Robot vacuums have been on the market for almost two decades. Early in the millennium, the machines became more accessible when iRobot launched the Roomba. These small disc-shaped automated vacuum cleaners use a variety of sensors to track dirt, pet hair and other debris on carpeted floors and hard surfaces. They employ different rotating brushes that help pick up bits and pieces along edges of baseboards and rugs.
The iRobot Roomba 650 is the most basic of the Roomba family, and its position on the bottom rung means the 650 lacks features like command center compatibility, or the more refined design of its more expensive brothers.
But the 650 makes up for these deficiencies with raw power. Improved over previous generations, the brush design allows the 650 to clean out dirt in some of the tightest spaces. It also has a slightly different spot-cleaning design than pricier Roombas. Altogether, it picked up around 25 percent more dirt than the Roomba 770–which now costs $200 more.
That raw power does come at a cost though: The 650 hit furniture with 3.3 pounds of force. In some situations, that’s enough to knock objects off end tables or stools.
Although less refined, the Roomba 650 still has the same basic design of its more expensive cousins. The 650 comes with only one virtual wall, but it should be enough to clean one room at a time.
For robot vacuums, cleaning equals navigation. Where a robot vacuum can’t go, it can’t clean. A human can move furniture and obstacles, but a robot vacuum must go under or around. Like other vacuums in the Roomba family, the 650 uses iAdapt. This system scans a room 60 times per second with infrared sensors and helps the robot adapt in real time. These sensors keep the 650 from ramming into walls, but they can’t keep it from hitting furniture legs. The 650 can hit furniture repeatedly, persistently, and with enough force to shake a side table.
However, all that gumption did add up to more zealous cleaning. The Roomba 650 has two counter-rotating brushes that reach out to the side of the circular body. By really ramming itself at tight spaces, those brushes are able to pick up dirt where other vacuums simply shy away.
Robot vacuums are designed to maintain your floors between cleanings, and the iRobot Roomba 650 does the job admirably. If you’re not sure a robot vacuum will fit your lifestyle, this model is affordable enough to test the waters, yet it works well enough to give you a sense of just what a robot vacuum can do.
For deep cleans that you don’t want to do yourself, you’re better off hiring a maid service. If you live in a fairly open space, with normal carpet or hardwood floors, the 650 will make a great fit. At $274, it is a good entry-level robot vacuum.