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iRobot Roomba S9+ review: The best robot vacuum cleaner?

iRobot Roomba S9+ review: The best robot vacuum cleaner?

(Pocket-lint) - There's something pretty great about being able to sit and work whilst a robot vacuum cleaner takes care of the cleaning from under your feet. Though these 'bots have their limitations, if you have the right kind of home then a robo-vac makes for an excellent addition.

iRobot has a number of models in its portfolio, with the top-of-the-range Roomba S9+ the focus of this review. The obvious question, though, is whether it's worth such a hefty asking price?

Design

The iRobot Roomba S9+ is a smart, premium-looking robot vacuum cleaner. No really - it looks a lot better than most robot cleaners out there thanks to its rose gold metal lid, differentiating it from the standard black plastic look that's so typical.

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Unlike iRobot's excellent i7+ robot vacuum cleaner, which is completely round, the S9+ is a D-shape, like Neato's robot vacuum cleaners. The metal lid covers the 'bot's dust bin, while the black plastic surround features the capacitive control buttons in the top left corner.

The straight part of the D-shape has a glossy strip adding to the premium look; the curved element features holes with a motor behind; while on the top you'll find the camera and sensor technology. Underneath, there are two main green brushes that can be removed easily with a clip should anything get stuck, and there is a corner brush for those harder-to-reach cleaning areas and corners.

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You'll also find the automatic dirt disposal hole underneath on the S9+ model - more on that in a minute - and there are two main wheels, a smaller wheel and a few more sensors that help the 'bot move about unimpeded.

The automatic dirt disposal bin is tall and vertical (like that in the i7+), rather than short and horizontal (like the newer J7+), so it can't sit under a bench and needs a bit of extra headroom. It does have a rose gold trim that matches the S9+'s lid so you might not mind too much that it'll be on display.

Excellent features

Like many of iRobot's robot vacuum cleaners, the S9+ has a range of features on board, plus some exclusive additional ones. The best feature in our view is the automatic dirt disposal - which the i7+ and J7+ both also have - so that when the bin gets full, the 'bot returns back to the base and empties out before returning to where it left off in order to finish the job you set.

The second best feature in our view is the advanced vSLAM navigation technology that sees the S9+ create an accurate map of your home. Apparently it does this by collating over 230,000 data points every second to create an accurate map.

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iRobot Roomba S9+ review: The best robot vacuum cleaner?

The Imprint Smart Mapping feature in the iRobot app then allows you to name the rooms on that map and tell the S9+ which ones you want cleaned and when. It means you can choose to clean the kitchen at 6pm straight after dinner, for example.

Other features include Perfect Edge Technology, designed to clean edges and corners, and a 3-Stage Cleaning system for a better clean than the likes of the i7+ or Roomba 980, by automatically increasing the vacuuming power on carpets to pull in debris. There's also an Anti-Allergen System on board.

Easy to use

The iRobot S9+ is setup and controlled via the iRobot app - which is very intuitive and easy to use, taking only minutes to configure. The S9+'s initial cleaning runs will see the 'bot map out your home, but once it has enough data, you'll find said map under the image of the robot in the app.

Once you have that map, you can add room dividers and room labels, as well as keep-out zones and clean zones. Previously, you had to use a separate laser device with some iRobot robots to add a keep-out zone - but this is no longer necessary, making everything much easier. The clean zone lets you choose to clean a particular area, such as under the dining room table, for example.

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When everything is labelled, you can then start a new job in the top right corner of the app and select 'clean everywhere' or tick the rooms you want the S9+ to clean. If you have the iRobot M6 mop too, you'll see a toggle at the top of the room-selecting page that allows you to set the M6 to talk to the S9+ and start mopping as soon as the S9+ is finished.

The app is also where you will find Scheduling, History and additions such as cleaning preferences. If you want to start the S9+ through Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa devices, then you'll need to set iRobot up in the Alexa or Google Home app. After you've done this, you can say "Alexa, tell [name of your iRobot S9+] to start cleaning", or "Hey Google, tell [name] to start cleaning the kitchen", for example.

Great performance

In terms of performance, the iRobot S9+ doesn't just talk the talk, it walks the walk too. It's not super quiet and there isn't a specific quiet mode like some 'bots, so you might not want to run it when the baby is napping or when you're on a Zoom call, though it's still nowhere near as loud as a traditional vacuum cleaner.

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The automatic dirt disposal emptying is also loud, though, and this 'bot can get stuck - we've had it happen in a couple of instances. We have bar stools with reflective metal bases that are domed at the bottom and the S9+ struggled with these, as well as the runner in the hallway. There is around 150mm between the runner and the wall and the S9+ occasionally - though not always - got stuck here too.

Otherwise, the S9+ performs brilliantly. We have a mixture of tiles, wooden floor and rugs downstairs, which is where the S9+ is based. It handles moving between the various floor types with no issues at all (except the hallway as mentioned) and there's around a 25mm difference in level between the kitchen and the rest of downstairs that it copes with happily.

A cleaning cycle takes a while in our house and it does need to charge in-between if it's doing the entire downstairs. We therefore typically do a room at a time, which we can thanks to the smart mapping feature.

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The cleaning quality of the S9+is perfect for everyday cleaning, though if you want a deep clean we'd say it's not as suited for that role. That said, if you set the S9+ to clean every day, deep cleans shouldn't need to be as frequent.

The other thing we would point out is that there aren't many things lying on the floor in our home, which definitely helps its performance and reduces the error messages. Cables and small objects aren't its favourite - so if you have a home with quite a lot of clutter then the S9+ - or any robot vacuum cleaner for that matter - may not be the best fit.

Verdict

The iRobot Roomba S9+ is a fantastic robot vacuum cleaner. It's got a lovely premium design, a great app with smart mapping, automatic dirt disposal, and does a brilliant job of cleaning too.

It's not perfect, though, as it's not the quietest or cheapest by any stretch of the imagination. But if you're after a robot vacuum cleaner that will get the job done well, the S9+ should definitely be on your consideration list - if not at the top of it.

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