The Best Roomba Vacuums
How We Found the Best Roomba
19 models considered
9 models tested
3 top picks
The Best Roomba Vacuums
The best Roomba vacuums should be able to reliably clean and navigate the unique geography of your home without a babysitter. 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 Roomba Vacuums: Summed Up
iRobot Roomba 960
Why we chose it
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.
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.
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.
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 Wi-Fi 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.
Why we chose it
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Points to consider
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 We Chose the Best Roomba Vacuums
The iRobot vacuums stood out against the competition in our robot vacuum review, we wanted to compare the best of the best. Out of about 16 different models sold within iRobot’s recommended bounds, only six are currently featured on iRobot’s official website. While other models may still be available through third-party sellers, like Amazon, it’s likely they’re being discontinued in favor of newer models. We want our top picks to reflect iRobot’s current offerings, as these models will have the latest technology and customers are likely to receive more direct support from the company.
Cleaning and navigation
The best Roomba should have top notch sensors to navigate your home with ease, whether you live in a multi-story house or a small apartment. Each Roomba model moves differently and excels in different spaces — for instance, the i7 takes a little longer to learn the landscape of your home than some other mapping bots out there, but once it does, it doesn’t forget it. The 960 essentially “relearns” your floor plan with every single run, and the 690 never learns anything — it just moves based on what’s around at the time.
To get a sense of our Roombas’ problem-solving abilities, we set them loose on different types of floors, both hardwoods and carpets, and laid out some typical household challenges, like charging cords and piles of clothing. Even the most advanced bots, like the i7, struggled with certain obstacles. This is simply par for the course with robot vacuums — you generally need to declutter the area a little to get the best clean.
Robot vacuums are designed more for picking up debris than heavy-duty messes. So while we expected a pretty good clean up of the handfuls of Cheerios we scattered around our floors (and weren’t totally disappointed), we also tested each Roomba’s ability to collect finer materials. We tipped 100 grams of flour and 50 grams of coffee out for each machine to pick up — a standardized stress test to make stricter comparisons between models. This amount is only a mere fraction of what most Roombas can hold in their dustbins, but we were disappointed that no robot picked up more than 71% of our mess.
Ease of use
A big part of the appeal of a Roomba is that it’s a hands-off, set-it-and-forget-it device. We made sure to try each model’s different bells and whistles to see if they actually made vacuuming as easy as we hoped. We compared included accessories and made sure we could easily connect to Wi-Fi, schedule cleans in advance (a feature even the most basic models can do now), and use provided mapping technology. The iRobot app is pretty solid, and universal to all the Roombas, so ease of use really boiled down to whether each model’s added functionality was worth the added weight to its price tag.
How to Find the Right Robot Vacuum 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 robot vacuum
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.
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