While I vacuum my living area on a regular basis, I rather not. Who likes to vacuum? I'm somewhat of a neat freak so having clean carpets is important to me. I've always considered buying a Roomba to help eradicate this chore from my life, and when Roomba asked us to review one of their newest models, it was a great opportunity to see if the robotic vacuum cleaner could put an end to my vacuuming woes.
Roomba sent me their Pet Series 532 Model. My dog's name is Bella…her picture is above. While she may appear cute in the picture, the hair that she leaves behind on the carpets is not so cute. Manual vacuuming does indeed remove the hair, but if it's not done on a regular basis, the hair can sometimes accumulate, especially where the carpet meets the wall.
What differentiates the Roomba Pet Series from their many other models is just two things. First, a larger vacuuming bin is included for situations when you have a huge amount of hair/fur on your carpets. Second, an extra set of brushes is included so that you can remove the other ones, clean the hair/fur, and replace them. The Pet Series 532 at its core is very similar to the Roomba 530, or even the Roomba 560 which Jon reviewed many months ago.
The Roomba Pet Series 532 comes with a lot of accessories. In addition to the unit and the charging station, you get two virtual walls (too keep the Roomba confined to a certain area) which will also act as "lighthouse", meaning that it will send Roomba from one room to another if you don't want to have to reposition it when it has finished one room. Sadly, no batteries were included for the two virtual walls, which require uncommon D batteries. Also in the box were an extra set of brushes, a filter, plus a tool to help clean the brushes (which will accumulate a fair amount of pet hair, so cleaning is needed every few uses).
This is a vacuum cleaner after all, so let's talk about how it does at cleaning up. I should first mention that if you like the Pet Series but want to have the Roomba automatically clean your floors at a predetermined schedule, you'll have to upgrade to the Pet Series 562.
Using the Roomba is really easy. I'm reminded of Ron Popeil's infomercials where the audience would chime in with "set it and forget it!" because the Roomba behaves just like this. You hit the button in the center that says "clean". Then, you're greeted with an 80s-style digital noise, and the Roomba begins. It uses a variety of patterns like circles, zig zags, and straight lines to clean the entire surface area of your floor. In testing the vacuum, I actually stood and watched it clean for about 45 minutes because I was doubteful that it would actually cover EVERYTHING, and it just about did. At times I didn't understand the logic of the Roomba because it passes some areas many times, while passing others just once. That said, iRobot has been working on the "intelligence" of the Roomba for years, and it seems to be pretty smart. It avoids stairs, it automatically adjusts for carpet and flat floors, it "goes home" when it's low on battery power so that you don't have to find it and carry it to the base station, and it also will cover an area multiple times if it detects a lot of dirt.
All Roomba models use three brushes to clean your floors. The first protrudes from the front of the device and does a surprisingly good job at pulling in pet hair from carpet edges. Then, it has a rubbery sweeper mechanism, which spins in opposition of a brush. In my testing, the Pet Series 532 easily sucked up any and all visible debris that it came in contact with. What I'm not sure about is how well it picks up dust. I know for certain that my standalone vacuum can pick up extremely small particles thanks to the strong sucking action.
After each cleaning, it's interesting to pull out the dirt bin (which is VERY easy to empty, by the way), and check to see how much debris/hair had been picked up. Each time I was surprised. I recently ran the Roomba over a hallway in my house that had been vacuumed just a couple of days earlier, and after the Roomba had a pass, it collected a lot of debris that I didn't think was there. Very nice.
In terms of battery life, the Roomba will go for an hour before needing a charge, which isn't amazing. This will cover one large room, or two to three small rooms. iRobot advises that you leave the Roomba on its charger when you're not using it so that it's ready to go. If you want more room coverage, you can opt for a higher-end unit like the Roomba 570.
I think it's safe to say that while the Roomba Pet Series 532 doesn't do as good of a job at vacuuming than I can do with my manual vacuum, its cleaning ability is impressive, especially in cleaning close to the wall to pick up the hair that accumulates from a pet. If I buy a Roomba in the future (the review unit was a loaner from the company), I would most likely manually vacuum every other week and have the Roomba vacuum on the inbetween weeks. Since it takes me about an hour to vacuum, that's two more hours per month that I can spend doing something that I actually enjoy.
I do wish that Roomba would add additionaly features to the Pet Series to make it be even more compelling for pet owners. The larger bin and extra brushes doesn't really make this a better product for pet owners, in my opinion. I'd like to see perhaps a more robust edge sweeper that can get even deeper into the edges of the carpets.
The unit we tested retails for $320 on iRobot's website, which isn't cheap. If you're really interested in a Roomba, it makes sense to get one of their lower cost models like the 400 which only cost $130. What you're missing with this lower-priced model is no Spot cleaning mode (which I never used), no automatic charging, and shorter battery life.
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