Home / Vacuums / Roomba 960 vs 980 iRobot Vacuums: Ultimate Comparison

Roomba 960 vs 980 iRobot Vacuums: Ultimate Comparison

by  Lawrence -  Last updated on February 8, 2021
roomba robot vacuum cleaner

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Sick of vacuuming all the time? Looking for a new robot vacuum that will clean your house independently? If so, you have undoubtedly heard of the brand ‘king’ of the robot vacuums: Roomba.

Roomba creates top-of-the-range, robot cleaners that charge up and set off cleaning all by themselves with sensors and navigation technology to move around your home. The Roomba 900 series has some seriously impressive features that are a big step up from Roomba’s previous 600 and 700 series.

And are a great choice for anyone considering investing in a Roomba. They do have a significant price difference, though. So you probably want to know if the Roomba 980 is worth the extra dollar? Well, to make the decision easier we have reviewed both models and given you an in-depth run down of all their features and differences.

Roomba 960 vs 980 at a Glance

Want the quick overview? We have summed up the main pros and cons for you below! Make sure to read the full article for a detailed review of each model’s features.

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Roomba 960 Advantages:

  • Effective deep cleaning
  • Affordable
  • Efficient navigation

Roomba 960 Disadvantages:

  • Not as powerful as the Roomba 980
  • No self-emptying feature
  • No carpet boost mode

Roomba 980 Advantages:

  • Powerful motor
  • Bigger battery
  • More features like carpet boost mode
  • Longer run time

Roomba 980 Disadvantages:

  • Expensive
  • Fairly noisy
  • No self-emptying feature

Winner: Don’t want to read the full article? The editor’s choice is Roomba 980.

With an upgraded design with a larger motor this robot vacuum gives an all-over better performance. It is also more effective on carpets and covers a wider area! The main drawback is the price tag, which is why the Roomba 960 could be better for people on a budget.

Also Read: 10 Best Robot Vacuums for Thick & High Pile Carpets

What’s the Difference Between Them?

So now it’s time to dig into the features of these models in depth. How well does each one stand up to the test?

Performance

Let’s start with the basics— how well does each model actually clean?

Well the Roomba 960 robot vacuum has an impressive cleaning performance, removing high levels of dirt, pet hair and debris and leaving your house tidy and spotless. The Roomba 960 model uses Dual Multi-Surface Rubber Brushes which, as the name suggests, work a treat across all hard surfaces.

Pet owners, this can be a great choice for you, as the brushes keep decent contact with carpets and hardwood floors and do a great job of lifting away pet hair and allergens. In fact the filtration system traps 99% of cat and dog allergens inside!

Unfortunately though, the Roomba 960 lacks the carpet boost mode that the Roomba 980 has, which offers an even deeper clean for carpets. Another great feature of the Roomba 960 is the Dirt Detect Sensors. These can literally detect how much dirt there is in any one place and automatically cleans these spots more thoroughly.

AND if it runs out of charge, it heads back to its charging base, charges up, and picks up where it left off so you don’t end up with a half-done job. Finally, if you want to optimize your entire cleaning routine, the Roomba 960 connects up with the Braava Jet M6 which auto-mops your floors, letting it know exactly when to start.

Also Read: Best Robot Vacuum for Hardwood Floors

Now looking at the performance of the Roomba 980, with more power behind it and some more sophisticated and upgraded technology, it comes out on top. In fact, one of the biggest differences is the carpet boost mode feature, helping to pick up a much higher percentage of small dirt, pet hair and debris from low and high-pile carpets.

It uses Dual Multi-Surface Rubber Brushes, like the Roomba 960, which means it works well across all surfaces. It also has a three-stage cleaning process that agitates, vacuums and sucks. The Roomba 980 also has a bigger, more powerful motor, translating to a deeper and more thorough clean, although both models do a good job.

The Roomba 980 uses the AeroForce cleaning system that boasts 10 times more suction power than their 600 and 700 series, and 5 times more than the Roomba 960. It offers some of the superior cleaning results of robot vacuums on the market.

The Roomba 980 also includes Dirt Detector Sensors so you know any high-traffic or dirtier areas will get the attention they need. The Roomba 980 also has an auto-resume function so if it is running low on battery it will charge itself up and resume cleaning from the same spot.

With a higher battery life though, there is less chance your bot will need to pause mid-clean, making it especially well-suited for bigger houses.

Verdict: The Roomba 980 vacuum is the higher performer when it comes to cleaning performance with a deeper clean, more suction and special carpet boost mode.

Power

Next up comes power which is another key consideration when choosing your Roomba.

The Roomba 960 offers 5 times more air power than Roomba’s 600 and 700 series meaning it does have a decent amount of power behind it, especially for the price. The suction rivals and surpasses many competitors out there as well as Roombas older models.

The Roomba 960 uses the same motor that is found in the 800 series while the Roomba 980 jumps up a few levels. The Roomba 980 again comes out on top in terms of power with a much bigger motor and therefore higher power. This means that the Roomba 980 has 5 times more suction power than the Roomba 960.

This is a significant jump up in terms of power meaning a deeper clean. It also has the Power Boost mode, especially for carpets, which is a big plus as it means the Roomba 980 can handle more dirt and more difficult-to-clean terrain.

Verdict: The Roomba 980 wins with a bigger and more powerful motor, more intense suction and the awesome Power Boost carpet mode.

Features

So now let’s look at the different features on offer from the two models and see how they compare to one another.

The Roomba 960 has a wide range of features on offer making this a great choice for a bot vacuum. The robot vacuum can be controlled easily from the mobile app, allowing you to schedule your cleans for whenever you want, choose where you want to clean and when, and even save your favorites.

It has awesome smart mapping to navigate around your home and it even learns your cleaning habits to offer you personalized cleans. Voice control can be enabled and so you can even begin a clean with just your voice through Alexa or Google Assistant.

Another great feature of the Roomba 960 robot vacuum is that it senses and eliminates dirt using special smart dirt sensors. This way you don’t need to worry about it managing extra-dirty areas. It also has the auto-resume function, meaning you don’t need to fret about your robot running out of charge and leaving a clean half-done.

If this happens, it is programmed to return to the same spot once charged up and finish the clean. Finally the Roomba 960 has one wall which works as a virtual wall barrier to block straight or radial areas like door posts or a pet’s bowl where you don’t want the robot to go.

This virtual wall comes as a small, portable device that you can place anywhere in the house to project a straight virtual wall barrier upto 10 feet or a round, radial one that only Roomba can see. The Roomba 980 matches the Roomba 960 on features and then some.

It too is super easy to control from the iRobot Home App, allowing for totally personalized cleans, scheduled cleaning for whenever you want, and even voice controlled activation. It also has amazing dirt sensors that allow for deeper cleans on areas with more dirt or debris.

There is also an auto-resume cleaning function so your bot will always finish its clean as well as sophisticated mapping and navigation technology with an inbuilt camera. But where the Roomba 980 surpasses the Roomba 960 is in the Carpet Power Boost function, a long running capacity, and with the second virtual wall.

The Power Boost function allows for better performance on rugs and carpets, and another wall means that it can more successfully map out and avoid obstacles and out-of-bounds areas.

Verdict: The bot with more features and more sophisticated technologies is the Roomba 980 with better battery life, a power boost for carpets and a second virtual wall for better navigation.

Design

Now let’s take a look at the design, look and size of each one and what comes with each one.

The Roomba 960 has a sleek aesthetic with black body and matt gray and charcoal sections. The buttons and the camera that scans the room sit on top of the device and there is a little handle at the front if you want to manually return it to the home base.

It has a diameter of 13.8 inches and is 3.6 inches tall. This is fairly compact and means that your bot can fit easily under furniture. The bot weighs in at 8.7 pounds which is not too heavy making it easy to carry. The Roomba 960 has a bin size of 0.3 litres which is competitive compared with other bots on the market, although will require regular emptying.

This is a downside of robot vacuums that don’t have the self-emptying feature. The bot comes with a charging base where it sits to recharge, a side-brush that works to clean into corners and a HEPA filter system. It also has a bumper ring to protect your walls and furniture that is typical of all Roomba designs.

The round shape also allows for 360 degree turning for even more exact navigation. The Roomba 980 is actually pretty similar to the Roomba 960. It comes in black with shiny detailing and has a super sleek aesthetic. The buttons and camera sit on top of the bot, matching the Roomba 960.

It is also the same size, 13.8 inches and 3.6 inches height, and has the same 0.3 litre dust bin and weighs the same 8.7 pounds as the Roomba 960 model. Overall, design-wise, both these models are similar. It is when compared with the 600, 700 and 800 series that they really differ, as these older series do not have the onboard camera.

Verdict: Both! Overall the design of these two bots is pretty similar, matching each other on size, button-design, aesthetic and dust bin size.

Navigation and mapping

When we are discussing robotic vacuums, navigation and mapping are key to making sure your robot vacuum successfully cleans up and doesn’t get stuck!

The Roomba 960 has an advanced navigation system, the improved iAdapt 2.0 navigation with vSLAM technology to be exact. This is a more sophisticated system from previous Roomba series, and has an on-board camera that can scan the surroundings and make intelligent navigational decisions.

The vacuums in the Roomba 900 series were actually the first bots to have this more efficient navigation system. This high-end system also means that the robot vacuum moves in straighter lines for a deeper, more exact clean. It moves up and down in neat rows so that it doesn’t miss any areas and uses floor tracking sensors to navigate your home.

There are also fewer bumps in the road when moving around. Finally the Roomba 960 has a virtual wall which can detect no-go areas and obstacles so it doesn’t bump into things or go where you don’t want it to. The Roomba 980 also uses the same revamped iAdapt 2.0 navigation system with the inbuilt camera for efficient, high-level navigation and detection of obstacles.

It has sophisticated, high-level movement, cleaning in logical, neat lines for efficient and effective cleaning. The Roomba 980 also uses sensors to navigate your home like the Roomba 960, but the Roomba 980 has two extra edge sensors making it more successful at identifying walls and objects and stops it from falling down stairs!

Verdict: Both bots use the same cutting-edge, camera-based navigation system, the Roomba 980 just jumping ahead with extra floor sensors.

Usability

A robot vacuum with a plethora of high-tech features is only useful if you know how to use it!

The Roomba 960 has very similar usability to that of the Roomba 980. The accessible clean button on top of the device is super easy to use. The setup is also very simple with easy wifi compatibility. Just set up the charging station, connect your robot vacuum and charge it up, and then just press clean!

For more advanced settings, or to remote control when you are not in the house, you can easily control, schedule and personalize cleans with just your phone through the iRobot Home App. And finally we love the fact you can also voice control your robot vacuum using Alexa or Google Assistant.

The onboard camera allows for first-rate navigation which means you can just sit back and let it do its thing. Lower quality navigation means you are more likely to be following your bot around to stop it colliding with objects or freeing it from getting stuck in tight spots or under furniture. But the virtual wall means it can easily detect obstacles.

The Roomba 980 is almost identical to the Roomba 960 when it comes to usability. It has the same user-friendly interface with simple, accessible buttons on the top of the bot. It also has the range of advanced and personalized settings through the app, and with wifi connectivity, you don’t even have to be home to start or schedule a clean.

One pro of the Roomba 980 is that it has two virtual walls instead of one. This means you have more options where to place your keep-out barriers meaning the Roomba will have fewer collisions. You can really leave your robot vacuum to do its thing without worrying.

Verdict: Although very similar, the Roomba 980 wins here as it comes with two virtual walls instead of one.

Price

Let’s be honest, robot vacuums are expensive, so price is an important factor to consider.

The Roomba 960 is a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Roomba 980, that’s right, a few hundred! You can get your hands on one of these for around the $300 to $500 mark. Therefore it is definitely worth considering if the extra features are worth the dollar.

Let’s go over what you DO get for your money with the Roomba 960; high-level navigation with camera and sensors, voice control, same sized dust bin, auto-resume cleaning, decent performance and scheduling through the app. Ok, that’s pretty good. And what DON’T you get?

Five times less suction power, no carpet boost technology, shorter run time, fewer side-sensors, and only one virtual wall. Well it’s up to you about whether these extras are worth it. If you have a smaller house or no carpets for example, the less powerful motor and lower battery life may not matter.

The Roomba 980 is more expensive, with options coming in more from the $600 to $1000 dollar mark. Obviously the higher price brings with it a bunch of awesome, higher-level features like bigger motor, better results, longer battery life and carpet setting and more virtual walls, so it may be worth it. Particularly if your home is big, carpet-heavy or full of obstacles you need your bot to avoid.

Verdict: Pricewise we have to give the Roomba 960 the edge. It comes in at a much lower price point for an array of still impressive features.

Run time

Let’s have a quick look at run time and battery life to see how the models compare.

The iRobot Roomba 960 has a 75 minutes run time. This is reasonable compared to bot vacuums on the market but falls short of the Roomba 980 model’s run time. This might mean the Roomba 960 is better-suited to smaller homes where a clean takes less time.

However as the robot has the auto-resume feature, this is not so much of an issue. Should your vacuum run out of juice mid-clean it will take itself back to the charging base, charge up, and continue the clean without you having to do anything at all.

Just make sure that you keep an eye on your bot if it is cleaning a different floor to where the charging base is. The iRobot Roomba 980 has a 90 minute run time and is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery.

90 minutes run time means that it can take care of most cleans in one sitting, although if it does run out of power it also has the auto-resume function and so can take itself to recharge if needs be.

One downside is that if the bot uses the Power Boost settings to pick up larger amounts of debris and dirt, then it may use up more battery and reduce the quoted 90 minutes. The bigger motor and battery can also mean the vacuum can be a little louder than other vacuum types.

Verdict: On run time the winner is the Roomba 980 as it has a 90 minute run time over a 75 minute one.

Filtration system

Finally let’s take a look at the filtration system which is important when processing the dust, dirt and allergens your bot picks up.

The Roomba 960 uses a HEPA filter which is super effective and high efficiency at trapping dirt and allergens. This makes it a good choice for people with pets as the HEPA filter traps 99% of cat and dog allergens.

The Roomba 980 uses the same HEPA filter. These tend to need replacing every 2 months or so but regular cleaning and maintenance will help them last longer. HEPA filters are great for anyone with allergies.

Verdict: Both! Both models use the same expert filtration system so they are both a good choice for your bot vacuum.

Conclusion

So, overall what’s the verdict? Coming to the bottom line, after reviewing the performance and features of the two bots, we rate the Roomba 980 as the winner. Although similar in size, features and navigation, the Roomba 980 offers some undeniable extra features. It has a much more powerful motor and therefore a better overall cleaning performance.

It has a special carpet boost setting to really deep clean carpets and rugs and runs for longer than the Roomba 960. Finally, it comes with more floor sensors to navigate as well as an extra virtual wall to mark out obstacles. The main drawback is the price, so the 960 can be a good option for those on a budget. We hope this has helped you make your decision. Happy hoovering!

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