Here’s how Roomba’s Combo Essential compares to the best cheap robot vacuums

Rooma Combo Essential next to Shark IQ robot vacuum
(Image credit: iRobot)

The best robot vacuums aren't cheap, and cheap robot vacuums often come with compromises. However, Roomba's new Combo Essential could bridge the gap between the two. While not as inexpensive as the iLife V3s Pro, this $275 robot not only includes both vacuum and mopping capabilities but iRobot OS for advanced smart features. 

While we haven't had a chance to test the Combo Essential yet, we can take a look at its features vs. the competition. Here's how it stacks up against our top three performers. 

Roomba Combo Essential vs iLife V3s Pro

When you compare the Roomba Combo Essential's value to that of the iLife V3S Pro, the 2-in-1 Essential wipes the floor with it. Pun intended. The IR-controlled iLife V3S Pro lacks smarts entirely and uses bump-and-go room navigation. This means it takes longer to feel its way around the room during each session. You also can't send it out from your phone or voice assistant, nor can it clean specific sections of your home. 

The Roomba Combo Essential uses iRobot's OS to map out spaces to automatically clean when you leave the house, creates detailed visual cleaning reports, and suggests cleanings for a fraction of the cost of the best Roombas we've tested. It also features a mop which adds an extra layer of cleanliness to your floors. 

iLife V3s Pro was $159 now $119 @ Amazon

iLife V3s Pro was $159 now $119 @ Amazon

While it lacks the smarts of more expensive models, the V3s Pro is an excellent bump-and-clean robo vac, picking up virtually everything we threw in its path — including pet hair. In our iLife V3s Pro review, we named the Editor's Choice vacuum the best budget cleaner. 

However, the iLife is one of the best robot vacuums because of its superb cleaning performance. Even though it's fairly old at this point, it remains one of the best robot vacuums for pet hair, so I'm excited to see how the new Essential scores in our lab test. 

Roomba Combo Essential vs Shark IQ

The Roomba Combo Essential's deceptively low-profile design packs plenty of equipment under the hood. Its 4-Stage Cleaning System consists of a special V-Shaped Multi-Surface Brush, an Edge-Sweeping Brush, and a pump-fed microfiber mop pad that work together to vacuum and mop hard floors in a single passthrough in clean rows. This is incredibly similar to the Shark IQ, which has a similar design and also cleans in rows. 

The Combo Essential's wet-dry vac logs its work using the smart Clean Map report feature. This generates a report in the iRobot app to show you how long it took to clean and where it was covered. Your app will even suggest cleaning times, just like the $1,400 Roomba J9+ Combo we recently reviewed. The Shark IQ does this as well, along with advanced boundary setting.

Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty AV1010AE XL: now $399 @ Amazon

Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty AV1010AE XL: now $399 @ Amazon
Shark's powerful home robot vacuum empties itself into a bag to hold up to 45 days of debris. It cleans your rooms in a thorough row pattern and can set virtual boundaries and mark rooms. That way you can tell it to clean a specific area of your home like your kitchen using the app or your smart assistant.

This Roomba doesn't come with an auto-empty dock like the budget Shark IQ does for a truly hands-free set-and-forget operation. You'll have to manually empty the dustbin as well as equip and clean its mop pad after each session. With that said, its mop can be removed to run the Essential in a vacuum-only mode across floor types. There are three suction power levels and three water level options you can choose between depending on the mess.

Shark's vacuum lacks mopping capabilities but its 45 days of automatic maintenance more than make up for it. You can set and forget the Shark and run it entirely on autopilot for just under two months. If you don't need the mop and don't feel like emptying the vacuum's dustbin, the Shark IQ looks to be a stronger option for less than $100 more. 

Roomba Combo Essential vs Roomba 600

The Roomba Combo Essential is an upgraded replacement to the budget-focused Roomba 600 series. Its smaller dimensions better fit under furniture yet cover more ground for improved cleaning results. Compared to the 600 Series, the new Roomba Combo Essential has 20x more suction power and 25% better hard floor dirt pickup. That's in addition to a longer 120-minute battery life.

iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum: was $280 now $259 @ Amazon

iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum: was $280 now $259 @ Amazon

This model offers premium style and function, getting the job done for a budget price. The Roomba 675 is easy to control through the iRobot app, and even offers geofencing, a feature that’s usually only found on more expensive robot vacuum cleaners.

The Combo Essential's more thorough row cleaning pattern bests the 600's more randomized bump-and-clean approach. With that said ,both use the iRobot app for rich smart features. These include geofence-triggered vacuum runs when you leave the house and seasonal cleaning recommendations. The Roomba 675’s Achilles heel proved to be pet hair pick up. If the Combo Essential delivers on those power improvements it should be a much stronger option than the aging 600 series.

We're eagerly awaiting getting our hands on the new Roomba Combo Essential 2-in-1 robovac. If its suction power and cleaning performance deliver as promised this will shake up the robot vacuum category. While it lacks an auto-empty base, the Combo Essential is poised to be one of the best smart home devices you can buy.

More from Tom's Guide

Hunter Fenollol
Senior Editor, Smart Home

Hunter Fenollol is a Senior Editor for Tom’s Guide. He specializes in smart home gadgets and appliances. Prior to joining the team, Hunter reviewed computers, wearables, and mixed reality gear for publications that include CNN Underscored, Popular Mechanics, and Laptop Magazine. When he’s not testing out the latest cooking gadgets, you can likely find him playing a round of golf or out with friends feeding his paycheck to a QuickHit slot machine. Hunter started his career as an intern at Tom’s Guide back in 2019 while in college. He graduated from Long Island University Post with a degree in Communications and minor in Advertising. He has been vlogging ever since the iPhone 4 took front-facing cameras mainstream.