I think the time has come go give some first impressions on my new Roomba SE, which I named Olga.
When opening the large box, I noticed everything was presented and wrapped well, with eye for detail. Sure enough, the box is nothing but a means to transport the unit itself, and advertising apart from that, but it (hopefully) says something about the time and quality assurance that went into it all.
After taking the plastic covers off, I had the following items in front of me :
1 Roomba SE
1 wall mount unit
1 remote control unit (requires 2 AA batteries - not included)
1 remote control holder that attaches to the wall mount
1 base station with charger
2 virtual walls
1 comb to clean the brushes on the unit
2 spare filters
1 bag of screws and plugs for the wall mount
a set of (basic) documentation in several languages
As soon as the Roomba SE is unwrapped you are excited to see what it does, how it functions and whether or not it'll live up to expectations. After all, this unit is supposed to take most of the work out of your hands, leaving more time for you. The last thing one wants to do, is chase your Roomba SE because it ran into trouble or managed to get stuck somewhere.
Well, let me tell you right away : I'm very impressed with the "intelligence" of the Roomba SE. I've watched it closely - believe me, it's lots of fun - while it was finding its way around my place and was presented with a number of obstacles.
However, before you can start playing around and let your unit chase dustbunnies, you need to charge the battery. The manual states it needs 3 hours to fully charge, in the store Peter told me to let it charge for 24 hours, so I plugged the unit in and pressed the "clean" button after only an hour or so. Bleep bleep, and Olga came alive. A little music played and off she went!
She softly bounced into the door, slightly adjusted her course, bounced into it again and then started following it, leaving 2 to 3 centimeter of space between her body and the door itself. She took the small transition between the hardwood floors in the bedroom towards tiles in the hallway without problem and happily hoovered around. Then she met her first real challenge : my drying rack. Four legs, just high enough to get stuck under and positioned close to a wall. I monitored her closely as the bounced into the first leg, turned a little and tried again. She sailed past it, running into the connecting bars only centimeters later. During all this manouvering, she managed to get into a rather small space with only one exit left, but without too much problems she got back out, no intervention from me required. As I said before, I'm very impressed with the intelligence and object avoidance routines of the Roomba SE!
However, the question is not whether or not it drives around your place in a smooth and trouble free way, but does it suck dust?
Yes it does, but... It's a small vacuum cleaner with an even smaller dust container, so you can't expect it to compare and come out on top of recent almost industrial vacuum cleaners that have entered the market. I've not yet had the chance to allow it to clean the full place, but the parts it has done were quite clean. It had no problems getting on the carpet and cleaning that too, sometimes going into "dirt detect mode" when it noticed spots that needed extra attention. Was my rug as clean as if I get vacuumed it personally, using a regular vacuum? No, it wasn't, but I think it would be unfair to expect such a thing. When you clean your carpet, you go over some spots several times, you can pick up small particles and/or apply more pressure on the brush when needed. A robot cannot do these things, though it gets pretty close!
Getting the Roomba SE to return to its base station proved to be a challenge at times, since the range is a bit limited. If the Roomba SE can't see the rays, it doesn't know where to go to get charged. Easy as that, yet also a bit annoying at times. Best is to just pick it up and put it on the charger yourself, depending on how much time you want it to waste, or how much fun you're having seeing it cross the room looking for new juice. The manual suggests that if this proves to be a problem, to try another spot for the base station, something I may try later during the day.
Positioning it on the charger is very simple, yet one time when she parked herself, something must have gone wrong because the power led came on, indicating a full battery load, yet when I told it to go chase dust about 2 hours later, it gave me a sad beep, a red power led indicating an empty battery and it went back to get more juice. I took the battery out and put it back in, put it back on the base station and it started charging correctly this time. Something you may want to keep an eye on.
The Roomba SE is worth the money, providing your unit works quite well. Online sources report some failures, but on the other hand iRobot has so far been very good at replacing units it seems. I think this type of vacuum has certainly matured from a "geek toy" into a device for a larger public. I doubt the Roomba SE can thoroughly clean a room itself, but it's perfect to keep everything cleanish in between manual hooverings once a month or so. Much will come down to what environment it has to work in (tiles, carpet, layout of the rooms), but I'm rather impressed!
Pro : easy to operate, fun to watch, no assembly required, impressive "intelligence", good choice of operation modes, relatively low noise
Cons : bit expensive, possible charging difficulties, lack of sheduling options (due to change with newer models)