Robotic Vacuums

My Review of the Roomba 860 – What’s Different?

(Last Updated On: January 16, 2017)

There’s a new Roomba on the block. It might be leading to some confusion. It’s not exactly “new” in terms of technology, but it does offer some compelling reasons to by. This is mainly due to the lower price point than fellow 800 series robots.

While the Roomba 980 (my review here) shook up the game with new tech and – most importantly – WiFi app control, the Roomba 860 (currently 15% off here for a limited time) is aimed at putting last year’s series into the middle price range of robot owners.

In this review, I’m going to cover the key features (most of which are the same as other 800 series bots) and then highlight the Pros/Cons. Feel free to skip down if this is what you are looking for. Finally, I’ll suggest some alternatives in a similar price range to consider.

Key Features of the Roomba 860

Here are a few of the key “selling points” I’ve identified for the Roomba 860:

  • Less Maintenance: In general, the 800 series requires significantly less regular maintenance when compared to previous series (like the 600 and 700). Slowly but surely, Roomba is becoming a true “hands free” robot. There is still changing of filters, brushes, empty dust bins etc… when they wear out, but in general you won’t need to touch the device as much.  This is in part due to the next feature…
  • Tangle Free Extractors: Early Roomba’s had a difficult time with certain debris like pet (or human) hair and various stringy bits of material. The “tangle free” extractors were introduced with the 800 series (860, 870, 880) as an improvement. In practice, it does make a difference for my 800 series Roomba’s. It’s still not a perfect system, i.e. you will still get tangles with heavy pet hair (think matted clumps of it if your pet is shedding a lot). Still, it’s a big step up over previous versions.
  • New AeroForce Cleaning: One of the key upgrades for the 800 series is the new patented cleaning technology. It’s advertised at being up to 50% more effective at picking up debris than previous series. It’s hard to quantify this in practice, but from personal experience, the 800 series is definitely better at picking up debris.
  • 5 Times the Suction: iRobot advertises a more powerful vacuum “under the hood”. For the most part, this is true.
  • Extended Battery Life: The new battery packs that come standard in the 800 series are a tier above the older series. The “XLife” lithium packs last significantly longer so you won’t have to replace the battery as much (iRobot quotes “twice as much” presumably compared to the 600 and 700 series).
  • Advanced Scheduling: Like all Roomba’s, the 860 can be set up to run on a set schedule. You can have it run weekly or daily as needed at specific times (for example: when you are at work).
  • Different Color: Every once in a while Roomba comes out with a different color vacuum. The grey is different form the usual monotone black, so if you are OCD and need your grey robot to match your grey soul, this is a plus!

roomba 860 review

Pros – (Good) Things That Really Stood Out

  • Better Clean: Overall, the cumulative improvements have made the Roomba 860 (and 800 series as a whole), much better. You can clean less frequently, because the Roomba does a better job the first time through.
  • Better Suction: This is similar to the aforementioned “pro”, but the suction is noticeably more powerful than previous series. When robot vacuums first came out, they were clearly not on par with the suction of traditional upright vacs. Today, with bots like the 860, the difference is certainly less stark. It’s not entirely unreasonable to expect robots to fully catch up to traditional vacuums within the next 3 years.
  • Return to Base: I love that these robots are now smart enough to return to base when they recognize their battery is low. It will go back and dock on it’s own. There was many a time when I’d have to go “find” my stalled out Roomba 560 or 650 and manually plop it back on it’s charging stand.
  • Attractive Pricing: This is arguably the main reason iRobot decided to release the 860 when it did (March 2016). With the $899 Roomba 980 leading the market and the $699 880 still not more expensive than competitors, the 860 slots in at an MSRP of $499 (exclusively available here). This puts it right in the range of the Botvac “D” series. Traditionally, the Roomba has always led the competition on price. UPDATE: The 860 is also now availabe from this listing on Amazon.

Cons – (Bad) Things I Wish Were Improved

  • Wifi App: It’s still kind of annoying that iRobot hasn’t made WiFi control available for older series. The Roomba 980 is awesome  (see my recent review) in part because it has it… but it’s almost double the price! To be fair, a third party company called has developed a Thinking Cleaner Faceplate for the 500 and 600 series (see my take here) and is in development for a similar device for the 800 series. Essentially, it “smartify’s” your old Roomba and allows you to control it via a mobile app.
  • Limited “Bells and Whistles”: As you will see in my “differences” table below, the Roomba 860 comes with the fewest “extras”. The core robot is virtually identical, but you may find yourself wanting some of the extra accessories that the 870 or 880 offer.
  • No Remote Control: One of these “extras” is the remote control that comes standard with the Roomba 880. It’s not a deal-breaker for most people, however it can be nice to stop/start or otherwise redirect your Roomba without having to leave the coach. It’s similar to a TV remote and it doesn’t come with the 860 or 870 model.
  • No Return to Base/Recharge AND Resume: This was another one of the features I’ve really loved about the new Roomba 980. You don’t have to manually resume the cleaning cycle. While the 800 series is smart enough to go home and dock when it’s low on juice, it’s not smart enough to resume where it left off on its own. This means it’s a tad bit more “hands on” than the latest 900 series.
  • Still Bumps Around Randomly: iRobot improved this with the 980, but the 860 still feels like it bounces around haphazardly as it cleans. There is a method to the madness as the technology ensures every inch is cleaned thoroughly, but it can be a bit nerve wracking to watch.
  • Battery Run-Time is About the Same: Despite the new battery packs, I didn’t see any discernible difference in terms of the actual run-time for a clean. That’s a little disappointing. You would think that battery technology is one of the easier things to improve.
  • Corners Are Still 50/50: One of the main knocks on Roomba is that – due to their circular design – its harder for them to effectively clean corners. This is one of the key distinctions between the Neato Botvac brand vs Roomba. While I have noticed the 800 series is better at hugging the baseboards, corners still get a little less love. It’s kind of annoying because these are generally the “hard to get” places to do by hand. Still, if the Roomba is the 95% solution, this is the 5% I can still gripe about.

What’s The Difference Between 860 vs 870 vs 880?

This is a fairly common question I get. The short answer is: nothing in terms of the device itself. The key differences are the “packages” they come in, i.e. the accessories.

Depending on your needs, this can equate to a better value rather than purchasing the various accessories separately.

Roomba 860Roomba 870Roomba 880
Home Charging Base111
Extra HEPA Filter111
Virtual Wall122
Remote Control001

Roomba 860 Alternatives to Consider

If you are like me, then you are probably interested in what the other options are in a comparable price range. This is how I generally make my purchasing decisions, once I define my personal budget.

Roomba 880: You can read my full review, but here are the highlights… This is the top of the line for the 800 series. As of this writing, it’s the “second best” package to buy in terms of features right after the Roomba 980. As you can see from the table above, the remote and extra virtual walls are nice convenience features. The downside? It’s about $175 more expensive in general, but see here for the latest discounts.

Botvac D80: I’ve reviewed it fully here, but here are the highlights. The Neato Botvac D80 is after the same target market as the 860. It’s price point is virtually identical (check here). The D80 is very similar in terms of performance, with a few exceptions. Namely, it is much better at cleaning the corners due to it’s unique design. It also has an intuitive touch screen display which is a bit more user friendly for communicating (error troubleshooting, etc…). It’s also extremely organized and doesn’t feature the random zig-zagging of the Roomba.

Roomba 770:  You can read my full take here. It’s starting to feel a little bit dated, but the 770 is one of iRobot’s best selling models of all time. The main differences are that it is not quite as good at cleaning up debris (no AeroForce 3 Stage Cleaning) and it doesn’t have the nifty new tangle free extractors. In short, it requires a bit more maintenance. Why do I like it? It’s about $100 cheaper. If this is your first Roomba, it’s a more affordable starting point. Be sure to check this listing for the latest discounts.

Final Take – Is the 860 a Good Value?

I definitely noted a bunch of “cons” in this review, but don’t be scared off by them. I’m a geek so I tend to be pretty critical. Overall, the Roomba is still an amazing time saver that I wouldn’t want to live without. The 860 is significantly ahead of it’s older siblings (namely the 600 and 700 series), but you no longer have to pay as much of a premium.

If you are looking for the best overall value (bang for your buck), the 860 is probably right in the sweet spot. It available via iRobot at this listing here, but it’s also recently been released on Amazon here.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Roomba 860
Author Rating
41star1star1star1stargray

About the author

Patrick Sinclair

Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn't have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!

12 Comments

  • Do you recommend the Roomba 860 or Botvac 80??

    I just pre ordred the Roomba 860 from Best Buy. Found a coupon not bring the price down to $399, which I though was a good buy.

  • Maybe when the roomba moves around predictably like my Samsung VR models, I might buy one. I’m quite content to have my robo vacuums go in straight lines. The only thing I wish they had is the ability to communicate with each other. If you put two or three in a room they always end up meeting somewhere and end up “dancing” with each other which is quite inefficient use of time and also messes with their mapping – as they come back to the “dance site” they follow some pretty funky tracks trying to hit missed spots and avoid spots they hit already.

    • Totally understandable. A lot of people don’t like the “random” cleaning, although in my testing it has no effect on cleaning quality. Also, the new Roomba 980 is more “organized” and less “random”.

  • I have a dog pack. I’m wondering if this will work with a lot of dog fur and all the grass, dirt leaves and debris they track in. And, of course with large dogs, water spills and slobber might be a concern. What is your opinion of using the 860 in that situation?

    • While I can’t speak from personal experience (don’t have a pack of dogs), the 800 series is generally quite good with pet hair/dander/dirt. I would rely on the Roomba as more of a “maintenance” clean, in this situation. You may also want to look at some of the robot mops (Scooba, Braava) to handle the wet dirt/slobber/disinfecting issues.

  • When I start my Roomba 860 in a room and shut the door I sometimes return and fidd it stopped. Does the Roomba 860 sense that the room is clean and then stop?

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