Irobot Roomba Review Vs. Mint Automatic Floor Cleaner
Evolution Robotics introduced a new robotic floor cleaner at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It was identified rather quickly as new competition for products by iRobot, specifically the iRobot Roomba and Scooba robots. Obviously, these products from both companies are robots, operate autonomously, and are designed to clean floors. While they are competing products, there are a great number of notable differences. In this article we’ll explore what is different and what is the same.
Shape and Size
Beauty is only skin deep, as they say, and both of these products have a different look. The Mint automatic cleaner is square with a rectangular pad in the front. The iRobot Roomba is round. Both are short, which makes them able to vacuum under furniture.
In their literature, iRobot notes that the round shape of its robots aids in navigation and keeps them from getting stuck. The vacuum cleaners turn in place around an axis in their center, so when they get in a corner, they just rotate in one direction or the other and drive away. The Mint has a square shape, and so it will have to back out of a corner before turning. If you watch movies of either robot in operation, you will notice this difference in behavior. Mint claims that their square shape makes sure that the robot can clean into corners. This is admittedly a weakness in the Roomba, which is equipped with a spinning brush to sweep debris out of corners, but which can’t actually vacuum into them.
The Mint cleaner is smaller than a Roomba, clocking in at just 10 inches wide. So one would expect that it will be able to get into nooks and crannies better than a Roomba.
How They Get Around
The Roomba robots have two main wheels that it uses to navigate, and as mentioned above, they can swivel in place. Roombas have a third wheel for support. These robot vacuums use behavioral algorithms to get around rooms. Depending on a number of factors, a robot may circle, turn, follow a wall, or go in a straight line. The vacuuming pattern ends up looking random, and the robot covers the entire floor surface by going over it in different places over and over.
The Evolution Mint has two wheels for drive, and the rest of the weight of the robot rests on the cleaning pad. The Mint uses a device called a NorthStar to help it navigate. In the most basic terms, the NorthStar module shines a beacon on the ceiling and the Mint uses that beacon to triangulate its position. Evolution compares the NorthStar system to GPS. Thus the Mint automatic robot actually sweeps the room in an orderly fashion, working in rows from one side of the floor to the other. The room is cleaned more quickly and also less battery is used to cover the same area of floor.
How They Clean
When it comes to how they clean, these two competing robots are completely different.
The Mint cleaner is mostly a sweeper. You attach any one of several kinds of cleaning cloth to the front pad of the robot, and it uses the cloth to clean the floor. The cloths are microfiber and thus pick up dirt and hairs, so you’re not just pushing a pile of dirt around, but the device has no suction and no dust bin. The Mint also has a wet mode, where you can use a wet cloth. In this mode, the robot moves side to side and backwards and forwards in what Evolution describes as a “scrubbing motion.”
The Roomba acts more like a vacuum. First, it has a side brush which sweeps debris into the path of the vacuum. Next, counter-rotating brushes pick up larger debris. Finally, a vacuum sucks up smaller particles.
While the Mint is more of a sophisticated sweeper, the Roomba is more like a conventional upright vacuum cleaner. While the Roomba has the advantage of being more “active” about moving dirt, the Mint has less fuss and muss. There are no bins to empty. Just pull off the cleaning cloth and go.
Roombas have virtual walls to keep them out of places and many Roomba models can also self-charge. This doesn’t seem to be the case with the Mint. In the favor of the Mint cleaner, it is completely silent, and thus it isn’t so unpleasant to be around while it’s working.
An entry-level iRobot Roomba, the 400 series, will set you back $129. The least expensive 500 series, the Roomba 510 is $279. Pricing isn’t official for the Mint cleaner, but they are expected to be under $250.
Update: I’ve included a great review by a reader of ours.
I just purchased a mint Floor Cleaner and would say I am pleased thus far but it is not the perfect solution for everyone. Our house is about 4500 sq feet. Most of the floors are hardwood and tile with area rugs in the dinning and living rooms. The mint seems to navigate pretty well but being a first time robot owner, I must say that it does not take the cleaning paths I would but I don’t think that is a realistic expectation anyway. The overall cleaning is good (better with swiffer pads than the micro pads that come with it) and if used on a regular basis for dusting WILL provide you with cleaner floors (no dust bunnies). Do not expect it to clean all your floors an hour before company comes over…that will simply not happen.
A few of things I will note that I would like to see improved. First, even though the battery lasts for up to 3 hours in dusting mode, the “logical” paths it takes are many times not very efficient. It will often clean areas twice in an effort to get to a new area. More cleaning could be done if it actually took a direct path to areas it knows it has not touched. Second, the room edge cleaning mode it is supposed to do at the end of a cleaning cycle really does not happen in my experience. Unless you have perfectly smooth or straight floor boards without any shoe molding etc that may jet out, it will hit a corner back up and reroute but NOT resume its edge cleaning. Areas such as kitchens that may have fancy floor cabinets, etc will completely confuse the thing when trying to do edge cleaning. The program logic needs to be improved in this case…which brings me to my final dislike. There is no USB port so you can connect to you PC for possible bios updates. Basically, if the Mint company makes any logic improvements…you are stuck with buying a new machine.
All in all, I like the device. If used regularly it will keep your hard surface floors very clean. if I could give this thing a 1 out of 10 rating, I would give it a 7.