Busy households require products that offer convenient, efficient ways to keep up with home maintenance. Short of Mary Poppins showing up at the door, a robot vacuum may be your best option for getting some cleaning done with little to no effort.
A name synonymous with these hands-free cleaners is Roomba. The Roomba product line by iRobot comes in a variety of small but effective vacuums with smart features such as household mapping, as well as app, Wi-Fi, and voice control integrations. However, iRobot has several models, so it can be difficult to choose the best Roomba to suit your needs. Whether you’re looking to mop the floor or lift pet hair from the carpet, there’s a model to tackle a multitude of household cleaning goals.
- BEST OVERALL: iRobot Roomba i7+ (7550)
- RUNNER-UP: iRobot Roomba i3 (3150)
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: iRobot Roomba 694
- BEST MULTIPURPOSE: iRobot Roomba E5 (5150)
- BEST FOR SMART MAPPING: iRobot Roomba 981
- BEST FOR PET HAIR: iRobot Roomba s9+ (s955020)
- BEST FOR MOPPING: iRobot Braava Jet M6 (6110)
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Roomba
One great thing about Roombas is that there’s a model to suit every size home and budget. Options will vary greatly in each product’s smart features, suction power, battery life, and cleaning capabilities. Before selecting the best Roomba for your needs, consider your cleaning goals and review these common shopping considerations.
Navigation and Mapping
All Roombas include obstacle sensors and can detect areas with dirt and debris, but higher-end models will have more advanced navigation and mapping systems. Some can map an entire home, which can then be used to specify cleaning areas through a downloadable app.
Users can give specific areas names such as “living room” or “kitchen” for custom schedules and voice activation. For instance, if there are crumbs under the kitchen table, users can tell their Roomba to “clean under the kitchen table.” Areas of the home where children or pets might be playing can be set as “off-limit” areas. The vacuum’s “clean map reports” allow the user to see where the Roomba cleaned and for how long.
Mapping is just one of the Roomba’s many smart capabilities. The iRobot Home app lets owners have complete control over their cleaning schedule and preferences directly from their smartphone or tablet. Users can activate their Roomba while away from home or schedule it to start cleaning at a specified time. The app will also log the machine’s cleaning history so users can keep track of which areas have been vacuumed. To use the convenient voice activation feature, most models are compatible with Alexa or Google Home. As an added bonus, some models can also be linked with iRobot’s smart mops for coordinated cleaning.
Roombas all come equipped with a self-charging feature, so when they are low on battery power, these smart devices will return to their charging stations. Some include a “recharge and resume” feature so that the device can continue cleaning where it left off, but others will have to be reset to cleaning mode.
The most advanced models will even dispose of their own dirt. The company’s “clean base” feature captures the contents of the dustbin when the Roomba returns to the dock for charging.
All iRobot vacuums use a three-stage cleaning system to loosen, lift, and suction dirt and debris; however, the power will vary depending on the Roomba. Higher-end models will have the greatest amount of suction power. For instance, the i7 has 10 times the suction power of the 600 series; therefore, users looking for a heftier clean may want to choose a model with this in mind.
A Roomba, however, won’t match the power of or replace a standard vacuum. The suction power doesn’t stand up to these larger devices, and the collected debris is pulled into a small internal dustbin with limited capacity.
Since most rooms have furniture and objects scattered throughout, the best Roombas will be able to internally map and adjust the cleaning pattern accordingly. Roombas that include cameras and mapping will get to know the environment and potential obstacles, then utilize that data to create adaptive cleaning patterns. Those without cameras and smart mapping will rely on sensors to feel their way around, and will move in neat rows for cleaning.
Roombas use “dirt detect” technology to focus their cleaning efforts, so a unit may spend longer in one area until the sensors detect fewer particles. Models will have varying placement of the sensors and will therefore move differently. Robots that have the sensors in the rear will move back and forth when detecting dirt, while those with only front ones may move in a more circular pattern.
Most Roomba models are equipped with the multiroom cleaning features, which allow the device to clean in zones versus one room at a time. An “edge cleaning” mode makes sure dust and debris are picked up along the perimeter and around furniture. Some machines will also include custom cleaning preferences, which allow the user to adjust cleaning modes, power settings, number of cleaning passes, and the edge clean, all from the app.
Some robot vacuums are made to suit certain surfaces better than others. Overall, however, robot vacuums tend to be most effective in uncluttered areas on solid surfacing or on low- to medium-pile carpeting. Shag and other high-pile rugs may have too high of a threshold for the robot to pass over, or the fibers could clog the brush. Many Roombas will easily transition from carpeting to solid flooring such as hardwoods or tile; however, shoppers who have thicker carpet may want to choose options with higher suction, a larger dustbin, and a longer battery life. Some models will even feature an automated higher suction setting for deep cleaning carpets.
Some options will work more effectively with darker floors, most likely due to the cliff sensors mistaking the dark for a drop-off. For hard surfaces, the company also manufactures mopping robots that also include smart features to work in conjunction with their vacuuming counterparts.
Similar to other cordless vacuums, different Roomba models will have varying runtimes depending on the battery life. The battery life will generally range from 60 minutes with more basic versions to about 120 minutes at the higher end. Those who want their Roomba to cover more square footage may want to choose a model with a longer battery life, or perhaps two robots to cover different zones or floors.
The self-charging feature makes it easy to recharge the battery once it gets low. For the ultimate hands-off experience, choose a model with a “recharge and resume” feature.
There are some bonus features to consider when selecting the model best suited to your cleaning needs. A tangle-free roller is especially handy for those with pets, as its extractors lift pet hair and other debris without it getting caught in the Roomba’s brushes. Another beneficial extra for families with pets or those sensitive to allergens is a high-efficiency filter that can efficiently capture dander, pollen, and other tiny particles.
Robot vacuums also have the perk of the compact size and low height for picking up debris underneath furniture. For those sensitive to noise, Roombas are generally quieter to operate than most standard vacuums. The loudest models top out around 70 decibels, which is just slightly louder than the average conversation.
Our Top Picks
The best Roomba vacuum will have enough suction power and smart capabilities to meet the needs of its user. Whether you’re looking for a crumb finder or a pet hair attacker, these top picks can help shoppers pick the best Roomba.
Standard features such as iRobot’s three-stage cleaning system and dirt detector sensors pair with advanced suction power and smart navigation to make this Roomba a top choice. Compared with earlier models, such as the 600 series, the i7+ has 10 times the suction power.
The smart navigation system learns the layout of the home and builds smart maps so that users can create and automate their cleaning schedule. Programming preferences can be done through the iRobot Home app and through voice prompts with Google or Alexa voice assistant devices.
For homes with pets, a dual multisurface rubber brush allows for easy release of hair to avoid tangling, while a high-efficiency filter traps 99 percent of dander and other common allergens. A recharge and resume feature automatically activates after about 90 minutes of battery use.
Like the i7, the i3 has 10 times the power of the 600 series and coordinates with the iRobot app. The main difference is that this unit doesn’t map specific areas, so it won’t be able to recognize different zones.
Users can set a schedule through the app and track where the Roomba has cleaned or use voice control to turn it on or off. Sensor technology helps the Roomba avoid getting stuck, and dirt detector sensors simplify cleaning up messes. This model is also great for cleaning up pet hair, thanks to its multisurface rubber brush and high-efficiency filter.
Through the company’s Imprint Link technology, the i3 coordinates with the Braava Jet M6 robot mop so users can vacuum and then mop in sequence. When it’s running low on battery—after about 75 minutes of runtime—the Roomba will automatically recharge and resume.
Coordination with the iRobot app allows users some typically higher-end features such as online scheduling and voice activation with Google or Alexa assistants. Though the 694 has lower suction than some more advanced models, its three-stage cleaning system and multisurface brush lift dirt efficiently, while an “edge sweeping” brush tackles corners and edges.
Although this unit doesn’t come with mapping capabilities, adaptive navigation keeps it from bumping into furniture or falling down stairs. Dirt detecting sensors allow for more thorough cleaning.
The 694 is ideal for smaller areas and will work best in rooms without clutter. An auto-adjust cleaning head helps the unit transition easily from carpet to hardwood floors. It will run for up to 90 minutes before automatically recharging, but it will need to be reset before its next run.
The E5 is a good midrange option with five times the suction power of the 600 series, but still slightly less than the i7 and i3. It lacks smart mapping, but features advanced sensors to help it navigate around furniture and along edges. It includes dirt detecting sensors for more exact cleaning.
Wi-Fi connectivity allows users to sync with the iRobot app and voice activation devices. Other higher-end features include the dual rubberized brush and high-efficiency filter, making this bot a good choice for homes with pets and dander. The unit will run for up to 90 minutes before automatically docking and recharging.
This unit actively captures thousands of measurements in order to identify different rooms and areas of the home. Once the home is mapped, users can use the app or voice control to guide the unit to specific areas and cleaning tasks. It vacuums in neat rows using floor tracking sensors to navigate and dirt detecting sensors to clean up dust and debris. This model will also coordinate with the Braava Jet M6 for automated mopping after vacuuming.
The suction on this unit is 10 times higher than models in the 600 series and can be automatically increased to clean deep into carpets with the company’s Power Boost technology. The 981 includes Roomba pet-friendly features, including a multisurface rubber brush and a high-efficiency filter. It will run for about 75 minutes before returning to the dock where it will recharge and resume cleaning.
The S9 is the newest model Roomba and among the priciest, but its upgrades make it extremely efficient for pet-loving households. A three-stage cleaning system delivers 40 times the suction rate of the Roomba 600 series, and its new D-shaped body optimizes cleaning edges and corners. For deep carpet cleaning, it will automatically increase its suction. When the dustbin is full, the unit will dispose of its contents in the included dirt disposal base.
This robot features the company’s smart mapping technology and sensors that are made to scan ahead at a rate of 25 times per second to detect obstacles in its path. This bundle comes with an extra edge-sweeping brush and a filter to keep up in homes with the most pet hair.
While this one isn’t exactly a Roomba, it’s certainly in the family. Meant for use on hardwood, tile, or stone floors, the M6 is perfect for cleaning spills and other messes. Similar to iRobot’s vacuums, their automated M6 mop features smart mapping and coordinated app control. Users can pair the app to voice control devices in order to direct the bot to quickly clean up specified areas. Sensors allow it to easily navigate obstacles and avoid stairs.
For a true hands-off cleaning experience, this bot can connect to select Roomba models to automatically trigger mopping after a vacuum cycle. It comes with dry sweeping as well as wet mopping pads. The robot will automatically adjust its cleaning cycle to whichever type pad is attached.
FAQs About Roombas
Now that you’ve learned the differences between a variety of Roomba models, you may be wondering if you can run two at the same time or if your vacuum can work in the dark. Get the answers to these and other commonly asked questions about Roomba robot vacuums.
Q. How do Roombas work with rugs?
Roombas work well with low- to medium-pile carpeting. The higher the suction power, the more efficient your Roomba will be on rugs. Keep in mind that deep carpet cleaning may also drain the battery faster than use on solid surfaces.
Q. Can I use two Roombas at the same time?
Using two Roombas at the same time is not only possible but can be very handy when cleaning two floors. For use on the same floor, smart mapping will make it easier to send your units to different zones. Users can have up to 10 robots connected in their iRobot Home app.
Q. Can Roombas go over thresholds?
The maximum height of a threshold that all Roomba models can transition over while cleaning is ⅝-inch or 1.6 centimeters.
Q. Can Roombas work in the dark?
Roombas with cameras will not work efficiently in the dark. Models that use sensors to get around instead of cameras, like the i3, can navigate without any light.
Q. How do I reset a Roomba?
To reset your Roomba i and 900 series, you’ll need to press and hold the “clean” button on your robot for 10 to 20 seconds depending on the model. For the 600 and e series, you’ll need to press and hold the “home” and “spot clean” buttons for 10 seconds.