Setting Up and Using the Roomba 560

Today I unboxed and set up my recently received iRobot Roomba 560 evaluation unit. I figured it might be fun for those of you who are curious to see what’s involved…and then we could send it on a test run together. Consider this part one of its review, because I will be posting initial impressions tonight and final impressions after having used it for a good bit longer.


I like the promise written on the box, “cleans routinely so you don’t have to.” Yes, please!


This model is supposed to be able to clean four complete rooms, it can be scheduled to clean at a scheduled time, it has a self-charging base which it will return to when its done cleaning (brilliant!), and it includes two Virtual Walls.


All of the device’s paperwork is included in the top of the packing material – there is a quick-start guide, an owner’s manual, a registration card (which gives you 15% off future iRobot accessory purchases), and a magnet for your fridge or file cabinet with service and maintenance information and numbers.


Isn’t it pristine? Look at how nicely everything is wrapped…trust me, it will never look this sparkly again. ;-)


Clockwise from the left: the charging base, two Virtual Walls, the Roomba 560, an extra filter, the brush tool, and the AC adapter.


The Roomba measures approximately 13? across and 3? tall. The doo-dad sticking out from the top is the Virtual Wall sensor – it makes the Roomba about 3.25? tall in that one spot. As you have probably noticed, there are programming buttons on top, as well as a clock which will need to be set if you’re using the scheduling option…which only makes sense, right?

Setting the clock is very easy – just push the Clock button, and then press the day button until the correct one shows, then press the hour and minute buttons to correctly set them. You can schedule the Roomba to run one a week up to every day at a specified time. I set mine to do its rounds every day at 1 pm.

The button on the bottom is the bin release, in case you were wondering. ;-)

Doesn’t it look shiny and beautiful here?

Avah, who always has to get involved with the introduction of each robot into our household, presents the Quick Start Guide…


So I ran the Roomba all through my almost 2000 square foot, single level home, watched it do its crazy loops and patterns in the various rooms, and I didn’t restrict its movement with the Virtual Walls. I figured I might as well see what would happen if the robot had free run. I was pleased to see some of the obvious dust bunny areas, such as our freakishly long hallway, looking spic and span after the test run.

Obviously I had to make certain room more Roomba friendly, which meant making sure there was enough space between the two ottomans in my office for the Roomba to get in between them and the couch, as well as making sure that chairs were pulled from the desks so it could get underneath; all the other rooms were much less cluttered, so Roomba was able to do its thing with no trouble at all. I was pleased that the Roomba did not eat my power cables, and it was able to negotiate small steps (up to 0.75? tall) to get up on areas like the middle tiled guest bathroom and the marble hearth in the front living room.

I made a mistake and didn’t clock its run-time, but it seems like Roomba ran all through the house for about an hour. I’ll need to actually time a cleaning cycle later so I can be more specific about it. :-)

Then came the moment of truth…time to clean the bin. This is the Roomba’s underside: go ahead and click this picture so you can really see what was going on. You’ll see my long hair is clotting up the brush and bristles, and the bin looks disturbingly full. Eck. :razz:


Oh yeah…let’s look a little bit closer. Do you see this? 2000 sq. feet of hardwood floors + 3 mohair area rugs + 1 long haired female + 1 cat starting to lose her winter coat = Houston, we have a problem.


Fortunately the brush and beater are very easy to remove and clean. My hair all pulled off easily enough, but if it had been stubborn, I could have used the Brush cleaning tool. Hmmm, I think that shaving my head might eliminate some of this problem. ;-)


This is the mess inside the bin…where we have more hair, cat hair, dirt, dust, fibers from my mohair carpets…it’s all quite nasty.


We’re still not done, though. This is the filter which swings out for cleaning. Man, I can tell that it has been a few weeks since my maid cleaned, and I usually sweep the floors every few days. Looking at this collection of crud, I feel like I should have started using the Roomba after the maid had done her monthly deep clean. Ah well, at least it will be running every day from now on. ;-)


Perhaps the best part about the process is that when the Roomba has done its cleaning routine, it will back itself into the charging dock. Supposedly you only have to clean the bin / filters / brushes every third cleaning cycle, but I can tell you now that it will be a daily occurrence in my house. :-P


Another cool thing is that when the various parts get tired and they aren’t easily cleanable anymore, owners can just order replacement parts!

That’s it for tonight; more of my impressions will follow in the coming weeks… :-)

My evaluation Roomba was sent from iRobot, and you can buy them directly form the manufacturer or from other retailers.
MSRP: $349.99 for the 560 – there are various other models and price points
What I Like So Far: Finds its own charging base; cleans all over the house; extra parts are easy to get; I don’t have to do a thing except empty it out when it is done!
What Needs Improvement: I wish it had a larger bin!

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.