After completing the Narwal Freo review, I’ll see how it compares against another robot vacuum/mop hybrid – the Combo J7+.
iRobot has been a household brand and an industry leader for the past few decades, but upstarts like Narwal challenge it with better convenience and pricing.
This comparison will determine whether the Roomba Combo J7+ or the Narwal Freo is better.
A quick overview of the Narwal Freo and Roomba Combo J7+
Airflow: 9.8 CFM 📝 Sand on Hard Floor: 99.5% 📝 Deep Cleaning: 63.75%
Side brush: One 📝 Brush roll: Combo brush
Navigation: LIDAR 📝 Map saving: Yes 📝 Number of maps: 4 📝 Containment: Yes 📝 Selective Room cleaning: Yes 📝 Recharge & Resume: Yes
Self-Empty: No 📝 Bag capacity: N/A 📝 Dustbin capacity: 480ml
Mopping: Yes 📝 Pad Washing: Yes 📝 Clean water tank capacity: 4.5 liters 📝 Dirty water tank capacity: 4 liters 📝 Water tank (inside robot): N/A
Battery: 5200 mAh Li-ion 📝 Run time: 180 minutes 📝 Noise: 66 dB
Airflow: 9.8 CFM 📝 Sand on Hard Floor: 96.7% 📝 Deep Cleaning: 88.3%
Side brush: One 📝 Brush roll: Dual all-rubber extractors
Navigation: Front Camera + Gyroscope + Optical Sensor 📝 Map saving: Yes 📝 Number of maps: 10 📝 Containment: Yes 📝 Selective Room cleaning: Yes 📝 Recharge & Resume: Yes
Self-Empty: Yes 📝 Bag capacity: 2.4 liters 📝 Dustbin capacity: <400ml
Mopping: Yes 📝 Pad Washing: No 📝 Clean water tank capacity: N/A 📝 Dirty water tank capacity: N/A 📝 Water tank (inside robot): 100ml
Battery: 4460 mAh Li-ion 📝 Run time: 60 – 80 minutes 📝 Noise: 66.2 dB
* If you click on any of the links above and purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost.
Comparing iRobot and Narwal is an interesting thesis on the state of the robot vacuum industry.
Roomba has dominated this industry for many years, but with the influx of new brands like Narwal, the market is more crowded and competitive, which is good news for consumers.
While both have the same functionality of a robot vacuum and mop, each does it differently with its pros and cons we’ll examine in this section.
Better Than The T10: Narwal Freo
- Improved vacuuming performance thanks to the combo brush and higher airflow
- Proficient pad washing function
- Above-average dustbin capacity
- The twin pad design is efficient at removing stains
- Large capacity clean and dirty water tanks
- Better app than the T10
- The multi-functional LCD screen on the base station
- No self-emptying feature
- Low airflow affects performance on hard floors
While it retains the same two-disc design, the other facets have changed.
It utilizes a more traditional round frame with two side brushes flanking a combo brush, helping it pick up debris more efficiently than the T10 (which didn’t have a brush roll).
Changing the frame and moving the discs toward the back provide better versatility and convenience since consumers don’t need to switch mopping and vacuuming components.
So the Freo can mop and vacuum simultaneously or do these functions independently, depending on the user’s preference.
Other upgrades include the larger dustbin capacity with a clever trap door design and overhangs on both sides, so tapping it over a small trash bin is possible.
Disposing of dirt is easier since rubbish is easily dislodged from the filter and crevices.
Another enhancement is the touchscreen LCD on the base station, which consumers can use to control the robot.
Folks can access the different modes, from vacuum + mopping to mopping-only functions.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the self-emptying feature in the Combo J7+, and consumers must empty the dustbin manually.
One plus of not having an auto-empty is it has more spacing for a larger water tank.
The Freo containers can hold up to 4.5 and 4 liters in their clean, dirty water tanks.
Cleaning the pad-washing component is more straightforward, thanks to the detachable tray.
One significant advantage the Narwal Freo has over the Roomba Combo J7+ is its mopping performance.
The twin spinning discs offer better agitation than Roomba’s fixed pad which doesn’t offer any agitation.
Overall, the Narwal Freo is an excellent alternative to a Roomba Combo J7+ if mopping is a higher priority than the self-emptying feature.
It (easily) outperforms iRobot in this aspect by a mile.
iRobot’s First Robot Vacuum/Mop Hybrid: Roomba Combo J7+
- First iRobot with a robot vacuum/mop functionality
- The retractable pad helps it avoid carpets during the mopping-only cycle
- Best-in-class obstacle avoidance
- The self-emptying feature will empty the robot’s dustbin for you
- Low profile design will fit under lower clearance furniture than the Narwal Freo
- Superb deep cleaning performance
- Stalls when cleaning sticky stains like juice residue
- No pad-washing feature
- Low airflow
- Less efficient navigation (and map creation with the VSLAM system)
Before the Combo J7, Roomba didn’t have a single product with the hybrid functionality of a robot vacuum and mop.
So consumers must purchase a separate product for the task, doubling the expense to would-be customers.
But with the competition mounting, iRobot had no choice but to approve and release something similar to stay in touch.
This model is an upgrade over the J7+, using the same base station but with a retractable pad – an industry first, according to iRobot.
This design has its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantageous because the retractable system stores the pad above the robot, and it doesn’t touch the surface (of carpets or rugs) during the hybrid cycle.
And iRobot’s algorithm is smart enough to recognize these areas with its carpet detection system.
So I’d recommend using the mapping run to determine carpeted zones and better prep the robot for these tasks.
One massive downside for the Combo J7+ is it doesn’t have an agitating element, only dragging a damp pad on the surface.
Even with the Bona cleaning solution, it lacks the oomph for stain removal and often stalls when mopping stick residue (like juice).
It retains the above-average carpet cleaning performance of most Roomba products and the best-in-class obstacle avoidance system since it uses the same sensors as the J7+.
Next, we’ll explore the similarities between these versatile robot vacuum/mop hybrids.
1. Hybrid Function
The first one is the hybrid functionality of both brands. The Roomba Combo J7+ and Narwal Freo are versatile two-in-one products with vacuuming and mopping functions, but each brand does it differently.
Narwal uses two spinning discs, making it more efficient at stain removal.
Its pad relocation allows these features to function simultaneously.
iRobot uses a static pad design with retractable functionality.
Yes, it’s better than Narwal at avoiding carpets, but at the expense of not having agitation and a small pad area.
While this robot can mop floors, it’s several notches below the Narwal Freo in functionality since it’s not as proficient and doesn’t have a pad-washing feature.
Another similarity is the round frame both brands utilize, which has practical reasons.
The biggest one is proficiency when navigating tight areas. Round-shaped robots tackle these areas better.
There are plenty of variances between these products, and most will determine what model you’ll select.
1. Base Station
The base station design is one of the most significant differences between the Narwal Freo and Roomba Combo J7+.
This could be the ultimate deciding factor when choosing between these products.
Narwal’s base station is bigger since it houses two 4+ liter containers and the pad-washing tray.
iRobot’s base station is smaller but only has the self-emptying feature absent in Narwal.
It’s an upgraded design over the I and S-Series and has a slot for an extra bag.
2. Brush Roll
The next difference is the brush roll design. iRobot uses its patented twin roller extractors, a staple in all its latest products.
It’s a huge factor why Roomba products are among the best options for vacuuming carpets.
Narwal uses a combo brush and a more traditional design (other brands use it).
It’s also effective at debris pick up but more tedious to clean since hair wraps tightly on it.
Narwal sells an optional bristle-less brush roll – something to consider if you need to clean lots of hair.
3. Side Brush
The Narwal Freo has two side brushes, giving it an advantage with edge cleaning since it covers both sides.
It uses a two-pronged design with bristled tips – something I’m not fond of because of durability issues.
The Roomba Combo J7+ only has one side brush with three prongs and (also) bristled tips.
One difference is that the Combo J7+ side brush has a screw, while the Freo side brush doesn’t (a clip holds it), so Narwal’s side brush is easier to remove without any tools.
4. Navigation Sensor
Though both options are “smart” robot vacuums, their sensors vary.
Narwal uses LIDAR, mounted on top, firing laser signals rapidly around it for map creation and location tracking.
iRobot utilizes VSLAM, but its obstacle avoidance feature relocated the camera from the top toward the front.
One plus for VSLAM is it doesn’t have anything protruding on top, so it’ll fit under lower-clearance furniture.
The Narwal Freo won’t fit under this sofa with the LIDAR sensor sticking out.
5. Obstacle Avoidance
Both robots have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the Roomba Combo J7+ is better at evading objects with its more advanced algorithm, not letting the robot get too close.
It avoids stretched wires and pet feces, especially with the former, as none of the other brands I’ve reviewed can match its performance.
Narwal says the Freo has a front IR obstacle avoidance sensor.
I tried it on a stuffed bear, and it didn’t avoid it altogether, grazing it before turning and going around it.
6. Mopping Module
Lastly is the mopping systems. As I’ve said earlier, the Narwal Freo uses two discs, spinning for agitation, providing better stain removal efficiency.
It has a pad-lift feature but a shallow raise, so it still touches the carpet or rug surface.
iRobot utilizes retractable arms holding the pad to bring it down for mopping cycles or storage above the robot in vacuuming-only tasks.
Again, its most significant advantage is complete carpet avoidance during the vacuum/mop modes, but it doesn’t have any agitation, so efficiency suffers.
The Narwal Freo and Roomba Combo J7+ have apps to unlock these robots’ functionality.
One thing to note with robot vacuum apps is that these only work with a 2.4 GHz frequency but not 5G.
So if your network doesn’t support it, you may be unable to connect the robot and app.
The Freo has an upgraded software named “Freo,” with more functionality than the first Narwal app release.
1. Live Map [Narwal Freo only]
One huge pro of the Freo app is the live map feature, showing the robot’s location in real-time.
It gives consumers a real-time update on where the robot is during the cleaning (or mopping) cycle, showing the areas cleaned through the shaded portions.
Another enhancement of the Freo app is the 3D map, giving folks a three-dimensional map perspective.
iRobot doesn’t have this feature, and the only VSLAM robot with a live map I’ve reviewed is Yeedi.
2. Mapping Run
The Roomba Combo J7+ and Narwal Freo have mapping runs solely for map creation.
This feature maximizes range since the vacuum motor is shot off.
I like the Narwal version better since the map creation process is much faster with LIDAR’s 360-scanning, whereas the Combo J7+ relies on an optical sensor, so it (still) needs to go through every nook and cranny.
3. Map Saving
Consumers can save maps on both apps, but the iRobot app can save more – up to 10 levels compared to Narwal’s four.
There are customization options for each level, like containment, which we’ll look at below.
Both are decent at detecting door areas and adding a map partition after the mapping run. iRobot’s mapping run may take longer depending on area size, so the advantage goes to Narwal.
Consumers can manually set partitions (or divisions) on each level, so it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
Another similarity between the Narwal and iRobot apps is containment.
Both use a similar type but with different names – Narwal calls them no-go zones, and iRobot calls it keep-out zones.
Despite the different name designations, both have the same functionality – the consumer draws a box or rectangle on the app, blocking the robot from venturing into these areas.
It helps folks block areas the robot cannot mop or high-risk areas.
Unfortunately, neither app has an invisible wall feature, so there’s no way of blocking diagonal areas.
Both apps can automatically add containment but for different reasons.
Narwal can add no-go zones automatically on carpeted areas.
iRobot can add keep-out zones on areas where it detected obstacles.
4. Clean Zones [Roomba Combo J7+ only]
One feature lacking in the Narwal Freo is the clean zones.
I only see it in the iRobot app, where folks can add “clean” zones that work inverse of keep-out zones.
These areas are designated cleaning zones and are beneficial because our home has high-traffic areas within a room.
You can draw several of these for this specific purpose without having to do so again and again.
Narwal’s version is the area cleaning feature with the same function, but these zones aren’t savable.
5. Selective Room Cleaning
Both have selective room cleaning, allowing folks to select a specific area (saved) the robot cleans.
One distinct variance is Narwal’s version is visual, while iRobot’s presents users with a list of rooms (or areas for zoned cleaning).
6. Carpet Detect
The Narwal Freo and Roomba Combo J7 have sensors underneath for detecting carpets and shading these areas on the map.
Here’s a close look inside the Narwal app.
iRobot’s version looks slightly different.
This feature has one primary function, alerting the robots where the carpets or rugs are, helping them avoid these during the mopping-only run for better proficiency.
7. Floor Type [Narwal Freo only]
Narwal lets users choose between three floor types: hardwood, tile, and cobblestone.
Each time will have a predetermined suction and mopping pressure. The latter is the highest on tiles to maximize its stain removal capability.
There isn’t much variance in the lower settings with the Narwal Freo and Roomba Combo J7+ airflow, as both are below 10 CFM.
The Roomba Combo J7+ only has one power setting and got a 9.8 CFM output, while the Narwal Freo registered between 4.78 and 7.91, less than the Combo J7+.
However, it’s better in the max setting with over 12 CFM, giving it a plus at vacuuming hard surfaces.
With their varying navigation sensors, there will be differences in how these robots traverse.
The Narwal Freo is more efficient with its LIDAR sensor since it relies on an exact laser, factoring in the mapping run.
It starts the run cleaning the edges before moving towards the middle areas in a back-and-forth pattern.
iRobot also utilizes back-and-forth passes, but it starts the run cleaning the central areas with edge cleaning on set intervals.
One advantage Romba has is its crisscross cleaning pattern and dirt detection feature, adding more thoroughness since “dirt detect” tells the robot to do additional passes on dirtier areas.
For the coverage experiment, I scattered quaker oats inside a small room to see how much each robot picked up and the duration.
The results were mixed. The Narwal Freo was better, picking up more debris after the first pass than the Roomba Combo J7+.
Here’s an after-shot of the Roomba Combo J7+ after a two-pass run.
It left noticeable trails near the door because its side brush scattered more debris.
Surprisingly, the Combo J7 finished the run at 18 minutes, or one minute quicker than the Narwal Freo.
Roomba Combo J7+
|Sand on hard floor
|Carpet (Surface Pickup)
|Carpet (Deep Cleaning)
The Roomba Combo J7+ got higher averages based on overall scores because it was much better on carpets, especially deep cleaning results.
It’s one reason Roomba products are popular despite their lack of features.
And the counter-rotating extractors plus “dirt detect” provide extra agitation, enabling it to vacuum carpets at an above-average rate despite the low airflow.
Which Option is Better on Hard Floors?
One plus with Narwal’s higher airflow is it’s better at cleaning hard floors based on the coverage and sand on hard floor experiments.
It got a higher average with sand (99.5% vs. 96.7%) thanks to the higher airflow and its side brush not scattering as much debris.
The Combo J7’s score wasn’t bad, but it left more sand remnants after the tests.
One advantage of twin-side brush robot vacuums is better cleaning performance at the edges, which is the case for the Narwal Freo, which got more debris than the Combo J7+.
Here’s a. before and after shot for the Combo J7+.
It visibly left more remnants since it only has one side brush that spins too fast.
Roomba Combo J7+
Another proof of Narwal’s higher airflow is the hair wrap experiment results, where the Freo got higher averages in five and seven-inch tests.
Even with longer seven-inch hair, it got a higher average than the Combo J7+.
One disadvantage of the Freo’s combo brush is hair wrapping tightly around it.
Removing hair from the Combo J7+ bristle-less extractors is easier since most hair strands wrap on the axles.
Which Option is Better on Carpets?
iRobot’s counter-rotating extractors and “dirt detect” feature enable it to pick up more debris on this surface, as evidenced by the test scores.
It got a higher average on surface (97.97% vs. 96.55%) and deep cleaning experiments (88.3% vs. 63.75%).
The variance in the deep cleaning experiments is significant and signals to consumers which option is better on this surface.
While the Roomba Combo J7+ is better at vacuuming carpets, the Narwal Freo trumps it at mopping floors.
I do several experiments on all robot mops I test – red wine and juice stains. The latter is notoriously tricky for robot mops without an agitating element, and the Freo had no issues cleaning them.
It got these stains out by the second pass but wasn’t as proficient as other brands like Roborock after the first pass, leaving traces of juice stains.
The Roomba Combo J7 had no issues mopping red wine stains but needed two passes to mop everything.
However, that wasn’t the case, mopping juice stains.
It stalled severely, and I had to recall the robot back to the base station to prevent damaging the wheel motors.
The pad washing feature is another advantage of the Narwal Freo over the Roomba Combo J7+, cleaning the pads after every pass.
Compared to the T10, it was more efficient with keeping the pads white.
iRobot doesn’t have this feature, so consumers must remove the pad and wash it inside a washing machine or by hand.
Narwal utilizes a 5200 mAh lithium-ion battery, more energy dense than the Combo J7’s 4460 mAh.
And this shows in the run time figures where the Narwal Freo runs up to 180 minutes, more than doubling the Combo J7’s 60 to 80 minutes claim.
Since both options have low airflow, the noise levels are kept below the 70-decibel level.
The Roomba Combo J7 has a 66.2-decibel reading, not far off the Narwal Freo’s 66 decibels in its highest setting.
However, it has three lower settings with these results.
- Quiet: 57.6 dB
- Normal: 58.7 dB
- Strong: 59.1 dB
All were in the sub-60 decibel level, which is excellent and barely audible, so it’s something to consider if noise is a deciding factor.
All robot vacuums need maintenance to function at their peak for a long time. Consumers will spend nearly four figures with these robots, so keeping them running in peak condition makes sense.
I’ll enumerate the components that need cleaning or replacement and their suggested intervals.
- Brush roll: Clean the brush roll weekly to remove dust or hair accumulation on the roller or axles to prevent unnecessary friction.
- Side brush: Detach the side brush and remove any hair wrapped on the base.
- Dustbin: This only applies to the Narwal Freo or the robot-only Combo J7+. Empty the dustbin after every vacuuming cycle to prevent dust mites from breeding and the filter from clogging prematurely.
- Filter: Detach and clean the filter by tapping it on a solid surface to dislodge dust wedged on the folds. Replace it after three or four months.
- Bag: Replace the Combo J7+ bag once it’s full. Do a visual check bi-weekly to check.
- Dirty water tank: Empty the dirty water tank of the Narwal Freo once it’s full. There’s no need to monitor since the app will notify consumers.
- Pad cleaning tray: Wash the tray monthly to remove any grime.
- Drop sensors: Wipe it monthly using a clean microfiber towel or cotton bud to clean any residue sticking to its surface.
iRobot has an advantage in this category because of its popularity. Consumers can purchase just about any component, even hard-to-find-in-other-brand stuff like a side brush motor or bumper assembly.
Narwal is a newer brand, so folks can find parts direct from Narwal’s website, but not anywhere else.
Roomba Combo J7+
Washable E11 Rated Air Filter
LIDAR + SLAM
60 - 80 mins.
|Recharge and Resume
|Number of Maps
|Auto empty capacity
|Water tank capacity (in-robot)
|Clean water tank
|Dirty water tank
12.75 CFM (Max)
Consumers can buy the Narwal Freo and Roomba Combo J7+ in online stores like Amazon. Check the links below for the latest pricing information.
Disclaimer: I will earn a commission if you purchase from the link above, but at no extra cost, so it’s a win-win for us!
Both robot vacuum/mop hybrid options have their strength and weaknesses.
It’s a matter of identifying the features you’ll need inside the home.
Folks who prioritize vacuuming and the self-emptying feature should (strongly) consider the Roomba Combo J7+ with its superior performance on carpets.
If you don’t need the mopping feature, save some money and opt for the Roomba J7+.
The Narwal Freo is a better option for consumers who want an efficient mopping robot with an excellent range.
Its 5200 mAh battery, and sizeable 4-liter water tanks, provide it better mopping range and better proficiency at removing stains.
Plus, the pad cleaning feature makes it somewhat hands-free for longer stretches.
5 Reasons to Choose the Narwal Freo
- Superior mopping efficiency: The Freo’s two spinning discs offer better agitation than the Combo J7 static mopping pad, so it can remove harder-to-clean stains better without stalling.
- Better on hard floors: Its higher airflow translates to better debris pick-up on hard floors.
- Pad-washing convenience: Consumers don’t need to remove and wash the pad after every mopping cycle because it does it inside the base station.
- Better app experience: The Narwal Freo app is a significant upgrade over the first-gen Narwal app with better usability features like multi-level map saving, live maps, and more.
- More extended range: This robot will run much longer than the Combo J7+ (180 mins vs. 80 mins).
4 Reasons to Choose the Roomba Combo J7+
- Better on carpets: iRobot’s dual extractors and “dirt detect” system make it the better option for cleaning carpets.
- Obstacle avoidance: The Roomba J7 series is (perhaps) the best obstacle-avoiding robot I’ve tested, especially at avoiding stretched wires and pet feces.
- Parts availability: iRobot’s popularity ensures consumers of the availability of components, even hard-to-find ones.
- Self-emptying: The Combo J7+ base station will empty the robot’s dustbin after every vacuuming cycle, freeing consumers of this task.
Choosing between the Narwal Freo and Roomba Combo J7+ will depend on your feature needs.
The Narwal Freo is the better option on hard floors with its higher airflow output and more efficient mopping module.
However, it lacks a self-emptying feature, so folks must empty the dustbin manually.
The Roomba Combo J7+ offers superior obstacle avoidance and carpet cleaning performance with its front obstacle sensor, dual extractors, and “dirt detect” system.
Its mopping performance is average because of the smaller pad and the lack of an agitating element, so don’t expect much.