Posted June 23, 2005
A couple years back I saw a demo of the first-generation Roomba, the much-hyped robotic vacuum cleaner, and I was charmed but underwhelmed. The thing was underpowered, had a tiny dustbin, short battery life, and had a tendency to get stuck in hard-to-reach places (like under the bed). Turns out that iRobot has been steadily perfecting its technology, and the latest version of its little robotic vac, the Roomba 4210 Discovery, is a massive improvement. More cleaning power, 90-minute battery life (before it goes back to its base station to recharge itself), decent-sized dustbin, and smarter robotics that make it way more effective and less error-prone. It's never going to live up to a Dyson in terms of sucking the cat hair out of the area rugs, but it does a surprisingly good job of keeping the hardwood floors dust-bunny free, and I find that if I put it to work a couple times a week (by remote control, just before leaving the apartment, so I don't have to hear it), I don't have to lug out the big vac as often. It was totally worth buying, though my boyfriend kind of resents that I've started treating it almost like a pet—sometimes I come home and can't help but speak to it ("Roomba, you did such a good job!"). Listen, when our kitties start helping out around the apartment, I'll shower praise on them, too.
$279.99 at amazon.com.