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iRobot Roomba 980 Review

Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued.

Our Verdict

This is the most self-sufficient robot vacuum. It deftly navigates through obstacles and leaves your floors clean.

For

  • The iRobot Roomba 980 can be controlled remotely in a lot of different ways, including by a phone app and Amazon Alexa.

Against

  • It has less suction than some robot vacs.
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The 980 was one of the few that could go from one type of flooring to another without hesitation.

The 980 was one of the few that could go from one type of flooring to another without hesitation.
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The side spinning brush helped the Roomba 980 pick up debris like this leaf in our testing.

The side spinning brush helped the Roomba 980 pick up debris like this leaf in our testing.
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The 980 is one of the larger units in our comparison, but it was still able to get under and around a lot of obstacles in the test house.

The 980 is one of the larger units in our comparison, but it was still able to get under and around a lot of obstacles in the test house.
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Rugged wheels help the 980 get over flooring transitions like this one.

Rugged wheels help the 980 get over flooring transitions like this one.
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You can control the Roomba 980 from anywhere using the phone app.

You can control the Roomba 980 from anywhere using the phone app.
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The iRobot Roomba 980 features dual rubberized brushes and a rotating side brush to get into corners.

The iRobot Roomba 980 features dual rubberized brushes and a rotating side brush to get into corners.
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Maintenance for the Roomba 980 consists of cleaning brushes and removing the bin to empty it and clean the filter.

Maintenance for the Roomba 980 consists of cleaning brushes and removing the bin to empty it and clean the filter.
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The Roomba 980 collected a fair amount of pet hair, though other units were able to get more in some of our tests.

The Roomba 980 collected a fair amount of pet hair, though other units were able to get more in some of our tests.
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The iRobot Roomba 980 is one of the more expensive models we reviewed but still represents a good value.

The iRobot Roomba 980 is one of the more expensive models we reviewed but still represents a good value.
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The 980 was one of the few that got under this couch with the heavy dust ruffle during testing.

The 980 was one of the few that got under this couch with the heavy dust ruffle during testing.
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We tested the Roomba 980 and its competitors on sawdust, flour, pet hair, cereal and more in order to gauge suction on different types of messes.

We tested the Roomba 980 and its competitors on sawdust, flour, pet hair, cereal and more in order to gauge suction on different types of messes.
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The iRobot Roomba 980 kicked a few bits of kitty litter onto itself but vacuumed up most of it.

The iRobot Roomba 980 kicked a few bits of kitty litter onto itself but vacuumed up most of it.
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The Roomba 980 collected slightly less than the average amount of sawdust from our vinyl testing surfaces but more than average on the carpeted areas.

The Roomba 980 collected slightly less than the average amount of sawdust from our vinyl testing surfaces but more than average on the carpeted areas.
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Many competitors couldn't get over the edge of this carpet for cleaning, but the iRobot Roomba did so quickly.

Many competitors couldn't get over the edge of this carpet for cleaning, but the iRobot Roomba did so quickly.
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When we tallied all results on the wood floor testing, the Roomba 980 was above average.

When we tallied all results on the wood floor testing, the Roomba 980 was above average.
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The Roomba 980 did a decent job of docking itself for charging, though it did push the base around rather than charging, at times.

The Roomba 980 did a decent job of docking itself for charging, though it did push the base around rather than charging, at times.
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The 980 left some pet hair behind after cleaning tests on vinyl.

The 980 left some pet hair behind after cleaning tests on vinyl.
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The Roomba 980 did a decent job on flour but left some behind on the vinyl cleaning test surface.

The Roomba 980 did a decent job on flour but left some behind on the vinyl cleaning test surface.
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The iRobot Roomba 980 has a very basic interface, but the recorded messages help indicate what is going on with the machine.

The iRobot Roomba 980 has a very basic interface, but the recorded messages help indicate what is going on with the machine.

Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.

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.

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.

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.