Battle of the Robot Vacuums: Which Model Cleans My Floors Better? Old Versus New!

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My dad was always an early adopter. So growing up, I had firsthand experience with all sorts of high tech shit before it became commonplace. Roomba is one example. He had the very first model back in (I think?) 2001.

Subsequent models worked much better. So it was that when I moved out, I bought myself a Roomba. I still have it, though it has developed numerous mechanical problems I haven’t the means to fix. As a result this isn’t going to be a fair comparison, just an overview of the robot vacuums currently in my possession.

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Here’s the Roomba Discovery, circa 2004. It’s a series 400 model IIRC. I have a much nicer series 500 in storage but didn’t feel like digging it out for this review. The Discovery has a couple of things going for it despite its age.

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First off, it’s an actual vacuum. It has spinning carpet beaters on the underside that make it very noisy, but also very effective at beating dust out of a carpet when it has become lodged deep down. Compare that to the Infinuvo:

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…No carpet beaters. It’s a glorified Dirt Devil on wheels. This thing is much newer and nicer looking but won’t do nearly as good a job of cleaning the carpet, removing only the most recently deposited layer of dust.

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The Infinuvo does have a snap-on mopping attachment though. You can confine it to the kitchen or bathroom using the included “virtual wall” and it’ll do a decent job of scrubbing the floor. iRobot has a line of floor cleaning robots called Scuba, but they actually recirculate cleaning fluid internally making them prone to breaking down quickly. Sometimes simpler is better.

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Here it is installed. There was another robot designed to scrub floors this way, the “Mint”. Having a single robot which both vacuums and scrubs hardwood or tile floors represents considerable added value.

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Waste removal is also very easy and elegant on the Infinuvo. There’s a little dust caddy that lifts out with a handle. Compare that to the Roomba’s rear mounted dust bin, open to the air. You’re liable to get some on your hands and in your lungs when emptying it.

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Not the case with the Infinuvo! I have to give credit where it’s due. This is a cleverly designed unit. It’s just much less mechanically ambitious than even iRobot’s earliest floor vacs. You basically need to go over the carpet with a real, manual vacuum once a year and then just run the Infinuvo for maintenance cleaning, to prevent dust from ever accumulating in the first place.

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Both have remotes, but the iRobot remote has the edge here. It has a built in scheduling computer which allows you to set what times of what days you want it to self-activate. It’ll then clean while you’re away, docking itself automatically when it needs to recharge.

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The Infinuvo has some sort of scheduling function you can program using the built in display, but so far I’ve found it inscrutable. It’s a nicer looking unit overall for sure, it’s just less of an actual vacuum and more of a sidekick for a real, manual vacuum.

Many of the robot lawnmowers are like this too. They do an only so-so job, and can’t hack it if the grass was allowed to grow out first. You have to mow it manually first, then run the robot mower weekly to prevent the grass from growing too long for the robot to handle.

Likewise, only the iRobot Roombas are actually thorough enough at beating dust out of the carpet (due to having proper spinning carpet beaters) to be a true manual vacuum replacement/alernative. The Infinuvo and the like are less prone to mechanical problems because they attempt less.

Still, if you clean thoroughly once and then run a simpler robot vacuum like the Infinuvo daily (perhaps weekly) then it ought to do a good enough job that you won’t have to get out the manual vacuum for quite a while. Whether that’s worth the price tag (often two or three hundred dollars, new) is up to you.

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