iRobot Roomba 980 Vacuum Cleaning Robot Review

iRobot Roomba 980 Design and Features

The Roomba 980 looks a lot like its most recent predecessor, the Roomba 880$679.99 at Amazon. It’s about as big, measuring 13.8 inches in diameter and 3.6 inches high, and weighing in at 8.7 pounds. For comparison, the Neato Botvac Connected, which uses a more corner-friendly “D”-shape instead of a circular design, measures 3.9 by 12.7 by 13.2 inches (HWD) and weighs 9 pounds. The Botvac has an LCD you can use to configure settings right on the physical unit, while the Roomba’s more advanced features are accessible only through iRobot’s app.

There are three buttons that sit on top of the Roomba 980—a large, circular Clean button flanked by two smaller Home and Spot Mode buttons. The Roomba wakes up and plays a jingle when you press the Clean button. Pressing it again starts a cleaning session. The Home button returns the ‘bot to its docking station, where it will charge and await further instruction. Spot Mode makes the Roomba vacuum in a fixed location, which is useful for cleaning up a controlled spill.  

A row of indicator lights sit above the Clean button. Wi-Fi indicates the Roomba’s connection status; Troubleshooting lets you know if something’s wrong (accompanied by a computerized voice that tells you the error number, which you can then look up in the app); Battery lights up green when the Roomba is charging; Full Bin indicates when the dust bin is full; and Dirt Detect flashes when the Roomba encounters a high-debris area and cleans more thoroughly.

iRobot Roomba 980 Design and Features

Flip the Roomba 980 over and you’ll see its removable dust bin, floor-tracking sensor, two main 6.2-inch rotating brushes, and a spinning side brush. The rotating brushes are simple to clean—just pull them out and dislodge any rolled-up hair or debris, then pop them back in. The dust bin can be removed by pressing and holding a latch, then sliding it out to empty into a trash bin.

Like previous Roombas, the 980 comes with two Virtual Walls. These small devices, powered by AA batteries, can be set to project a boundary across doorways or other spaces to keep the Roomba from crossing. A Halo mode can be used to create a no-go zone around sensitive areas, like pet food bowls.

iRobot promises up to two hours of continuous power, which seems accurate. During testing, the Roomba took about 90 minutes to clean my small one bedroom apartment, which consists of a bathroom, bedroom, dining area, entrance hall, and living area. It took two passes at each area before it finished. Afterward, it automatically returned to its docking station to recharge. If there’s still more work to do, it’ll pick up where it left off once fully recharged.

iRobot Roomba 980 App and Control

Like the Neato Botvac, the Roomba 980 doesn’t come with a physical remote control. That’s where your phone comes in. As mentioned earlier, the Roomba 980 connects to your home Wi-Fi network so you can start a cleaning job from wherever you are (even when you’re not home) with the new iRobot app for iOS and Android. To connect, you first need to download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. After that, simply follow the app’s instructions to pair the Roomba to your home network. It’s a simple process, and I was connected in just a few minutes.

Once connected, the app is very easy to use. The main screen consists of a big Clean button so you can activate the Roomba 980 remotely with a quick tap. An icon in the top left corner brings up a small menu where you can add an additional robot, find out basic app information, and visit the iRobot online store. The bottom row of the main screen has three icons: Cleaning Preferences, Weekly Schedule, and More.

iRobot Roomba 980 App and Control 

You’ll find a couple of options under Cleaning Preferences, including Carpet Boost, which ramps up the Roomba’s vacuum power when it encounters carpets or rugs. You can set it to automatically enter Boost mode on carpets, use the setting on all floor surfaces, or always run at the lowest power setting to extend cleaning time and operate more quietly (the Roomba gets quite loud in operation, comparable with a traditional upright vacuum). You can also configure the Roomba to cover all areas in a single run instead of two cleaning passes, to finish cleaning even if the dust bin is full, and to “edge clean,” which makes it clean along furniture legs and walls to conclude a cleaning job. The Neato Botvac Connected lacks these advanced features, opting for more streamlined Eco and Turbo modes, which simply increase or decrease suction power.

The Weekly Schedule feature lets you easily set up times for the Roomba 980 to turn on and start a cleaning session, something previous Roombas can also do. The More tab is home to a list of miscellaneous items including various settings, a step-by-step guide for maintaining the robot, and firmware/app updates.

iRobot Roomba 980 Performance and Conclusions

The Roomba 980 uses several built-in sensors to build a map of your home as it cleans. It goes boldly forth, bumping into things until it learns the lay of the land. The more it cleans, the more it learns to keep track of areas and objects until it’s mapped everything out and cleaned everything up. Eventually, the Roomba 980 cleans open areas by systematically moving in parallel lines, which is similar to the Neato vacuums. It can also detect different floor surfaces and optimize suction power, which basically means it will become more powerful when it runs over carpets or rugs.

Read also:  iRobot Roomba 650 Vacuum Cleaning Robot Review

iRobot Roomba 980 Performance and Conclusions

To test the Roomba, I placed it in my small apartment’s dining area, which is really also the kitchen. I activated the ‘bot and it went on its way, cleaning up the hardwood floors, scooting around the furniture legs and and underneath the kitchen counters, and using the spinning brush to sweep out dust from hard-to-reach corners. At first it made broad strokes, cleaning the wider, more open spaces, and bumping into things like the counter’s sides and the chair legs until it learned my apartment’s layout by the second run. Then, it carefully went around each table leg, under the sofa, and over the rug until it sucked everything up, including plenty of cat hair. The Roomba 980 had no problem picking up kitty litter in the bathroom, or stray leaves in the entrance hall. It failed to pick up larger dry cat food pellets, since its spinning brush kept knocking them away, something the Botvac didn’t have an issue with. But for the most part, it left my apartment feeling clean and looking better than before.

There was some trouble when it bumped the cat food bowls, spilling some of their contents on the floor, which is the exact opposite of what a vacuum should do; this is where Halo mode with the Virtual Walls comes in handy. I also made sure to clear the way of cat toys and wires. A cat toy got stuck in the spinning brush at one point, requiring an untangling session.

Thanks to the inclusion of Wi-Fi and app control, the Roomba 980 is iRobot’s best vacuum yet. You can schedule it to work anytime, from anywhere, so you always come home to a clean house. But the Roomba 980 isn’t perfect, and for nearly a thousand dollars, it should be. It leaves the occasional debris behind, and you’ll still need to clear some things out of the way before it starts cleaning. The Neato Botvac Connected offers similar performance and app control for $200 less, making it the better bet if you’re set on smartphone control. And while it doesn’t offer Wi-Fi, our Editors’ Choice remains the Neato XV Signature Pro for its otherwise similar performance and much more affordable price.

By: Timothy Torres / pcmag.com

iRobot Roomba 980 Pros and Cons

iRobot Roomba 980 Pros and Cons

iRobot Roomba 980 Pros

  • The App is Awesome: It’s fairly simple and straightforward, but it means everything to me. Being able to control my robot from my phone means the Roomba is now part of my smart home family. Picking up on where tools like the Nest and Ecobee smart thermostats have left off, iRobot has really delivered on a smart, web-connected, roomba vacuum. I’m already eagerly thinking about the possibilities for future integration with my various smart home apps and controllers.
  • Better on Carpets: The newly redesigned motor is particularly good at adapting to carpet surfaces. Once detected, the 980 will engage a bit more muscle to thoroughly clean carpets the way they should be cleaned. In a side by side test with my Roomba 880 (and a bunch of spilled crushed cheerios), both “appeared” to clean the same at a distance, but the 980 actually was able to pick up more of the crumbs that had filtered down to the bottom of the carpet. It was a subtle difference, hard to tell from standing up even, but an important difference nonetheless.
  • More Hands Off/User Friendly: In short, it’s more of a robot! The new app, the stronger battery and the automatic recharging/resume feature makes the Roomba 980 even more hands free than both previous models and the competition. Slowly but surely, home robotics is living up to it’s promise. If you hate vacuuming – or physically cannot do it anymore – this is the quintessential outsourced solution. Short of hiring cleaning help, the Roomba 980 is now the best option out there.
  • Navigation is Noticeably Improved: Sometimes new features are added and I can hardly tell the difference. Not so with the new navigation technology. In the past, Roomba’s have had the knock for cleaning in a randomized, haphazard pattern. While the end result was clean floors, how it happened wasn’t pretty. Still, it was also a bit inefficient. This was one of the contrasts I liked about most Neato models. Now, the 980 is much more organized, methodical, and efficient. It still bumps into things to gain its bearings, particularly in rooms with lots of furniture. Just not nearly to the degree it did in the past.
  • Excellent Customer Service: iRobot is still the leader when it comes to customers service. This more of a general “pro” and less specific to this model, but still worth noting. Every time I’ve needed to replace a Roomba, I’ve had no issues. They are also good at walking you through diagnosing problems.
  • Strong Secondary Parts Market: As a longtime Roomba owner, I know that it’s only a matter of time before I need to replace a battery, brush, or filter (among other items). Unlike other robot companies, the Roomba has a deluge of after market companies specializing in creating better replacement accessories and parts. For example, I’ve been able to find replacement batteries that are better than the factory default ones. This is only somewhat true for companies like Neato (smaller market share) and this market is virtually non existent for the other small players.
Read also:  iRobot Roomba 780 Cleaning Robot Review

iRobot Roomba 980 Cons

  • App Could be More: This isn’t really a legit gripe, because I’m thrilled with the new app. It’s more of a wish. I’d like to fully integrate my Roomba with the rest of my smart home. It would be nice to be able to handle everything from one app (and one controller like the SmartThings Hub and others). It probably wouldn’t be hard to do and it may be something iRobot already plans to do anyway.
  • Still Not “Perfect”: It’s a definite improvement, but it’s still not perfect. It sometimes gets confused by power cords and can have trouble with sizable thresholds. Once in a while it will get stuck, but once you figure out the problem areas, it’s easy to “Roomba proof” your house. It’s not quite like a human….yet.
  • Competition on the Way? Both the Dyson Eye and the Neato Botvac Connected are rumored to be coming out “soon”. How soon? I can’t really tell. The Botvac Connected (which features similar app controls) will likely be out sometimes this year, but no firm release date has been set. The Dyson Eye has been rumored to be in the works for years, but I haven’t heard much lately about an anticipated release date. It could still be 6-12 months away. What this means is that the Roomba 980 could have some stiffer competition on the horizon. Right now, the 980 is the best robot on the market, but that could change. Particularly if the price points are more affordable, Roomba could be seriously undercut.
  • Only Available in One Place: So far – as is often the case with new releases – the Roomba 980 is ONLY available via the iRobot store here. This is likely because they want to control pricing as long as possible. As soon as it’s released to other marketplaces like Amazon and box retailers, I’ll be sure to update this post. UPDATE 10/8/15: It’s just been released to Amazon!
  • Price: As always, iRobot is the price leader. All their robots are usually slightly to moderately more expensive than the competition. The 980 is no different. In fact, it’s pretty darn expensive! At $900 per unit, this is probably not something that’s easy to spring for. You can check out this listing for more detailed pricing information. In this case, you do get what you pay for. This generation actually HAS improved many important aspects. Hands down, this is the best robot vacuum currently available.

iRobot Roomba 980 Features

The new Roomba 980 keeps going until the job is done, vacuuming an entire level of your home for up to two hours*, recharging as needed. And with the iRobot HOME App, you can start and schedule Roomba 980 from anywhere. Get the Smart, Simple, powerful Clean of Roomba 980.

Smart

  • Cleans an entire level of your home: iAdapt® 2.0 Navigation with Visual Localization helps Roomba 980 seamlessly and efficiently navigate an entire level of your home and keep track of its location.
  • Automatically recharges and resumes until the job is done: Roomba 980 runs continuously for up to two hours*, then automatically recharges and resumes cleaning to complete the entire job.
  • Navigates multiple rooms: With iAdapt 2.0 Responsive Navigation, Roomba 980 uses a high-efficiency cleaning pattern and full suite of sensors to adapt to real-world clutter and furniture.
  • Cleans under sofas and chairs: Low-profile design allows Roomba to clean under most furniture and kickboards, so dirt has no place to hide.
  • Won’t fall down stairs: Cliff-detection sensors allow Roomba to avoid stairs and other dangerous drop-offs.

Simple

  • Connect to clean from anywhere: The iRobot HOME App lets you clean and schedule conveniently – anytime, anywhere. It also lets you choose custom cleaning preferences and see the status of cleaning jobs.
  • Cleans all floors types: Roomba automatically adjusts to clean carpets, tile, hardwood and laminate floors as it moves through your home.
  • Automatically docks and recharges: Roomba automatically returns to its Home Base® docking station between cleanings to recharge.
  • Cleans on a schedule: Roomba can be preset to vacuum up to seven times per week.
  • Handles hair with ease: Brushless extractors prevent the tangles and jams of hair and other debris, making it even easier for Roomba to tackle daily dirt build-up.

Clean

  • Automatically increases power on carpets where it’s needed most: The AeroForce Cleaning System with Carpet Boost provides up to 10x the air power** by automatically increasing performance on carpet and rugs, where dust and dirt hide.
  • Sweeps wall edges and corners: Spinning side brush pushes debris into the path of the 3-stage cleaning system.
  • Traps dust as small as one micron: HEPA-style Filter*** traps dirt, dust and allergens to help keep the air clean.

What’s In The Box:

  • 1 iRobot Roomba 980
  • 1 Rechargeable Battery
  • 1 Home Base Charging Station
  • 1 Line Cord
  • 2 Dual Mode Virtual Wall Barriers (batteries included)
  • 1 Extra Filter
  • 1 Extra Side Brush
  • 1-Year Manufacturer’s Limited Warranty On Robot, 6-Month Manufacturer’s Limited Warranty On Battery

iRobot Roomba 980 Specifications

  • Package Dimensions: 20.5 x 5.25 x 16.5 inches
  • Package Weight: 13.7 lbs
  • Robot Dimensions: 13.8 inches in diameter, 3.6 inches in height
  • Robot Weight: 8.7 lbs.
Roomba 980 Vacuum (iRobot): Unboxing and Setup Review

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