WiFi has finally arrived to the robot vacuum market! In quick succession, the Botvac Connected was released shortly after iRobot released the Roomba 980 in 2015.
With the two market leaders both offering WiFi app-enabled bots, which one is a better buy? Having owned both vacuums for a couple of months now, I felt it was time to put my comparison on the record.
In the following comparison, I’ll break down the pros and cons of both robots. The goal is to help you make an informed decision. Spoiler: depending on your needs, it could go either way.
In a hurry? Check out this high level overview of the advantages of both:
|Roomba 980 Advantages||Botvac Connected Advantages|
|More reliable (less maintenance)||Better corner cleaning due to design of device|
|Comes with “Carpet Boost”||Organized cleaning pattern|
|Better market for replacement parts (if needed)||Generally $200 less expensive (check here)|
|Slightly better cleaning technology overall||Comes with “turbo” and “eco” mode|
|Virtual Lighthouse = more advanced boundary marking system||Clean “two times” feature for thorough clean|
|Higher customer reviews (see here)|
|Persistent pass cleaning (better clean first time through)|
Continue reading for the full analysis..
Contents (Jump to)
Similarities Between the Botvac Connected vs Roomba 980
The following are some things both the 980 and Botvac Connected share in common. In short, these are the features that are generally similar for both devices.
- Wifi App Control: This is the key new feature for both the Botvac and Roomba. It’s been long desired by folks in the robot community and it’s finally here for both devices! Functionally, the two apps behave in a similar manner. You can monitor, stop/start, and schedule your robot from your smart device (iOS or Android). You still need to be on a WiFi network (both your robot at “home” and where ever you are currently located). For example, you can monitor and schedule your robot from your office WiFi network.
- Advanced Filters: Both the new Roomba and Botvac feature ultra high efficiency filters, ideal for those who suffer from allergies (seasonal or pet). Functionally, there’s not much difference here.
- Recharge and Auto-Resume: Both new robots have the handy feature of being able to “return to base” when the battery is low. Taking it one step further, both are then able to auto-resume, picking up right where they left off in the cleaning cycle.
- Both Faster Than Previous Generation: In general, expect both robots to complete their jobs more quickly than earlier iterations. The Botvac also has a “turbo” (optional) feature for super-fast cleaning (but not as deep cleaning) if you need a quick clean at the last minute.
- Both Best in Class: This might be a logical assumption at this point, but both the Botvac Connected and Roomba 980 represent the best product offerings currently available. They have the latest technology and are the least error prone of any previous generations.
- Both Organized Cleaning Pattern: In a break from past models, the new 980 has an “organized” methodical cleaning pattern. For OCD types, this used to be a key difference in favor of the Botvac. It’s debatable, but I’d actually argue that the 980 is slightly more methodical than the Botvac.
- Both Priced at the High End: While there is a clear difference in price, both robots are on the expensive side. The Roomba 980 is the pricier option (see here) while the Botvac Connected is also expensive, but a lower ticket price.
Advantages of the Botvac Connected
Here are some areas where the Botvac really stands out when compared to the Roomba 980.
- Organized Cleaning Pattern: Fans of the Neato (Botvac) robots have always pointed to the clear and organized cleaning pattern of their bots. The Roomba’s bounce off furniture and zig-zag across the floor, which is concerning to some owners. In terms of end results, both robots have the same effect. If you are generally home when the robot is cleaning, a random pattern might be a bit disconcerting. The Botvac Connected (like it’s predecessors) is very methodical and organized in how it tackles a floor plan.
- Turbo and Eco Mode: This is a new feature that separates the Botvac from the Roomba. Turbo mode allows for a faster initial clean if you need to get the floors clean before guests arrive. “Eco” mode conserves battery power so the robot can save energy and battery life. Eco mode is also quieter, making it better for night cleans or when you don’t want to bother the pets. The Roomba 980 doesn’t have this type of two-choice setting.
- Lithium-Ion Battery: The Botvac Connected features a premium Lithium-ion long lasting battery while the Roomba 980 has a the “Xlife Extended Life Battery”. Fans of the Lithium-ion batteries might be more inclined to purchase the Botvac. Nomenclature aside, both robots have more than enough juice to power full cleaning cycles.
- Better Corner Cleaning: This is another long held advantage of Neato over iRobot. The Botvac is flat on the front, enabling it to run up flush to corners and baseboards as needed. The circular design of the Roomba means it does not have as much dexterity to clean edges. Although it does have a side brush to help mitigate this, you’ll probably find the Botvac cleans corners more thoroughly.
- Price: While still expensive, the Botvac Connected is about $200 cheaper than the Roomba 980. This is a clear advantage for Neato when so many other features are comparable. Be sure to check this listing for the latest pricing.
Advantages of the Roomba 980
Similarly, let’s take a look at some of the areas where the 980 stands out vs the Botvac Connected.
- Persistent Pass Cleaning: The upside of the zig-zag pattern of the Roomba is that it utilizes an intentional redundancy in the form of multiple passes over the same area. Just like you might do with a traditional upright vacuum, sometimes once is not enough to attack trouble spots. While the Botvac Connected may indeed do better on the initial sweep (my assessment is that the difference is marginal), it doesn’t by default touch a spot more than once. You CAN select the “clean twice” option, but this runs the entire cycle again from start to finish. So What’s the Big Deal? They both result in a similarly clean floor, but the Roomba 980 ends up being a bit faster than having to run the Botvac Connected twice (even on “turbo” mode). In short, it gets the job done the first time, thoroughly.
- Uses Virtual Walls: While the boundary markets from Neato work fine enough, it can be a bit unseemly to have tape all over your house outlining boundaries. It’s just a bit “low tech” overall. The patented “virtual” lighthouse boundary markers form iRobot are more advanced and less intrusive. Essentially, they use invisible beams to mark territory, signaling to the Roomba where not to go.
- Carpet Boost: I’ll admit that at first I thought this was just a gimmick. To test it, I spilled some ground up cheerios on one of my living room carpets. Sure enough, as the 980 went from hard wood to carpet the device paused for two seconds, became noticeably louder and was able to clean up the entire mess with ease. When compared to the Botvac or previous Roomba’s the difference isn’t obvious to the naked eye. However, what the 980 excels at on carpets is suctioning up from the bottom of carpet fibers, getting those hard to reach areas that – while you can’t see – still collect dirt, dander, and debris. The Botvac doesn’t have this type of dedicated feature.
- Better Market for Replacement Parts: This is something I’ve always like about the Roomba vs Neato Botvac devices. Because the Roomba is generally more popular, you’ll find a wider array of third-party accessory providers. Often times you can find high grade replacement batteries – for example – which are better than the factory defaults, sometimes also at better prices. While there is an emerging market for Botvac parts, it’s not at the same scale. In short: the cost of ownership can be lower with the Roomba, just like for a popular used car model.
Final Analysis – Which Would I Take (if I HAD to choose)?
|iRobot Roomba 980||Neato Botvac Connected|
|MSRP||$899 (check here for latest)||$699 (check here for latest)|
|WiFi||Has WiFi connectivity; app works on both Apple and Android devices||Has WiFi connectivity; app works on both Apple and Android devices|
|Navigation||iAdapt 2.0 Navigation with Visual Localization helps the Roomba map out and plan its route before it starts||LaserSmart mapping and navigation; comes with real-time object detection; methodically scans, maps, and plans the room|
|Features||Cliff detection technology; iRobot HOME app; carpet boost technology; low-profile design to clean under sofas, etc.; cleans a variety of floor types; brushless extractors keep tangles at bay||Comes with two cleaning modes, eco for longer cleaning and turbo for powerful cleaning; Neato app; easily removable high-performance filter|
This is the tricky part. There are definitely circumstances where I’d prefer one robot over the other.
For homes with lots of carpeting, the Roomba 980’s “carpet boost” is really nice. I’d say if you have more than 50% carpets, it tips the balance in favor of the 980.
On the other hand, if you like the better cornering ability (particularly if your house has lots of them), and generally “faster” turbo clean option, I’d lean towards the Botvac Connected. Also, if you are looking to stretch your dollar, the Botvac is about $200 cheaper than the 980 (check the pricing options here).
I still think that iRobot and the Roomba have the slight advantage in terms of overall performance and technology. They’ve been around longer, have a bigger engineering team, and have ironed out a lot of the common problems over the years. If the $200 difference in price is no big deal, I’d lean slightly towards the Roomba 980 as the better device.