PROS / This robot vacuum is easier to maintain than any other robot vacuum in our lineup.
CONS / The app doesn’t send push notifications to let you know what your robot is doing.
VERDICT / The iRobot Roomba 980 effectively cleans your floors – both carpeted and hard surfaces – and gives you power to name your bot, schedule cleanings and get data on when and where your robot has cleaned and even locate your robot all from your smartphone.
The iRobot Roomba 980 added a smartphone and tablet app that gives you more control over your robot, and the robot vacuum itself is smarter than ever. The Roomba 980 can find new ways over the thresholds in your house, and it includes a new mode that forces the robot to use even stronger suction as it rolls over carpet. Although it is missing some desirable features and options, the iRobot Roomba 980 is still one of the best robot vacuums we’ve tested, and it earns the Top Ten Reviews Silver Award.
This robot vacuum cleaner had a minimal charge when we pulled it out of the box, which wasn’t enough to perform a good cleaning, so we charged it overnight – though it usually only needs about three hours for a full charge. While it sat on its charger, we downloaded the app and connected the bot to Wi-Fi.
This robot vacuum is noticeably louder than any other robot vacuum we tested, but for good reason – Carpet Boost. By default, this option is turned on and as the robot vacuum zooms across the floor, it employs extra suction to get your carpet cleaner. Our test robot vacuum – we named him Rawr – moved in the same way that other Roombas did. It sort of feels its way across the room and gently bumps into furniture and walls here and there. In fact, the Roomba bumps into objects as a function because when it does, it can determine whether it should keep exploring and cleaning. This feature gives it an advantage over most robot vacuums in our lineup, because it pushes past the bed skirts and couch flaps so it can clean the areas that are less likely to be cleaned regularly.
For the most part, the Roomba 980 cleaned up in our tests. It handled fine dust and hair better than some of the best robotic vacuums we tested. It also did well with large pieces, like cereal, but it did leave a bit behind. Because this robot vacuum performs multiple passes of a room, it picked up what it had missed earlier, so the whole room was cleaned sufficiently. The Roomba 980 didn’t do quite as well on hard surfaces as it did on carpet. It had no problem rolling over rugs, but it didn’t vacuum all of the cat litter we spread out on a bathroom floor on and near the rug. Worth noting is that the Roomba has always handled thresholds like rugs and wooden edges that separate rooms well, but the newest iRobot robovac is even smarter now. If it has trouble with a rug or other obstacle it needs to climb, it tries from different angles until it either makes it over or gives up.
This was one of the easiest robot vacuums to use and maintain. It requires no assembly – you just have to pull a few tabs and turn the battery on. After it’s charged, you’re good to start cleaning your house, which can be done by pressing a button on the robot vacuum itself or using the app. This robot vacuum cleaner is one of the shorter machines on our list, which means it can slip under some really low beds, tables and couches.
Cleaning this robot vacuum was quick and easy, which made maintenance much less of a headache than with other robot vacs. One of its best features is the type of roller it employs – a soft, rubber roller design that helps pick up hair on your floors. In addition to easily sweeping the hair up, it gets pushed down the roller to the ends where it collects in tiny rings that just pop off when you clean the rollers. You don’t have to do any digging, brushing or banging of the brushes to clean them.
As with the best robot vacuums, the iRobot Roomba 980 lets you know when it needs to be charged or when its dustbin is full.
We found that the iRobot app was extremely easy to use and helpful in the information it offers you. We named our robot and then pressed the big green Clean button. You have the option of pausing or ending the cleaning job at any time from your app – and you don’t have to be home to do it. At the end of its task, Rawr returned to its base to charge. You can see how full the bin is from the app so you know when you need to empty it. And when you want to locate the Roomba, press a button on the app – your phone and the robot plays a little game of "Marco Polo." The app doesn’t send you notifications to let you know what your Roomba is up to, so you won’t know when it’s done cleaning or if it’s stuck somewhere.
Instead of virtual lighthouses, which were included with the last Roomba model, the Roomba 980 uses an improved version of the virtual wall. It allows you to set up sensors near items you don’t want the Roomba bumping into using a halo effect, so you can protect a pet’s water bowl, for example.
Warranty & Support
As with all of the robot vacuums in our lineup, the Roomba 980 offers a warranty. This one protects your purchase for one year so that if you have any issues with a defective unit, the manufacturer replaces or repairs it for you free. You can get support from iRobot’s FAQs, online product manuals, videos and customer care, which is available by phone, email or live chat on the iRobot website.
The iRobot Roomba 980 performed better than most of its competitors in our lineup, and it was easy to use. Its smartphone and tablet app made controlling the robot vacuum fun and easy. Although it doesn’t employ notifications to alert you to what your Roomba is doing, it does offer useful data about what your Roomba did.