iRobot Roomba 880 Robot Vacuum Cleaner Review
Once Roomba's flagship, now outclassed by the 980.
The iRobot Roomba 880 (MSRP $699.99) sits near the top of the iRobot vacuum lineup. Every feature, innovation, and design improvement that iRobot has made over the years has been incorporated into this machine. Extras like two Virtual Wall Lighthouses—which help the 880 clean multiple rooms without getting lost—explain the higher price tag.
However, this Roomba makes a major tradeoff: It picked up 30 percent less dirt than the iRobot Roomba 650–which costs $200 less. Based on our laboratory observations, we attribute this performance shortcoming to the 880's overly polite protocol for avoiding furniture collisions. In other words, while it will avoid a collision with an antique table, it might miss some nooks and crannies where dirt often seems to accumulate. Whether this is a deal you want to make in your own home is up to you—but our scores err on the side of cleaning.
Still, no one would mistake this vacuum for an entry-level model. If you hate how your robot roughhouses around your living room, want to get multiple rooms cleaned in a single afternoon, and are already aware of both the strengths and limitations of robot vacuums in general, the 880 will make a nice upgrade.
Design & Accessories
Covered from A-Z
When you open the Roomba 880's packaging you'll find a multitude of accessories. All these extras should prove legitimately useful, rather than exorbitant. These additional conveniences will be most apparent if you're upgrading from another Roomba.
The Virtual Wall Lighthouses are the most notable steps up. Virtual Walls operate exactly how you might think–they're battery-powered, floor-mounted barriers that a Roomba will simply not pass by. Put one in front of a dog's water dish, or across the threshold of the room where you keep Fabergé eggs balanced precariously on pedestals.
The Lighthouse part, however, allows you to guide the 880 from one room to the next—an option that other robot vacuums just don't offer. While the 650 might get lost if it wanders from the den into the kitchen, the 880 will navigate based on wherever you put its Lighthouse. With its XLife battery, this Roomba even has enough stamina to clean multiple rooms. It's perfect if you have an open-concept living space where the 880 can roam from one room to another.
When the 880 needs to be recharged, the vacuum simply finds its way back to the Integrated Home Base. The three-hour charge cycle will be the best time to empty its 23-gram bin. Based on average pickup, we'd estimate that you'll have to empty the bin about two to three times a week–if you use the Roomba everyday.
Another important feature is the control panel. From here, you can make the Roomba 880 earn its keep. The hard truth is that robot vacuums can't singlehandedly clean your floors. They were never designed to do that. What they were created to do is to maintain your floors between manual cleanings. The control panel will let you schedule automatic cleanings as frequently as once a day, seven days a week. You can also control the start times of the cleanings, so it's best to schedule them for times when you're not home. If you have the 880 go over your floors every day, they should definitely look clean.
If you have mobility concerns, there's also a remote that lets you start and control the 880 from afar. Batteries are included for that, too.
Cleaning & Navigation
Gently glides from room to room
Spiral, Cross, and Edge: These may sound like '80s hair metal guitarists, but they're actually the names of patterns that the iRobot Roomba 880 follows for optimal cleaning. The Spiral covers ground over empty space. The Cross lets the 880 cut under or skip obstacles like couches altogether. The Edge cleans where the floor meets the wall—the edge of the room.
These programmed behaviors—which debuted on the 880—are supposed to cover the entire room and deal with any obstacles in the way. However, the 880 proved overly timid in our furniture tests. It never smashed into table legs, but also left many areas under our testing furniture uncleaned. Most robot vacuums–including the iRobot Roomba 650–get their brushes into tight spaces by essentially banging into them. The 880 doesn't clean these areas as thoroughly, but is also much gentler on your property.
But while the 880 had some trouble with obstacles, it had a better time rolling under them. We presented this Roomba with shelves that were two inches, four inches and six inches off the ground. Effective spacial-awareness allowed the 880 to zoom right under the four-inch and six-inch shelves, while the 3.6 inch tall robot did not even attempt to limbo under the two-inch shelf.
You may ask, "If the 880 can't fit somewhere, why should it even try?" Well, our experience with the iRobot Roomba 650 showed that by jamming its brushes where the rest of the body couldn't fit, that model could at least pick up some dirt. In the end, it's a bit of of a tradeoff between cleaning and not marking up your furniture.
But enough about going under—let's talk about climbing over. We ran the Roomba over the obstacle course of risers we'd installed—blocks that rise two-thirds of an inch, one and one-third of an inch, and two inches above of the ground. The 880's lack of aggression, again, presented itself in this test. The 880 saw the risers and shied away from them.
Still, the 880 proved it could clean both dirt and pet hair off carpets and hardwood floors alike—as long as it could reach the dirt and debris. It transitioned from doormats to normal carpet to bare floors without skipping a beat, though it did have some issues with high-pile carpet.
At the end of the day, the 880 picked up, on average, about 9.6 grams of dirt or debris after a complete cycle. This might not sound like a lot, but if you set the 880 to clean seven days a week, that's a total of 67.2 grams–comparable to an upright vacuum. We imagine that a less-cluttered room would result in even more cleaning.
There are many reasons to purchase a robot vacuum. They're great for people who can't bend down to clean under their beds anymore, and of course there are those who like the idea of a personal automaton. However, the 880 seems best suited for folks who need its extra features.
If you've grown accustomed to another robot vacuum, for instance, the 880 might prove a welcome upgrade. If you keep your floors clear of obstructions, set the device to automatically run everyday, keep those brushes clean, and like the results... you may find the 880 has even more for you to like. It offers better battery life, navigation, and more accessories.
Indeed, the 880 could be king of all the robot vacuums—if only it didn't fear getting too close to the throne.
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