Friday, December 19, 2008

Disappointing Dirt Dog

Last year the third of our three floor-cleaning robots, Telemachus, the Roomba Dirt Dog, got run over and survived, mostly. But really while he is sometimes affected by his injuries, he's really impossible to make much use of because of flaws in the design. In all, pleased as I am by the Roomba and Scooba, the Dirt Dog has to be rated a disappointment.

When I first heard of the Dirt Dog, it was described as being able to handle a workshop floor, even picking up nails and screws and chips of wood, more rugged than the Roomba. So I expected it to be a lot more expensive. I was stunned that the Dirt Dog cost much less than the Roomba. Later I learned it didn't have a vacuum, just sweeping, so I thought, gee, I guess the vacuum part is more expensive by more than you'd think, by more than the ruggedizing is.

Ultimately though it became clear that there wasn't really any ruggedizing. The Dirt Dog is just a Roomba with the vacuum left out. It's no better able to handle picking up large things like screws or woodchips, nor at dealing with tangling cables, nor even at working in dusty environments, than a Roomba is. All it manages is to not get a vacuum unit clogged, but it still fails. It gets its brushes caught on a nail, you have to pick up cables, and worst of all, you are constantly having to blow dust off its sensors or it goes into the "backwards dance" mode where it's constantly retreating from imaginary drops. Usually, I can have it run only 15 minutes at a time, at best, before it stops. Probably only a third of that is straight-out cleaning and the other two thirds is backwards-dancing. In the end, it's easier to just pick up a deck broom to do my garage. In summer I'll use him to clean the deck, but that's about it.

I suppose something that was what I thought the Dirt Dog was would indeed cost a lot. If Roomba comes out with one, though, I'll have a hard time trusting them. If anyone could do it right, they could, I guess, but they didn't, so that makes it hard to give them another chance.

(Though it is still impressive how well he survived getting run over.)

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