Robot vacuums have been making their way into homes for over 20 years now. Each year, new models are released with updated technology and features to make them more attractive to consumers. iRobot has always been the bar that the rest of the industry tries to live up to. The Roomba 980 held the top spot for a few years.
With so many different manufacturers, such as Neato, Dyson, iLIFE, Eufy and iRobot, each making dozens of different models, how can you decide which one is best for you? This Roomba 980 review will take a close look at the top-tier vacuum and see if it is still a worthy contender to be your next robot vacuum purchase.
iRobot Roomba 980
The Roomba 980 uses some of the more advanced technology for filtration, navigation, and mapping. iRobot calls their filtration and collection system AeroForce, the second generation following the AeroVac system.
AeroForce uses a two-speed motor for more suction power along with a HEPA quality high-efficiency filter. This filter will collect particles down to 3 microns in size, drastically reducing the in-home allergens such as pollen, dust mites, and pet dander.
The navigation and mapping system, called iAdapt 2.0, uses vSLAM Technology to accurately map your home using low-resolution photos to build a 3-dimensional reconstruction of the surroundings. This system allows the robot to move through your home in patterns that resemble how a human would vacuum.
Benefits of Robotic Vacuums
Having a robotic vacuum has a lot of benefits when it comes to your daily chores and keeping your floors clean. You should realize first, though, that no robot vacuum is designed to replace regular vacuum days with your upright cleaner.
Instead, a robot vacuum is designed to run (usually on a programmable schedule) on days you don't use your upright - in order to keep your floors tidy and clean between these regular cleanings.
The Roomba 980 will also do a better job on your low and medium pile carpeting than most other models. With its tangle-free brushless extractors, it can agitate carpet fibers and sweep hard flooring without the worry of scratching or marring any surface.
Robot vacuums are also beneficial for spot cleaning or quick spill clean up, making it faster and easier on you to clean a small spill without having to drag out your large vacuum.
Up to 120 minutes
13.8L x 13.8W x 3.6H inches
Up to 1400 square feet per charge
1 year limited on the robot and the battery
Features of Roomba 980
The following list provides you with the details of the Roomba 980 features and how they can help make your purchase decision.
iRobot Home App
The iRobot Home App is an intuitive and simple mobile app that connects to all Roomba models with wireless connectivity.
The mobile app has a step-by-step connection guide that will walk you through setting up your robot. Once connected, you will be able to use a host of features through the menus in the app.
These include controlling the robot by starting or stopping a cleaning cycle, getting status updates of the cleaning cycles, battery and filter lives.
You will also, with the Roomba 980, be able to see the created map the robot follows to clean your home.
The app also allows you to give a nickname to your robot. While in the app itself, it is basically meaningless, it does allow you to control two or more robots with the same app. It is also useful to name your Roomba 980 so that you can use the name when activating voice commands.
Compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa
The voice commands work though connected Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant devices, such as the Echo or Dot. By having the device learn the skill, you can then control to cleaning cycles, create and edit schedules and get audible status updates of your robot.
The Amazon Alexa skill is downloadable through Amazon, or by asking your device to install it. The Google Assistant skill is a bit more challenging to start.
To active the Roomba skill with Google, you will need to tell your Google Assistant a robot command. The Assistant will respond that there isn't a Roomba connected and give you a link to click to initiate the setup. Similar to the mobile app, installation only takes a moment, and then you can use the Google voice commands from there.
The Roomba 980 is a self-charging robot. What this means is that it will note where the charging station is located in your home (setup will be discussed later). When the battery charge falls below 15% or the robot has completed a cleaning cycle, the 980 will make its way back to the charging station.
Once it docks, the battery will begin to recharge, a process that takes about three full hours. Once complete, the Roomba 980 will return to the spot it left off and continue cleaning until the job is completed. All without you having to do anything.
AeroForce 3-Stage Cleaning System
AeroForce is the name given to the second-generation cleaning and filtration system of the Roomba models. The original version was known as AeroVac.
While the names technically mean nothing, the differences are huge.
The AeroForce system uses a HEPA quality filter to reduce in-home allergens by up to 99%. It also has a superior motor that uses Dirt Detect technology, two speeds, and more suction power.
The side brush is the first stage of cleaning, sweeping dirt from along edges and in corners so that the robot can pick them up.
The second stage is the collection of the dirt by the dual, tangle-free brushless extractors. Once the dirt is collected, the extractors lift the dirt into the suction chamber.
The third stage, suction, pulls the dirt into the collection bin and then pushes the exhaust air through the filter.
Dirt Detect System
The Roomba 980 comes with the Dirt Detect system; a series of infrared lights on the bottom of the robot that scans for excess dust and debris.
Once the robot has passed an area, if the lights pick up refraction from dust particles, the robot is alerted that there is still dirt in the area.
The Roomba 980 will then leave its cleaning path to make a 360-degree loop, going over the spot once more.
This will continue up to three times if needed before the robot will keep on cleaning normally.
Smart Mapping and vSLAM Technology
The iAdapt 2.0 navigation system comes with a top-mounted camera that takes thousands of sequential, low-resolution photos as the robot runs around your home. It then uses these images to build a 3-D map of your home.
Once the mapping is complete, the 2-D rendering is uploaded to the mobile app so you can see it. It also stores the map in the robot’s memory to use on future cleanings.
This is the first installation of the Roomba Smart Mapping feature, which has grown by leaps and bounds with the Roomba i-series and s-series robots.
However, for the 980, the map works by keeping track of where the robot has been and where it needs to go next.
The algorithms involved keep track of the location of the robot, the walls and obstacles, and the charging station. Because of this type of monitoring, the Roomba 980 is more efficient with its cleaning paths, using parallel lines back and forth across an entire room, much the same way you clean with your upright.
For those that may suffer allergies, the Roomba 980 uses a high-efficiency filter. While iRobot no longer seeks the HEPA certification for its filters, they are still the same. Each high-efficiency filter captures particles down to 3 microns in size.
This means that your home will be up to 99% allergen free. The smaller, allergy-inducing particles it captures include dust mites, pollen, mold spores, pet dander, and some mildew.
While it shouldn’t replace the HEPA filter on your homes heating and air condition unit, or the HEPA filter on your more powerful upright vacuum, having a daily pass with a HEPA quality filter sure isn’t going to hurt.
The Roomba 980 is the only 900 series robot that has the 3rd generation motor. This motor allows for multiple speeds, and the Roomba 980 uses this in a feature known as Power Boost.
Power Boost, also known as Carpet Boost, uses a small sensor to determine the type of flooring the robot is currently cleaning. When it senses carpet, the robot’s motor will automatically switch to Power Boost mode.
This increase in power and suction allows for a deeper clean on carpeted surfaces. When the robot returns to hard flooring, the Power Boost mode will shut off, and the normal speed of the motor will return to clean the hard floor surfaces.
Innovative Carpet Agitator
The most significant change with the 900 series came in the way of the tangle-free brushless extractors. Instead of using bristle brushes on the rollers, the Roomba 980 uses a rubber paddled roller. These extractors work to sweep hard flooring, but also agitate deep into carpet fibers.
The paddles around the extractor bars are different sizes and spiral around the rollers. These paddles work to loosen and lift dirt and debris from deeper in the carpet than the previous brush rollers.
They are also much more straightforward to clean. Using the release button, the two rollers will pop out. Remove the end caps (and the hair and string built up there), then using a single stroke of your hand, wipe the rollers clean.
Performance of the iRobot Roomba 980
Each robot vacuum has a specialty, a floor type it does better than anything else. Where does the Roomba 980 come in on various floor types and sizes? Have a look.
The 900 series (and later, the late 800 series) robots are the first to claim the ability to clean high-pile carpeting.
Because of the Power Boost feature, the brushless extractors, and the 3rd generation motor, the Roomba 980 does well on almost all carpeting types.
This includes low, medium, and high-pile carpeting.
What it will not do well on is shag carpeting, loose fiber carpeting or area rugs with fringe or tassels.
Hardwood flooring is no match for the power and precision of the Roomba 980. It will take on any hard flooring surface, and with the rubber extractor paddles, it won't scratch softer surfaces such as pine.
Where you may find a problem is in wide-grout floorings such as natural stone or thick tile. If the gap is narrow and the grout laid deep, the Roomba 980 will have a hard time lifting dirt and debris from these areas.
Whether on carpet or hidden away in corners and along your baseboards, pet hair can build up quickly.
The Roomba 980, with its tangle-free extractors, will collect more pet hair than you imagined.
When the hair does get wrapped around the extractors, it only takes a moment to wipe them clean.
With sufficient pickup and easy maintenance, the Roomba 980 is an excellent robot for homes with shedding pets.
Floor space, square footage, amount of furniture, and area size are no longer a real concern for the Roomba 980.
The 980 uses the recharge and resume function to keep the battery full and pick up cleaning right where it left off without you having to lift a finger.
The Roomba 980 is better designed for larger areas, though, or those with a lot of rooms.
Because of the entire-level cleaning, you only need to schedule your cycles once a day and let the robot clean until the job is done.
Comparison with Other Roomba Models
If you are still unsure about the Roomba 980 and want to compare it to other Roomba models, this section is for you. Let’s see how it stacks up against the rest.
980 Vs. 985
Seeing different model numbers may cause you to pause, or to wonder which one is better. In the case of the Roomba 985, there are no differences (aside from color) between the actual robots.
What is different is where the 985 is sold and what accessories it comes with. While the 980 is the base model, it is sold through iRobot, and on various verified vendors, such as Amazon. Included with your purchase, you will get the robot, the Home base and power cord, two dual-mode virtual wall barriers, and an extra filter and side brush.
The Roomba 985 is only sold through Costco and comes with the robot, the Home Base and power cord, one virtual wall barrier, and an extra filter. Other than these differences, the actual robots and their performance are the same. Your choice is then between additional extras of the 980 and the lower price of the 985.
980 Vs. 960
The Roomba 960 and 980 are quite similar. They both use iAdapt 2.0, vSLAM, and a high-efficiency filter. The main difference is that the 960 still uses the 2nd generation motor and doesn’t have Power Boost.
If you have a lot of carpeting, the Power Boost may be the selling point for you here. However, if you can live without it, the 960 is generally less expensive, cleans just as well and will still map your home and clean it in human-like patterns. Smaller homes and those with less furniture or obstacles on the floor may choose the Roomba 960 over the 980 because of the efficiency.
980 Vs. 880/890
The Roomba 800 series has a few downfalls which were addressed in the late models of the lineup. The Roomba 880 doesn't use wireless connectivity, so there isn't the use of the mobile app or voice controls. However, the 890 doesn't have the remote control, does use WiFi, and has a smaller price tag.
Compared to the Roomba 980, neither match up very well. The 890 is the better choice over the 880 because it has more features and can use the mobile app, but also because it is less expensive. Compared to the 980, though, the few extra dollars spent on the 980 model will show up in the cleanliness of your floors.
The 880/890 models are ideal for smaller homes and floor plans and those with primarily hard flooring. While the 980 is better suited for larger floor plans and homes with mostly carpeting.
980 Vs. i7
The i7 is a newer release that utilizes the 3rd generation motor, an upgraded iAdapt Navigation System (iAdapt 3.0) and more features in the mobile app. The navigation, mapping, and power are all improved, providing you one of the best cleans yet.
Because the i7 is newer than the 980, the price is a lot higher still. The i7 will empty the collection bin for you though (in the i7+ model with the Clean Base) and will allow you the ability to use the app or voice commands to clean specific rooms only.
If you need a robot that will clean and be quick about it, the 980 is still the viable choice. However, if you need all the bells and whistles or use the robot to clean more than one floor plan (the i7 can map and store up to ten floor plans), then the i7/i7+ might be better suited for your needs.
980 Vs. 690
Price versus performance is what you are looking at here. The budget-friendly 600 series doesn’t have a whole lot going for it by today’s Standards. You won’t find cameras, maps or human-like navigation with the 690 like you will with the 980.
You won't get HEPA quality filtration or Power Boost, either. What you will get is a little robot that will clean hard flooring and low pile carpet, given enough time. You can still create schedules and use the mobile app and voice commands with the 690, though.
If you have an apartment or a wide-open hardwood space with little furniture, the Roomba 690 is a decent choice for saving money. However, if you need more power, better cleaning abilities and have a large floor plan, the 980 is the way to go.
980 Vs. 650
Like the 690, the Roomba 650 is a budget model that will save you a ton of cash versus the 980. However, you will lose almost all the essential features.
The 650 doesn't have WiFi, mobile app, or voice commands. You are stuck with local controls only, which you will have to learn to program a 7-day cleaning schedule if you want one.
You get all first-generation parts, including the motor, navigation, and bristle brush rolls. It will do fine for those that don't need the WiFi connectivity and have a small apartment or condo. It is also useful to pair with a second Roomba that is the primary, using the 650 to clean a smaller floor or a different level of the home. Otherwise, the Roomba 980 is the better option all around, even at the cost of a higher price tag.
Comparison with Other Brands
Roomba is not without competitors. Two of the biggest names in the vacuum industry (aside from iRobot) are Neato and Dyson. How does the Roomba 980 stack up against their chief competition? Read on to find out.
Roomba 980 Vs. Neato
Neato has been iRobot's main competitor for years. There are just as many Neato robot models out there to choose from as there are Roomba models. The biggest competitor, though is the Neato BotVac D-Series Connected. This line up of six robots competes on all levels with the Roomba line.
The D3 and D4, for example, compete well against the 600 and 700 series Roomba's while the D6 and D7 stand up the 960 and 980 fairly well. Their biggest claim is the D-shape of their bodies, which allows them to get into corners better than the Roomba.
However, their power and performance on carpet aren't as outstanding. The Roomba 980 can clean more carpet types (and better) than the D6 or D7 can. Both use WiFI, mobile apps, and voice commands; however, the Roomba 980 can use the virtual wall barriers where the Neato uses magnetic tape as a boundary marker.
Compared apples to apples, the Roomba 980 is going to win, but the Neato D series does make a claim for itself with price and functionality.
Roomba 980 Vs. Dyson 360 Eye
Dyson, famous for the giant ball on their upright vacuums, entered the robot market with the 360 Eye. The Dyson company has superior suction power technology with its cyclone motors. However, there are a few problems with the 360 Eye that keep the Roomba 980 on top.
The biggest issue is the sheer size of the 360 Eye. The Dyson model is almost 5 inches in height, which makes getting under furniture nearly an impossibility. While the filters are HEPA rated and washable, they don’t do anything over and beyond.
Where the Dyson shines is on carpeting. The suction power of the motor and the cyclone action give it a superior clean over the 980, at least in the places it can go due to its bulk.
The other significant problem though is that you won't be able to get a new 360 Eye in North America. Dyson sold out of their units and have not shipped more over; it is also doubtful that they will again. So, unless you don't mind buying used, the search is almost pointless.
If you can get your hands on one, though, you will enjoy visual mapping and navigation, wireless controls with a mobile app and voice commands.
You will have to deal with different brush bars, though, as the Dyson unit uses a combination of up to four different ones. Depending on the floor you want to clean, you will have to switch out the brush rolls for the appropriate flooring manually.
Roomba 980 Accessories
As we mentioned earlier, the Roomba 980 has a few accessories. Besides what you get in the box (Home Base charging system, dual mode virtual wall barrier and extra filters), you also have the opportunity to get additional items.
There are a total of three infrared barriers to choose from. While the dual mode tower is arguably the best option, you can still use the virtual lighthouse or single mode wall barrier that came first. All three are compatible with all Roomba models, including the 980.
Of course, you also get the use of the iRobot Home App, voice commands, and HEPA quality filters on top of everything else. In fact, the only item you won't be able to utilize is the Clean Base system of the Roomba i7+ and s9+ models.
Setting Up the WiFi Connection
To use WiFi communications, you will need first to install the iRobot Home App. It is a free download form your respective app store and is compatible with both Android and iOS.
Once installed, you will need to run the app and either create a new account or sign into an existing one. From there, you will be prompted in a step-by-step guide to find your model of robot, connect to it (with it on the Home Base charging station) and activate the wireless chip inside.
Once everything is connected, you will be able to use the app and voice commands to control your robot. The setup is quick and easy and should only take you about 5 minutes.
How to Charge this Roomba 980 Model
When you first open the packaging, you will need to charge the Roomba 980. After the Home Base is properly set up and powered on, place the robot in the cradle, and it will begin to charge. You will see a battery icon that changes colors as the charge cycle completes, which takes about three hours.
From there, you generally don't have to worry about the battery charge. As the Robot cleans, it will self-monitor the battery level. This will also be indicated on the mobile app. When the battery drops below about 15% charge remaining the robot will stop the cleaning and return, on its own, to the charging station.
Sometimes you will get an error code, or the robot won’t charge while being on the Home Base. When this happens, you need to identify that the code is for the battery and that the contact sensors on both the robot and Home Base are clean.
If the problem persists, you should remove the battery pack and reinsert it. This reset should clear the memory and allow the battery to begin charging. If it does not, you will need to contact customer service for assistance or to place a warranty claim.
Positioning the Roomba Home Base
Placing the Home Base isn’t a difficult task, though it is one that you need to pay attention to. The Home Base will recharge the battery and give the robot a place to be stored while not in use. It will need to meet a few parameters to ensure proper charge and docking for the Roomba 980.
First, it will need to be near a power outlet. The unit should also be placed on a hard, flat surface, ensuring that it is level and the front of the ramp touches the floor along the entire edge.
To ensure the Roomba 980 can find it, you need to leave a clearance around the base. The back should be against the wall with at least two feet of open space on either side. The front of the Home Base should have a clearance of at least four feet, which will give the robot enough room to maneuver around.
It is also recommended that the Home Base be placed on hard flooring instead of carpeting. This will prevent tipping over and make sure the base stays level and flat during docking.
More Tips for Using a Roomba
Roomba vacuums, especially the Roomba 980, are relatively self-sufficient. Once they have the initial battery charge, have mapped your home and know where the Home Base is located, you won't have to do a whole lot. However, there are a few tips to consider to make the robot's job easier, which, in turn, makes your job easier.
First, ensure that the robot has easy access to all areas you want to be cleaned. If you need to raise furniture with leg supports so that the robot can get underneath, it is advised. Also, you want to close off any areas that the robot may get into, such as behind the fridge or between the stove and counters.
Next, you want to ensure you have a regular cleaning and maintenance routine (tips on that below). This should be done at least weekly to keep the robot performing in like-new condition.
You should also ensure you have the latest updates for the mobile app and the voice commands. Checking your app store regularly will make sure you have all of the latest versions of firmware and software installed.
Cleaning, Care & Maintenance
Cleaning and maintaining your Roomba 980 couldn't be easier unless it did it for itself. You should have a weekly routine that you go through to see to it that everything is taken care of.
Most importantly is the collection bin. If it gets full, the robot will stop running until it is emptied. For the first few runs, the collection bin should be emptied each time. After that, you will be able to go a couple of cleaning cycles before it needs to be emptied.
Wipe off all the sensors on the robot with a dry cloth to remove any dust or film build up that may prevent them from operating correctly. You also need to clean out the filter by knocking it against the inside of your trash can to get the dust and debris out.
About every 4 to 6 months, the filter needs to be replaced. During this time, you should also inspect the side brush for wear and tear, replacing as required.
Last, removing the extractors and wiping them clean will keep the suction and power of the robot at top performance, ensuring your floors are as clean as possible each time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s answer some of the most common questions about the Roomba 980 here.
How do I reset a Roomba unit?
Sometimes you need to perform a factory reset on your Roomba 980 to get things working properly again. To do this, remove the robot from the charging station and press the Clean button for about 10 seconds.
When you release the Clean button, the 980 will beep at you to let you know the reset was successful.
How can I extend the battery life?
The lithium-ion battery pack that is installed in the Roomba 980 should last you a few years. It is capable of going through at least 3000 recharging cycles. However, there are a few things you can do to make the battery hold a charge and last longer.
If you leave for extended periods, you will need to put the robot in idle mode. This will ensure the battery keeps all the settings of the robot, but it won't drain completely. It will also prevent the robot from doing cleaning cycles while you are away.
About once every two or three months, you should prevent the robot from recharging the battery and running until the battery is completely dead. This will reset the battery “memory” and allow the cells inside to use all of their capacity once again.
How do I contact iRobot Roomba customer support?
To get in touch with customer support, you can call 1-877-855-8593. This is for the technical support line. There are other numbers for pre-sales inquiries as well. If you would rather initiate a live chat or get the mailing address, you can find all the links and numbers on the iRobot contact page.
Can you find this Roomba model discounted on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
Certain vendors and online shops will have Roomba 980 Black Friday deals or Roomba 980 Cyber Monday sales. Amazon has placed the Roomba 980 on these sales before, as well as Costco, Sam's Club, and select others.
Because the deals are great and the quantities limited you will have to check with the specific vendor you wish to buy from and wait for their sale announcements. Amazon, for example, will only list upcoming deals a few hours before the sale.
Where are the best places to buy a Roomba 980?
Because of the age of the Roomba 980 and the release of the i-series and s-series robots, you will find the best deals and largest in-stock quantities on Amazon. You may even be able to purchase a separate warranty extension through Amazon, or use Amazon Prime to get faster or cheaper shipping.
The Roomba 980 was only unseated as the best robot vacuum on the market when the Roomba i7 was released. It is still a top-tier robot that should be considered for use in your home.
With camera-based navigation, the 3rd generation motor and HEPA quality filtration, you really can’t go wrong. It will clean almost all carpeting styles as well as hard flooring surfaces, and the maintenance is simple to stay up on.
For homes with a larger floor plan, a lot of carpet or furniture scattered around, the 980 will be able to navigate and clean better than virtually any other similar model.
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