What is the Best Roomba? Comparing Roomba Models

No talk about robotic vacuums should be complete without mentioning Roomba. Just in case you’re not familiar with it Roomba is a robotic cleaner made popular by iRobot, one of the pioneers when it comes to these autonomous cleaning machines and robotics in general.

The purpose of this article is to help you decipher the differences between different Roomba variants to help you choose which one is the best Roomba that will fit your needs and budget.

Ever since iRobot introduced the first Roomba in 2002, they’ve release 7 different generations from the 400 series all the way to the latest 900 series.

All Roomba products have the same dimension that is it is around 13.9 inches wide and 3.6 inches tall. All variants also have retained the round shape with a single side brush. Compared to a Neato, the round shape has a big disadvantage in terms of not having as wide a cleaning path.

But this brand still remains as still one of the best performing and bestselling robotic vacuums even out selling the more high tech Dyson 360 Eye.

First let’s look at the features of these robots side by side below…

Model
Roomba 860

Roomba 860
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Run time
60-90 mins.
4 hrs./div>
75 mins.
120 mins.
Diameter (inches)
13.9
Height (inches)
3.6
WiFi Enabled
No
No
Yes
Yes
HEPA filter
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Tangle-free extractors
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Smartphone app
No
No
Yes
Yes
Virtual wall
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Carpet Boost
No
No
No
Yes
Battery
NiCad
Li-Ion
Li-Ion
Li-Ion
Warranty
1 year (robot)

6 months (battery)
Price

Most Affordable Roomba

Most Affordable RoombaIf you don’t want to spend upwards of $700 for an 800 series or even $900 bucks for a top of the line 980 then the Roomba 650 is your best bet.

The 650 uses the iAdapt 1.0 navigation system that uses a random cleaning pattern. This hurts efficiency but it is very thorough especially if you use it to clean one room at a time.

For cleaning both bare floor and carpet, it utilizes counter rotating brushes – a bristled and squeegee type that work together to agitate and pick up dirt.

It does not have the HEPA filtration that the more expensive Roombas have but we’re taking about a price difference upwards of $400 which is significant but unless you suffer from a condition like asthma, this shouldn’t be a big deal to you.

For containment, it comes with a one virtual wall that acts, well, like a wall and virtually blocks the path of the robot from going in areas that are off limits.

iRobot says that this robot cannot clean multiple rooms actually it could but efficiency suffers and the potential for it going back to the charging base goes down the more room it cleans.

Bottom line: Despite being using an old technology, this robotic vacuum is still a very good product capable of cleaning your home thoroughly. It has everything you need from an autonomous cleaner –scheduling, multi-room cleaning, decent sized bin and good cleaning performance. Don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on the 650 because it will give you most of the features found in the 880 for a few hundred dollars less.

Value for Money

Value for MoneyRight smack in the middle of the top-of-the-line Roomba 980 and the now-entry-level 650 sits the Roomba 860.

This variant has the features found in the 980 while retaining the same navigation found in the older 650.

You may be wondering why I did not recommend the cheaper 700 series – that’s because Roomba has discontinued production of these and the ones you see in the market are the ones left in the last production cycle so warranty in the long term could potentially be an issue.

Features found in the 980 you’ll see in this robot are the bristle-less rubber extractors, HEPA filtration plus it has the same motor as the 960 which means more power plus it uses a lithium ion battery that doubles the battery cycle of the 600 and 700 series.

Now you know why I’m recommending this over the 700 series.

The 700 series while being more than $100 cheaper than the 860, still uses the old bristled brush system found in the 650 and the an old NiCad battery that hurts run time and has a shorter lifespan so which would you prefer?

What’s the difference between this and the 880?

Both variants are the same, except for some aesthetic differences like color but under the hood, both have the same motor, use the same lithium ion battery and motor. The only difference would be the 880 (at least the on sold on Amazon) comes with a virtual lighthouse and the 860 comes with a virtual wall.

A virtual lighthouse is a more complex tool that iRobot developed for the Roomba, it acts like a door that blocks the path of the robot for a period of time and then opens it so that it can clean another room.

Watch this video to see what I mean…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8tpf4oRAyc

Bottom line: In my book, the 860 provides the best value for money proposition among all Roomba robot vacuums, it comes equipped with features found in the 900 series like the rubber extractors, lithium ion battery and newer motor that gives it more suction compared to the previous generation Roombas – the 600 and 700 series – all this for just $100++ more.

Best Performing/Most Feature Rich

If you want the best performing Roomba with a bevy of features that can complete with the likes of the Dyson 360 Eye or Neato BotVac Connected, look no further than the Roomba 980.

This robot is the crème-de-la-crème of all the Roomba variants available in the market right now.

It boasts of the most powerful motor, largest battery, vastly improved navigation that is the most efficient plus it has a smartphone application that allows you to control this robot even when you’re not at home.

The same app also allows you schedule the robot to clean at a specific time you want it to clean (once a day, 7 days a week).

It also shows you where the robot is on a map in the middle of the cleaning cycle or when it’s returning to the charging base. If you need more thorough cleaning, the app also allows you to activate advanced features like “Two Cleaning Passes”.

The app however does not show you the status of the battery and it does not allow you to schedule cleaning more than once a day (something that the Xiaomi robot vacuum has).

New and Improved Navigation

If you’re familiar with the previous Roombas, you’d know that these robots use an IR-based, random navigation pattern that isn’t efficient at all. In fact, this is one of the biggest complaints that consumers have.

While it is thorough, it isn’t as smart as a Neato and iRobot has addressed this issue with the 900 series. Gone are the days where a Roomba will go in a random direction thanks to an onboard camera and the SLAM algorithm in it that builds an internal map of the area it is cleaning…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj3Vawn-kRE

The 980 will remember areas that it has cleaned and will not go over it twice (unless you use the Two Cleaning Passes) and when battery runs low, it goes back to the charging base, refuels and then goes to the area it last cleaned and go from there.

This system is much smarter and efficient than ever before.

Bottom line: If you don’t mind spending the $900 asking price for the Roomba 980, you’ll get one of the most advanced, efficient and powerful robotic vacuums in the market right now. It comes with HEPA filtration, smartphone app, camera based navigation that’s more efficient and run the longest than any other Roomba with a two hour run time.

A refurbished 980 is also available in Amazon that is if you don’t mind buying something used that has been restored to a nearly brand new state. This can be had for around $100 less the price of a brand new 980 and still comes with a 90 day warranty.

Stripped Down 980

I just finished talking about the $900 Roomba 980 as the most feature-rich Roomba cleaner but if paying that much for an autonomous cleaner is too much for your budget but you still want the same features then I suggest you give the 960 a long look.

It is basically a stripped down version of the 980 that comes with the same camera based navigation, WiFi connectivity, smartphone app and bin.

The downgrades are the battery and motor that halves the power and reduces run time 55 minutes.

This means that the 960 will not have the carpet boost feature found in the 980 but that shouldn’t be an issue if your home is low pile carpet. If you run this machine every day, it will keep dirt from piling up and keep your home’s environment clean.

All this downgrades come at a $200 discount.

Bottom line: Consider this robot if the 980 is too expensive for you but remember that comes at the cost of a weaker motor and smaller battery but you will still get the same efficient navigation plus the smartphone app.

Conclusion

There you have it 4 of the best Roomba robot vacuums available in the market right now. All of these machines are still in production so you don’t have to worry about warranty. These are available in iRobot’s online store or at Amazon.

Garrick Dee
 

Garrick is the founder of the Cordless Vacuum Guide that originally focused on cordless vacuums but he has now expanded to reviewing corded vacuums and carpet cleaners to be able to provide a more complete guide in terms of choosing the right cleaner.

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