The early generation Roombas might be smart cleaners, but they plod their way around the home in their own quiet little world, requiring local user input to do anything out of their schedule.
Only the latest Roomba 980 model (see my full review here) from iRobot incorporates WiFi to add an extra level of remote control and management from a smartphone app.
The Thinking Cleaner Faceplate is here to add some of that connectivity to those older models, specifically, the Roomba 500and 600 series. The company is still working on making its gadget available for the later 700 and 800 series models.
The Thinking Cleaner module packs in a microcontroller, WiFi radio and some memory for firmware upgrades, offering the user a set of commands for each day, allowing delayed starts, clean settings and receiving messages from the Roomba when it is full.
The Thinking Cleaner Faceplate is a $99 (check this listing for the latest live prices) upgrade for your Roomba and can help tie it into your home automation systems. It is available in black or gray.
In this Thinking Cleaner Faceplate review, I’ll break down how it works (and how well it works):
Contents (Jump to)
Key Features of the Thinking Cleaner Faceplate
Packing a 32-bit microcontroller, WiFi radio and 2.5 Megabytes of flash memory, there’s nothing particularly sexy about the kit in the Faceplate. However, what it can add to your old Roomba sounds like a decent deal for just $99.
With the iOS or Android app, you can program four timer changes each day, picking between clean, max clean, dock and stop commands. Max cleaning will make the Roomba run until the battery starts to get low, when it will recharge.
If you don’t have a smartphone to hand, then you can access the Faceplate’s own internal website to take control of it.
Using the app you can also delay the start of a clean, or get it to start when you reach a regular location, like work or when you’re on your way home. Also, if you have a Roomba-heavy house, the apps will support multiple units, so you can control the herd from afar.
Pros of the Thinking Cleaner Faceplate
- Easy to Set Up: Easy to install, you only need to replace the original faceplate and set up the WiFi to get your modded Roomba up and running.
- Really Strong App: The app is the star of the show and offers features ahead of those iRobot offer on their official app for the 980.
- Automatic Alerts: The benefits are clear in that you get a reminder when the bin is full and can schedule it from anywhere, whereas you used to have to be in the room to get the old Roomba to do anything. that level of freedom is well worth the money and with good design, a great app and decent price, there is little that can go wrong.
Cons of the Thinking Cleaner Faceplate
- Only Available for 500/600 Series (as of now): Since the company just failed in its attempt at a Kickstarter campaign to get the Faceplate for the 700/800 series Roombas you might have questions about its long term viability. Still, it also failed in the original Kickstarter to get this model build last year, but they got extra funding to bring it to market. (see Kickstarter project here)
- Drains the Battery (Slightly) More: The majority of users seem very happy with their Faceplate and the only practical issues are that it only uses 802.11 G WiFi standard, and the radio drains a little more power than the standard unit.
Final Thoughts – Is the Faceplate Worth the Time and Money?
So, the device and the technology have been out there for a while and met a receptive audience, and there seems no reason not to dive in and grab one.
If you have and older Roomba and are perfectly happy with it, but would like a little extra control, then this provides a cheaper way of upgrading than splashing out on the new 980 model.
Since many users have stocked up on spare consumables for their older model, rather than take an expensive upgrade, it makes sense to give it a treat and make it a more practical machine.
Be sure to (check this listing for the latest live prices) as it’s sometimes on sale.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!