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Geek Gifts 2007: iRobot Roomba

iRobot Roomba

I have been a faithful Roomba user for more than six months. I purchased the Roomba from woot.com, a daily deals Web site that seems to have more Roombas than they know what to do with (the gadget appears as their daily deal at least twice a month). I was skeptical at first, but that skepticism soon melted away after the first use.

The Roomba comes in three different models (more than that if you count all of the previous year' models), and the good folks at iRobot have put together a handy comparison chart so that you can find exactly what you need. You should know that most online retailers selling the Roomba have older versions they often let go at a reasonable rate. The different versions not only vary in price but also in features, such as battery life and even the chipset they use to determine the best route to clean your filthy pad.

Here's how the Roomba works. After you turn it on, it runs in an ever-widening spiral pattern in search of a wall. Once it finds a wall, it skims along that walls. It somehow navigates the entire room, and from my understanding, once it knows the dimensions of the room, it is able to select the optimal cleaning algorithm. Once the Roomba is low on battery life, it runs wide patterns around the room until it find the general area where its self charging base station is located. It then turns towards the base station and slowly guides itself onto the charging platform where it beeps to tell you goodnight, turns itself off, and begins to recharge. Skeptical? I was too. But my initial skepticism flew out the window when I emptied the Roomba's bin the next day and saw just how much dust and debris it had picked up.

iRobot Roomba

The Roomba isn't perfect. Several times my Roomba has gotten stuck on my floor vents. When this happens, the Roomba beeps in a unique pattern. (Think, "Help, I'd fallen but I can't get up,"® but for a robot.) This lets you know that you need to come and move it. In addition, the Roomba requires regular cleaning for it to work correctly. On certain models, including my own, there are two dirt detect sensors underneath that will become covered with dirt and stop working if you fail to clean them on a regular basis. With two dogs and regular in-and-out traffic, I run my Roomba about once every two days, and it requires a cleaning once a week.

Pros

  • Cleans your house while you sit back and watch. Enough said.
  • Gets in hard to reach spots, like under coffee tables, and even under furniture

Cons

  • Roomba can get stuck
  • Does not get corners well.
  • Depending on your lifestyle and number of pets, may require frequent cleaning (5-10 minutes)

The Roomba would be a welcome addition to anyone's cleaning arsenal. Not only is it extremely functional, it is also a nice conversation piece. Since purchasing my Roomba, my sister and parents have both purchased one after seeing how well it works.

Geek Gift score (out of a possible 5)

Fun factor: ****

Geek factor: *****

Value: *** (Depends on how snazzy you want your Roomba: MSRP lists $119, $299, $499, depending on the model)

Overall: ****

View my Cracking Open gallery of the iRobot Roomba.

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