Yes, you should buy a $1,000 Roomba if these robot vacuum features matter to you

Describe what's shown in the image.

Beth Mauder/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways (for now)

  • The Roomba Combo j9+ is a $1,400 two-in-one robot vacuum and mop that utilizes a retractable mop head. It’s $400 off at the time of writing.
  • Its biggest upgrade comes with the Clean Base, which can now automatically refill the water tank.
  • The mopping feature is just passable when tasked with messes, especially compared to competitors with dual oscillating mop heads.

The Roomba Combo j9+ has made its way into my rotation of robot vacuums — and let me tell you, I’m impressed. It’s sleek and has a modern look and feel, and iRobot went out of its way to fix the shortcomings of the previous Combo j7+. The most notable feature is the Clean Base’s Auto-Fill Dock, meaning the robot can simply go back to the docking station whenever it needs to refill its clean water tank.

Also: The best robot vacuum mops you can buy

The Combo j9+ is meant to be iRobot’s most efficient robot yet, utilizing iRobotOS to map your home seven times faster than before. The robot can automatically label your map with up to 90% accuracy, maintains its P.O.O.P. (Pet Owner Official Promise) guarantee, and can do so much more. I’ve loved my Roomba j7+, but was left wishing for a little more with the Combo j7+. I now feel as if these two worlds have collided successfully with the Combo j9+.

Roomba Combo j9+ from the front


Roomba Combo j9+

The Roomba Combo j9+ is a compact, sleek two-in-one robot vacuum that blends in nicely with my furniture.

Let me be completely upfront — I’ve only had the Combo j9+ up and running in my home for about a week, and my complete review will come after at least a month of daily use. But I do have a few initial thoughts that are worth highlighting.

Straight out of the box

I love the high-end look and feel of the Roomba Combo j9+. The robot blends in beautifully with my furniture and isn’t a machine that I would tuck away in my laundry room or office so guests don’t see it. It is bulkier than its predecessor, but that’s because this model has a sturdier, refillable water tank, a drawer that holds the removable dust bin, and storage on the inside to keep additional mop pads. The trade-off is well worth it.

Roomba Combo j9+ front door opened

The front door of the Combo j9+ opens for access to the clean water tank, dust bin, and storage for additional dust bags and mop heads.

Beth Mauder/ZDNET

The robot has a relatively simple setup process. You’ll need to find a suitable place against a wall near an outlet, get the Clean Base plugged in, and align the robot with the charging port. Pair the device with the iRobot companion app and you’re all set.

Also: 6 things to know about robot vacuums before you buy one

Next, the mapping run. With the app up to date, it took just a few minutes for the robot to figure out my home’s layout. The robot stuck to the walls and edges of the furniture, used AI to try and predict where the rooms were divided, and then labeled them accordingly. I only need to make a few tweaks to the mapping, so it was generally reliable.

How does the Combo j9+ perform?

I decided to test the Roomba Combo j9+ just hours before hosting my family for Thanksgiving, because who doesn’t live life on the edge? One thing I immediately noticed was how much longer the robot took to clean my home than my previous j7+ model. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Combo j9+ cleans in smaller, shorter passes as opposed to the longer passes of the j7+. In ways, this lets the robot clean at a finer pace. To give you an idea of how much longer it took, the j7+ can clean my living room in 14 minutes while the Combo j9+ takes 30 minutes. This isn’t a huge deal when you’re just cleaning a room or two, but it definitely made a difference when I was cleaning my entire home. 

Also: The best robot vacuums: Expert-tested and reviewed

The biggest difference and most notable improvements come with the Clean Base. The Roomba Combo j9+ can now automatically refill its clean water tank, fixing my biggest gripe with its predecessor. I no longer have to sit and babysit the machine. Instead, the Combo j9+ is self-sufficient. The water tank itself feels sturdy and holds a considerable amount of cleaning solution before it needs to be refilled.

Roomba Combo j9+ up close

Beth Mauder/ZDNET

The Clean Base also allows the Roomba j9+ to self-empty as needed, storing the dirt and debris in the disposable bag for around 60 days. Your mileage will vary with this feature; my home with pets and kids will certainly be dirtier than someone’s home of two. 

Just as impressive is how quiet the Combo j9+ self-empties. It is noticeably quieter than the j7; I can run the Combo j9+ while my little one sleeps, without worrying that the suction from the auto-emptying will wake him up. I love this feature so much. I can reset my main living spaces in the evening while getting my vacuuming and mopping done. It’s a very attractive feature and a must-have for parents with little ones.

Also: A new robot vacuum that connects to your home’s water supply is now on Kickstarter

For what it’s worth, the vacuuming capability has never been an issue for a Roomba device. My home is frequently littered with dirt, debris, pet hair, food crumbs, and more. I’ve been impressed time and time again with the suction capability of the devices — and that’s no different with this new model. The pet hair is cleaned up, my rugs and carpets have pretty vacuuming lines, and the space under my dining room table is crumb-free. 

My only nitpick so far with the j9+ is how it handles liquid messes. For instance, I dropped the whisk I was using one morning to make pancakes, sending batter flying around my kitchen. When I called for the Roomba Combo j9+, the robot had a hard time getting the bits of batter off the floor. The mess was minor enough that I was able to wipe the remaining residue with a wet paper towel, but I was disappointed I had to manually intervene.

ZDNET’s buying advice

My first impression of the Roomba Combo j9+ has been positive, and I’m impressed with the upgrades iRobot has made from the previous model. If you need a robot vacuum that you can reliably run while you’re away from home, the Combo j9+ will most likely be one of your best options. 

The vacuuming performance is stellar, while the mopping isn’t quite as efficient as some of its competitors, especially those with dual oscillating mop heads. I’ll have to see how the mop handles other messes over time, so stay tuned for the updated review.


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