iRobot Roomba 530

Meet the iRobot Roomba 530: a handy little robo vacuum cleaner

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iRobot Roomba 530
  • iRobot Roomba 530
  • iRobot Roomba 530
  • iRobot Roomba 530

Pros

  • Fast, good at untangling itself, high charging base return rate, voice alerts, detects dirtier spots

Cons

  • Only one sweeper, noisy

Bottom Line

The iRobot Roomba 530 robot vacuum cleaner is a handy little home appliance that sweeps and sucks up mess while comically zipping around your home, bumping into things and being awesome.

Would you buy this?

If you have a busy life, are pressed for time, hate vacuuming or if just love gadgets, the Roomba 530 is probably the vacuum cleaner for you. Unlike the Samsung NaviBot, the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner doesn’t have a mapping system to coordinate its cleaning; it blindly roams around following no specific path. That said, it does pretty much the same job as the NaviBot.

The Roomba 530 features a circular sweeping arm located on the side of the unit and two counter rotating brushes underneath. The side brush sweeps dust, dirt and fluff into the chamber while the rotating brushes underneath do the grunt work. They comb the floor for filth and grime, also dumping it into the dust chamber.

Roomba: Artificial 'intelligence'

A bumper sensor is fitted to the front of the Roomba 530; it's designed to stop the vacuum when it hits a solid object and it does this exceptionally well. In our tests, we found that although the Roomba seems to randomly charge about like a child loaded up on sugar, as soon as it bumps into something it actually carefully navigates away from or around whatever it has encountered. It can actually clean in a curve around an object, for example. Furthermore, cliff sensors stop the Roomba 530 from tumbling down a flight of stairs or toppling off a ledge.

Unlike the Samsung NaviBot, the iRobot Roomba 530 did a great job of overcoming obstacles during our tests. It’s slightly smaller than the NaviBot and this makes a big difference. For example, the NaviBot would frequently get wedged under things roughly the same height as it, whereas the Roomba, because it has a slightly smaller stature, makes its way under and around things with ease. We found during our tests that the Roomba also tackles cords a lot better than the NaviBot; we think this may be due to the fact that the Roomba 530 only has one sweeper arm as opposed to the NaviBot's two sweeper arms.

Another factor that aids the Roomba's nimble manoeuvring is that it is relatively light at 3.7kg. While the Roomba excels at untangling itself from extension cords and the like without human intervention, it still requires help when the side sweeper arm or bottom rotating brush gets seriously wound up by smaller things like string — and it lets you know, too! An error message alerts you where the problem is so you can sort it out and get it back on the cleaning track. For example, a string of plastic it picked up in our Test Centre was wound tightly around its rotating side sweeper and the error message, in a woman's voice, said something along the lines of "Error! Error! Please untangle side brush".

Roomba: Cleaning performance

The iRobot Roomba's performance was on par with the Samsung NaviBot's. While the NaviBot has a more calculated cleaning path compared to the Roomba’s blind fumbling, they both delivered the same cleaning results.

Cleaning options for the Roomba 530 are limited to spot mode and regular cleaning mode. The spot mode works well as the Roomba can actually sense a dirtier patch of floor and systematically go back and forth over that patch until it has been cleaned to the Roomba’s satisfaction.

As the battery gets lower and lower, the light under the power button goes from green, which indicates full batter power, to yellow, which indicates half battery life, to red, which indicates that it needs to make its way back to the charging dock. During our tests, we found that the iRobot Roomba 530 had an excellent success rate of about 90 per cent at returning to the charge base. In comparison, the Samsung Navibot had a success rate of about 70 per cent.

Roomba: Maintenance

Every now and then, the cleaner becomes the one in need of cleaning. Maintenance tools come packaged with the unit and make cleaning the Roomba a simple task. When you flip the Roomba onto its back and pull the rotating brushes out, simply place the brush cleaner over the rotisserie brush and slide it down; the sharp plastic teeth comb hair and fluff off the brush leaving it clean and ready to collect dirt once more. Emptying the dust chamber is simple and painless, too. Simply pull the back of the chamber out of the chassis and empty it into a bin; then pull a tab, which opens the secondary dust chamber for finer particles, and empty that as well. Unfortunately, but inevitably, after a couple of cleaning cycles the Roomba 530 gained scratches and marks and assorted other battle wounds, but that’s unavoidable when it’s continually bumping into things.

Conclusion

The iRobot Roomba 530, like the Samsung NaviBot, does a great ‘superficial’ clean of the floor. That’s all you can expect from roaming robot vacuum cleaners, as they are no where near as powerful as upright canister vacuums. But if you use it every day, you can make sure that your floor is never tarnished with dust, crumbs and other annoyances, such as stray hairs from your cat or scattered seeds from a bird cage.

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