The Best Roomba Vacuums

In our Best Robot Vacuums review, we pitted robovacs from a range of top manufacturers against each other and found that iRobot’s Roombas swept the competition. This review dives deep into the iRobot world to understand the company’s first-in-class technology. We tested nine of iRobot's most promising models for cleaning power, navigation, and the ability to tackle common obstacles. In the end, it was clear that more money doesn’t always buy better results.

The 3 Best Roomba Vacuums

The Best
All-Rounder
iRobot Roomba 960
This Roomba strikes just the right balance between reliable navigation and powerful cleaning.
Pros
Impressive navigation
Additional sensor
Superior cleaning
Manageable tech features
Cons
No map manipulation

Why we chose it

Impressive navigation

Unlike the 690, the 960 looks like it cleans with intention and purpose. It assumes an s-shaped pattern when working and leaves no major spaces — or dust — behind. It will shimmy its way from one end of the room to the other, with a few extra back-and-forth motions where needed, before moving over and heading back to the other end. This orderly approach means the 960 is more efficient and less likely to waste time in already clean areas, or circling the same chair legs. In contrast, the 690’s movements were decidedly haphazard.

Additional sensor

Unlike the basic Roomba models, the 960 has the additional benefit of a second sensor — a camera found on the top that enables it to navigate by interpreting different patterns of light. Although it isn’t equipped to “remember” where it cleaned the previous run, the more robust sensor suite and camera allow this robot to quickly maneuver its way around a room. In fact, this less intelligent (yet fast-adapting) feature means you can move your robot between storeys or homes without having to shell out for the mapping functions of the more advanced Roomba IQ.

Superior cleaning

You’re also getting a more powerful clean with the Roomba 960 — it uses five times more air power than the 600-level series. The 960 outpaced all other models in this arena by bringing home 71% of our ground coffee and flour mixture after 30 minutes. You also don’t have to worry about this robot failing to complete a job because of a dead battery. The 960 is one of only two Roombas (the other is the i7) equipped with “recharge and resume” technology, meaning it’ll go back to its base to charge itself if needed and then head out again to finish cleaning.

If you want extra power, but not the extra tech

Although we didn’t put it in our lineup this time, the Roomba e5 is a powerful cleaner and consumed several tufts of thick pet hair and loose rug strands in one of our at-home tests. It has five times the air power of the 600-level models, making it more equipped to handle heavier-duty debris and trap pet allergens. It also comes with a high efficiency filter and dual rubber brushes for a more manageable price than the advanced models (i7 and 960). But it’s similar to the 690 in that it, too, assumes the same haphazard pattern of motion. So, if you don’t care about giving up the smart navigation or cleaning reports of the 960 and want to focus on pet hair for a slightly smaller price than the 960, the e5 is for you.

Manageable tech features

A year ago, the 960 led the market in terms of functionality. Now, with the release of the i7, it’s no longer the fanciest bot in the cleaning cupboard, but this doesn’t mean it’s any less powerful or useful. The app reliably sent us real-time updates on the 960’s status, and we didn’t encounter any troubling WiFi issues. Both the 960 and 690 let you schedule cleaning times in advance and while neither lets you customize the map, the 960 gives you the option to receive reports on exactly where and for how long your robot cleaned.

Points to consider

No map manipulation

The 960 is right on the cusp of cutting-edge technology, making its stagnant mapping reports, for example, seem almost like a tease. This is especially true if you’ve ever gotten your hands on the i7, which builds — and remembers — up to 10 floor plans and allows you to create virtual boundary lines. With the 960, you still have to use the clunky virtual wall hub that will prevent a robot from entering a space for up to 10 feet. However, if interactive mapping doesn’t matter to you — the 960 still has a great amount of functionality and customization that allow you to forget about vacuuming.

The Best
Budget Roomba
iRobot Roomba 690
This exceptionally diligent Roomba vac won’t stop until the dust is gone.
Pros
Powerful cleaner
Basic functions
Cons
Random movements

Why we chose it

Powerful cleaner

The 690 impressed us with its cleaning power by filling its bin with long hair and dust from underneath our guest bed. It also wasn’t far behind the 960 in our controlled pickup test, collecting 64% of our coffee and flour spill (compared to the 960’s 71%) . Although it’s not as smart and deliberate with its patterns of motion, the Roomba 690 might be a more diligent cleaner than the 960. It powers through and out of areas where needed, mainly navigating via direct sensory inputs, like bumping into a chair. This makes the Roomba 690 really powerful at cleaning/fully covering one room or two, but beyond that, it will probably exhaust its battery and return to the docking station.

Roomba-Carpet-Movement-2-for-Best-Roomba

Basic functions

In an open room with few obstacles, the 690 will deliver a good clean. Although it only offers the bare minimum in the robot vacuum world, you can still control your Roomba 690 while you’re at work, receive push notifications if something goes awry, and schedule cleaning runs in advance. There’s no fiddling around with virtual boundary lines or examining post-cleaning floor plans— simply close a few doors, use the virtual wall hub, or get savvy with the placement of your pet gate, and unleash the 690. But be prepared to have a perpetually confused looking robot in your home. And if you notice it misses certain spaces on the first run, know that it isn’t going to learn from that mistake and will probably overlook the same spots every clean unless you shuffle some things around.

Points to consider

Random movements

Because it doesn’t intelligently “recognize” surroundings like its siblings, it tends to bump into chair legs and cabinets a bit more aggressively — this can be painful (and, we’ll admit, sometimes humorous) to watch. It also tends to favor certain areas over others, going over and over the same clean area for several minutes without noticing mess nearby. When it does recognize dirt, though, it does multiple passes of the mess with the same determination until it’s all but gone.

Shorter battery

Unlike the i7 and 960, this Roomba won’t seek a quick boost of energy before completely finishing a job. It maxes out at a 90-minute cleaning time, however, we mostly saw it return to its dock after 60-75 minutes (with some battery left). But if it begins a run on a partial charge, it’ll only partially clean the room before returning to its dock.

The Best
High-Tech Roomba
Roomba i7+
This advanced Roomba brings a high level of cleaning efficiency and automation, with more advanced accessories.
Pros
Automatic dirt disposal
Powerful suction
Mapping skills
Easy to clean
Cons
Price
Extra-sensitive dustbin

Why we chose it

Automatic dirt disposal

While you can buy the i7 Roomba on its own, we like the i7+, which comes with automatic dirt disposal. iRobot has essentially done what no other major robotic vacuum company has yet to accomplish by eliminating the only extra legwork you have to do when using a robot vacuum — and that’s emptying/cleaning a dustbin. The Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal hub eradicates the time spent hovering over your trash can and inhaling excess dust, all to wiggle out the extra grime clinging to the corners. The i7+ will release on its own or you can press “empty dustbin” on the app — the base vacuums the debris out of the robot’s bin and empties it into a bag at the top of the “tower.” The bag can hold up to 30 bins of dirt, which technically means you don’t have to touch your robot for weeks, unless it decides to snack on a curtain or stray sock.

Roomba-i7-Dock-for-Best-Roomba

Powerful suction

The i Series also comes with stronger suction power than any other Roomba on the market — 10 times that of the 600-level models. An impressive spec that makes this a promising option for picking up dirt, grime, and hair in a multi-level home. During testing, the i7 didn’t perform quite as well as we expected, but less-than-stellar performance on the first couple of runs is likely due to an incomplete map of the space (that is, the bot is still disoriented). In order to maximize cleaning, iRobot recommends giving the i7 ample time to figure out its way around your place before expecting a solid clean.

A note on black floors:

Cliff-avoidance technology, particularly in earlier Roomba models, has the potential downside of keeping them from cleaning dark rugs or carpet. Infrared sensors can mistake dark colors for empty space. The good news is that the i Series sensors are better equipped to handle these types of scenarios, which means these bots aren’t as prone to panicking and backing away from messes on very dark floors.

Mapping skills

The i7 builds on the high-tech qualities it shares with the 960 (camera sensor and “recharge and resume” cleaning), by adding greater navigational skills (iAdapt 3.0) and the ability to remember up to ten different floor plans (“Imprint Smart Mapping”). It took the i7 three rounds and almost 3.5 hours to fully map two rooms in our test apartment (about 400 square feet), and a little over a day to complete 90% of the map for one level of our three-story home (700 square feet).

Be patient. The i7+’s mapping feature is worth the lengthy prep time, as it builds pretty unshakable floor plans. If you move the base to a different spot, or into another room, the i7 would still accurately target the rooms we wanted it to. To compare, in our general robot vacuum testing the Neato vacuums we tested took only one run to map all floor plans (60-120 minutes), but getting them to actually use the maps for subsequent runs was a bit of a struggle. Once the i7 builds your floor plan, it’ll segment the different rooms for you, but you can always change these as needed. While it doesn’t let you create specific “zones” to target — you can undercut this by adjusting or adding lines to create a “room” within a room.

Smart home compatibility:

Another way the i7 sets itself apart from its siblings is that you can connect to Alexa and Google Home. Once it creates your floor plan, you name the rooms accordingly — and if you have your smart hub connected to your iRobot app, all you have to do is say, “Alexa, tell Roomba to clean the kitchen,” to send it to that specific area.

Easy to clean

Compared to the bristled brush of the 690, which makes retrieving the long hairs wrapped around it pretty unpleasant, the i7+ ’s dual rubber brushes are easy to rinse off in the sink. And unlike the older models, you can wash both the e and i series bins without having to worry about harming the motors (which have been moved to the center of the robots). It’s still a good idea to dry everything, just in case, but we appreciate the strides iRobot has made in making cleanup less of a hassle.

Roller-Comparison-2018-for-Roomba

Clockwise from top left: 690 bristled and rubber brush combo; dual rubber brushes of 960; i7’s dual rubber brushes and washable bin.

Points to consider

Price

With the Clean Base, the i7+ retails for about $1,000. However, as the automatic disposal feature becomes more common in the market, this price will probably come down. You can also buy a stand-alone Roomba i7 (basically the same bot without the automatic dirt disposal tower) for $700, which is a competitive price when compared to other high-tech mapping bots.

Sensitive dirt disposal

After the very first run, we received a notification that the dustbin tower had become clogged. The video instructions on the app told us to unscrew the back of the base and fiddle around with the internal vacuuming vessel to see what had happened. It turned out the tower was being overly sensitive. We received the same notification a second time after pouring a cup or two of cheerios onto the ground to see how the Roomba could handle pickup. The robovac itself managed to scoop up the majority of the mess — the dustbin tower, on the other hand, didn’t fare too well and refused to consume the leftover dry cereal. Once we emptied the i7+’s dustbin and removed the Cheerios, everything returned to normal, but it was a little annoying to have to manually empty a “self-emptying” robot.

How to Find the Right Roomba for You

Consider your main priorities

You should go with the robot vacuum that will work the best in your home. The great thing about iRobot’s Roomba vacuums is that there’s something for everyone. Depending on your priorities, the best Roomba may be one that boasts top-of-the-line features and controls, or one that offers solid cleaning power while going easy on technology. Don’t choose a Roomba based on fancy features you may never use. Dig into each model’s specific features, consider what type of cleaner you are and what kind of vacuuming you need on a daily or weekly basis.

If you live in a smaller home or apartment, you might not want or need the added bells and whistles (read: fancy navigation or an autonomous dust dispenser). If you have several pets running around, you might want to think about investing in a Roomba with heavier-duty suction powers (like the 960 or i7). Although keep in mind that free ranging robots can frighten some pets, and a robot vacuum can quickly turn your puppy’s little household “accident” into a decidedly unpleasant “poopocalypse.”

Buy from an authorized dealer

You’ll probably find an abundance of Roomba vacuum models littered about the internet. Some of these are discontinued, others are store-exclusives (like the Costco Roomba e6), and a few are international models. Any of the above means they are only available to U.S. consumers via third-party retailers.

When we talked to iRobot, we were advised to buy only from the company or from authorized sellers. These purchasing routes ensure warranty coverage. Amazon is one of iRobot’s authorized retailers, but be alert to third-party sellers within that space as well. Make sure the product description says “ships and sold by Amazon.com.”

Have reasonable expectations of your Roomba

The term “robot” comes with connotations of complete automation, but to be honest, your Roomba can’t do it all. Robot vacuums weren’t necessarily designed to replace your upright — they’re more for the everyday dust and debris that collect in those hard-to-reach corners of your home. Think about it this way: With a robovac, you can probably toss the straw broom lurking in your kitchen pantry and also know that the carpet underneath your bed will be far cleaner than it’s ever been. For larger, more contained spills that you want to get rid of immediately (and not wait an hour for a robovac to discover), you’ll probably be more inclined to reach for your regular vacuum.

Make your Roomba’s job a little easier

Go ahead and pick up the loose charging cords, shoe strings, and cardboard boxes off the floor to allow your Roomba to do its best work. While they won’t replace your handheld vacuum (yet), your Roomba is still extremely powerful and will suck up extra clutter.

Roomba FAQ

How can I compare Roomba models?

There are four series currently featured on iRobot’s official website — 600, 900, e Series, and the i Series. The different models within a series share similar levels of power and control, all of which get an upgrade with each subsequent series.

600 Series

First-generation iAdapt and Aerovac technology means basic dirt-detection skills and typical brushes: the kind with bristles that do a fair job at scraping up debris but are particularly prone to becoming ensnared in hair. While their navigation style is random, 600 models display iRobot’s patented cleaning algorithms that enable the device to cover an entire room (given enough time) by first locating perimeters and then bouncing between obstacles.

e Series

The only e Series robot featured on iRobot’s website is the e5, which is equipped with a greater amount of suction than the 600 series, making it well-suited for tackling pet hair or heftier debris. Like the 600 series, it operates rather randomly when targeting a room, and comes with similar app control functionality and battery life. And while the 690 comes with both one bristled brush and one rubber one, the e5 is equipped with two rubber brushes to tightly suck up dirt.

900 Series

Exclusive to the 900 series, recharge-and-resume technology helps expand upon the multi-room navigation capabilities of the 800s: Making a pit stop to recharge before heading back out means a 900-series Roomba can clean an entire level of your home with the single push of a button. In the 980 model, “Carpet Boost” automatically increases air wattage when it senses thicker-pile flooring.

i Series

The company’s most advanced robot vacuum suite to date, the i Series Roombas can learn entire levels of your home (up to 10 floor plans). The i7 uses what iRobot calls “Imprint Smart Mapping” and a greater suite of navigational sensors with iAdapt 3.0. This allows you to send the robot into certain rooms or areas of a particular room to clean — and unlike other Roomba models, this one is equipped to handle dark flooring. Similar to the 900 series, the i7 also recharges and resumes if it runs out of battery. The only difference between the i7 and i7+ is the Clean Base that comes with the i7+ — but otherwise both the robot and base are sold separately. So if you want to save a few hundred dollars and empty your own dustbin, go for the i7.

Can my Roomba i7 still use the map it created if I move my furniture around?

Yes. We tested this a few times. You can move chairs and barstools or place boxes in the hallway, and your Roomba i7 will adjust accordingly — even if the placement of furniture differs from the layout used to create the original floor plan. “The robot assumes that the walls never move, but everything else inside the room might move...When it [the Roomba i7] goes into that room, it treats everything — like the furniture and the clutter — as transient,” said Ken Bazydola, director of product management at iRobot.

Should I be concerned about security when using a Roomba that maps my home?

There has been a fair amount of controversy surrounding the mapping feature on the WiFi-enabled Roombas. Thanks to optical and aural sensors, bots perceive furniture, walls, and other obstacles and devise a map to help them navigate. But people started bringing up privacy concerns as soon as iRobot representatives shared the news of this technology in early 2017.

iRobot insists there’s no cause for concern: You can still choose to purchase a bot that will wipe all memory after each run (900, e, and 600 series). iRobot says it will always make the choice to share or not to share a consumer prerogative.

What does the Proposition 65 warning label mean?

According to iRobot, this warning is featured as a legal requirement to sell its products in California. This means that your Roomba can expose you to a few of the chemicals found on Proposition 65’s list known to cause “cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.” But this warning does not necessarily mean these products strictly violate safety standards. There could be a lot of reasons why iRobot lists this, and although the details are vague to the consumer, the law only requires companies to give a warning.

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) told us that businesses are not required to disclose why they chose to feature the label. The decision to include the label is based on a business’s own assessments and knowledge of the chemicals/exposure levels. If one of the chemicals used in the product does not have a “safe harbor level,” or level that does not cause significant exposure, then the business is required to provide a warning (arsenic does, antimony trioxide does not). In both cases, businesses still have to prove whether the chemicals cause harm in order to forgo the label, which can be difficult to do, especially if there’s no safe harbor level.

This all sounds scary, but it’s really not as uncommon as you would think: You actually see similar warnings on a number of products — vacuums in particular. In fact, cancer-causing materials are virtually everywhere, but the decision is yours in deciding whether you want to purchase.

Can Roombas climb stairs?

Your Roomba can’t climb stairs, and this is another reason why you’re probably going to want to keep your handheld or upright vacuum around. However, if your robovac does find the staircase, you don’t have to worry about it tumbling to an untimely death, because all Roombas are equipped with drop sensors that notify them when they reach an edge (this is known as cliff-avoidance technology).

Can Roombas handle wet cleanups?

All of the Roombas we’ve mentioned in this review are not compatible with water. If your Roomba gets wet, you’ll need to shut it off, take it apart, and clean everything to ensure it’s dry before turning it on again. If you want a robot vacuum that can also replace your mop — iRobot makes these, too. We haven’t tested them, but the Braava jets and Braava 300 Series are designed to both mop and sweep using iAdapt 2.0 to navigate your floors.

The Best Roomba Vacuums: Summed Up

iRobot Roomba 960
Roomba 690
Roomba i7+
Best All-Rounder Roomba
Best Budget Roomba
Best High Tech Roomba
Price
$550 on Amazon
$300 on Amazon
i7 $700
I7+ $950
Wifi - enabled
(scheduling)
self-charging
Max cleaning time
75 minutes
90 minutes
75 minutes
“Recharge and resume”
Washable bin
Cleaning reports with mapped coverage
Customizable maps

More Smart Home Reviews

Ready to bring your house into the 21st century? Read up on the latest smart home tech and find the devices that’ll work best for you: