iRobot Roomba 980 Review

Robot vacuums are known for being efficient, but kind of clumsy. They roam around the house, bump into chairs, couches, and other obstacles without care. However, the iRobot Roomba 980 is one of the most skillful robot vacuums out there and very effective at cleaning pet hair.

The 980 is equipped with iAdapt 2.0 sensors for better navigation and iRobot’s own vSLAM technology, which enables the 980 to remember the layout of your home. These two technologies make the 980 the most advanced automated vacuum on the market today. We feel that any model after this will only have marginal improvements.

There simply comes a point where a technology is ripe, and this is it!

The Roomba 980 is a big improvement over its predecessors. Its navigation was improved and augmented with a mobile app that does its job well. Cleaning performance, including pet hair removal, is very high, especially since the robot does the work for you. Only cables can be a hurdle for the little guy.

Rating Overview

Navigation - 9.3
Included Tools - 9.6
General Performance - 9.3
Pet Hair Cleaning Performance - 9.6
Price Performance Ratio - 9

9.4

Great!

The Roomba 980 is a big improvement over its predecessors. Its navigation was improved and augmented with a mobile app that does its job well. Cleaning performance, including pet hair removal, is very high, especially since the robot does the work for you. Only cables can be a hurdle for the little guy.

As you can expect from a high-tech device like this, the Roomba 980 is pricey, and understandably so. It is packed with features, such as a mobile app for Apple & Android devices, that allow you to control the robot and schedule its cleaning routines. This means it also has Wi-Fi connectivity. That being said, the 980 offers amazing advancements for its price that have wowed us while testing.

Getting Started

The setup is as easy as taking the robot out of its packaging. All you need to do is plug in the docking station (the robot’s home base), pull out the plastic tab that keeps the battery insulated, push the silver CLEAN button at the top and your new helper bot will get to work. Do you have to teach it anything about the layout of your home? No, it learns by itself.

To stop the robot, all you need to do is push the home button on top and it will smoothly glide to its charging station. Because this vacuum is so clever, it will guide itself automatically to its home base when the battery is low, or its dust bin gets full. You don’t need to worry about the robot dying in a hidden spot. The only thing it doesn’t do is empty its own dust bin. After all, that would be difficult to accomplish without arms.

App Control

The Roomba 980 is already super easy to work with, but to make things extra easy and convent for you, it is the first iRobot vacuum cleaner that comes with an Apple & Android mobile app. After installing, the app scans for your Wi-Fi and proceeds to ask if you’d like to connect your robot to it.

When the Wi-Fi setup is done, you are ready to command your 980 from your mobile device. You can also schedule it to perform up to 3 cleanings per day and adjust its cleaning behaviors (with options like carpet boost and edge cleaning). How easy is that?

It’s child’s play to set up and to use, but the commands you send via the app aren’t always instantaneous. Like printing a document at a PC, queued requests can take a couple of minutes before the robot starts acting on them. Make sure you don’t resend the jobs over and over. It’ll just slow your poor robot down and leave you more frustrated.

Better Navigation

As mentioned in the beginning, automated vacuums are generally kind of clumsy. They crash into things and sometimes even fall off stairs or ledges. But the Roomba 980 has all new iAdapt 2.0 sensors that enable it to move without hiccups. In our test, it has cleaned entire floors without crashing or falling. Sometimes it will still hit some obstacle, as there’s really no way around that, but it’ll do so in a much gentler manner than previous models were prone to.

Using the new vSLAM (visual simultaneous localization and mapping) technology, the Roomba 980 maps the layout of your place as it moves around. It memorizes the area and creates landmarks for itself to navigate by. This way it does not clean the same place twice, making the cleaning process faster and more efficient.

Most automated vacuums bump into things like quite strongly as if they are trying to move through them. The 980 hugs itself along those obstacles, cleaning as much of the reachable area as possible.

The robot is 1.15 feet in diameter and 0.3 feet thick. That makes it a bit wider than the head of your average vacuum. But since it is circular and rotates, it’s able to get through narrower spaces than you would expect at first glance. Being as thick as it is, the 980 may not fit under beds that are very low.

The Roomba 980 comes with a pair of battery-powered barriers, small devices that you can place on the ground and signal the robot that it is not supposed to go past it. It is, essentially, a virtual stop sign. When using it in a live household, we found these barriers extremely useful to prohibit the 980 from entering a certain room, and for keeping it away from our dog food bowls.

Roomba 980 – Clean Wherever it Goes

The 980 is wonderful on hard surfaces like floorboards and tile. Plus, it’s quiet. That doesn’t mean it can’t clean carpet just as efficiently though. It senses when it rolls on top of a carpet and automatically switches to its secondary cleaning system, called AeroForce. It also switches to its Gen 3 motor. By doing so, the 980 kicks up its power tenfold to efficiently pick up dirt and dust from your carpets.

Just like the Roomba 800, the undercarriage of the 980 has two rotating extractors. In addition, the 980 has a long-bristled brush head that spins around and gets into corners you’d never think a circular vacuum could get to. You may still find a little debris in those areas, but no more than you would find left behind by a traditional vacuum cleaner.

Apart from the edges of carpets, other shallow ledges pose no issue for the Roomba 980 as well. For example, our cats have two scratching posts around the house and the 980 can climb right over the base of each one. Quite expectedly, when moving over a cable, the robot does spin out a bit but does not get stuck or tangled. Also, it does not suck a part of the cable in, as long as it is not a loose endpoint.

Fully charged, the 980 does its thing for around 2 hours before it automatically returns to its home base (the charging station) to sleep. It also drives home when its dust bin is full, in which case a red light on top flashes to signal that you need to empty the bin. This way you always know whether the 980 is just charging or needs attention.

Pressing a button on the robot detaches the dust bin and lets you access the Roomba’s filters. The bin looks small, but don’t be fooled. It has more room for dirt than it seems.

Final Verdict

The Roomba 980 comes at a premium price, but that is to be expected for high-tech robot vacuums. Plus, the little guy is skillful at cleaning pet hair, something that only specialized pet hair vacuums like these tend to excel at. It is an important step to have this functionality in a robot – otherwise, you’d have to remove remaining pet hair manually.

The robot is smart, mapping its environment and navigating cleverly around your home. You’ll be amazed as it automatically charges and drives back home when it needs to. We love how well it moves around, avoiding obstacles and stairs with ease. Only cables can be a hurdle sometimes, but how often do you have that in the middle of the room?

We found the mobile app a bit sluggish, but once you’re used to it you can control the robot from anywhere at any time and set up a schedule for it. Overall, we consider this automated vacuum a welcome and wonderful addition to any home, especially if you have large rooms.

Pros

  • Navigates and charges itself
  • 2-hour battery life
  • Maps its environment
  • Mobile app
  • Cleans pet hair

Cons

  • App can be sluggish
  • Cables can be a hurdle
  • Pricey

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The Roomba 980 is a friendly UFO cleaning around your home.

Check out iRobot’s demo video of the Roomba 980 to see how it moves about a home.

Collision avoidance is much better than in previous models.

When moving on a carpet, the Roomba 980 increases its suction power.

The mobile app gives shows you its progress and how long it took. You can also set cleaning schedules and more. We like it!

Set up one of the barrier devices near the pet food bowls or other sensitive places. This way the Roomba won’t go near it.