If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what the winner is, then we recommend the Roomba i7.
The Roomba i7 is iRobot’s newest flagship robotic vacuum intended to replace the 980, already established as the top of the class. Does the i7 bring anything to the table that’s actually better than the Roomba 980? We peeled back the wrapper to examine the pros and cons of the Roomba i7 vs 980.
Things to Think About
These are both flagship machines, with the i7 intended to upgrade and eventually replace the 980. With a good reputation as a solid performer, the 980 doesn’t necessarily need a lot of improvement on its very successful design. The primary strengths of the i7 are in a new mapping system, a special base, and certain other improvements.
When you’re vacuum shopping at this level, there are certain minimum feature lists you should expect. The robotic vacuums in this class need to have premium mapping capability. They should be accessible through Wi-Fi. The suction power should be much more powerful than entry-level models.
If you’re concerned about the price of entry into this class of robot, these vacuums aren’t intended for you. Instead, have a look at either the Roomba 800 or 600 series, which are iRobot’s consumer value lines. These two robots are aimed at the upper end of the market. Here’s a checklist for the demanding shopper.
Robotic Vacuum Checklist
- Cleaning sessions should be easy to start and to schedule.
- Long battery service and sufficiently short charge times.
- Wi-Fi connection capability should be a standard feature nowadays.
- Low-profile design to clean under furniture, beds and cabinet overhangs.
About the Roomba i7
The i7 introduces several refinements. Among them are a new generation of navigation software and a brand-new mapping system.
- The suction system has ten times the power of the 600 Series.
- iAdapt 3.0 navigation is more systematic than previous systems.
- Imprint Smart Mapping allows scheduling separate rooms at different times.
- An optional charging station allows the robot to empty itself.
- It’s pricey.
- Its most impressive feature costs extra.
- The camera and sensors need frequent cleaning at first.
At 13.34 inches across, 3.63 inches tall and weighing 7.44 pounds, the i7 has a slightly smaller diameter than most Roombas and it’s lighter.
The Roomba i7 ships with the following accessories:
- Extra High-Efficiency Filter
- Home Base Charging Station
- Dual Mode Virtual Wall Barrier
- North American Line Cord
- Extra Side Brush
About the Roomba 980
Since its introduction, the Roomba 980 has essentially defined the top-shelf robotic vacuum. It’s powerful, reliable and enjoys a high level of consumer satisfaction. At present, pricing remains about the same as the base-level i7 without the self-emptying dock.
- Powerful cleaning system has ten times the power of the 600 Series.
- Efficient navigation with iAdapt 2.0
- Charge and resume feature sends the robot back to finish the job after recharging.
- This is an expensive vacuum.
- No ability to run separate room scheduling.
- There’s no available self-emptying option for the 980.
The Roomba 980’s diameter is 13.8 inches, it weighs 8.7 pounds and it’s 3.6 inches tall.
The 980 comes with:
- Two Dual Mode Virtual Wall Barriers
- One line cord
- Home Base charging station
- An extra filter
- One extra side brush
Other Roomba 980 comparisons:
Roomba i7 Features
Clean Base Self Emptying System
Anyone who knows me is used to hearing the phrase “If it just emptied itself, it would be perfect.” With the Roomba i7, iRobot has outdone themselves. Yes, my friends, there’s finally a robotic vacuum that can empty itself. I think I can finally retire, because now I’ve seen it all.
The optional Clean Base version of the Home Base charging station costs extra, but provides a special dust bin for the Roomba i7 with a port that docks into the Clean Base. A second vacuum inside the Clean Base suctions the dust bin contents to a much larger bag in the Clean Base. The Roomba i7 can be purchased together with the new base in a package called the Roomba i7+.
The iRobot website says the Clean Base bags can empty up to 60 bins from the i7. You could go weeks, maybe even a month or two without even having to touch your Roomba. This feature is definitely a game-changer. Every robotic vacuum maker has to come up with a self-emptying model soon, or risk being left behind by the market.
Powerful Suction System
With ten times the suction power of the entry-level Roomba vacuums, the Roomba i7 delivers markedly better cleaning performance than the lower series machines, especially on deep-pile carpeting.
The new iAdapt 3.0 outperforms the iAdapt 2.0 system in two critical ways. First, it can map out 10 separate floor plans. Second, it can upload those maps to cloud storage, ready to retrieve when needed. The vSLAM navigation logic constantly measures its surroundings, yielding 230,400 measurements per second.
Imprint Smart Mapping
This is an intelligent map retrieval system that allows the robot to track changes in your home and adapt its maps to reflect those changes. Coupled with the Smart Home mobile app, Imprint allows you to decide which room you want to clean.
Each room can be scheduled for cleaning on its own day of the week. The new Keep Out Zones feature functions in the same way as the Virtual Wall system, but uses Imprint Smart Mapping to ignore obstacles or areas of your home on command.
The high-grade HEPA filters in the Roomba i7 can trap up to 99 percent of dog- and cat-based allergens inside the machine.
3300 mAh Battery
The Roomba i7 sports a big 3300 mAh battery, twice the size of the 980 and rated for a two-hour run time. In spite of the extra performance, this battery takes the same amount of time to charge as the battery in the 980.
Roomba 980 Features
The 900 Series has been the reference series for the entire industry for a number of years. The 980 has been very popular, with good owner satisfaction ratings and a proven reliability record. Because these machines share the same target market, they share many of the same features.
The iAdapt 2.0 navigation system was a vast improvement over the original iAdapt software. The first version had the robots zigging and zagging all over the room until they had it mapped. Route optimization was only implemented at a bare minimum level.
The iAdapt 2.0 version changed all that for the better.
The 980 and other iAdapt 2.0 robots now map the room quickly and operate in uniform, regular passes in straight-line overlapping patterns. However, the Roomba 980 can’t clean a specific room on command or schedule different rooms on different days because it has to rebuild its map every time it starts a new session.
Ten Times the Suction of Entry Level
The Roomba 980 uses the third-generation vacuum motor, delivering ten times the suction power of the lower series and five times the suction of the Roomba 960.
Charge and Resume
This feature is essential to the efficient operation of a robotic vacuum, in my opinion. With a large home or a complicated floorplan, the robot will sense its battery running down and return to the charging station.
Where the high-end robots shine is in returning to work after a partial charge to get the job done. Lower-level robotic vacuums will return to the charger, but often won’t start cleaning again until the next scheduled session.
Virtual Wall System
The Virtual Wall system isn’t offered on the i7, but the Roomba 980 comes with two Dual-Mode Virtual Wall barriers. This is a simple way to lay out your home. The barriers tell the robot to remain behind an infrared beam until the area is clean, then allow the robot to move on to the next sector.
This expandable system allows more barriers to be added into the home layout. The Virtual Wall barriers are available separately on the iRobot Roomba Store.
iRobot Smart Home Mobile App
Wi-Fi connectivity lets you command the robot to start cleaning through the Smart Home app, schedule cleaning sessions, check the dust bin level and receive notifications from the robot for job status or to ask for help.
The Smart Home app is also available for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, enabling voice command capability. Once the robot is linked to these digital assistants, you can even name your Roomba.
Roomba Owner Reports
One of my favorite pastimes is forum lurking to secretly read the tales offered up by robotic vacuum owners about their machines. Lots of Roomba owners have named their machines, it turns out. Names like Rosie, HAL, Robbie, and Wal-E are as common as you would expect, but just as many owners give their robots family names like Bob, Suzy and Ralph.
Here are some owner stories about the Roomba i7:
- Nathan from Kansas City says the Roomba i7 is the “First robot vacuum worth buying.”
- Roomba in Gretna, Virginia says “Happy wife, happy life!!”
- Derwin in Seattle says “8 months in – still haven’t had to touch my Roomba”
- Sand in Toronto gushes “Roomba Boomba!” about her robot Ralph.
Like most other Roomba models, owners were pretty happy with their Roomba 980 robots, too.
- Dan from Florida writes “Our Roomba “Robby” does an incredible job. We Love him !”
- Eva in Carolina, Puerto Rico gives five stars to “My great cleaning tool. Charlie.”
- JJ from Australia says “Best product I’ve purchased.”
Roomba i7 vs 980: Here’s the Bottom Line
Both of these vacuums are highly capable, well-built and have a legion of satisfied, loyal customers. The i7, however, has the latest upgrades in Roomba technology like the iAdapt 3.0 navigation, the Imprint Map technology and of course, the optional self-emptying charge station. All of that technology in one spot carries a significant cost, however.
The Roomba 980 is field-proven and market-leading. It’s one of the best robot vacuums available, if not the best one outright. It’s got a great mapping and navigation system, and the Virtual Wall barriers can custom-tailor your cleaning sessions to your exact needs without spending a lot of money.
Some things are the same on the Roomba i7 vs 980 models. Both have the same AeroVac technology paired with the Generation 3 vacuum motor. This system yields ten times the suction of the entry-level series and five times the suction of the Roomba 960.
Both models use the vSLAM system (visual Simultaneous Localization Area Mapping) to map out the floorplan and remember where they were at before recharging. This system means that each of these robots has a camera for visual navigation. This camera must be kept clean or the robot can’t find its way around.
Both machines offer sophisticated mapping, even though each is using a different system. What both offer is the ability to check on what’s been cleaned so far.
The biggest difference is the persistent mapping ability offered by the Roomba i7 vs 980 mapping that has to be recalculated every time the machine runs. With persistent mapping and the ability to store 10 different floorplans, the i7 can run on every floor of a building or even in different buildings and still know where it is when you set it down.
Obviously, the optional charging base is quite a difference, but it does cost a good amount extra. Without the Clean Base emptying system, the i7 and 980 are comparable on price. The 980 has an established track record and while its navigation and mapping are slightly more primitive than the i7, we know for sure this system will get the job done.
On the other hand, the i7, even without the Clean Base recharger and emptier, does have game-changing technology with its persistent mapping system, which allows you to send the robot to clean a specific place at a specific time.
The Roomba 980 can’t do this because it can’t store mapping in the cloud like the i7 can. However, if you don’t have an internet router or another way to get online via Wi-Fi, the i7 isn’t able to store or recall its maps, making the 980 a more attractive choice.
I’m recommending the i7 because it has the same performance and adds some game-changing features. You can buy the machine without the Clean Base to save some money, then add it later if you want it. In the meantime, you’d have all the good stuff the 980 has, plus the map storage in the cloud and more sophisticated navigation.
I really don’t think you can go wrong choosing the Roomba i7 in this comparison.
- The Roomba i7 is compatible with a Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal so your i7 robot vacuum can empty its own bin. (Clean Base sold separately)
- Power-Lifting Suction delivers 10X the air power* for improved pick-up performance. Premium 3-Stage Cleaning System cleans the dirt and pet hair you see and the allergens and dust you don't. *(Compared to Roomba 600 Series)
- Imprint Smart Mapping enables the robot to learn, map and adapt to your home. If crumbs spill on the floor as you’re racing out the door, you can simply tell the Roomba i series robot to immediately clean the kitchen either using your Alexa or the Google Voice Assistant.
- Intelligently maps and remembers multiple floor plans to clean your entire home. Patented iAdapt 3.0 technology with vSLAM navigation actively captures thousands of precise measurements to optimize coverage. Keep Out Zones let you control areas that you want the robot to avoid.
- Imprint Link Technology allows Roomba i7 and Braava jet m6 robots to automatically clean in sequence – vacuuming and then mopping.