New Roomba Vacuums Leave the Fringe Alone

Upgraded models also have better batteries, guidance, and suction.

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Fringe is back. Not that it went away, but decorative edging on rugs fell out of favor in our household. Roomba, the automated vacuum that's otherwise been a big hit here, choked on the strings.

Some months ago, Roomba's makers at iRobot released the vacuum's next generation. Longer-life battery, more powerful vacuum, fancy new "virtual walls" to guide the robot around the house—and no snagging on fringe. I was skeptical on that last, and while the first three sounded good, they weren't enough to spend several hundred dollars to upgrade.

But in working on a story about personal robots, I had reason to try one of the new Roombas. And glory be, all the claims are true. It does run longer, the virtual walls can now guide Roomba to other rooms, and it sucks up more of the bad stuff. Most important, it sucks up less of the good, meaning no fringe hang-ups. It musses up the strings a bit but keeps on moving.

Now we've one less reason to pull out the push vacuum. We still needed the conventional model to clean the throw rugs. Now, while Roomba still can't clean as well as a plug-in vacuum, it can keep one idle for weeks at a time.

We're impressed and have already ordered our own Roomba 500 series. That'll give us two Roombas (or would that be Roombae?), meaning we may have one upstairs and one down. But with tassels lurking on both levels, I suspect we'll find another, fringeless home for the old model.