iRobot Roomba 880 or 980

Written by  on October 30, 2016

Roomba 880 vs 980A proud owner of the iRobot flagship product, the Roomba 980, I was looking for another unit for a different location. Pricing on the 980 is still rather stiff, at $900, so I decided to look downmarket. A couple of years before iRobot released the 900 series (980 and 960), they put out the 880/860. And you know what – the mechanicals on the underbelly are identical – brushes, trash bin, etc.

Buying the 980 was a part of my ongoing ‘research’ into home IoT. The thing connects to the Internet via WiFi and can be controlled via a smartphone App, from anywhere in the world. It does sound kinda stupid, and it is. I’ve used the App exactly once, when I first bought the unit. Now, if it had a turret with a camera, and I could drive it around remotely, that’d be way different…

And it should be a Mars rover and shoot Nerf balls at the cat. Dream on.

There are two things that I can see that make 980 better in meaningful ways. A Lithium battery does promise twice the charge (runtime). Though I usually run out of the trash bin capacity before running out of charge. Also, the Lithium battery last longer, over the years. Well, a replacement NiCd battery for the 880 is $78 from iRobot and an off-brand part sells for $25.

980 has some kinda camera thingy on top and better magic algo to cover a larger area faster and more evenly, or so they say. But I’ve seen it get stuck plenty of times, over an edge of a carpet, or tangled in wires, or wedged under furniture. Or not being able to get out of a maze formed by table and chair legs.

The way I use my 980 is one or two rooms at a time. The idea of having the entire (two-story) house cleaned in one go is a stretch. If it had three times the trash bin and could fly, it may be a viable proposition.What I do love most about having the 980 is that it slides under the beds. And the joy I feel when coming back to a house that’s cleaner than when I left. I call it R2-D9 (for the 900 series) and adore it as a pet.

But this time I’m buying an 880. The 980 price did not come down any, while the 880 sells on Amazon for $480. Over 40% cheaper, after factoring in a replacement off-brand battery in a couple of years, it’s a better deal, and it sucks just as much. And the 880 has a remote, which will actually be useful, to find the puppy, once again stuck under furniture, or to tell it to go to its bowl (charging station).