Hands on: iRobot’s new Scooba 450 cleans better, charges faster, speaks verbal cues

Chances are you’ve heard of iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaning robots, thanks to some very effective (and highly catchy) commercials, but the Scooba remains a slightly more niche product. And I don’t quite get why. After all, it’s pretty easy to vacuum, but who wants to scrub their floors? If you hate breaking out the Swiffer as much as I do, iRobot is making it okay for you to get rid of the manual cleaning supplies forever, with its new Scooba 450 that cleans floors three time more effectively than previous models. I got a chance to see it in action before iRobot introduced the ‘bot at CES on Monday.

Physically, the Scooba 450 looks pretty similar to previous models (as well as to the Roomba series). The difference is in how it cleans. The Scooba 450 uses iRobot’s new three-cycle cleaning process, which makes it up to three times more effective than those older models. When you turn the Scooba on, it automatically sweeps and pre-soaks, scrubs, then finishes the job with a final squeegee. Here’s a video that shows the process:

iRobot’s updated iAdapt responsive navigation technology has been optimized for wet floors, and the Scooba’s scrubbing brush spins at over 600 rpm, which makes it very efficient: The 450 is able to wash away up to 99.3 percent of bacteria.

The Scooba 450 is easier to use than previous models as well. iRobot has included has an information button on top of the device, as well as verbal cues that give you a better idea of what’s (like how much time is left in the cleaning process). And certain parts of the device have been color-coded, which makes it easier to identify the parts you interact with more often.

There are two cleaning options: A full 40-minute cycle for up to 300 square feets, or a 20-minute cycle for smaller spaces up to half as large. It charges faster than previous models, too, reaching a full charge in less than three hours. You can use the Scooba 450 wherever you would use a mop and bucket, like wood floors or tile, but it can’t be used on carpeting – for that you might want a vacuum-focused Roomba. It’ll still navigate around carpets and stair edges automatically, though.

I saw the Scooba tackle cereal, hot sauce, and an unidentified orange liquid on a tile floor with aplomb, but what I really like are the new information button and spoken cues. I’ve used older models of the Scooba in the past, and without this information available, it could be difficult to know exactly where it was in the cleaning process.

At $599.99, the Scooba 450 is not for the casual neat freak. If you’re deciding between this and the$499.99 Scooba 390, I think the new features here are enough to justify the extra $100. But compared to the$279.99 Scooba 230 it’s a tougher call. Then again, if you can’t decide, a mop and bucket are a pretty cheap way to buy yourself some time.