An introduction to the Roomba 980: what’s all the fuss about?

iRobot Roomba 980 - WiFi Connected Robot Vacuum

iRobot Roomba 980 – WiFi Connected Robot Vacuum

The Roomba 980 is the king of the current iRobot robot vacuum (roomba) line, which operates through your wifi network. The product claims to give you clean floors throughout your home at the touch of a button, using the provided iOS or Android Application or even with the sound of your voice with your Amazon Alexa or Google Home. The robot will navigate its way through each room using it’s advanced new iAdapt 2.0 localization technology, stop to recharge if needed and then resume until the job is complete (or the dustbin in full, read on for more detail). This device is suited to all surfaces, and it offers enhanced cleaning power to tackle pet hair and stubborn stains. At just over 3.5”, the iRobot Roomba 980 is able to clean underneath most sofas, beds, and storage units.

Many of us have an interest in cutting-edge technology and investing in a robot vacuum may be something you’re considering if you’re short on time or you’re a lover of gadgets and gizmos. One of the best things about the Roomba 980 is its connectivity and compatibility. Using your smartphone or devices like Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant, you can set controls and use commands to schedule cleaning whenever you want.

Our Quick Take

If you’re looking for the best robovac, the iRobot Roomba 980 is most certainly a quality contender and depending on the circumstances, may very well be the best choice for you.  Other robot vacuums in this category include the Neato Botvac Connected, the Samsung Powerbot 9350, the Dyson 360 eye and the new upstart of the group, the Xiaomi Mi. Although it comes with a hefty price tag, it is packed with features, and is a step up from previous models. The Home app is brilliant, as it affords you the flexibility to clean your home no matter where you are or what you’re doing. The device is compatible with Android and iOS systems, and you can also use voice control. The Roomba 980 boasts superior cleaning power on carpets, making it an appealing option for pet owners and it offers longer battery life than its rivals produced by Samsung and Neato. As well as lasting longer, this robot vacuum has the power to recharge itself and then continue cleaning, so you’ll never come home to a half-finished job.

If you are not looking for a top of the line robot vacuum, it’s understandable to consider other options like the Roomba 880 or 960, the Neato D3 or D5 Connected, and the lower priced Samsung models but if you want the latest features and a system that gives you the freedom to manage the device remotely, this could be an ideal choice. Like everything you buy, there are some troubles with the navigation (but much less than in previous models), but for the most part, this is a really impressive gadget, which does the job and offers you a load of extra features to boot.

Hardware / Design Quality

A quick glance at the design on the Roomba 980 and you would be hard pressed to pick it out of a line-up of other iRobot Roomba products.  It has the same basic shape and dimensions that have been used by the brand for the last 15 years.  Pick it up, however, and you should feel a pretty significant amount of heft.  The machine is no light-weight, coming in at 8.7 pounds, and feels heavier than other Roombas.  It feels solid, we have however heard some complaints of the outer trim pieces “popping” off, but have not experienced it ourselves.

The finish is nice and definitely gives the robot a more “premium” look to go with it’s more advanced features. Another thing to note is that the dust bin is fairly large at .6 liter for a vacuum this size.  We will discuss more on how often it gets filled up later in the review.

There are some new sensors, one that you will notice right away.  On the top, facing at a forward/up angle is a camera that is the primary component of the new iAdapt 2.0 system that uses a camera to map and track the robot’s location in your home.  iRobot likes to point out for anyone wondering that the camera does not record any video in your home, it is only used to identify obstacles and position the robot.

Features

 The iRobot Roomba 980 boasts an impressive list of features and the design makes it a versatile product that can benefit the vast majority of homeowners.

iRobot Roomba iAdapt 2.0 Navigation

iRobot Roomba iAdapt 2.0 Navigation

Using iAdapt 2.0 Navigation, the Roomba 980 navigates its way around the house seamlessly, covering every inch of the floor and cleaning surfaces that are difficult to reach with a conventional vacuum cleaner. The robot can cover an entire floor, using an intricate network of sensors to move from one room to the next. Previous models boasted the same bumper sensors, but the Roomba 980 has a new VSLAM mapping system, which plans a more organized route and reduces the risk of the robot crashing into furniture and walls.

The VSLAM (Visual Simultaneous Mapping and Localization) system allows the robot to map its environment, ensuring that it does not miss any spots and picks the best path to clean efficiently.  We are creating an in-depth article explaining SLAM and it’s variants which will be available soon.  Other robot vacuums such as the Neato Botvac Connected, Samsung POWERbot 9350 and Xiaomi Mi also use a SLAM algorithm to map your house as they clean, the Neato and Xiaomi use a Laser sensor similar to ones used in autonomous cars instead of the camera/vision method used by Samsung and iRobot.  While both systems work quite well, we give a slight edge to the Laser based SLAM systems and tests with the Xiaomi in particular have shown a small efficiency advantage taking less time to clean the same space.  Our SLAM article will take a deep dive into the differences between the two systems.

Battery life: There is not much to complain about when it comes to the battery life of the 980. This is among the best robot vacuum cleaners on the market today, as it boasts up to 2 hours of battery life. If that wasn’t good enough, the unit will also move back to the docking station, recharge and then resume cleaning until the job is complete without you needing to make additional demands or commands.  iRobot claims that if the Roomba needs to recharge before it has completed cleaning, it will return for a quick 19 minute “refresh” charge and then continue on it’s work.  For comparison, the Roomba 960 will run for up to 75 minutes.

iRobot Home app: iRobot has a great mobile application for the Roomba 980 available for Apple iOS and Android, which gives you the option to use voice control and remote scheduling. Using the Home app, you can press the ‘clean’ button, and your robot will start vacuuming, even if you are not home! The fact that you can vacuum your home from anywhere you want at the touch of a button is a step further than robotic cleaners released in the past. Previous models allowed you to schedule cleaning times in advance, but this is the first time you can set your iRobot Roomba 980 to start whenever and wherever you want.

Additionally you can tell the Roomba to stop when the bin is full, take a second pass, and spend extra time cleaning around the edges of the room, as well as other options.  You can also get cleaning maps (or clean map reports) innovative maps that show you exactly where your Roomba 980 has been and cleaned.  No more guess work trying to determine if the robot was successful in cleaning the whole house!

Cliff-detection sensors: falling down the stairs could be a costly error, but thankfully, that’s something you don’t have to worry about with the Roomba 980. Using cliff-top sensors, the robot avoids stairs and any other ledges or drops that may carry a risk.

Aeroforce Cleaning System: with this model, iRobot has stepped up its cleaning game. The Aeroforce Cleaning System features a boost, which enhances cleaning power by up to 10 times. This feature is particularly beneficial for customers who have pets and those who have carpets rather than wooden floors or tiles. If pet hair is an issue, this model also has a high-efficiency filter, which removes 99% of allergens.

 

Pros / Cons

If you’re looking to buy Roomba 980, reading a list of pros and cons will help you to make a decision. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages I encountered:

The Pros

  • The Home app: the app is easy to use, it works seamlessly, and it gives you so much flexibility. If you’re always in a hurry, the ability to clean your home with minimal hassle at the touch of a button is a wonderful thing. The app also has a really useful diagnostics center, which alerts you when the bin needs changing or the filter replacing.
  • Better cleaning power: the Roomba 980 boasts better cleaning power than previous models, especially on carpets, making it a great choice for clients with pets.
  • Connectivity: the Roomba 980 is compatible with Android and iOS smartphones, and it also interacts with Alexa and Google Assistant.
  • Navigation: the Roomba 980 is fitted with more sensors, and it uses an advanced navigation system to cover more surfaces, improve the quality of the cleaning job and prevent disasters like falling down the stairs.
  • Battery power: this model is a step up in terms of battery power and the charging feature, which ensures that every job is completed as desired, is a definite perk. The 960 boasts 75 minutes of battery life, but the 980 offers up to 2 hours. Once the battery has drained, the robot returns to the docking station, where it recharges and then continues cleaning.

The Cons

  • Noise: if you are at home while the robot is in action, expect noise. If you’re not keen on turning up the TV or trying to contend with noise while you’re working, schedule cleaning while you’re out.
  • Improvements to the app: the app is great, but if you’re determined to have integrated systems and live an entirely smart life, there is definitely room for improvement in terms of connecting the device with other systems and appliances.
  • Competition: competition is rife, and new models are being released all the time, which may mean that other options are more appealing.  New competitors are appearing all the time and many are giving established names like iRobot a run for their money.  Checkout our upcoming in-depth reviews on other main players in the top class, the Neato Botvac Connected, Dyson 360 eye, Samsung POWERbot 9350 and surprising new upstart, the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum.
  • Value for money: the Roomba 980 can usually be had for about $900 (the best deal we found is currently $899 on amazon), the Roomba 980 is not the cheapest robot vacuum out there, and some may say that the additional $200 compared to the Roomba 880 is not justified.

Popular Consensus 

The overriding sentiment online is that the Roomba 980 is a great piece of kit if you can justify paying a premium price. Most users love the design, the cleaning power, and the Home app, but there have been issues with navigating back to the charging station, and some people say it takes a while to get used to the unit. There’s a definite desire for improved integration, and lower prices may tempt users to consider other brands or older models.

 

How does it stand up against the competition?

iRobot’s main competitors are the Dyson 360 Eye, the Samsung Powerbot, Neato Botvac connected and Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum. The Roomba 980 is among the most advanced and it’s features fit well with the competition in this category.  While some use cameras to map and track their location, and others use laser sensors, all have intelligent mapping capabilities, powerful cleaning, and great features overall. Reviews of the Dyson 360 Eye suggest that the Roomba 980 is a better option for a similar price, but those hoping to pay a little less may be impressed by the Botvac Connected or the Xiaomi Mi. The Powerbot has a similar price to the iRobot model and claims to offer the ‘world’s most powerful suction.’ 

Conclusion

 If you’re keen to find the best robot vacuums here, it’s definitely worth considering the Roomba 980. This is a leader in the market, and it’s not hard to see why. It may be more expensive than some of its competitors, but you can see where the money has been spent. If you’re looking for powerful cleaning to tackle pet hair, a device that is easy to use and a modern system that enables you to take control wherever you are, the Roomba 980 comes highly recommended.