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iRobot Roomba 980 vs i7 Vacuum: Differences Explained

by  Lawrence -  Last updated on February 8, 2021

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If you have ever considered getting yourself a robot vacuum, you will know that Roomba is THE go-to brand. With one of the biggest, and most sophisticated, selections of robots on the market, it is impossible not to look to them to acquire your new autonomous cleaning friend.

But of Roomba’s large range of iRobots, how do you know which one to get? Which has the greatest performance, which features are worth paying for, and which aren’t? Well, when the 980 Roomba vacuum was released, it certainly made a splash.

It was one of the highest-performing robot vacuums to date and it continues to be. However, Roomba has now released some other, newer models now that have challenged the 980’s top spot. Like the Roomba i7 iRobot. This has some upgraded features along with an increased price.

But do the extra features live up and are they worth the price difference? Well, we have dissected the features and performance of the two vacuums below, as well as reviewed them side by side. This should help you discover and decide which vacuum is better. And more importantly, which one is better for you.

Roomba 980 vs i7 at a Glance

Roomba 980 Model Advantages:

  • Significantly cheaper
  • Bigger dust bin
  • Comes with acoustic sensors
  • 2 virtual walls included

Roomba 980 Disadvantages:

  • Not compatible with the auto-empty feature
  • Less sophisticated navigation
  • Noisier

Roomba i7 Advantages:

  • Excellent navigation iAdapt 3.0 mapping technology to understand your floor plan
  • Roomba i7 comes with a three-stage cleaning system that relies on a side brush
  • Comes with acoustic sensors
  • Smart mapping remembers the layout of your house
  • Compatible with Clean Base for self-emptying bin feature
  • Smaller and lighter

Roomba i7 Disadvantages:

  • Roomba i7 model has only 1 virtual wall
  • High price tag
  • Does not come with auto-empty Clean Base (sold separately)

Winner: Don’t want to read the full article? The editor’s choice is the Roomba i7.

This is a tough call as the 980 does have some impressive power and features in return for a cheaper price. However, overall it is undeniable that the i7 has smoother, improved, cutting-edge technology with phenomenal mapping, as well as the huge plus of being able to auto-empty itself, a totally game-changing feature. The side brush helps the robot reach the edges and corners to sweep dirt.

Although do be aware that to use auto-empty you must separately buy the Clean Base charging station for the Roomba i7 robotic vacuum cleaner, or buy the i7+ which comes with a clean base, automatic dirt disposal, so this is an extra cost to factor in. But so worth it. Read on to dig into the features and differences of the two vacuums below.

What’s the Difference Between Them?

So let’s dive in and take a look at all the features of the Roomba 980 and the Roomba i7 up close.

Features

Let’s start with a quick rundown of the main features of the two robot vacuums.

When we compare the Roomba i7 and 980 Roomba models, the 980 uses vSLAM technology which means it has a sophisticated camera-based navigation system. This means the Roomba can literally ‘see’ where it’s going and gives it superior mapping and dirt detection from previous models that did not have this feature.

It uses iAdapt 2.0 navigation technology and mapping features to navigate around the home. The 980 uses Roomba’s new and improved rubber extractors. Instead of their previous blade and bristles design, these rubber brushes are now more robust. It means they last a long time as well as having superior performance on both low pile carpets and floors. Both of them come with imprint smart mapping technology.

This vacuum does a great job at cleaning and even has a carpet boost mode to work specifically on rugs and thick carpets. The 980 robotic vacuum cleaner has effective Wi-Fi connectivity meaning that it can be controlled easily through the iRobot Home app. I

f you are searching for the minimum involvement possible with vacuuming, and even the smartphone app seems too much, don’t worry, the 980 even has voice commands so it can be activated through using Alexa or Google Assistant.

When we compare the Roomba i7 and 980, the Roomba i7 has more advanced and seamless navigation. It uses vSLAM technology like the 980, but it also uses upgraded iAdapt 3.0 technology meaning it can save maps and move and clean more efficiently from room to room.

One of the main improvements of the Roomba i7 is that it is able to empty itself. This saves you one of the most tedious and time-consuming tasks of vacuuming, that until now robot vacuums haven’t been able to eradicate. To use the self-emptying feature you must buy the compatible Clean Base, which can set you back a few hundred dollars extra.

But once you have it, your Roomba can empty up to 60 days of dirt into the base before it needs emptying by you. That means weeks or months without having to think about vacuuming. The Roomba i7 also uses rubber brushes to pick up dirt.  Like the 980 it can also connect to Wi-Fi, be controlled through the mobile app, and is responsive to voice control.

Verdict: The Roomba i7 exhibits more cutting-edge technology, more sophisticated mapping that ‘learns’ your home, and is compatible with the self-emptying feature. Therefore it comes out ahead of the 980.

Performance

One of the first and most important considerations is performance.

When we compare the Roomba i7 and 980 Roomba models, the Roomba 980 has an impressive cleaning performance on both high-pile carpets and hard floors. It uses the AeroForce Cleaning System with a power boost which makes for effective cleaning. The advanced motor means that this vacuum has up to 10 times more suction power than Roomba’s previous 600 models.

The 980 also uses Dirt Detect Technology to activate its power boost mode. How does the power boost mode work? Roomba uses sensors to recognize areas with more dirt which it will then clean more thoroughly. Get ready for a deep clean on floors and carpets.

The device uses multi-surface rubber brushes which are robust and great at removing dirt and debris. They are also great at picking up dog and cat hair, or your hair, without getting tangled up so the 980 can be a good choice if you have pets.

The Roomba 980 has a long 120 minute run time as well as auto-resume cleaning where it can pick up where it left off should it run out of charge halfway through a clean. So what about the i7? Well, the Roomba i7 has a similar-sized motor meaning that it too has up to 10 times more air power than the 600 series.

It uses a premium 3-stage cleaning system engineered to loosen, lift, and suction, which paired with the powerful airflow, successfully collects up almost all dust, dirt, and debris. It works super well on both hard floors and carpets, so no matter what surfaces you have at home, the Roomba i7 can handle it with ease.

The Roomba i7 also uses dual-surface rubber brushes that don’t get tangled easily, making this a great vacuum for pet owners too. Although the runtime can be made a little shorter depending on which setting you use, don’t worry. The vacuum also has auto-resume technology so if it runs out of charge, it will take itself back to the charging station, charge up, and then continue the clean from the exact same point.

Verdict: Both. Both these vacuums actually have similar cleaning performance and comparable motors and power. Either would be a great choice for cleaning your home.

Navigation and mapping

While both vacuums have a solid navigation system and noteworthy mapping, this is where the Roomba i7 really shines. Let’s take a look.

When we compare Roomba i7 and 980, the iRobot Roomba 980 uses effective camera-based navigation and mapping with iAdapt 2.0 technology. Beginning to use a camera was a huge leap up from previous models as finally, the iRobots were able to see the home and visually map out their surroundings. The camera sits on top of the bot. It also comes with a schedule by room technology.

The 980 also has other sensors built in so that it can easily and effectively avoid walls and obstacles. There are bumper sensors to help the vacuum detect obstacles like walls and doors, as well as drop sensors that help detect large drops like stairs with infrared.

With these, instead of banging into the wall or hurling themselves down the stairs, they will turn around once they reach them. Oh and to really keep your bot away from no-go areas, the 980 also comes with a virtual wall barrier.

These are mini portable devices that you can place around the house, for example by a doorway or your dog’s bowl, which creates an invisible barrier your Roomba won’t cross.

Worried your bot vacuum might get confused and miss a spot when cleaning? Another great thing about the 980 is that this iRobot is designed to clean in neat, parallel lines so they don’t miss any areas!

The Roomba i7’s navigation is a step up, and we love it. It uses iAdapt 3.0 technology, a new improved version from the 980 with more advanced mapping. This system allows the Roomba i7 to actually learn the layout of your home and remember up to 10 different floor plans.

This is great if you plan to use the Roomba on multiple floors or heck even at a friend or family member’s house. It notes and remembers different points around the home like furniture so it always knows which map to use. If you have a clear-out and shift the room layout though, don’t worry.

The navigation and mapping are so smart, that your Roomba will simply update its map. It also has a new and improved dirt detection system. Like the 980 it can recognize areas with more dirt and dust and make sure it cleans them more thoroughly.

But the Roomba i7 can also now remember these high-traffic points and build them into their regular clean. The Roomba i7 also comes with a dual-mode virtual wall to keep your Roomba out of places you don’t want it to go. This is good, although not as good as the TWO virtual walls that come with the 980.

Verdict: i7. While both bots have impressive mapping, the i7, with the upgraded 3.0 technology, is able to memorize multiple floor plans and adapt to changes.

Design

Now let’s take a look at the design, in terms of both aesthetics and functionality and see how the two bots compare.

The 980 Roomba robot follows the traditional round shape of most Roomba iRobots along with a functional compact size. It is 13.8 inches in diameter and 3.6 inches high. This is small enough to fit under most furniture so it is fairly effective at cleaning into tight, hard-to-reach spots.

Can you easily move and carry the Roomba robot? Yes, it is not too heavy and small enough to carry, weighing 8.7 pounds. The interface is also simple and easy to use with three main buttons on top of the bot, the large Clean button in the center, and the home and spot buttons on either side.

However, what really makes the usability of the 980 vacuum shine, is that it can also be controlled through the iRobot Home app. The mobile app/ smartphone app gives you access to loads more advanced features and means you can start, schedule, or personalize cleans with the touch of a button.

A benefit of the i7 is that although it has a similar design to the 980, it is slightly smaller and lighter. This means that as well as being easier to move, carry and store, the bot can reach even narrower and harder-to-reach areas with ease giving you a more thorough clean.

The Roomba i7 iRobot is 13.34 inches wide and 3.6 inches high and weighs just 7.44 pounds. One downside of the smaller size is that the i7 has a slightly smaller dust bin. If you decide to get the Clean Base and make use of the i7’s self-emptying capabilities though, then this doesn’t really matter.

The Roomba i7, like the 980, retains Roomba’s classic round shape and has an attractive black design and shiny paneling. Just like the 980 it also has the same three-button interface and is super easy to use.

Access the advanced scheduling features through the app and even use Alexa or Google Assistant voice control to tell your Roomba to start cleaning, or even to clean a specific room or area. Finally, the Roomba i7 links up with the Braava jet m6 robot mop, so if you are looking for the perfect no-involvement cleaning team, you might be interested in this feature.

Verdict: The i7. The Roomba i7 has a slightly smaller and lighter design to reach more areas as well as slightly more sophisticated compatibility features.

Price

One downside that comes with purchasing a cutting-edge robot vacuum, is the price. And Roombas are no exception, in fact as the leading brand on the market, they are also one of the most expensive.

The 980 is still a pricey bot, you can expect to shell out maybe $500 dollars for it. Take into account maintenance cost over its lifetime too as you may need to replace filters and batteries every now and again.

The Roomba i7 is pricier still and will cost you at least $600 for the basic vacuum. If you want to use the self-emptying feature, you will need to purchase the Clean Base separately, which instantly adds another $200 to $300 to the price.

Check out the i7+ which comes with the clean base included and you might save a little cash. Pricey right? But is it worth it?  It is also the first robot to have an automatic emptying system. Well, we think that the state-of-the-art auto-empty feature is totally game-changing. The whole point of having a robot vacuum is so that you let it do its thing so you have more free time.

With the robot vacuums’ small dust bins, without the auto-empty, you are destined to be emptying your vacuum up to twice in one clean which kind of defeats the object. Although it’s an investment, we see more people reap the rewards that upgrade to this feature.

Verdict: The 980 is significantly cheaper than the Roomba i7.

Run time

How long can each vacuum run before running out of charge? Is this enough time for a full clean of your home? Let’s see.

When we compare the Roomba i7 vs 980, the Roomba 980 has a superb run time of 120 minutes and uses a powerful 3300 lithium-ion battery. This means it has a full two hours of continuous cleaning to complete a clean of your house. This is competitive with other robot vacuums on the market, most not superseding a two hour run time.

If your bot does run out of battery, however, no fear. The Roomba 980 has an auto-resume clean feature so that your bot can pick up cleaning where it left off should the battery die and it needs to take itself back to the docking station to charge. Want to know if your battery life is running low?

You can check it on the app. The battery takes around 3 hours to charge. Oh, and remember if your Roomba uses the boost mode or other high power mode it may use more charge than you think, reducing the run time.

The iRobot Roomba i7 actually uses the same 3300 lithium-ion battery giving it the same run time of 120 minutes as the Roomba 980. This is pretty good, although not an improvement from the 980. The i7 also has the auto-resume cleaning navigation feature meaning that it’s not the end of the world if your bot runs out of charge, as it knows exactly where to return to carry on your clean. Both of them come with imprint smart mapping technology.

Verdict: Both. Both vacuums have the same run time and battery.

Filtration system

When talking about vacuums you want to know that yours has a powerful filter that can trap dust and allergens.

When we compare the Roomba i7 vs 980, the 980 and the i7 both use the same type of filtration system that Roomba uses across all their robots. This is a HEPA or High-Efficiency Particulate Absorbing system that traps 99% of dust and allergens.

Got cats and dogs? Suffer from hay fever? Does your family get allergies and sniffles? If so, both of these Roombas are a great option as they trap everything from pollen to dust mite allergies to mold.

To make sure your Roomba keeps working at its maximum, make sure to regularly clean out the filter. You should also replace the filter every few months, so factor in this extra cost too.

You should also empty the bin regularly. For the 980 you can wipe this container out, but a good thing about the i7 is that the dust container is removable and washable. This makes it easier to maintain.

Verdict: Both Roomba vacuums use the same high-quality HEPA filtration system so both are great at trapping dust and allergens as well as keeping your family safe from sniffles or allergies.

Noise

A quick note on noise to see how loud your Roomba iRobot will be.

One of the complaints of the Roomba 980 is that it is quite loud. This means that it makes a bit of a whirring sound when it runs. This may not be a problem for you, especially if you plan for your vacuum to mostly work when you are out of the house, but worth considering. The noise level of the Roomba 980 is 78 decibels.

When we compare the Roomba i7 vs 980, the Roomba i7 on the other hand has been improved so that it is significantly quieter. If you have nervous pets or plan to have Roomba working while you are watching TV then this could be a good option for you to remove the pet hair. The i7 has a noise level of 68 decibels.

Verdict: The i7 wins here with an upgraded, quieter noise when cleaning.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Has the Roomba i7 vacuum surpassed the Roomba 980 and taken the top spot for a most sought-after vacuum? We think so. With unrivaled navigation and mapping system that can remember ten different layouts as well as the ability to empty itself, the i7 leaps ahead.

Downsides? The bottom line is the i7 only comes with one virtual wall, has a smaller dust bin as well as a high price tag so if you don’t mind about self-emptying and don’t want to spend a complete fortune, the 980 is a great and powerful option. The i7 is all-around newer and sleeker while the 980 is still powerful and reliable. Which one do you think is best for you and your home?

The bottom line is if you are looking for a cheaper alternative, try Bissell SmartClean Robot Vacuum, check out our comparison guide here to know how well it stands against Roomba Vacuums.

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