The Roomba 980 is the first iRobot product with smart navigation. Is it as good as a Neato or Roborock product?
I’ve put this product through a series of tests to find out, and I’m sold on the results.
It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good at what it does.
iRobot’s First Robot Vacuum with Smart Navigation
Roomba 980 Review
After almost two decades, iRobot finally changed its course and decided to utilize a more advanced algorithm in the Roomba lineup. The 980 is a pivotal moment in iRobot’s history and the first Roomba to navigate in straight lines with the top-mounted camera and SLAM. One feature separating this from other brands is dirt-detect, which instructs the robot to do additional back-and-forth passes on dirtier areas. None of the other robots have this since iRobot has a patent on this technology.
- It’s more efficient navigation than the previous generation Roombas like the 675 and 690.
- The dirt-detect feature makes it thorough.
- 600-ml dirt capacity.
- It has recharge and resume.
- 120-minute run time.
- It has a lower profile design than Neato and Roborock.
- Deep cleans carpets well.
- No containment features.
- The iRobot Home app lacks advanced features.
Introduction to the Roomba 980
Before introducing the 980, all iRobot products utilized a standard navigating algorithm, so their products only bounce around in a random direction.
Coverage wasn’t a concern as the software was sophisticated enough, so cleans the whole area. But efficiency was another matter, as older Roombas were not smart.
All of it changed with the 980. It was the first Roomba with a top-mounted camera and the iAdapt 2.0 navigation. So it can draw maps internally.
This upgrade translates to better efficiency and the ability to cover a large space without getting lost.
How does the Roomba 980 navigate?
The 980 will traverse in what iRobot terms “neat rows” – straight back and forth patterns like a Neato and Roborock.
But unlike these brands that rely on LIDAR, it utilizes a camera to aid it in recognizing obstacles and pinpoint its location.
Underneath the robot is another tracking sensor, just in case the lights go dim. This redundancy helps prevent the robot from getting lost in areas with low visibility.
It’s a similar sensor found in the Roborock E4 or the Roomba I3+.
iRobot calls this technology iAdapt 2.0. It’s a fancy term for VSLAM or Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping. iAdapt 2.0 draws maps internally based on snapshots from the camera. It also helps it remember where it’s at, so it doesn’t clean areas already covered.
However, version 2.0 doesn’t have the map saving capability of version 3.0 found in the newer I6, I7, and S9.
Since it can’t save maps, users won’t have access to containment features like keep out zones.
Consumers will not see the live map when the robot is running. Only after the run is the map accessible by tapping on the history menu.
Will the Roomba 980 scuff furniture?
iRobot products have significantly improved in this area. The Roomba 690 was notorious for bumping into furniture at full speed. This is no longer the case with the 980. It slows down and nudges objects instead of ramming into them.
How will it do in cramped spaces?
I also tested the 980 how it navigates in tight areas under chair legs. It can move around without getting caught, especially with the office chair, where the Roomba 690 had trouble.
One of the strengths of the 980 is moving in and out of tight zones.
Can it avoid wires?
Nope. None of the Roomba options can avoid wires. It’s best to tidy these up before running it. Only the products like the Roborock S6 MaxV or the Ecovacs T8 with the front camera will have some success avoiding it.
The 980 retains the round frame as older Roomba options like the 675 and 690. But there’s an overhaul with the interface.
You’ll see the camera in the middle with three buttons above it. But I don’t think you’ll be using it as much because of the app.
Below the camera is the lever to remove the dustbin.
Underneath, the 980 has one side brush and the counter-rotating extractors that iRobot utilized from the 800-series onwards.
These rollers don’t have any bristles, so it resists tangles better [more on that later].
App features of the Roomba 980
This model is compatible with the iRobot Home App. Please note you’ll need a router to connect the app and robot. The process is straightforward, with good connectivity.
Once inside, you’ll notice it doesn’t have a map. It shows an image of the robot with the “vacuum everywhere” button below it.
Since the 980 can’t save maps, the live map won’t be accessible.
Users can customize the cleaning preferences like power settings, the number of passes it makes, or turn on edge cleaning.
There are three options – automatic, one pass, or two passes.
The 980 has two power modes – performance and eco. You can also set it to automatic so the robot will only go into the max setting on carpet.
One feature I like is “bin behavior,” where the robot will automatically dock if the bin is full. It prevents messy mishaps from running the robot with the dustbin full.
Unfortunately, there’s no access to containment features.
The iRobot app also has a scheduling feature where you can set a time and date when the robot will vacuum your home. Compared to the Xiaomi Home app, the functionality is quite basic.
One limit is you can only schedule one run per day. After setting the time and date, there’s no option to set more runs on the same day.
As you can see on the screenshot above, the days on the right are disabled. It means you’ve already set a scheduled run for that day.
I hope iRobot remedies this in the future and adds unlimited scheduling in future versions of the app.
How much power does the Roomba 980 have?
To check power, I use an anemometer to measure airflow direct from the robot’s brush roll.
Here are the results for the Roomba 980.
- Eco: 13.74 CFM
- Performance: 19.74 CFM
The 980 has as much as 19 CFM in performance mode, one of the highest I’ve tested so far.
It’s one of the more potent Roomba options with more airflow than the more expensive Roomba I7 and Roborock S6 MaxV.
This high airflow translates well in cleaning floors thanks to the extractors’ excellent design and the “dirt detect” sensor.
I put the 980 through a series of pick-up tests on various types of debris like sand, quaker oats, quinoa, pet litter, Cheerios, fruit loops, and more.
Here are the results.
- Overall: 97.65%
- Hard floors: 99.35%
- Sand on hard floors: 100%
- Carpet (surface): 99.35%
- Deep cleaning: 91.9%
The marks were consistent in all the tests. It’s up there with the Roborock S5 Max with the surface debris test, but with better results in the deep cleaning tests.
One reason why it cleaned well is the dirt detect technology that focuses on dirty spots.
Hard floor results
- Quaker oats: 98.4%
- Coffee: 100%
- Quinoa: 100%
- Pet litter: 99%
One reason why the 980 didn’t do as well with Quaker oats is the side brush scattering a portion of it. If I could nitpick, the fast-spinning side brush will spread debris lumped together like this. It shouldn’t be a concern for daily cleaning since you’re only dealing with mostly dust particles or hair.
Sand on hard floor test.
I scattered 50 grams of sand on a test area to see how much the 980 will pick up. It picked up an average of 100% in two tests.
As you’ve seen in the clip above, it was able to clean most of the sand in the forward pass. Dirt detect kicked in and did another backward pass. I did not have to wait for the cycle to finish for it to pick up everything. So efficiency is excellent.
Hair wrap test
Another area to consider when buying robot vacuums is how well it resists tangles. To test, I spread one gram of five to seven inch human hair. This is a loose estimate as some strands were over seven inches.
The 980 was able to resist tangles up to seven inches.
But the cut-off point is seven. Anything over seven inches will wrap around the brush and axles.
Remember that cleaning this much long hair isn’t realistic. But it’s a good experiment to find out the limits of the extractors.
The round shape of the 980 will limit how it cleans dirt on edges. I scattered coffee grounds on this corner of my home office to see how much it clean.
It was able to clean most of the debris, but the edge wasn’t totally spotless. Cleaning edges will be an issue with most robots with a round frame.
Large debris test
Cleaning large and extra-large stuff like Cheerios and Fruit loops won’t be a concern for the Roomba 980. The rubber extractors will easily sweep up these types of debris.
However, the cut off will be Fruit loops sized particles. It won’t pick up two Fruit loops stick together.
Next, we’ll check how well the 980 picks up dirt on carpets. I
- Quaker oats: 99.2%
- Coffee: 98%
- Quinoa: 100%
- Pet litter: 100%
It had excellent scores on low pile carpet. You can clearly see the dirt detect and rubber extractors at work here. The back and forth passes were enough in most cases to pick up a majority of the debris.
- Quaker oats: 98.6%
- Coffee: 99%
- Quinoa: 100%
- Pet litter: 100%
Results on mid pile are also excellent with two 100% scores and the other two in the high 90s. Strangely it did slightly better cleaning coffee grounds on mid pile carpet than on low pile.
Deep Cleaning Test
To see how well the 980 cleans embedded dirt, I rubbed 100 grams of fine sand on mid pile carpet.
This robot was able to pick up a tidy 91.9% in two tests, which is one of the highest I’ve recorded so far with robot vacuums.
It’s up there with the
Hair wrap test on carpet
I also did another hair wrap test on carpet. This time I spread strands longer than seven inches at a little over one gram.
How long should a Roomba 980 battery last?
The Roomba 980 has a 3,300 mAh Li-ion battery and will run for up to 120 minutes in the eco setting.
Please take note that its close sibling, the 960, uses a smaller 1,800 mAh battery, so it has a shorter run time of 75 minutes.
Since this robot has recharge and resume, run time shouldn’t be much of a concern. If the battery runs low and has not finished cleaning, it will recharge and return to the same area it last cleaned in the previous run.
What I like about the Roomba 980 is how easy it is to replace the battery. It’s a modular design, so there’s easy access to the battery. You’ll only need to remove two bolts underneath and not have to remove the whole base plate.
This feature helps the 980 be a viable long term option if you want a robot that will last for years.
How loud is the Roomba 980?
Unfortunately, the powerful motor of the Roomba 980 has a bad side effect, it’s loud. Very loud.
I used a sound meter to measure noise, and here are the results.
- Eco: 66 dB
- Performance: 74.2 dB
In performance mode, it sounds like a rocket. Even in Eco mode, I wouldn’t advise using this robot at daybreak or late at night, as it may annoy your family members or neighbors.
|Battery||3,300 mAh Li-ion|
|Run time||Up to 120 mins.|
|Dirt Capacity (dry)||600 ml.|
|Recharge and Resume||Yes|
Is the Roomba 980 discontinued?
Yes. The Roomba 980 is no longer available on the iRobot website. You could opt for the cheaper Roomba 960 with a smaller battery and motor, or buy a related model like the 981 or 981. These models are the same products as the 980. There might be variations with the accessories included.
Roomba 980 Maintenance
As with all Roomba products, maintenance is an important component for its longevity. Don’t worry, I’ve outlined a step-by-step guide in cleaning the different components of the Roomba 980 to keep it in tip-top shape for years.
Where can I buy the Roomba 980?
The Roomba 980 is no longer available in Amazon brand new. But there are alternatives options like the 981 or 985 that have the same features.
You could also opt for a renewed 980 since parts are in abundant supply. It is a good, less expensive option.
Disclaimer: I will earn a commission if you purchase through any of the links above, but at no extra cost to you, so it’s a win-win for us!
Is the Roomba 980 worth it?
Even if there are cheaper options that offer comparable cleaning performance, I think the 980 is still worth considering.
One reason is performance. It’s one of the best robot vacuums available for cleaning embedded dirt on carpets.
Roomba products do so well because of the dual brush and dirt detect that does extra passes on filthier areas.
None of the other brands have this technology because iRobot owns the patent.
If you need a robot vacuum that can deep clean carpet, the 980 is one of the better alternatives for the task.
4 Reasons why you should buy the Roomba 980
- Excellent on carpet: The 980’s high airflow, dirt detect, and rubber extractors all work in unison, making it one of the best robot vacuum options for cleaning carpet.
- Extended run time: The 3,300 mAh battery enables the 980 to run further than the 960 – up to 120 minutes.
- Capable of deep cleaning carpet: It was able to pick up over 91% of embedded sand on mid-pile carpet. It’s one of the best performing alternatives in this category.
- Large dustbin: The 0.6-liter capacity is the largest among all Roomba options.
The Verdict: Best Mid-Priced Option for Carpet
While the Roomba 980 may not have the bells-and-whistles of the top-spec S9+, it’s much cheaper and cleans carpets well.
It’s not far off the S9+ in deep cleaning tests with its 91% score. I’m impressed by iRobot’s “dirt detect” system and how it could make extra passes on areas with lots of sand.
The 980 is still expensive, almost at the same level as the S5 Max with more functionality. But if you prioritize carpet cleaning and not mind the lack of containment and mopping features, the 980 is an excellent option.
One of the Best Performing Robot Vacuums on Carpet
Navigation - 94%
Surface Cleaning - 99.56%
Deep Cleaning - 91.9%
Quality - 94%
Design - 94%
Value - 92%
I’m impressed by how well the Roomba 980 cleans floors. It isn’t the most high-tech iRobot option, but it’s up there with the Roomba S9 when it comes to keeping your carpets clean. The 980 has one of the highest deep cleaning test scores at 91.9% thanks to the high airflow, dirt detect, and rubber extractors. This model is an excellent option for people looking for a mid-priced robot vacuum that can clean dirt deep down carpet strands. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the S9, but it’s way cheaper.