I Bought a Roomba i1!

April 9, 2023

As technology advances, so do our options for making our lives easier. One such technology that has made a significant impact in my life is the robotic vacuum cleaner, more specifically Roombas from iRobot. I long ago reviewed my Roomba 530 and continued to keep you apprised of it’s continued reliability, as robot vacuums were new at the time. Now, all these years later I have retired my old Roomba 530 and upgraded to the new Roomba i1, and in this article, I’ll share my experience and why I decided it was finally time to upgrade.

Firstly, let’s talk about the Roomba 530. I purchased this model 13 years ago, and it served me well. The Roomba 530 was one of the earlier models and had limited features compared to the newer ones. It had basic functionality and could clean most floors well enough, but there were a few limitations that were starting to become more noticeable as technology advanced. I did like how it came with two virtual walls and a charging station, plus additional brushes and a cleaning kit. This gave me a good starting point and even though I have retired that Roomba I still use the virtual walls from it and sometimes that charging dock.

One of the most significant limitations of the Roomba 530 was its lack of connectivity. It had no Wi-Fi connectivity, so it could not be controlled using a smart phone app or voice commands. This meant that I had to physically press a button on the device to start it, and it could not be scheduled to clean automatically. This was not a big deal at first, but as I got busier, I found myself forgetting to start the Roomba, which defeated the purpose of having a robotic vacuum in the first place. I did modify my Roomba and add on a serial adapter to allow me to schedule it, however that was cumbersome and not very practical. However I did enjoy the hackability of the earlier models, which doesn’t seem to be a thing anymore.

Enter the Roomba i1. This newer model is a moderate improvement over the Roomba 530 and 614 in a few different ways. For starters, it has Wi-Fi connectivity and can be controlled using a smartphone app or voice commands. This means that I can schedule the Roomba to clean automatically, and I can start it from anywhere using my phone or smart speaker. This has been a huge convenience, as I no longer have to remember to start the Roomba manually.

The most noticable new feature with the i1 for me is the fact that it cleans in nice neat lines. All of my other roombas just wander around aimlessly banging into things. I’ve gotten used to it over the years but it is kind of annoying to not know where it’s going to go next. This roomba moves in a predictable manner and if I still had carpets it would leave nice perfect lines in them. So that’s fantastic. It also seems to have better obstacle avoidance than my previous roombas but I’m not convinced it’s using cameras as some other reviews have lead me to believe. It looks like good old infrared or something that stops it just before it slams into most things, then from there it gently nudges up against it to get in close clean. I did discover though, after several more trial runs, that it does give you a map of the area it cleaned when the job is done. But that could just be good old fashioned trigonometry.

Something else I want to point out is the side brush runs pretty much constantly and I like that. One of my other roombas, the 614, it would spin it periodically such as when it was in a corner and because of that I found it missed a lot of small debris. So I am thankful to see this one runs pretty much non stop. I am curious to see if it self destructs in a few uses like most of them these days, they really are designed to be a consumable now unlike the early days where one brush would last you years.

Another great feature of the Roomba i1 is its ability to empty its own dustbin. This would be a huge convenience, if it came with the dustbin, as it would mean I no longer have to manually empty the Roomba’s dustbin after each cleaning session. But only the i1+ or the i3 come with an automatic dustbin, however it is nice to know the option to is there should I grab one one later on down the road.

That being said, now that I have it opened up and have run it a couple of times, I’m not convinced this will work with an automatic dustbin. It does seem to be a new bin design on the Roomba itself, with a hinged system and a small HEPA filter, but I don’t see how it would automatically empty at a station. I do hope this one is not prone to the same issue as some of my problematic Roombas where the dustbin would detatch mid cleaning cycle, either being left behind or failing to suck the debris out of the beaters. This was the main reason I no can longer rely on my 614, it too often becomes separated and bumbles about without really cleaning until I notice and fix it.

A couple of things I would like to point out as negatives before I wrap things up. First off, you can only charge the Roomba from its docking bay, as there is no connector on the Roomba. This seems to be the trend these days but I don’t like it as I used to plug my 530 in directly quite often as sometimes the dock can give you trouble if it’s not on a perfecty level floor or the contacts are dirty. This kit also did not come with any virtual walls, which means I’m still using the ones that came with my 530 all those years ago as nothing I’ve bought since has come with any. This is too bad, as I think they should come with more of those additional features out of the box, and I have never seen them sold individually in any store.

In conclusion, upgrading to the Roomba i1 was a good decision for me. Its advanced features and convenience have made it a valuable addition to my home. While my old Roomba 530 served me well for many years, it was getting pretty discoloured and overall quite noisy so I stopped using it. My 614 has been fairly reliable and my 770 has been quite unreliable. So it will be nice to have a reliable workhorse in the house again so I don’t have to bust out the dyson quite so much. Plus it will be fun to be able to use the app to run the vacuum! If you’re considering upgrading your Roomba or purchasing one for the first time, I highly recommend the Roomba i1 so far. But as always, I will keep you apprised!

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