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Roomba 960 vs. 980 Review

The House Method team reviewed the iRobot Roomba 960 and the iRobot Roomba 980 on carpets and hard floors and compared suction power, maneuverability, noise, mobility, and more. Read our full comparison review here.

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If you’re in the market for a robot vacuum, you’re probably considering the Roomba 960 and Roomba 980—two of the best robot vacuums on the market. Both Roombas perform similarly and come with updated features, so what’s the main difference between the two? Our team reviewed both models and compared suction power, maneuverability, accessories, and more. Keep reading our full comparison review to determine which Roomba is best for you and your cleaning needs.

Run time
Charge time
Carpet Boost Technology
Dust bin capacity
Weight
Accessories

iRobot Roomba 960

Run time

75 minutes

Charge time

120 minutes

Carpet Boost Technology

No

Dust bin capacity

0.08 gallons

Weight

8.5 pounds

Accessories

1 virtual wall barrier

iRobot Roomba 980

Run time

120 minutes

Charge time

120 minutes

Carpet Boost Technology

Yes

Dust bin capacity

0.8 gallons

Weight

8.7 pounds

Accessories

2 virtual wall barriers

iRobot Roomba 960

The Roomba 960 is basically a more affordable version of the Roomba 980. Featuring an AeroForce 3-Stage Cleaning System that delivers five times the air power of the Roomba 600 series and a tangle-free brushroll for sucking up pet hair and other fine debris, the Roomba 960 is a convenient option for those who don’t want to manually vacuum on a regular basis.

Pros
  • It features three cleaning modes (one-pass, two -ass, and automatic) for a deeper clean.
  • It comes with Smart Mapping technology that allows the robot to navigate your home and remember cleaning routes.
Cons
  • It has some difficulty cleaning up large debris on high-pile carpets.
  • It doesn’t feature Carpet Boost technology like the 980.

We recommend the Roomba 960 if you’re looking for the following:

  • A technologically advanced robot vacuum—The Roomba 960 is an excellent robot vacuum that features Wi-Fi connectivity, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility, and exceptional navigation tools that give your home a more comprehensive clean.
  • An affordable price—Cheaper than the Roomba 980, this model comes with almost all of the same features and provides adequate suction power for optimal cleaning performance. If you can go without some of the bells and whistles included with the 980 (like Carpet Boost technology or an extra virtual wall barrier), the 890 is definitely your best option.
Buy the iRobot Roomba 960

iRobot Roomba 980

The Roomba 980 is the most advanced iRobot model on the market. With a long battery life, Carpet Boost technology, and stronger suction power, this robot vacuum is the best of the best. Though it has a higher price tag, it delivers exceptional cleaning performance compared to other robot vacuums.

Pros
  • It has a newer, more powerful motor than previous Roomba models.
  • It comes with two virtual wall barriers, instead of one, allowing you to section off more areas of your home.
Cons
  • It’s slightly louder than the Roomba 960.
  • Similar to the Roomba 960, it may struggle to pick up debris on high-pile carpet.

We recommend the Roomba 980 if you’re looking for the following:

  • Two virtual wall barriers—If you want to section off more areas of your home, opt for this model: it comes with two virtual wall barriers instead of one.
  • Carpet Boost Technology—This feature is only included on the 980. The robot increases its suction power when vacuuming over carpets and rugs.
  • An extended run time—With 120 minutes of run time, this Roomba is able to clean more square footage without having to stop and charge. Even if it does need to charge in the middle of a clean, it has a recharge and resume feature that allows it to pick right back up where it left off
Buy the iRobot Roomba 980

Roomba 960 vs. 980: which is better?

Though both Roomba models are relatively advanced, we believe the 120-minute run time, Carpet Boost technology, and two virtual wall barriers make the Roomba 980 a solid choice for anyone looking for a robot vacuum.

Left Roomba 960

Right Roomba 980

Roomba 960 vs. 980 design differences

The Roomba 960 has a sleek grey appearance while the Roomba 980 has a copper/bronze color scheme. They’re both circular in shape and are similar in size (the 980 is just slightly larger and heavier than the 960).

Regarding technology, both Roombas have two extra sensors that other Roomba vacuums don’t have. One of the sensors is a camera sensor positioned on the center of the vacuum that prevents the robot from hitting obstacles and the other sensor is for tracking where the Roomba has already cleaned. These sensors allow the Roomba 960 and 980 to more efficiently vacuum your home.

Both models also have a side brush that helps pull debris out from corners and wall edges. Some other similarities include:

  • An advanced navigation system
  • An AeroForce filtration system
  • Memory mapping

One design difference: The Roomba 980 has two additional edge sensors at the rear of the vacuum that help it understand its surroundings and potential drop hazards.

How do the Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 clean?

Both the Roomba 960 and 980 use the same three-stage cleaning system that includes agitating embedded dirt, lifting it out from carpet fibers or off of hardwood floors, and suctioning it into the dust bin. They also both use spinning brushes that clean wall edges and corners and fling dirt into their cleaning paths.

Additionally, both Roombas use advanced dirt detection technology and iAdapt 2.0 navigation to target problem areas and map out your home (this helps them remember the layout the next time they clean).

One cleaning difference between these two models is the motor.

  • The Roomba 980 offers a stronger motor compared to the one used in the Roomba 960. This newer motor offers stronger suction and a Power Boost mode that helps when vacuuming carpets and rugs.
  • The Roomba 960 uses the same motor found in the iRobot 800 series. This motor gives the 960 a shorter run time.

Furthermore, the Roomba 980 is equipped with a 10x AeroForce system while the 960 is equipped with a 5x AeroForce system. We thought this would result in the 980 having much more suction power than the 960, but in reality, both Roombas performed similarly on carpets and hard floors.

Both Roombas use advanced dirt detection technology and iAdapt 2.0 navigation to target problem areas and map out your home.”

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Size specifications: Roomba 960 vs. 980

The Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 are extremely similar in size and shape—the major differences worth noting are that the 980 has a larger dust bin than the 960 and weighs an extra 0.2 pounds.

Height
Length
Width
Dust bin capacity
Weight

iRobot Roomba 960 size

Height

3.6 inches

Length

13.8 inches

Width

13.8 inches

Dust bin capacity

0.08 gallons

Weight

8.5 pounds

iRobot Roomba 980 size

Height

3.6 inches

Length

13.9 inches

Width

13.9 inches

Dust bin capacity

0.8 gallons

Weight

8.7 pounds

Left Roomba 960 accessories

Right Roomba 980 accessories

Roomba 960 vs. 980 accessories

Here are the accessories included with the Roomba 960 and 980:

  • A charging base
  • A spinning brush
  • A virtual wall barrier
  • A HEPA filter
Charging base

This station comes with a base unit and a charging cord. Both Roombas have a Recharge & Resume feature that notifies them to return to the charging base when needed and complete their cleaning job (if it hasn’t already been completed) after they’re done charging.

Spinning brush

This accessory helps keep the edges and corners in your home free of debris. These brushes will sweep debris into the path of the vacuum as it cleans.

Virtual wall barriers

Unlike the Roomba 960, the Roomba 980 comes with two dual-mode virtual wall barriers instead of one. These barriers are useful as they allow you to create invisible walls that your Roomba won’t pass through (perfect if you’re trying to prevent them from bumping into a pet bowl or delicate piece of furniture).

HEPA filter

Paired with AeroForce filtration, the HEPA filter traps microscopic particles and provides a better cleaning experience.

Cleaning tests

When comparing the Roomba 960 to the Roomba 980, we put both vacuums through a series of suction tests on high-pile carpet, low-pile carpet, and hard floors. For each floor type, we tested suction power using Cheerios, kitty litter, coffee grounds, and pet hair.

Roomba 960 cleaning score: 9.67/10

Roomba 980 cleaning score: 9.92/10

Test 1—Suction test on hard floors

The Roomba 960 and the 980 performed the same on hard floor surfaces, receiving a perfect score on this test. Neither vacuum had any trouble removing the Cheerios, kitty litter, coffee grounds, or pet hair. The Roomba 980 initially pushed away some of the substances with its side brush, but it quickly passed over them and suctioned up the mess.

Test 2—Suction test on high-pile carpet

Both vacuums performed similarly on the high-pile carpet, however, the Roomba 960 had to take one additional pass at the coffee grounds before completely removing them. We believe the Roomba 980’s Carpet Boost technology gave it the upper hand on carpet, as it removed all four substances without hesitation.

Test 3—Suction test on low-pile carpet

The only substance that presented an issue on low-pile carpet was the coffee grounds, which the Roomba 960 struggled to completely remove from the carpet, even after several passes. The 980 did a bit better with the coffee grounds, requiring only two passes to completely remove it from the carpet fibers. Both Roombas removed the other substances with ease.

Take a more in-depth look at Roomba 960 cleaning performance.

Take a more in-depth look at Roomba 980 cleaning performance.

Both Roombas come already assembled in the box. The only real setup you’ll have to complete is charging the vacuum before use, which usually takes between two to three hours.”

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How easy is it to use the Roomba 960 and Roomba 980?

Setup is simple for each vacuum: remove the product from the box and charge it completely before use (this usually takes around two hours). Once the vacuum is charged, you can start it by pressing the “CLEAN” button located on its interface, starting it through a button on the app, or scheduling it to clean through the app—it’s that simple.

Note: If you want to schedule the robot to clean through the app, you’ll need to enable Wi-Fi and pair it with the vacuum first. iRobot includes easy-to-follow instructions that detail how to do this.

Though connecting these vacuums to your home’s Wi-Fi network is recommended, it’s not required. If you don’t connect to the network, know that you won’t be able to use features like scheduled cleanings, edge cleaning mode, or Carpet Boost technology.

The same iRobot Home App is used for both models and is available on both iOS and Android.

Maneuverability

Both the Roomba 960 and the 980 have a 360-degree turning radius and an advanced navigation system that lets them easily maneuver around and under furniture. They both have a quality, onboard camera that lets them see obstacles in front of them, preventing them from bumping into objects and furniture. This feature is a big upgrade from older models that have a “bump-and-continue” cleaning approach.

Noise levels

The average noise level of a vacuum is between 78 and 80 decibels, however, robotic vacuums are generally much quieter than traditional vacuums. The Roomba 960 measured around 65 decibels while the Roomba 980 measured 67.1 decibels. Both of these noise levels are comparable to the sound of normal conversation.

Maintenance for the Roomba 960 and Roomba 980

Maintenance for both of these vacuums is incredibly easy. To ensure both vacuums stay in top shape, empty the dust bin whenever it gets full, check the brushrolls for tangles, and ensure the filters are in good working condition.

Emptying the vacuum

Emptying the dust canister for both vacuums can be done in less than 15 seconds. Simply remove the canister from the vacuum, open the plastic barrier, dump the contents into a trash bin (you can gently tap the canister against the edge of the bin to remove stubborn dust), and insert the canister back into position.

Checking the brushrolls

Check for any hair that’s gotten stuck in the side brush or rubber brushrolls at least once a week. If you find hair, remove it with the fine brush that’s included in the box. This will generally take three minutes to complete.

Accessory/part replacement

iRobot recommends replacing these Roomba 960 and 980 accessories and parts as follows:

  • HEPA filter—2 months
  • Spinning brush—6 months
  • Front wheel—12 months
  • Debris extractor—12–24 months
  • Battery—18–36 months
Filtration

The Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 have a HEPA AeroForce filter that should be replaced every two months for optimal filtration.

Here’s how to replace a Roomba filter:

  1. Press the large button located closest to you on the Roomba interface and remove the dust bin.
  2. With the dust bin completely detached, press the yellow tab on the right and remove the red plastic cover to access the filter.
  3. Pull on the yellow ribbon to remove the used filter and insert a new filter into the slot.

Battery

The Roomba 960 has a battery life of 75 minutes while the 980 can run for 120 minutes. The charge time for both vacuums is around two to three hours, but this may be longer depending on how long the Roomba has been left unused. When it comes time to recharge, both the 960 and the 980 will return to their docking stations. You can also press the HOME button on top of each Roomba to instruct them to return to their base.

Size
Charge time
Run time

Roomba 960 battery

Size

2,600 mAh

Charge time

2–3 hours

Run time

75 minutes

Roomba 980 battery

Size

3,300 mAh

Charge time

2–3 hours

Run time

120 minutes

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Roomba 960 value

Though the Roomba 960 doesn’t come with Carpet Boost Technology or an extra virtual wall barrier, this model still gives you great value for what it’s worth. It features iAdapt 2.0 navigation, advanced mapping, and easy app usage. If you’re okay with a shorter battery life and one less virtual wall barrier (which you can purchase separately online), we’d highly recommend getting the Roomba 960 over the 980.

Roomba 980 value

Unsurprisingly, we found the Roomba 980 to be more advanced and have better overall performance than the Roomba 960. The 980’s Carpet Boost technology, 120-minute battery life, and extra dual-mode virtual wall barrier are sophisticated features that we believe make this model a better robot vacuum overall. If you have a large home with several carpeted rooms and don’t mind the higher price tag, the Roomba 980 is a great choice.

Roomba 960 and Roomba 980 specifications

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the most important specifications for the Roomba 960 and Roomba 980.

Type
Manufacturer
Model
Length
Width
Height
Weight
Dust bin capacity
Charge time
Run time
Floor type
Carpet Boost Technology
Cordless
Bagless
Warranty

iRobot Roomba 960

Type

Robot

Manufacturer

iRobot

Model

Roomba 960

Length

13.8 inches

Width

13.8 inches

Height

3.6 inches

Weight

8.5 pounds

Dust bin capacity

0.08 gallons

Charge time

2–3 hours

Run time

75 minutes

Floor type

All floors

Carpet Boost Technology

No

Cordless

Yes

Bagless

Yes

Warranty

1-year limited

iRobot Roomba 980

Type

Robot

Manufacturer

iRobot

Model

Roomba 980

Length

13.9 inches

Width

13.9 inches

Height

3.6 inches

Weight

8.7 pounds

Dust bin capacity

0.8 gallons

Charge time

2–3 hours

Run time

120 minutes

Floor type

All floors

Carpet Boost Technology

Yes

Cordless

Yes

Bagless

Yes

Warranty

1-year limited

Roomba 960 vs. 980 differences

Some of the most notable differences are that the Roomba 980 comes with an extra dual-mode virtual wall barrier, an additional 45 minutes of battery life, and Carpet Boost technology. Here are some other differences worth noting:

  • The Roomba 960 uses an older motor (this is the one found in the Roomba 800 series).
  • The Roomba 960 has a much shorter battery life than the Roomba 980 (75 minutes compared to 120 minutes).
  • The Roomba 960 doesn’t have Carpet Boost Technology, while the 980 does.
  • The 980 comes with two virtual wall barriers instead of one.
  • The Roomba 960 has 5x suction power while the 980 has 10x suction power.
  • The 960 is more affordable than the 980.

Who should buy the Roomba 960?

We recommend the Roomba 960 if you’re looking for the following:

  • A robot vacuum that doesn’t break the bank—This vacuum basically has the same power as the 980 and does a similar job cleaning up messes. It also uses the same app and comes with advanced features like advanced mapping and navigation.
  • A decent battery life—The only real downside to the Roomba 960 is that it has a 75-minute battery life, which is 45 minutes shorter than the Roomba 980. However, if you have a smaller home or apartment, and don’t mind the 75-minute run time, the 960 is a great option. It’s also worth noting again that the Roomba will automatically go to its charging station when its battery is low and can continue its cleaning job after you tell it to in the app.

Who should buy the Roomba 980?

We recommend the Roomba 980 if you’re looking for the following:

  • The best robot vacuum on the market—Though this model has a hefty price tag, its cleaning performance, extended run time, and included accessories are unbeatable. It has everything the Roomba 960 has and more.
  • An additional virtual wall barrier—If you have multiple rooms you want to section off as your robot cleans, opt for the 980. It comes with two virtual wall barriers instead of one.
  • A robot vacuum that cleans carpets well—Most robot vacuums have a hard time cleaning carpets because of their size and low suction power. However, the 980 features Carpet Boost technology that increases suction power on carpets and rugs, providing a deeper clean.

Frequently asked questions

Is Neato better than Roomba?

Neato and Roomba both offer robot vacuums that can clean on carpets and hard floors. Neato robots are typically more affordable than Roombas, but Roombas are generally more technologically advanced and higher quality.

What is Roomba Carpet Boost?

Available only on the Roomba 980, Carpet Boost automatically increases suction power when the vacuum goes over carpets and rugs.

Do I have to use the iRobot HOME App?

No, but we recommend giving it a try. The app offers functions like scheduled cleanings, two cleaning passes, edge clean mode, and Carpet Boost (this feature is only available with the Roomba 980).

Will the Roomba fall down the stairs?

All Roombas are designed with cliff detection technology, so you don’t have to worry about your vacuum taking a plunge down your stairwell. If you don’t want to rely on the cliff detectors, you can always set up a dual-mode virtual wall barrier at the top of your stairwell for peace of mind.

Does a Roomba replace the need for a regular vacuum?

We believe Roombas provide outstanding all-around cleaning and were genuinely surprised by how well the 960 and the 980 performed. Despite their impressive cleaning performance, these robot vacuums don’t provide upholstery cleaning, nor do they come with attachments to clean tight spaces. One other factor that might make it difficult to rely on a Roomba as your only vacuum is the small dust canister. While Roombas are excellent at keeping up with pet hair, they require frequent canister emptying to prevent clogging.

If you’re merely looking for a robot vacuum for light, day-to-day cleaning, we think a Roomba is a solid choice. However, if you want a vacuum for more heavy-duty, entire-home cleaning, we recommend going with a traditional upright (our team loves the Dyson Ball Multi Floor 2).

About the author

Kealia is a staff writer and social media coordinator for House Method. She writes for a variety of beats, including home inspiration (her favorite), real estate, and home wellness.


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