The Best Roomba Vacuums
How We Found the Best Roomba
16 models considered
7 models tested
2 top picks
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 seven 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.
How We Chose the Best Roomba Vacuums
Out of the 16 models sold within iRobot’s recommended bounds, the iRobot website only offers five. Four of these are WiFi-enabled bots: The 690, 890, 960, and 980 models, which were released in 2016 and 2017 and come compatible with both the iRobot Home app and Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. The 614 is the only Roomba on iRobot’s website that doesn’t have wireless capabilities; it’s a basic bot that preserves a lot of early generation features, but gets a 2017 face-lift.
We decided to bring in these parent models (the 650 and the 860) to round out our in-person testing of iRobot’s newest issues.
Cleaning and navigation
We cleared a 13-by-11-foot space of everything but a scattered cup of Cheerios and an 8 oz. pile of baking soda. We were interested in how much debris the Roombas could collect in half an hour — a fraction of their typical battery life. We decided to forego furniture in this first test to better observe their pure navigation, and any targeted-cleaning skills.
All models, despite wide variations in cleaning approach, gobbled up the whole cup of Cheerios and a good quantity of the baking soda. None of the Roombas left more than a single Cheerio on the floor, meaning that 0.9 oz of their dustbin contents came from cereal. Their baking soda contents ranged from 3.1 to 5.8 oz, about 40 to 70 percent of the baking soda we deposited. For cleaning efficacy, 980 and 860 tied for first. The 614 came in right after. It gathered an impressive 4.9 oz. of baking soda — more than even the 960, our high-tech favorite, managed to get.
Most bots tend to get hung up on the same obstacles, but some power through better than others. In order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each Roomba’s sensors, we built a robovac obstacle course.
We guessed that as we progressed through the three series, the Roombas would show continuous improvement and better deal with every obstacle. But even the lowest models made two of our so-called obstacles seem like child’s play.
The 2 Best Roomba Vacuums
Why we chose it
The Roomba 960 was the only model that made it through our snake pit of cords without getting any caught in its extractors. And while it did get momentarily lodged on the rug tassels, it promptly reversed and spat them back out. The more-expensive 980 model, on the other hand, flipped the rug over and proceeded to climb on top.
We saw similar results during the height test. The 960 did its fair share of bonking against the shelf — bonking seems to be a pretty unavoidable robot vacuum trait. But compared to other high-powered models, the 960’s contact with furniture is gentle. It even stopped itself short a few times when it sensed the shelf nearby.
Both 900-series Roombas boast a hefty upgrade in suction. Though the company says air watt stats are proprietary, it reports the 900s have a 5x increase in air power over the 600 series. The 960 and 980 are more than up to the challenge of thick, dense carpeting and a complex floor plan. And even though the 980 comes with a feature called “Carpet Boost,” which automatically intensifies suction as needed, our testing suggests you should save the money and go with the less expensive 960.
If you’re looking for a robot vacuum that lets you clean your home from anywhere, the Roomba 960 is perfect. With the iRobot Home App, you can schedule cleanings ahead of time, or simply press “clean” and it’ll get started right away. With the Roomba 960, you can even customize how it cleans with options like a one pass and “final edge clean.” Plus, you can view where your Roomba cleaned using the “View Clean Map.”
Points to consider
If you don’t need all the bells and whistles of a WiFi-enabled robot vacuum, then it might be worth passing on the Roomba 960 for the less expensive 614 model. Though not the priciest Roomba, the 960 still costs around $700, which is a lot of money for a vacuum. However, if you have a flexible budget and can spend that kind of money, the Roomba 960 offers superior cleaning capabilities — especially for homes with pets. Its voice-activated control and recharge and resume technology make it a great addition to any smart home.
Why we chose it
A great basic bot sticks to its primary function: vacuuming. We expected these Roombas would accomplish that essential task fairly well, and that our test results would show which among them did it best. Instead, the Roomba 614 ended up cleaning better than several of the high-end models. It sucked up an incredible 5.8 oz. of baking soda and Cheerios (part of a complete Roomba breakfast), beating out models that cost three times as much.
Having experienced the iRobot home app’s notifications, diagrams, and cleaning logs, we think there is something to be said for remaining disconnected. The Roomba 614 offers the cleaning power iRobot vacuums are known for, but keeps features simple. This no-frills model is best for those who don’t want to control their vacuum through an app, or get a notification every time Roomba aborts a cleaning mission. All you have to do is press a button and your Roomba is off to work.
Points to consider
Can’t schedule cleanings
Unlike the Roomba 960, the 614 model has no way of letting you schedule daily cleanings. This can be a bit annoying if you’re forgetful, or want to leave for work before Roomba starts vacuuming. That said, the 614 doesn’t lack in cleaning capabilities — its solid navigation skills coupled with a truly powerful suction make it an excellent vacuum. The only extra step is simply pushing the “clean” button to get the Roomba started, which isn’t a dealbreaker. If you’re willing to pay a little extra for this scheduled cleanings, the Roomba 650 (another basic, no-WiFi model) earned similar marks in our performance tests.
How to Find the Right Roomba for You
Research WiFi-enabled Roombas
Smart technology is quickly proving to be less of a novelty and a more standard addition in many homes. Choosing a high-tech bot is a step toward a smart home future. WiFi-enabled Roombas pair easily with smart speakers and let you schedule cleanings via voice commands. You can also control it from anywhere using the iRobot Home app, making it easy to start your Roomba even if you’re at work. Before purchasing your robot vacuum, look into a WiFi-enabled Roomba and decide if the extra technology best suits your cleaning needs.
Buy from an authorized dealer
When we started our search for the best Roomba by comparing all models readily available. As it turned out, there were a lot — we found 26 different models online, but some of those are discontinued; others are store exclusives; and a few are international models. Any of the above means that they are only available to U.S. consumers via third-party sellers.
When we talked to iRobot, we were advised to buy only from the company or from authorized retailers. 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 that the product description says “ships from and sold by Amazon.com.”
Consider your priorities
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 basis.
What's the difference between each Roomba series?
There are three series currently in production — 600, 800, and 900. The different models within each series (for instance, the 614, 650, and 690) share similar levels of power and controllability, all of which get upgraded in subsequent series.
How does Roomba learn your home’s layout?
The most recent generation of Roombas have mapping capabilities that draw a working diagram of your home, and that information will soon be highly valuable as the market develops intuitive, automated home devices. There has been a fair amount of controversy surrounding the mapping feature on the WiFi-enabled Roombas. At first blush, this mapping technology just seems useful: 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 news of this technology in early 2017.
iRobot insists there’s no cause for concern: Map memory gets wiped after each run. But smart home technology is still in its infancy, so we’ve only just begun to understand how that kind of information can be used. Still, iRobot says it will always make the choice to share or not to share a consumer prerogative.
What’s the difference between Li-ion and NiMH batteries?
All contemporary Roombas utilize high-power lithium-ion batteries, which are known for being lightweight and long-lived. The 650 is the exception: Its NiMH battery weighs in slightly heavier than li-ion, takes a little longer to charge, and can lose charge just sitting still — a dormant NiMH battery loses 50% of its charge in a month. The only reason 650 still uses nickel-metal hydride batteries is because iRobot hasn’t updated its design.
The Best Roomba Vacuums: Summed Up
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