Finally there’s a robot vacuum with a self-emptying dustbin that won’t suck all the money from your bank account: the iRobot Roomba i3+. So long, wastebasket dust cloud! Check ya later, dustbin-induced sneezing attack!
Though the feature list on the latest Roomba is a bit sparse — especially compared to other robot vacuums we’ve seen lately —our iRobot Roomba i3+ review found a good robot vacuum paired with an auto-emptying Clean Base for just under $600. It may not dazzle you with a long list of fancy features, but it gets the job done, which is why it’s on our list of the best robot vacuums.
iRobot Roomba i3+: Price and availability
Priced at $599.99, the iRobot Roomba i3+ is the least expensive robot vacuum with a self-emptying dock ( the Clean Base) in iRobot’s lineup. It’s also available without the Clean Base for $399.99. For $200 more, the iRobot Roomba i7+ with Clean Base adds custom mapping and room-specific cleaning. Should you decide to buy the self-emptying base later, it’s available for $249.99.
To keep the dust as far away from you as possible, the Clean Base uses disposable vacuum bags. One comes installed on the Clean Base and there’s an extra in the box. iRobot says one bag used with the Roomba i3+ will last approximately 60 days. Bags are available in packs of three for $15 on Amazon.com or $5 more on iRobot’s site.
iRobot Roomba i3+ review: Design
Tired of shiny black plastic bots? Then you’ll like the look of the iRobot Roomba i3. The first thing I noticed is the light grey outer circle on the top. It looks like woven fabric and I couldn’t wait to touch it. Spoiler alert: it’s plastic. But it’s textured so you can get a good grip on the bot when you need to pick it up. It’s complemented by the inner dark grey circle with the iRobot “R” logo in the center. Above that, there’s a large Clean button with smaller buttons for home and spot cleaning on either side. The Roomba i3 borrows the matte black found on the classy Roomba s9 to encase its sides.
At 13.26 inches, the iRobot Roomba i3 sits right between the 13-inch Roomba 675 and the 13.3-inch Roomba i7. The Roomba i3 and the i7 are both 3.6 inches high, while the 675 is a tenth of an inch taller. While the Roomba i3 had no problem cleaning around my kitchen baseboards and travelling under a living room chair, it was too tall to attack the dust bunnies under my couch.
The underside of the iRobot Roomba i3 is almost identical to the Roomba i7. For starters, both robots share bright green accents. There are the bright and dark green rubber brushrolls between the wheels and a bright green hub on the white tri-spoke side wheel. A removable caster wheel sits at the front and a removable, washable dustbin at the rear. Upon closer look, the Roomba i3 has fewer sensors around its edges than the Roomba i7. Still, the two vacuums are so similar that they share replacement parts including the brushrolls, side brush, and filter.
The wide V-pattern on each roller points away from the other, presumably to draw more debris inward when spinning. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the dark green roller brush has been updated to more closely resemble the light green one. The early version of the Roomba i7+ we tested had a roller with deeper fins, which tended to get long hair wrapped around it more easily.
iRobot Roomba i3+ review: Self-empyting base
iRobot calls its auto-emptying dock the Clean Base, though there are technically two different models: one for its i- series of bots and one for its s- series. The big difference between the two is the placement of the dustbin port on the bottom of the base.
The Clean Base accompanying the Roomba i3 is matte black with a subtle, thin shiny black strip around the upper half. There’s no chance of missing the Clean Base as it’s 19 inches high, 12.2 inches wide and 15.1 inches deep. Though large, the convenience of it is hard to beat.
iRobot says the disposable vacuum bag inside the base traps 99% of pollen and mold. When you remove the bag from the base, a small plastic door slides up to cover the bag opening. As an allergy sufferer who frequently deals with dust (usually while reviewing robot vacuums), I’m a big fan of auto-emptying bases — particularly the iRobot and Ecovacs models that use disposable bags.
That being said, you probably don’t want to run the Clean Base when people are sleeping. It’s loud. Think tuned-up sports motorcycle at 10,000 rpm loud. Thankfully, it only runs for about 14 seconds. That’s long enough to clean out the onboard dustbin each time, leaving only minimal dust residue in the dustbin.
iRobot Roomba i3+ review: Setup and mapping
Connecting the Roomba i3 to the iRobot Home app (Android and iOS) was relatively easy, but not as smooth as my experience with other iRobot devices. I followed the onscreen prompts on my iPhone 11 Pro, but the app seemed to get stuck at the “Connecting to Wi-Fi… This could take a few minutes.” screen. The odd part was that the Roomba i3 cheerfully announced that it successfully connected to Wi-Fi long before the app caught up. It was long enough that I thought something had gone wrong. It hadn’t. So while the screen was correct — it did take a few minutes — I haven’t experienced a robot declaring itself ready so long before an app.
Once connected, the $200 price difference between the Roomba i3 and the Roomba s9 and Roomba i7 becomes more evident. The Roomba i3 will generate a map of where it’s cleaned, but, unlike the Roomba i7, Roomba s9, and Roborock S4 Max, you’re not able to save and edit maps of your home. It’s most like the Neato D4 in this way. It’ll show you where it’s been, but you can’t tell it where to go. As a result, there’s no option for room-specific cleaning or area divisions. Nor is there an option for no-go zones or virtual walls. At least the Neato D4 includes those. If you want a virtual wall for the Roomba i3, you’ll have to spring for the $59 Virtual Wall from iRobot.
While the Roomba i3 doesn’t save maps, you can view a history of where the bot has cleaned. It was helpful to see where the vacuum travelled and where it didn’t quite reach — like in the maze of chair legs under my dining room table. Still, I preferred being able to identify rooms and choosing the order in which I wanted them cleaned using the similarly-priced Roborock S4 Max.
The map will also show where the Roomba i3 detected more dirt and spent more time cleaning, which isn’t an option with the Roborock S4 Max. The i3 correctly detected where I left a small line of breadcrumbs as an area that needed more work. While the i3 didn’t spin in a furious circle to attack the dried bread like the Roomba 675, it did pick them all up.
iRobot Roomba i3+ review: App
The iRobot Home app was recently revamped and now includes “Favorites” for customized cleaning runs. Since there aren’t any custom cleaning options for the Roomba i3, it’s not currently possible to create any favorite options aside from the default, “Vacuum Everywhere.” However, there is a splash screen when you try to add a new Favorite that says it’s coming soon and promises options for different time durations.
The app does allow you to schedule the Roomba i3 to run almost as often as you’d like — even multiple times a day. If that’s too much work, the app integrates with other smart home devices, like the August smart lock, the Ecobee smart thermostat, or Leviton smart power switches. The bot can be triggered to start cleaning when you leave home and stop cleaning when you return. Can’t find your phone? Order the Roomba i3 around via Alexa or Google Assistant.
Like its more expensive siblings, the Roomba i3 has iRobot’s Imprint Link technology, which means it’s able to connect with the Braava jet m6 mopping robot. When set up in the app, the Braava jet m6 will begin cleaning once the i3 has completed its job. It worked seamlessly and quickly. Almost as soon as the i3 had docked and emptied its bin, the Braava jet m6 was off of its dock and going to work.
iRobot Roomba i3+ review: Cleaning performance
Remember sophomore year of high school when you bombed your chemistry final and it brought your entire GPA down? The iRobot Roomba i3’s lab test results feel a lot like that. Though it earned impressive marks on nearly every debris test we threw at it, the Roomba i3 was not good at picking up dog hair on carpet. How bad was it? The Roomba i3 earned an overall average pick up rate of 90.12. If we dropped the dog-hair-on-carpet score, its overall score would be 96.54. Unfortunately, this isn’t high school.
On the plus side, the iRobot Roomba i3 earned a perfect 100% average picking up Cheerios cereal on both hardwood and carpet, a feat only matched by the Shark Ion R85. The Roomba i7, which is similar to the Roomba i3 picked up an average of 93.1% of cereal on hardwood and carpet.
The Roomba i3 travels in mostly orderly rows while it cleans, though sometimes I struggled to see the method in its cleaning logic. In our square test area, it had a tendency to take off on a diagonal path before returning to its serpentine lines. Unlike the Roborock S4 Max, it didn’t fully outline an area before filling it in, like a child coloring neatly. However, the Roomba i3 got the cleaning job done, particularly on our hardwood test, where it trounced big brother Roomba i7 on all three tests. In addition picking up 100% of the cereal strewn on the floor, it bested the Roomba i7’s pickup rate by 2 points and its pet hair pick up rate by 5 points. Only the Roborock S4 Max performed better on the litter and hair tests. However, both the Roomba i3 and the S4 Max collected a fair amount of hair around their brushrolls.
Despite the Roomba i3’s struggle with dog hair on carpet, it performed well on the other two tests, earning a perfect 100 for picking up cereal and an admirable 94% pick up rate for kitty litter. It was once again several points better than the Roomba i7 (87.3) and just one point below the Roborock S4 Max.
But that 58% dog hair pick up rate. Woof. The result was surprising enough that we re-ran the test three times. Each time, the Roomba i3 picked up a similar amount of hair. The Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo T8 also earned a 58 on the same test, but it had a similar score of 57.5 on hardwood for pet hair. If you have lots of pet hair and lots of carpet, you should probably consider a different bot.
Overall, the Roomba i3 was a strong performer in our tests, but it was a bit loud. I found myself turning up the TV volume to hear Schitt’s Creek over the vacuum’s din. While the Roomba i3 is not quite as loud as the Roomba s9, the Roborock S4 Max is noticeably quieter.
iRobot Roomba i3+ review: Verdict
Despite a few hiccups, we recommend the iRobot Roomba i3+ robot vacuum. The auto-emptying Clean Base is a mechanical miracle for those with allergies. And, at $599, it’s the most affordable Roomba with this feature. The vacuum itself is a decent performer and thorough whole floor cleaner. Should you spend $200 more for the older Roomba i7+ with Clean Base? If single room cleaning and mapping is important to you, then yes. If a self-emptying base isn’t important to you, check out $429 Roborock S4 Max. It’s a top performer and offers saved maps and room-specific cleaning.