Welcome to Brand Breakdown, a series of comprehensive yet easy-to-digest guides to your favorite companies, with insights and information you won’t find on the average About page.
There's only one Roomba out there, and it's made by iRobot. The brand's dominance in the early days of robot vacuuming was so complete its name went the way of Kleenex and Rollerblade – a shorthand generic trademark for entire industries.
Founded in 1990 by a trio of Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticists, iRobot started with the Genghis, an insect-like robot designed for space exploration. Richard Brooks, the designer of the Genghis, and one of the founders of iRobot, wanted to build a robot that could intuitively respond to its environment. As Brooks wrote in the Journal of The British Interplanetary Society, self-learning robots are more effective than humans and could complete missions, like chores, more efficiently.
For a device with seemingly simple task – roll around the floor and suck up dirt, dust and hair – there are a lot of Roombas to choose from. We broke down each series and model to hopefully help you make a better, more informed purchase from the leading brand in robo-vacuums.
The brand's entry-level model is the Roomba 614, with a $250 price tag. The 614 uses a three-step cleaning system that loosens, lifts and suctions dirt, debris and grime. Its multi-surface brushes work on carpet and hardwood floors. The dual brushes work together to get into rug and carpet piles to loosen up and extract dirt.
Dirt Detect sensors recognize especially dirty areas, and the Roomba's Cliff Detect prevents it from tumbling down stairs. With 90 minutes of power (on hardwood floors), the entry-level 614 gives users a taste of other models' capabilities, but doesn’t come with the suite of smart technology and app-driven connectivity that comes standard with more premium (and newer) models.
The Roomba 675 is essentially the same as the 614 with added Wi-Fi capabilities. Control the vacuum with the free Roomba Home app so you don't have to bend over and manually start the cleaning process. If you have a smart home device, you can tell Alexa or Google to start up the Roomba. Plus, through the app, you can schedule the 675 to clean on a schedule so you can effectively take "vacuuming" off your to-do list.
Designed for pet owners, the e5 is the most effective Roomba for picking up after cats and dogs for one simple design feature: treaded rubber rollers that are especially good at picking up pesky pet hair. Its other standout feature is the filtration system, which the brand claims captures 99 percent of allergens (mold and dust mites). It can be operated manually or via your smartphone, too.
The 900 series begins to enter the more premium Roomba models. Namely, the 960 has the ability to map out your home. By having map of your home's layout, the 960 navigates and cleans your home faster than non-mapping models. Plus, compare to the 600 series models, the 960 has five-times the suction power. This model retains the Roomba e's dual rubber brushes and its filtration system, though it does have a shorter runtime — 75 minutes compared to the prior models' 90-minute runtime (though it does use its time more wisely).
The i3 is Roomba's latest model, and it was released to be a more affordable option to the older i7. It has comparable suction power to its pricier counterpart, as well as smart navigation, which utilizes the i3's floor tracking sensors to get the device to move in rows while simultaneously mapping out your home for efficient future cleaning.
Because the i3 is Roomba's entry-level smart robot vacuum, its price tag is much lower than its higher-end counterparts like the i7 and s9. It also means that adding on the self-cleaning dust dock doesn't tack on as much to the price tag. As of publishing, the i3+ is the same price as the i7. So if you really want to flex with your home appliances, you can do it with the i3+ with a lower price tag than other self-emptying Roombas.
The i7 has 10-times the suction power of the entry-level Roombas and the same functionalities as the 960. The i7 uses the a next-level home mapping system, iAdapt 3.0, versus the 960's iAdapt 2.0. It can map up to 10 unique floor plans for those in a multi-level home. Users can create "Keep Out Zones" to prevent the Roomba from buzzing through specific areas (like a thicket of cables). Plus, if you have the Roomba's smart wet mopping robot, the Braava m6, you can program the device to automatically power on after the Roomba is finished.
The addition of a plus to the i7 means you're getting iRobot's Automatic Dirt Disposal dock, which allows the i7 to empty its own dust bin. If you vacuum every day, the dock can hold up to 60 days worth of dirt. Dirt disposal bags cost anywhere between $15 to $20 for a three-pack. If you bought the i7 and later decide to add the automatic dirt disposal dock, you can buy the self-emptying dock separately. The model is the same as the standard i7 otherwise.
If you're looking to lose your lunch today, go to Youtube and look for "roomba pet poop." (Just kidding. Don't do it, and take our word for it.) Roombas and other robot vacuums are notorious for running straight into pet droppings and spreading it around the home. The j7+ avoids this by using PrecisionVision Navigation to avoid obstacles in its way. Over time, the robo vac will learn what parts of your home need more cleaning and what floor obstacles to avoid. The j7+ also has features like Clean While I'm Away, which uses your phone's location services to determine when you've left your home so it can start cleaning; Quiet Drive, which makes the vacuum as quiet as possible when you need some cleaning but also some quiet time; and Cleaning Time Estimates, to give you a ballpark estimate of how long a cleaning session will take.
The Roomba s9 is the apex of all the Roomba models. It totes 40-times the suction of the 614, with 40-percent wider brushes and double the runtime. A special five-armed corner brush reaches dirt stuck in corners, brushing it towards the vacuum's suction. The s9 is the first Roomba to employ Power Boost Technology, which automatically increases suction when vacuuming over carpet.
It's the s9 combined with Roomba's Automatic Dirt Disposal dock. For those who seek a deep clean and want to do as little work as possible, get the s9+.