iRobot’s Roomba series is one of the favorites in the robovac industry. It all started in 2002 when the first Roomba was released. After 13 years, more than 10 million people around the world now use Roomba, and counting. Recently, a new version of this old favorite was released, it costs $200 more than the previous version (Roomba 880) but it might just be worth the extra cash.

Top View of iRobot Roomba 980 (Image Credit: Amazon)

The iRobot Roomba 980 (Image Credit: Amazon)

An Heir To Roomba’s Great Features

The Roomba 980 inherited many of the smart features integrated into the Roomba 880. The two robovacs basically have the same round shape and low profile, allowing them to fit under beds and furniture for a more thorough cleaning.

Two views of iRobot Roomba 980 (Image Credit: iRobot)

Two views of iRobot Roomba 980 (Image Credit: iRobot)

The performance features we loved from the Roomba 880 were also adopted by the Roomba 980. One of which is the iAdopt Navigation System. This navigation system uses a set of sensors to know where it is, where it has been, and where it is going. It maps your room so it can systematically clean it without leaving a spot untouched. Roomba is able to stop cleaning when it needs to recharge and it then automatically goes back to where it left off after charging. However, Roomba 980’s iAdopt Navigation System is improved beyond the previous version, more on that later. Roomba 980 has also adopted the cliff-detection feature. This feature uses 4 sensors placed underneath Roomba to detect stairs and other cliffs that would inevitably lead to Roomba’s down fall. (Get it?)

More views of iRobot Roomba 980 (Image Credit: Amazon)

More views of iRobot Roomba 980 (Image Credit: Amazon)

Roomba 980 uses the same AeroForce™ Cleaning System which uses a pair of rubber treads counter-rotating with each other as extractors. Its practical advantage is that it needs no frequent cleaning unlike traditional brush extractors. It avoids carpet fringe and wires so that things don’t get tangled up. Finally, the Roomba 980 has retained its side-brushes which it uses to clean wall edges.

But Where Will My $200 Go?

With a price tag $200 more than the its predecessor, Roomba 980 should have some “wow” features.

At first glance, you’ll notice that iRobot swapped out its glossy black finish with silver accent to a more subtle brownish-black finish. 980’s face was also uncluttered—from 4 small buttons and a large clean button to just three: Clean, Home, and Spot Mode. Use the Clean button for on-the-spot cleaning, the Home button to send Roomba back to its docking station, and the Spot button to make it clean a particularly dirty area.

Other than its design, 980’s navigation system is also improved. It now has vSLAM technology which stands for Visual Simultaneous Location and Mapping. Basically, iRobot added an upward-facing low-cost camera. This camera uses visual landmarks to triangulate its exact position for better mapping. It allows Roomba to better map your place and create a more systematic way of getting around the room. It also means more area cleaned within a shorter period of time.

A performance feature was added as well—Carpet Boost. Dust and tiny particles hide on carpets and rugs, which is why Roomba can now automatically boost its air power by up to 10x to efficiently clean carpets, rugs, and surfaces with similar texture.

Finally, and perhaps Roomba’s greatest achievement, is its large leap towards the home automation industry. Roomba 980 can now connect to your home Wi-Fi. What for? Well, iRobot created an app for Roomba. It’s called iRobot HOME. In the future it may become the app which controls all of iRobot’s home products. But for now, this is what iRobot HOME can do:

  • Schedule, start, pause or cancel Roomba’s cleaning cycle from anywhere.
  • Customize cleaning preferences.
  • Monitor Roomba’s activity.
  • Access set-up instructions.
Screenshots of iRobot HOME App (Image Credit: Apple App Store).

Screenshots of iRobot HOME App (Image Credit: Apple App Store).

Are you impressed by Roomba 980? vSLAM, Carpet Boost, and the new app are impressive features, but not quite the value we’re looking for from a $900 robovac. However, Roomba 980 is the first robovac to be connected to Wi-Fi and an app. If you place significant value on those features, then the Roomba 980 is something you may want to take a look at. But before getting one, I suggest waiting for the Dyson 360 Eye and Neato Botvac Connected, both coming out later this year. Just like Roomba, both can be connected to Wi-Fi and controlled by an app. What I know is that Neato Botvac Connected will retail at a lower price compared to Roomba, so it’s smarter to wait and see which has the best value.

In the end, Roomba is still an autonomous robovac. Its leap to home automation is a start but not an end. We’d like to see Roomba play a better role in home automation. Integrating it with existing smart home systems would make a lot of sense. Imagine if you could set it to automatically start cleaning when you set your Nest thermostat to away, or maybe even switch on when your alarm system is tripped to scare off intruders particularly since Roomba’s motor is loud. Point is, Roomba has a lot of potential in the home automation industry and I hope they grasp at the opportunity.

The iRobot Roomba 980 is now available to order from iRobot’s online store or at Amazon for $899.99.

If you currently own an iRobot robotic vacuum, would you consider this upgrade?  If you are considering a robotic vacuum for the first time, what features/capabilities of the Roomba 980 do you like/dislike?  Let us know in the comments below, or by starting a new discussion in our community forum.

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