In total, iRobot gave me three units to check out — the Roomba 780, the Scooba 230 and this, the newly released Scooba 390. This is the company's top-of-the-line wet cleaning unit that just debuted recently, and it is a welcome entry in the home care arena. The 390 is a bigger, more powerful robot than the other currently offered floor washer, the petite Scooba 230. That sounds great on paper, but how did it stack up in actual usage?

Well, I've been washing my kitchen, living room and bedroom hardwood floors with this for weeks now, thanks to the company sending me a product in advance, so let's see how it did.

Scooba 390

The Scooba 390 is the successor to the Scooba 380, a unit that largely received some pretty unkind reviews. People criticized the unit's battery life and hated pulling out the components to empty and clean it. So did the 390 improve things?

In The Box:
Scooba 390 Floor Washing Robot
Rechargeable Battery
Battery Charger
1 Virtual Wall (Requires 2 D batteries, not included)
1 Suction Bulb
4 Packets Of Scooba Hard Floor Cleaner, Natural Enzyme Formula One-year manufacturer's limited warranty on robot, six-month manufacturer's limited warranty on battery

The 390 seems to address many of the criticisms from the 380, along with some winning features from the other late-model homecare robots.

Like the Roomba 780 and Scooba 230, this newest entry to the iRobot line of home products comes with the company's proprietary technologies for automated cleaning, including iAdapt (with sensors that let the bot map the environment), Virtual Walls (to block off unwanted areas), wall-following and cliff-detection. These basically account for the automation, insuring that you don't have to stand over the robot to help it work around furniture, back away from stairs or avoid errant spaces.

With 30 percent more battery life than the 380, the 390 also shares much in common with the other current model floor washer, the smaller Scooba 230. Both make multiple passes in various patterns — from wall-following and crisscross to spiraling — to saturate and brush/squeegee up dirt and gunk. Both models use iRobot's enzymatic cleaner ($12 for 64 uses), but can also take water. The Scooba 390 also lets you add a splash of vinegar, for some organic cleansing.

That's not the only difference between the current generation robots: The Scooba 230 can only handle 150 square feet, while the 390 can take on 425 square feet of surface with a powerful four-stage cleaning cycle that sweeps, spreads solution, suctions and wipes it up. Thanks to its integrated rotating beater brush, it offers some good scrubbing action to liberate nastiness from tile, linoleum, vinyl, marble, slate, stone and sealed hardwood. The unit can also be set to pre-sweep prior to the actual wet floor cleaning, which is a serious bonus. One of the cool things about having robots is feeling like you've got a little taste of the future right now — and it's hard to feel future-forward when you've got an old school broom in your hands. (Of course, you should still use it if you have a lot of big debris littering your floor.)

Usability is good — very good. Just press the top handle down, and then pull up on it to unseat the top half, which is the tank. From there, it's simple to fill with solution or access components like the filter, vacuum port and brushes for cleaning. The product designers did an outstanding job here. They seem to know how incredibly un-fun it is to fight with tricky or finicky bits, and these parts are easy to identify, remove and pop back in.

What's amazing is that these Scoobas use an impossibly small amount of fluid to wash floors, all without re-using any dirty liquid. And yet, the company claims this particular unit removes up to 98% of common household bacteria. While I have no way of knowing if that's true, I can see for myself that the scrubbing action of the rotating bristles really worked well to lift out grime from my floors.


Typical usage: I just move aside troublesome impediments (like my throw rug or other odds and ends) turn on the Scooba and then leave the house to meet friends or run errands. When I return home later, I come back to freshly cleaned floor. What's not to love about that?

The price, you say? Well okay, $500 is nothing to sneeze at. Some people won't mind hauling out the bucket and mop to save money or to save up for something else, like a laptop or tablet. I definitely will not besmirch that choice. But if you can handle the upfront investment, I think this robot is worth the money — especially if you find yourself spending an awful load of time mopping and scrubbing.

Now that I've been using a Scooba 390, I simply cannot imagine life without it. It has saved so much work and time, that it even seems like a bargain now. In fact — full disclosure — I plan to buy this when the review period for this product is up.

That's right. I said that I cannot imagine living without this, so I'm not going to.

For more details or to order the Scooba 390, check out the product page here. And stay tuned for part 4, final impressions of all three robots.

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