iRobot Roomba j7+: Smart and Capable
PC Magazine|December 2021
Peace of mind for people with accident-prone pets
ANGELA MOSCARITOLO

Here’s a five-word horror story: Robot vacuum meets dog poop. I’ve never experienced this disaster firsthand, but I imagine it would be traumatizing enough to swear off-floor-cleaning robots for life. The iRobot Roomba j7+ promises to solve this problem by using a built-in camera and machine-learning technology to detect and avoid common obstacles—namely, pet waste and cords. It’s smart in other ways, too. For example, it can detect and then bypass potential obstacles based on your feedback. When it docks after a cleaning run, the Roomba j7 automatically empties its dustbin into an allergen-sealed bag. And while its battery life doesn’t blow us away, the robot navigates back to its base when it runs low on power to recharge and then picks up where it left off. So despite its premium price, the j7+ earns our Editors’ Choice award for high-end robotic vacuums, especially for buyers with cluttered homes or accident-prone pets.

IROBOT’S LINEUP

The $849.99 Roomba j7+ comes with a self-emptying base that charges the robot and holds around 60 days’ worth of debris in its Dirt Disposal bag, depending on how often you vacuum and the cleanliness of your home. You can get the Roomba j7 with a standard docking station for $649.99, but I highly recommend springing for the self-emptying base, especially if you suffer from allergies.

The j7+ is the second-most-expensive robot vacuum in iRobot’s current lineup, undercutting only the $1,099 Roomba s9+. Both have strengths: The s9+ offers stronger suction power and gets deeper into corners, thanks to its D shape, but the j7+ has more advanced obstacle-avoidance technology.

iRobot doesn’t specify the pascal (Pa) suction power of its robot vacuums, like most other vendors, but says the Roomba j7+ is 10 times stronger than its entry-level Roomba 600 series. The s9+ offers 40 times the suction power of the 600 series, making it the strongest choice among iRobot’s lineup for homes with carpets or shedding pets. But if your floors are crowded with lots of furniture or other objects or your pets occasionally have accidents in the house, the Roomba j7+ is the better option.

NO MORE SMEARED PET POOP

The j7+ is the first model with iRobot’s PrecisionVision Navigation technology, a combination of hardware and software that allows it to recognize obstacles in its cleaning path in real time and avoid them. iRobot moved the camera from the top of the robot, where it’s located on the s9+, to the front, giving it a wider field of view and allowing it to see objects on the floor. The robot then uses artificial-intelligence software to identify hazards and reroute itself around them.

iRobot Roomba j7+

CONS

Pet waste-avoidance guarantee. Auto-empty base. Intelligently suggests Keep-Out Zones. Supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands. Allows for scheduled area cleanings. Rarely gets stuck. User-friendly companion app.

CONS

Expensive. Unimpressive battery life.

BOTTOM LINE

While pricey, iRobot’s Roomba j7+ robot vacuum has smarts to spare, with a guarantee to avoid pet waste and a selfemptying base that means you rarely have to lifta finger.

iRobot says it has already trained its PrecisionVision Navigation machine-learning algorithms to identify phone cords, power cables, and pet waste, using hundreds of millions of images crowdsourced from customers who opted in to contribute to the database. The company plans to expand the object-recognition library to include other pitfalls that might prevent the robot from successfully docking after a cleaning job, including shoes and socks.

In testing, the j7+ did an excellent job navigating around phone cords and power cables. As you can imagine, it was a bit harder to test its pet waste– avoidance abilities. My dog, Bradley, has his fair share of behavioral issues, but pooping in the house isn’t one of them. I attempted to test the poop-avoidance feature using balled-up black and brown socks, but the Roomba j7+ collided with both. It typically pushed the socks out of the way, but in one instance, I watched it navigate around a brown pair. Since I wasn’t using actual pet waste, I can’t verify that the new poop-avoidance technology works, but I also can’t verify that it doesn’t.

For its part, iRobot is so confident in this new technology that it’s offering the Roomba j7+ with a P.O.O.P. (Pet Owner Official Promise) guarantee: If the robot fails to avoid solid pet waste within a year of your purchase, the company will give you a new machine for free.

iRobot isn’t bringing its new poop-avoidance feature to older models, even to the premium Roomba s9 series, because of the location of the cameras on those models. The s9+ uses 3D sensor technology to detect obstacles and clean around them, but it can’t identify objects shorter than about an inch.

The Roomba j7+ isn’t the first robot vacuum with AI-powered obstacle-avoidance technology. The Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo T8 AIVI ($799.99), another Editors’ Choice winner among premium floor-cleaning robots, offers similar technology; in our testing, it successfully avoided dog toys that have tripped up competitors.

GETTING TO KNOW THE ROOMBA J7+

The j7+ measures 13.3 inches in diameter and 3.4 inches tall, a standard size for robot vacuums. If you’re searching for a shorter model capable of passing under low-profile furniture, we suggest the Eufy RoboVac G30, at just 2.85 inches tall.

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