Roomba 880 vs 980 – Which One to Get?

If you work long hours, coming home to a house that needs a good cleaning should be the least of your worries. Perhaps you have pets that shed so much it is impossible to keep up with, or maybe you are just lazy, tired and just plain don’t want to clean.

Whatever the case may be, you are considering making a robot vacuum purchase. If you can’t decide which one to buy, perhaps we can be of assistance. Today we will let the iRobot 880 and the iRobot 980 battle it out for robot vacuum supremacy.

If you are at all interested in the gory details of the battle results, the article below will cover all of the action. If, on the other hand, you just want to see the winner: We have chosen the iRobot 980 as today’s champion because of the technological upgrades and cost versus capabilities over the 880.

Differences Between the 880 and the 980

  • The 980 comes with a lithium-ion battery while the 880 uses a Nickle Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery.
  • The 980 has Carpet Boost the 880 does not.
  • The 980 has an added camera to aid in mapping and navigation. The 880 does not have a camera.
  • The 980 vacuums in straight lines while the 880 uses a zigzagging, random pattern.
  • The 980 is controlled by a cell phone app and wireless network; the 880 has a remote control.
  • The 980 has dirt detection that boosts the motor speed to increase suction on carpet. The 880 continuously returns to the soiled spot.
  • The 980 comes with two virtual wall barriers, and the 880 uses lighthouses.

Similarities Between the 880 and the 980

  • Both models use cliff-detection sensors to avoid falls off stairs or ledges.
  • Multi-room navigation is the same for both vacuums.
  • Each of the contenders has tangle-free brush-less beater bars for picking up debris.
  • The two robots come with HEPA filters for allergen reducing cleaning.
  • Each version comes with a docking station for self-charging when their batteries get low.

Side by Side Comparison

Roomba 880 Roomba 980
Battery NiMH Lithium-Ion
Battery Life 1.5 hours per charge 2 hours per charge
Multi-Room Navigation Yes Yes
Sensors Optical and acoustical Sensors Optical and acoustical sensors with added camera
Remote Control No Yes
WiFi App No Yes
Edge Sweep Yes Yes
Dirt Detection Yes Yes
Filters HEPA high efficiency HEPA high efficiency
Vacuum Pattern Random/Zig-Zag Straight Line
Voice Control No Yes
Floor Types All Floor Types All Floor Types
Price Check on Amazon Check on Amazon

Battery Packs

The Roomba 980 held the advantage with battery life over the Roomba 880 for a while. The lithium-ion battery has a quicker charging time and longer lifespan over the NiMH battery of the 880.

However, since the introduction of the Roomba 890 model, iRobot began shipping the 880 model with a lithium-ion battery pack as well.

Because the 880 does not have the dirt detection carpet boost, it will now last up to 2 hours under optimal conditions. The 980 will also last up to 2 hours on a single charge, but because of the power boost, it may not last as long when traveling over a lot of carpeted area.

Bottom Line: The 980 still holds the slight advantage over the 880 because of the power boost. The battery life difference is now negligible, and the 980 cleans a little better.

Room Mapping and Navigation

The 880 model will map and learn up to 3 rooms at a time. It uses sensors to locate walls and obstacles and remembers the room pattern for cleaning. The 980, on the other hand, will map an entire level of your home using sensors and a camera.

The navigation is done in a seemingly random and zig-zag pattern where the 880 is concerned. It will return to heavily soiled spots over and over again until the sensors tell it that spot is clean. Because of this action, it is hard to determine if the entire floor space actually got cleaned.

With the 980 the navigation is done in straight lines going back and forth over the entire floor space in much the same manner as a human-powered vacuum would. This ensures the entire space has been cleaned.

Bottom line: The 980 wins here because of the added assurance that the entire room was covered.

Scheduling and Remote Activation

Both versions can be scheduled to clean your home at certain times and will follow the schedule as planned. In the event you need to have the floor cleaned outside of the schedule you will have different options on how to do this with each model.

In the 880 you will have remote access using the included remote control. You can press the clean button to send the unit on its way and have your floor cleaned at any time.

With the 980’s wireless technology, once the unit is connected to your home wireless connection, you can utilize the iRobot Home app on your cell phone to tell the robot to clean at any time.

You don’t even have to be home. As long as you can connect to the internet to run the app, you can have your floor cleaned without even being home.

Bottom Line: The 980 wins once again because of the remote functionality of the cellular app. Being able to clean while you are at work is an added bonus for unexpected changes in your schedule.

Cleaning Power

Both units have received high marks for their cleaning ability of all floor surfaces. The 980 seems to do a slightly better job on heavily soiled carpet because of the power boost in the new generation motor.

However, with the 880’s return to soiled areas until they are clean, the difference is hardly noticeable. On non-carpeted surfaces, the cleaning ability is virtually identical. Both units perform exceptionally well, although there have been reports that the 880 doesn’t do as well on dark colored tile.

Bottom Line: This round is a tie. The slightly better cleaning ability of the 980 is offset by the higher price tag. Sacrificing minimal cleaning improvement over hard-earned dollars makes the difference less impressive.

Room Containment

Keeping the Roomba in the room until the whole area is clean is the job of the wall barrier and the lighthouse. The wall barriers shipped with the 980 have a single job: keep the Roomba in the area until it is clean.

The lighthouses that come with the 880 work a little different. They act as doors that will open and close to allow the Roomba to pass through. Once the Roomba has finished an area, it will send a signal to the lighthouse telling it the area is clean. The lighthouse will then disable the barrier to allow the Roomba to pass to the next area.

Bottom line: Both systems work well for their intended purpose. However, the 880 gets the win in the battle because of the way the lighthouses operate. It isn’t just a prevention barrier like the 980 options.

Physical Walls and Barriers

One of the major downfalls in the 880 system is the detection and avoidance of physical barriers. While it will learn and navigate walls well, it can (and often does) fail to notice smaller obstacles such as table legs and chairs.

The 880 will not slow down if it doesn’t detect a barrier and can become trapped or up-ended on a chair leg. This is a detrimental flaw if you schedule the cleaning when you aren’t at home to put the little machine back on track.

The 980 overcomes this issue with its onboard camera. The iAdapt system uses the camera to detect physical barriers of all shapes and sizes.

Both models have sensors on the rubberized exteriors that prevent damage to furniture if there ever is contact while allowing softer materials such as window dressings and skirting to make contact without diverting the vacuum’s progress.

Bottom Line: The 980 wins this battle because of its camera. With the ability to easily avoid objects and barriers which allow for peace of mind when not home to supervise the cleaning.

So You Have Questions?

Of course you do! Let’s take a look at some of the more common questions to help you make your decision.

1. How do the different models handle pet hair?

Great question! Both models make use of brush-less beater bars. This helps loosen the dirt and debris from the floors and carpet to allow for easier pickup. Because there are no brushes, the debris, or in this case, pet hair, is picked up with relative ease.

Also, unless the hairs are exceptionally long, they won’t get tangled around the bars as they do in a standard upright vacuum. The brush-less technology makes cleaning up after pets a breeze.

2. Will the Roomba clean upstairs?

The short answer is yes. However, the longer answer is: Yes, but you have to carry it up and down the stairs physically. What you can not do is have multiple charging stations (for example, one on each level).

You will have to pick up the little guy and carry it to the new floor and let it do its thing then take it back to the base to charge.

3. What happens if I move my furniture after it has been mapped?

Luckily, the Roomba will not explode. It is actually quite intelligent, and when it notices there is a layout difference, it will remap the area. You don’t have to worry about moving your furniture around; the Roomba will learn your new layout easily.

4. Are the filters washable?

No. The filters are a single, removable unit that will last up to 6 months or longer. You should remove the filter and knock off the loose debris on a regular basis, but do not wash it.

The fiber material will fall apart making the filter worthless if it gets wet. When the time comes, you just purchase new filters and replace the entire unit.

5. How loud is the machine?

It is a vacuum, and it has a motor, so it is going to make noise. The level of noise has been compared to that of a standard upright vacuum. You should note that the 980 will make more noise on carpet due to the increase in motor power for the dirt detection power increase.

6. Does the Roomba 980 voice control work with Alexa?

Absolutely! Full Amazon Alexa compatibility is included in the 980.

7. Exactly how long does the battery actually last?

All the way until it dies. There is no way to tell you exactly how long the battery will last because many factors determine the lifespan of a battery charge. The more carpet you have, the faster the 980 will need to recharge.

Also, if you have heavily soiled areas, the 880 will continuously run over them, draining the battery and needing a recharge before it finishes the job. However, with the lithium-ion batteries, you can expect up to 2 hours of work per charge. The NiMH batteries will last up to an hour and a half.

8. How often do I need to change the collection tray?

You should change it when it gets full. The Roomba 980 can be told to continue with a full tray or to stop when it is full. With the 880 model, it will alert you when the tray is full and needs cleaning.

As for how often, most users report they need to empty the tray after every second or third cleaning cycle. Yours may vary depending on the amount of dirt collected, pet hair picked up, etc.

9. How big is this thing?

The Roomba has been designed to be efficient and small. Both versions have the same dimensions: 8.4 pounds in weight, 3.6” in height and 13.8” diameter. It will go under beds and tables and some couches.

10. I have long hair, will this be a problem?

As long as you don’t lay in the path of the Roomba, your hair should be fine. For hair that has fallen out and ended up on the floor, the Roomba will pick it up. Even though the beater bars are brush-less, long hair will still get wrapped around them. They will need to be inspected and cleaned regularly.

Good Things About the Roomba 880

  • We love that iRobot started shipping them with Lithium-Ion batteries.
  • The remote control actually allows you to pinpoint areas that need attention.
  • Multi-room navigation and mapping improves efficiency.
  • HEPA filtration is great for allergy sufferers.
  • The tangle-free beater bars help eliminate snags and damage.

Good Things About the Roomba 980

  • Two hours and up to about 1800 square feet of cleaning per charge is incredible.
  • The improved mapping with the iAdapt camera means better cleaning.
  • Carpet Boost technology makes even the dirtiest carpets cleaner.
  • HEPA filtration cuts down on allergens and pollutants in the home.
  • Multiple pet homes stay cleaner, longer.

In Conclusion

The iRobot family of Roomba vacuums is an incredible leap in home automation and cleaning. It doesn’t matter if you need help with pet hair, spilled kitty litter or everyday cleaning, these little machines are worth their weight (and price) in gold.

For value over “latest and greatest,” the Roomba 880 is a solid choice for those that need the cleaning ability and the peace of mind that comes with scheduling. For people with pets that shed and children that make constant messes, the 880 is a solid choice.

You should take note that if you decide on the 880, you need to pay attention to the cleaning the first few times to avoid damage to furniture. The sensors may not see chair and table legs, and the vacuum may run into them at full speed.

However, once you have established the boundaries and learned how to best utilize the lighthouses for containment, the 880 is a solid and less expensive choice than the 980.

For households looking for it all, the 980 is the choice for you. With scheduling and automation at the push of a button on your phone, from anywhere, you can rest assured the cleaning will be done before you get home.

The downside to owning the 980, aside from the larger price tag is that you may run into issues with longer cleaning times. The batteries will need more charging cycles for homes with a lot of carpets. However, the carpet will be cleaner than with the 880 model.

For our money, and recommendation, we think the Roomba 980 is the way to go between these two models. The money saved with the 880 might be a factor, but with the advancements, the 980 holds over the 880, the few extra hundred will be well worth it.

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