Roomba 960 vs 980 – Which One is the Best for You?

Last Updated: April 28, 2017

If you’re in the market for a robot vacuum in 2017 and want to invest in the best, you are probably considering the Roomba 960 and 980. These two top of the line robot vacuums are the only Roombas currently on the market with Wi-Fi connectivity and mapping tech. But how do they compare? In this article we go over all the differences between the two models and what those differences mean for you.

For those who like details, you will find everything you need to know in the article below. For those who just want the summary: we recommend the 960 over the 980 because you get very similar features for a much cheaper price. Unless you must have the latest and greatest, go with the 960. (check 960 price here

 

To skip to a particular section of the article, click on the appropriate link in the table of contents below:

 

Every Meaningful Difference between the Roomba 960 vs 980

Differences between Roomba 960 and 980:

  1. Roomba 980 has carpet boost tech, 960 does not.
  2. Roomba 960’s battery lasts 75 minutes while the 980’s battery lasts 120 minutes.
  3. The 960 comes with 1 Virtual Wall, the 980 comes with 2.
  4. The 980 houses a newer generation motor, whereas the 960 uses the same motor as the ones in the 800’s series.
  5. The suction power of the 960 is only 5x air power while that of the 980 is 10x.
  6. The 980 usually costs $200 more than the 960.

Click here to skip to the conclusion.

Comparison Chart

Roomba 960 Roomba 980
Battery Lithium Ion Lithium Ion
Battery life 75 minutes 120 minutes
Navigation iAdapt 2 iAdapt 2
Sensors Optical + Acoustic Optical + Acoustic
Cliff Detection Yes Yes
Rollers Brushless Brushless
Carpet Boost Technology No Yes
Sweeps Wall Edges & Corners Yes Yes
Accessories  1 Virtual Wall Barrier 2 Virtual Wall Barriers
Filters 1 Extra Replacement Filter 1 Extra Replacement Filter
Price Check on Amazon Check on Amazon

 

Wi-Fi Connectivity and the iRobot Home App
960 vs 980 (3)

Both these models can connect to your home network. This allows you to control the Roomba remotely and customize it to your liking. The same iRobot Home App is used for both models, and the app features are also identical between the two. The app is available on both iOS and Android.

Within the app, you manage the Roomba’s cleaning schedule and configure your preferences. One feature we particular liked was the option to vacuum more than once. Since these models can map out your house, they will only clean each area once as required. But if you want to make sure your floors are extra dirt-free, you can set it to make more than one pass over your floors. For those of you without a smartphone (what?!), that the app is not required for the Roomba to operate.

Bottom line: since the same app is used for both models, the app experience is nearly identical.

Cleaning Power Comparison

960 vs 980 (11)

Image Credit: iRobot.com 

On the official iRobot comparison chart, the manufacturer claims the Roomba 980 is equipped with a 10x AeroForce system where as the 960 is only equipped with the 5x AeroForce system. This might make you think that the the 980 cleans twice as well. However, we didn’t notice any obvious differences in suction power. They perform about the same and are both quite strong in terms of suction power. If suction power is the only reason you are leaning towards the 980, we don’t feel that its suction justifies the price premium.

Bottom line: For regular use in everyday life, the extra cost of the 980 don’t justify its price

Learning the Layout of your Home

The Roomba 960 and 980 both have two extra sensors over other Roombas. One is the onboard camera, which visually tracks items such as sofas, refrigerators, and tables in your house. The other is a tracking sensor that remembers where the Roomba has already vacuumed. Together these sensors allow the Roomba to learn the layout of your home and vacuum it more efficiently over time.

Unlike older generation Roombas, which use a random-ish pattern to decide where to go next, these machines vacuum in straight lines along the walls and won’t go back to where it has already cleaned (unless you tell it to in the app).

Bottom line: both have the sensors to map out your home and adapt to it over time.

 

An ad from iRobot showing how the Roomba sees your home, skip to 0:15 to see it create a map of the house as it vacuums:

 

Full Product Page and Reviews for the 960 on Amazon

Ease of Maintenance

The two robot vacuums are both equipped with state-of-the-art brushless extractors, which in our opinion is the single best design feature on iRobot’s vacuums over its competitors. This feature is exclusive to 800 and 900 series Roombas. If you’ve ever tried to pull hair out of the rolling brushes on your upright vacuum, you know how tedious it can be. Instead of using brushes, the rubber rollers beat and shake the dirt on the floor loose and into the path of the suction. Without compromising cleaning power, the tangle-free rollers takes the work out of maintaining them.

Bottom line: same brushless mechanism is used in both models, trapped hair out is easy to pull out of rollers.

Vacuuming Around Your Clutter

roombas universal (17)

Both models are designed to navigate around whatever is on the ground. One of the reasons Roombas have been so popular is that they are usually pretty smart when navigating your house. However, it can’t vacuum where it can’t reach, so you are still forced to pick up loose objects such as shoes and backpacks. You don’t always have to clear your floor before running the Roomba, but it is good to do so once in a while to make sure all areas are vacuumed.

Bottom line: both are able to navigate around your loose items

How Long The Batteries Last

The 960 has a 2130 mAh Li-Ion battery and is rated to vacuum continuously for 75 minutes before having to recharge, whereas the 980 has a 3000 mAh Li-Ion battery and is rated at 120 minutes. This is one of the major differences between the two machines. More battery power means more area covered in one go. Although both systems are designed to automatically recharge and resume vacuuming to complete the job, the 980 will be more efficient if you have a large home. Given that Roombas are supposed to be used autonomously and pretty much ignored by you, it doesn’t make a huge difference in everyday use whether they last 75 or 120 minutes.

Bottom line: The 980 lasts longer than the 960 on one charge.

 

Recharge and Resume

960 vs 980 (12)

If you have a very large home or unusually dirty floors, your Roomba might run out of juice before it is done vacuuming the entire level. As stated above, the battery life is approximately 1.25 hours on the 960 and 2 hours on the 980. The recharge and resume feature allows the Roomba to return to its dock when it realizes it won’t be able to finish cleaning in one go. This is called a “mid-mission recharge” and lasts for 90 minutes. After charging for 90 minutes, the Roomba will resume cleaning, picking up where it left off.

Bottom line: both have this feature.

Sweeps Wall Edges and Corners

All current generation Roombas are equipped with a spinning side brush and wall sweep algorithms to effectively clean against the wall. Because the Roomba is round, the side brush is required to sweep dirt along straight edges and corners into the path of the Roomba.

Bottom line: identical in wall edge and corner performance.

Multi-Room Navigation

The Roomba 960 and 980 are both able to clean up to 3 rooms on one level. This feature is not available on lower-end Roombas.

Bottom line: both are able to clean multiple rooms in one go.

Anti-tangle Tech To Prevent Chewing Loose Cords

 

While it’s best to keep all your power cords away from the Roomba, they are designed with anti-tangle technology which promises not to devour your cords, tassels, and carpet fringes. Personally I still don’t feel quite comfortable letting it run wild over my cables, though. All available Roomba models today have this tech. Here is a video showing how it works, the video was made for an older Roomba model but it applies to current generation machines too.

 Bottom line: every Roomba currently on the market actually has this feature

Included Accessories

Different Accessories come with the Roomba 960 and 980

The 960 comes with 1 Virtual Wall Barrier, whereas the 980 ships with 2. These barriers are powered by 2 included AA batteries and used to mark sections of your home you do not want the Roomba to clean.

They can be set to Virtual Wall mode to prevent access to an opening of up to ten feet. Or they can be set to Halo mode to block off a circle with a diameter of 26″ around an object.

Bottom line: the 980 comes with 1 more Virtual Wall Barrier than the 960.

Cliff Detection

960 vs 980 (6)

Both models are equipped with cliff detection technology, so you can use it to clean the upper levels of your home without worrying that it will take a plunge down the stairs.

Bottom line: all Roombas have this feature.

Carpet Boost Technology

If it seems like your vacuum has to work harder on carpet than hardwood, it’s because it does. Carpet fibers trap debris and also get in the way of the suction force, making it harder get dirt out. That’s where the “Carpet Boost” technology comes in. This feature is only available on the 980, and is one of the most meaningful differences between the two models. (Thanks to our reader Frank for pointing this out!)

When the 980 senses that it is on a carpeted surface, carpet boost kicks in and the motor is revved up to increase suction power.

Bottom line: the 980 outshines the 960 in this area.

Vacuuming on Hardwood Floors

Both models excel on hard surfaces such as tile, hardwood, and laminate flooring. Because dust and debris are so much easier to suck up from hard surfaces, we rarely find it necessary to get out the upright vacuum. In fact, ever since getting the Roomba 980, I have only used our old upright vacuum twice in the past year. Once was before a boardgame party and the other was when I left a chocolate chip cookie on the coffee table and attracted about a gajillion ants into our living room. We have hardwood floors and the Roomba keeps it clean enough. I mop the floors with a Swiffer once every month.

Bottom line: both models are very effective on hard surfaces.

Wait, what About the Roomba 880?

I saw a lot of readers were wondering how the 880 compares to the 960 and 980. So I added the following section to clear things up.

Differences between the Roomba 880 and 980

  • The 880 uses an older generation motor than the 980.
  • The 880 does not have carpet boost tech like the 980.
  • The 880 does not have Wi-Fi connectivity and does not support the iRobot app.
  • The 880 has a battery life of approximately 1.5 hours compared to the 980’s 2 hours.
  • The 880 has an NiMH battery, 980 has a Li-Ion battery
  • The 880 comes with 2 Virtual Wall Lighthouses, the 980 comes with 2 Virtual Wall Barriers.
  • The 880 comes with a remote control, Roomba 980 does not. (It uses the iRobot app instead.)
  • The 880 cleans using a pseudo-random vacuuming pattern, the 980 uses a sensor and a camera to vacuum in somewhat straight lines like a human would.

A brief explanation on the different accessories: The VW lighthouses are necessary because the 880 lacks a location sensor and camera to map out its surroundings. So the idea is that you would place these lighthouse accessories in a room to divide your house into manageable sections. The lighthouse tells the 880 to stay in the room it’s in until it has completely finished vacuuming that room.

Since the 960 and 980 can map out an entire level of your home, the lighthouse accessory is not necessary. They come with VW barriers that can enter halo mode instead. As mentioned above, a halo is a circle about 26” in diameter that the Roomba is not allowed to enter, protecting things such as pet water bowls from being knocked over.

The Roomba 880 used to be the best Roomba on the market, but since the 960 and 980 came out, that is just no longer the case. The 900 series implemented a lot of technology (e.g. camera navigation, newer batteries, and remote app connectivity) that actually result in a different owner experience.

The 880 is stuck in no man’s land. It is like an old iPhone from two years ago that you give to your kids. A much cheaper model does the job almost just as well and the newer models blow it out of the water.

It does not have the advanced features of the 900 series Roombas to justify its price. If you had your eyes on the 880, skip it and either go a tier lower to the 860 or higher to the 960. Either one would give you a lot more bang for your buck. If money is no object and you just want the best robot vacuum on the market today, the 980 might just be the right robot vacuum for you.

 

What We Liked About the 960

  • More affordable. Usually there is a $200 price difference between the two models.
  • Makes compromises only in non-essential features, such as the battery life.
  • Roughly the same cleaning power as the 980, despite what the boxes say.
  • Wi-Fi and App enabled.
  • Easy maintenance with tangle-free extractors.

 

What We Liked About the 980

  • The best Roomba on the market.
  • Longer battery life than the 960.
  • Comes with 2 Virtual Wall Barriers, which cost $49.99 each to purchase separately.
  • Stronger suction on carpet due to carpet boost
  • Wi-Fi and App enabled.
  • Easy maintenance with tangle-free extractors.

If you feel neither of these vacuums are right for you, click here to read a comparison of the five best Roombas on the market today.

 

 

Conclusion

For most people, I recommend getting the 960 on Amazon. It is more affordable, and has essentially all the meaningful features of the 980 and everything you need in a robot vacuum.

If you have hardwood floors plus several area rugs, or a really large house with multiple rooms on the same level, then the Roomba 980 might be worth it for the carpet boost feature and longer battery life. I recommend checking the current price for the 980 on Amazon.

 

 

 

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 11 comments
Frank W - December 7, 2016

Your article mistakenly claims that both models have carpet boost technology. This is one of the key differences between the 960 and 980. The 960 doesn’t have it and the 980 does.

Reply
    Kevin - December 16, 2016

    Hi Frank,

    Thank you for pointing out my mistake, I have corrected it and posted the correct information above.

    Reply
Jeff - April 27, 2017

Your article claims a battery run time of 75 min vs 90 min for the 960 vs 980, respectively. Roomba claims a 120 min battery run time for the 980.

Reply
    Kevin - April 28, 2017

    Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for bringing that to our attention, I apologize for the typo and confusion. Let me clarify:

    The stock 960 comes with a 2130 mAh Li-Ion battery with a run time of 75 minutes.
    The stock 980 comes with a 3000 mAh Li-Ion battery with a run time of 120 minute.
    If unable to complete cleaning in one go, both the 960 and 980 will return to their docks and charge for 90 minutes, then attempt to finish vacuuming.

    Hope that clears things up a bit,
    Kevin

    Reply
Brian - May 12, 2017

Very informative article for those researching prior to purchase! One thing that I’ve found that isn’t mentioned is that the app doesn’t support “steering” the Roomba to a specific location to do a spot clean. Supposedly the same IR remote works with the 900 series, but it has to be purchased separately. Probably not a big deal money wise given you’re already dropping $800+ on the Roomba, but just seems like something pretty trivial to integrate into the app. Better yet, since the 900 series can map out your house, why not give user ability to zoom/point to location on the map and have the Roomba just go there!?

Reply
    Kevin - May 13, 2017

    Hi Brian,

    Good point. I agree that it seems trivial for them to implement a piloting feature into the app.

    I guess there must not be enough users using the IR remote to drive their Roombas and that must be why they haven’t integrated a similar feature into the app. It does seem like something that can be implemented with an update similar to the recent clean map report and echo integration update. Here’s to hoping that they’ll change it in the future.

    I’m so happy that you found the article informative, that’s the main reason we started this website!

    Kevin

    Reply
Joyce - June 21, 2017

Thanks. Appreciate the information.

Reply
Adam Toth - June 30, 2017

Great article! Thanks for your hard work in gathering and presenting all this info. Helped me decide to go with the 960 over the 980.

Reply
Wojciech - July 2, 2017

Thx for the article – helped me a lot! I got hard-floors, dog, cat and not too much time… just bought 960 😉

Reply
    Kevin - July 8, 2017

    You’re welcome! I think you will be very happy with the 960. The cleanup/maintenance is just so easy with the newer Roombas!

    Reply

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