You’ve been researching robotic vacuums and you’ve heard that Roomba is the best. You’ve narrowed down your choices to the Roomba 870 and 880. But what exactly are the difference between the two?
If you’ve been scratching your head, unable to figure out which one to get, you’re not alone. Manufacturers just don’t do a good job explaining the differences between their products, and iRobot is no exception. Instead, they opt to feature a long list of technical buzz words that sound fancy but don’t mean anything to you.
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If you do not have time to read my full review, you can click here to buy the 870 at Amazon right now.
Continue reading the review, or click an item in the table below to skip to your most pressing question.
- 0.2 Who is the Roomba 870 and 880 for?
- 0.4 Do I really not have to vacuum anymore?
- 0.6 So what exactly are the difference between the Roomba 870 and 880?
- 0.8 The list of feature means nothing to me, can you explain?
- 0.10 Ok, I still have some questions I’d like to be answered.
A robotic vacuum is a huge purchase, and I want you to be armed with all the information you should have before making a decision. Below I will outline all the differences between these two models and explain which model will suit you best depending on the type of user you are.
Who is the Roomba 870 and 880 for?
When was the last time you thought to yourself “Boy, I am really looking forward to vacuuming the house today!”? My guess is never. If you’re anything like me, it is probably the one chore you put off most often.
But the best way to extend the life of your carpets is to vacuum it often. This is because oil residue builds up on the carpet with traffic and oily carpets attracts more dirt, making the carpet harder to keep clean. This doesn’t apply to hard surfaces, but vacuuming your hardwood floor often obviously helps keep it clean.
In high school, my friend Ian’s mom would vacuum their whole house EVERYDAY. I always thought that was crazy, but now I know why she does it. While you don’t have to do this to keep a clean floor, with a robotic vacuum you can set it to clean as often as you like with much less effort than manual vacuuming.
If you want to always have freshly vacuumed carpet, but your busy schedule (or lack of willpower) prevents you from vacuuming every day, either one of these models will most likely be a good fit for you. The dust bins are easy to empty, and hair does not get stuck on the rollers like they did in previous models.
Do I really not have to vacuum anymore?
It depends on how clean you want your floors to be. For people that like their floors to be clean enough to eat off of, like Ian’s mom, you will still have to vacuum on occasion. For most Roomba owners, manually vacuuming once a month is more than enough to keep your floors in tip top shape. For me personally, I set my Roomba to clean three times a week, and I manually vacuum the floor with my Hoover vacuum about once every three months.
So what exactly are the difference between the Roomba 870 and 880?
There are only 3 meaningful differences.
Difference #1: You do not get a remote control with the 870. You do with the 880.
What does the remote control do exactly? It has 4 sets of buttons
- CLEAN – Starts the Roomba, telling it to clean the whole are it is in.
- SPOT – Tells the Roomba to focus on a 3ft circle to clean a particularly tough spot.
- Directional Buttons – Use these to control your Roomba manually, left goes left, right goes right. Use it to chase after your dog/cat!
- The “…” Button – Tells the Roomba to dock at the Home Base.
Difference #2: Different Virtual Wall models
The 870 comes with two Virtual Walls (VW). The Virtual Wall is a “C” battery operated unit that projects an infrared beam, telling the Roomba not to go past that beam. You would use this when you want to prevent the Roomba from getting past a certain section of your home.
The 880 comes with two units of an upgraded version of the above Virtual Walls, called Virtual Wall Lighthouses (VWLH). I know, it’s confusing. They definitely could have done a better job naming these.
Think of these as two components built into one unit, the first component (the Virtual Wall) is exactly the same as above, projecting an infrared beam, preventing the Roomba from going past that beam. The second component (the Lighthouse) tells the Roomba to vacuum one room at a time. This way, the Roomba will completely vacuum one room before moving on to the next. This prevents the Roomba from going back and forth between two rooms, speeding up the cleaning process. Note that you can buy additional Virtual Walls or Virtual Wall Lighthouses, but the Roomba 870 will only work with Virtual Walls and are not compatible with Virtual Wall Lighthouses.
Difference #3: Price
The Roomba 880 usually costs $100 more than the 870.
The list of feature means nothing to me, can you explain?
Yes. If you are the type of person that likes to know exactly what you’re paying for, read this section to for a detailed explanation of each feature. Both the 870 and 880 have all of the following features.
“AeroForce Performance Cleaning System”
The AeroForce system is made up of 3 things:
- Rotating “brushes” (that don’t actually contain any brushes) – Instead, two rubber rollers with tread use vibrations to shake the dirt off of the carpet or floor. The vibrations break down the dirt into smaller pieces, making them easier to be sucked up into the Roomba unit.
- Airflow Accelerator – a series of channels that air flows through, bringing the vacuum power onto the surface of the floor.
- High efficiency vacuum with HEPA filters – This one is pretty self explanatory, the vacuuming part of the Roomba vacuum.
Together, these three components make up the AeroForce system and supposedly multiplies the suction power by a whopping factor of 5! I don’t know how they got that number and whether there really is 5 times as much suction power. In terms of everyday use, it just means that you will rarely have to manually vacuum the floor.
Both the Roomba 870 and 880 sport the AeroForce system and will do a pretty good job keeping your floors clean.
“Tangle-Free AeroForce Extractors”
In my opinion, this is the biggest improvement of the 800 series Roomba’s over their predecessors. If you have long hair or a pet with long hair, you know how frustrating it is to have to rip the hair off of the brush rollers. Since the 800 series Roomba’s don’t have brushes as described above, hair clean up is not a problem.
This is something that Roomba’s have always done–navigate their way around your house. The first couple times it runs, the vacuuming pattern seems totally random. Over time, the Roomba is supposed to learn to adapt to your house. There are conflicting reports on how well this works. Some owners say that the 800 series are slightly smarter in navigating around your house, others say that it still gets stuck occasionally.
Ok, I still have some questions I’d like to be answered.
How much noise does the Roomba 870 vs 880 make?
The two models are equally loud. Vacuuming on my hardwood floor, they both produce approximately 55 to 60 decibels. For reference, this is about the loudness of a normal conversation. Not quite quiet enough to sleep through for me (or most normal people). It is however, much quieter than my upright vacuum, a Hoover Platinum.
How is the battery life on the Roomba 870 vs 880?
Both models can vacuum for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours before having to dock at its base to recharge.
How long do they take to charge?
Both the 870 and 880 take approximately 3 hours to charge from empty to full.
How do the 870 and 880 compare to the Roomba 770 and 780?
The 800 Roombas are the first one to feature brushless rollers, in my opinion, this is the single most important improvement between the two series. Brushless rollers are just much easier to maintain and clean.
How well does it perform under chairs and tables?
Meh. For the best possible result, move the chairs out of the areas where you want vacuumed. The diameter of both the Roomba 870 and 880 is about 14 inches, so any gaps smaller than that, it won’t be able to pass through. I usually don’t worry about it because my dining chairs are usually in slightly different positions from day to day, so the areas that are missed today are usually covered in a day or two.
Thing thing is round….how does it clean corners?
The rotating brush on the side actually does a good job sweeping debris under the vacuum unit, which then sucks it up. I was impressed.
I have kids with a bunch of toys lying around, is the Roomba for me?
Small toys (ones that fit under the Roomba) will get sucked up. Large toys will either get pushed around or make the Roomba navigate around it. My advice is to treat vacuuming with the Roomba no differently from manual vacuuming, it is best to clear the floor to make its job easier.
I have really long hair, which Roomba is better ?
Either model will do. All units in the 800 series have brushless extractors. Hair does not get stuck on them, and they are a breeze to clean out if need be. This makes the 800 series so much better than the previous generation Roombas. Brushless rollers are AMAZING with hair.
I have 2 dogs / five cats, is this Roomba for me?
Yes, both the 870 and 880 are amazing at dealing with hair, pet or human.
If you have cats, count that as a bonus. Depending on your cat’s reaction, use the remote controlled 880 to terrify them or use as a cat transporter.
What should I expect in terms of maintenance?
I set mine to clean 3 times a week. I empty the dust bin afterwards every time. About every 4 weeks, there would be enough hair accumulation that I would take off the rubber rollers to clean it out.
This takes about 5 minutes to do every month. It is not totally maintenance free, but it is a much more pleasant experience than the older Roombas since there are no brushes for the hair to get stuck on. Older models came with hair extraction tools to help you get the hair off. The 800 series don’t have this problem.
I have the Roomba 650, should I upgrade?
If you already have a Roomba 650 and you are ok with its performance, I personally wouldn’t upgrade it unless you can’t stand cleaning hair off of the rotating brushes.
I have a HUGE house, how many rooms is it able to clean?
As many as you want it to. The Roomba is not able to climb stairs, descend stairs, fly, or teleport itself though.
What is the Virtual Wall Lighthouse again?
The Lighthouse contains the Roomba to one room, telling it not to leave it is done vacuuming the room. So that means you can tell it to vacuum a total of three rooms. You can also use it as a “Virtual Wall” to tell the Roomba not to go beyond it. Note: the light house only works with Roomba models 780, 790, and 880! The 880 comes with two of these. The 870 does not, and is not compatible even if you bought them separately.
So which one should I get?
Ask yourself this question: are you the type of person who loves playing with technology?
If you do not like elaborate setups and just want a robot vacuum to make your vacuuming life easier, get the 870. The two models are almost exactly the same internally barring the differences mentioned above. The VWLH require proper setup to get just right, and some owners complain they don’t work properly. The remote control is not necessary if you just want a vacuum that cleans.
If you are a tech junkie, spring for the 880. I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to tech, and I love wasting spending time fidgeting with gadgets to get the optimum setup. The VWLH works very well in my house. This official iRobot page contains a diagram showing how to best set up them up. The remote control is fun to play with.
The only major difference between the two models is that you get two Virtual Walls with the 870 and you get two Virtual Wall Lighthouses plus a Remote Control with the 880.
If you are on a budget, go for the 870. If you are the gadget loving type, spring for the 880.
- No remote control
- Comes with Virtual Walls, not Virtual Wall Lighthouses
- Comes with a remote control
- Comes with 2 Virtual Wall Lighthouses
Manufacturers often come out with new technologies that are either useless or needlessly expensive to get you to upgrade. This is not the case with the 800 series. Both the 870 and 880 are so much better than their predecessors with traditional brushes. With older Roombas, hair would get caught on the brush rollers, requiring you to spend time extracting the hair manually. The brush-less rollers make maintenance much easier. Now, if only they can make a Roomba that empties the dust bins by itself…
With a Roomba purchase, the mindset to have is “While I still have to prepare my rooms and empty the dust bin, at least I don’t have to run the vacuum manually.” Before letting the Roomba run, I make sure that the floor to my condo is clear of small items that could get sucked up.
Until they make household robots that will pick up and organize my stuff for me, I will have to do this manually. But at least I don’t have to vacuum anymore.
I hope this review has helped you become better informed about this Roomba. This is a lot of money to spend for a vacuum cleaner, but I’m so happy I gave it a chance. The time it has saved me manually vacuuming the floor has been put to much better use. Sometimes it was used for productive work, and other times for just vegging out on the couch. Either way, I highly recommend both the Roomba 870 and 880. You can’t go wrong with either one.