With the growing popularity of auto empty robot vacuums, iRobot has released several over the past few years since the I7. We’ll have a look at its least expensive option in this review – the Roomba I3+.
And because of this lower cost, it’s one of the more popular options in stores like Amazon. But how good is this robot? I’ve spent the past few days testing it in various aspects like cleaning, navigation, and more and share the results in this review. Let’s get to it.
Least Expensive Roomba Auto Empty Robot
Roomba I3+ Review
The Roomba I3 is iRobot’s answer to other brands that offer a cheaper alternative to its more expensive options like the I6 and S9. It has similar features to the more expensive I6 and I7 but without “Imprint Smart Mapping.” While it can move in neat rows, it won’t save maps. Power figures are similar between the I3 and I6 – cleaning results will be similar, and tests show that there isn’t much difference. Cleaning performance shouldn’t be a deciding factor between the I3 and the more costly I6/I7, but whether or not map saving, keep-out zones, and selective room cleaning is a priority.
- Above-average deep cleaning results (84.7%)
- Cheaper than the Roomba I6 and I7+
- The clean base station empties the robot’s dustbin for you
- Moves in straight lines
- Efficient and thorough, which is rare for a robot vacuum that relies on a floor sensor and gyroscope
- Bagged system protects consumers from direct exposure to allergens
- Excellent parts availability due to iRobot’s popularity
- Poor airflow (around 7 CFM)
- Fast-spinning side brush will scatter clumps of debris
- Can’t save maps
Introduction to the Roomba I3+
The Roomba I3+ is iRobot’s entry-level option with a clean base station – one reason why it’s so popular.
One difference between the I3 and I6 is their navigation. The I3 relies primarily on what iRobot calls floor sensors – one of which is an optical sensor [check photo] that helps it draw a map as it navigates and track location.
However, it won’t be as smart as the Roomba I6/I7 since it doesn’t have the top-mounted camera and SLAM, so it can’t recognize rooms, save maps, or add keep-out zones.
The I3 will move in (what iRobot calls) neat rows and much more efficient than the Roomba E5.
iRobot also toned down the aggressiveness level with these newer models and won’t bump into furniture as hard. It’s an issue with random navigating Roomba options like the 614, 675, 690, 694, and E5.
This less aggressive algorithm also prevents it from getting itself wedged on narrow spaces, which is an issue with older models.
Roomba I3 vs. I3+ vs. I4+
Before I continue, let’s look at the different I3 options and another newer model introduced by iRobot – the I4.
The I3 and I3+ are the same robots with the exact same finish. One difference between these variants is the I3 (with the plus) has the clean base station, while the non-plus variant does not.
Another thing I’d like to point out is the I3 dustbin doesn’t have this port underneath, where debris comes out as a second vacuum (inside the clean base station) kicks in when it docks to suck out contents.
So it wouldn’t be wise to buy the I3 and think you can upgrade later because you’ll spend more.
The I4+ is a recent addition to iRobot’s lineup. Spec-wise, it’s the same as the I3 with a lighter gray textured finish. One variation with the I4 is the larger capacity battery.
iRobot says it has a 20% larger capacity battery and will run longer (up to 100 minutes). Between the I3+ and I4+, I’d go with the I3+ because it’s cheaper, and the shorter run time won’t be a factor since it has recharge and resume.
The Roomba I3+ offers a modern, stylish design with its gray matte finish with a cloth-like textured outer ring.
Absent is the top-mounted camera found in the more expensive I-Series options. But it retains the same button layout.
Underneath, it retains the same brush layout as the E5, I6, and I7 with the latest extractors and single side brush.
Here’s a close look at the extractors.
The plus version will have the slot for the clean base station, while the non-plus version does not.
Dustbin design and capacity
Like the Roomba E5 and I6, the I3 dustbin loads from the back. All three variants have the same dustbin design, but capacity will vary slightly.
The non-plus I3 will hold slightly more dirt (500ml) since it doesn’t have a notch inside present in the plus version. In comparison, the I3+ and I6+ capacity is 400 milliliters or 20% less. But this shouldn’t be a big issue with the self-emptying feature.
Clean base station
Folks opting for the I3+ will enjoy the hands-free benefits of the clean base station. The I3 has a similar base station to the more expensive I6, with the same port size.
As with all Roomba auto empty options, this model has a bagged system with a capacity of around 2.5 liters.
iRobot says it will hold up to 60 days’ worth of debris, but that would depend on several factors. If you have pets, that number will be significantly less, as pet hair occupies more space.
How does the Roomba I3+ navigate?
The Roomba I3 is a significant upgrade over the random moving E5. Instead of infrared sensors, the I3 utilizes a combination of floor sensors (gyroscopes, optical sensors, and wheel odometers) to aid navigation.
It’s more efficient, predictable, and easier on the furniture (meaning it doesn’t bump as hard).
Another benefit of this upgrade is it doesn’t wedge itself on tight spaces, something that the Roomba 675 and E5 would do on occasion.
The I3 moves in neat rows, much like the I6; if you run the I3 and I6 one after another, you’d think both functions the same way.
But one thing the I3 lacks is the top-mounted camera and SLAM. The top-mounted camera helps it “recognize” rooms or, to be more specific, landmarks inside rooms. While SLAM helps it save maps and do advanced stuff like keep-out zones and selective room cleaning.
iRobot calls this “Imprint Smart Mapping,” so while the I3 will draw the map, it can’t save it and will have to draw something new every time it runs.
According to Sarah Wang (iRobot’s global product manager), the I3 navigation is equivalent to the Roomba 960 with a top-mounted camera but no map-saving feature.
One advantage of not having a camera is it will function in dark conditions without any issues. The optical sensor underneath won’t have any issues functioning even in complete darkness.
How long does it take the Roomba I3 to learn your house?
The Roomba I3 doesn’t have persistent maps (or Imprint Smart Mapping), so technically, it cannot learn your house. Every time it runs, it draws a new internal map based on what the optical sensor “sees.” And that may vary depending on what obstacles are on the ground.
The I3+ is compatible with the iRobot home app, and without “Imprint Smart Mapping,” the features are quite bare. You’ll need a home WIFI network to connect the robot and app. But it’s only compatible with 2.4 GHz WIFI and will not work with 5GHZ WIFI.
One I3 app feature I like is the option to control the number of passes, something absent in other gyroscope-equipped robots like the Roborock E4. This feature gives the Roomba I3 some level of thoroughness absent in other brands.
There are three options – automatic, one pass, and two passes. The automatic feature is the default, and the robot will decide based on room size.
The iRobot app also has a cleaning history tab, where users will see previous runs and the corresponding maps of each one.
Bin full behavior
This tab provides two options for users.
- Do not clean when full: the robot will not start a new cleaning task if it detects the bin is full. Consumers can tap on the empty button on the main interface to empty the dustbin.
- Keep cleaning when full: continue cleaning even if the dustbin is full.
I’d keep it at the default setting to prevent debris from regurgitating out the extractors. But with the auto-empty feature, this shouldn’t be a concern since the clean base station empties the dustbin automatically after every run. The dustbin has enough capacity to hold dust or hair for routine tasks.
New job options
Usually, you’d hit the play button to turn on the robot. But there’s a “new job” button on the upper right that provides more options.
You can run the robot as is or choose a max timeframe before the robot docks. It’s a helpful feature for those who want to block off a specific chunk of time for cleaning tasks.
iRobot also provides users some options to configure the vacuum, but there aren’t many options. The most useful, in my opinion, is the cleaning passes and bin-full behavior, which I’ve discussed earlier.
Unfortunately, the I3 only has one power setting and doesn’t have any of the Roomba I6 or S9’s advanced features.
No live map
Even iRobot’s higher-end options like the I6 and S9 don’t have this feature, which is somewhat disappointing since iRobot charges a premium for those variants.
How much power does the Roomba I3+ have?
iRobot is quite vague with power figures. They don’t disclose exactly how much power their vacuums produce. So to provide a measured comparison, I use an anemometer to check how much airflow passes through the primary brush roll.
It isn’t a foolproof way of gauging power, but it does help to provide a barometer of how much or how little each model has.
The I3 has 7.27 CFM at its single power setting, which is the range of these options: 675 (8.37 CFM), E5 (6.98 CFM), and I6 (8.2 CFM).
Please note that these are not official results but only a result of my experiments, so take it with some grain of salt.
Next, we’ll look at how well the Roomba I3+ deals with various debris types. I tested it on stuff like quaker oats, coffee grounds, quinoa, pet litter, sand, hair, and Fruit loops.
Here are the overall results.
- Overall: 92.39%
- Hard floor: 95.3%
- Sand on hard floor: 95.5%
- Carpet: 96.22%
- Deep cleaning: 84.7%
The 92.39% score was decent but slightly below other variants like the Roborock S5 Max and S4 Max. However, the issue wasn’t pick up as the rubber extractors were excellent. It was the fast-spinning side brush that scattered debris.
I mentioned Roborock because it is one of iRobot’s main competitors with the same brush layout, but it picked up more because the side brush doesn’t spin as rapidly.
Hard floor results
- Quaker oats: 98.6%
- Coffee grounds: 98.2%
- Quinoa: 94.6%
- Pet litter: 89.8%
Overall, the I3 did slightly worse on hard floors versus carpet (95.3% vs. 96.22%). Again, it’s the side brush scattering debris to a wider radius. Pick up wasn’t an issue with lighter debris like quinoa, but I notice struggling a bit with heavier pet litter, where portions of it were left hanging on this lip – a telltale sign of the low airflow
Now, I doubt you’ll be cleaning this much pet litter daily, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Sand on hard floor test
One of the most challenging items to clean on hard floors is sand, and to check how the I3 will do, I spread 50 grams worth on a test area. The I3 picked up an average of 95.5%. Again a decent score, but a notch below airflow monsters like the Roomba S9+, Roomba 980, and Roborock S4 Max.
One advantage these new extractors have over an older Roomba bristled brush is its tangle resistance. With the Roomba 675 and 690, nearly all the hair wrapped on the bristled brush. But that wasn’t the case with the I3 on both five and seven-inch strands.
- 5-inch strands: 58% inside the dustbin; 42% on the brush
- 7-inch strands: 40% inside the dustbin; 60% on the brush
It picked up more with the five-inch test, but some strands wrapped on the brush and axles.
Hair on the axles.
More hair tangled on the extractors after the seven-inch experiment and the axles, but cleanup is easy as the strands come off without a hitch.
Hair on axles after the seven-inch test.
I’d go with this model between the I3 and the older Roomba 675 for cleaning pet hair.
Next, we’ll look at how well the I3 did cleaning edges. I scattered coffee grounds on this corner of my home office along with the quarter-inch crevice.
It was decent, picking up most debris, but it wasn’t as good as the
Also, it didn’t pick up much of the debris embedded on the quarter-inch crevice – another sign of the weak airflow.
Despite the weak airflow, the Roomba I3 did reasonably well at cleaning carpet – both surface and embedded sand.
Low pile results
- Quaker oats: 96.8%
- Coffee grounds: 93.4%
- Quinoa: 90.4%
- Pet litter: 100%
The I3 was decent on low pile carpet, with scores above 90% across the board. Thanks to the more textured surface, the debris scattering side brush won’t be much of an issue here with the increased friction.
It’s better than most options with weak airflow (below 10 CFM) at cleaning coffee grounds due to the excellent agitation from the extractors.
Mid pile results
- Quaker oats: 96.4%
- Coffee grounds: 96%
- Quinoa: 99.4%
- Pet litter: 97.4%
Surprisingly, the I3 was better at cleaning mid-pile carpet with higher overall scores. I’m impressed by how it handled fine coffee grounds, which is a struggle for most vacuums even if I run it more than once.
Again, the excellent agitation from the counter-rotating extractors is at play here and a big reason why it was above-average on this surface.
Deep cleaning results
Next, we’ll look at how well the Roomba I3 cleans 100 grams of embedded sand on mid-pile carpet. For most robot vacuums, this will be a struggle due to poor agitation and airflow.
Despite the low airflow, the I3 picked up a decent average of 84.7% after three tests. Not great, but still at par with the best options.
How noisy is the Roomba I3+?
To check noise levels, I use a sound meter from a few feet away and the I3+ produced up to 64.9 decibels. Not very loud, but the base station will be noisier at close to 80 decibels.
How long will the Roomba I3+ run?
The Roomba I3 has an 1800 mAh lithium-ion battery, a similar-sized battery found in the I6+ and E5 with a claimed run time of 75-minutes.
Again, if you need something with a lengthier run time, go with the Roomba I4+ with a larger capacity battery that will run for up to 100 minutes.
There’s also an I3+ version with the extended life battery available on Amazon for a little more.
What comes in the box?
- Roomba I4 robot vacuum
- Clean base station w/ plug (one bag already attached)
- One extra bag
- User manual and quick start guide
Being an iRobot product, consumers shouldn’t have any concerns with parts availability. Roomba components are widely available in online stores like Amazon or eBay. Not just consumables like filters, but also hard-to-find items like a side brush motor or wheel assembly. Also, you’ll have your choice of purchasing original but costlier iRobot branded parts or cheaper third-party alternatives.
One task every robot vacuum owner must do is regularly clean the robot vacuum. As with any Roomba product, the I3 is no different, thanks to its modular design that only requires a Philips screwdriver to disassemble and clean.
I’ll quickly go through the basic I3 maintenance tasks. If you need more information about cleaning the Roomba I3, please check the link.
- Extractors: The part is responsible for debris pick up and receives the most abuse. Take it out once a week to wipe with a clean cloth. Check for any hair wrapping on it, particularly the axles.
- Side brush: Another abused component. Again, give a visual check once a week for debris build-up.
- Wheels: The I3 has three – one caster and two side wheels. Dust and debris will stick on the surface and accumulate. Use a clean microfiber towel to clean these parts.
- Dustbin and filter: Even with the clean base station, contaminants will accumulate inside and on the filter. Fortunately, the dustbin is washable, but the filter isn’t. One way to extend the filter’s lifespan is by tapping it on a solid surface.
- Clean base station: There’s nothing much to do with the clean base station except for keeping the inlet port free from any obstructions and throwing the bag if it’s full. The iRobot app will notify you once the bag is filled up.
|Battery||1800 mAh Li-ion|
|Run time||75 mins.|
|Dirt Capacity (dry)||400 ml.|
|Recharge and Resume||Yes|
Where can I buy the Roomba I3+?
You can buy the Roomba I3+ from online stores like Amazon. Check the links below for more information.
Disclaimer: I will earn a commission if you purchase through any of the links above, but at no extra cost to you, so it’s a win-win for us!
Is the Roomba I3+ worth it?
The Roomba I3+ is the least expensive iRobot auto empty option available, but compared to other brands that offer more features, it still ranks up there in terms of price. So is it worth the premium?
The auto-empty feature is compelling, along with its above-average performance on carpet. There’s no question that the I3 will pick up debris on this surface. Though it won’t be as good as the
Another aspect I like about Roomba products is their simple design and parts availability. I like that Roomba made their products easy to disassemble and put back. If you’ve done simple DIY tasks, changing any component inside the I3 won’t be a problem. So it’s something to consider if you want something that will last for years.
5 Reasons to choose the Roomba I3+
- Above-average on carpet: The I3 did better on carpet than on hard floors, which is a testament to its excellent agitation from the extractors.
- Deep cleans carpet decently: It picked up an average of 84.7% – one of the better scores from robot vacuums.
- Auto empty feature: The clean base station will empty the robot’s dustbin for you after every run, so you don’t have to do this task.
- Smart navigation: I’d go with the I3 over the E5 because the former has better navigational features. It won’t save maps, but it moves more predictably and efficiently.
- Parts availability: iRobot parts are easy to find, even for older models like the 675.
The Verdict: Similar Performance to the I6/I7 but No Imprint Smart Mapping
After testing the I3 extensively for the past few days, I found no significant difference between this variant and the I6+.
Spec-wise, both variants are nearly identical, using the same motor, battery, dustbin, and side brush. While the I6 scored slightly higher in cleaning tests, the results aren’t far off, so it shouldn’t be a deciding factor.
One advantage the Roomba I6/I7 has is the Imprint Smart Mapping and the top-mounted camera, which gives it the ability to save maps and recognize various areas in your home. This, in turn, unlocks advanced features like keep-out zones, selective room cleaning, and more.
If these features are essential to you, go with the Roomba I6. Otherwise, save some cash and go with the I3.
Least Expensive Roomba Option with the Clean Base Station
Navigation - 96%
Surface Cleaning - 95.67%
Deep Cleaning - 84.7%
Quality - 95%
Design - 96%
Value - 95%
The Roomba I3+ won’t wow you with cleaning performance, but it’s a whole lot cheaper than the flagship S9+. It’s a similar robot to the Roomba I6 and I7, but minus the top-mounted camera. So while it can move in straight lines efficiently, you won’t get features like keep out zones or selective room cleaning. The lack of a camera also means it won’t recognize landmarks in your home, but the good news is it will function even in pitch dark conditions.