Review round-up: iRobot Scooba 450

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We live in a world with robots. And we make them scrub our floors. Whilst you let that absurdity settle, consider the new Scooba 450 Floor Scrubbing Robot from the creators of the home robot category iRobot. Like its carpet cleaning cousin the Roomba, the Scooba is a pizza-shaped robot that only exists to make your tiled and hardwood floors clean. The Scooba 450 has Three-Cycle Cleaning Process which automatically sweeps and pre-soaks, scrubs, then finishes with a final squeegee.

But how is it to use?

Seth Stevenson at Slate.com described operating the Scooba as “remarkable”, to the point where he actually engaged with the spectacle.

The whole operation takes about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the room. It is remarkable to watch. I popped a beer, hopped up onto my kitchen counter with my feet dangling, and enjoyed the show. You keep thinking the Scooba might miss a big section, but—like its carpet-vacuuming cousin, the iRobot Roomba—it never does. It has sensors and programmed strategies to ensure it coats the whole room. You see it spiral out to gauge the size of the floor, then bump into a wall and redirect itself, and then finally crisscross the open expanses until no patches have been left unscrubbed.

Alex Colon from Gigaom.com was impressed with the Scooba’s range and the improvements in the new model.

I saw the Scooba tackle cereal, hot sauce, and an unidentified orange liquid on a tile floor with aplomb, but what I really like are the new information button and spoken cues. I’ve used older models of the Scooba in the past, and without this information available, it could be difficult to know exactly where it was in the cleaning process.

A closer look at the Scooba 450
A closer look: the Scooba 450

Katherine Byne from Expert Reviews spoke to one of the designers to find out what’s going on under the hood of the Scooba. And how it literally involves the Bomb Squad.

The cleaning algorithm that the robot uses is very dynamic… It does not assume anything about your room because often every time we vacuum the room it’s different. Chairs get moved perhaps in the middle of vacuuming, and we have created an AI system to allow full coverage without assuming furniture being in any particular place, and it gives the best coverage performance, especially for complicated areas. The origin of this cleaning algorithm was actually developed for the US Department of Defence for mine hunting, so we take coverage very seriously.

However, Sal Cangeloso from Geek.com notes a few drawbacks with the design.

Unlike a Roomba which will understand the size of a space and simply turn itself off or return to a dock when it’s done cleaning, the Scooba is designed to clean for the entire time cycle. Because its dirty water must be removed from the bot after a cycle, the it isn’t designed to return to a dock and it doesn’t work on a schedule. This means the amount of human interaction is much greater with scrubbing compared to vacuuming.

As Sal goes on to explain, it’s not quite the hands-off experience you might want from your robot cleaner.

The only bad part here is that some of the hair and assorted debris doesn’t make it into the reservoir and instead gets stuck between the reservoir component in the bot’s spring-loaded door. This final cleaning task is sort of like clearing out the shower drain — it’s kind of gross but in the scheme of things not too bad.

All the reviewers were impressed with the device, but Alex Colon from Gigaom.com gives a fair assessment of the choice faced by consumers.

At $599.99, the Scooba 450 is not for the casual neat freak. If you’re deciding between this and the $499.99 Scooba 390, I think the new features here are enough to justify the extra $100. But compared to the $279.99 Scooba 230 it’s a tougher call.

The iRobot Scooba 450 Floor Scrubbing Robot will be available for £599.99 SRP at iRobot.com and in selected retailers this Spring. You can find out more by going to www.irobot.com