Roomba 960 vs 980 – Are the Differences Worth the Price?

The Roomba 980 and the Roomba 960 are iRobot’s best robot vacuums available today.

Both of these Roomba robot vacuums have Wi-Fi connectivity and you can pair them with the iRobot HOME app, a feature that many Roomba fans have been asking for.

iRobot certainly took their time coming up with the app that other third-party companies, such as the Thinking Cleaner faceplate, have already come up with their own Wi-Fi- connected remote controllers that allow you to use a mobile app to schedule cleaning times, get push notifications and other features.

However, with the release of the Roomba 980, and shortly thereafter, the launch of Roomba 960, you no longer have to buy separate hardware for Wi-Fi controlled Roombas.

Special Spring Pricing Update: In case you missed it, the top of the line Roomba 980 was just dropped to 22% off at this listing and the 960 was dropped to 24% off here, which is a RECORD low deal for both.

A Bit About Roomba 980

The Roomba 980 first came out in the third quarter of 2015 (see my original review here) and it was the first Roomba that you could pair with and operate from your smartphone.  You can use your iPhone or your Android device to schedule a cleaning cycle and to check cleaning statistics.

New Visual Localization: The Roomba 980 also has a visual localization camera that helps track your floors, guaranteeing that it will miss less spots.  This camera works with optical and acoustic sensors that helps the robot vacuum cleaner detect the dirtier spots for it to clean more efficiently.

In short, the Roomba 980 not only follows a more efficient cleaning pattern of parallel lines, it also “sees” where it is and knows where it needs to go.

New Carpet Boost Mode: What’s more, the Roomba 980 has a carpet boost mode, which activates a very powerful vacuum motor that cleans your carpets more thoroughly.

Carpet boost gives the Roomba 980 up to ten times more power compared to the brand’s older 800 series models.  It is able to suck dirt and dust hiding deep in the fibers of your rugs and carpets.

Auto-Detect Floor Type: Additionally, the Roomba 980 automatically detects your floor type if you have a mix of tiles, carpets, or hardwood for your flooring.  When it senses that it is on a carpeted surface, it turns its carpet boost mode on.

However, when it is on hard surfaces, the Roomba 980 goes back to its regular mode to help save juice in its lithium-ion battery.

Improved Edge Cleaning: The Roomba 980 is also the first Roomba to feature a special edge cleaning technology.

All Roomba models have a side brush that helps it clean wall edges and corners, but the Roomba 980 takes it a step further with its edge cleaning feature that can clean even the most stubborn debris and dirt you find on the edges of your floors.

After the regular parallel-line cleaning of your floors, the Roomba 980 will proceed along the edges to clean them.

Same Enhanced Debris Extractor: Like the 800 series models, the Roomba 980 features debris extractors instead of using the main brush.  This brushless mechanism allows the vacuum cleaner to pick up stubborn dirt, pet hair and debris, and you no longer have to worry about hair tangles on brush bristles!

The debris extractor is one of the main features of the AeroForce cleaning technology that gives the Roomba 980 five times more power than the 700 or 600 series’ AeroVac 2 technology.

Other nifty features of the Roomba 980

Auto resume. The Roomba 980 automatically resumes its cleaning after it charges its battery.  Older Roombas can clean around two to three rooms, on average, before going back to its charging base to recharge its batteries.

These older models, however, would stay there until you press the CLEAN button again.  If you have a bigger home, you can see how an older model would be a problem.

It would probably clean only two rooms before needing to recharge, and then you will have to wait for it to fully recharge so you can tell it to start cleaning another couple of rooms.

This is not a problem with the Roomba 980.  Once recharged, it will leave its docking station to automatically resume where it left off, even when you are not home.

HEPA filters.  The Roomba 980 uses HEPA filters that can keep even the smallest dust particles (as small as 0.001 micron) in the dustbin.  That means that the Roomba 980 helps remove up to 99.97% of pollens, particles, and allergens from the air.

Speaking of dust bin, the Roomba 980 has a full bin indicator that tells you when you need to empty the dust bin.  Unlike earlier models, however, the 980 also lets you specify what it should do if the bin is nearly full and you are not around to empty it.

You can either set it to continue cleaning and just finish the job or to have it pause immediately.

Scheduling. You can schedule your Roomba 980 using the HOME app and you can set up seven cleaning schedule per week.  Once the scheduled time arrives, the Roomba 980 will continue cleaning.

Manual docking.  As with all other models, you can manually dock your Roomba 980 just by pressing the big HOME button on top.

Long run times.  On a single charge, the Roomba 980 runs for 120 minutes with the carpet boost off.

About the Roomba 960

For quite some time, the Roomba 980 was the only Wi-Fi- connected robot vacuum from iRobot and it was lauded for its efficient cleaning as well as for the new features that were not present in any of the earlier models.  However, many people also found the Roomba 980 too expensive.

Then, around August 2016, iRobot came out with the Roomba 960, which they promoted as the cheaper alternative to the Roomba 980.

Much the Same: There is really nothing much different between the Roomba 980 and the Roomba 960.  The Roomba 960 uses the same AeroForce vacuuming technology, the debris extractor, the full bin indicator, and the full bin action control that ensured hassle-free cleaning.

It also offers entire-level cleaning, edge cleaning, cleaning passes control and spot cleaning for you to get the level of clean that you want.  It also uses the same iAdapt navigation and onboard camera to find its way around your home.

Also has WiFi: More importantly, the Roomba 960 also connects to your Wi-Fi network and allows you to use the mobile app to schedule cleaning times and to check out the statistics.  It also recharges automatically and resumes cleaning without you having to press the Home button after fully charging.

Also Features HEPA Filtration: The Roomba 960 is great for people who suffer from allergies.  Like the Roomba 980, it also uses a HEPA filter.  It uses a lithium ion battery, as well.

Even the dimensions are the same at around 14 inches in diameter and less than 4 inches in height.  It also has the manual docking feature and comes with a carrying handle.

In short, the Roomba 960 is equipped with most of the features that the Roomba 980 has, except for a few tradeoffs that would explain the cheaper price tag.

What’s different with the Roomba 960?

800 Series Motor: The Roomba 960, apart from its cheaper price, does not have a carpet boost.  This is because the 960 uses an older motor, which are the same ones used in Roomba’s 800 series.

Shorter Battery Life: Also, the Roomba 960 has a shorter battery life than the 980.  One full charge delivers only 75 minutes of cleaning.

Only 1 Virtual Wall Included: The Roomba 960 also comes with only one dual mode virtual wall barrier, while the Roomba 980 comes with two of these control devices.

Nevertheless, the 960 still delivers a more efficient clean than the earlier Roomba models.  If you do not have carpets at home, the 960 could very well compare with the Roomba 980.

Side-by-side comparison: Roomba 980 vs 960

To make it easier for you to compare the Roomba 980 and the Roomba 960, check out this table:

Roomba 980 Roomba 960
Manufacturer’s price Check here Check here
iAdapt navigation X X
AeroForce vacuuming technology X X
Entire level cleaning X X
Wi-Fi connectivity X X
HEPA filter X X
Carpet boost X  
Edge cleaning X X
Full bin indicator X X
Full bin action control X X
Onboard camera X X
Debris extractor X X
Scheduling X X
Cleaning passes X X
Auto recharge X X
Auto resume X X
Manual docking X X
Spot cleaning X X
Lithium ion battery X X
Running times (minutes) 120 75
Remote control using app X X
Carrying handle X X
Dimensions (dxh, inches) 13.8 x 3.6 13.8 x 3.6
Weight (lbs.) 8.7 8.5

What to buy: Roomba 980 vs Roomba 960

The Roomba 980 is the only iRobot robot vacuum that comes with carpet boost, so if you have carpeted floors, this is the one for you.

Larger Home? Go with the Roomba 980If you have a bigger home, you would also appreciate the Roomba 980’s 120-minute running time, which is 45 minutes more than that of the Roomba 960.

The running time, however, is not much of a problem as both models have the ability to automatically recharge if they run out of battery and to automatically resume cleaning afterward.

Mainly Hardwoods? Go with the Roomba 960Now if you have purely hardwood floors at home, it is more practical to get the Roomba 960 and save $200.

For the most part, however, it would make sense to get the Roomba 980.  It comes with an additional dual mode virtual wall barrier, which costs $50 by itself, and it offers a more effective cleaning for carpeted floors with its carpet boost mode.