iRobot Roomba i3 Review

The Roomba i3 is a powerful, smart and durable robot vacuum. Its dual rubber brushes excel at collecting pet hair and it has an optional self-emptying bin. We think this is one of the best-value robot vacuums on the market in 2021.

iRobot Roomba i3

Excellent for pet hair

The Roomba i3 is smart, powerful vacuum. It has no issues picking up hair and does an excellent job on hard flooring as well as carpet. There are a few software features missing that would make this a must-buy.

iRobot Roomba i3+

A self-emptying version

The Roomba i3+ contains a self-emptying dock that collects dirt and debris from the Roomba. This feature was only available for $1,000 robot vacuums. It allows the i3 to run many more cycles without emptying. If you have room, We think it's a worthwhile upgrade.

Why trust me?

I’ve owned and kept notes on robot vacuums since 2015. In that time period I’ve been through several vacuums, two apartments and more than 1,000 cleaning cycles. I’ve read hundreds of reviews on robot vacuums and even written a few myself. I am keenly aware of what these robots are capable of and what you can expect to get at various price points.

Also, Product Notes reviews are not paid or sponsored. The items reviewed here are purchased for my own use or as part of a test—as I did in search of the best Nespresso machine. Once the test complete the products are given away or sold. We currently do not have a way to donate. If you’d like to support Product Notes, you may make a purchase through one of the links on this site.

Do you need a robot vacuum?

Robot vacuums are one of the few household appliances that almost everyone can benefit from. Even if something like the Roomba i3 is out of your price range, there are excellent vacuums available for half the price.

No. Even the $1,000 robot vacuums will fall short of budget stick and upright vacuums. Because of their size, they simply don’t have the power to compete.

All you have to do is press start. A robot vacuum will clean your entire floor with almost no time or effort. It doesn’t get tired or distracted or bored. It doesn’t have to weigh spending time with friends or going to a movie versus cleaning.

You press a button and your floor is clean. There is nothing more valuable than your time. That is why robot vacuums are one of the few household appliances I recommend to everyone.

Analysis

What’s important when evaluating robot vacuums? Below we will cover performance, build quality, automation and more.

Aesthetics

The Roomba i3 is easily the most attractive robot vacuum on the market. Honestly, I prefer it to the the thousand-dollar S9 can compete.

There is a few things that iRobot got right here. Other than the sensors and iRobot logo, the outside is mostly a matte finish. This will make dust and fingerprints less obvious than glossy finishes. It’s the right choice for a robot vacuum.

What’s most striking about the i3 is this fabric texture on top of the vacuum. I love it.

The texture reminds me a bit of the fabric cases Google produced for Pixel smartphones. Maybe that’s where iRobot’s designers got the inspiration? It doesn’t feel the same to the touch though—it feels like a plastic. Either way, it will be interesting to see how this texture ages.

In a sea of appliances that look like hockey pucks, the Roomba i3 stands out with subtle detail.

Performance

The Roomba i3 does an excellent job both on hard flooring and rugs. iRobot doesn’t disclose exact suction power other than you can expect about 10x performance over 600 series Roombas. From what I can tell, this is the exact same cleaning system found in the more expensive i7 series.

The cleaning system is interesting. The brush rolls are rubber and doesn’t really have any bristles on them. I’ve never seen a vacuum quite like it.

The vacuum handles hair remarkably well. Previous robot vacuums I’ve owned required me to cut hair out of the brush roller on a weekly basis. I don’t really see hair collecting in the same manner with the i3. I see some hairs collecting around the edge brushes and caster wheel, but not on the brush rollers.

While our dog doesn’t shed a ton, but I can see why the i3 is highly rated by The Wirecutter others for its ability to handle pet hair.

Automation

The Roomba i3 cleans in rows, which is similar to the last few Roomba models. However, the navigation is a bit different than the 900 series and i7. While they rely on built-in camera systems to guide the robot and avoid obstacles, the i3 uses a combination of traditional sensors and a gyroscope. This does mean the robot can operate in complete darkness.

Should the robot run out of battery before it is finished cleaning, it will return to the dock to recharge. Once charged it will pick up where it left off.

Interestingly, it will remember what it has cleaned when it plans to recharge and resume cleaning, but it starts from a blank slate for each cleaning job. This tells me there are a lot of potential software features that are being left from this vacuum—perhaps because they would eat into the sale of more expensive vacuums. More about this in the potential issues section.

App and Controls

The iRobot Home app will be the primary way most users interact with the Roomba i3. While I tend to be skeptical about the quality of software hardware companies produce, the app is refreshingly polished and pleasant to use.

From the app you can remotely start, pause and send the Roomba home. You can tell it to run for a set period of time or create a schedule. Personally, schedules don’t do much for me—especially now that I’m working from home because of coronavirus. I’d rather just tell it when to clean on my own.

After the robot finishes cleaning a the iRobot app generates a report with a map showing where it cleaned and details such as how long it spent cleaning. The map doesn’t really change between cleanings, but I’m always interested in it.

The map generates some questions for me though—I do feel like iRobot has left some functionality out of this model. Things like keep out zones and having it clean specific rooms seems entirely feasible, but I don’t know why they have been excluded. I cover this a bit more in the Potential issues section below.

While you get additional functionality, you do not need the iRobot app to use the Roomba i3.

The robot has 3 buttons on the top of the robot. The large button will start and pause cleaning. The home button will send the Roomba back to the dock and the circle is a button telling the Roomba to spot clean the floor.

Even if you decide you don’t want to fiddle with the app, I think you will still get value out of this vacuum.

Dust bin

The vacuum’s dust bin on the i3 feels adequate, if a bit small.

I’ve been emptying it every 2 or 3 cycles, which is the same as I’ve done with most of my robot vacuums. That process seems to work fine. I will say that it is a bit more of a pain to empty than the Eufy 11S. The door is a bit smaller and the way it opens makes it awkward to bang on the inside of a trashcan.

Why the smaller bin though? I think iRobot’s rationale here is that most are buying the i3+, which comes with the Clean Base docking station. If you do purchase the i3+, you can expect the Clean Base to hold about 30 bins of dust, dirt and hair.

Battery life

The Roomba i3’s battery life is decent, but not spectacular. iRobot says that it will last about 75-minutes, which is in line with what I’ve experienced.

I will say that battery life is less of an issue with the i series Roombas as they will return to their dock to recharge and then continue cleaning.

Noise level

Vacuum noise levels can be different depending on the surface. My readings show the i3 at about 65dB on hard surfaces and 60dB on rugs and carpet.

It’s not as quiet as the 55dB Eufy 11S, but it does feel like a slight improvement over the 600 series Roombas.

Maintenance and Repair

Maintenance on the Roomba i3 is fairly standard. You’ll need to replace the air filters every few months. It is also recommended that you replace the brush roll and edge brush each year.

The good news is that replacements from iRobot are easy to find. iRobot even makes a kit containing the most common replaceable parts.

Roombas are known for their durability, but if they do fail the vacuum can be repaired fairly easy. Parts such as wheels, the battery, dust bin or cleaning head can all be replaced. Most can be repaired at home without the help of a specialist.

Potential issues

My main issue with the Roomba i3 is that there are clearly a ton of useful software features that have intentionally been left off. I am hoping that iRobot is just working the bugs out of these enhancements, and is not leaving them out to upsell people on the i7.

If I were a product manager at iRobot, I’d start with a map of the last cleaning.

The i3 does not remember this map unless it needs to recharge and finish the job. Keeping it between charges will allow it to get an idea of the floor’s layout.

From there, you could implement keep out zones as well as telling it to clean a specific area or room.

I understand that object avoidance is probably tougher without a camera. I also realize that for these features to reliably work, the Roomba probably has to start from the dock. Once again, the i3 is fairly new. It seems like these features are doable on the i3—I hope iRobot decides to implement them.

Other than that, the dust bin is a bit burdensome to empty. That’s not that big of a deal though and it isn’t an issue at all if you bought the i3+, which comes with the Clean Base.

Who should purchase the Roomba i3 (or i3+)?

You have pets or carpet. The Roomba i3 is better at dealing with hair than any robot vacuum I’ve seen. Not only is it good at collecting hair, but it doesn’t get caught in the brush rollers as it does with other vacuums.

You’re looking for decent cleaning at a good price. You’re getting the cleaning system of a much more expensive robot vacuum—one that is likely to last for several years.

You hate emptying the dust bin. The Roomba i3+ is the most affordable auto-emptying vacuum on the market.

iRobot Roomba i3

Excellent for pet hair

The Roomba i3 is smart, powerful vacuum. It has no issues picking up hair and does an excellent job on hard flooring as well as carpet. There are a few software features missing that would make this a must-buy.

iRobot Roomba i3+

A self-emptying version

The Roomba i3+ contains a self-emptying dock that collects dirt and debris from the Roomba. This feature was only available for $1,000 robot vacuums. It allows the i3 to run many more cycles without emptying. If you have room, We think it's a worthwhile upgrade.

Long-term notes

I purchased the iRobot Roomba i3 in January 2021. Since a products flaws can appear after months or years of use, I publish my long-term notes here. That way you can determine how buy-it-for-life the product is.

  • May 20, 2021 Posted a couple of pictures showing what the vacuum looks like after a run. It’s still amazing to me how little hair ends up in the brushrollers.

  • April 29, 2021 It took longer that I had hoped, but the solution was to replace the cleaning head module. iRobot support sent it to me for free. I’m no longer getting the error.

  • April 18, 2021 The last few times I’ve run the Roomba, I’ve received error code 30. I’ve done everything in the support article and am still getting the error. If this doesn’t resolve itself soon, I’ll need to reach out to iRobot.

  • March 12, 2021 There are a few things I’ve noticed about the Roomba i3 now that I’ve been using it for a few months. The vacuum doesn’t quite finish the entire place in one sweep. It goes back to the dock to recharge for like 30 minutes then it takes off again. The first time that happened, it startled us. Now it’s something we expect. The good news is that we haven’t had to cut hairs out of the brush rollers—it’s kind of amazing since we run it almost every day.

  • February 5, 2021 I’ve owned the vacuum for about a month and have been pleased with it. Amazingly the vacuum still has had no hair caught in the brushroll. I had assumed it would need a little cleaning, but it looks brand new. Also, the iRobot app sends a push notification when the Roomba’s dust bin needs to be emptied—it’s nice not having to keep track of that my self.

  • January 10, 2021 Purchased the Roomba i3 to replace my Eufy 11S.

References

  • How Does my Robot Navigate?, iRobot Support, Retrieved 1 18/2021

  • Irobot Roomba i3+ Robot Vacuum Review - Vacuum Wars, Vacuum Wars, Published 10/9/2020

  • How Loud is a Roomba?, Life on AI, Retrieved 1/9/2021

  • Liam McCabe, The Best Robot Vacuum, The Wirecutter, Last updated 12/1/2020

2 Likes

Thought I would post some additional pictures post-vacuuming.

As you can see there is a ton of hair in the dust bin.

However, when you look at the rollers there is no hair anywhere.

Some hairs wrap around the auxiliary brush and the roller wheel. I still clean those every month or two.

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