Last year a new robot vacuum was quietly introduced to the world: The Dirt Devil RoomMate. Being a vacuum, one would think that the Dirt Devil is more likely a competitor to the iRobot Roomba than it is to a Mint Cleaner, but the price point is definitely more on the Mint side, and as we’ll see, the features are, too. The Dirt Devil RoomMate is manufactured by the makers of the Dirt Devil line (as you would expect) who are also known as Royal Appliance Manufacturing Co.
In the box you get the robot vacuum, a battery charger, the battery, a manual, and a quick start guide. A little assembly is needed. The brushes aren’t on the robot when it ships. Those are literally a snap to put on. Then you insert the NiMH battery, charge it up, and you’re ready to roll. The battery takes four hours to charge and a charge lasts about an hour. The RoomMate has three status lights on the top. These are: “Battery Low”. “Clog”, and “Charging”. When the robot is charging, the light blinks. When the charging has completed, then the light turns solid.
The feature set of this vacuum is pretty bare bones. It has two side brushes for sweeping dust, dirt, and debris into the path of its vacuum intake. It does something like the classic Roomba random behaviors while it cleans a room. So it spirals, does wall following, and bounces around in random directions. It always turns to the right (as far as I’ve noticed), and if you watch the robot at work, it goes through the same sequence over and over. Meaning that it will bounce around the room for a while, then it will spiral until it meets a wall. Once it meets a wall, it will follow the wall for a set amount of time, and then it will start bouncing around again.
Also like a Roomba, the RoomMate has a front bumper that tells it when it’s bumped into something. There are cliff sensors on the bottom of the robot which keep it from launching off the top stair of your living room. Dirt goes into a donut-shaped cup with a filter in it. The cup and the filter can be rinsed out and dried between uses, which is nice. The dual brushes extend the reach of the robot, so it doesn’t leave dirt in corners.
The vacuum is powerful enough to pick up most of the things that end up on a floor. I tested it around the holidays and noticed that it would pick up pine needles. So, besides dirt and dust, it will pick up hair, dust bunnies, and sand. One word of warning: The robot intake can get clogged with very large dust bunnies. The RoomMate is not designed for use on carpets, and my informal testing on a carpeted floor bore that out. It lacks the beaters and brushes that vacuum cleaners use to get dirt out of carpeting. It is very firmly a hard floor cleaner. It also doesn’t really know what to do about area rugs and mats. Sometimes it will climb up on them, and other times it will bounce off of them. I recommend removing rugs and mats when you clean the floor.
The Dirt Devil lacks a lot of the bells and whistles that iRobot has built into the Roomba over the years. It doesn’t have Dirt Detect, lacks a dock, cannot be scheduled, and there is no remote control. Roombas also seem to figure out how big a room is and vacuum for “long enough” to get a whole room. The RoomMate goes until the battery is dead.
The robot is smaller than a Roomba, and wider than a Mint Cleaner. It is shorter than a Mint, however, which means that it can get under more furniture. It is slow moving, and although it is more noisy than a Mint, it is much quieter than a Roomba. Like the Mint, it is incapable of inhaling cords and cables, and thus you don’t have to worry so much about those items when using the Dirt Devil. At the same time, like every single other robot floor cleaner in the world, it will get stuck in awkward places now and again. Ours gets stuck under an office chair that has low legs. So I have to move the chair out of the room when cleaning our office floor.
On the plus side, the robot moves more slowly and has a much more sensitive bumper. As a result, it doesn’t “rough up” things in your room as much as a Roomba does. One thing that it definitely has over the Mint Cleaner, is that it sucks things up. The Mint doesn’t do a good job on some things (like pine needles), and instead it tends to just push them into corners. This is not a problem with the Dirt Devil RoomMate. After using it for a couple of weeks, I definitely think this is a good product.
iRobot Roomba vs RoomMate
If you’re comparing these two devices, then you’re probably looking for a vacuum. If you’re looking for a vacuum cleaner, then you’re going to want to get a Roomba plain and simple. In the vacuuming department, Roombas do pretty much everything a Dirt Devil can do and better.
RoomMate vs Mint
The comparison between a Mint and a Dirt Devil isn’t so cut and dried. Both robots are built to sweep hard floors, like hardwood, linoleum, and tile. The RoomMate uses brushes and a vacuum. The Mint uses microfiber cloths and Swiffer cloths. The RoomMate runs around a room randomly until it runs out of juice, so it basically takes an hour to clean a room. The Mint maps as it sweeps, and can finish a regular sized room in fifteen minutes and is ready to do another room immediately. The Mint does a better job with dust bunnies, but not as good a job with larger debris. The Dirt Devil is better with larger debris, but you need to make sure that the intake doesn’t get clogged. The Mint is quieter. So it’s actually kind of a toss-up. I like both. A person would probably have to make the decision based on what is important to them.
When I found this robot, I figured that it would be another sort of unreliable, junky robotic vacuum. The RoomMate managed to change my mind. While it’s definitely outclassed by a Roomba, I think it’s pretty good for what it aims to be: A basic, no-frills hard floor cleaning robot. The RoomMate is available at Amazon. So is the Evolution Robotics Mint.