This morning iRobot announced the newest addition to the Scooba line of mopping robots, the Scooba 390. As of this morning, the 390 replaced the 380 and 385 in the iRobot online store, while the diminutive Scooba 230 (see our review, here) remains. According to iRobot, the new Scooba comes with “simplified design and longer battery life.” From comparing the specs to the older 380 and 385 models of Scooba, this looks like the only difference. So unlike iRobot’s Roomba 700 series, it would appear that the new Scooba isn’t much of an upgrade over previous models. The Scooba 390 is available from from Amazon.
iRobot Scooba 390 Features
As with older Scoobas, the new one cleans with a four stage process, prepping, washing, scrubbing, and using a squeegee to wash the floor. The robot has two separate internal water vessels, one for clean water, and the other for dirty, so it does not re-use the water as it cleans, which is actually pretty cool. One advantage that the 390 has over the 230 is that it does vacuum the floor as it goes, so there is no need to sweep the floor before using it.
iRobot suggests using the Scooba 390 for kitchens and larger rooms with hard floor surfaces such as stone, vinyl, linoleum, tile, and sealed hardwood floors. The robot can clean over 400 square feet with a full water tank. You can use it with iRobot’s own “Natural Enzyme Formula”, with water, or with a little vinegar added. Besides just sweeping and mopping your floor, iRobot claims that the Scooba will remove up to 98% of the bacteria on your floor when “…used as directed, laboratory testing results indicate removal of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria after two passes of the Scooba floor washing robot. Individual results may vary.”
The new Scooba uses iRobot’s iAdapt cleaning technology, which is how the robot gets around the room. Like a Roomba, the Scooba uses different behaviors in a random way to cover all areas of a room (as opposed to mapping the room). So it will do wall-following, spiraling, bouncing around in random directions, and other behaviors until it calculates that it has covered the entire floor surface three times.
Other things that bear mentioning: The Sooba has cliff detection sensors that keep it from driving off the top of stairs. Maintenance is simplified with all the parts that need to be cleaned being marked with colors. Also, Scoobas work with iRobot’s virtual walls so the robot won’t venture out of the room it is currently cleaning.
Included with the Scooba 390 is: the robot itself, rechargeable battery and charger, a suction bulb, four sample packets of the Natural Enzyme Formula cleaner, and one Virtual Wall. Not included are the two D cell batteries needed for the Virtual Wall. The robot mop comes with a one year warranty on the robot, and a six month warranty for the battery.
What we have here is a hard floor cleaning robotic vacuum cleaner that is something of a Roomba look-alike. It’s a vacuum with dual side-brushes, and like a Roomba it does a random behavioral kind of cleaning (as opposed to mapping out a room like the Neato XV-11 and Mint Cleaners do). Here’s one that appeared in 2011 without a bang: The Dirt Devil RoomMate Robotic Vacuum Cleaner by Royal Appliance Mfg Co. The best I can figure out, this item was introduced in April or May of this year, with little or no fanfare. There aren’t any reviews on the Amazon product page yet, even. So I’m pretty sure that this is the first review for this item.
The robot comes with everything you need to get started in the box: The robot itself, 2 detachable side bristle brushes, a manual, a quick-start guide, the battery, and battery charger. . The battery is a 14.4 Volt, 800mAh NiMH unit that looks like it’s made of 12 AA cells wrapped up into a single module. The quick-start guide gets you through attaching the side brushes, inserting the battery, and operating the robot for the first time. The manual is one of those frustrating affairs because it is written in three languages and they’re all crammed together. So each page has every step and illustration detailed in English, Spanish, and French together. I don’t know why it is, but I always find myself trying to read the French sections.
The robot takes four hours to charge. A charge lasts over an hour with a new battery. The manufacturer says that the robot should last 50 minutes. Ours lasted about one hour, ten minutes for our testing. On the top of the robot there are three LED lights. They are: “Battery Low” indicator, “Dirt Cup Full” or “Clog” indicator, and “Charging” indicator. To be honest, the outside two lights flash while the robot is cleaning, so I haven’t really been able to figure out what they mean.
Here is the robot in action:
As you can see, it does random criss-crossing of the room, followed by circling/spiraling and then it does wall following. It actually does those things in that order. It follows walls in one direction only, going clockwise around a room perimeter when viewed from above. Also like the Roomba, Mint Cleaner, and XV-11, the Dirt Devil has a bumper in front to tell when it has run into something. The Dirt Devil also seems to use that bumper to do its edge following. Like other floor cleaning robots, the Dirt Devil has cliff sensors to keep it from going off an edge.
Despite its appearances, the Dirt Devil is different from a Roomba in quite a few ways. For one thing, it lacks a lot of the advanced features built into Roombas these days. There’s no Dirt Detect, no dock, no Lighthouses, no scheduling, no remote control, and etc. As you can see, the robot is smaller than a Roomba, and shorter. You put the robot in a room, switch it on, and the robot is done when the battery runs out. When it’s done it gives a distintive chirping noise. Since the robot vacuums until the battery is gone, you need to charge it again before you can do another room.
Looking at the bottom of the robot reveals even more differences from a Roomba. The Dirt Devil has two side brushes instead of one. Unlike a Roomba or XV-11, there are no beaters or intake brushes. Instead, the side brushes direct dirt and debris into a mouth-like intake where the vacuum sucks it into the filter cup. So on the plus side, it won’t inhale power cords. During testing, however, the robot had some trouble with the intake getting clogged by large dust bunnies. When I looked at the dust bin, I noticed that there’s a cellophane lid that is made to keep debris from falling back out of the bin. I bet if a person pulled that out, it might not have such a hard time with the dust bunnies.
The robot moves more slowly than any other robot vacuum we’ve reviewed here, and as a result it’s more gentle when it runs into furniture, doors, and walls. It’s more noisy than the Mint, but definitely more quiet than a Roomba. During testing the robot didn’t have any problems moving around rooms, but it did have some trouble with floor mats and area rugs. In particular, depending on its angle of approach, the robot sometimes got stuck trying to climb up area rugs and floor mats. Like every other robot floor cleaner in the world, when left unattended, this robot may get stuck in unexpected places and can get tangled in cords.
The filter cup is easy to get to and very easy to empty. One nice thing is that the cup and filter can be cleaned with water, although obviously they need to be dried properly before putting them back in the robot.
So how does it do? As the title states, it does the job. I was able to use it to clean several rooms, and was satisfied with the results. I did my standard test where I ran other robots after the Dirt Devil cleaned a room to see how it did, and in all cases it didn’t leave much for the other robots to clean up on hard floors. Although it is a vacuum cleaner, it’s not designed to clean carpets. I’m guessing that this is because the robot lacks beaters and intake brushes to pull dust and dirt out of carpets. One thing we were impressed by was its ability to suck up larger debris like pine needles from our Christmas decorations.
More sensitive bumper than most other robots.
Won’t eat cables and cords (although it can still get stuck on them).
Less room prep work needed.
Cleans hard floors well.
The dual brushes get into corners for good cleaning.
Runs more quietly than other robot vacuums (manufacturer claims less than 60 dB).
Can’t be scheduled.
Gets stuck climbing area rugs and mats.
Intake can get choked with dust bunnies.
The Dirt Devil robotic vacuum is ideal for vacuuming kitchen and bathroom floors, and is available at almost half the price of its closest competitor. In our testing, the robot seemed reliable, and I appreciated how it was more forgiving than other vacuums as far as how much room prep is required. Our one concern with the robot is that the intake can get clogged easily. If you’re looking for a no-frills budget floor cleaning robot that does the job, the Dirt Devil RoomMate might be the robot for you.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.