About the product
Is the Roomba 694 worth it?
The Roomba 694 is a robotic vacuum from iRobot positioned as a basic budget model for consumers seeking a simple robot vacuum. But happily, the Roomba 694 also offers several features and capabilities in common with midrange Roomba models and other competitor brands. These include Wi-Fi connectivity, smart app control, basic scheduling and voice assistant control.
The BestReviews Testing Lab ran the Roomba 694 through detailed testing, rating its performance and capabilities on different flooring types, various debris types and different cleaning situations. We found the Roomba 694 to be a capable robot vacuum well-suited for first-time buyers looking for an easy-to-use cleaning assistant.
What is the Roomba 694?
Battery life: 90 minutes | Dimensions: 13.4” L x 13.4” W x 3.54” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.35 L | Weight: 6.77 lb | Mapping: No | Self-emptying: No | Voice commands: Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri Shortcuts | Scheduling: Yes
The iRobot Roomba 694 is a battery-operated, self-guided and self-propelled vacuum cleaner designed to autonomously clean floors. It uses onboard intelligence combined with a variety of sensors to navigate through rooms and around obstacles. The Roomba 694 has a bristle brush roller that works in tandem with a smaller beater brush to pick up and move dirt and debris into its suction channel. It has a 0.35-liter dustbin with space for a removable AeroVac filter, which captures more particles. The Roomba 694 comes with two filters in its packaging, which is one of just a few small differences between it and the very similar Roomba 692, an Amazon exclusive.
The Roomba 694, which was released in 2020, features Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to connect to home networks. It can be controlled via the iRobot Home app, and through the app by digital assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant and, in a more limited way, Siri.
- Push-button operation
- Satisfactory cleaning
- App control and scheduling
- Alexa, Google and Siri compatibility
- Bump-and-clean navigation
- Limited suction power
- Lack of mapping
Roomba 694 price and where to buy
The Roomba 694 has a suggested retail price of $274.99 and has been discounted as low as $249.99. It is available on Amazon.
Testing the Roomba 694
We ran an extensive series of tests on the Roomba 694 on both carpet and hard flooring. We checked how well it performed on small particulates using substances such as table salt and ground coffee, on both carpet and hard flooring, in open areas, in right-angled corners, along couches and under furniture. We tested the Roomba 694’s performance with large particulates using breakfast cereal on carpet and hard flooring. We ran tests with pet hair on carpet and hard flooring as well as cat litter on just hard flooring.
We also measured the Roomba 694’s performance with regards to battery life, battery charging, area covered against duration and dustbin capacity. We ran navigation tests with obstacles and hazards. We tested Wi-Fi connections and smart app controls as well as voice command performance. Finally, we evaluated the Roomba 694 on its ease of maintenance and upkeep.
Roomba 694 setup
The Roomba 694 was simple to set up. The unit arrived neatly wrapped in plastic in a branded iRobot box with cardboard cutouts for stability. The unit was preassembled with a filter inside its dustbin. We began setup by removing the Roomba 694, its charging dock and the dock power cord from their packaging. We chose an appropriate spot to serve as a home base, where the Roomba would have a clear path to and from its dock, and plugged the charging dock into a wall outlet.
The Roomba 694 comes with its lithium-ion battery sealed for safety. We removed the seal by pulling it out of the battery slot of the Roomba. We then placed the unit on the charging dock to charge fully before first use. In the meantime, we downloaded and installed the iRobot home app onto a smartphone and set up the Roomba 694 for wireless control and Wi-Fi connections. The app and Wi-Fi setup take a maximum of two minutes, although a glitch during our setup process forced us to start over once. The initial charge of the Roomba 694 takes approximately two hours.
The Roomba 694 has a black plastic chassis with a smooth, glossy surface finish. The glossy finish looks somewhat artificial and shows dust and fingerprints easily. The Roomba 694 feels substantial, weighing over 7 pounds, and has a simple utilitarian look. At over 3 inches high, the Roomba 694 can fit under some, but not all, pieces of furniture, and may attempt to get into spaces where it can’t easily fit.
The Roomba 694 has self-adjusting treaded wheels that ride higher or lower as needed. It also has a small caster wheel for swiveling in any direction. On its undercarriage, a large bristle brush roll and a slender beater brush are framed by a plastic panel that flips up for roller cleaning.
The Roomba 694 performed adequately but unexceptionally when testing on a medium-pile area carpet. It successfully removed ground coffee from an open area of the carpet, but struggled with the coffee grains in our corner and furniture tests, requiring several passes and leaving behind visible residue. The Roomba 694 cleaned up spilled cereal pieces from carpet, but needed several passes to do so, crushing some pieces and scattering others out of easy reach with its side brush. It did, however, manage to remove almost all of the pet hair we scattered around.
All in all, the Roomba 694 provided enough cleaning to daily maintain a carpet, but its lack of power was evident in comparison to the Roomba i4 or j7+, both of which have 10 times the suction power and required fewer passes to clean up particulates.
In hardwood and hard flooring tests, the Roomba 694 performed adequately as well. It successfully vacuumed table salt off a bare floor with few grains left behind, but struggled to collect more than half of the salt spilled in a corner or along a wall. The tendency of the Roomba 694’s side brush to scatter loose debris was especially apparent in our large-particulates test, where it sent cereal pieces skidding across the floor and eventually out of the reach of the 694’s cleaning pattern. It fared better in the pet hair test, removing all of the test material, and managed to pass the cat-litter test with only a few stray particles left behind.
It was common for the side brush to scatter loose particles around on all the machines we tested, including the Roomba i4 and j7+. However, the stronger suction of both of those models allowed them to capture more of the debris in fewer passes than the Roomba 694 did.
Battery life and ease of use
The Roomba 694 has a stated battery life of 90 minutes on a single full charge. However, during testing, it lasted only 75 minutes on a general cleaning job over mixed carpet and hard flooring before it ran low on power. It returned to its charging base on its own and suspended the cleaning job while it recharged. Recharging it completely took two hours, as iRobot claimed. Like other 600-series models, the Roomba 694 has a shorter battery life compared to other Roomba models, especially the j7+ (97 minutes), s9+ (107 minutes) and j7+ vacuum-and-mop combo (128 minutes) models.
While the Roomba 694 can be controlled via app or even via voice, its essential cleaning function can be activated simply by pressing the large central “clean” button on top. The status ring around the central button indicates cleaning mode, job completion, error (red) and homing (blue). Other buttons activate spot cleaning or send the 694 home. This push-button ease of use makes the Roomba 694 ideal for anyone who just wants to turn it on and let it work without diving deeply into personalized or customized cleaning options.
One of the major drawbacks of the Roomba 694 is its navigation. The Roomba 694 doesn’t have mapping. It doesn’t learn or keep track of its location in a space or remember the layout of that space for future use. Rather, it follows a bump-and-clean method of navigation common to robot vacuums from the earliest models. It moves forward until it bumps into an obstacle, at which point it either tries to move around that obstacle or changes direction completely.
Unlike higher-end Roombas like the i4 or the j7+, the Roomba 694 does not clean in orderly rows. When it changes direction, it does so semi-randomly, and may not clean a given stretch of area at all during a cleaning job. This can be annoying to watch, but iRobot claims that, over time, the Roomba 694 can cover almost as much with its semi-random cleaning as other models with row-by-row navigation.
The Roomba 694 had no notable trouble negotiating various surface transitions, such as carpet to hardwood, rug to carpet, or hardwood to carpet, during our testing — although curled rug edges caused it to redirect.
iRobot smartphone application
The Roomba 694 connects to iRobot’s Home app for Android and iOS smartphones. The iRobot Home App allows you to add a new iRobot device to your home, set up its Wi-Fi connection to your home network and give it a name. While the Roomba 694 does not use mapping, other models that do can be sent on mapping-only runs from the app.
Controls and notifications
The iRobot Home app can send the Roomba 694 on jobs remotely from any location. It can also schedule the Roomba 694 to clean at a specific time. From the iRobot app, you can check on the Roomba 694’s battery levels and current status and cancel a cleaning job in progress. The iRobot Home app relays error and status notifications from the Roomba 694 when needed. When our test model wedged itself into a furniture crevice and needed assistance, the app relayed a written error notification in addition to the unit’s audio signal and message.
Interface and voice
The app’s user interface is clean and well-designed. The most commonly used features are easy to access, but we needed to dig deeper into menus and submenus to discover all the capabilities of the app and the Roomba 694. Through the app we set up voice assistants via Alexa and Google Assistant as well as Siri commands via iOS’s Shortcuts feature.
Sending the Roomba 694 on a cleaning job can be accomplished via the buttons on the Roomba itself, via voice command or via the app, but the app has the advantage of allowing you to activate a cleaning job when you’re not present in the home and schedule a job in advance. The app also provides ongoing status information, including filter life and roller life, that otherwise wouldn’t be apparent. The ability to respond to voice commands is set up only through the app as well.
Roomba 694 benefits
The Roomba 694 can be operated without needing Wi-Fi or networking and without the need of the iRobot app. The buttons on top of the Roomba 694 allow you to send it on a general cleaning job, a spot-clean job, to cancel any job in progress and to send it home to its charging dock. Being able to control the Roomba 694 without need of an app or wireless networking is convenient for any user and a boon to those who may not be comfortable using an app out of fear of complexity or privacy issues.
The Roomba 694 provides satisfactory, adequate cleaning with minimal effort and attention required. While not as strong or fast as a regular vacuum cleaner, it provides a perceptible difference in cleanliness compared to a non-vacuumed floor, and its hands-off operation is a game changer in daily housekeeping.
App control and scheduling
Despite its simple push-button basic operation, the Roomba 694 supports smarter controls via the iRobot Home app, including the ability to go on cleaning jobs when directed from the app (even when the user isn’t nearby) or schedule cleaning jobs to run at specific times.
Alexa, Google and Siri compatibility
The Roomba 694 is positioned as a no-frills model, but when connected to the iRobot Home app, it is capable of following commands relayed via the most popular voice assistants, Alexa and Google Home, and can even follow commands sent by Siri via the iOS Shortcuts app. Voice command capability is a surprisingly advanced feature that’s welcome in a budget-priced robot vacuum, making it a good value.
Roomba 694 drawbacks
The Roomba 694’s bump-and-clean navigation can be frustrating to an observer. The semi-random nature of its cleaning path seems to miss entire areas of flooring while repeatedly going over other areas. At the end of any given cleaning job, the Roomba 694 will have left large stretches of flooring untouched. If run regularly, the coverage manages to even out, but this inability to systematically vacuum open areas is a well-known annoyance of non-mapping robot vacuums.
Limited suction power
iRobot does not publish Pascal (Pa) values for the suction of its Roombas, only stating that midrange and higher-end models such as the Roomba i4 and j7+ have “10 times” the power of a 600-series robot such as the Roomba 694. While a robot vacuum’s cleaning capability does not depend entirely on suction power, the Roomba 694’s relatively weak suction causes it to need more passes when cleaning spilled debris compared to more powerful vacuums.
Lack of mapping
The Roomba 694 doesn’t support mapping. It can’t be told to go to a specific room or area to clean. It will clean whatever it can reach until its cleaning job is canceled by the “clean” button or the app. It also won’t return home as directly as models that remember where their docks are.
Should you get the Roomba 694?
The Roomba 694 is a capable though unspectacular robot vacuum. Anyone who has never used a robot vacuum before will appreciate the convenience of having their floors cleaned with little supervision and no manual effort. The push-button simplicity of the Roomba 694 makes it an ideal candidate for first-time robot vacuum users and persons who need assistance completing cleaning tasks. However, the Roomba 694’s limitations in suction strength and navigation may disappoint buyers looking for more effective performance.
Successfully cleans the surface of carpet and rugs but may leave some residue behind.
Successfully cleans hard floors and surfaces but may scatter debris with its side brush.
Floor transition: 4
Handles transitions well except curled edges and high pile.
Semi-random bump-and-clean navigation leaves some areas unvacuumed.
Ease of use: 4
Basic everyday use can be activated from the buttons on the device.