Some reviewers have touted this as the best Roomba, but I’m not taking their word for it, so I purchased one to test.
I’ve put this robot through a grueling series of experiments to check how good it is at different aspects like navigation, cleaning performance, obstacle avoidance, and more.
Best Roomba at Obstacle Avoidance
Roomba J7+ Review
iRobot upgraded a few things in the J7+. The most obvious is the front-facing camera with an LED light, helping it detect and avoid obstacles. It is also the primary navigation sensor, unlocking features like map saving, keep-out zones, and clean zones. Strangely, iRobot reverted to the round-frame of the I-Series, which is surprising for me since the S9+ is the best Roomba at vacuuming debris. So basically, the J7+ is similar to the I6/I7 variants but with a front-facing camera and a more compact, clean base station.
*If you click this link and purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
- Excellent obstacle avoidance with the front-facing camera
- Above-average at deep cleaning carpet
- Self-emptying feature
- A more compact clean base station (versus the other Roomba auto-empty options)
- iRobot app can save up to ten map levels
- Thorough navigation
- Fast-spinning side brush will scatter large debris piles
- Very expensive
- It May not function as well in dark areas (due to the camera sensor)
Introduction to the Roomba J7+
After the Roomba S9+, iRobot launches their latest robot vacuum – the J7 with some intriguing upgrades focused on improving user experience.
The most obvious of these enhancements is the front-facing camera that iRobot says will avoid obstacles well.
iRobot is confident that they even have a P.O.O.P. guarantee (Pet Owner Official Promise). It basically says that the J7 will avoid any dry pet feces or replace the robot for free.
But the J7 can do more than avoid poop. According to Spectrum.ieee.org, this robot can avoid a myriad of obstacles, from headphones to wires, more than 170 objects in their database, and counting.
These obstacles vary, and I’ve tested many of them to see how effective it is at evading them.
One of the are wires, which most robot vacuums struggle with, even those with front-facing cameras.
Smaller Clean Base Station
Another change with the J7 is the more compact base station. iRobot chopped off a good chunk from its vertical footprint, and it doesn’t occupy as much standing space.
The design remains the same: a ramp-style dock with one port.
One advantage of the newer design is it has space for storing one extra bag.
iRobot didn’t retain the D-shape frame they introduced with the S9 but instead reverted to the round frame found in previous models.
It’s surprising (for me) because the S9 was such an excellent cleaner because of the square front.
The J7 returns to the round frame found in variants like the I3 and I6, minus the top-mounted camera.
Unlike the older options with three buttons, the J7 has a single-button interface.
Consumers will have to download the iRobot app to access all the features.
No IR sensor
Another thing I noticed is the absence of an IR sensor. It’s a tiny notch in front of other Roomba variants it uses to determine the location of the base station.
Instead, the J7 uses its camera to look for a pattern on the clean base station.
It flashes the LED light as it approaches the dock and utilizes it to align itself on the ramp properly.
Not having the notch enables the J7 to traverse under low clearance furniture like this sofa.
Another subtle upgrade is the beveled bumper, improving how the J7 navigates around overhangs.
iRobot says it prevents the robot from getting stuck under stuff. Older variants also have this feature, but it’s more pronounced in the J7.
The most significant upgrade with the 7 is the front-facing camera. It’s the first Roomba with this feature, enabling it to avoid obstacles other Roomba variants can’t.
However, it’s not an industry-first as other brands like Roborock, Dreame, and Ecovacs have their own obstacle-avoiding robots.
But what’s unique with the J7 is its vast database of obstacles stored (over 170+), plus the LED light below, helping with visibility.
The front camera sensor doubles as its primary navigation sensor, so there’s no camera on top.
As I’ve said earlier, the J7 reverted to the old round-frame shape, so it has the same layout as older I-series variants.
Only the S9 (rightmost) has a D-shape frame of all Roomba options.
Utilizing a round frame means it can only house a narrow brush roll, thus compromising efficiency.
The J7 utilizes the same counter-rotating extractors (based on the eye test) as the I3 and I7 since it has the same round frame.
These rollers offer the best agitation of all the robot vacuums I’ve tested, picking up an above-average score in deep cleaning tests. And that’s with the below-average airflow.
Again, the downside is the lack of efficiency with it being narrow.
Single Side Brush
With the round frame, iRobot utilizes a three-pronged side brush for the J7, similar to earlier models like the E5, I3, and I6.
One issue with the J7 side brush is its fast-spinning nature, which scatters debris.
It’s not a big deal for daily cleaning tasks on dust, but it can be for large quantities of pet litter.
The J7+ utilizes the same dustbin as the Roomba I-series with a 400 ml capacity, which isn’t a lot.
But dirt volume isn’t a big deal for consumers who’ll purchase the plus variant since it has a clean base station with the self-emptying feature.
It has a high-efficiency filter, helping keep allergens inside the container.
The non-plus variant will have a slightly larger dustbin (500ml), but you’ll have to empty it manually.
I like the location of the dustbin behind the robot, giving consumers easy access.
This variant is compatible with the iRobot Home app, and we’ll look at the features.
The J7 will have similar features to other smart Roomba options like the I3 and I6, which isn’t surprising since these share many features.
No Live Map
Unfortunately, the J7 does not have a live map. iRobot has not implemented this feature, so there’s no way of determining the robot’s location during the cleaning cycle.
iRobot should consider adding this feature to improve the user experience.
The Roomba app has a mapping run for map creation. Once toggled, the robot goes into exploratory mode, with the motor turned off to maximize range.
A new map is created once the run is finished, but it may take several runs to complete the map.
You’ll have to open all doors and remove obstacles during the run since the camera sensor will be off during the mapping run.
The iRobot app can save up to ten map levels. It’s the most of all the robot vacuums I’ve tested and makes it a viable option in multi-level homes.
Each level is customizable. Users can add partitions, custom names to each room, and more.
iRobot offers a containment feature they call no-go zones. These are square or rectangular boxes that act as off-limit areas.
You can use it to block specific zones such as your child’s play area without using a physical barrier.
It’s a time-saving feature for busy folks.
Unfortunately, the iRobot app has no invisible wall feature, so consumers cannot block diagonal areas.
Another helpful iRobot feature is the clean zone. It’s the opposite of no-go zones, where the boxes you see are designated clean areas.
The cool thing about this feature is you can save these areas (and use custom names) for easy access.
For instance, you can draw a box in a high-traffic area and label it as such. This feature is usable with the scheduling feature, so it’s possible to schedule multiple runs per day if needed.
The iRobot app enables users to control specific aspects like obstacle detection and cleaning passes.
I like the cleaning passes tab since it offers several options on how thorough you’d want it to clean an area.
This tab shows consumers the previous cleaning cycles and the corresponding maps. It functions like an odometer in your vehicle, showing the robot’s mileage.
My favorite feature with the J7 app is the obstacle areas under the history tab.
It complements the obstacle avoidance feature and allows users to mark each object detected as a “permanent” or “temporary” obstacle, then create corresponding keep-out zones.
I like it because it automates the process. For example, you have an area with lots of wires, once the robot tags it, you can then mark it as a permanent obstacle, and the app creates a keep-out zone on the specific area.
The J7 plus utilizes iRobot’s “Imprint Smart Mapping,” which is (currently) their top-tier technology.
Imprint means it can save maps, up to ten of them.
Since the J7 relies on a camera sensor, it needs a secondary sensor underneath to help it determine the perimeter.
It utilizes an optical sensor similar to the one in the I3.
This also acts as a fail-safe feature, enabling it to traverse even in low light conditions, but it won’t be as efficient.
VSLAM (or Visual SLAM) controls everything under the hood, and it’s the same technology used for self-driving cars.
It’s why the J7 moves in straight lines. But to fully unleash it, consumers will have to run it a few times to create maps and save them.
The iRobot app has a mapping run feature where the robot goes in exploratory mode with the motor shut off, helping it maximize range and prioritize map creation.
It may take a few runs to complete the map creation process, but your patience will pay off once it’s done.
The J7 has a crisscross pattern for its multi-pass option, and the app offers several options [check the app features for more info].
It’s not as efficient as a LIDAR robot, but it’s decent.
Another experiment I do with robot vacuums is the coverage test, where I scatter quaker oats inside a small room to see how much of it the robot picks up.
The J7+ was decent, having similar results as other round-shaped robots like the I6 and S9, which isn’t surprising since it traverses in a similar pattern.
It isn’t as good as Roomba’s high airflow options like the S9 and 980.
How much power does the Roomba J7 have?
iRobot doesn’t disclose power figures with their robot vacuums, so I use an anemometer to check airflow to get a baseline on how much power each variant possesses.
Unfortunately, the J7+ only has 7.27 CFM, the same level as the Roomba 675 (8.37 CFM), 695, E5 (6.98 CFM), I3 (7.27 CFM), and I6 (8.2 CFM).
But the low airflow doesn’t affect the J7 as much as other robot vacuums.
In most experiments I did, the counter-rotating extractors mitigate the low airflow and help it pick up at a decent rate.
I tested the J7 on various debris types from quaker oats, quinoa, pet litter, coffee grounds, sand, and pet hair to see how much it picks up.
The overall results were positive.
- Overall: 94.45%
- Hard floor: 96.65%
- Sand on hard floor: 98.46%
- Carpet: 96.92%
- Deep Cleaning: 85.75%
These results are close to the Roomba I3 (92.39%) and I6 (93.97%).
You could say it’s the best o the three since it has picked up the highest percentage, but the difference is minimal.
But the issue isn’t just the low airflow, but the fast-spinning side brush that scattered debris, which is another factor.
Hard floor results
- Quaker oats: 98%
- Coffee Grounds: 100%
- Quinoa: 97.6%
- Pet Litter: 91%
The results aren’t as good as the Roomba S9 and 980, which isn’t surprising because of the low airflow.
It struggles most with heavy pet litter since the side brush dispersed a good chunk.
Also, the low airflow is another factor why it struggled with pet litter.
Sand on hard floor
One surprise with my experiments is how well the J7 picked up sand. It got an average of 98.46%, better than the I3 (95.5%) and I6 (98.26%).
Again, the low airflow limits its pick-up and is why it lags behind the S9 in this category.
The Roomba J7 was excellent at cleaning edges despite its round frame.
You can see in the photos above how much I scattered, and it picked up most of it.
It left crumbs on the edges, but the results were still great.
However, one downside with the low airflow is its inability to pick up debris in the quarter-inch crevice.
Another experiment I did with the J7 is the hair wrap test, where I tested it on five and seven-inch hair strands.
- 5-inch strands: 49%
- 7-inch strands: 30%
Unfortunately, it didn’t do well on both, picking up less than 50%, with nearly everything wrapping on the axles.
Here’s a photo after the five-inch test.
And here’s a close-up of the axles.
Expect the same results for daily cleaning tasks on hair. The roller’s bristle-less design helps it avoid tangles on middle portions, but expect hair (pet or human) to accumulate on the axles.
Here’s a photo after the seven-inch test.
The silver lining here is it’s easier to clean hair on the axles than on the roller: just pull it out.
Next, we’ll look at how well the Roomba J7 picked up debris on carpet, where I tested it on the same set of debris.
- Quaker oats: 96.6%
- Coffee Grounds: 95.2%
- Quinoa: 98.8%
- Pet Litter: 98.8%
The results on carpet are slightly worst on hard floors, except on pet litter, where the scattering issue is less pronounced.
You could see the negative effect of the low airflow in these experiments.
- Quaker oats: 94.4%
- Coffee Grounds: 95%
- Quinoa: 99.4%
- Pet Litter: 97.2%
The results on mid pile mirror the low pile scores as the J7 picked up in the high 90s. But it isn’t as good as the S9 because of the sub-par airflow.
However, don’t expect the J7 to pick up as well as the S9 on surface and embedded dirt.
The last test I’ll share is the deep cleaning experiment where I rubbed 100 grams of sand on mid-pile carpet.
I did this test two times to get a more accurate result, and the J7 picked up a decent average of 85.75%, better than the I3 (84.7%) and I6 (82.5%).
Nonetheless, it’s a notch below the S9 (93%) and the 980 (91.9%).
How noisy is the Roomba J7+?
I use a sound meter from a few feet away to measure noise, and the J7 isn’t as noisy as I’d think it’d be at 63 decibels.
However, the clean base station is loud when it engages, measuring around 84.2 decibels on the sound meter.
|Battery||2410 mAh Li-ion|
|Run time||Up to 90 mins.|
|Dirt Capacity (dry)||400 ml.|
|Auto empty capacity||2.4 liters|
|Recharge and Resume||Yes|
|Extra Filter||Yes (1)|
Where can I buy the Roomba J7?
The Roomba J7 is available in online stores like Amazon. Check the link below for the latest pricing information.
Disclaimer: I will earn a commission if you purchase from the link above, but at no extra cost to you, so it’s a win-win for us!
Is the Roomba J7 Worth It?
One factor that may hold the J7 back is the high cost, so we’ll look at the reasons you should consider it.
The J7’s obstacle avoidance capabilities are impressive. It’s (perhaps) the best I’ve tested at avoiding wires, something which most other brands struggle with, even those with front-facing cameras.
The algorithm is also smart enough to avoid pet feces. I’ve tried it with large and small feces, and it avoided them well.
However, cleaning performance isn’t as good as the Roomba S9 since it lacks airflow, so taper your expectations in this department.
Reasons to Purchase the Roomba J7
- Outstanding Obstacle Avoidance: The front-facing camera and laser help it avoid obstacles, one of the best in the industry.
- Auto-empty option: You can purchase the J7 with the clean base station that empties the dustbin for you.
- Decent carpet performance: This robot doesn’t have high airflow, but its pick-up on carpet is excellent, especially embedded debris.
- Intelligent features: iRobot added some innovative features they call “Genius 3.0,” making this robot even more intelligent.
The Verdict: Best-In-Class Obstacle Avoidance
I had my doubts about the Roomba J7 obstacle avoidance system, but after testing it extensively, I was impressed.
Not only did it avoid pet feces, but also wires without getting tangled. It’s intelligent enough not to go too close, so there’s little risk of the side brush touching poop or wires.
The high cost may be a sticking point, but if obstacle avoidance is a high priority, then strongly consider the Roomba J7.
Best Obstacle Avoiding Robot Vacuum
- Navigation – 95%
- Surface Cleaning – 97.34%
- Deep Cleaning – 85.75%
- Quality – 94%
- Design – 95%
- Value – 93%
The Roomba J7 has the best obstacle detecting feature among the obstacle-avoiding robots I’ve tested. I’m not sure how iRobot pulled it off, but it’s intelligent enough to avoid objects like wires and pet feces, completely. The technology works and if this is a high priority, then consider purchasing the Roomba J7+.