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iRobot Roomba 981 Review

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Updated December 16, 2022
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Expert Score (From 2 Experts)

Customer Score (From 5199 Reviews)


The iRobot Roomba 981 is a well-built, mid-tier robot vacuum cleaner introduced into the market in 2020. It has a good 120-minute runtime, which makes it a formidable alternative to some of the best vacuum cleaners on the market. It also features an anti-allergen HEPA filter like most highly rated robot vacuum cleaners and also ships with two brush rolls as well as a side brush that directs debris onto its path.

Its dirt compartment can hold up to 0.45 liters of debris, and when cleaning, it has a noise output of only 65.5 decibels. Similar to the iRobot Roomba 694, the 981 supports WiFi connectivity and can therefore be controlled through a voice assistant or its companion app. Have a look at our iRobot Roomba 694 review to see what else they have in common. It has a suction power rating of 1700 Pa and a low profile for easy maneuverability.

Reasons to Buy

  • Equipped with a HEPA filter
  • Great manueverability
  • Good for homes with pets
  • Impressive battery performance
  • Support for app and voice control

Reasons to Not

  • Can’t be used on stairs and on furniture
  • High maintenance costs
  • Requires routine maintenance

Market Context

Compared to the same brand’s similar models: The iRobot Roomba 981 has a smaller 0.3-liter dirt compartment compared to the Roomba i3, which can hold up to 0.5 liters of debris. The i3 also features self-emptying support that is missing on the 981. Despite this, the 981 has a longer 120-minute runtime compared to the i3, which can last up to 120 minutes.

The iRobot Roomba 981’s 0.45-liter dirt compartment cannot hold as much dirt and debris as the iRobot Roomba i7+, which has a larger 2.65-liter dirt compartment. However, the 981 has a longer 120-minute battery life, so it will be able to do a lot more cleaning compared to the Roomba i7+, which has a 74-minute battery life.

Compared to other brand’s similar models: The iRobot Roomba 981 has a much better 120-minute battery life than the HoLife HM036E, which can only last up to 23 minutes. With a noise output of 65 decibels, the Roomba 981 is much quieter than the HoLife HM036E, which gets as loud as 73.9 decibels. Find out more about the HoLife HM036E in our HoLife HM036E review.

Critic Consensus

The iRobot Roomba 981 received praise from top testers for its performance on bare floors. Experts from Modern Castle liked that it had a HEPA filter, and as they found during their tests, it could trap particles as small as 0.3 microns. They also liked that the robot vacuum could clean up 100% of dirt from hardware floors and 66% of large debris from low pile carpets. Product reviewers from Rtings were also happy with how well the 981 maneuvered around their testing space. During their experiments, they confirmed that it has no problems picking up pet hair from different surfaces. This makes it a bit different compared to the Roomba i4, as you’ll find out in our Roomba i4 review.

However, reviewers complained that the Roomba 981 had very high maintenance costs, as its HEPA filter and brush rolls need replacement every two to twelve months. They also pointed out that it was not versatile enough to be used on the stairs, in workshops, or in furniture.

Kenn Muguna Profile image