A comparison of the iRobot Roomba 960 and 980 looks at two of the best robot vacuums that you can buy in 2018. They both incorporate the latest and best tech in robot vacuums, effectively making them smart home devices. The Roomba 960 takes the edge due to being much more reasonably priced and almost equalling the features of the 980.
For a more complete overview of these Roombas, we highly recommend you read that article, this compare Roomba Models article, we highlighted the key differences across the whole range of iRobots Roomba models.
We will also have a look at the predecessor of the Roomba 980 and 880. 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 2018.
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.
The Roomba 960 will do a great job for most people, but the Roomba 980 may be better suited in some situations where a home has lots of carpets, especially thick and dense ones.
The Roomba 980 a specialized carpet boost mode where the suction is boosted to make sure stuck dirt and debris are collected, and as the robot vacuum has more oomph, it will do a better job in some cases.
Those with hard floors should pick the Roomba 960 as the perks of the extra suction power won't be necessary or worth it for the extra $200.
- Roomba 960 is best overall including value
- Roomba 980 is the best robot vacuum but costs an extra $200
- Roomba 980 better on carpets
Read: Best Roomba for Pet Hair
- 1 Comparison Table
- 2 Design
- 3 Features
- 4 Price
- 5 Roomba 880 vs 980
- 6 Final Overviews
- 7 Final Word
Roomba 960: Our favorite Roomba that balances price, smart features, and motor power. This is a great choice for those with smaller homes, hard floors and a sensitive budget.
Roomba 980: The best overall Roomba in terms of motor suction power and all other features present. This is a better choice for anyone who has a larger home, many carpets and rugs, and a large budget.
The design, weight, and size of the Roomba 960 and 980 are practically the same. The Roomba 980 comes in a dark brown compared to the matte grey of the Roomba 960. The dimensions and weight of the Roomba 960 v 980 are identical and are as follows:
Diameter: 13.8 inches
Height: 3.6 inches
Weight: 8.7 lbs
iRobot Home App
Newer models of Roombas which are WiFi enabled to have the ability to connect to your smartphone through the iRobot Home App, which is available on Android and IOS. This includes the Roomba 960 and Roomba 980, as well as the Roomba 890 and Roomba 690.
The integration of WiFi into the Roomba 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
- Organize weekly scheduling
- Customize preferences
- Monitor your robot's activity
- View Clean Map reports
- View Roomba statistics on cleaning metrics
- Enable push notifications
- Manage Roomba firmware update
- Customer support
It is not essential to have the iRobot Home app to use your 960 or 980 as they both have functional buttons on them. It is highly recommended as it gives access to a whole new range of features available from your Roomba.
- Connects via WiFi
- Acts as a control for you Roomba and many features
- View reports on cleaning
- Android & IOS
Both the Roomba 960 and 980 connect to the app
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”.
e will provide some examples below so you get the idea. 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.
- IFTTT lets your devices work together
- Together they do automatic smart home actions
- Create your own or download others
Both the Roomba 960 and 980 are IFTTT compatible
The navigation technology of the Roomba 960 and 980 is a fundamental difference that sets them out from the rest of iRobots Roombas. All other Roombas use a relatively random form of sensor-driven navigation technology called iAdapt (1.0), whilst these two have Smart Mapping & VSLAM Navigation built in.
This form of navigation uses a camera that the Roomba 960 and 980 have to take images and build up a map of your home, so it knows the layout and the best routes in detail. 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.
Another cool application of this is when these Roombas recharge and resume cleaning, they know exactly where they left off and where they should crack on from.
Both the Roomba 960and 980 have Smart Mapping & VSLAM
- Smart Mapping & VSLAM uses a camera to build an image map of your home
- Very efficient navigation routes
Clean Map Reports
Smart mapping & VSLAM technology also produces maps of your home and 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.
Both the 960 and 980 produce Clean Map Reports
- Found on the iRobot Home app
- View metrics: clean time, charging time, dirt events
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 ensure no spots are neglected.
Both the 960 and 980 have Dirt Detect
- Put more effort into dirty areas
Cliff Detect is also an older bit of technology used in Roombas which are still relevant to the new releases. 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 Roomba 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!
Both the 960 and 980 have Cliff Detect
- Infrared sensors prevent your Roomba falling down the stairs
Sweep corners and along walls
Thee both has side brushes angled at 27 degrees to sweep debris found in corners into the path of the Roomba. Like Dirt Detect and Cliff Detect, it is a very standard feature found in all Roombas.
Both the Roomba 960 and 980 have side brushes
- Pushes dirt from corners into the path of roomba
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, making life much easier.
The Roomba 960 and 980 were introduced to a new 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.
Both the Roomba 960 and 980 can self-recharge and resume cleaning
- Home Base is where the Roomba stays when not cleaning
- Roombas detect low battery and return to the Home Base to charge
- They can resume cleaning on their own
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. 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.
Roombas are perfect for hard floors and picking up lighter material such as pet hair. 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
- Motor power is the main difference between the two Roombas
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 exceed 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 and therefore better on thicker rugs & carpets than the 960
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 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
- Not so important as they can both recharge and resume
Virtual Wall Barriers
Another difference comes from the Roomba 980 being sold with two virtual wall barriers rather than just the one that the 960 has. These virtual wall barriers are handy if you want to stop the Roomba cleaning a certain part of the house.
These aren't essential and most purchasers would probably not need them, especially as you can stop Roombas entering rooms by shutting doors.
The Roomba 980 comes with 2 virtual wall barriers whilst the 960 just comes with one
- Virtual wall barriers control where Roombas can and can't
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 the 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
Our research shows that many consumers are still interested in the Roomba 880. 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 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
- The Roomba 880 does not have this
Roombas used to to be valued on their suction power, hence why the Roomba 880 was the golden Roomba for a bit of a time. The introduction of Wifi connectivity and smart mapping has pretty much wiped its status.
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.
Overall this is a very solid robot vacuum which comes packed with all the best features. 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, as well as the best navigation system. 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.
In our eyes, the 980 is the best robot vacuum you can buy in 2018. It has everything that the 960 has with extra battery life and the 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.
This is the choice for those with a larger home, many carpets, and rugs and a large budget.
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 the Roomba 960 and think it the best option for most people, especially if you have hard flooring.