I’ve recently concluded a review on the Roomba 694, so I thought it’s proper to compare it to iRobot’s high-end option – the J7+.
This comparison isn’t apples to apples, but it’s an excellent way to gauge the differences between an entry-level and premium Roomba option.
I’ve put these robots through a grueling series of tests to determine which option is better.
Let’s start with a quick look at the product specs and an overview of the results.
An overview of the Roomba 694 and J7+
- Airflow: 7.27 CFM
- Deep Cleaning: 80.2%
- Navigation Sensors: IR Sensors
- Self-empty: No
- Bag capacity: N/A
- Clean base Station: No
- Navigation: Random
- Map saving: No
- Number of maps: N/A
- Containment: No
- Keep out zones: No
- Selective Room cleaning: No
- Recharge & Resume: No
- Rubber extractors: No
- Dustbin capacity: 600ml
- Side brush: One
- Battery: 1800 mAh Li-ion
- Run time: 90 minutes
- Noise: 65.6 dB
- Airflow: 7.27 CFM
- Deep Cleaning: 85.7%
- Navigation Sensors: Front Camera + Gyroscope + Optical Sensor
- Self-empty: Yes
- Bag capacity: 2.4-liters
- Map saving: Yes
- Number of maps: 10
- Containment: Yes
- Selective Room cleaning: Yes
- Recharge & Resume: Yes
- Brush roll: Twin rubber extractors
- Dustbin capacity: 400ml
- Mopping: No
- Water tank capacity: N/A
- Side brush: One
- Battery: 2410 mAh Li-ion
- Run time: 90 minutes
- Noise: 63 dB
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Introduction to the Roomba 694 and J7+
The Roomba 694 and J7+ represent two opposite spectrums in the iRobot product line.
If you’re wondering how an entry-level Roomba compares to a premium option, this article is for you.
There’s a significant price variance between these robots, and my goal for this comparison is to show if the difference is worth the performance.
Entry-Level: Roomba 694
The Roomba 694 is iRobot’s latest model in its entry-level line.
Nothing has changed between this variant and the older 675 and 690 options.
But the exterior has some subtle modifications.
It has the same button layout as the other two models mentioned above, but minus the handle.
Whether the handle is necessary or not will depend on your preference.
Some folks prefer this handle because it makes it easy to move the robot around the home.
7And others may not mind the omission, perhaps because they live in a smaller home with one room.
Airflow is similar to the Roomba 675 at 7.27 CFM, indicating it uses the same motor.
Cleaning performance is similar to the other entry-level 600-series variants, though I noticed a slight degradation with deep cleaning (80% vs. 85%).
Overall, the Roomba 694 offers basic features without the intelligent navigating capabilities of the I, J, and S-Series.
I’d recommend this variant inside smaller homes because of its random navigating pattern.
Best Obstacle Avoiding Robot: Roomba J7+
On the other end of the iRobot price spectrum is the Roomba J7+.
It’s Roomba’s current flagship and their first with obstacle avoidance capability plus the redesigned base station.
The front-facing camera and the LED make the J7 the best obstacle-avoiding robot I’ve tested.
Not only does it evade objects, but it’s smart enough not to get too close, which is an issue with the other brands I’ve tested, like the Roborock S6 MaxV and Ecovacs T8 AIVI.
iRobot has the POOP guarantee or Pet Owners Official Promise that if the J7 touches dry pet feces, they’ll replace it for free!
Under the hood, the J7+ shares the same components as the Roomba I6 (or I7), using the same motor, extractors, dustbin, and side brush.
Don’t expect S9-level performance because it lacks airflow.
Before the J7+ was released, I thought iRobot would continue with the D-shaped trend and use the same high-powered motor, but that wasn’t the case.
Overall, the J7+ is best suited for pet owners or folks who don’t want to clean the clutter around their homes.
It’s smart enough to avoid objects, even cable (or wire), kryptonite, to other obstacle-avoiding robots.
Similarities between the Roomba 694 and J7+
There might not be plenty, but we’ll look at the similarities between these Roomba products.
The most obvious is the shape and dimension, with the Roomba j7 with slightly smaller dimensions than the 694.
Most Roomba products have a round frame, except for the S9, and iRobot says it is because they prioritize navigational efficiency.
Square-shaped robots tend to wedge on tight areas, and iRobot wants to avoid this issue with their products.
2. Brush Layout
Another similarity is the brush layout since both use a single side brush and counter-rotating primary brushes.
The placement of these brushes is in a similar location, but the material for the primary brush is different (more on that later).
3. Compatible with the iRobot app
Lastly, the Roomba 694 and J7+ are compatible with the iRobot home app, providing consumers access to these robots even outside the home.
The features vary but having an app help users diagnose potential issues since it tells them what’s causing the issue and potential fixes.
Differences between the Roomba 694 and J7+
Next, we’ll look at the differences, starting with the clean base station.
1. Dirt Disposal System
In the past five years, the most significant innovation for robot vacuums is the auto-empty feature that iRobot introduced with the I7.
iRobot further tweaked the design with the J7+ by reducing its vertical real estate without sacrificing capacity while adding a slot for an extra bag.
The Roomba 694 doesn’t have a clean base station, so consumers will have to empty the dustbin manually.
2. Obstacle Avoidance [J7+ only]
The next variance is obstacle avoidance, which is absent with the 694.
iRobot nailed this feature with its initial release, as the J7+ avoids obstacles better than any robot I’ve tested.
Its front-facing camera and LED combo provide enough illumination even in low light conditions.
This sensor also doubles as the J7’s navigational aid in specifying its location, unlocking advanced features like selective room cleaning.
3. Dustbin Capacity
While both robots have the same shape, each has varying capacities.
The Roomba 694 has a larger capacity at 600-ml, 200 more than the J7+’s 400 ml.
However, the “plus” has a clean base station that increases that capacity by six-fold (2.4-liters).
Both are rear-mounted but with varying release levers. The Roomba 694’s lever is located on the top, while the J7 is behind the robot.
4. Counter-Rotating Brush Design
Roomba is the only robot available in North America with counter-rotating brushes because it owns the patent.
The Roomba 694 and J7 have this feature but use different materials.
The older 694 has a more traditional bristle and rubber blade combo, while the J7 utilizes the bristle-less rollers, which iRobot calls extractors.
These all-rubber brushes provide better durability and agitation while resisting tangles better (at least on the surface).
5. Battery and Run Time
The Roomba J7+ has a larger battery than the 694 (2410 vs. 1800 mAh) but claimed run time is a bit shorter at 85 minutes (vs. the 694’s 90 mins).
One reason could be the J7 cameras and VSLAM use more power than the 694’s simpler sensors.
Both robots are compatible with the iRobot home app but with varying features that we’ll look at in this section.
1. Map Saving [J7 only]
One benefit of iRobot’s high-end robots is the map saving feature [up to 10 levels].
Folks can customize each map level like custom room naming, keep-out zones, clean zones, etc.
iRobot recommends purchasing an extra clean base station if you’re using it in a multi-level home, but that not be economical.
You could use the J7 even without the clean base station on another level then move it back close to its dock to self-empty.
That will be my suggestion if you want to save some money.
2. Keep-Out Zones [J7]
Consumers can add keep-out zones or off-limit boxes the robot can’t enter with the map saving feature.
It’s an excellent feature if you have kids since you could draw a box around the designated play area so the robot doesn’t enter.
3. Clean Zones
Another feature only found in the J7 is the clean zones, an inverted feature to the keep-out zones.
Instead of blocking the area, clean zones are designated “clean” zones that the J7 will vacuum.
These can be high-traffic areas like the living room or dining area.
4. Custom Room Naming [J7 only]
Consumers can add custom names for each room or clean zone, providing more options with custom room naming.
It’s possible to use any name you want, so it’s easier to identify for scheduled clean-ups or Alexa (using voice).
5. Selective Room Cleaning [J7 only]
Consumers can also select a specific room that the robot will clean on-demand with this feature.
Unlike other brands like Roborock lets users check the room on the map, iRobot’s version is a bit cruder.
Folks will need to check on the areas they want vacuuming – either zones or rooms.
6. Obstacle Areas [J7 only]
The J7’s obstacle avoidance feature is further enhanced with the obstacle areas tab in the app.
This feature enables consumers to define whether an object is permanent or not.
Choosing the former will add keep-out zones automatically, thus saving time with having to draw them manually.
So when the robot runs, it’ll avoid these areas automatically, improving its efficiency in the long run.
7. Robot Health [J7 only]
One app feature iRobot introduced with the J7 is robot health.
I checked the older Roomba variant, but I did not see this tab, so only time will tell if iRobot will grandfather this feature on earlier models.
This tab shows the status of various components like the filter, side brush, and rollers – when to replace them.
It’s a time-based system, so consumers will have to do a visual check to confirm if you need to replace these components.
8. Error Code Explanation [Both]
There will be instances when the robot will flash an error code during the run.
The robot will tell you the error number, but it’s hard to decipher it unless you’ve memorized all the Roomba error codes.
Fortunately, the iRobot app helps by letting users know what’s wrong and the potential fixes through the app.
9. Scheduling [Both]
Consumers can set scheduled clean-ups for both robots, but there are variations.
The Roomba 694 allows for a single scheduled run per day, while the J7 app supports multiple runs with a minimum gap of 4 hours between runs.
Next, we’ll look at these 694 and J7 navigation – one of the biggest variances.
The Roomba 694 has what iRobot calls adaptive navigation that pinballs around randomly.
It’s smart enough to cover most of the spots.
However, the larger the area, it becomes less efficient, and I wouldn’t recommend this product in large multi-room layouts.
This scenario is where a Roomba J7+ (or any smart Roomba) comes into play.
The front camera, gyroscope sensor, and VSLAM enable it to create maps and track location.
It’s iRobot’s most sophisticated navigating robot with its obstacle avoidance system, capable of cleaning multi-room homes with better efficiency than a Roomba 694.
Surprisingly, the Roomba 694 and J7 have the same airflow at 7.27 CFM, which may be contrary to what people expect from a premium robot vacuum.
The airflow tests show that these variants use the same motor. But one difference is the Roomba J7 motor is located inside the robot, while the 694’s motor is inside the dustbin.
I put all robot vacuums I test through a rigorous series of tests on various debris like coffee grounds, quaker oats, quinoa, pet litter, sand, and hair.
Check the results below.
|Sand on hard floor|
|Carpet (Surface Pickup)|
|Carpet (Deep Cleaning)|
The Roomba J7+ has the better overall scores, but a close look at the numbers reveals a few things.
First, the J7’s smart navigation plays a factor in hard floor performance as it picked up higher averages.
Its predictable pattern reduces the side-brush scattering issue prevalent in 600-Series Roombas like the 694.
Also, the J7’s extractors did better at picking up embedded sand on carpet by five percentage points.
It’s not a significant variance, but it shows that the rubber extractors provide excellent agitation despite the lack of stiff bristles.
Which is better on hard floors?
The answer based on the numbers and eye test is obvious – the Roomba J7+.
There was less debris scattering with the predictable pattern, which is evident in the numbers.
Despite having the same airflow, it picked up more sand (98.46% vs. 96.8%) than the 694.
Here’s the before and after for the Roomba 694 (this is the eye test).
And the Roomba J7+.
The difference isn’t much, but it shows one benefit of an intelligent navigating robot.
Edge Cleaning Comparison
The Roomba J7’s predictable pattern helps it clean more along the edges – check this before and after shot.
It got nearly every crumb with some bits left on the edges, but it was minimal.
The Roomba 694 wasn’t as good because of the random navigation.
It’s evident in the photos above that the 694 left more debris.
Again, the random navigating pattern and the older counter-rotating brush design could explain why it didn’t do as well.
Hair Wrap Comparison
Surprisingly, there isn’t much disparity between the Roomba 694 and J7 with the hair wrap test. Check the table below for the test scores.
The Roomba 694 picked up slightly more hair than the J7, which surprised me since it used the older counter-rotating brushes.
However, one issue with the bristle and blade combo is hair is more challenging to clean from the bristles than the rubber extractors.
Check out this photo to see what I mean.
If it coils around tight enough, a tool is needed to dislodge hair from the brush.
The Roomba J7’s rubber extractors are easier to clean since no bristles are getting in the way.
You could see above that there’s no hair wrapping on the roller surface. Most of it is on the axles, which are easier to remove.
Which is better on carpet?
The Roomba J7’s extractors did better than the 694’s more traditional brushes on carpet, both surface and embedded debris.
Also, the predictable cleaning pattern helps in this category since it scatters less dirt.
The variance is evident in the deep cleaning test, where the J7 picked up five percent more than the 694 (85% vs. 80%).
But with surface debris, there isn’t much variance, so it shouldn’t be a deciding factor.
Nonetheless, the Roomba J7’s navigation is superior and better equipped inside larger homes with multiple rooms and should be something to consider.
Run Time Comparison
Despite having a larger battery (2140 mAh vs. 1800 mAh), the Roomba J7 has a shorter run time than the 694.
The Roomba 694 will run for up to 90 minutes, five minutes longer than the J7’s 85-minute run time.
However, run time only paints one aspect. Another factor is the J7’s more advanced navigational algorithm, enabling it to be more efficient.
It has recharge and resume, meaning it’ll resume cleaning after recharging if it doesn’t finish the cycle previously.
The Roomba 694 doesn’t have this feature, so once it recharges, it stays there until the consumers press the clean button.
Despite having the same airflow, the Roomba 694 is the noisier option versus the J7, maxing at 65.6 decibels (J7’s noise level is at 63 decibels).
But the difference isn’t much to be a deal-breaker, in my opinion.
These robots require some upkeep to function at their peak for years.
If you’re spending a few hundred dollars on these products, these steps are necessary to protect your investment.
I’ll enumerate the components that need cleaning and when to clean them.
- Counter-rotating brushes: These components take the most abuse as it picks up debris. Check and clean once a week to remove any accumulated hair on the surface and axles.
- Side brush: Another hair magnet, inspect and clean twice a month to remove any strands sticking on the prongs or base. You’ll need a Philips screwdriver to remove it.
- Dustbin: Empty the dustbin after every cleaning cycle to maximize performance. For J7+ owners, this isn’t a need since the clean base station does it for you.
- Filter: Clean the filter twice a month. Use a handheld vacuum with a brush attachment or a soft-bristled tool to agitate and dislodge debris sticking to the filter.
- Drop sensors: Use a microfiber towel to clean the drop sensors underneath the robot. These sensors prevent the robot from falling off cliff points like stairs. Gently wipe at least once a month to prevent an error code from firing and disabling the robot.
- Clean base station (J7 only): Check the bag if it’s full and replace it if the app says it has reached capacity. Ensure that the port going to the bag is free from any obstruction during the self-emptying cycle.
|Recharge and Resume|
|Number of Maps|
|Auto empty capacity|
7.27 CFM (Max)
Where can I purchase these robot vacuums?
The Roomba 694 and J7+ are available in online stores like Amazon. Please check the links below for the latest pricing information.
- Roomba J7+ on Amazon (with clean base station)
- Roomba J7 on Amazon (no clean base station)
- Roomba 694 on Amazon
Disclaimer: I will earn a commission if you purchase through any of the links above, but at no extra cost, so it’s a win-win for us!
Which is the Better Option, the Roomba 694 or J7+?
There are a lot of variables to consider when choosing between these robot vacuums.
And the biggest variable would be price. Are you willing to spend a premium for the J7 or not?
Comparing the Roomba J7 and 694 is like comparing an entry-level Toyota Corolla to a Premium Supra.
It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.
So, consumers will have to know their budget before purchasing any of these products.
I’ll enumerate reasons to choose each variant to help you.
5 Reasons to choose the Roomba 675
- Budget alternative: The Roomba 675 is iRobot’s least expensive robot vacuum alternative, several hundred dollars cheaper than the J7+.
- Thorough navigation: This robot will thoroughly navigate a small area with compromised efficiency due to the basic algorithm.
- Large dustbin: Its 600-ml capacity is one of the largest in the industry.
- Vast parts availability: The 675 shares the same components as the 675, so there are many options with replacement parts.
- Workhorse robot: The 675’s simple design ensures there will be fewer moving components that may potentially fail. I’ve heard many of these robots last into double-figure years with the proper maintenance.
4 Reasons to choose the Roomba J7+
- Intelligent navigation: The J7 offers iRobot’s latest navigation with the obstacle-avoiding capability not available in the Roomba 694.
- Best-in-class obstacle avoidance: It’s smart enough not just to avoid objects but not get too close, making it the best robot vacuum I’ve tested (so far) at evading obstacles.
- Self-emptying: The “plus” version comes with a clean base station that empties the dustbin for you.
- Advanced navigational features: The J7+ has a host of navigation features not found in the 694, like selective room cleaning, keep-out zones, clean zones, and much more.
The Verdict: Set Your Budget Before Deciding
As I’ve said earlier, the Roomba 694 and J7+ aren’t an apples-to-apples comparison.
Choosing one will depend on what features you prioritize and how much you’re willing to spend.
The Roomba 694 is much cheaper, but this variant only has basic navigational features best suited inside smaller homes with carpets.
The Roomba J7+ has all the bells and whistles, from intelligent navigation to obstacle avoidance, which the 694 could only dream about.
Folks who prioritize obstacle avoidance and have bigger homes that require a more efficient robot will benefit most from the J7, while budget-conscious shoppers who don’t mind the limitations should opt for the Roomba 694.