Placement and Accessories for a Smart Robot Vacuum and Mop: A Review of the Shark Aquarium iRobot Roomba j7+
I have had residual fear from the last time I reviewed a Shark vacuum. The company also makes other home appliances that are reasonably priced, but when I received its first-ever smart robot vacuum, I ran it 35 times, and it never developed a map. I lived in a house where it was possible to travel from my bed to my daughter’s room in just 12 steps.
If you’re familiar with robot vacuums, you know that they tend to be pretty finicky about placement. That goes double for a robot vacuum that doubles as a mop. If you want to be able to start the vacuum from your phone, without carrying it into the kitchen, you have to … well, find a place to put it in the kitchen. The robot won’t have to travel across the carpet.
Most robot vacuums I have tried can be put in discreet places, but sometimes they take up more space than they should. It’s probably a good idea to move the garbage bin and dog food bin in the kitchen so you have more room for the shark. Accessories are also an issue. Some vacuums, like the iRobot Roomba j7+, have storage bins inside the docking station, but others like the Shark require you to empty out a shelf in your closet.
I needed to find a place where I would still forget about the dustbin, because when I switch from mopping to vacuuming, I have to swap it out as well. It has an effective and innocuous smelling cleaning solution. (If you don’t like it, you can use plain water.)
SharkClean: Mapping my house with a Shark dock and ultraMop with the Shark Dock Barrel and Microfiber Cleaning Pads
The Shark dock itself is fairly unobtrusive. I measured it at 14 inches high and 19 inches deep, which isn’t too big compared to other auto-empty docking stations. After I plugged it in and it charged, it mapped my (now larger) house accurately after one 20-minute mapping run—a huge improvement over my first Shark robot vacuum.
There was a time when I cleaned like that. I now have a grouchy hamster and two grade schoolers, but I still take my bits and pieces of sanitary gear when I can. The SharkClean app is simple and easy to use. I added a no-go zone around the fireplace after mapping my house, due to vacuums falling in.
The Shark’s bin releases just enough cleaning fluid, and most importantly, it wiggles as it mops to scrub the floor. You can see the pattern in the floor if you select UltraMop in the app. The microfiber cleaning pad, which was easy to slide on and off the bin, showed a lot of that dirt.
iRobot Roomba Comcombo J7: Searching for a More Robust Robot Detector than Cameraless Navigation
Last summer, iRobot—Roomba’s parent company—announced that they had finally agreed to be acquired by Amazon for $1.7 billion. That news spawned a rush of articles about how the megacorp now had access to data on the layout and possessions in millions of homes. Last December, iRobot reported to investors that it had 75 percent of the United States market in robot vacuums.
The technology of iRobot’s vacuums is what draws people to them. While other robot vacuums use navigational systems that employ lasers or sensors, iRobot uses a camera to power iRobot OS and Imprint Smart Mapping. iRobot vacuums will be more powerful because of a camera, as they learn to identify rooms faster. It also means you may have inadvertently released pictures of the bathroom.
irobot’s stock price has been falling since last fall. But more importantly, I have not found iRobot OS to be significantly faster or more reliable than cameraless navigation systems like that on the Roborock. I like the design of the combo j7+, but it might not be enough to compensate for the principle and price.
The Combo j7+: The Largest and Smartest Robot Vacuum-Mops with a Robot Arm and an Incredibly Compact Stand
Like all of their vacuums, the Combo j7+ is insanely compact and beautiful (for a robot vacuum). The stand is 13 inches tall, shorter than most self-empty stations, has a leather tab to open the top, and a shelf inside to store the included extra vacuum bag. The vacuum and self-empty station are covered in black plastic.
The standout feature on the Combo j7+ is the robot arm. Most robot vacuum-mops still have one big hurdle, as I said when I reviewed the Shark AI Ultra: With most 2-in-1 mopping vacuums, you have to switch out the bin when you want to mop so that the cleaning surface is against the floor. You also have to place the vacuum in the area where you want to mop so you don’t have sopping wet mops traveling across any carpeted surfaces.
The iRobot Home app allows me to start a vacuuming or mopping run with one button, and seeing that arm move up and over is pretty amazing and will solve one of the major pain points with a combo 2-in-1 vacuum. You also don’t have to place it strategically in the kitchen—you can hide it away, although it’s beautiful enough that maybe you wouldn’t want to.
You can opt to start a mapping run in the iRobot app, just as with the Shark. But while the Shark AI Ultra finished its mapping run in 20 minutes with no problems, the Combo j7+ timed out after 56 minutes with an unspecified navigation error. It took around an hour and a half to complete a run that map 762 square feet.