Roomba 980 Review: Overpriced, Noisy and Dumb (2017 Edition)

This might be the only 100% honest Roomba 980 review that you’ll find on the web.  Most Roomba 980 reviews that I’ve read on other sites are either totally wrong, or they let iRobot off the hook too easy.  The truth is that the Roomba 980 is awful.  Read on to find out why.

Why should you listen to me?

In 2016, I decided to put my DIY expertise and bargain hunting skills to good use and start this site.

Best Quadcopter Under 50 Dollars: alex munkachyAs a former ramen noodle eating college student, I have a lot of experience finding cheap but good DIY electronics gear online.

The reviews you’ll find on Robot Fanatics are blunt and to-the-point.  My main goal is to help you look for information and find the best bargains.

Enter your email address into the bar on the bottom of the screen and I’ll send you the info when I find good deals on robot stuff.

Roomba 980 Review: The Main Reason Why I Hate This Vac

The most infuriating thing about the Roomba 980 is that it’s worse than the previous version.

iRobot has jacked Roomba’s recommended retail price way up.

iRobot Roomba 980 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity
List Price: $899.00
Price: $799.00
You Save: $100.00
Price Disclaimer

Yet, Roomba’s performance has dropped off a cliff.

Other companies simply can’t get away with what iRobot has done.

If the upcoming iPhone 8 is inferior in any way to iPhone 7, Apple will get ripped apart.

Somehow, iRobot is getting off scot-free.  The company hasn’t done anything with its home robotics products for years, but nobody seems to notice or care.

Roomba 980 Review: 3 Big Problems

The new Roomba 980 is horrible.

It’s…

  • Way too expensive.
  • Noisy.
  • Dumb. 

When the Roomba 980 encounters a rug, it doesn’t dodge it.  Instead, it runs it over and wrinkles it up.

A robotic vacuum that’s this expensive should be able to somersault over anything in its way.

A screenshot of the Roomba 980 app
A screenshot of the Roomba 980 app

What’s worse is that there’s no way to prevent Roomba 980 from making a mistake.   You can’t control it manually.

That’s right: the Roomba 980 doesn’t have a remote control.  

The only way to program the Roomba 980 is via its smartphone app.

The app only lets you adjust the 980’s automatic cleaning algorithm.  There’s no way to make the Roomba 980 go to a specific area.

Other far less expensive robotic vacuums allow you to point to the spot on the floor where you want them to go.

Roomba 980 Review: The Emperor Wears No Clothes

Non-profit consumer advocate Consumer Reports is one of the only reviewers that has called out the fact that the Roomba 880 outperforms Roomba 980.

A change to the Roomba’s innovative way of cleaning has surprised us with a small step back for the company’s latest model, the iRobot Roomba 980.

Ed Perratore, Consumer Reports labs

Roomba 980 Review: Price Comparison

In the Consumer Reports lab, Roomba 880 outperformed Roomba 980.

Yet, Roomba 980 is almost twice as expensive as Roomba 880.

Roomba 980 Review: Why is it so expensive?

iRobot is trying to use the Roomba 980’s new hardware t0 justify its outrageous price tag.  But don’t be fooled.  The Roomba 980’s new components aren’t that great.

In fact, they’re kind of crappy.

It’s got a dinky black-and-white camera

The new Roomba 980 is equipped with a camera.  But it’s a cheapo black-and-white one that doesn’t work very well.

According to an article from Wired, iRobot was concerned that hackers might take over the Roomba 980 and use it to watch people get undressed.

So instead of encrypting Roomba so that it’s completely hacker proof, iRobot decided to cripple its camera instead.

This camera doesn’t see things like we do.  The robot perceives its environment as a pattern of light and dark points in its field of view.

James Baussmann, iRobot PR Manager

wifiIt’s got WiFi connectivity

One of the main selling points of the Roomba 980 is that it’s got WiFi capability.

Roomba 980 commercials brag that this Roomba is the first one that can connect to the Internet-of-Things.

But there’s nothing particularly new or interesting about the Roomba 980’s ability to connect to the web.

As a robotics geek, I happen to know that WiFi receivers are actually super cheap.

Arduino WiFi chips sell for about $15 on Amazon.  Anyone who knows anything about electronics can easily make a robot that connects to the internet.

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 12.18.09 PMIt moves in straight lines

Most robotic carpet cleaners move around randomly.  But the Roomba 980 works its way through your rooms in an organized way, mapping your home as it goes.

The Roomba 980’s methodical cleaning style looks impressive.  But here’s the thing– straight lines aren’t very effective.

When it comes to robotic vacuums, random can be good.

Robotic vacuums that careen around rooms retrace their paths.  This allows them to suck up any crumbs that they missed the first time.

The Roomba 980 only moves in straight lines.  But it just isn’t powerful enough to suck up everything in one pass.

Roomba 980 Review: Hardwood-to-Carpet Transition Struggles

The first Roomba robot came out in 2002.  That means that the Roomba will celebrate its 15th anniversary in September of this year.

Yet, Roomba is still struggling with basic robotic carpet moves.  It sometimes gets stuck when transitioning from hardwood to carpet.

It [Roomba 980] occasionally had trouble moving from the bare floor to a patch of carpet during testing.

Jenny McGrath, Digital Trends

Roomba 980 Review: Overpriced and Boring 

Overall, Engadget’s review of the Roomba 980 was way too soft.  It glazed over the 980’s numerous faults and lingered way too long on its thoroughly unremarkable new features.

That’s why I was very surprised to find these two sentences lurking in the middle of Engadget’s otherwise cheery review:

None of the follow-up [Roomba] models were as exciting as the first.  And the fact that they’ve typically been pretty expensive, making them more akin to toys for the elite, rather than something useful for everyone, doesn’t help either.

Devindra Hardawar, Engadget

When the first Roomba robots appeared a decade and a half ago, I was excited about iRobot’s future.  But over time, Roomba robots haven’t evolved in any significant ways.

The 980 does have a lot of flashy features, but none of them are all that exciting– and very few of them are even useful.

Roomba 980 Review: bObsweep vs Roomba 980

I’m a big fan of the largely unknown Canadian robotic vacuum maker known as bObsweep.  

Instead of investing in flashy features and marketing hype, bObsweep makes quality vacuum bots that people actually like to use.

The best vacuum in the bObsweep catalogue is bObsweep PetHair.  In 2016, bObsweep PetHair was the most powerful robotic vacuum on the market.

bObsweep PetHair Plus has the strongest vacuum suction of any robotic product out there.

– Ali Afrouzi, lead technologist at bObsweep

Better features

Unlike Roomba 980, bObsweep PetHair has a remote controller.  You can point the controller to where you want bObsweep to go, in case you want the vac to clean a particular part of your floor.

bObsweep PetHair’s programs are better than Roomba 980’s as well.

The newest version of bObsweep PetHair has 3 different modes:

  • Waffle track
  • Wall track
  • Spiral track

Watch the video below to see bObsweep PetHair’s spiral mode in action.

Check for bObsweep PetHair deals on Amazon.

Reasonable price tag

Even though bObsweep PetHair is just as strong as Roomba and has more features, it’s hundreds of dollars cheaper.

In addition to vacuuming, bObsweep PetHair can also mop.

bObsweep PetHair’s mop functionality is okay.  The “mop” is really just an electrostatic Swiffer style cleaning cloth.

If your floor is already clean, mop mode will keep it looking fresh.  But don’t expect bOb to work wonders on a dirty floor.

This video embedded below shows off bObsweep PetHair’s mop mode.

Check for bObsweep PetHair deals on Amazon.

Roomba 980 Review: Samsung POWERbot vs Roomba 980

According to Consumer Reports, Samsung POWERbot Turbo VR9300 is the strongest robotic vacuum out right now.

King of the test lab

In the Consumer Reports lab, POWERbot Turbo beat every other vacuum cleaner that it went up against.

If you want the best of the best, forget iRobot and go with Samsung.  POWERbot Turbo is a monster.

Pricey, but awesome

The bad thing about POWERbot Turbo is that it’s just as pricey as the Roomba 980.  It’s also big compared to other robotic vacuums and won’t fit under low furniture.  Also, it’s very noisy.

About Alex Munkachy

Hello and thanks for visiting Robot Fanatics! The aim of this site is to introduce people to the fun and interesting world of robotics. Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RobotFanatics.