iRobot Roomba 980 Review – Roomba Ditches The Random Navigation Pattern…
In 2013 iRobot introduced the Roomba 880 that ditched the bristled brushes but it still used the same old navigation and NiCad batteries that somewhat limited its potential as a truly great robotic cleaner that can clean your home efficiently.
With the new Roomba 980, iRobot has upgraded the navigation and the batteries to boost the performance of this already great performing robot.
Instead of using a separate remote control to schedule this autonomous cleaner, iRobot has developed an app that you can download on your phone and control this from virtually anywhere as long as there is internet connectivity.
Related: Find out how the 980 is different from the 880 and see if it’s worth the price difference.
The battery also gets an upgrade. Instead of a nickel hydride battery that’s prone to fading the Roomba 980 now is equipped with a lithium ion battery.
Take note that these upgrades come at a $300 premium over the old 880 and for a limited time you can avail of the Free replenishment (up to a $50 value) kit if you buy direct from iRobot.
Let’s look closely at these upgrades if they are worth the premium price.
Features at a glance
- Instead of using a random cleaning pattern, the 980 uses a more predictable grid like pattern similar to that of a Neato
- Comes with an app that lets you schedule and control this robot anywhere using your smartphone
- Lighthouses are redesigned to be more sleeker and uses cheaper double A batteries
- Lithium ion batteries will run for 2 hours before needed to be recharged
- Has cliff sensors (same sensors as the old Roombas)
- After the battery runs out it will automatically return to its charging station to recharge and continue where it left off
- Uses a more predictable and efficient back and forth cleaning pattern
- Wifi connectivity ditches the remote control
- Lithium ion battery will have a longer service life compared to the NiCad equipped 800 and 700 series
- Lighthouses aren’t as bulky and uses cheaper AA batteries
- Has HEPA filtration
- Very expensive – around $200 more than the Roomba 880
- Did not exceed the cleaning performance of the 880 despite the upgrades
What To Expect From This Cloud-Enhanced Robot
With their rivals going the cloud route namely the Dyson 360 and the Neato BotVac Connected, iRobot had to come up with a similar feature or risk getting left behind hence the Roomba 980 was released a few months after their rivals.
At the heart of this robot cleaner is a new navigation system called the iAdapt 2.0 that uses a more predictable back and forth cleaning pattern that all Neato robots has used (more on that later on).
And instead of using a remote control, iRobot has developed an app that allows you to schedule cleaning using your smartphone.
Here’s how the app looks like.
Image courtesy of CNet.
The app allows you to schedule the exact time the robot will clean your home (Roomba allows you to schedule up to 7 times per week).
It also gives you access to advanced cleaning options with just a few taps. It also shows you the status of the robot whether it’s in the middle of a cleaning cycle or returning to the charging station for refueling.
However it does not give you the status of the battery which I hope they’ll include in future app upgrades.
iRobot has completely redesigned the navigation system of the 980, instead of relying on just infrared signals to detect obstacles, this robot uses a combination of IR sensors and an on board camera to track its location plus the iAdapt 2.0 navigation that utilizes the Simultaneous Localization and Mapping algorithm or the SLAM.
This allows it to have a more predictable grid back and forth pattern – similar to what the Neato uses.
This improves the Roomba’s efficiency and lessens the chance of it missing spots here and there. It also speeds up the cleaning time and maximizes the 2 hour run time from the new lithium ion batteries.
The cameras also detect the presence of obstacles and it tells the Robot to avoid them instead of bumping into them.
Here’s a long exposure shot of the navigation…
Image courtesy of CNet.
Here’s a video from iRobot which summarizes how the new navigation system works…
Compared to the previous Roombas the 980 cleans more efficiently thanks to the more predictable cleaning pattern.
Bare Floor Cleaning
This machine would be great on cleaning dust prone hardwood surfaces where constant vacuuming would be a chore. With a low profile height of just 3.6 inches, it would be able to clean under most furniture like beds where dust can easily accumulate.
In the rice test done by CNet the Roomba 980 came in 4th behind the BotVac 85, D85, Roomba 880 and Samsung Powerbot VR9000. It slightly outperformed the Roomba 880. In the sand test which is denser thus harder to clean than dust, the 980 came in only fifth.
Check out the graph below to see the rankings.
Here’s a video demonstration on how it did on carpet cleaning small pieces of paper…
On carpet the results were roughly the same. The 980 simply could not outperform the Roomba 880 and even the BotVac 85 that ran away as the best performing all around robot vacuum out of the 6.
It did fairly well in terms of picking up rice and particularly on mid pile carpet.
You’ll notice that the side brushes will fling large debris like cheerios but it was able to clean a majority of it but didn’t get it all in one pass. I just show this to you to show you how it performed in extreme conditions.
Pet Hair Removal
For the pet hair test, Roomba ranked in the middle of the pack with surprisingly better performance on medium pile carpet were it came in second in picking up pet hair behind the Botvac D85. It also outperformed the 880 at least on carpet.
Will it Clean Stairs?
Unfortunately, there no robotic vacuum in the market right now that can clean stairs. You’ll need a stick vacuum for that.
You can schedule this to automatically clean your home up to 7 times per week or once a day. You can schedule it using the app that you can download on your smartphone.
iRobot does not specify how long it will take to fully charge the batteries.
The 980’s HEPA filters cannot be washed, after you empty the bin make sure to tap the filter against the garbage bin to dislodge any loose dirt. Make sure you wipe all the sensors before reinstalling the dirt bin back.
Here’s a short video on how it is done…
The side brushes also take a lot of beating and will gather debris, particularly pet hair. To maintain the performance side brush performance.
Don’t forget to clean the camera and other sensors using a clean microfiber towel lightly dampened with water.
When fully charged, the lithium ion battery will give roughly 2 hours of run time. With the more efficient and predictable cleaning pattern this robot should be able to more square foot per charge than the previous Roombas.
Roomba vacuums come with a 1 year warranty on the robot and 6 months on the battery.
Consumers who purchased or received a free product for review (the Amazon Vine program) said that this robot cleaner has very good suction. They especially liked how the carpet boost function that increases suction on carpet – similar to that of the Max function in a Dyson cordless vacuum.
In terms of cleaning performance, consumers say it did well with pet hair and light dusting but for larger debris, the side brushes will fling some of those around.
Rug tassels could be a potential problem as it could get stuck in between the extractors so you’ll have to fold these away or remove the rug.
Most of consumers say that they didn’t have any trouble connecting the Roomba app to the robot itself but take note that it is only compatible with 2.4 GHz networks – one consumer complained about this limitation saying that they should have also made it compatible with 5 GHz networks.
The app itself is pretty basic and based on reviews you can schedule cleaning times from anywhere as long as there is an internet connection. It will send you a notification if the bin is full, tells you whenever maintenance is needed – like cleaning the extractors.
Compared to the older 800, 700 series models the navigation of the 980 is much better thanks to the more predicable back and forth cleaning pattern. The new navigation system will actually save a map of your room in its memory and will “remember” the obstacles and shape of the room.
This in theory should make this a more efficient cleaner and miss less spots but consumers say that it is methodical in the way it cleans which means it is slow. This could be a good thing because it will pick up more dirt.
But it still uses the same cliff sensors so it will not be able to go over black carpet.
Since it is equipped with a camera, it will not navigate through a pitch black room because it needs the light to see where it is unlike the Neato that could navigate around even in a dark room.
There are still complaints about this robot not being able to return to home base and getting lost so you’ll have to do your part and prepping the room (e.g. removing obstacles and wires) to maximize any robot vacuum.
The steep price tag turned off some and whether or not it will be worth it will depend on your preferences. If you’re really busy and need a helping hand with your floor cleaning then this would be a huge help.
The best price to buy this would be in Amazon where you can buy this for just under $850 and you get Free Shipping. When you buy this direct from iRobot, expect to pay close to $900 but if you are a Amazon Prime member the price goes down by almost $40, yes even if you register with a free trial you can still get that discount.
iRobot also has a promo right now where you can get a free replenishment kit (around a $50 value) for any Roomba purchase.
This robot is a huge step forward in terms of integrating cloud based technology to appliances. The app based control panel is a huge upgrade over the IR based remote controls that limit range.
iRobot also improved the navigation in their latest product, adding a camera sensor and moving away from the random cleaning pattern that made the old Roombas terribly inefficient in terms of cleaning.
But are these improvements worth the $850 price tag you’ll pay for this? In terms of performance the Neato Botvac 80 series still wins in terms of overall cleaning performance but it doesn’t come with the gadgetry as the Roomba.
So you’ll have to think long and hard whether or not the high tech improvements of this will be worth the extra $$$ that you will have to pay.