The Roomba 700 series (specifically the 760, 770, and 780) has been available for a few weeks now and in that time a Roomba 770 has been humming away, picking up all sorts of debris and detritus from my floors. I’ve put it through its paces in order to see how the new series stacks up against my expectations for new generations of robotic vacuums.For this article the Roomba 770 ($499) was tested. If you are looking for an explanation of the three different 700 series models you can read Geek.com’s previous coverage and if you want more background on the popular Roomba 560 check out our review.The Roomba 770 retails for $500 so I had high hopes for it. Being a dedicated Roomba 560 user I also expected the problems with that robot to have been addressed (namely the problematic CHM and the furniture-unfriendly front bumper). More than those though, I was hoping that the next generation Roomba would be both smarter and better at cleaning.At first glance it’s clear that the 770 is the best looking Roomba ever. The robot looks futuristic and cool, not like a child’s toy. It has squared edges and a cleaner design, making for a more industrial looking product. The contrast of gloss and matte surfaces makes it visually interesting and more fitting for the living room of a modern home than the plastic-looking models that came before it.The interface has been cleaned up as well. The controls are nearly the same, but the lights on the top are now blue, and they shine more often. There are four buttons instead of five, and the whole thing is easier to control (for tasks like scheduling and setting the time). The Roomba 770 I’ve been using has actual buttons though, where the $600 Roomba 780 moves over to touch sensitive controls.Fundamentally the Roomba 770 is much like the older 500 series but it has HEPA filters, a new cleaning head module (basically the beaters and gearbox), a new dust bin, improved dust handling, and better dirt detection. iRobot didn’t say anything about improved iAdapt cleaning algorithms, but this thing has some new tricks up its sleeve as well–soon into my first run with it I noticed the bot clean an area, start to pull away, and then reverse back into it to clean again. The 560 (or Scooba 230 for that matter) isn’t that clever.When it comes to cleaning, the Roomba 770 is a slight improvement on the older models. It seems to have better coverage than the 500 series and has yet to get stuck where my 560 does. There seem to be a few trouble spots the 560 tends to miss where the 770 will pick up, but it’s easy enough to assume a new models just fixes everything when in fact there is some randomness to what areas the iAdapt cleaning algorithm hits. Along the same lines, it’s hard to compare actual debris pickup but I don’t see a major change in the areas where the bots have gone (again, the 770 seem better at finding dirty spots).Overall, it does a very good job and I’m quite happy with the performance on my hardwood floors. The 770 does seem to be a bit louder than the 560, but this could simply be that I’ve been used to hearing the older model’s buzzier tone.It’s worth noting that the gearbox design has been fixed and the 700 series should avoid the dreaded “Roomba clunk”. The internal design is more protected from hair and build-up then the 500 series’ original CHM was. Hair still collects around the side brush, and while less hairs seems to stick the bottom due to static, the glossy top always looks like it’s covered in dust and other floor junk. This means that an otherwise handsome device that is always out in the open tends to looks like it’s seen better days but with a quick wipe down everything will be fine.The front bumper was changed to be more accommodating to furniture but it can still hit objects hard, especially if you have any furniture that tapers as it goes up. This is the worst scenario as not only can the sensor not see it, but the extended lip at the bottom of the front bumper will miss it and the furniture will be hit full speed with hard plastic. I’ve found that, as with my 560, you can add a thin strip of adhesive-backed rubber (available at any hardware or home goods store) it will will prevent damage to your furniture without affecting the Roomba’s docking. Some extra padding seems like a must if you want to protect your furniture from repeated full-speed Roomba bashings.Maintenance is largely unchanged from the previous models, but some points have been improved. The most important new feature on this front is a dust bin fullness indicator so you simply look at the top to see if your Roomba needs to be emptied. The new dust bin design means all the debris falls out in one nice clump after a gentle shake and the beaters seem to collect less hair than previously. The side brush still gets wrapped with long hair and requires frequent cleaning, but the front wheel seems to be maintenance-free. The ends of the beaters require much less cleaning than before (a major problem with the 500 series), but it’s still good to clean them out every week or so. After a few weeks of use I still feel like I have a long time to go before I’ll need to flip over the Roomba and do a serious clean.After spending a few weeks with the Roomba 770 I’m rather impressed. The back-of-the-box features–like HEPA filters, a dust bin indicator, and improved battery lifespan–are great but the big changes won’t be as clear to non-geeks. The improved cleaning head module was a crucial change based on my experience with the 560 and the new dust bin design is a major improvement. There are also changes on the software side, like the addition of the Persistent Pass Cleaning Pattern, which makes the 700 series a bit smarter than older models when it comes picking up debris. When it finds the dirt the Roomba 770 should be 20% better at picking it up thanks to some of those changes, so at the end of the day it’s not just a smarter robot, it’s also a better vacuum.The Roomba 760 uses the old silver/black coloring and is missing some of the big changes found in the 770 and 780 (like Dirt Detect 2). This means that the changes from the Roomba 560 and 562 Pet come down to a new dust bin and HEPA filters, so it does not seem to be worth the extra $80-100 over the 500 series models. The 770, if you are prepared to pony up $500 for a robot vacuum, is the sweet spot at the top of the line-up–it has all the new features, uses the all-black design, and is only missing the top-of-the-line 780’s touch-sensitive buttons and two Virtual Wall Lighthouses.If you can justify the substantial price, this is the Roomba to get. The Roomba 770 looks like it’s from the future, cleans better than I do on my own, and is smarter then previous generation. iRobot didn’t reinvent the Roomba with the 700 series, but it’s a nice generational improvement on the best cleaning robot on the market.Screen shot 2011-05-12 at 9.11.14 AMScreen shot 2011-05-12 at 9.11.14 AMroomba_770_04roomba_770_03roomba_770_02roomba_770_01roomba700Our test unit was provided by iRobot.