Category Archives: Robot Models

The Mint Plus Does It Better – An In-Depth Review

Later note – Announced August 22, 2013, iRobot is now selling the Mint 5200 re-branded as the Braava 380t.

I bought the original Evolution Robotics Mint (model 4200) a year ago and I use it every week at home and love it. It’s really well designed and does a great job keeping our hardwood and tile floors clean. When I found out that Evolution Robotics was coming out with a new improved model, the Mint Plus (models 5200 and 5200C) I was really excited to see what they had done to improve this simple automatic sweeping and mopping robot. The good news is that they’ve really improved the robot, especially when it comes to mopping, and we whole-heartedly recommend spending the extra money to get the newer model.

Mint Plus Model 5200C

Very briefly, the Mint robot is built to sweep and mop floors. It comes with wet microfiber cloths for mopping and dry microfiber cloths for sweeping. When it sweeps, it runs around the floor in straight lines. When it mops it uses a back and forth and side-to-side motion to wet and then pick up dirt as it goes.

Unlike Roombas, the Mint robots actually navigate around the room and keep track of where they’ve been. To navigate, they use a device called a NorthStar beacon which is a cube that you turn on and place on a table or counter in the room that the Mint is cleaning. The Mint cleans a room by going back and forth over the floor, and then running around the perimeter of the room. Like a Roomba, it has sensors to keep it from running off of cliffs and stairs.

The main advantages a Mint has over most robotic vacuums:

  • Quiet
  • More gentle on furniture
  • Cleans same size room faster
  • Mops in addition to sweeping
  • Less prep work before cleaning

Some other robot vacuums have advantages over the Mint. For example, the Mint:

  • Can’t do carpeting (this is, admittedly, a big one)
  • Can’t be scheduled
  • Won’t return to charging dock when finished and charge itself automatically

For a more in-depth review of the original Mint, check here. For a side-by-side comparison of the Mint robot to an iRobot Roomba, read here.

The first thing I noticed when unboxing the Mint Plus, was that instead of using huge blocks of styrofoam to pack the robot, everything is in cardboard trays. I know not everybody cares about this, but for me it’s a big plus to have a company care about the environment and use “green” packing materials.

What comes in the box Mint Plus

Here’s what you get in the box

  • Mint Plus Robot
  • Owner’s Manual (39 pages – download here)
  • NorthStar2 Cube
  • 2 C Batteries for NorthStar2
  • Pro-Clean Reservoir Wet Cleaning Pad
  • Regular “All-Purpose” Cleaning Pad
  • 2 Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
  • 2 Wet Microfiber Mopping Cloths
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Replacement Wick Cap for Reservoir

The Mint cradle model (the 5200c) comes with a cradle. Otherwise, the cradle is available for purchase separately.

In the box you get everything you need to get started. Everything is very clearly marked, and many of the items are packed with simple instructions in the packaging wrapped around the item (like the Pro-Clean Reservoir) or printed directly on them (like the NorthStar module). The NorthStar cube requires two C size batteries, and those are provided in the box, which is awesome.

Mint Plus model comparison 4200 5200

What’s different in the Mint Plus

As you can see, the Mint Plus is black. Both robots are the same size and height. The Mint Plus comes with a cleaning pad that has a reservoir for dispensing liquid as it mops. The Mint Plus charges more quickly, getting a full charge in two hours. It also lasts 25% longer on a full charge than the original model. The NorthStar2 module is supposed to be more efficient and also has a better scheme for having the robot clean several rooms at one go. The Plus has a quick cleaning mode where it skips doing the perimeter. The Mint Plus also has a Pause and Resume feature where it can pick up from where it started if you need to interrupt it for some reason. The Mint Plus is made so that it can be kept in a charging cradle.

Mint Plus in Charging Cradle

Looking at the Mint Plus, you can see that the front edge has more padding on it. There’s a rubber pad that runs all the way around the front. Like iRobot Roombas, the Mint robots will run into your furniture and walls. They try to slow down before they hit things, but people who use cleaning robots do tend to notice wear after using them for years. This padding is to help keep the robot from doing eventual damage to your things, and is much more substantial than the padding on the original Mint.

Under the hood, the Mint Plus has an upgraded battery. Both robots come with a 7.2 Volt NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) battery, but whereas the original Mint came with a 1500 mAh battery, the Mint Plus is packing a 2000 mAh battery. The measure “mAh” is short for milli-Amp hours and is a measure of how much energy a battery can supply over a period of time. Do the math how you will, but the manufacturer states that Mint Plus has 25% more battery time. The connectors for the different batteries are not compatible, so you won’t be able to buy a replacement battery for one model and use it in the other.

While the regular microfiber cleaning cloths are basically identical, the wet cleaning cloths for mopping are a little different. The cloths are a little smaller in the direction that gets tucked around the cleaning pad. This doesn’t reduce the cleaning surface at all, and was probably done to help keep the ends of the cloth from getting bunched into the middle and cause problems mounting the pad to the robot.

The charging brick is built so it won’t block other power outlets around it. This is awesome!

Mint NorthStar Navigation Cubes

Evolution Robotics has made changes to the NorthStar Navigation Cube, which they are calling the NorthStar2. The original NorthStar cube was model 4261. Mint also sells a “second room” cube which is model 4262. The new Mint NorthStar module is model 4264 (which leaves me wondering what happened to 4263). The main change to the navigation system occurs when you get more than one cube and place them in different rooms. With the original system, the second cube would keep the robot out of the second room, and then when it was finished cleaning the first room, you had to pick the robot up and carry it into the second room. The new NorthStar system works such that the robot will clean the first room and then move into the second room by itself, afterwards. This makes better sense and doesn’t require human intervention to clean two rooms in one session.

Also related to the NorthStar, the Mint Plus is supposed to navigate more efficiently. I timed both robots cleaning a few rooms, and for a room that took around 15 minutes to clean, the Plus took about a minute off of the cleaning time when sweeping. Watching the robots when sweeping, I don’t notice any real difference. The promotional literature about the Plus claims that the NorthStar makes the robot clean larger areas more efficiently, so maybe I need larger test areas.


The Cradle is Nice

The Mint Plus is built with contacts on the back end to charge in a cradle. One nice thing about the cradle is that you don’t have to plug the robot in manually. With a cradle, there’s a space where the Mint “belongs” so it’s more likely to end up there. Also, it helps make the Mint fit into a way smaller space.

Mopping Has Improved!

If you’ve read my original Mint cleaner review, you’ll know that I wasn’t particularly impressed with the mopping job that that the robot did. To mop, you wet a mopping cloth, put it on the cleaning pad, and then run the robot. The problem is that the mopping cloth usually dries out before the robot can finish the room. So it never cleans up all the sticky spots or places where there is mud tracked into the room.

Mint Plus mopping reservoir

The engineers at Evolution must have known this was a problem because they’ve come up with a solution: The Pro-Clean Reservoir Pad. Basically, this is a pad that’s pretty much like the regular all-purpose pad that you attach the cleaning cloths to, except that it has a container for water (and mild soap if desired) and a wick that lets the liquid in the reservoir seep out into the cleaning pad. So the mopping cloth doesn’t dry out. As you can see from the picture, the reservoir is clear, so you can see what the water level is.

Mint Plus after mopping the floor

Since we got the Mint Plus, we’ve used the mopping feature twice. Once to clean the kitchen floor after it hadn’t been mopped in a long time, and the second time just before we had company. On the first run, there were several spots where something sticky had been dropped on the floor and dirt had accumulated on the spots. These were the kinds of areas where the original Mint might or might not do a good job on them. We were pleased and surprised when these spots disappeared from one cleaning with no pre-wetting of the spots. The second time, we needed to clean because it had rained all day, and we had carried groceries and other things in and out of the house enough times that there was some mud tracked into the kitchen. Again, the Mint Plus did a great job where the original Mint might not have got everything.

A Few Gripes

While it’s not as important with a Mint as it can be with its more noisy and obnoxious vacuum cleaning cousins, I really wish the Mint came with a scheduler. The rest of my complaints are really just minor quibbles. Here goes: While the cradle is nice, if it’s on the same floor as the robot is cleaning, the Mint will push it around the room. So you have to put the cradle somewhere else. Next, having two cleaning pads means that you need somewhere to store the one that currently isn’t on the robot (I told you these were quibbles!). Also, you have to remember to empty the Pro-Clean reservoir before putting it away because otherwise it will continue to leak water after you’ve put it away. Finally, the glossy black finish on the Plus collects and shows fingerprints, dirt, and dust.

Wrap Up

A great little cleaning robot just got a lot better! While I would have really loved a scheduling feature on this robot, that’s my only really substantial complaint. The robot charges more quickly, can clean more area on one charge, has some other features like Pause/Resume that make it easier to use, and it does a much better job of mopping. Also, the robot can be used with a cradle, which is really nice. As of this writing, the original Mint is $200 US, and the Mint Plus is $300 without the cradle. The cradle is about $70.

If you’re wondering if a Mint robot is for you, consider whether or not a robot vacuum makes more sense. Our house is mostly hardwood floors with a tile floor in the kitchen and linoleum/marmoleum in the bathroom. For us, the Mint replaced our Roomba, and we love it. Someone with wall to wall carpeting throughout their house should consider how much they hate sweeping and mopping their kitchen and bathroom floors.

So, is the Plus worth the heftier price tag? I would say that if you already have a Mint and it’s working great for you, the new model is worth it if you really want or need one or more of the substantial improvements, like the fast charging, the improved mopping, and/or the cradle.

The same answer goes for someone trying to decide between getting the original 4200 or the Plus 5200. If you tend to get the deluxe model when you’re buying an appliance, it’s a no-brainer to get the Plus. Otherwise, you have to decide if the improvements are worth the extra cost. I didn’t expect to like the mopping feature as much as I did. I ran it just before some friends were coming over for dinner. I was preparing food while the robot was mopping the kitchen, and it “just worked”. To me, the satisfaction was worth it.

Where to get the Mint Plus

Get the Braava 380t Floor Mopping Robot at Amazon.

12 Reasons Why Mint Cleaner is Better than the Scooba 230

Mint vs Scooba

Trying to decide between buying the new Scooba 230 and the Evolution Mint? We can help. I was going to write a long article comparing the Mint Robot Cleaner with the iRobot Scooba 230, but the results with the Scooba 230 were kind of unfavorable – see our review. So instead of a Mint vs Scooba post like I did with the Roomba, I decided to make a list of reasons why a person would want to get an Evolution Mint instead. Here they are:

1) The Mint is less work, part 1. The Mint also sweeps as it mops, so it picks up hairs and dirt as it goes. Before running the Scooba 230, you have to sweep first, and even then it will find and deposit hairs around the floor. For me, I would find myself using the Mint to sweep up before running the Scooba, which made me wonder why I even bothered with the second robot.

2) The Mint cleans our bathroom in under seven minutes. The Scooba takes 45 minutes.

3) The Mint can clean more space on one charge. After finishing the bathroom, the Mint is ready to take on three more rooms (about 600 square feet). The Scooba needs to be charged.

4) The Mint cleans silently. In addition to the vacuum noise, the Scooba emits an annoying squeaking noise.

5) Mint works smart, not hard. The Mint maps a room as it goes, and gets every bit of the floor. iRobot fans will doubtlessly debate the relevancy of this topic, but you really need to see how the Mint cleans. It methodically goes back and forth over the whole floor, and then does the perimeters.

6) The Mint comes with everything you need to get started in the box. With the iRobot Scooba, you have to buy a bottle of the cleaning solution and some batteries. Sure the Scooba comes with four soap packets, but that’s only good for four cleanings.

7) Clean floors. According to our informal testing, the Evolution Mint does a better job of cleaning.

8) Clean floors, part 2: The Scooba 230 left a lot of water on the floor, and after the floor dried, a lot of streaks.

9) The Scooba is more work, part 2: When the Mint is done, you grab it by its handle, take off the cleaning pad, put the cleaning pad in the wash, and put the robot away. When the Scooba finishes, you have to open all the ports, rinse it out thoroughly (which means filling it up, closing the holes, shaking it, and then pouring it out several times – which you have to do with both sides), pull the bottom off and rinse the hairs and debris off of it, put the bottom back on, and then you can put it away.

Mint is Shorter

10) The Mint is shorter. It’s only by about 1/2 inch, but even that difference makes the Mint fit under more furniture.

11) Dual membership has its benefits. In addition to mopping, the Mint is also built to sweep. The Scooba just mops.

12) More for your dollar. The Mint is 1/3 less expensive than the Scooba 230.

Tips for using Mint Cleaner for Mopping

Here’s a quick tip on using the Mint as a mop: Before running the robot, pour or flick a little warm water on any dirty or sticky spots on your floor.

iRobot Scooba 230 In-Depth Review

The iRobot Scooba is a mopping robot. I’ve been curious about the iRobot Scooba line since it was first introduced. But they tended to get bad reviews on Amazon. Of course, if you go to that Amazon link, the top three reviews are happy ones, but if you look at some of the ones on the side, there are reviews that’ll make a person want to avoid the Scoobas, and they worked on me. So this year iRobot introduced the Scooba 230, which is a smaller version of the old ones. The smaller size was a definite attraction for me, considering that the robot can fit behind your typical toilet.

So how well does this new robot work? Let’s take a look.

As mentioned above, the Scoobas are robot mops. Like other iRobot cleaners, they have a multi-stage cleaning system. So they lay down water, scrub it, and then use a specially designed squeegee with a vacuum to suck the water back up. iRobot makes some special soaps for the Scooba. For example, there is a “Clorox Scooba Cleaning Solution” and a “Natural Enzyme Formula.” (The 230 can’t use the Clorox solution.)

Scooba 230 Box Contents

Here’s what comes in the box:

  • iRobot Scooba 230 robot
  • Rechargeable battery for the robot
  • Charger
  • 2 Virtual Walls
  • 3 Extra bottoms
  • Printed product manual (16 pages)
  • Storage base (not a dock)
  • 4 Packets of the Natural Enzyme Formula cleaning solution

Here’s what is missing: 4 D cell batteries for the Virtual Walls. The Virtual Walls take 2 batteries each. I really prefer it when manufacturers include batteries, so I find this disappointing.

Scooba 230 with an orange for scale

Here is the robot itself next to a navel orange. As you can see, the Scooba 230 is pretty small. It is 3.5 inches tall and 6.5 inches wide. The engineers at iRobot have packed a lot of things into this little package. There is a port for filling the robot, a port for emptying, a recessed carrying handle, three cliff sensors, a wall-following sensor on the right side, a charging port, indicator lights and buttons. On top is a power and Clean button. Like the Roombas and older Scoobas, the Scooba 230 has a bumper on the front so that it knows when it runs into things.

Scooba bottom showing brushes and squeegee

The bottom has wheels, brushes, and the squeegee for picking up the water while it works. The wheels are easy to pull off for cleaning. The light grey part of the undercarriage there is removable, so when the brushes and squeegee wear down, you can replace it. As mentioned above, the robot ships with 3 replacement bottom plates. You can also see the cliff sensors there on the bottom of the bumper. They’re recessed.

Here is the door for filling the robot with water. This is kind of in an awkward place. It’s not a good idea to get the robot totally wet, so popping it under a running faucet made me kind of nervous. I ended up filling a measuring cup with warm water, and then filling the robot that way. When filling the robot (or emptying it, for that matter) both the fill port and the empty port need to be open, so you can’t put the robot down on a flat surface and fill it.

One piece of good news is that the cleaning solution isn’t stinky. Sometimes cleaners can smell nasty or smell like obnoxious air freshener. The Natural Enzyme Formula has a rather mild, pleasant cleaner smell.

Scooba 230 in action - behind toilet

And here it is in action. (Sorry about the camera shake on the film. I’m working to get some better equipment for making my movies. It’s actually pretty hard to make good product films.) We were pretty excited about the job the Scooba did on the bathroom. It got behind the toilet, which is a pain to clean manually. A person has to get down on their hands and knees to clean back there, so the Scooba 230 gets major points for this trick.

Dirty water from emptying the Scooba

Here is an example of what the dirty water from our Scooba looked like after cleaning one of our rooms. This is what it looked like after every time it cleaned a room. I felt kind of mixed emotions about this result. On one hand, you can tell that there is some dirt in there, and that’s definitely some dirt and grime that is no longer on your floor, which is a good thing. At the same time, it doesn’t really seem like as much as it should.

Scooba has hair problems

Sadly, we have a lot more bad news to relate about this robot. Our Scooba had a lot of problems. For one thing, it left a lot of water on our floor. This is tile, so maybe it would do a better job on totally flat surfaces, but it seemed to leave a lot of water. Also, you have to sweep up before you use the Scooba. The Scooba will not pick up larger debris or hairs. Instead it kind of drags hairs around and leaves them stuck to the floor. Also, the Scooba’s size turns out to be a disadvantage when navigating a room. Both our kitchen and bathroom had a place where the Scooba would get stuck – the heating vent.

The Scooba also had a lot of trouble with the Virtual Walls. The Scooba would approach the wall and either bounce off while still several feet away, or it would get kind of close and then get kind of “stuck” where it would turn again and again in a tight spot. I finally stopped using the Virtual Walls, which was kind of irksome, considering how useful they are when you’re using a robot to clean your floor.

More problems: The battery runs out from cleaning one room with the Scooba, and takes a long time to charge. I didn’t test it, but ours takes at least five hours to charge. So really, you clean one room and then have to charge the robot overnight.

Scooba leaves streaks

Our Scooba left streaks, and although it seemed to do a good job with the bathroom, it didn’t do a great job of cleaning the kitchen floor. Basically it left the entire kitchen floor with a kind of waxy, sticky feeling, and then to make matters worse, the robot stopped working.

After it left the floor feeling sticky, I decided that I should give it another go with just water in the hopes that it would clean up more. So after waiting for the robot to charge up again, I refilled the robot and ran it a second time. Forty minutes later, I returned to find that although the robot had run all over the place, it hadn’t been dispensing water. So it hadn’t cleaned anything. Sadly, the battery was dead. So I charged the battery overnight, and then turned on the Scooba and ran out the door to go to work. Unfortunately, I left in such a rush that I didn’t notice that the Scooba never started moving. So when I can home from work, I found the robot sitting in the exact same place I left it, in the middle of a puddle.

Since the Scooba left us with a sticky, gross floor, I broke down at this point and mopped our kitchen by hand. This is not what a person wants to be doing on a Wednesday night after having spent three hundred clams on a robot mop. It could be my imagination, but while I was mopping the floor myself, it seemed to take quite a bit of mopping to make our floor stop feeling sticky. I had to go over each area several times. I don’t know if that was because of the cleaning solution, or if we had something really sticky that the Scooba just spread around for us.

Over the next couple of days I found that sometimes the wheels would start working again, but the water dispensing part wouldn’t work. Then later, it would all stop working. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason. The manual doesn’t have anything useful to say about what to do if your Scooba stops working. I tried some different ways of turning it on with the hopes that I could “reset” it. Also, I tried pulling the battery to see if that would make a difference. Neither strategy seemed to help. I have yet to call iRobot’s customer service about it, but will report back here when I do. In the meantime, I have to give the iRobot Scooba 230 a failing grade. I plan to send ours back for a refund.

Just in case you’re still curious, here’s a link to the iRobot official page for the Scooba 230. Or buy iRobot Scooba 230 + Essentials Kit Robotic Vacuum from Amazon.

Here is a our page with further information about iRobot’s products that aren’t robot vacuum cleaners.