roomba i7. But unlike the i7, the Roomba s9+ is a noisy vacuum, too. The noise was especially noticeable on hardwood floors.  It was difficult to have a conversation over the din. The bot was quieter on carpet, but not by much. This is definitely a robot you’ll want cleaning when you’re not home.

Cleaning Performance: Hardwood

Header Cell - Column 0 Cheerios Kitty Litter Dog Hair
Roomba s9+ 90% 100 99
Shark IQ 65% 75 83

Cleaning Performance: Carpet

Header Cell - Column 0 Cheerios Kitty Litter Dog Hair
Roomba s9+ 95% 100 97
Shark IQ 70% 80 50

Despite its roar, the Roomba s9+ excelled at picking up nearly everything in its path. The bot’s cleaning prowess was tested in a series of six challenges: three on hardwood and three on low-pile carpet. On both surfaces, I dropped 20 grams of Cheerios, then 20 grams of kitty litter and then two grams of dog hair in relatively straight lines. I placed the s9 about one foot away from the debris and pressed the “Clean” button. 

On both surfaces, the Roomba s9+ crushed the hard cereal as it worked to pick it up, sending some pieces skittering across the floor. It also appeared to suck some pieces in, only to spit them back out and suck them up again. It wasn’t the most elegant of maneuvers, but the Roomba s9+ got the job done. In fact, the vacuum cleaned up 95% of the Cheerios on carpet and 90% on hardwood. By comparison, the Shark IQ cleaned up 70% and 65%, respectively. While it crunched a lot of the cereal into dust, the Clean Base sucked out the majority, something that can’t be said for the self-emptying base that accompanies the Shark IQ, which left a fair amount of cereal dust in its onboard bin.

Cat lovers take note: the Roomba s9+ picked up 100% of the litter on both hardwood and carpet. As a bonus, very little of the litter was scattered around the floor by the small spoked brush on the corner of the bot. The Shark IQ vacuumed up 75% of the litter on hardwood and 80% on carpet, but sent granules flying all over the place on both surfaces. 

The Roomba s9+ handily disposed of dog hair, too. The Roomba captured 99% of the hair on hardwood and 97% on carpet, easily besting the Shark IQ’s scores of 83% on hardwood and 50% on carpet. However, not all of it went into the bin. We noticed hair caught around the rubber rollers and on one of the wheels. It’s something I’ve seen with most robot vacuums that use rollers to capture debris, including the Shark IQ. Still, its performance was strong enough to merit a spot on the best robot vacuums for pet hair.

We were doubly impressed when the s9+’s ring turned blue, signalling that its “Dirt Detector” technology was activated. The bot backed up slightly and went back over the area where the litter was-- a pattern that was repeated anytime the machine sensed a larger amount of debris on the ground.

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There’s an extra trick up iRobot’s sleeve, too. The Roomba s9+ can work in tandem with the Braava jet m6 robot mop ($499). When the vacuum is done, the mop goes to work. It ties you to the iRobot ecosystem, but it’s a very handy feature as most robot mops recommend vacuuming before use.

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