Roomba 960 vs 980 – Which One is Best?
The Roomba 960 and 980 rule the jungle of robot vacuum cleaners. But when it comes to choosing between the two, most homeowners often find themselves in a dilemma.
Fortunately, this Roomba 960 vs. 980 comparison review will help you out of the muck. We have put these two Roombas head-on, analyzing all their features, and most importantly, differences.
Of interest will be whether the Roomba 980 is worth the extra $200?
This is quite some right amount you may want to save for a robot mop like Braava 380t. But then, you don’t want to compromise on your cleaning needs. That said, it’s imperative that you get to know each model better before making the purchase decision.
Roomba 960 – cheap alternative
For starters, VSLAM (Visual Simultaneous Localization & Mapping) is a new navigation and mapping system that combines sensors and a real-time camera. This is the industry’s leading though Dyson 360 Eye and a few other models also have VSLAM navigation.
Another highlight of the Roomba 960 is the auto-resume feature that ensures your house is cleaned entirely. At no time will you come to find the house cleaned halfway.
The AeroForce 3 stage cleaning system remains intact, the only worthy mention being the Gen 2 motor. At least it offers some good performance on thin carpets courtesy of the 5* more air power. If you have a hardwood floor, and pets, I would greatly recommend the Roomba 960. Its price is very affordable; 200 bucks cheaper than Roomba 980.
However, there are a few things that I felt iRobot should have improved on. First, the 75 minutes runtime is short for a $600 vacuum cleaner. If you have very large floors to clean, it will take you long now that it takes 2 – 3 hours to fully charge. Another thing, it gets overwhelmed on carpets and doesn’t guarantee a deep clean, so you might want to consider a cheaper option, perhaps ECOVACS Deebot R95 that is in the same budget and works well on carpets.
Roomba 980 – perfect for carpets and pet hair
The Roomba 980 is the superior sibling of Roomba 960 and costs $200 more.
So what does it feature?
The first thing you will like about the Roomba 980 is the versatility. This is a robot vacuum designed to suit all household cleaning needs. It works well on all floors and carpets and cleans pet hair with a buzz.
If you’d ask me, it would be best to buy the Roomba 980 because of its versatility. You might get the Roomba 960 today because you don’t have a carpet but end up buying a heavy carpet in no time.
That means you will need to get a new robot vacuum for carpets because the Roomba 960 doesn’t perform so well; it’s just like the older Roomba 890. It also has a longer runtime, so for large apartments, you are sure it will finish cleaning on one full charge.
In as much as the Roomba 980 offers quite a lot, there are a few things that I feel are a letdown. First, it is very expensive, but of course, you are getting value for your money. Still, you’d want to question why you are only getting vacuuming function in a $900 vacuum.
For that budget, you can get a robot vacuum that has an integrated mop giving you 2-in-1 functionality. The 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band is also outdated; models like D7 Connected have moved to 5 GHz bands.
There you have it, an overview of the Roomba 980 and Roomba 960. Going by the prices, the Roomba 980 is the best robot vacuum cleaner. But remember, this is not the case at all times especially when you look at it from the perspective of value for money. You may afford an expensive robot vacuum cleaner, yes but then, it is not the best if you don’t require all the features.
Therefore, a more profound understanding of this debate is necessary when shopping. That takes us to our primary business of the day; comparing Roomba 960 and 980.
iRobot Roomba 960 vs 980 Comparison Review
The Roomba 960 and 980 are the only models in the new Roomba 900 Series. These two robot vacuum cleaners share quite a lot in common and also have differences that explain the price difference. In the same token, they each have a fair share of the fans as well as the haters. More than often, you will find unending debates on what’s the best Roomba between the 980 and 960.
One thing I’ve noted, many people confuse the two models because they share quite a lot. Perhaps the most significant difference would be the finish, but with many of us being color blind, it can be quite hard to tell the difference. But the most important thing remains the features and functionality. This is the main reason you want to know the difference between the two vacuum cleaners.
In this section, we want to thoroughly examine these two Roombas to see what each one offers. We will also test the vacuum cleaners and see how each one performs in different conditions. To help you understand this comparison review better, we have segmented it into six rounds. Each round is a fundamental consideration when shopping for robot vacuum cleaners.
So without further ado, let’s get down to business.
ROUND 1: DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The debate around the design of robot vacuum cleaners is normally between round vs. D-shape robot vacuum cleaners. Roombas have round designs but the attention shifts to the weight and thickness.
A good robot vacuum cleaner should be thin, and preferably lightweight. I’m afraid these two vacuum cleaners are not the best as far as design goes. They stand at 3.6 inches which is quite high than other cheaper models that are 3 inches or less. But still, it is better than the D7 Connected that is 3.9 inches tall.
If you have decided to go with the Roomba, your furniture must have a ground clearance of 3.7 inches and above lest the Roomba will not go under them, or worse, get trapped. The Roomba 980 and 960 both stand at 3.6 inches and have a diameter of 13.8 inches. Regarding weight, the Roomba 980 is negligibly heavier; 8.7 lbs. while Roomba 960 is 8.5 lbs.
|FEATURE||ROOMBA 960||ROOMBA 980|
|Weight||8.5 lbs.||8.7 lbs.|
When it comes to aesthetics, it is a matter of preference. Both vacuums have been finished in dark colors. The Roomba 960 has a dark grey finish with silver accents whereas Roomba 980 is finished with grey and dark brown accents.
As far as design and aesthetics are concerned, the Roomba 960 vs. 980 battle is far from over. This round ends in a draw as none of them seems to be the winner just yet so let’s save time and move to the next round.
ROUND 2: CLEANING PERFORMANCE
Round 2, a very crucial round that will define the entire battlefield. I know you want to know which of the two Roombas has the best cleaning performance. But just before we go into the features, we want to share our cleaning tests results. We put the two vacuums under rigorous tests, and these were our findings.
On hard floors, the Roomba 960 and 980 both showed excellent performance picking up every dirt we tested them with. We tried large debris like cereal as well as the smallest debris like flour, and it sucked all of them without any problem. This is the same for pet hair, skin flakes, and dander.
The long hairs too were not forgiven, and it was nice that it showed no signs of tangling. Here is how the performance was on hardwood floors.
On thin carpet, the difference between the two vacuum cleaners manifests. The Roomba 960 struggled a little bit with the small debris on thin carpets. It’s worth mentioning that a few flour particles remained behind and the Roomba 960’s suction wasn’t enough to clear it.
But I’m glad it did exceptionally well cleaning almost all of the other dirt we tested it with. Here is an illustration of our findings.
Lastly, we tried them out on the heavy carpet, and the results were entirely different. Thick carpet seems to be the real test for Roomba 960; it performs dismally, just like the Roomba 800 Series.
On the other hand, the Roomba 980 excelled, cleaning all the dirt including flour that the 960 failed to clear.
Carpet Boost delivers extra suction that sucks up even the smallest of particles that are hiding deep inside the fabric. Here are the results we got on thick carpets.
From the above results, it is clear that the Roomba 980 has several additions that make it better. So, let’s dig deeper and find out how these two vacuum cleaners compare.
|FEATURE||ROOMBA 960||ROOMBA 980|
|PRIORITY||Floors, pet hair, allergens||Floors, carpets, pet hair, allergens|
|MOTOR||2nd Gen||3rd Gen|
|SUCTION||1000 Pa||1000Pa Eco / 1800 Pa Carpet Boost|
|NOISE||65dB||68dB Eco / 73dB Carpet Boost|
|BRUSH||Tangle free rubber extractors||Tangle free rubber extractors|
|DIRT DETECTION||Advanced Dirt Detect Series II||Advanced Dirt Detect Series II|
|DIRT BIN||0.3L with Full Bin Indicator||0.3L with Full Bin Indicator|
Priority – The first thing you want to look at is what are these two vacuum cleaners designed for? On many websites, you will find that both vacuum cleaners have been recommended for all around cleaning; hardwood, tile, linoleum, carpets as well as pet hair and allergens.
To some extent this is true, but I would like to reiterate that Roomba 980 is the best for all carpets types. Yes, the 960 cleans carpets too but only thin carpets. When it gets to rugs and thick carpet, it is overwhelmed.
Cleaning modes – Robot vacuums come with cleaning modes, and the two Roombas are no exception. They all have the standard cleaning modes; Auto, Edge, Spot and Schedule. But the Roomba 980 has an extra cleaning mode called Carpet Boost that is activated when it detects carpets.
Suction power – This is where the real battle is, and it is between a 2nd Gen motor vs. a 3rd Gen. Roomba 960 uses the old Gen 2 motor while Roomba 980 comes with the new Gen 3 motor. The older motor delivers 5* more air power than average robot vacuum cleaners.
Please note this is 5* air power, not vacuum power. Consequently, it increases suction power to around 1000 Pa. But it is the Gen 3 motor that carries the day courtesy of the two power modes; high and low. In low power, it delivers around 1000 Pa, and when Carpet Boost is activated in high power, it reaches 1500 – 1800 Pa.
Noise – Regarding noise, the Gen 2 motor is quieter than a Gen 3 motor in Eco mode. The Roomba 960 produces an average of 65dB while Roomba 980 produces an average of 68dB when in low power. However, when Carpet Boost is activated, the noise drastically shoots up to 73dB which can be a nuisance if you love your quiet atmosphere.
Brush – iRobot looks comfortable with the dual multisurface extractors. They are made from rubber making them very gentle on delicate floors, especially hardwood.
But most importantly, the tangle-free design dramatically reduces tangling which is a significant concern if you have long haired dog breeds. That said, you can trust both vacuum cleaners when it comes to hardwood floor cleaning as well as pet hair pickup.
Filters – For allergy sufferers, you want nothing but true HEPA filters. In the market, there are lots of robot vacuums with HEPA style filters that are less efficient.
Insist on true HEPA just like the ones used in the Roomba 960 and 980. The AeroForce ultra efficiency filters will filter out allergens and clear all the putrid odor.
Dirt bin – Here, you want to know the capacity of the bin but just before that, note that they both have a full bin indicator. Regarding capacity, Roomba 960 has a 0.3L dirt bin while the 980 has the same capacity only that the 980 has its motor inbuilt in the bin.
Dirt Detect – Lastly, we have this cool feature called Dirt Detect. It uses optical and acoustic sensors to detect where there is more dirt. Then, it dashes to such areas and switches to Spot mode until all the dust is vacuumed. Both Roombas have this feature and in fact the latest version; Advanced Dirt Detect Series II
So, it’s time to give our opinion on what’s the best Roomba when it comes to cleaning performance. Here, I have mixed feelings, and I won’t say either is the best; it depends on your needs.
For carpet owners, it would make a lot of sense to buy the Roomba 980 at the extra $200. Carpet Boost is the real deal on carpets. The 10* more air power increase suction to up to 1800Pa. This is the best vacuum power for the heavy carpet fabrics.
However, if you don’t have a carpet, and you don’t have prospects of having one on future, it makes sense getting the Roomba 960 as it is cheaper. But if you are looking for the best of the best, the Roomba 980 is the answer!
ROUND 3: BATTERY & POWER MANAGEMENT
A robot vacuum’s battery & power management is an essential factor when choosing between the Roomba 980 and Roomba 960. This is an area where the Roomba 980 justifies the extra $200 bucks. When discussing battery performance, there are a few things that you need to look at. The table below summarizes everything.
|FEATURE||ROOMBA 960||ROOMBA 980|
|Capacity||2130 mAh||3300 mAh|
|Runtime||75 minutes average||120 minutes average|
|Self-recharge + auto resume||Yes||Yes|
|Recharge time||2 – 3 hours||2 – 3 hours|
Technology – The first thing I like is that both models have a lithium-ion battery. Compared to the NiMH batteries used in some 700 and 800 Series, Li-Ion lasts longer though it doesn’t carry as much as NiMH batteries.
Capacity & runtime – However, in as much as they are all Li-Ion batteries, their capacity and consequently, runtime differs. Roomba 960 has a 2130 mAh battery that can last it for an average of 75 minutes. On the other hand, Roomba 980 has a 3300 mAh battery that can average 120 minutes. One thing I want you to note is my choice of the word ‘average.’ It’s not always that your Roomba 960 or 980 run for the specified times. So, what may affect the runtime?
What causes different runtime in Roombas?
The first culprit is the type of floor, and the graph below shows the different runtimes we got for the two models during our tests.
The above results are for new Roombas, definitely with new batteries. You will realize that as you continue charging your Roomba, the runtime continues to drop slowly. This is very normal, and in the long run, you will have to replace the battery.
Typically, a Roomba’s battery will last you from 18 – 24 months subject on the usage. However, expect a shorter life cycle in the Roomba 960 as it recharges more often than Roomba 980.
Besides, some rare situations may cause shorter runtime. One of them is a loaded Roomba. Make sure you empty your bin regularly as a heavy bin takes a toll on the battery.
If you have pets that like to ride on the Roomba, it might also mean a shorter runtime. A tangled brush also causes jamming which in turn drags the robot vacuum thus consuming more power. Generally, an underserviced Roomba will drain power as it is not working optimally.
Self-recharge & resume – While all Roombas have the self-recharge function, it is only the above two Roombas that have resume function. Roomba 980 and 960 will automatically go to the charging dock and thereafter resume cleaning from where they left.
This guarantees entire level cleaning, unlike the older models that only recharge but forget about the incomplete cleaning task.
In this round, the Roomba 960 deals a major blow as far as the runtime is concerned. The Roomba 980 takes all the points so if you have a large apartment; the Roomba 980 is what you want to buy. But still, you can’t put the Roomba 960 down; 75 minutes cleaning time plus the resume function also make it a worthy Roomba, but not as worthy as Roomba 980!
ROUND 4: NAVIGATION & MANEUVERING
In round 4 of this Roomba 980 vs. 960 battle, we are going to see which of the two has better features. We will look at three important aspects; navigation, floor mapping and boundary marking.
|FEATURE||ROOMBA 960||ROOMBA 980|
|Navigation||iAdapt 2.0||iAdapt 2.0|
|Floor mapping||iAdapt 2.0||iAdapt 2.0|
|Boundary marking||Yes, Virtual Walls||Yes, Virtual Walls & Lighthouses|
|Accessories||1 Dual Mode Virtual Walls node||2 Dual Mode Virtual Walls nodes|
The highlight of the Roomba 900 Series is the new iAdapt 2.0 navigation system. This is a VSLAM (Visual Simultaneous Localization & Mapping) navigation that replaces the old SLAM navigation known as iAdapt 1.0. This system combines the data it gets from the sensors with the real-time images to know its position in the house.
This is by far the best navigation system in the market. If you have a high traffic house with lots of furniture, this is the best choice. Luckily, both the Roomba 980 and 960 boast this feature.
The floor mapping system also uses the same principle as the navigation system. iAdapt 2.0 is at the center of everything. One thing you will realize with these two vacuums is that they are quite intelligent in their movement and cleaning pattern.
Unlike older models that took quite a random navigation, this one is very precise, and its methodical cleaning is evident from the short time it takes to clean.
Both Roombas have the same cleaning time; on average, it takes an hour to have a two bedroomed apartment thoroughly cleaned. Of course, this is an averagely furnished house. Remember, the more the furniture, the longer it will take the vacuum cleaner.
Lastly, let’s look at the boundary marking, and this is another area where the Roomba 960 suffers a blow. We all know that Roombas come with Virtual Walls. But then, we also hear of Lighthouses.
Both Roomba 960 and 980 support Virtual Walls as well as Lighthouses. The only difference is the number of devices that each come with. Roomba 960 comes with one Virtual Walls node whereas Roomba 980 is equipped with two. But you can as well buy a new node if need be. To clear the air, Virtual Walls are used to mark boundaries while Lighthouses are for containing the Roomba in a specific room until it finishes cleaning.
In this round, I am a bit 50/50 on who’s the winner. To start, I admit that Roomba 980 is the best because it comes with more accessories. But how many times are you going to use Virtual Walls and Lighthouse?
I use mine rarely, maybe once or twice since I bought it. That said, I would rather stick to the cheaper Roomba 960 than the 980 if I was to base my purchase decision on navigation. The biggest issue is the navigation system, and I am glad they are both VSLAM robot vacuum cleaners.
ROUND 5: SMART FEATURES & CONVENIENCE
One of the main advantages of robot vacuums is their convenience. Roombas happen to be among the best robot vacuums as far as convenience is concerned. The Roomba 960 and 980 are both Smart robot vacuum cleaners, but there exist a few differences. Here is how they compare.
|FEATURES||ROOMBA 960||ROOMBA 980|
|Scheduling||Yes, 7 days||Yes, 7 days|
|Wi-Fi||Yes, 2.4 GHz||Yes, 2.4 GHz|
|Advanced Cleaning Settings||No||Yes|
|Voice control||Alexa & Assistant||Alexa & Assistant|
First, both Roombas can be scheduled. If you are ever busy, you can program it for the entire week and forget about all your cleaning worries. But I’m afraid that so far, you can only schedule a cleaning session once every day. The good thing is that just like Neato Robotics, Roomba is also releasing several Wireless updates in their iRobot HOME App so expect a feature that will allow you to program several cleaning schedules within the day.
The next thing is regarding Wi-Fi compatibility, and both vacuums are also Wi-Fi compatible. They use 2.4 GHz bands something I feel iRobot should have improved. The latest high-end models like the Botvac D7 Connected use 2.4GHz bands as well as 5GHz.
The other thing is regarding Smartphone App operation, and both robots support the iRobot HOME App. However, Roomba 980 has the edge over the 960 as it has extra features apart from the Clean Maps reports.
With the Roomba 980, you get access to a host of other advanced cleaning settings. But I am sure this is a feature that will be updated to support Roomba 960 and even Roomba 980. In the recent past, we have seen brands like Neato bringing a new feature even to older models like they did with No-Go Lines in the D5 Connected.
Lastly, let’s look at voice control and integration and all I can say so far is that Roomba 980 and Roomba 960 both work with voice assistants. If you have Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and of course reliable internet, you are good to go. They are also compatible with IFTTT.
When it comes to Smart features and convenience, Roomba 980 has the edge. However, if you are making n your purchase decision based on this round, I would rather you choose Roomba 960. The few features it lacks will surely be covered in the Wireless updates. That said, this is a draw, and eventually, I would sway the points to Roomba 960’s side because it is cheaper.
ROUND 6: COST & VALUE FOR MONEY
This is the final round before we give our final verdict on what’s the best Roomba between the Roomba 980 and 960. In this section, we are going to look at the two Roombas in light of their cost and most importantly, value for money.
As you are all aware, the Roomba 960 has a retail price of $700 whereas Roomba 980 has a $900 price tag. Indeed, they are really expensive models but at the end of the day, worth every penny.
The good thing is that with the stiff competition Roomba is facing from Neato’s Botvac D7 Connected, as well as the rest of the other upcoming brands, prices are likely to drop. In the recent time’s we have seen several price drops of the Roomba 980 and Roomba 960. Make sure to sign up for our price drop alerts to get discount alerts.
The other thing you’d want to look at is value for money. Here, I won’t say that there is a winner as it all depends on your needs. The Roomba 960 is value for money if you have a hardwood floor, pets, allergy, and high traffic rooms. On the other hand, the Roomba 980 will suit all cleaning needs including carpets. That said, when looking at value for money, each of them suits the needs.
Here, it is hard to call a winner, but the Roomba 980 looks like a good choice to me. For $200 more, you get the latest Gen 3 motor that works like magic on carpets. Whether you have a carpet or not, Carpet Boost, as well as the additional Virtual Walls barrier seem a good deal for $200. That said, the Roomba 980 takes the bout.
OVERALL WINNER: ROOMBA 980 VS ROOMBA 960
After a six-round matchup between Roomba 980 and 960, it is time we give our verdict on who’s the winner. Here, we will be awarding Roomba 960 extra points where it draws with Roomba 980 because it is cheaper.
In round one, it is a definite draw, and that puts Roomba 960 in an early lead because it is cheaper.
In round two, things take a different turn as the Gen 3 motor outclasses the Gen motor thereby giving Roomba 980 a huge lead.
In round three, Roomba 960 again suffers a big defeat as the Roomba 980 runs for a cool 45 minutes extra on average.
Round four is hard to call but remains a draw as the 980 comes with extra boundary marking accessories.
In round 5, Roomba 980 carries the day at the moment now that Roomba 690 lacks advanced cleaning settings.
Lastly, in round six, none seems to outdo the other.
From the blow Roomba 960 suffers for having a Gen 2 motor over a Gen 3 motor as well as the shorter battery life, is enough to announce the Roomba 980 as the winner.
We understand that still, choosing between Roomba 980 and Roomba 960 is a challenge. They all work well on hard floors and will clean all pets as well as filter allergens. The iAdapt 2.0 navigation system also makes them both best for high traffic rooms. In case you are still in the murk, here are a few important shopping tips.
Buy Roomba 980 if;
- You have a carpet – Carpet Boost mode will ensure thorough carpet cleaning regardless of its type.
- You have an extra-large apartment – The longer runtime guarantees faster cleaning (one full charge completes a cleaning cycle).
- You want more control – It has advanced cleaning settings, a feature the 960 lacks.
Buy Roomba 960 if;
- You don’t have a carpet – There is no need to spend more because Carpet Boost is what accounts mainly for the high price of Roomba 980.
- You are on a budget – It costs $200 lesser and has the core features; iAdapt 2.0 and auto resume.
With that, we have come to the end of this iRobot 960 vs. 980 comparison review. Indeed, the Roomba 980 is worth the extra $200. It offers some decent extras that any homeowner should dream of. But still, Roomba 960 is an excellent choice if you are on a budget as it is $200 cheaper.
The most important thing is that it has the new iAdapt 2.0 VSLAM navigation. That said, make the decision and remember to consider Roomba 980 for carpets; it’s the only Roomba that guarantees deep carpet cleaning.