Roomba 880 vs 980 – Battle of the Brush-less Robots

iRobot has been busy with product development for the last three years.

During this period, they unveiled two robot vacuums with improvements to meet technological demands.

Update [March 12: 2024]: These Roomba models are no longer in production as iRobor has revamped its product line, introducing more efficient and versatile products that can now mop, like the Roomba J7 and Combo J7+.

Roomba 880 vs 980

To be more specific, there is an onslaught of smartmobile phones.

WiFi Connectivity is a must-have for any appliance

So iRobot has addressed this in their latest products – the 980 and 960.

The Roomba 880 and 980 represent iRobot’s commitment to improving their product line, making it one of the best robotic vacuums in the market, if not the best.

The Roomba 880 was the first to use the bristle-less brush roll system iRobot calls “Tangle-Free Aeroforce Extractors.”

These consist of two rubber beater bars with “teeth” that interlock. They work like gears and effectively pull dirt from hard floors and carpets.

Improvements in the new 980

In the 980, iRobot introduced significant improvements to navigation and added WiFi connectivity.

Some feature inclusions are made because of competition, namely Neato and Dyson.

Currently, the Roomba 880 isn’t available in iRobot’s online store. They’ve replaced it with the cheaper 860, which has the same features as the 880 but fewer accessories.

Update September 21, 2017: iRobot recently launched a new variant—the Roomba 890. It has the same features as the 880 and 860, but it has WiFi connectivity and is compatible with Alexa.

Find out how these two products differ in this article.

So, how are these two robots different?

First, let’s look at the aesthetic.

The Roomba 880 retained the same layout as the previous 700 series models.

However, it used a different color scheme. It is a classic Roomba design, combining dark gray and black with silver accents.

Right in the middle of the robot is the “Clean” button, which is the Roomba’s default cleaning mode.

Below are four buttons: dock, clock, schedule, and spot clean…

Roomba 980 vs 880

The 980 iRobot further simplified its already minimalistic design. And instead of five buttons, they’ve reduced it to three – spot, clean, and dock.

The rest of the functions can be accessed through an app that iRobot developed for both IoS and Android devices.

The color scheme is also different.

Instead of using black and gray, iRobot changed it a bit, using brown as its primary color to go with black and gray accents.

This is a refreshing change for me.

iRobot did this not just to make it simpler for consumers to use.

But also to accommodate the low-resolution camera mounted in the middle.

This camera creates visual landmarks so that it does not lose track of its location.

It allows this robot to remember the area it last cleaned before docking (more on that below).

Before anything else, let’s look at the features side by side.

ModelRoomba 880

Roomba 880
Roomba 980

Roomba 980
Weight8.4 pounds8.4 pounds
Run Timeapprox. 60 minutesup to 120 minutes
Multi Room *YesYes
Entire Level Cleaning **NoYes
Recharge & ResumeNoYes
iRobot AppNoYes
Remote controlYesNo
Carpet BoostNoYes
Warranty1-year on robot
6 months on battery
1-year on robot
6 months on battery
Priceprice rating button1price rating button1

Let’s look closely at the Roomba 880

When iRobot launched the 880 late in 2013, it did something that none of the robotic manufacturers had done before.

It ditched the bristled brush and switched to a brushless system they call the “Aero Force” system. This system uses two counter-rotating rubber extractors to agitate and pick up debris from both carpet and bare floor.

Here’s a glimpse of it in action (this is an iRobot promotional video)…

In terms of innovation, this technology scores high.

The unique shape of these extractors not only provides agitation but also funnels dirt and debris directly inside where the vacuum motor sits and sucks it into the dirt bin.

Since it has HEPA filtration, microscopic allergens stay inside the bin and do not come back out.

This is one feature that it has over the Neato BotVac. If you suffer from allergies, consider either of these two products.

Speaking of extractors, if you look closely, it has no bristles. Because of this, maintenance will be easier.

However, it doesn’t make it immune to things like this happening…

Roomba 880 Extractors

Long hair will wrap around these extractors even without the bristles. If you or anyone in your home has long hair, expect this to happen.

The good thing is that short pet hair or dust bunnies will no longer be a problem. So, I guess iRobot did its job, but it is not entirely maintenance-free, as you might think.

Regarding navigation, it still uses the same random algorithm as older 700 and 600 series Roombas, making it less efficient.

But it makes up for this with a long run time (at least compared to the Neato, which uses a stronger vacuum motor, hence the lower run time).

Here’s how the Roomba 880 navigates…

You’ll see later that iRobot has addressed this with the Roomba 980.

Better navigation and a smartphone app (and much more) – new features that iRobot has added to the 980

Since iRobot introduced its first robotic vacuum cleaner a few decades ago, it has mainly used a combination of sensors and an infrared sensor located at the center to detect obstacles and map out the room.

While this worked, it was very crude, and cleaning a room took a long time.

If you let a Neato and a Roomba clean a room simultaneously, the Neato would be finished in half the time it would take a Roomba.

That’s because it uses a more predictable back-and-forth pattern.

Another downside to the random pattern is it will tend to miss more spots.

I don’t know why iRobot resisted this change for a long time. But they finally made the change and added this improvement. They call this the iAdapt 2.0 system.

In addition to infrared sensors, iRobot adds a top-mounted camera to help it create visual landmarks. This way, it remembers where it has been cleaned and does not go to the same area twice.

Another improvement is the cleaning pattern. Instead of a random cleaning pattern, Roomba now uses a back-and-forth pattern similar to a Neato, which makes it more efficient in terms of how fast it can clean a room.

To see how it works, watch this video… mentioned that the app did not work when they used the robot. But that could be an early production glitch, and when you read reviews from other tech sites like CNet and Engadget, they could use the app without any problems whatsoever.

An app instead of a remote (Roomba is now WiFi-ready)

Speaking of apps, that’s the next most significant improvement that iRobot added to the 980.

Following Dyson’s lead, this feature was added to the Roomba because an ever-increasing number of consumers in the United States (and the world) have smartphones.

Here’s what the app looks like…

Roomba 980 App

The advantage of using a smartphone over a remote control is that you don’t need to be in the same room as the robot to use it.

You can schedule the robot even when you’re not at home. As long as you have internet connectivity, you can use the app and turn on the robot even at work.

So, if guests are coming over and don’t have time to clean your home, just power up the app and press “clean” to start the robot.

You can also use the app to schedule when the robot will clean your home.


Previous Roomba generations (from the 400 to the 800 series) all use an old NiCad battery that can be prone to fading and has a short life span.

Since the new 860 was released to the market, iRobot has upgraded the battery on all 800 series robots.

The 860 and 880 now have lithium-ion batteries that will run longer with less power fade.

With the new 980, iRobot has swapped that battery for a lithium-ion battery that gives it a better power band throughout the charge cycle.

The newer battery also improves battery life (the battery’s lifespan, not the run time), making this a viable option over the long term.

The new battery also extends the run time from a mere 60 minutes to 120 minutes.

These features add up to a more intelligent robot capable of efficiently cleaning larger areas.

It has better vacuum and better suction (in theory)…

If you look at iRobot’s site, they say that the Gen3 motor will increase its suction up to 10 times when the system detects that it is cleaning the carpet.

Combining that with the agitation provided by the extractors, the hit provides better performance.

The variable suction feature also preserves battery life because it will only use as much power as necessary, which is a plus.

Here’s a short video comparing the features of the 880 to the 980…

Containment – How do these two differ?

From the 600 to the 800 series, iRobot used a virtual wall or a virtual lighthouse to block it from entering areas it didn’t want to go.

A virtual wall is a wall that does one thing: block the robot’s path with a signal that extends 4 feet.

A virtual lighthouse utilizes a different principle instead of blocking the robot’s path.

This device acts like a door that automatically opens and shuts depending on the robot’s status.

As the robot finishes cleaning, it fires a signal to the lighthouse to allow it to move to the next room.

To see how these two differ, watch this…

To be clear, iRobot specifies on its site that only the Roomba 780, 790, 880, and 980 have multi-room cleaning capabilities.

Roomba Containment 880 vs 980

The 980 has improved by leaps and bounds compared to the 880 regarding navigation.

Instead of just a series of IR sensors, it now has an onboard camera plus the SLAM algorithm, which helps it track the areas it has cleaned—like a GPS.

This is the same technology found inside the Google driverless car but in a more compact form.

So, instead of moving in a random direction, the 980 is much more efficient now, going in a predictable back-and-forth line.

Cleaning multiple rooms is now possible even without the virtual lighthouse. The robot cleans areas by section and is smart enough to remember where it last stopped, just in case the battery runs low.

After recharging, it will return to the same spot and continue cleaning until it finishes the whole level. This would be a better option for folks who have larger homes.

You only need AA batteries to power these babies up. These are cheap; you can buy rechargeable batteries and save money in the long run.

Other Roomba Comparisons

Roomba has several models in its product line. Find out how each contrasts with the others and compares with brands like Neato.

Conclusion – Which one should you choose?

As much as I’d like to recommend the better-navigating Roomba 980, the price difference is too significant to ignore.

If you look at Amazon right now, the 980 costs a few hundred dollars more than the 880, which does not necessarily translate to better cleaning performance.

When it comes to navigation, the Roomba 980 wins hands down.

The improved cleaning pattern and the addition of the camera make this a better navigator. It will clean your rooms much faster than the 880, which still uses the old algorithm from previous generations.

Run time has also improved thanks to the larger capacity lithium-ion battery. A full charge will allow it to run for up to 120 minutes in eco-mode.

Combine that with the variable suction vacuum motor; you will have an intelligent vacuum cleaner that is more efficient and will clean your home faster.

The Roomba 980 has two significant advantages: high power and more efficient navigation. It will pick up debris more efficiently and roam around more proficiently.

If you don’t mind the inefficient cleaning pattern or the lack of an app to control the robot remotely, go ahead and go with the 880 and save yourself a few hundred dollars.

But if you’re willing to invest in technology, then go with the 980. And enjoy the benefits of being able to start or stop your robot even at work or while doing your grocery shopping.

About the author: Garrick, the visionary behind Cordless Vacuum Guide, brings over a decade of hands-on expertise in cordless vacuum testing to his insightful reviews showcased on this platform. Beyond his passion for empowering consumers with informed choices, he cherishes precious moments with his family, exploring global cuisines and exploring different horizons with his beloved wife and son. Follow him on Youtube, Tiktok, Facebook, and Instagram.