Since I mentioned that I own a Roomba and a Scooba from iRobot I have gotten some requests for a review of them. Since I was going to write one up for some email replies I thought it made sense to post a review here as well. The short review is that I like them both, they meet my needs, and were well worth the money to me. They didn't mean I could completely throw away my conventional vacuum and mop though. The following sets of good and bad points apply to both robots unless otherwise noted.
You get some time back. I have been known to start up the Roomba in our large dining room or one of the bedrooms and the Scooba in the kitchen and then sit back in my office getting work done. Our floors get cleaned more often because of this ability. This is the closest one can get to buying more time for things they prefer to do.
Both robots do a good everyday job of cleaning. The capacity of the Roomba is quite adequate for even very large rooms. The Scooba comes in two sizes (one for 500 square feet and one for 250 square feet). We bought the smaller capacity because the biggest room we use it on is our kitchen which is probably about 220 square feet and it does the job nicely. We have a cat and the Roomba picks up cat hair and stray litter from the litter box. There is a model customized for people with pets called the Sage and if it had been available when I bought my Roomba I would likely have bought it. There is an upgrade kit with brushes that are easier to clean and I'm thinking about that. If you have dogs that shed or multiple cats that would probably be the model to get.
You don't have to be in the room when they are working. This is a big deal for use with the Roomba because both my wife and I have allergies that don't like the dust that any vacuuming throws up. Noise is a huge annoyance to me and the main reason I hate vacuuming. So being out of the room is almost as much a benefit as being able to do something else while the vacuuming is going on.
You are likely to clean more often - unless you already like washing floors or vacuuming - because its easier. The other day I spilled a can of soda. In the past I would have dried it up and maybe washed a little with some wet paper towels and put off doing a real cleaning; especially as a lot of the spill was under a work table. But since I could quickly and easily set up the Scooba to wash the whole floor that is what I did. And I went back to work in my home office while it did it. The same thing happens with vacuuming. See some dust or tracked in dirt? Just set the robot to work.
They are not as smart as I'd like. The Scooba seems smarter by which I mean it seems to run more efficient patterns. The Roomba often seems like it is on a random walk. They both usually give good enough coverage though. I'm a computer guy so I keep thinking I could program a better algorithm.
They don't do corners and other tight spaces. That is why I say every day cleaning. Some times you are going to want/need to get into the corners and tight spots that it misses. An offsetting point though is that they get under things that you typically have trouble getting under yourself. I love that it easily cleans out the dust under the beds. Since my wife has asthma that is a big plus.
They are a bit noisy. Are they noisier than regular vacuums? I don't know - probably not - I just don't like noise.
My cat doesn't like the robots. Perhaps it is the noise, perhaps that it looks strange to her, perhaps it is a cat thing. She stays out of the way. I can't see a pet not knowing that it is there or coming its way. If a robot bumps into a pet is will likely back off and try to find its way around. I've had them bump into me while I was doing something and that is what they do in that case.
I like that the Roomba finds its way back to its charging station when it is done or low on power. The Scooba doesn't do that and has to be plugged in by hand. But of course one really wants to clean out the dirty water bin when the Scooba is done so that is not so big a deal.
I like being able to do a spot clean with the Roomba. It sometimes goes off away from the spot when the spot is near an obstruction though. I'm not sure why.
The newer Roomba's can be programmed. I understand that the Microsoft Robotics Studio works with them. I need a minor upgrade kit to program mine and I keep threatening to get it. One of these days I will so that a) I can find out if I can indeed write a better cleaning algorithm and b) so I can have some fun coming up with other tasks for it.
We've got a Roomba at school (in dire need of some fixing). It's good for touch-ups, but otherwise, more of a pain than anything.
The Roomba also doesn't deal well with rooms with lots of stuff in them; it very frequently gets caught in the exposed speaker wire in our room, or tries to eat from stacks of paper I leave on the floor. (The whole reason we have it is that my roommate's dad got sick of what it was doing to their oriental carpets.)
It also doesn't seem to clean anything but the surface. I say this because we started Roomba-ing every few days, yet when I used the 'real' central vac system at school the other day, you could <i>hear</i> the enormous amounts of dirt/sand it was sucking out of the carpet.
The 'pattern' it uses for cleaning bothers me, too. Depending on which option I use, it either starts out in circles until it's crashing into walls, or it starts going straight until it's crashing into walls. Either way, it then seems to turn a random amount and try again. I feel like it goes over some spots a dozen times, and yet never gets to other spots.
It's a nice idea, but I sometimes feel like, for all the time I spend 'supervising' it cleaning, I might as well just use the real vacuum.