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iRobot Roomba 980 Review

iRobot Roomba 980
Price:   $899 List | $799.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Great navigation ability, good at cleaning carpet
Cons:  Expensive, app can be hard to set up
Bottom line:  Best at navigating a cluttered or crowded home
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   iRobot

Our Verdict

Th Roomba 980 is one of the first of the Roomba vacuums to have a systematic cleaning pattern, like the Editors' Choice award winner, the Botvac Connected or the carpet powerhouse, the Samsung POWERbot. This coupled with the already fantastic obstacle avoidance system helped this product take home the top score in our room navigation metric. While this robot is a little bit more expensive than some of its competitors, it excels at a more crowded or cluttered home. This can make the difference between having an effective automated cleaner, or having to rescue it from a jam on a daily basis.


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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
David Wise and Austin Palmer

Last Updated:
Tuesday
October 25, 2016

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The Roomba 980 is the newest, top of the line of the iRobot Roomba lines, offering plenty of new features. The 980 is the first of the Roomba line to transition to a systematic cleaning pattern, rather than a semi-random one, similar to the Neato Connected or the Samsung POWERbot. It also added smartphone connectivity as a new feature. While the 980 did perform well throughout our tests, it tied with our Best Buy winner, the Neato D75, and it's hard to justify the substantially higher price of the 980 for a similar overall performance.

Performance Comparison


The Roomba 980 getting ready to take on our concentrated flour test.
The Roomba 980 getting ready to take on our concentrated flour test.

Room Navigation


The 980 was our top rated competitor in this category, really excelling at being able to quickly and efficiently navigate out of tight spots. Both Roomba models that we tested were also much more aggressive at clearing cords, and would drive around longer and potentially free themselves more often when compared to the other models. It would become entangled with the smaller cords, essentially causing chaos until it triggered a wheel error and stopped. The Roomba models did the best at navigating out of cluttered situations, and this model was no exception. You can see in the video below how the 980 does at being started under a chair, and navigating and cleaning around a table and chairs.



The addition of a systematic cleaning pattern, couple with the existing Roomba obstacle avoidance skill really combine to make a vacuum that is exceptionally good at keeping itself running

The Roomba 980 turned on its back to clear out an entangled blind cord.
The Roomba 980 turned on its back to clear out an entangled blind cord.

Carpet Cleaning


The 980 did a slightly above average job at cleaning carpet, doing much better at getting surface debris. We found that it performed less well than some of the other vacuums we tested at digging in and cleaning the medium pile carpet. However, it was the top performer in our concentrated flour test. You can see the results of 1 cleaning pass over the flour below.

The 980 prior to our concentrated flour mess test.
The 980 after a pass at cleaning up our concentrated flour mess.
 

Hard Surface Cleaning


We found that the 980 did an average job cleaning hard surfaces. It seemed to us, similar to the Roomba 650, that the side brush threw debris around, not always into the path of the main extractor. The 980 did have a better performance than the 650 when it came to picking up finer debris, leaving trace amounts of flour when it came to our line test.

The 980 after one pass at our flour line test.
The 980 after one pass at our flour line test.

Corners and Edges


The 980 did a great job at sweeping our medium test particles (rice) away from the wall in our robot test pen. It did struggle substantially more with the flour, as the rotating side brush left behind a pattern of arcs, almost identical to the 650.

The 980 after completing our corners and edges test.
The 980 after completing our corners and edges test.

Pet Hair


The Roomba 980 was middle of the pack when it came to picking up pet hair, struggling on fluffier carpet, but doing well on hard surfaces. We did notice that, by our estimate, about 60% of the hair picked up was caught around the extractor ends and in the opening of the bin. For reference, the 980 picked up about 50% of the hair that the Neato Connected did on fluffy carpet, and about 85% when comparing them on low pile carpet.

Cleaning the pet hair from the end of the extractor of the Roomba 980.
Cleaning the pet hair from the end of the extractor of the Roomba 980.

Ease of Use


Our main dislike of the 980 when it came to ease of use is that scheduling is only possible through the smartphone app. We liked the alarm clock style buttons on the Roomba 650, but it appears these are being phased out on the newer model. The initial startup for the 980 was easy, and a cleaning pass can still be initiated by the Roomba's signature "CLEAN" button.

Value


The 980 was one of the most expensive vacuums we reviewed, and it personally was hard for us to justify the price. The additional features from the previous Roomba model drastically increase the performance, but the 980 still scored on par with other models that cost a few hundred dollars less.

Conclusion


The Roomba 980 gave a good performance, but not quite good enough to justify its price, in our opinion. It may be the best choice if you have an extremely cluttered house, but it may just be easier to spread out your furniture and clear some space if you really want a robot vacuum.
David Wise and Austin Palmer

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Unbiased.