With so many models to choose from, the name Roomba has almost become synonymous with robot vacuums. iRobot, the company behind Roombas, has nearly a dozen different versions of automated house-cleaners. But how do you know which is the best for you?
SKIP AHEAD Best Roomba robot vacuums
By looking at best practices for choosing a robot vacuum and the different features Roomba offers, it can be easier to figure out which one fits your needs, space and budget. For starters, let’s consider what a robot vacuum gives you and what features actually matter.
How to shop for a robot vacuum
Everyone’s needs are different, which means a robovac is not a one-size-fits-all. When shopping for one, it’s important to think about your individual circumstances. For instance, do you have a large home with multiple levels? Do you have pets? Is your house mostly carpeted or do you have bare floors? Are you at home most of the day? To help you understand the different features of each Roomba, Select reached out to Jason Williams, senior corporate communications specialist at iRobot, to find out what factors are most important to consider when buying one.
“Suction does not always equate to better cleaning,” says Williams. “Suction is only one factor in a complex cleaning equation that includes agitation, type of debris, air path, sealing, etc.,” he says. While some vacuums provide numerical measurements for their suction power, iRobot does not, he said. Instead, it offers up more vague terms like "5x the cleaning power" or “40x the suction power.” Still, paying attention to how each model compares to the others can help you determine which one is right for your level of mess. For example, if you have pets that shed, you may want the stronger suction. Only notice a little dirt on your floors? One of the lower cleaning power models may be just fine. Alongside suction power, other cleaning features to be aware of are brushless rollers (which can be good for picking up pet hair, according to the brand) or allergen filters, which trap pollen and mold allergens inside once they’re picked up, says iRobot.
Williams says there are two navigation methods that Roomba vacuums use to move about the house. One is “multipass/random bounce,” he said. “[These] use input from sensors on the robot, like bump sensors in the robot’s bumper, to execute pre-programmed behaviors.” He said the Roomba 600 series uses this type of navigation. “It works well in smaller spaces, like dorm rooms, studios and apartments where they tend to cover areas of the floor multiple times,” he said. Another type of navigation, which iRobot uses on most of its newer, smart-mapping Roomba vacuums, is called vision-based navigation, or visual simultaneous localization and mapping (vSLAM), said Williams. “These models are able to systematically navigate and clean in a corn row fashion,” he said.
Williams said that like any vacuums, Roombas make noise. “However, compared with a traditional upright vacuum, Roomba vacuums tend to be quieter,” he said, adding that iRobot’s Smart Mapping robots have a feature called Quiet Drive, meaning that when the robot transitions from room to room or to and from its base, it shuts off its vacuum motor. “The goal of this is to limit noise output when it isn’t actively running,” said Williams.
“Software is what sets robot vacuums apart from one another,” said Williams. iRobot’s smart Roombas (all except for the 614 and 860 models) are powered by iRobot OS. The iRobot Home App allows users to monitor and control the vacuum from their phone or other device, controlling where, when and how their home is cleaned, said Williams. According to him, Roombas can understand 600-plus voice commands via Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri; the Roomba J Series recognizes and avoids more than 80 common objects, including shoes, clothes, cables, backpacks and solid pet waste; and the Roomba J, S and I series have Smart Mapping capability, which allows users to schedule their Roomba to clean specific rooms or label them as “keep-out zones.”
As one of the most popular robot vacuum brands, it's generally easier to find replacement parts for Roomba vacuums, which will enable you to keep it in good shape for longer. But Williams recommends regularly cleaning and replacing air filters, inspecting and cleaning the rollers and occasionally wiping down the sensors on the bottom of each robot.
Which Roomba robot vacuum is right for you
To help you decide which Roomba is best for you, Select asked Williams to pinpoint certain features that are most helpful in certain environments or situations, including best Roombas for pet owners, best Roombas for small spaces, best Roombas for large homes and best Roombas for homes with mostly carpeting.
Best Roombas for small spaces
According to Williams, the Roomba 600 series is “great for dorms, small homes, apartments and condos because they run on battery power and have only a 60-minute runtime before automatically heading back to home base to recharge. The iRobot 600 series contain its most basic models, with the Roomba 614 being the most affordable at under $300. It has a three-stage cleaning system that loosens, lifts and suctions dirt, dust and hair from hard floors and carpet, according to the brand. It also has an Edge Sweeping Brush that is specially designed to sweep debris away from edges and corners.
The Roomba 675 is the exact same as the Roomba 614, just with the addition of Wi-Fi features, says the brand. Using the iRobot Home App, you can program the 675 right from your phone to start or stop cleaning, or with your voice through Alexa and Google Assistant. It learns your cleaning habits and suggests schedules to meet your needs, says the brand, and also recommends extra cleaning during allergy season.
The Roomba 694 was released in 2020 and has all the same features as the 675, just with a larger dustbin and a more sophisticated look.
With just a 75-minute runtime, this is another iRobot model that would be better in a smaller space, said Williams, though it is a step up from the 600 series. The Roomba i series are equipped with tracking sensors, so instead of random navigation around your home, the i series can clean bare floors and carpeting in neat, straight lines, says the brand. It also has Smart Mapping, which means it learns your home and stores an imprint of your home in its memory so it can clean any room you want, any time you want—either on a set schedule or on demand, whether you’re home or away, says iRobot. The Roomba i3 EVO is a standalone vacuum, but the i3+EVO comes with a self-emptying dock.
Best Roombas for pet owners
“These can detect and avoid pet bowls, pet toys and pet waste,” says Williams, adding that they also come with iRobot’s Pet Owner Official Promise (POOP), which means if the robot hits solid pet waste, iRobot will replace it free of charge. The Roomba j7 adds to the i3's functionality by using a camera to map your house, allowing you to tell it to clean a specific room or even a specific area of a room (like "under the couch") as needed. Like the i3, there’s an elevated plus version that comes equipped with a self-emptying dock.
Recognizing that most homes have a combination of carpeting and bare floors, iRobot just launched its first 2-in-1 robot vacuum-and-mop combo in September, said WIlliams. The Roomba Combo j7+ offers all the same features as the j7+, including the iRobot’s Pet Owner Official Promise, but it also mops and vacuums bare floors at the same time. According to the brand, this is the only robot vacuum-and-mop combination that can easily transition from carpet to bare floors because it has an automatic, fully retractable mop that prevents wet carpet messes. The Combo j7+ also empties itself.
For a more budget-friendly option, pet owners should consider the Roomba e5 with Wi-Fi. It is similar to the 600 models in that it uses random navigation. However, it does have increased suction power and two brushless rollers — a design tweak that makes it more effective at cleaning hair without getting tangled — and an allergen filter, making it ideal for pet owners, according to the brand.
Best Roomba for carpeted homes
If your home is mostly carpeted, Williams said the Wi-Fi-connected self-emptying Roomba s9+ is your best bet. That’s because this is iRobot’s “most powerful, deepest-cleaning robot vacuum,” he said. “[The s9+] motor is 40 times more powerful than the Roomba 600 series and will increase its power automatically on carpet and rugs,” said Williams. He added that the Roomba s9+ also has dual, counter-rotating rubber rollers that are 30% wider than the 600 series. It has a slightly different shape (it has a rounded square front) that allows it to get into corners more easily and is designed with anti-allergen filters built in, making it great for pet owners, according to the brand. Like the i series, it's available as a standalone vacuum or in a plus model with the self-emptying dock.
The iRobot Mops
Braava Robot Mops (out of stock)
In 2016 iRobot launched a series of automated mops under the Braava name. Like a Roomba, a Braava mop will clean your floors for you, using a spray-and-wipe method. The more affordable Braava 380t offers basic mopping capabilities. The top-end Braava m6 provides more adjustments, custom mapping and can even integrate with certain Roomba models so the two can clean in tandem. They've received some good reviews, despite being less popular than their vacuum cousins, and now iRobot is offering the mops with a Roomba vacuum in a bundle offer.
CORRECTION (Dec. 2, 2022, 2:50 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the year iRobot launched its Braava mops; it was in 2016, not 2021. This article also misstated what model uses a camera to map your house; it is the Roomba j7, not the Roomba i7. And the article misquoted Jason Williams on vSLAM models and navigational cameras. The models do use a navigational camera; he had said they do not. The quote has been corrected.