iRobot Roomba 960 vs 980 – A Detailed & Clear Summary

More people are turning to robot vacuums to eliminate the time they have to spend doing or thinking about cleaning. At the top end of functionality and performance in iRobots range, you have the Roomba 960 and Roomba 980. Second, only to the Roomba i7+, these two robot vacuums are equipped with some of the finest navigation and cleaning technologies available on the market. This article will compare the Roomba 960 vs 980 cleaning peformance.

Although there are countless features that are attributable to both Roombas, the differences between the 960 and 980 are subtle. This article will take you through all the features you can expect to find with these two robot vacuums and also throw some light on the Roomba 880 and where it fits in.

Roomba 960 vs 980

This article will look deeper into comparing the Roomba 960 and 980 as we consider features such as motor power, navigation methods, and smart home technology. The truth is that the 960 and 980 are very similar machines with the principal difference being the Roomba 980 having higher motor power and price tag.

We will also have a look at the predecessor of the Roomba 980, the Roomba 880, as we know that some confusion arises between comparing this mdel with the 900 series. This is still a popular Roomba that many consumers look out but we want to break down why it is not a  good purchase in 2019.

For a more complete overview of these Roombas, we highly recommend you read that article, this compares Roomba Models article, we highlighted the key differences across the whole range of iRobots Roomba models.

Roomba 960 – The smarter option

Roomba 960 View Roomba 960 on Amazon

Overall, the Roomba 960 is a very solid robot vacuum which comes packed with all the best features and in practice will do as good of a job as the more expensive Roomba 980. Its more reasonable price and almost equal footing to the Roomba 980 means that we think it is the better choice for most purchasers. This is because it gets the depth of control and ease of use that comes with the iRobot Home app, as well as the best navigation system it shares with the Roomba 980. It does only have 75 minutes of battery life compared to the 120 minutes that the 980 has but the recharge and resume function renders this less important.

This is the choice for those with a smaller home, hard floors and relatively sensitive budget.

Roomba 980 – The better but more expensive option

Roomba 980

View Roomba 980 on Amazon

The Roomba 980 is a brilliantly performing robot vacuum cleaner that used to be the best, until the Roomba i7+ came along. It has everything that the 960 has with extra battery life and the more powerful Gen 3-Motor. The carpet boost mode is unique to the Roomba 980 and will do a better job than the 960 on carpets and rugs, especially those with thicker and denser piles. Beyond that, the navigation technology and connectivity that makes the Roomba 960 so great is found in the Roomba 980.

This is the choice for those with a larger home, many carpets, and rugs and a large budget.


The design, weight, and size of the Roomba 960 and 980 are very similar, with the only real apparent difference being the color scheme. The Roomba 980 comes in a dark brown compared to the matte grey of the Roomba 960. The dimensions and weight of both the Roomba 960  and 980 are identical and are as follows:

  • Diameter: 13.8 inches
  • Height: 3.6 inches
  • Weight: 8.7 lbs


Newer models of Roombas, including both the Roomba 960 and Roomba 980, are WiFi enabled and have the ability to connect to your smartphone through the iRobot Home App, which is available on Android and IOS. This is not exclusive to the Roomba 900 series as the i7+ and e5 have this feature as well as the Roomba 890 and Roomba 690.

The integration of WiFi connectivity into the Roomba 960 and 980 is effectively the point where they became smart home devices, in addition to being a robot vacuum. The iRobot Home App acts as the user interface for the control and reporting of the Roomba 960 and the Roomba 980. From the app you can carry out the following functions:

  • Start & pause cleaning cycles
  • Set schedules
  • Configure your preferences
  • Monitor your robots live activity
  • View Clean Map reports
  • View Roomba statistics on cleaning metrics
  • Enable push notifications for your smart device
  • Stay on top of Roomba firmware update
  • Access customer support options

It is not essential to have the iRobot Home app to use your 960 or 980 as they both have buttons on their bodies. However, It is highly recommended as it gives access to a whole new range of features available on both models.

There is the option for voice control with Alexa as well as Google Home.

  • The Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 both connect to the app
  • The Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 are both controllable with Alexa

IFTTT – If This Then That

WiFi connectivity in the Roomba 960 and 980 has enabled them to be used with IFTTT technology. IFTTT is a software which allows owners of smart devices and apps to create conditional statements which the devices respond to, hence the “If this then that”.

We will provide some examples below so you get the idea of what exactly can be automated with the Roomba 960 and 980 in combination with other devices. These statements have been labeled as applets and are usable with most of the major smart home devices brands. These applets are either made by individual users or by brands like iRobot and Amazon. Here are some examples:

  • When I answer a call, pause Roomba
  • When I arrive home, stop my Roomba
  • When Roomba completes a job, blink your Hue Lights

The top two examples are useful for those who don’t like the noisiness of Roombas and the last one gives a polite reminder when your home is clean. The fun of IFTTT is that they are created and you can make your own. Shared Roomba applets can be found here.

  • The Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 have IFTTT compatibility

3.Navigation Technology

The navigation technology of the Roomba 960 and 980 is a fundamental difference that sets them out from the other models, apart from the i7+. All other Roombas use a relatively random form of sensor-driven navigation technology called iAdapt (1.0), whilst the Roomba 960 and 980 have Smart Mapping & VSLAM Navigation built in.

This form of navigation uses a camera that the Roomba 960 and 980 have facing outwards of its top face diagonally to take images. This builds up a map of your home, so the robot vacuum knows the layout and the best routes to take. In practice, it is quite a bit more technical than this, but that is the general gist. The result of Smart Mapping & VSLAM is that the Roomba 960 and 980 clean your home in a calculated and efficient way that saves time and electricity.

Another cool application of this is when the Roomba 960 and 980 recharge and resume cleaning, they know exactly where they left off and where they should crack on from.

  • The Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 have Smart Mapping & VSLAM

roomba navigation

Clean Map Reports

The Smart mapping & VSLAM technology of the Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 also produces cleaning reports both accessible from the iRobot Home App. Accessible and in-depth reports showcasing your home floorplan smart mapped, clean time, charging time, “dirt events”, as well as enabling voice commands and scheduled cleaning. You can view up to 30 cleans before the data is deleted.

  • The Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 produce Clean Map Reports

Dirt Detect

Dirt Detect is an older technology used in Roombas which identifies areas which have high concentrations of dirt and require more attention. The Roomba 960 and 980 both have this to work when extra dirt is found to ensure the cleaning job is fully handled.

  • The Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 have Dirt Detect

Cliff Detect

Cliff Detect is also an older bit of sensor-driven technology used in the Roomba 960 and 980. It pretty much does what it says on the tin and identifies any drop-offs so your Roomba does not fall and break.

The most common cliff point will be the top of stairs, so any cleaning of multiple floors will require you manually carrying the 960 or 980 to different floors.  iRobot recommends regularly wiping your Cliff detect sensors with a dry cloth as any fall down the steps could be very damaging to the Roomba and you. Do not cover them either!

  • The Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 have Cliff Detect

Sweep corners and along walls

A staple of every Roomba, including the 960 and 980 is the side brushes angled at 27 degrees to sweep debris found in corners into its path.

  • The Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 have side brushes

Home Base

The Roomba 960 and 980 come with a Home Base which is their charging point and home when they are not in use. When Roombas run out of charge they automatically return to the Home Base rather than randomly switching off and being lost.

A particularly useful feature introduced to the  Roomba 960 and 980 is the ability to resume cleaning once recharged, making life even easier. Once scheduling is set up then, in theory, there should be a minimal amount of maintenance of your Roombas. This feature reduces the importance of battery life too.

  • The Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 can self-recharge and resume cleaning

4.Cleaning Motor

The varying motor power of the Roombas 960 and 980 is the principal difference between the two models. The iRobot Roomba 960 uses the Aeroforce 3-Stage Cleaning System, which is approximately 5 times stronger than the motor used in most of the older Roombas, such as the 650.

The Roomba 980 uses iRobots Gen 3 motor which is twice as strong as the 960 when used on carpets. The main significance of this is that the 980 will do a much better job on dense and deeper carpets. Given that Roombas are mostly not as effective as traditional vacuums, this may or may not be worth the extra $200.

If your home is a hard floor it is certainly recommended to go for the Roomba 960 over the Roomba 980. Homes with thicker and higher carpet pile may require the extra oomph that the Roomba 980 has.So given your individual circumstance, you may think the motor power of the Roomba 960 and 980 is sufficient if you have hard floors.

  • The Roomba 980 has a more powerful cleaning motor – 10 times the strength of the original iRobot Aerovac motor
  • The Roomba 960 has a less powerful cleaning motor – 5 times the strength of the original iRobot Aerovac motor


The Roomba 980 has a special carpet cleaning mode where it harnesses the full power of the Gen 3 Motor. The 980 will reduce its vacuum power on hard services to compensate for extra energy used in carpet cleaning mode.

This means that it will outperform the Roomba 960 on some carpet jobs, especially for those who have thicker and denser carpet pile. The 960 lacks this feature, so without a doubt, there will be some circumstances where the 980 will pick up some mess that the 960 failed to properly extract. 

  • The Roomba 980 has a carpet cleaning mode

Hard Floors

All Roombas can do a solid job on hard floors, even the likes of the 614 is a solid bet for pet hair on a solid surface. Both the 960 and 980 will not have any problems here.

  • The Roomba 960 and 980 will both do a good job on hard floors


The Roomba 960 uses a 2130 mAh Li-Ion battery which iRobot states typically lasts through 75 minutes of continuous cleaning. The Roomba 980 uses a 3000 mAh Li-Ion battery which can do 120 minutes of cleaning. As you can see, The battery life of the Roomba 960 and 980 is a fair bit less, although in practice this 45 minutes is not game-changing important.

Although this may seem like a significant difference, it actually isn’t that important given that both can self autonomously go back to the charging station and resume cleaning. The only circumstance where this could be worth having is if your home takes more than 75 minutes to clean but less than 120 minutes.

The problem is that you will not know this until you purchase a Roomba. The battery life of the Roomba 960 and 980 are estimations and results will vary, although you can use measures to increase battery life.

  • The Roomba 980 has 120 minutes battery life
  • The Roomba 960 has 75 minutes battery life


The price of the Roomba 960 and 980 may be the deciding factor for many purchasers. The iRobot Roomba 960 is typically around $200 less than the Roomba 980, which is quite a substantial proportion. The Roomba 980 is one ofthe best robot vacuum you can buy at the moment, and those without budget restrictions may feel happy going with that choice. We feel that most, not all, will be swayed towards the Roomba 960 because of this price difference.

Roomba 880 vs 980

iRobot Roomba 880 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

View Roomba 880 on Amazon

Our research shows that many consumers are curious about how the Roomba 880 fits into the robot vacuum market. This might be due to the fact it has a similar name to the 980 and was at the top of the Roomba range a few years ago.  A comparison of the Roomba 880, 980 and 960 quickly shows that the older model is not up to scratch with the smart home enabled Roombas. The key differences can be listed as:

  • The Roomba 880 does not have Wifi connectivity or any of the iRobot Home app features
  • The Roomba 880 uses iAdapt Navigation as opposed to Smart Mapping & VSLAM
  • The Roomba 880 does not have voice recognition
  • The Roomba 880 has the Aeroforce 3-Stage Cleaning system rather than the newer 3rd Gen Motor
  • No carpet mode cleaning

Roombas used to to be valued on their suction power, hence why the Roomba 880 was the powerhouse Roomba for a bit of time. The introduction of Wifi connectivity and smart mapping has pretty much wiped its status rendering the Roomba 980 and 960 as far more capable machines.

Yes, it does have the same suction power as the Roomba 960, but the benefits of sensible and efficient navigation make the likes of the 900 series just that much smarter than this relatively dumb device. Given the price is only slightly cheaper than the 960, it really is not a worthwhile purchase for you. Roomba is pretty good at quickly progressing and not continuing devices, so I would not be surprised if this disappeared.

The Roomba 890 would be a better option over the 880 just like the 960 and 980. The 890 is basically the same as the 690 but with the old form of navigation, something which I personally would not sacrifice, but each to their own.

Final Word

The Roomba 960 and 980 are clearly the best Roombas due to superior control via the iRobot Home app and from having more powerful motors than their counterparts. Between these two models, the only difference which has which adds proper value is the motor power of the iRobot Roomba 980 being twice that of the 960. Due to this we prefer Roomba 960 and think it the best option for most people, especially if you have hard flooring. 

Rupert Pople

Rupert is the founder of this website and a smart home tech enthusiast fascinated by the power of connected devices. Within his Business Management (BSc) degree at the University of Nottingham, he studied the technological impact of the Internet of Things.

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