A comparison of the best iRobot Roomba models – and how to choose what’s right for you.
It’s easy to see why you’d want a Roomba – who doesn’t want a robot that’ll vacuum their living room while they’re out shopping?
But is the Roomba everything it’s cracked up to be? Which model is best for you? What are the differences between the different models? Should you invest in one, or spend the money on something else?
In this article, we’ll explore several models, their pros and cons, as well as how to choose the best one for your needs.
Table of Contents
Roomba’s 960 is a high-end vacuum with a price tag to match, but well worth the money if you want advanced features at a relatively reasonable price. This vacuum can be controlled via app, doesn’t have bristles which need to be cleaned, and can return on its own to the charging dock. It also picks up pet hairs well, uses a HEPA filter, and offers the ability to schedule cleanings.
Another big perk is that after the 960 charges itself, it will resume cleaning where it left off.
That said, the Roomba 960 isn’t perfect: It doesn’t offer a turbo carpet mode, and its suction is slightly weaker than you’d expect. One reviewer suggested setting the 960 to go over each area twice: doing so ensured a more thorough cleaning, and the 960 picked up during the second round what it hadn’t noticed the first time around.
A relatively quiet vacuum, the Roomba 960 can clean for about 70-75 minutes before it needs to be charged again.
Is the Roomba 960 a good buy?
The Roomba 960 is a worthwhile vacuum which offers great value for the price you pay. That said, it isn’t for everyone: If you don’t care about anything but having a clean floor, skip the advanced features and purchase a 690 model instead.
The Roomba 980 is nearly identical to the 960, but it has a few key differences. Firstly, the 980 has a significantly longer battery life – 2 hours instead of 70-75 minutes. It also has two virtual walls, instead of the 960’s one.
Another key difference is that the 980’s motor is a newer, which gives it stronger suction and allows more efficient cleaning. This shouldn’t matter, though, unless you have thick carpets.Also, the 980’s noise level is slightly higher than the 960’s.
Like the 960, the 980 can be controlled by Roomba’s app, but it does not have to be: users can operate both manually.
It’s worth noting that one reviewer said the Roomba 980 does not pick up pet hair efficiently.
The best part? The Roomba 980 doesn’t need as much supervision as the 960, because it doesn’t stop as often.
Is it worth buying a Roomba 980?
Whether or not the Roomba 980 is worth purchasing depends on whether you need the extra battery or turbo carpet cleaning. On the whole, the 960 and the 980 are not different enough to justify the 980’s considerably higher price – unless you have thick carpets or a large house.
If you do need either of these features, the Roomba 980 is incredibly worthwhile. If you don’t, go with the 960.
If you’re happy to put your vacuum down and have it clean a room, iRobot’s Roomba 690 will be a good choice: It’s cheap, it cleans well, and it cleans relatively quickly (including pet hair). The 690 also has a relatively low price tag, yet allows you to schedule cleanings and use the iRobot app to control it.
However, the 690 also has several significant drawbacks. For one, it doesn’t transfer easily from room to room, and doesn’t memorize a map of your home. What this means is that if it cleans more than one room, it won’t necessarily remember how to return to its charging dock, and you’ll have to bring it back yourself.
Also, this isn’t the best model for cleaning piles of dirt stuck in carpets.
The Roomba 690 takes 2-3 hours to charge, and is good for one hour of cleaning time. Like many of the others, the 690 has a noise level less than that of city traffic and a HEPA filter. It can be activated either via iRobot’s smartphone app or by pressing the “clean” button on the vacuum itself.
Should you buy the Roomba 690?
If you’re looking for an effective Roomba, a cheap price tag, and don’t mind the fact that it won’t remember the layout of your home, the Roomba 690 is a good pick. However, if you have a larger home, you might be better off with a different model.
Both the Roomba 650 and the 652 are popular models, and both are older versions of the 690. However, they are older, and my soon be phased out.
The 650 is a great model, and its price is lower than most other models. However, it requires two C batteries, and hair may get stuck in its rollers, making it a pain to clean. That said, the 650’s rotating brushes are removable, and the model comes with a hair remover, so it’s livable, even if not terrific.
The 652 allows you to control it via your smartphone – a big plus for most of us.It also has a lithium-ion battery, instead of the 650’s less efficient nickel metal-hydride battery. The 652 is also lighter, and its battery lasts ten minutes longer, than the 650.
Neither model, however, is recommended, if you can afford one of the newer and better models.
The perfect vacuum for those who need the option to schedule cleaning times and are willing to pay more for better performance, iRobot’s Roomba 890 offers improved suction, a HEPA filter, and improved dirt detection.
This vacuum did great when confronted with most types of dirt, but it performed slightly worse on large piles of sugar, especially if they were on carpet instead of a hardwood floor.The 890 needs to be charged after about an hour of cleaning, and its battery takes 2-3 hours to recharge.
While the 890 is compatible with Roomba’s smartphone app, it doesn’t need wifi to run, and owners do have the option to control the vacuum manually.
Any vacuum will make noise, but the 890 has a noise level less than that of city traffic, making it one of the quieter vacuums on the market today.
This model doesn’t seem to be the best for pet hair. While it does clean pet hair, the 890 isn’t as effective in this area as some of the other models. In the words of one customer, “I should’ve stuck with the cheaper model which did a much better job.”
Bottom line: Is the Roomba 890 worth it?
Honestly, if you have pets, I would say no. iRobot offers several newer models with the same perks, a similar price, and which are better at picking up pet hair.
If you don’t have pets, go for it. The Roomba 890 will clean your home efficiently and provide the high performance you’re looking for. Though the price is slightly high, it still offers great value.
The Roomba 614 is a low-cost and relatively low-tech model: It doesn’t allow you to schedule, and doesn’t connect to a smartphone app. Other than that, however, the 614 offers the same perks as the others: It includes a 3-stage cleaning system, vacuum suction, automatic recharge, dirt detection and navigation technology, and more.
The major downsides of the 614 are that it doesn’t have a full bin indicator, and its debris bin is slightly small. Also, its filter is an AeroVac filter, not a HEPA filter. However, the filter difference is hardly important if you don’t have allergies.
The 614 takes approximately an hour and a half to charge, and can run for between 2-3 hours before it needs to recharge.
It also happens to do a fantastic job of picking up pet hair, for both long- and short-haired pets. And while the 614 does make noise, it makes far less noise than traditional vacuum cleaners.
Is the Roomba 614 worth it?
That depends what you’re looking for. If price is your main concern, and you’re not interested in scheduling your Roomba or controlling it with your smartphone – yes, it is worth it to buy the 614.
However, if you do want those capabilities, you’re probably better off paying more for a more advanced model, such as the 960.
A few decibels quieter than the other models listed, the Roomba 860 is a relatively low-tech vacuum which goes for a relatively low price. This model does well with pet hair, cleanings can be scheduled up to seven times a week, and its battery is good for an hour and a half before it needs to be recharged.
The 860 will return to its docking station when it needs to charge. That said, this model doesn’t have multi-room navigation, and it won’t return to its docking station if it wanders into another room.
Though the 860 does allow you to schedule cleanings, it is not compatible with iRobot’s smartphone app. Also, it doesn’t have turbo carpet cleaning, so if you’ve got piles of flour on your carpet, you’ll need to pick up most of it before sending your robotic vacuum to attack the rest.
The 860 will clean for about an hour and a half before it needs to recharge, a process which will take approximately two and a half hours.
It’s important to note that while the 860 does not come with its own remote control, it *is* compatible with previous models’ remote controls.
Should you buy a Roomba 860?
Possibly. The Roomba 860 is similar to the 690, but it’s a few dollars cheaper and will run for half an hour longer before needing to charge. That said, the 860 is slightly wider and heavier than the 690.
Neither the 690 nor the 860 map floor plan. However, unlike the 860, the 690 does connect to iRobot’s app and comes with a virtual wall.
Once the cutting-edge robot, iRobot’s Roomba 880 vacuum has two virtual lighthouses allowing you to block off rooms you’d like it to stay out of. It also comes with a remote control, offers the option to schedule, and will return to its charging dock on its own.
The cons for this model are pretty big, however. First, even though this model is similar to the 890, it doesn’t have a lithium-ion battery, and can’t access wifi (or your smartphone’s app). It’s also relatively noisy in comparison to the other models mentioned in this article.
The 880 also isn’t the best option for picking up pet hair, though it does decently well on medium-size (not large) piles on carpets.
It’s worth noting that the 880 can run for two hours before it needs to be recharged – longer than many of the other models.
The 880 will take at least two hours to charge. If it’s left off its charging dock for an extended period of time, the 880 will automatically initiate a 16-hour “refresher” charge. To avoid this, charge your 880 as soon as you’re finished cleaning.
If you’re not planning to use your 880 for another few weeks, store it in a cool, dry, place separate from the battery: Nickel–metal hydride batteries can degrade over time, even when not in your vacuum. When you take your 880 out of storage, let it charge fully (16 hours).
Note: These precautions only apply to the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in the 650 and 880 models. They do not apply to any of the other models mentioned in this article.
That said, all electronics should be stored in a cool, dry, place, including the other iRobot models in this article.
Is the Roomba 880 a worthwhile purchase?
In a word, no. While there’s nothing specifically wrong with the Roomba 880, it offers less than the 890, and it isn’t the cheapest model, either.
However, if you’re interested in the 890 but need more time before it charges, don’t have pets, and don’t want the smartphone app, the 880 may be a worthwhile purchase.
Want to see the technical details?
All Roomba robots have a one-year limited warranty, which covers everything , including the batteries. Remanufactured robots have a 90-day warranty for parts only. To use the warranty, your product must be registered, and you must have purchased it at an authorized reseller (for example, through Amazon).
Bear in mind that your warranty will be void if you use your Roomba outside of North America.
Though a Roomba is great for saving time, getting under furniture, and for those with limited mobility, remember that they are limited in several ways. First of all, the small size means you’re not going to get a deep cleaning. If most of your home is covered in carpet, choose the 980, a model offering the deeper cleaning setting.
Second, it can’t clean poop, either dog or human. Trying to use your robotic vacuum cleaner on poop will land you with a poop-smeared floor. The same goes for peanut butter, jelly, vomit, and other sticky or slimy liquids and solids.
In short, the Roomba is a vacuum, not a mop. If you wouldn’t sweep something up with a broom, don’t use your Roomba to clean it. The people at iRobot are working to fix this issue, but it may take some time.
Roomba models offer several different battery life options: 60 minutes, 75 minutes, 90 minutes, and 120 minutes. What’s great about these vacuum cleaners is that they do know when to charge themselves.
Most of the models mentioned in this article use a lithium-ion battery. However, some of the earlier ones, including the 650 and 880 mentioned above, used nickel-metal hydride batteries.
All models have “cliff detection.” No robot vacuum can effectively descend or ascend stairs yet, but Roomba’s robots will recognize the edge of the stairs and avoid tumbling down.
iRobot’s app allows you to choose which rooms to clean, schedule cleaning times, and monitor your vacuum’s progress when you’re out.
If you’re looking for a cheap Roomba, the best place would be Amazon, on sale.
What is a virtual wall, and how do you activate it?
A virtual wall, like its name implies, creates an invisible barrier between the vacuum and the items or areas you’d like it to avoid. This is important not only for items you don’t want the Roomba to knock over, but also for items you don’t want the it to push around.
While the Roomba will transition from a hardwood floor onto a heavy rug, it may push a bag around the room, or push lightweight rug around instead of cleaning it.
Note that if you have furniture that the vacuum will get “lost” under, you can use the virtual wall to block it’s access to those areas and avoid the issue entirely.
Except for the 614 and 860, all of the models listed in this article come with at least one virtual wall. And while the 614 doesn’t come with a virtual wall, it *is* compatible with iRobot’s virtual walls, if you choose to purchase one separately.
To use your virtual wall, place it near the area you want to block off, and point the arrow on top of the virtual wall to the wall opposite. For instance, if you’d like to block entrance to a room, place the virtual wall on the outside of the door frame, with its arrow pointing towards the other side of the door frame.
Be sure your virtual wall is in place before the Roomba arrives in the area.
In general, a virtual wall will last for two hours and fifteen minutes. Keep an eye on the light: When it turns green, you’ll need to charge the virtual wall.
Important note: The virtual wall and virtual wall lighthouse are not the same. Other than the 880, the models in this article are not compatible with the virtual wall lighthouse, but they are compatible with either the virtual wall or the dual mode virtual wall barrier.
Which accessories are available?
iRobot offers accessories by series: Accessories for the 600 series, for the 800 series, for the 900 series, and so on.
Most of these are in fact spare parts, and not true fun, add-on accessories.
Included in the spare-parts offerings are replacement wheels, filters, sidebrush modules, batteries, bins, heads, home bases (charging docks), battery chargers ,and more. For the 600 series, iRobot also offers cleaning brushes.
Virtual walls, remote controls, and – for the 800 series – a wireless command center, are also available. A soft bumper (not necessary, but nice to have) is also available.
All of these items can be purchased via Amazon’s site.
How should you maintain your Roomba?
Though every model comes with a battery, a filter, and brushes, some of these things will need to be replaced every so often. In general, maintaining your Roomba shouldn’t cost more than $40 per year, and some models’ upkeep may cost even less.
In addition, you’ll need to empty the vacuum bag, and clean or switch the filters. On some models (mostly 600 series and the 800 series, though the 800 series’ bristles are easier to clean than the 600s’), you’ll need pull the bristles out, clean them, and return them to the vacuum cleaner.
Your Roomba will tell you if it is stuck or if a too-large object was accidentally sucked up and needs to be removed. Generally speaking, if it gets stuck under furniture (which it may), neither your furniture nor your floor will suffer any damage. On the other hand, the Roomba itself my suffer a scratch or two. These scratches don’t harm the it’s performance, but they do make it less appealing to look it.
When your Roomba is not in use, be sure to store it in a cool, dry, place.
Which Roomba is right for you?
When choosing a model, take into account both your needs and your budget. There’s a reason the simpler models are still selling today, even though there are more advanced models: Not everyone needs the latest one.
Before deciding which model you’d like to purchase, decide how much money you’re aiming to spend, and what the maximum amount you’re willing to spend is. Next, decide what you need most.
Do you need the model that’s best for pet hair? Do you need to be able to use iRobot’s app? What kind of floors do you have? Are they hardwood or carpet? How large is your house?
The best Roomba for carpets is, hands down, the 980. For pet hair, choose the 690 or 960. And if you’re looking to be super-cheap, choose the 860 or 690.
If you’re looking for the advanced features and a top-end robot vacuum for a good price, choose the 960.
Do you own one of these models, or another Roomba? Have any questions or anything to add? Let us know in the comments!
Chana Roberts has spent over 100 hours researching, testing, and writing about products for families. She cares deeply about safety and everything kid. Chana is a freelance writer, editor, and mompreneur, with a passion for helping small businesses succeed.