iRobot Roomba 976 Review

iRobot has been delivering smart vacuum for a very long time now. And now there are many new players in the market.

I was always skeptical of using a robot vacuum as I was not sure if it would fit my lifestyle or not. In my opinion, robot vacuums were most suited for European homes and I was wrong.

I have no shame in accepting that I am an Apple sheep. But I run on tight budget, and Homekit accessories are not cheap yet ( well, most of them).  I have been researching on various robot vacuums for a while not and was still unsure which one will best suit my needs.

We live in a 2 BHK apartment, and the household items are not evenly distributed. Additionally there are some corners and places that are not easily accessible. So I was not very confident to invest on a very high end vacuum, only to realize that it does not work well in my household conditions. Applying this decision considerably reduced my options. So my major decision point were the following:

  1. The navigation system
  2. Ease of spares availability
  3. Access to Apple Homekit (native or otherwise)

After a bit more research and deliberations, I decided to opt for the iRobot Roomba 976 vacuum. This is not the best of class vacuum from iRobot and it is not the worst either. It strikes the balance between price and performance.

The purchase part was quite fast as I knew exactly which model I was looking for. This is a smart vacuum and can be controlled by the mobile app. The setup process was quite easy. The app lets to name the robot and we decided to name her Eywa. We can also configure wifi access to Eywa.

Eywa does not have lidar. She instead relies on camera and sensors to get her work done. So it means that she cannot operate in total darkness and it also needs us to ready the house for her work. We have to remove small objects such as toys and cables away from the floor so that the vacuum does not get tangled or struck.

The first few sessions are not optimal as she tries to understand her surroundings. This model does not have a mapping memory or room identification feature. So you cannot make her clean only a certain room. It has cliff detection feature that enables it to avoid falling off stairs.

It uses a linear navigation system and ensures that it reaches every nook and corner of the house. For our house, it takes an average of 90 minutes to complete the cleaning. You can use the app to see the cleaning map and also identify the areas with poor wifi connectivity. Once the job is completed, Eywa automatically docks to the charging station.

This model does not have the automatic garbage / dust disposal mechanism. So you may need to manually empty the bin as frequent as possible. It would be amazing if the app showed the dust bag capacity so that it does not stop vacuuming while you are away. Even though the app has option to continue vacuuming even if the dust compartment is full, but I feel it is counter productive.

The Vacuum also needs regular maintenance. The twin rollers needs to be replaced periodically. The filter needs to be clean often and needs to be replaced every few months. And the rotating brush needs to be freed from tangled hair so that it navigates easily. The spares are available quite easily.

I was unable to find any smart vacuum with Homekit capability. But since I use Hoobs, and there is already a plugin to integrate Roomba with homekit using Hoobs, it was quite easy to integrate Eywa to Apple Homekit.

So now, I can ask Siri to start up Eywa and clean the house. Practically, Roomba 976 does not need voice activation since you cannot ask it to clean a particular room. And also you probably have already defined a cleaning schedule in the app. So Homekit integration is basically of no use. But as I mentioned in the beginning, this vacuum was a good proof of concept.

Once I decide to change this vacuum, I would definitely go for a more advanced model since I am now sure that it will be a worthy investment.