The Roomba 980 has everything: an App for scheduled cleaning and updates, a state of the art Adapt® 2.0 Navigation system that allows the 980 to seamlessly navigate an entire level of your home, and the ability to recharge itself and then resume cleaning.
And that’s just for starters. But of course all this vacuuming perfection comes at a cost, and a rather steep one (see here).
Compare this to the Roomba 650, released in August 2012. Granted, the 650 doesn’t have an App or the 980’s smarts, but it is an effective vacuum (more on this, below) that sells for about 64% less, at the time of this writing.
This leads me to wonder, is the 980 worth it? Yes, it’s a gorgeous vacuum, but are the improvements to the 980 substantive or are they only frills; features nice to have but nothing you’d really miss.
In this review I’m going to try and answer two questions. First, if you already have the Roomba 650 is it time to upgrade?
Second, if you don’t have a robot vacuum and are thinking about buying either, which one should you get: the top of the line model for close to a thousand dollars, or a solid vacuum that’s three years old, lacks an App, but costs a fraction of the price.
In what follows I’m going to talk about the key features of both the Roomba 980 and 650, go over their pros and cons, and then end by analysing which vacuum represents the better buy. Before we get to that, though, let’s look at the main selling points for each vacuum:
In a hurry? Check out my key advantages of both below…
|Roomba 650 Advantages||Roomba 980 Advantages|
|Less expensive (Check here for latest prices)||iAdapt 2.0® Navigation with Visual localization allows the 980 to navigate an entire level of your home while keeping track of its location.|
|Cheapest Roomba that still has scheduling features||Comes with an App for both Android and iPhone. The App allows you to schedule and launch the 980 remotely as well as check the status of your cleaning jobs.|
|Highly rated, one of the best selling robot vacuums of all time; excellent value for the money||Cleans every bit as well as the 650 but also, thanks to the Roomba’s brushless extractors, hair doesn’t clog the vacuum.|
Contents (Jump to)
Key Features of the Roomba 980 and 650
- Cleans an Entire Level of your Home: As I’ve mentioned, iAdapt®0 Navigation with Visual Localization allows the 980 to navigate an entire level of your home and keep track of its location. When it needs to recharge it breaks off cleaning, recharges itself, and then returns to its cleaning pattern. This allows you to set up a cleaning schedule for the 980 and then forget about it! You don’t have to manually trigger a cleaning cycle, you don’t have to guess whether a recharging Roomba finished all the rooms and, if not, which ones still need cleaning.
- Cleans Under Sofas and Chairs: Low-profile design (it’s only 6 inches tall) lets the 980 clean under practically all furniture.
- Cleans All Floor Types: Cleans carpet, hardwood, laminate and tile. Cleaning deep-pile carpets is a snap thanks to the AeroForce® Cleaning System with Carpet Boost that automatically increases power on more difficult terrain.
- Automatically Docks and Recharges: The 980 not only docks and recharges when the battery is low, it resumes its cleaning pattern once it’s back to a full charge.
- Hair Does Not Clog the Vacuum: The 980 has brushless extractors that prevent hair from tangling and clogging the vacuum. This may not sound groundbreaking, but it’s a very nice feature. I’m not going to estimate how much, but I spend a lot of time picking my long hair out of my Roomba 595’s brushes. The 980 also works like a dream with pet hair. I have two cats and if I don’t vacuum every day I see loose balls of pet hair drift around the room like tumbleweed. Many of the vacuums I’ve tested have underperformed on pet hair, but not the 980. It had no trouble sucking up every last clump of pet hair, regardless of size or how matted it was.
- AeroForce® High-Efficiency Filter: This particular feature is only available on 800 and 900 Series Roombas. It “captures 99% of allergens, pollen, and particles as small as 10 microns.” Impressive.
- Cleans every section of the floor many times: While the Roomba 650 doesn’t have the 980’s iAdapt®0 Navigation technology, the 650 uses its system of software and sensors to choose from dozens of robotic behaviors about 60 times a second. This allows the vacuum to clean more of a room and to clean it better by making several passes over every section of floor.
- Cleans All Floor Types: Like the 980, the 650 cleans all floor types (carpet, hardwood, laminate and tile).
- Cleans Under Sofas and Chairs: The low-profile design of the 650 allows it to vacuum up dust and dirt under even the lowest hanging furniture (the 650 is 3.6 inches tall, just like the 980).
- Automatically Docks and Recharges: The 650 will dock and recharge itself between cleanings when the battery is low but, unlike the 980, it doesn’t go back to cleaning.
- Enhanced Ability To Pick Up Hair: The 650’s AeroVac™ Technology maximizes cleaning results. Less hair gets tangled in the vacuum’s brushes or left on the floor. Although the 650 doesn’t have many of the advanced features of the 980, both vacuums do a good job picking up pet hair. If, like me, you have pets this could be the number one selling point for any robot vacuum: no more clumps of pet hair wandering aimlessly through your house (though this might be less of a problem for folks who have carpets as opposed to hardwood).
- AeroVac™ Filter: Captures fine dust and debris and is compatible with all Roomba 500 and 600 Series robots that have an AeroVac™.
Which Is A Better Value, the Roomba 980 or 650?
Many people who love robot vacuums hate vacuuming. They have a dream, they want to come home to clean floors without having to lift a finger. I know that’s my dream!
The 980 (read my full review here!), because it can autonomously clean an entire level of your home, can make that dream a reality. The 650 can’t. While the 650 is a good solid vacuum, one that will recharge itself, you still have to relaunch the vacuum after it has recharged.
Without me there to repeatedly trigger cleaning cycles, my apartment floor would not get cleaned. Definitely a point for the 980.
In terms of what it can do, in terms of its features, the 980 is clearly superior. But that can’t be the end of the comparison. I think that for most people the question isn’t just, “Which is the better vacuum?” it is “Which vacuum is the better value for me?”
So, which is the better value, the Roomba 980 or the 650? Unsurprisingly the answer is: it depends.
If you have a Roomba 650 (read my full review here!) and are happy with how it cleans your floors, great! You might want to put off upgrading. Keep reading about new robot vacuums as they come out and when one emerges that can do something you care about, something your old one can’t, then buy it.
Go with the 980 if… On the other hand, there are good reasons to upgrade even if you’re happy with the 650. For instance, catching every last micron of dust might be important to those who suffer from allergies. In that case, the 980 with its AeroForce® High-Efficiency Filter just might be worth it.
Or if you are someone who isn’t very mobile then the 980 might be the answer you’ve been looking for. With the 980 you don’t have to constantly go and tell the vacuum to resume cleaning after it docks, it will do that all by itself. Further, you don’t need to bend down to push any buttons.
On the 980 there’s an App for that.
Go with the 650 if… But let’s say you’ve decided you want to buy a new vacuum and you (of course!) want the best value for your money.
Should you be swayed by the affordability of the 650 or should you go for the top of the line, the 980, knowing that in the next few years the list of features is just going to keep growing more and more impressive, making the 650 look less and less appealing?