Just in time for the gutter cleaning season (that's a season, right?), iRobot has come out with an updated version of their gutter cleaning robot, the Looj. The Looj 3 is designed to keep you from having to do dull and dirty work, and in best iRobot fashion, it's also designed to take over something dangerous, making it less likely that you'll fall off a ladder and kill yourself.
The new Looj is smaller, more adaptable, and more capable. The handle is a brand new design that's a lot easier to, uh, handle, and it works with an included belt hook to let you carry the Looj up a ladder while keeping two hands for yourself. There a new lithium-ion battery that's lighter and more powerful. Interchangeable nose attachments makes the robot better at cleaning. There's even a very deliberate new color scheme, where all the orange bits are places that you interact with the robot in some way. Clever.
What might be the biggest upgrade is that instead of having to drive Looj up and down your gutters manually, there's now an autonomous "clean" mode, that uses motor feedback to decide whether to move forward or backward and how fast to go.
We can definitely appreciate how well thought out the Looj is, and it's great that iRobot continues to make updates based on feedback from their customers. Looj might be a bit of a tough sell for a lot of people at $300, but if you have gutters and trees and a tendency towards clumsiness, this robot could save you from getting dirty and wet and (eventually) ending up in the hospital.
Also new: the Roomba 600 series!
First, if the Roomba 600 series sounds a little bit familiar, that's because iRobot had a 610 a while back that was a sort of "professional" version of the 500 series with all the trimmings plus a fancy faceplate for over $600. This new 600 series is, as far as I can tell, not related to the 610 at all, although in an attempt to not completely confuse everything, there's no new 610, just a 630 and a 650 and (maybe) a 660, which share many features with the 610 (the old 610) as well as some of both the older 500 series and the also older but not quite as old 700 series. Glad we got that all straightened out!
Seriously though, the 600 series is the replacement for the 500 series, and you'll notice that (unlike the fancy 700 series) the design of the 600s is very similar to the 500s. As such, we don't even really have to do a blow-by-blow feature comparison: just think of the 600s as the new 500s and try not to get too confused by all the numbering shenanigans. You're getting basically the same robot with basically the same incremental feature upgrades, with the 630 acting as the base model at the moment, and the 650 adding the on-board scheduling feature.
We're still having a little bit of a hard time recommending that you go out and buy any of these new Roombas, though. As much as we love it when iRobot comes out with new stuff, it's possible to find refurbished 560s for about $250 online without looking very hard, and as far as we can tell you'll be getting almost exactly the same feature set as the 650 minus the new styling but plus Lighthouses for multi-room cleaning (which are otherwise only available in the higher-end 700s). The 560 may have brushes and bins from one generation earlier, and slightly outdated firmware, but unless you're running a well-carpeted zoo like I am, you probably won't notice. It'll still clean very, very well.
From the look of the iRobot website, the company is trying to consolidate and simplify the Roomba family (a good idea), with just five models currently available (there doesn't seem to be a 660 at the moment). These are great robots, and we're big Roomba fans, but again, the problem is that iRobot has done too good of a job with the older models and in our opinion, these newer ones don't offer enough new features to justify getting one over a decent 500 series if you can find one for cheap. If not, the 630 is a reasonably good deal at $330, as long as you don't need the scheduling offered by the 650.
[ iRobot Looj 330 ]