Although the Roomba wasn’t the first robot vacuum created, it’s probably the most groundbreaking and best-known brand. Home appliance brands Electrolux and Dyson tried before, but it was in 2002, when the robotics company iRobot gave it a go with their signature Roomba, that the robot vacuum truly started to become mainstream.
To this day, Roomba is the most recognizable name in robot vacuums, to the point that it’s synonymous with the category the same way that Kleenex is for tissues. Many other companies have joined the competition, and there are worthy products from brands like Samsung, Shark and Roborock. Yet iRobot keeps setting the standard for the robot vacuum industry with the Roomba brand.
The company has made many Roomba models over the years and still offers a decent variety ranging from well over $1,000 to under $300. You can even find cheaper prices if you’re willing to go with older Roomba models that have barely any differences to current ones.
While there are many good robot vacuums now on the market from other brands, some shoppers simply want a device with the Roomba name on it, along with the quality the brand is known for. If you fall into this group, which Roomba should you get? Here are some factors to think about as you try to figure out the best Roomba model for your household and budget.
iRobot Roomba buying guide
All iRobot models have a few things in common, starting with reliability and a one-year warranty. They all have obstacle sensors and can detect concentrated areas of dirt. Also — with the exception of the lower-priced Roomba 614 — all Roomba models are compatible with Alexa or Google Home and the iRobot Genius smartphone app.
However, there are some other factors that differentiate Roomba models and can help you choose the best model for you:
• Mapping and customization. All models avoid obstacles and attack extra dirty spots, but not all can be fully customized to your home. The more expensive i7 and s9 can map the entirety of your house, and you can set up specific areas the robot vacuum can either avoid or visit frequently through your phone app. You can also modify commands so that you can activate the vacuum through a smart speaker and tell it to clean a specific place, such as the “guest bathroom” or “living room carpet.” You can make custom schedules for these areas too.
Other Roombas have the ability to be activated through smart speakers or scheduled to clean, but can’t be customized to go to specific areas.
• Power. iRobot uses its base 600 series as the standard in terms of suction power, and then compares it to other, more powerful and higher-priced models. The e5, for example, has 5x the power of the 600 series; the i3 and i7, 10x the power; the s9, a whopping 40x the power.
Unfortunately, iRobot doesn’t provide any actual measurements of power or pressure such as Pascals (Pa) or air flow (CFM), often found in other brands.
• Cleaning style. Roombas come in two available cleaning pattern configurations. The more expensive models (i3, i7 and s9) clean in parallel strokes, reaching the end of a room in a straight line, then turning back in another straight line, very much like how many humans sweep or mop. The least expensive models (e5 and 600 series) clean in more haphazard fashion. They just move and then make a turn when they sense an obstacle, or they approach a specific area and settle in if they detect a concentration of dirt.
If you want your Roomba to actually clean like you do and ensure it vacuums everywhere you need, you’re better off getting a straight line pattern model. If you’re okay with it just removing excess dust or dirt from time to time to avoid accumulation, lower-priced reactive models could be just fine.
• Docks. There are two types of docking stations in iRobot’s lineup. First, there’s the standard charging dock that every vacuum comes with. A slight difference in functionality is that the more expensive i3-and-above models go back to it automatically, recharge and then keep on cleaning. The cheaper e5 and 600 series, on the other hand, simply go back to it to avoid running out of battery mid-clean and stay there until you activate them again.
The self-emptying dock (which also works as a charger) is a more expensive option, sold separately and only available for the i3, i7 and s9. You can usually buy it in a bundle for about $200 more. When the vacuum’s bin is full, the machine will go to the dock, empty itself automatically and then get back to work. This is convenient for buyers who have pets or live in a place with a lot of dust in the air, and want their Roomba to clean constantly without intervention.
• Mops. iRobot makes robot mops in addition to robot vacuums. These mops, sold under the Braava brand name, are designed to spray some water — or iRobot’s own cleaning solution — and clean the floor with a very thick absorbent pad; they can also “dry sweep” to rid the floor of minor dust and dirt before using water. These pads can be either disposable or reusable, but the reusable ones are sold separately.
Robot mops can be used anywhere from hardwood to tiles, as long as the surface is smooth enough for them to move. Keep in mind, however, that rough surfaces like the grout between tiles might not get entirely cleaned.
Also, robot mops are not vacuums in any way, so they are often used either in tandem with a Roomba or other vacuum, or after very deep manual cleaning by the user.
1. Best overall: iRobot Roomba s9+ Robot Vacuum
Simply put, iRobot’s s9+ is the latest, most powerful (and most expensive!) Roomba to date. It has, according to the company, 40 times the suction power of the company’s standard 600 series vacuums. Despite iRobot’s lack of power measurements, some third-party testers have claimed it to be the most powerful in the market.
And around $1,000, it should be. For that price, you also get a recharging and self-emptying station where the vacuum will independently go to recharge and empty its bin. (The s9 is the name of the vacuum model itself, and the + in s9+, or any Roomba, signifies that it is being sold as a bundle with the self-emptying docking station.)
The Roomba s9 is one of the smartest and most technologically advanced vacuums. The machine’s mapping capabilities allow it to recognize each room in the house so you can fully customize in the iRobot app how, when and where it cleans. You can set specific zones where it’s not allowed, or, on the contrary, where you normally need extra cleaning, like the kitchen or around the front or back door. You can also use voice commands on Alexa or Google Home to send the s9 to specific places you’ve previously set up on the app.
One feature that differentiates the s9 from its siblings is its non-circular shape. It’s square in one area for better access to corners, where it picks up dirt with a brush in its upper right. This brush easily picks up dirt across the borders of walls as well, so it addresses a minor drawback in traditional round robot vacuums, which miss the dust and dirt in corners. Another important feature that no other models have is the s9+’s anti-allergen filtration system.
This model is clearly an all-around powerhouse, but that $1,000 price tag may be too high. If you want the same smart features but can live with less power and sweeping corners yourself, check out the $600 Roomba i7.
2. Editor’s pick: iRobot Roomba i3 Wi-Fi Connected Robot Vacuum
The i3 is the least expensive of iRobot’s flagship line. However, for $400 it still has many of the main features of its more expensive counterparts.
Like the pricier i7, the i3 is advertised as 10 times more powerful than the standard 600 series. It also cleans in nearly perfect parallel rows as opposed to just reacting to obstacles while running wild around your living room. This ensures an even clean every time you turn it on.
The i3 is also compatible with the iRobot app. You can set schedules, get notifications about high levels of dust or allergens or activate it using Alexa or Google Home. The main difference in comparison to other models is the lack of mapping. It won’t recognize specific rooms or areas, and you can’t customize it to go anywhere in particular. This model’s smart features are essentially just on/off.
Still, it can empty itself if you buy the docking station, which adds about $200, and it’s compatible with the Braava Jet M6 mop, so they can work together. This means that if you eventually want to buy the M6 mop or think you’d benefit from the self-emptying feature, you don’t have to upgrade your i3.
3. Best for low prices: iRobot Roomba 600 Series 614
The iRobot 600 series is the company’s cheapest line of vacuums. At the moment, the latest model in the series, the 694, is priced at $300. But if you want to save even more money, you can often buy an older model like the 614 for closer to $200.
The 614 is slightly less powerful than the more modern version of the 600 series, but it’s still good enough to vacuum up regular dust or hair. It moves by reacting to obstacles and detecting concentrated dirt to maximize its run time, which is an advertised 90 minutes, same as the 694. When it’s about to run out of juice, the machine automatically goes back to its dock and recharges for next time. It won’t keep cleaning by itself, but neither do any of the 600 Series models; that feature is reserved for the i3 and above.
The main downside of going cheaper and older is the lack of iRobot Genius support. If you get the 614, you have to activate it manually. If you really value Wi-Fi connectivity but want to pay less than $300, you can check out the Roomba 675, available for $250.
4. Best robot mop: iRobot Braava Jet M6 Robot Mop
The most expensive mop in iRobot’s lineup, the M6, is without competition among its brethren. Though its $449 price is $150 over the second most expensive Braava model, the sheer number of features more than make up for it. Many testers proclaim it as the best robot mop in the market.
All three mops in the brand’s catalog perform similarly when it comes to pure cleaning. The M6 uses a spray and cleans in a straight line forward and back movement. What makes the M6 stand out are the smart features and its support of iRobot Genius. You can control the amount of water it sprays, and you can control how deeply you want it to clean directly from the app; the deeper clean mode will make it go twice over each line, for example.
The Jet M6 is also the company’s only mop to have smart mapping and customization just like on the s9 and i7 vacuums. It maps the entire house, and you can set up restricted zones or personalized schedules in certain areas, like programming it to mop the kitchen and living room while you sleep, and then in your room while you’re at work. You can control all this via Alexa or Google home as well.
In the app, you can also set the device up to communicate with the i3, i7 or s9 Roomba vacuums to work together for a complete clean. As soon as the vacuum finishes, the mop starts up. Although the M6 has a mode for “dry sweeping,” this is mostly for leftover dust and not large pieces of dirt or food, so having the vacuum do a pass first is more effective.
5. Best budget iRobot mop: iRobot Braava Jet 240 Robot Mop
A lower-priced option in the Braava roster is the 240. At around $200, it’s less than half the price of the M6, yet it delivers very similar results.
Like the M6, the 240 features Precision Jet Spray, which is adjustable to use less or more water. Its mopping pattern is neat, straight lines just like the M6, except that after the 240 sprays it does a “Y” motion in front instead of going back and forth over the sprayed area. A small advantage over the M6 in terms of cleaning is that the device’s mopping pad vibrates to force stains out a little bit better. This won’t be noticeable regularly, unless it encounters rather thick residue of something like juice or soda.
The 240 is not Wi-Fi capable, unfortunately. You can’t control it from the app or set a schedule for it, and it can’t communicate with robot vacuums. Nevertheless, it does have some smart-like features. You can set boundaries for it in small rooms, and it detects materials like carpets to avoid damaging them — a feature that is also standard in the M6.
A very noticeable difference, and maybe a deal-breaker for some buyers, is the absence of a charging dock. The 240 has a removable battery that you put into a charger similar to that of digital cameras. It doesn’t have a dock to go back to, unlike the M6, which charges itself and keeps on going. While the 240’s 180-minute runtime is long, the need to manually recharge the battery is a chore to keep in mind before you buy a 240, along with periodically replacing the pads.