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If you are satisfied that you’ve found the best pool vacuum robot, maybe it’s time to shop for one for the house. iRobot is a good choice. Vacuuming is a laborious chore that I both hate and love. How so? Viewing the contents of the bin upon finish makes the chore worth it, but yet every time the chore comes to head I often skip it. After all, it’s a hassle to dig out the vacuum, unwind its cord, plug it in and then carefully navigate the contents of the room such that I don’t knock something over…and all the while reducing the number of times I have to plug it in to reach every corner of the room. I own two Dyson vacuums and often use the handheld DC35, but only upon a spill or when a quick clean-up is needed, such as removing the crumbs from the edge of my coffee table. So it’s for this reason that a Robovac makes the most sense for me, and probably for millions of you like me who like the best robot vacuums.
So keep reading my iRobot Roomba 980 review to find out if this $899 robotic vacuum is right for you.
Price: $899.99 on Amazon
Summary: This is iRobot’s top-of-the-line Robovac that boasts all the latest bells and whistles, including smart connectivity allowing you to access and control the Roomba 980 from your Android or iOS device. It does an excellent job cleaning carpet and hardwood, but thanks to its hockey puck-like shape, it misses 90-degree corners.
What We Liked
What We Didn’t
To a large degree, the IRobot Roomba 980 looks like every other Roomba. Which is to say it sports their familiar hockey puck shape. However, unlike the lesser models (below the 960) the 980 sports a camera that maps out the room, allowing it to develop a log of visual landmarks and thus improve cleaning for next time. In short, this means less bumping and more cleaning. And when it does hit something, there is a bump panel to help it detect obstacles and steer around or away from them. There are a few other sensors on board, including one to detect a ledge (aka cliff detection) and one to detect the presence of carpet, whereupon the iRobot Roomba 980 will increase its suction power (“Dirt Detect™ Series II5 uses optical and acoustic sensors to detect high concentrations of dirt, dust and pet hair, and the robot then provides focused cleaning where it’s most needed”). Browsing the internet for an effective floor duster that uses a disposable electrostatic cloth to clean floor dirt, hair, and dust? Read our O-cedar O-duster robotic floor cleaner review.
Standing at 3.6″ tall and 9.8″ in diameter, the IRobot Roomba 980 is able to fit under most coffee tables, credenzas, and those alike. For anything lower, there is a corner brush to sweep dirt into its path (much like Deebot D45), which is then sucked up by a set of rubber rollers that move dirt, pet hair and debris through its AeroForce® filter that purportedly captures 99% of allergens, pollen, and particles as small as 10 microns. It’s not up to HEPA standards, so if you’re looking to capture smaller particles, try this list of HEPA vacuums and HEPA air filters, with the latter probably being a better resolve since it’s more immediate.
As for charging, there is a simple base station included in the box. The IRobot Roomba 980 will return home when it’s done cleaning your room or when its battery runs low. That said, the 980 is capable of cleaning up to 2,000 square feet, though depending on settings may need to recharge itself, or the bin may need to be emptied, though you can override that last issue if needed. Moreover, the Roomba 980 is intelligent enough to know where to pick up from where it left off in the event it requires a recharge as it stores a layout of your home’s floors. I’m not sure if its memory caps out at 2,000 square feet, so you might want to check if your home is larger or simply buy a Roomba 980 for each floor. For hardwood floors that require an efficient cleaner, an inexpensive robot cleaner to get is featured in our iRobot Braava jet 240 superior robot mop review.
Lastly, there is a handle, albeit slightly hidden to my surprise, and 3 buttons (home, spot cleaning and on/off) that are straightforward and easy to operate.
Developing a baseline for performance with any vacuum can be tough to measure. To me, the best indicator for quality or success is just simply looking at the floor and the bin’s contents. In this particular case, the Roomba 980 performed admirably and with consistency. This is often the case with most robotic vacuums, as you’ll find in our iRobot Roomba 675 review.
I scheduled – via the app no less – my Roomba 980 to run 3 times a week in my living room/kitchen area, which is where the 980 lays its weary wheels. While emptying the bin after each cleaning wasn’t necessary, I still did as such to determine its efficacy. And I’m happy to report that while not full, the consistently removed debris, dirt, dust and pet hair from my hardwood floors, leaving little to be found by the naked eye. The 980 did however struggle to pick up crumbs in corners, which is likely due to its round shape, which didn’t allow it to get close enough access to remove or suck up dirt. That all being said, the Roomba 980 never once drove off the stairs in my living room save for the time a house slipper got in its path, and even then it drove half off the end and never took a complete tumble.
On the 980’s off days, I also placed it in my bedroom and bathroom, which is a mix of thin carpet (bedroom) and tile (bathroom). Here the Roomba 980 automatically increased its power (carpet boost), which in turn produced more noise, but the results each time were stupendous, filling up the bin to almost full with dust and long girlfriend hair. Again, I couldn’t help but note that the 980 struggled to get into the corners of my bathroom. But that last issue aside, I can now see how remiss I’ve been when it comes to vacuuming my bedroom, especially under my bed which is often unreachable with even the best upright vacuum.
Before you can use the Roomba 980 with your iOS or Android device, you’ll need to connect it to your home’s WiFi network. The app will walk you through the process, but note that it’s not compatible with WiFi networks that are 5Ghz. But fear not, as most new and top-rated routers will have both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequency running simultaneously.
Once the 980 is connected to your home’s WiFi you’ll be able to manually activate the Robovac’s cleaning cycle, as well as schedule cleaning days and with that the time. My living room and kitchen, which are connected, total about 350 square feet. It takes the Roomba 980 about 30 minutes to completely clean the area, minus the space under the two sofas. And I know this because the Roomba app has a History section, allowing you to review the time and the total square footage covered. Interestingly enough, my Roomba 980 generally covers about 250-280 sq ft, which now makes me realize my home may be smaller than advertised. Good things I rent.
Within the app, you can also view the status of the bin, rollers and sensors. When indicating “red” it’s time to address some issues, though you’ll need to manually reset the status in the app once you’ve performed any routine maintenance. There you can also view instructions and find links to new parts in the event something does break or wear beyond use.
I should note that remote access, while outside my home’s network, was slow to respond, but did work after a few attempts. But nevertheless, it did allow me to manually control cleaning if needed.
Yes, the Roomba 980 comes at a premium. By comparison, there are view vacuums, be they canister, upright or handheld vacuums, that cost this much; $900. However, with it, you get a vacuum that is capable of cleaning both carpet and hardwood all without damaging it. And doing so with a frequency that even a dedicated maid or housekeeper can’t attain.
And, if you’re still struggling with the price tag there are a few things to think about.
To that end, the iOS app works flawlessly and makes scheduling the IRobot Roomba 980 ultra-easy. It also helps you maintain the vacuum, which in itself requires nothing more than a Philips head screwdriver.