The Roomba robotic vacuum from iRobot was one of the devices that helped propel many into the smarthome era. For most happy users, it may be considered a friend of the family, quietly rumbling away picking up the latest motes of dust and hair.
However, no company can continue to sell the same old product. So, 2011’s old 770 model is well overdue for an upgrade. 2014’s 880 sixth-generation upgrade does many things better in a similar overall design. It claims to clean up to 50% more dust with a new cleaning system and a new style of roller.
While rival models have introduced new features for an improved cleaning service like room mapping, iRobot seems happy with its spiral and edge-bumping approach to cleaning a room, and dodging the objects in it. If you’re looking for a whole new approach then a simple Roomba upgrade won’t change the big cleaning picture in your home. But if you want to stick with the Roomba family, then this upgrade provides a better clean.
We compare these two vacuums over their key features, pros and cons, and use. Let us know of your experiences with either of these devices (comments section at the bottom).
In a hurry? Check out the high level advantages of both in the table below:
|Roomba 880 Advantages||Roomba 790 Advantages|
|Significantly larger dust bin||Comes with an extra Virtual Wall (3 vs 2)|
|New AeroForce Cleaning System (better clean)||Comes with Wireless Command Center|
|New Tangle-Free debris extractors (easier to maintain)||About $100 cheaper (see this listing)|
|Comes with Remote Control||Comes with extra brush set/cleaning tools|
|New extended life battery pack (recharges less frequently)|
Continue reading for the full details…
Contents (Jump to)
Key Features – Evaluation Criteria
The venerable Roomba 790 was a decent step up for the iRobot product series coming with HEPA filter, dirt detection and room-to-room navigation. Side brushes help pull dirt into the main roller and the low profile means it can pretty much everywhere.
It also features scheduling, so you can set it to run at a time convenient to you and lighthouses (small IR beam boxes that sit by doors or other areas) to limit where it cleans or keep it out of other rooms
If you do need to take control, the optional wireless command centercan help you program it for more complicated environments. In use, the Roomba 770 can skip over wires and leads, but could pick up the open-ended wire or cord on the floor. It avoids the stuff in your room thanks to the IR sensor on top and a bumper at the front that will gently nudge into furniture or other items.
Pretty quiet in action, it is a lot quieter than the recent Neato Botvac devices we’ve reviewed. While it is not quite as smart as those vacuums when it comes to navigating rooms, it still does fine in most situations. Once the job is done, or it is running out of power, then it will return to the dock and recharge.
A lot of what we said about the 790 goes for the Roomba 880. It is quiet and functions well around the typical house, has all the extras available to the 790 and is generally much improved, with a larger HEPA filter.
One of the key new features of the Roombo 880 is that it is badged as virtually maintenance free. Due to the clever design of the AeroForce Extractor rollers, there’s a lot less cleaning involved for the owner, while cleaning performance around the home is improved with a lot more pet hair or similar fluff picked up in comparison.
Both have a bin full indicator, which will light up pretty often as the Roomba range comes with a pretty feeble bin size thanks to the slimline profile. At least it does say in the instruction manuals to empty them after every clean.
Still the 880’s redesign means there’s slightly more room for a 60% larger dustbin, but that is hardly a massive feature, among the smart and tech heavy aspects of the newer model. .
If you have pets, or an aversion to cleaning your cleaners then the 880 is the model for you. Otherwise there’s not much reason to go with the cheaper option, which at least comes in a pleasing blue color, unlike the rather stark black of the newer model.
Pros and Cons to Consider
While hardly low-cost, the Roomba 790 can be picked up at reasonable prices (steep discount off here) and help kick your home’s smart technology ambitions. With plenty of smart cleaning tech, most users are delighted with their new friend at first and good maintenance should keep those error light gremlins away.
The Roomba 880 is great for homes with pets, but the bin will fill up very quickly thanks to the fluff deposited by your pets. That reduces its usefulness as a remote vacuum, since it will probably fill up half-way around while you’re out.
Also, despite, or because of the technology built in, the sensors can easily become dirty and require a wipe to clean, otherwise you get constant bin full warnings. This is something that should have been picked up in testing, but otherwise the 880 is generally a lot easier on maintenance than its predecessors.
Comparison – General Specs
|Specs||Roomba 790||Roomba 880|
|Dimensions||3.6 x 13.9 x 13.9 inches||3.6 x 13.9 x 13.9 inches|
|Price||live pricing here||live pricing here|
|Full Review||See here||See here|
Final Recommendation – Which One is a Better Value
You can tell the value of a good product by how it holds its price and the Roomba 790 is still keenly priced. That means this is a perfectly good product with years of life in it. There are specific advantages to the 880 model if you want to spend the extra money, for a deeper clean and to get rid of pet hair.
However, in any other situation, the 790 may take a little more maintenance but is nearly as good a product. Considering the earlier Roombas spent quite some time flashing various error codes at users – requiring a spot of cleaning – perhaps that is a reason to upgrade.
One tip – whatever your choice – iRobot is due to launch a new model later in 2015. That could easily see the prices of these editions fall slightly or a lot, which could make them more of a bargain. However, if you want the latest and the best, then the new model is supposed to come with proper camera vision technology for a superior monitoring and cleaning experience. UPDATE: And sure enough, iRobot has launched the new 980! You can see my full analysis of it here.