Roomba 980 vs 870 – Which Roomba is a Better Value for the Money?

Roomba has been the leader in robot vacuums.  It now has several series under its belt and its top models belong to the 900 and 800 series.

In October 2015, iRobot came out with the Roomba 980.  Robot vacuum fans all around the world had a reason to rejoice because, finally, there’s now a Roomba that can connect to their Wi-Fi and allow them to operate their robot vacuum and schedule a cleaning remotely.

The Roomba 980 also has a camera and location sensors that help it make sense of the surface area it is cleaning.  It makes use of visual simultaneous localization and mapping technology, which tracks its location using visual landmarks.

It cleans more efficiently than previous Roombas.  Countless reviews also lauded it as the best Roomba yet.  But of course, it comes with a hefty price tag.  At the time it was introduced, the Roomba 980 cost $899 (check the latest accurate pricing here).

The Roomba 870, on the other hand, was released in 2014.  At the time of its launch, it was one of the most cutting edge Roombas in the market, offering Aeroforce technology, scheduling options, and a huge bin.

Compared to previous models, it cleaned faster, even cutting cleaning time by half.  This made it very ideal for big homes needing frequent cleaning.

What’s more, the Roomba 870 may be set to run daily and it has the XLife battery, designed to give the Roomba 870 twice the battery life as the previous models.  And while it offers better cleaning, better batteries and more coverage, iRobot kept the price much lower here.

Similarities between the Roomba 980 and Roomba 870

It is no surprise that the Roomba 870 and 980 share a lot of similar features, coming from the same manufacturer.  Some of these similarities are:

  • iAdapt navigation.  Both Roombas feature iAdapt technology, which makes use of several sensors and software to help the robot vacuum clean more strategically and efficiently, rather than just randomly going over your floors.  These sensors help the robot vacuum clean corners and wall edges, go under furniture and adjust the cleaning depending on the floor type.  Both the 980 and 870 have optical and acoustic sensors that help them detect dirtier areas that they could spot clean.
  • AeroForce cleaning technology.  The Roomba 980 and 870 both have Aeroforce technology, which makes use of debris extractors and superior vacuum suction power.  The extractors break down the debris to eliminate jams and tangles, while the robot vacuum sucks the dirt in.  The Aeroforce technology you see on both the 980 and 870 is rated to be five times better than what older models can deliver.  Also, both models deliver better elimination of dirt and pet hair compared to the Roomba 700 and 600 models.
  • HEPA filter.  The Roomba 870 and 980 both use AerForce HEPA filters, making either of them a great choice for those who are prone to allergies.  HEPA filters are able to block very small dust particles that other filters cannot block.
  • Auto recharge. Both models go back to their charging stations when their batteries runs low.  You can also opt to dock these robot vacuums yourself by pressing on the HOME button.

Other features common to both the 980 and the 870 include:

  • Full bin indicator that tells you when the dust bin is full and needs to be emptied.
  • Debris extractor, which breaks down the debris and does away with jams and hair tangles.
  • Scheduling that allows you to tell the robot vacuum to start cleaning at certain times.
  • Spot cleaning, which allows you to tell the Roomba 980 or 870 to concentrate on a particular area. Spot cleaning makes both the 870 and 980 move in a circular or spiral pattern that is about three feet in diameter.
  • Carrying handle.

Roomba 980 vs Roomba 870: What are the differences?

WiFi: The biggest difference between the Roomba 980 and the Roomba 870 is that the 980 has Wi-Fi connectivity.  This allows you to pair your smartphone with your Roomba 980 and to use the iRobot Home App to operate your robot vacuum remotely.

That means that you can start cleaning, schedule your cleaning, and other operations even when you are outside the house.

Onboard Camera: The Roomba 980 also has an onboard camera that allows it to visualize and map out your floors, helping it clean the entire room and avoid missing spots.  This camera works on top of the iAdapt navigation technology.

Suction power: The Roomba 980 delivers 10 times the suction power of earlier models when its carpet boost mode is turned on.  This helps the Roomba 980 clean better on carpets.

Return, Recharge, Resume: The Roomba 980 also has the ability to go back to its charging station when batteries run low and to automatically resume cleaning where it left off after recharging.  This allows it to clean an entire level of your house even without you around.

The Roomba 870 has the same auto recharge feature, but, unlike the 980, it will stay in its charging station until you press CLEAN or unless you schedule it for another run.

Full Bin Options: Both the 870 and the 980 have a full bin indicator that tells you when it’s time to empty the dust bin.  However, the 980 takes it a step further by giving you a choice on what it should do if the bin is already full.

You can choose to have the Roomba 980 finish its job even with the full bin or you can tell it to stop cleaning immediately.  When you choose the latter, the Roomba 980 would go back to the spot where it started cleaning and then wait for you to empty the dust bin before resuming its task.

Battery Life: You also get a lithium-ion battery with the Roomba 980.  This kind of battery lasts longer than the nickel metal hydride battery you find in the Roomba 870.

Virtual Walls: Lastly, a key difference between the Roomba 980 and the Roomba 870 is the included virtual walls.  The Roomba 980 has two dual mode virtual wall barriers while the 870 has a pair of virtual walls.

Virtual walls give out infrared beams that prevent the Roomba 870 from crossing them and effectively keep out the robot vacuum from going to areas where you do not want it to go.  This virtual wall can virtually seal off doorways up to eight feet.

Meanwhile, dual mode virtual wall barriers take the step further by providing halos that would keep your Roomba 980 out of certain areas inside the room.

For example, if you want the Roomba 980 to clean your living room but avoid that priceless Ming vase, you can use the dual mode virtual wall barrier’s halos to keep it away.

Side-by-side comparison: Roomba 980 vs Roomba 870

All of these differences might be easily compared when you see our side by side comparison of all of the features you can find on both the Roomba 980 and Roomba 870.

  Roomba 980 Roomba 870
AeroForce X X
iAdapt Navigation X X
HEPA filter X X
Carpet boost X  
Entire level cleaning X  
Wi-Fi connectivity X  
Edge cleaning X  
Debris extractor X X
Scheduling X X
With camera X  
Full bin indicator X X
Full bin action control X  
Cleaning passes control X  
Spot cleaning X X
Manual docking X X
Autorecharge X X
Carrying handle X X
Remote control Using app  
Battery type Lithium-ion Nickel metal hydride
Dimensions (inches, dxh) 13.8 x 3.6 13.9 x 3.6
Weight (lbs) 8.7 8.4
Warranty 1 year limited 1 year limited

So What Should You Buy?

The choice between the 980 and the 870 is really quite clear-cut.  If you are one of those people who have waited for a remote control feature for your Roomba, then you should choose the Roomba 980.  But if you could not care less about this feature, the Roomba 870 would be a good choice with its cheaper price tag.

Both Roombas deliver superior cleaning.  However, before you buy, you might want to check out other robot vacuums available in the market.

Alternatives to the Roomba 870

The Roomba 880 is a good alternative to the Roomba 870.  The 870 is cheaper, though, as it does not have remote control and two virtual lighthouses.  The Roomba 870 is therefore a good choice for the budget conscious but would like to have the best features for their robot vacuum.

It has the same cleaning technology, navigation technology and most of the features of an 880, but with a better price tag. You can read my full comparison of the 880 vs 870 here.

The Roomba 870 also competes with the Botvac D80, which is the competing brand’s top-of-the-line model when it first came out.  The D-shape of the Neato Botvac D80 allows it to clean corners and edges, but the 870 has its side brush, so it is not much of a problem.

The Botvac also seems more methodical in cleaning your rooms than the 870.  In the final analysis, however, both the Neato Botvac D80 and the Roomba 870 deliver the same level of cleanliness to your home.

Alternatives to the Roomba 980

The Roomba 980 similarly has a cheaper alternative from the same manufacturer: the Roomba 960.  The Roomba 960 has all the features that people are interested in in the Roomba 980: the AeroForce cleaning technology, HEPA filters, full bin action control, debris extractor, and Wi-Fi connectivity.

However, the cheaper 960 does not have carpet boost mode and has an older motor that is found in the 800-series models.   The 960 also has shorter battery life. You can read my full review of the 960 here.

The Roomba 980 also faces stiff competition from the Dyson 360 Eye.  The Dyson 360 Eye promises great suction power at 78,000 revolutions per minute and also has a camera on board that it uses for its navigation.  It can be paired with your smartphone as well.

However, it is $100 more expensive than the Roomba 980 and it has a significantly shorter battery life and almost the same charging time.  That means that the 980 can complete cleaning large rooms faster. For the full review of the Dyson, see this article.

Still Undecided?

You can check out my comprehensive guide to the best robot vacuums in 2017, by clicking here.