Pros / The iRobot Roomba 980 can be controlled remotely in a lot of different ways, including by a phone app and Amazon Alexa.
Cons / It has less suction than some robot vacs.
Verdict / This is the most self-sufficient robot vacuum. It deftly navigates through obstacles and leaves your floors clean.
The iRobot Roomba 980 was one of the last models we home-tested for our robot vacuum reviews, and it put most of the others to shame. Nothing could stop our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award winner from vacuuming for its entire battery charge. Competitors would stop at every rug's edge, every furniture leg, many a minor obstacle, and sometimes need human intervention to get started again. The Roomba 980 just kept going. It also had good suction on our cleaning tests, with a few exceptions.
No machine stopped less. In fact, it didn’t stop at all, making it one of the few that could really qualify to be left unattended. Some of the others stopped so often that it would be pointless to leave them running while you are at work, which is supposed to be one of the benefits of a robot vacuum. They would get stuck within five minutes and need human help to get going again. This one was unstoppable.
- Cleaning Performance - Hard
- Cleaning Performance - Carpet
- Run Time
- Charge Time
The iRobot Roomba 980 was just plain fun to watch. It conquered a 1.5-inch threshold that went from antique wood flooring to the newest layer of tile in the kitchen in our home testing. It also rolled from the wood flooring onto two different types of rugs with relative ease, and through a maze of table legs. Most of its competitors were stopped by one or all of those obstacles, and many were even stopped by phantom obstacles, at times. They seemed to stop vacuuming for no reason at all. The Roomba 980 was tougher, though it did hesitate on some of the bigger stuff. It needed a few tries to get over the bigger obstacles and avoided the rugs' edges at first. But it eventually got onto them and cleaned them.
The perfect score on the obstacle course is just one part of the triumph of this machine. It also has very good suction – good but not the very best. There were a few that picked up more of the debris we purposely scattered in their path in our laboratory. This one struggled a little on pet hair in particular but did pretty well on most of the other tests. It left a few Cheerios behind but cleaned quickly and intelligently otherwise. It had some remarkable moments in the lab, including the kitty litter testing. It cleaned up more kitty litter on wood flooring in minutes than others did in two hours.
The cleaning pattern seems really random and ineffective at first, but as we watched the Roomba 980 clean an entire multi-room floor of the house we used for testing, it made sense. It did eventually cover almost every inch of all different types of flooring as it used up its battery charge. It just did it in a very strange pattern. It was not the best at getting into corners and along the edges but most of the robotic vacuum cleaners we tested were even worse at that than this one.
The Roomba 980 was easy to use in general. It has a voice to let you know what is happening with the unit. At one point we heard, "Please charge Roomba," which was so much easier to understand than the collection of beeps or symbols on a screen that some competitors feature.
It was not the easiest for maintenance, though. It was a little harder than others to figure out how to get the bin out of the machine for emptying. That will only be an issue on the first use, though, and only to get everything taken apart. Once we did the rest of the process was easy. We cleaned the brushes and filter without any trouble.
This robot vacuum is reasonably quiet on hard flooring but it is noisy on carpeting. It’s designed to increase the suction when it gets on any type of carpeting, and that means more sound. Since this is one of the only ones that we can recommend using unattended, you won't likely be bothered by the noise, though. It is so self-sufficient that you don't need to be in the same room babysitting it all the time like you do with many competitors. You can't be bothered by the noise if you aren’t there.
In terms of its proportions there are pluses and minuses. This is the heaviest unit we tested, and that is a drawback in some ways, but you won't have to carry it very often because it is so good at running itself and returning to its base. It was also a little tall at 3.5 inches. That kept it from going under a low-slung wooden chest that was in our test house. It still made it under one of the lower couches, though. The couch in question has a heavy dust ruffle and lower clearance that kept many units away. The Roomba 980 cleaned under it without hesitation.
You do not get an actual remote control with this one, but you can control it remotely in lots of other ways, which adds to its convenience compared to others. Aside from a phone app, which is becoming more common for robot vacuums, you can control the Roomba 980 through any device with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant. Also, it runs itself for the most part so you won't really need any of the remote control options all that often.
This is one of the units that has a carry handle, which is a nice extra. You won't have to carry it often because it is so good at repositioning itself, but when you need to lug it around it is a one-hand job. That cannot be said of all competing vacuums.
Warranty & Support
This is one of the few in our robot vacuum cleaner reviews that offers a two-year warranty – most just offer one year of coverage. The long warranty is nice, especially since this one also is the most expensive one we considered. If you are to invest that much money in one of these, it is nice to know you are covered if something malfunctions. There are lots of ways to contact customer service representatives if you have questions, including phone, email and live chat.
The iRobot Roomba 980 picked up more test messes than all but the very best robot vacuum cleaner, and it was so self-sufficient – the most self-sufficient, actually. This is the one you want if you are hoping to come home to cleaner floors. Most of the others got stuck too often, so they need constant attention. This one navigates through your home without your help. We emptied a very respectable amount of pet hair, cereal, kitty litter and other debris out of this unit, but there were others that removed even a little more. We think it is very competitive, even at its relatively high price, especially for busy people who want to be able to forget about their robot vacuum and simply come home to cleaner floors.