The newest pet-centric automatic floor vac from iRobot is actually a lot like a new puppy. Don’t be surprised to find yourself following it around the house for the first few hours — maybe days — while it scoops up crumbs, caroms off table legs and cautiously avoids plummeting down the stairs.
Unlike previous Roombas, the 562 can sense when it’s rolling over a particularly grimy area, then focus more time and suction there. That means more pet hair, dust bunnies and other floor flotsam will get sucked into its cavernous debris bin than iRobot’s floor vacs of yore.
But disappointment dawns when you realize this little Wall-E wannabe has some seriously impaired pathfinding skills. It seems to travel in deliberately random fashion, often returning to an area it just covered while leaving other sections untouched. It’s like watching your alcoholic uncle go from amusing to sad in the course of an evening. (Mommy, is Roomba drunk?)
It’s also supposedly capable of disentangling itself from rug tassels and power cords. In real life, it’s not. Our 562 routinely found itself snared in the cord nest behind the TV, requiring human intervention to free it.
Given that it can roll for hours on a battery charge, it does seem to get everywhere eventually, but it can be frustrating watching it stumble aimlessly between walls.
It also exhibits mild stupidity — or, one could argue, sentience — when it aborts a seemingly straight-on docking station approach at the last second, instead scuttling away for no apparent reason. Even worse, it sometimes broadsides the dock while cleaning, knocking it out of position and threatening future landings.
This Roomba may not be perfect, but damn if you’re not going to give the little guy a good home … to clean. Face it: A drunk and stumbling robot vacuum that runs every day or two will pick up way more ground grime than your half-assed, once-a-month turn with the upright.