The Roomba Combo j5 robot vacuum does a satisfactory job of picking up dirt, empties at its station, and is still one of the smartest on the market. But when we add his new mop function, he loses a lot of feathers.
Until 2022, iRobot has resisted the wave of 2-in-1 robots, combining vacuum cleaner and mop in a single pass as many of its competitors offer. After the expensive Roomba j7 last year, we were treated to the j5 this summer, sold at a more reasonable price. This is the one we tested during the month of November.
The Roomba j5 , in its base configuration, is a classic robot vacuum that charges and empties in its dock, capable of gobbling up weeks of dust and hair. What’s new is that its vacuum cleaner bin is manually removed and can be replaced with a piece called the Roomba Combo. This also stores dust but also has a water tank and a removable and washable wipe at the front.
No more need for two robots, one that vacuums and the other that washes, the Roomba j5 can do both at the same time.
The first step when you unbox the Roomba j5 , set it up, and make sure its battery is sufficiently charged is to send it out to explore your surroundings. The robot then records the parts to which it has access and delivers a map after a few minutes of analysis. The Roomba j5 needs light since it is a camera that allows it to detect room boundaries, go around obstacles and avoid passing through certain ones. iRobot explained to us during a briefing that we had analyzed more than 100,000 animal droppings to prevent the robot from spreading it everywhere.
As a bonus, once the mapping is complete, your robot will give names to the rooms it thinks it has explored. He correctly identified three out of four in our case, remaining perplexed by the entrance. On one occasion he even gave us two photos of minimal quality of the obstacles encountered. We can then refine the maps by, for example, prohibiting him from going for a walk in corners where he risks getting tangled in cables.
And now the big question: does it wash well? Let’s say that it will do in one hour for 20 square meters, so quite slowly, the equivalent of a quick sweep by a human, followed by a basic mop. We can clearly see the difference when our Roomba j5 has just passed by, the rooms can be described as clean. But we are far from the meticulous cleanliness of a good working human and the mop function has its weaknesses. We’ll come back to that.
But hey, the Roomba j5 does the cleaning while its owner is busy with other tasks upstairs. Or that it’s not even at home, since it can be launched remotely.
The challenge with these robots is always the same: you have to prepare the ground by removing objects that could get tangled in its brushes. In our case, the challenge is increased by the ledges between rooms, which our Roomba cannot always cross. You must then patiently move it and restart it.
It was especially the mopping part that caused us many disappointments. First, once the Roomba Combo tank is installed, the robot can no longer empty itself in its station. The operation must be carried out manually above the trash can. We have just lost an attraction of this robot.
It took us hours to get our Roomba j5 set up with its Roomba Combo tank. The procedure was not clearly indicated, and a trip to a Reddit forum saved us: you have to scan the QR code of the tank, add it as a separate device and wait for the iRobot app to update. And a message displayed warns us: this update may take “between 15 minutes and a day”. We had to wait three hours in our case.
During the first tests, the robot stopped three or four times, a message telling us that we had to tap the blocked bumper. Weird.
We have the impression, with the Roomba j5, that iRobot has put a hybrid prototype on the market. The vacuum cleaner part is quite successful, up to par with what this company usually delivers. But its washer side seems somewhat sloppy to us, with a complicated initial configuration, no settings to increase the water supply and the impossibility for the robot to empty itself into its base.
The gap between this robot’s two personalities is so great that we have to give two separate ratings here. Our advice: wait for an improved version.