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iRobot Roomba Combo J7 Plus vs. Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra: Which Robot Vac and Mop Is Best?

Thinking of spending big on a high-end robotic floor cleaner that vacs, mops and empties its own bin? Here's how two of your top options compare.

Robot vacuums have made some mighty impressive strides over the last decade or so. Shop around, and you'll find a wide variety of models that all offer app and voice controls, self-emptying bins, built-in mopping functionality and more.

If you want an all-of-the-above kind of cleaner for your home, then you'll need to be willing to spend up, because all-inclusive automated floor cleaners don't come cheap. Two of your top options are the iRobot Roomba Combo J7 Plus and the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra. Holiday sale pricing aside, both typically cost well over $1,000 at retail, and they're each about as fully equipped as robo vacs currently get, with bins that automatically empty into the dock after each run, optional mopping capabilities for homes with hardwood or tile flooring, and smart home integrations with Alexa, Google and more. Both brands are also stronger-than-average performers in our exhaustive cleaning tests.

So which one is the better splurge? It's a good question, and there's a lot to consider, so let's get right to it, starting with the key specs that set these two floor bots apart. (You can also check out our picks for the best robot vacuums overall.) 

Alison DeNisco Rayome/CNET

A modern-day flagship for iRobot, the $1,100 Roomba Combo J7 Plus takes the standard, self-emptying Roomba J7 Plus and adds in mopping capabilities. iRobot turbocharged that pitch by making it a motorized mop that the robot can lift over its head and out of the way whenever it detects that it's running on carpets, which helps keep it from spreading dirty water across them. It can use its camera-based navigation smarts to prevent other messes, too -- most notably, by using object recognition to spot pet messes and steer well clear of them.

Like other full-featured Roombas, the Roomba Combo J7 Plus offers app controls via Android or iOS to let you edit the robot's map of your home or schedule automated cleaning runs right from your phone. It supports Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri Shortcuts, too, which lets you start a cleaning run on the fly with a quick command to your voice assistant of choice. 

About the only thing it's missing is a water tank in the dock to fill the robot's mopping reservoir. Instead, you'll need to replenish that reservoir yourself before each mopping run. You still get a self-emptying bin, though, so you'll be able to go up to two months without needing to swap a fresh vacuum bag into the dock.

Mode of navigation: RGB camera
Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi
App controls: Android and iOS
Platform compatibility: Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri Shortcuts, IFTTT
Average runtime, single room: 15 minutes
Self-emptying bin: Yes
Mopping functionality: Yes
Self-filling water tank: No
Self-cleaning: No
Carpet detection: Yes
Auto-lifting mopping pad: Yes, lifts above cleaner
Retail price: $1,100

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Roborock

With two water tanks in the dock -- one for clean water, one for dirty -- the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra bills itself as a high-end robot vacuum with high-end automated mopping capabilities added in. Along with holding up to seven weeks' worth of vacuumed dust and debris before needing a bag change, the S7 MaxV Ultra can handle multiple mopping runs before needing a refill, too. The robot and dock will even automatically clean themselves after mopping.

You'll enjoy all of the same connectivity perks that Roomba offers, with a well-featured app for Android and iOS users as well as voice compatibility with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri Shortcuts. On top of that, Roborock promises extra-thorough navigation smarts, thanks to a combo approach that uses both RGB cameras and lidar to map your home's floor and find its way around.

However, you won't get a fully motorized mopping pad quite like the Roomba's here. Instead, the mopping pad lifts up into the body of the cleaner when carpets are detected below -- but only just slightly, lifting 4mm or so. That's enough to keep thin, low-pile carpets mostly dry, but it might dampen more plush, midpile carpets.

Mode of navigation: RGB camera, lidar
Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi
App controls: Android and iOS
Platform compatibility: Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri Shortcuts
Average runtime, single room: 23 minutes
Self-emptying bin: Yes
Mopping functionality: Yes
Self-filling water tank: Yes
Self-cleaning: Yes
Carpet detection: Yes
Auto-lifting mopping pad: Yes, lifts 4mm
Retail price: $1,400

$1,400 at Amazon
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That's just the overview, but I wanted to get a better, more practical sense of how these two cleaners stacked up. So, after our team put them through rigorous cleaning tests at our lab, I took each one home for a few days to see how they compared in a real-world environment. Here are my takeaways.

An iRobot Roomba Combo J7 Plus mops a hardwood floor. When it reaches carpeted areas, the cleaner will lift the mopping pad up over top of itself to keep them dry.

The Roomba J7 Plus features a motorized mopping pad. When the cleaner detects carpets, it'll lift the pad up over the top of the robot to keep them dry.

iRobot

Design: Key mopping mode differences

Let's start by zooming out and taking a look at how these robots are put together and what that means for the day-to-day experience of using one to keep your floors clean. Turns out, there are some key design differences that separate them.

The most obvious among these design differences is that the Roomba Combo J7 Plus features a motorized mop pad that lifts up out of the way whenever the cleaner detects carpeted floor. This allows it to clean your whole home at once, mopping where it makes sense, then lifting the mop and vacuuming whenever it encounters a carpeted area. The Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra is able to detect carpets and lift its mopping pad out of the way, too, but the pad stays beneath the robot and only lifts up enough to dodge low-pile carpets no more than 4mm tall. That's some pretty tight clearance. 

Sure enough, when the Roborock finished mopping my kitchen and navigated to the low-pile area rug in my living room, I felt some dampness on the fabric afterwards. It was never wet enough to cause a mess or leave anything soaked, but still, spreading even a small amount of dirty mopping water over your carpets seems less than ideal.

Three reservoirs sit atop the dock for the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra robot floor cleaner: a tank for fresh water or cleaning solution, a tank for dirty water or cleaning solution, and a compartment for the vacuum bags into which the cleaner will automatically empty the dirt and debris it picks up.

Along with a compartment for the vacuum bags that hold dirt and debris, the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra's dock includes two reservoirs for clean and dirty cleaning liquid. Each is capable of handling multiple mopping runs before needing to be emptied or refilled.

Ry Crist/CNET

The good news is that each cleaner does a great job of mapping your home and then letting you identify different rooms, areas and zones in the app. Once you've done that, you can tell the cleaner where, specifically, you want it to clean, and you can designate no-go-zones for it to avoid, as well. So, if you're telling the Roborock to clean your tiled kitchen, you can tell it to be sure and mop. If you're telling it to clean your carpeted living room, you can tell it to keep the mop dry and focus on vacuuming instead. But again, if you're telling it to clean everywhere and you want it to mop your floors, your carpets might end up slightly damp. That's not an issue with the Roomba, which did an excellent job of recognizing the carpets in my home and lifting the wet mopping pad out of the way accordingly.

That's not the only design difference when it comes to mopping. The two cleaners also take different approaches to water management. With the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra, you'll find two sizable water reservoirs nestled into the dock, one for clean water and another for dirty. When you tell the cleaner to mop, the robot will fill its internal tank with some of that clean water (or cleaning solution -- Roborock recommends using its own, proprietary cleaner, but I went ahead and used a mix of water and Orange Glo, and nothing caught fire or anything). When the cleaner is done, it'll empty the dirty water into the appropriate reservoir and even run a quick self-cleaning cycle. Each reservoir is sizable enough to handle multiple mopping runs before needing to be emptied or refilled, so you won't need to change them out every time, which is great.

The iRobot Roomba Combo J7 Plus includes a small-sized water reservoir in the robot itself, with a little blue flap that you'll lift out of the way to fill the thing with cleaning solution before each mopping run.

The iRobot Roomba Combo J7 Plus doesn't have a water reservoir in the dock to draw cleaning fluid from like the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra does. Instead, you'll need to fill a smaller reservoir in the robot itself before each mopping run.

Ry Crist/CNET

Meanwhile, the Roomba Combo J7 Plus doesn't include water reservoirs in the dock at all. Instead, there's a reservoir built into the robot itself, and it really only holds enough liquid for a single run. That means that you'll need to refill it before each new mopping run, which undercuts some of the vacuum's self-emptying, self-sufficient appeal.

If you're choosing between the two, I think it comes down to your home's design and the way you want to put these bots to use. I could imagine some homes in need of frequent mopping runs where the Roborock's water reservoirs would be the bigger advantage. In other homes, particularly homes that are more carpeted, the Roomba's motorized mopping pad might be the more compelling selling point. Overall, the Roomba's approach seems like the better marriage between automated vacuuming and automated mopping, so I'll give iRobot a slight edge here.

Winner: iRobot Roomba Combo J7 Plus

The Roomba Combo J7 Plus finished fifth out of 15 robot vacuums in terms of cleaning power on low-pile carpets. It finished in second place on plusher midpile carpets. The Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra finished fourth and seventh, respectively, so the two are relatively close in terms of how well they clean carpets.

Ry Crist/CNET

Cleaning power: Well-rounded performance from Roomba

As expensive, high-end options in the robot vacuum category, you should expect both of these cleaners to perform their core cleaning functions well. Sure enough, both of them finished as above average performers in our controlled vacuuming tests -- especially the Roomba.

Specifically, we test robot vacuums on three different types of flooring: hardwood floors, low-pile carpet and midpile carpet. For each one, we run multiple rounds of pickup tests: one set where the robots are vacuuming up sand to see how good they are at gathering tiny, dust-size particles, and another set using black rice to see how well they pick up larger debris.

The iRobot Roomba Combo J7 Plus is our top-tested robot vacuum on hardwood floors, picking up an average of 98% of small debris and a perfect 100% of sand in our controlled cleaning tests. It's one of only two cleaners we've tested over the past two years with a top-five finish on all three surfaces we test, the other being the Neato D10.

Ry Crist/CNET

All told, among all 15 of the robot vacuums we've tested in our lab over the past two years, the Roomba Combo J7 Plus finished with the top overall pickup percentages on hardwood floors, sucking up an excellent average of 98% of the rice and a perfect average of 100% of the sand in our tests. Meanwhile, the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra finished in 14th place, picking up 80% of the rice and 76% of the sand, on average.

Roborock did better on carpets, with the S7 MaxV Ultra finishing fourth out of 15 in our low-pile tests and seventh out of 15 in our midpile tests. Meanwhile, the Roomba Combo J7 Plus did well, too, finishing in fifth place on low-pile carpets and second overall on plusher midpile carpets. As I said, both are better-than-average bots, but the versatile Roomba Combo J7 Plus is the slightly better picker-upper, overall. In fact, it's one of only two robot vacuums we've tested to finish top five on all three surfaces (the other being the Neato D10).

Winner: iRobot Roomba Combo J7 Plus

These long exposure shots use glow sticks to track the path of each robot vacuum as it cleans. The Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra delivered thorough coverage and sharp, consistent navigation on our test floor across these three runs.

Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET

Navigational intelligence: Roomba vision versus Roborock consistency

Robot vacuums typically use some combination of laser- and camera-based navigation smarts to find their way throughout your home and avoid obstacles. To test out how well they do that, we set up a test floor in our lab with some mock furniture to navigate around, and then we attach glow sticks on top of the robot directly above the vacuum intake. From there, we turn the lights off, tell the robot to clean the room, and take a long-exposure photograph from overhead.

What results are these nifty-looking coverage maps that illustrate the robot's path throughout the room and around the furniture. After repeating this test a few times, we get a good sense of how the robot finds its way around and how successful it is at vacuuming the entire room.

In the case of Roomba versus Roborock, it was Roborock that came out on top. As the GIF above shows, it did a remarkably consistent job at covering every square inch of our test floor and navigating around our mock dining table without incident. Meanwhile, the Roomba Combo J7 Plus was less successful, clearly missing some spots around the table and in the bottom-left corner of the room, as the GIF below shows.

The iRobot Roomba Combo J7 Plus wasn't as consistent at navigation as the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra. Notice how it doesn't always offer total coverage around the table in the center of the room, and how the lower-left corner of the room was sometimes missed.

Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET

I didn't break out the glow sticks in my own home, but I kept an eye on each cleaner as it moved throughout my place. Sure enough, the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra did a better job of mapping my entire home during its initial mapping run, while the Roomba Combo J7 Plus flat-out missed an entire room and needed to be sent back out to finish the job. Advantage Roborock.

Winner: Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

App controls: Customizable cleaning with room-specific smarts

Both the iRobot Roomba Combo J7 Plus and the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra offer app controls for both Android and iOS devices. Those apps matter because neither cleaner comes with a physical remote, so you'll need to use the apps in order to schedule cleaning runs and manage your robot's map of your home.

The apps connect with your robot vacuum via Wi-Fi, and they offer similar controls. Each cleaner will start by wandering your home and mapping the space -- from there, you'll be able to edit the map to designate different rooms and no-go zones, and then tell your robot to go clean specific rooms. You can also sync either cleaner with Siri, Alexa or the Google Assistant for voice-activated cleaning.

All of that would seem to add up to a tie in this category, but I actually preferred the Roborock app controls. For starters, the cleaner's navigational advantages over the Roomba translated to better maps in the app. If you zoom in on those app shots, you'll also see that Roborock's map on the left also includes the specific path the robot took during its most recent run, which is a nice, extra bit of intelligence sharing. Perhaps most significantly, I appreciated that Roborock lets you choose between mopping, vacuuming or combo cleaning whenever you start or schedule a run. With the Roomba, you can tell it to vacuum or you can tell it to vacuum and mop, but you can't tell it just to mop. That's an odd thing to omit, and means that mopping runs are going to be slightly noisier than they might need to be.

Winner: Roborock MaxV Ultra

An iRobot Roomba Combo J7 Plus mops a hardwood floor. When it reaches carpeted areas, the cleaner will lift the mopping pad up over top of itself to keep them dry.
Ry Crist/CNET

The verdict

At retail prices of $1,100 and $1,400, respectively, the Roomba Combo J7 Plus and the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra are both big splurges in the robovac category, so it's worth stopping to consider if they might be more floor cleaner than you need. In both cases, you can step down to a model with fewer features that costs significantly less but still cleans well. With Roomba, the Roomba J7 Plus keeps the self-emptying bin but ditches the mop altogether; meanwhile, the standard Roborock S7 keeps the mop, but loses the self-emptying bins and tanks. Both of those more basic models performed quite well in our cleaning tests and cost hundreds less than the Combo J7 Plus or the S7 MaxV Ultra, so each is well worth a look as a budget-minded compromise pick.

That said, if you really want to go all-in with all-inclusive automated floor cleaning, both of these high-end cleaners will get the job done -- but neither is perfect. The Roomba isn't a well-versed navigator, and it needs its water reservoir filled before every mopping run. The Roborock doesn't lift its wet mopping pad high enough to keep it out of the way of midpile carpets, and it doesn't vacuum hardwood floors as well as it should given its high price.

Either one is a capable cleaner if you can live with its shortcomings, but if it were my money, I'd lean towards the Roomba Combo J7 Plus for the slight bump in cleaning performance, the much smarter mopping pad and a price that's a few hundred less than the Roborock.