The Roomba I7 and 980 represent the latest technology that iRobot has to offer in their robotic vacuum line.
Roomba I7 is iRobot’s newest product with its latest iAdapt 3.0 navigation that has persistent mapping technology.
Persistent mapping (iRobot calls this Imprint Smart Mapping) stores the layout from the robot’s camera and sensors into iRobot’s cloud server.
Roomba I7 then uses these stored maps to plot a more efficient cleaning pattern without having to start all over again in every cleaning cycle.
This feature also has other benefits such as cleaning specific areas inside your home.
It also has a “clean base” system that empties the contents of the bin into a second vacuum that can hold up to 30 times the capacity of the Roomba I7 bin.
This feature alone makes the Roomba I7 more autonomous than any vacuum I’ve reviewed so far.
If you don’t want the hassle of emptying the bin or want something with better navigation bin, then the Roomba I7 is the better option.
Which Roomba is better?
Between the Roomba I7 vs. 980, the Roomba I7 is clearly the better robot. The navigational upgrades (a.k.a. persistent maps) along with the clean base dock means you’ll not touch the bin weeks on end. Yes, this robot is very expensive but if you can afford the technology, it is worth it. If you’re not willing to spend for the I7 Plus then go with the base model I7 that retains the persistent maps feature.
Similarities of the Roomba I7 vs. 980
Before looking at the differences of the Roomba I7 and 980, let’s have a brief summary of the similarities between the two.
- VSLAM technology: Both the Roomba I7 and 980 use VSLAM or the Vision Simultaneous Localization and Mapping. This software is the brains behind these robots that allows it to map out the most efficient cleaning pattern and help it track its exact location making it efficient and smart.
- Rubber extractors: Starting with the Roomba 800 series, all iRobot vacuums have replaced the bristle and blade combo brush to bristle-less extractors that require less upkeep.
- WiFi connectivity: You now have access to these robots through a smartphone using the iRobot Home App. Depending on what variant you buy app features will vary.
- Voice control: Aside from the smartphone app, you can also use voice to tell the robot to clean your home through Alexa or Google Assistant.
Roomba I7 Overview
The Roomba I7 comes with upgrades in two critical areas. The first significant upgrade is the navigation. It now has the iAdapt 3.0 software that has persistent mapping which means it saves the maps in a cloud server (up to ten maps!).
Persistent mapping helps the robot become more efficient because it already has a map stored.
So with that data, it can plot a more efficient pattern to clean the home.
It also gives you the option to clean a specific part of your home. Let’s say you only want to clean the master’s bedroom; you can use the smartphone app or Alexa to do so if you prefer voice.
The second upgrade is the second vacuum iRobot calls the “Clean Base” that empties the robot’s dirt bin through a special slot underneath.
This feature helps extend the autonomy of the robot because you don’t have to empty it yourself.
The “Clean Base” feature is available in the Roomba I7+ which is around a $200 premium over the regular Roomba I7.
If you don’t want to spend over $1,000 for the top-spec version, then go for the base I7 that has the same navigation upgrades minus the “Clean Base.”
iRobot CEO Colin Angle says that the Roomba I7 “delivers the vision of what they tried to achieve” when they started building robot vacuums more than 20 years ago.
- iAdapt 3.0 navigation helps it become more efficient at cleaning rooms
- “Clean Base” cleans the robot’s dirt bin for you
- The I7+ has extended autonomy thanks to the two upgrades
- Crazy expensive robot
- Bags inside the clean base station will incur additional costs
Roomba 980 Overview
Not long ago, the Roomba 980 was the top-of-the-line Roomba, but that’s no longer the case.
Still, despite not being the latest, the Roomba 980 brings a lot to the table.
This variant still comes with the efficient iAdapt 2.0 navigation that goes in a straight back and forth pattern.
It’s the first in Roomba line to offer such, but it lacks the persistent navigation that saves the map.
The biggest downside to the lack of persistent maps is the robot has to start over at the beginning of every cleaning cycle.
Unlike the Roomba I7, it cannot clean a specific room. It has to build a map of your home every time it cleans.
Both the Roomba 980 and I7 have the same Gen 3 motor that has five times more powerful than the Roomba 960 and ten times more powerful than the Roomba 890.
However, the I7 comes with the upgraded counter rotating extractors that have slightly better agitation.
You’ll also have to empty this robot manually as it does not have the “clean base” station.
Surprisingly, if you check Amazon, the Roomba 980 and base version Roomba I7 are priced the same.
So if the price is a deciding factor, the no-brainer option would be the latter.
- Efficient navigation pattern
- Excellent performance on bare floor and carpet
- Still the same price as the base version Roomba I7
Roomba I7 Design
iRobot designers didn’t stray too far from the Roomba 980 design. This robot has the same, three button interface with the camera at the bottom of it.
There’s a subtle change with how the camera is mounted. In the Roomba 980, there’s an outer glass that covers the inner camera – the Roomba I7 does not have that.
I think that the change is purely cosmetic; most of the upgrades are under the hood so to speak.
It is essential to keep the camera lens clean to maintain optimal performance.
The color of the main body is light gray – similar to the color scheme of the Roomba 960.
Roomba 980 Design
Ever since the first Roomba came out more than 20 years ago, it has retained the round, puck shape we’ve come to love.
Despite what other manufacturers have done to try and disrupt this industry, iRobot remains one of the market leaders.
What I like about their design is the practicality it brings to the table.
And like the new Roomba I7, the Roomba 980 also has the same three button interface.
I like the design because it’s straightforward to use.
The buttons give you access to the default cleaning mode, home, and spot.
To get access to the rest of the functionality, you’ll have to download the iRobot home app available for both Android and iPhone.
How does the Roomba I7 and 980 clean?
In this section, we’ll look carefully at how these robots clean our homes.
We’ll focus on the underside of the robot because it’s where all the action is.
At first glance, you’ll both the Roomba I7, and 980 appear to look similar, but there are subtle differences.
The Roomba I7 (and I7+) retains the underlying architecture that you’ll see in the Roomba 960 and 980.
It has the same three-stage cleaning system that relies on a side brush, counter-rotating extractors, and the vacuum motor to clean floors.
The architecture may remain the same, but iRobot put some upgrades to improve the performance of this variant.
One of which is the extractors. The Roomba I7 has upgraded extractors that provide better agitation than the Roomba 980.
The side brush helps the robot reach on the edges and corners to sweep dirt and funnel it toward the main extractors.
In terms of power, the I7 retains the same motor as the Roomba 980.
When you combine the upgrade in navigation (more later), new extractors and the ability to clean dark carpet/rug, you’ve got a robot that’ll do better in large homes with lots of rooms.
But wait there’s more.
If you opt for the Roomba I7+, it’ll have the “Clean Home” dock that empties the robot’s bin for you.
The clean home dock combines a charging dock and a second vacuum that sucks out the dirt of the robot into a bag that can hold, according to iRobot, the equivalent of thirty I7 bins.
So instead of emptying the bin after every cleaning cycle, you’ll only have to dispose of the bag once a month or so.
Having the bag does incur an additional expense, but there is no allergen exposure.
The Roomba 980 is a big step up over the Roomba 890 – the last iRobot vacuums that utilize the random navigation pattern.
It is the first Roomba product that uses VSLAM as its main navigational tool.
This upgrade instantly makes the Roomba 980 smarter than any other Roomba robot that came before it.
To help with cleaning dirty floors, iRobot also put acoustic sensors that “listens” to the amount of dirt that it has picked up on floors.
Once it detects one part of the room is dirtier, it spends extra time on that area to pick up dirt.
The technology is by no means perfect as it can miss some stuff here and there, but it’s in the right direction.
Both the design of the Roomba 980 and I7 are the same with the single side brush, counter-rotating brushes and motor at the back.
It does have carpet boost mode that automatically increases suction when it detects carpet to help pick up dirt on carpet.
However, it does not have the persistent maps that the Roomba I7 has. It will still be able to clean multiple rooms with efficiency, but it will not be able to clean one specific area because it does not save the map.
The lack of the map saving feature, also means it has to draw the map every time it cleans, and this will make it less efficient.
How do the Roomba I7 and 980 navigate?
When the Roomba 980 came out a few years back, it represented a radical change in how they envisioned their products to function.
It was the first Roomba to use high-tech navigation found in their competitors like the Neato and Xiaomi.
I guess it was a necessary upgrade on their part because the competition was quickly catching up with the sudden inflow of Chinese-made robot vacuums.
The Roomba 980 had a new navigation system that relies on a camera, VSLAM, gyro and IMU data to build a map of the area it cleans.
One issue with camera-based systems that Roomba utilizes is that it does not work well in dark environments because the camera relies on a light source.
So in addition to the camera, iRobot adds a floor tracking sensor at the bottom.
Melissa O’Dea from iRobot says that “The floor tracking sensor at the bottom of the robot works as an optical mouse, tracking any movement of the robot very precisely.”
In addition to the floor tracking sensor underneath, Roomba 980 also relies on IR sensors to look for the dock and virtual walls.
The camera’s primary function is to “observe patterns” iRobot likes to call “visual landmarks.”
As the robot moves around, it continually scans the environment for these patterns and compares this to a previously recorded landmark.
This feature allows the robot to calculate precisely where it was when it saw the landmark.
These sensors complement each other and provide some check and balance if one strays.
For instance, the floor tracking sensor while precise will accumulate drift over time.
If the camera detects this, it “snaps the robot back into reality.”
What makes it impressive is all this technology is found in a compact cleaning machine.
Roomba I7 takes it further
The Roomba I7 has the same technology as the Roomba 980 but has more features.
It has VSLAM, camera, IMU data, gyro, and IR sensors plus something that extends its functionality.
The industry experts call this persistent mapping or the ability to save maps (up to ten of them).
Persistent mapping opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of convenience features.
Unlike the Roomba 980 that has to build your home’s map every time it cleans, the Roomba I7 does not have to do that.
Instead, it can use the existing data and plot out a more efficient pattern.
Once the robot gets familiar with the layout inside your home, it can plan a more efficient path to clean it.
Not only that, but it also does a better job at avoiding obstacles such as furniture legs and walls.
The iRobot home app also gives you the option to name rooms inside your home and clean a specific area at a particular time.
You can also ask the robot to clean two or three rooms at a time.
What makes this technology work is the new charging dock that automatically sucks out the contents of the robot’s bin.
You don’t have to babysit the robot and empty the bin regularly.
It’s indeed a game-changing feature that brings convenience to another level.
However, these features will work if you have WiFi and internet connectivity.
If you’re not willing to connect the robot to a router because of security concerns or don’t have internet connectivity, then you’ll have to go with the cheaper Roomba 980 or 960.
This functionality is also available through the iRobot home app if that is your preference.
Folks who have larger homes will benefit from these upgrades.
To give you an idea of how these two robots navigate, please watch this video that compares the Roomba I7 and 980.
The test only shows how the Roomba 980 and I7 navigate in a single room. You can see the significant improvement in efficiency.
Cleaning Performance between the Roomba I7 vs. 980
In this section, we’ll be comparing how the Roomba I7 compares to the 980 in terms of cleaning dirt on both hard floors and carpet.
We’ll be looking at cleaning tests done on other blogs to get a better picture of how these robots perform in different settings.
The Roomba I7 has the same motor as the Roomba 980, but it has longer rollers that iRobot says will be better at picking up larger chunks of dirt.
Liam McCabe (The Wirecutter) says that these rollers (or extractors) are excellent at digging hair from carpet versus a blade and brush design found in the older Roomba 690.
The I7 extractors have deeper nubs that provide better agitation.
Another advantage of these rollers is maintenance. You don’t have to worry about dust or fur clinging on bristles.
However, longer can still wrap around so if you live with something with long hair, you’ll have to check and clean as part of the maintenance procedure occasionally.
Derek Hales from Modern Castle says that the Roomba I7 did very well in his cleaning test on low pile carpet, high pile carpet and hardwood scoring nearly a perfect score.
Now his test didn’t factor in how the I7 would do on edges – it’s just a performance test on a narrow, enclosed area.
Vacuum Wars was impressed not only with how efficient the Roomba I7 navigates but also how it cleans hardwood and carpet.
It scored high marks in their carpet and hardwood test.
However, it didn’t do as well in their corner cleaning tests as it left dirt, especially on the edges.
It is a weak spot not only for this Roomba but other similar robots with a single side brush like the RoboRock S5 and the Roomba 980.
* photos above are screenshots from the Vacuum Wars YouTube channel.
The Roomba 980 isn’t a slouch either. If you look at cleaning tests, the result isn’t too far behind from the I7.
In a cleaning test done by Modern Castle, Derek Hales says that the Roomba 980 did very well on low pile and medium pile carpet as well as on hardwood.
It did struggle on high pile carpet which is something you’d expect from a robot vacuum.
These machines don’t do well when it comes to deep cleaning carpet so keep expectations in check.
The test, however, did not include corners or edges – all of the dirt was in the middle of an enclosed area.
CNet also did a cleaning test with the 980 and reveals that the Roomba 980 works best on hardwood and low pile carpet.
It was able to pick up 90% of pet hair on hardwood and 95% on low pile carpet.
The 980 did best cleaning rice and performed worst picking up 96% on hardwood and 91% on low pile carpet at cleaning sand, picking up only 29% on low pile carpet and 22% on medium pile carpet.
Size and Dimension of the Roomba I7 and 980
The Roomba 980 measures 13.8 inches in diameter and 3.6 inches tall.
Roomba I7 is a bit narrower at just 13.34 inches in diameter and 3.6 inches tall.
The low profile design will fit under most furniture which is one big reason to buy a robot vacuum.
Both Roomba robots weigh 8.7 pounds so moving this up and down a flight of stairs wouldn’t be an issue.
Parts and Accessories
Let’s look at the differences between the Roomba I7 and 980.
At their core, both these robots come with similar accessories. The Roomba 980 has two virtual walls versus the one that the Roomba I7 has.
One big difference would be the docking station that the I7+ has. Unlike a standard charging station that only recharges, the clean base dock in the I7+ also cleans up the dust bin.
To summarize here are the different parts and accessories that come with these variants:
- Clean Base Dock: Only available with the Roomba I7++. It not only charges the robot but also empties the contents of the bin. Many say that this is a game-changing feature that removes a lot of the legwork of owning a robot vacuum.
- Charging Base: You’ll get this with the Roomba I7 (without the “+”) and the 980. It’s a device where the robot goes to when the battery is low to recharge.
- Side brush: A standard piece of equipment found in the Roomba that allows it to sweep dirt from edges and corners.
- Virtual wall: Both the Roomba I7 and 980 come with the advanced model virtual wall that has two modes. First would be the linear mode where it blocks a straight path up to 10 feet and a radial mode where it blocks a half a radius up to 4 feet.
Usability comparison between the Roomba I7 and 980
The Roomba 980 with the upgrade in navigation, smartphone app, and Alexa compatibility is extremely easy to use.
If you even have a basic feel for technology, using the 980 is intuitive. Even without the smartphone app, click the clean button or use voice through Alexa and you’re set.
But to gain access to all the features like scheduling, notifications, and real-time map updates, you’ll have to download the iRobot Home app.
It also gives you access to the robot even when you’re not at home physically.
What I like about the app is its responsiveness. It has just enough features and gives you enough data about the robot without being too clunky like the MI Home App. The iRobot Home app is responsive and rarely crashes.
With the Roomba I7, you’ll get even more features in the app.
Aside from the scheduling and notifications when to empty the bin, change the extractors, filter and side brush, it also has data about your home’s layout.
After the I7 runs two or three times around your home, it builds a map of your home that looks like this.
Image source: iRobot
It has an exploration mode where it just goes around an entire level without the motor running to extend run time and draw the floor plan faster.
Once the map is drawn and saved through the cloud, you can add names to the different rooms and even set dividers.
You can use the app in conjunction with Alexa and Google assistant if you prefer to use voice to tell the robot what area to clean.
The app also has an option where you can schedule the robot to clean multiple rooms at a specific date or dates.
This feature is something you don’t see in most other robotic vacuums. The Neato BotVac D7 and Xiaomi RoboRock have a version of this feature, but it isn’t as good.
Here are more features that highlight the Roomba I7’s usability:
- Smart robot: You can put the I7 anywhere in your home, and it’s smart enough to know which room it’s at and will be able to find the dock after a cleaning cycle or when it needs to recharge. Just make sure that that the robot already has data of your home’s layout for this to work.
- Persistent mapping: The smart mapping feature makes the I7 usable in homes with multi-levels. As long as the battery has charge, it’ll be able to clean any part of your home without getting lost. It can save up to 10 layouts, so it’s plenty for most households. If you don’t want the hassle of carrying the robot up and down to charge, you can buy an extra docking station.
- Knows where it’s at: Even if the I7 gets stuck, it is still smart enough to know where it last left off and finish the cleaning session.
- The more it cleans, the more efficient it gets: The longer the robot cleans your home, the more efficient it becomes as it uses the fewest turns to achieve the most efficient results.
Despite having the same motor, the Roomba I7 produces less noise than the Roomba 980.
The difference is around ten decibels – the I7/I7+ produces approximately 68 decibels while the Roomba 980 around 78 decibels in carpet boost mode.
To keep these robots at their peak, you will need to do some maintenance work. Fortunately, iRobot has set some guidelines on the frequency of cleaning and replacing parts.
For the Roomba 980 and I7 you will need to do the following:
- Empty the bin after use
- Clean the side brush once a month
- Wipe down charging contacts – that’s the two square metal objects that flank the front rotating wheel
- Clean the cliff sensors using a microfiber cloth
- Remove any debris or hair that wrap around the extractors and replace them every six to twelve months
- Clean the sensor ports of the dirt bin using a clean, dry microfiber cloth
- Remove and clean the HEPA filter once a week and replace every two months
- Clean the floor tracking sensor
- Make sure to clean the front castor wheel every two weeks and replace every twelve months
- Wipe down and clean iAdapt camera using a dry clean towel
- Replace bag inside the clean base station once a month (this will depend on how large or how often you use the robot).
Here’s the secret: The base model I7 is great value
There’s a substantial price difference between the Roomba 980 and I7.
Are you willing to spend more than $1,000 for a vacuum cleaner?
Here’s the exciting part.
The base version I7 without the clean station dock costs as much as the Roomba 980 (that could change in the future though).
So if you factor in all the upgrades with the navigation, the ability to clean specific rooms and the more efficient cleaning performance, it’s a no-brainer, the Roomba I7 wins.
The one downside I see with the Roomba I7 would be the smaller bin.
However, if you get the I7+, it really won’t matter because the clean base dock will empty the bin for you.
Spec comparison of the Roomba I7 vs. 980
Which robot vacuum should you buy?
Each of these robot vacuums has a lot of offer in terms of cleaning performance and autonomy.
The Roomba I7+ with all the upgrades with its navigation and the clean base charging station will offer better overall performance.
Not only will it clean your home efficiently, it learns on the job.
As it collects more data on the different areas of your home and its nuances, it can do a better job at cleaning more efficiently and avoiding obstacles.
To summarize, here are the differences between the Roomba 980 and I7:
- Navigation: The Roomba 980 has the iAdapt 2.0 while the I7 has the iAdapt 3.0 that now has Imprint Smart Mapping (or persistent mapping) that saves the maps in iRobot’s cloud servers. In essence, the Roomba 980 has to build the map every time it cleans your home while the I7 does not as it has already stored the data which allows it to be more efficient.
- Charging station: Roomba I7+ has the clean base charging station that automatically empties the bin through a special port underneath the dirt bin while the Roomba 980 has the standard charging station that will only recharge the robot.
- Clean specific rooms: Another benefit of having persistent mapping is it allows the Roomba I7 to clean a specific room (or rooms) at a specific day (or days). The Roomba 980 does not have this feature as it has to draw a map every time sets out.
The Verdict: Roomba I7 Wins
The Roomba I7+ is the better robot vacuum than the Roomba 980. iRobot did a great with their research and development team in coming with not just a tweak, but a major upgrade that’s game-changing in many aspects. The persistent mapping (or Imprint Smart Mapping), whatever you like to call it, has so many benefits and does a better job at making the robot more autonomous than what other brands have to offer. Not only will it clean your home efficiently, but it also learns on the fly and be more efficient and avoid obstacles better as it goes along.
Another upgrade that makes the I7+ better is the clean base charging dock that empties the bin for you.
This upgrade makes owning a robot vacuum more appealing because that’s one less task you have to worry about.
All these upgrades, however, come at a high price – over $1,000!!
If you have the extra cash lying around, and you prioritize spending your time on something else other than vacuuming, the technology is worth it.
But if you don’t want to spend that much then go with the base version Roomba I7+ which surprisingly, is priced at the same level as the Roomba 980 in Amazon.
You should buy the Roomba I7 if you:
- Want a more independent robot: The clean base charging station empties the bin for you and can hold the equivalent of 30 bins which means you don’t have to empty the bin for weeks on end.
- Have a large home: The smart mapping technology inside the I7 saves the map of your home which makes it a better option for large homes. Combine that with the clean base dock, it can independently clean a whole level without you having to empty the dust cup.
- Don’t mind spending on technology: This robot vacuum is more expensive than some high-end washing machines, but the convenience that the technology brings to the table is game-changing.
To learn more, check the Roomba I7 in Amazon
You should buy the Roomba 980 if you:
- Don’t want to spend top dollar for a robot vacuum: The Roomba 980 is still a great option if you don’t mind not having map saving feature of the I7. However, this would only be true if the price of the 980 goes below the base model I7; otherwise, stick with the I7 as it is a better value.
- Have no router: Without a router and internet connection, the persistent map feature of the Roomba I7 won’t function so it would be better to go with the lower tech option.
To learn more, check the Roomba 980 in Amazon