The 908 at a glance looks like mostly every other Roomba before it, circular and slightly futuristic looking (we never know if this look will age well!), however, in sticking with their recognisable branding and signature look the Roomba 980 faces the same issue as many of its predecessors, a circular robot vacuum struggles with corners and along walls. It is pretty amazing that, what appears to be a commitment to a branding decision continues to haunt Roomba functionally. iRobot tried to combat this by incorporating a 27 degree angle sweeping brush, the idea was to sweep dirt away from room edges and corners so that the main cleaning system can dispose of it, this may work in theory but there are problems in the real world application.
Despite the above the 980 boasts a handy selection of features:
- Tangle-free dual multi-surface brushes and edge-sweeping brush all work together to pull in as much dirt and hair as possible
- Roombas 3rd gen motor provides 10x more power for deeper cleaning when needed, you can turn this option on manually set it to trigger when the robot detects that it is cleaning carpet
- Recharge and resume means it remembers what it has done, returns to the charging station to recharge when needed and then picks up where it left off. This is quite useful as it means that the robot cleans until the job is done, you will never find it flat in the middle of a half cleaned room. As far as clean times go the robot can run for approximately two hours on one full charge
- Visual navigation means furniture and other household items are remembered and used as a guide to when cleaning so that the 980 knows where it has been where is yet to be cleaned.
- Works with the iRobot HOME App, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant
- One of the fastest cleaners we have tested
But before you run out and buy it there were quite a few unexpected negatives for a product of this price.
- Extremely loud at times
- Not great on rugs especially shaggy rugs
- Disappointing when cleaning up fur despite this been a key selling point so pet owners beware
- The ongoing Roomba circular shape issue
While long time readers will no doubt have read the section on making your house robot friendly, some good advice for people looking to use a robot vacuum for the first time, if this is your first visit and you are new to the world of robot vacuums now would be a good time to check out that post.
Diameter across: 13.9 inches
Height: 3.6 inches
Adaptability, multi rooms on a level
As you would expect from a premium product like the 980 it adjusts automatically as it glides over carpets, hardwood or tiles. It also increases its level of suction as and when required. This level of auto adjustment means that it can navigate a level of the home (or office) changing floor types and keeping a track of its past locations as it glides (noisily) from room to room. Keeping track of where it has been also proves useful for navigating around real world objects that we all have in our homes. While getting a home or room robot ready is one thing you don’t want to have a totally empty house just to save on the cleaning effort, with high efficiency navigation robot ready can just mean a well put together room.
We’ve come a long way since the days of the appless Roomba 650 as the Roomba 980 can be primerally controlled using its app, if something fails with the vacuum then you can look on the app to see whats wrong, if there is a fault, if its somehow got stuck or run out of power (which should not happen but its better to have the option of reporting these faults to you should they occur), maybe it needs emptying? The Roomba will communicate back to you via the mobile app.
The app is not just a way for the 980 to bother you though, it is also how you tell it what needs to be done. You can set the 980 going at any time using the app as long as its connected to your home wifi and you phone has a signal. That means you can start it up while you are at work or even if you are out of the country. Back in the 90s the thought of a robot that could clean your house while you are on the beach on holiday seemed like something out of the space ages but people don’t really bat an eye at the thought anymore!
While the app is reliable and convenient for most at a forward thinking tech conference in San Francisco recently, where some of the most forward thinking minds in tech gathered to discuss the use of technology in the home, the keynote speaker opened by asking “who here is sick of having to talk to a speaker of unlock their phone to turn on the lights in their house?” this question was met with cheering from the attendees, we get it, not everyone wants to use the app or at least not everyone wants to use the app all the time…. We get it and fortunately so do Roomba as they still included controls on the chassis, there is a home button on the left, a clean button in the middle and a spot clean button on the right, this is enough to set the 980 going and get it working with the most basic but arguably most useful settings.
When you are opting to use the vacuum without the app and it does need to communicate with you it does so using a selection of indicator lights on the chasse above the clean button. There is a standard wifi logo which lets you know your Roomba is online and connected but there is also a troubleshooting symbol which lets you know if something it wrong by lighting up in combination with an error number which can be cross referenced with the manual or the Internet to let you know whats wrong and how to fix it.
If the red trash light comes on then it means the vacuum is full and needs to be emptied.
When you initially turn on the Roomba and it starts cleaning its approach to cleaning your floor can seem pretty erratic and random and it moves around, however, give it a little time and it will learn intelligently learn the environment it is working in and the process with appear much more streamlined.
As the 980 learns about your location it becomes better at using features like spot clean, which as its name implies is an efficient technique which can be used to pickup dirt in areas if needed. The spot clean is an efficient way of using power where the entire room does not need cleaning.
Not so random, plan your clean
When using the app you can configure the 980 to clean at a time that suites you, this means you don’t need to actively set it going with the app or with the buttons on the chasse you can have your new robot vacuum come to life at 9.05am each day 5 minutes after you leave the house and clean your house while you are at work or at 4pm to get everything ready for you returning home after work… or of course a combination of the 2!
Something we really don’t like
For its price tag the 980 makes the emptying process very unpleasant, there are some things that the robot is always going to struggle with and emptying itself is one of those things, however, it’s a dirty job and something that needs to be made as effortless as possible. Emptying the 980 requires a pair of gloves and pulling at balls of dust and dirt to clean them out by hand. Not something we expected for the price tag.
The Roomba 980 is a good robot vacuum and iRobot is arguably the originator of the product, however, for the price and with increased competition this product needed to be perfect and there were too many niggling issues with it like the noise, the trouble with corners and the emptying process. This is really a great product and it does a good job, however, ultimately the bottom line is that you can get a cheaper product which performs as well or better.
iRobot and Roomba loyalists will love it, everyone else could get a cheaper option elsewhere.