When it comes to robot vacuums, iRobot is the juggernaut in the room. The company accounts for roughly half of the automated floor cleaners on the market. Based on our lab testing, one of the biggest reasons for this is the combination of convenience and quality that iRobot's Roomba robot vacs supply. This is why Roombas dominate our vacuum buying guides, from pet hair to robot vacuums in general.
However, the best Roombas also run the gamut from affordable to really expensive, so it can be difficult to figure out which one is right for you.
We lab tested a ton of Roombas on their cleaning ability, navigational performance, value, smart features, and ease of usability. After balancing those test scores out, we think the iRobot Roomba j7+(available at Amazon for $649.00) is the best choice for most households.
Here are the best Roombas we tested, ranked in order:
iRobot Roomba j7+
iRobot Roomba i7+
iRobot Roomba i3+
iRobot Roomba i6+ and i8+
iRobot Roomba 694
iRobot Roomba S9+
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In the robot vacuum world, the iRobot Roomba j7+ sets the bar for navigation and design, and in truth, it's the best Roomba we've ever tested. When we put the j7+ to the test in our robot vacuum labs, we found a model that can deftly maneuver around furniture and avoid dog feces with ease. That’s right, iRobot combined forward-facing cameras and machine learning to ensure that the j7+ won’t cause more messes than it cleans up.
Speaking of cleaning, the j7+’s excellent navigation allows it to get near-total floor coverage. During testing, it picked up 9.35 grams of dirt per run, allowing it to keep up with a full-sized vacuum over the course of a week. Plus, you can use the iRobot Genius app to specify what rooms or parts of rooms you want to be cleaned and when. Your kids constantly track in dirt and debris when they come home from school? The j7+ can be programmed to clean the front entrance every day at 3 pm. Or under the kitchen table after dinner. When it’s done cleaning, this Roomba can empty itself into a self-sealing bag.
Being so programmable and flexible makes the iRobot Roomba j7+ an indispensable tool for cleaning. It also looks great while doing it. The j7+ has received an aesthetic upgrade. The dock has been redesigned to fit in more places and to match most home decor. The robot itself has a brushed metal top that will keep looking spick and span for years to come. Overall, the iRobot Roomba j7+ is a leap forward for robot vacuums. It lets you think less about cleaning your floors and that’s really the whole point of a robot vacuum, isn’t it?
The iRobot Roomba i3+ provides the best bang for your buck. It’s the most affordable Roomba model you can get that has the self-emptying feature.
During our cleaning tests, the i3+ picked up an average of 11 grams of dirt per run. This puts it in the same league as the more expensive i7+. We also think the textured, gray top of the i3+ is a better design than the i7+. After a few weeks of cleaning, the i3+ looks much cleaner and less scuffed, whereas right out of the box, the i7+ and i6+ look very shiny and attractive, but over time they tend to get scratched and covered in dust.
People who are on the fence between splurging on the i7+ or looking to save with i3+ should know there are a few drawbacks to the latter. It comes with less stuff. The i7+ comes with five extra dirt disposal bags and an extra side brush.
Hey, I'm Jon Chan, the Senior Manager of Lab Operations at Reviewed. If you clean with it—whether it’s laundry detergent or dishwashers—I oversee its testing. This expertise extends to vacuums: upright, canister, handheld, and robotic.
When it comes to Roombas, most of our tests involve our robot obstacle course. The area contains analogs for furniture legs, shelves, and thresholds. Each robot vacuum has three chances to prove itself.
For the first two runs, we place cork pellets under the shelves and between the furniture legs. When we let the robot vacuum loose, we look for how long a cleaning cycle takes, what obstacles it is able to clean thoroughly, if it has powerful suction features, and overall dirt and debris pickup.
For the final test run, we replace the cork with pet hair.
What You Need to Know About The Best Roombas
After testing a dozen Roombas, we think calling them a robot vacuum is a bit of a misnomer. Unless you get a high-end model, the suction power pales in comparison to that of a full-sized vacuum and can only really compete over the course of a week.
We find that consumers experience the most satisfaction with their Roombas when they view them as floor maintainers in between manual cleanings.
We should also point out that most robot vacuums have cleaning modes designed for bare floors and medium carpet. So, if you have throw rugs taller than ½ inch, your robot vacuum may not be able to climb atop it, or it may get stuck if it does get up there. This fact is vital for pet owners, because it means pet beds are a point of contention.
What Does The + Mean?
If you visit iRobot’s website, you’ll find that the robot vacuum brand offers both the Roomba i3 and the Roomba i3+ for sale. The major difference between the plus and non-plus version is in its charging base.
The plus versions boast a self-emptying feature. Basically, the charging base contains a built-in vacuum that suctions out the robot’s dirt bin, moving the waste into a sealed bag. This means you never have to get your hands dirty or smell anything gross. Each bag can hold up to 30 days’ worth of dust, dirt and debris.
What Is The iRobot Genius Home Intelligence?
Simply put, the iRobot Genius Home Intelligence is an update to the existing iRobot Home app, which gives you more control over where and when your robot vacuum cleans.
The “where” is denoted by rooms on your smart map, which the Roomba i7+ and S9 models can detect automatically. Special areas called Clean Zones, like the couch or under the kitchen table, can also be labeled on the smart map. You can also designate areas where you don’t want your Roomba to roam.
The update also gives you more control over the “when,” i.e. exactly when your Roomba cleans. It does this through a series of event-based automation. For example, you can integrate your home’s smart locks into your robot vacuum’s programming so that when you walk through your front door, the Roomba will return to its charging base. This works because iRobot Genius Home Intelligence is on the IFTTT platform, so it “speaks” a very common language that hundreds of smart home brands know.
If you don’t want all your smart devices talking to each other, you can use a scheduling feature from your phone. You can schedule a time to clean and specify where to clean. For example, at 8 pm, after your dinner, you can schedule the Roomba to vacuum under the table and the Braava jet to mop the whole kitchen floor.
Mike Gillen, director of product and data security at iRobot tells us, “Beyond internal initiatives, iRobot promotes and sponsors a public bug bounty program, submits products to external penetration testing, and conducts routine automated scans on iRobot’s operating environment.”
Basically, this means that iRobot will eliminate any connection between you and the data collected, but it may remain in iRobot’s servers.
Companies like iRobot and Ecovacs also follow the GDPR, which is the European version of the CCPA.
Bethany Singer Baefsky, director of privacy and DPO at iRobot, says, “iRobot follows the GDPR standard for everyone when it comes to deletion, and we do not limit it just to the EU. This means that wherever you are, if you request data deletion, your personal information will be purged within 30 days, in accordance with GDPR standards.”
She continues, “For data access requests, we comply with all statutory time frames. Where there is no statutorily required timeframe for providing data, or no legal requirement to provide data at all, we operate within the CCPA's framework and provide data in a commonly used, machine readable format within 45 days of receiving a verifiable request.”
Other Roombas We Tested
iRobot Roomba i7+
The iRobot Roomba i7+ is one of the most successful robot vacuum cleaner that can empty itself and also has strong suction. A vacuum in the charging base suctions everything out of the bin into a sealable bag. This means you don't have to see, touch, or smell what your robot vacuum picks up.
Also, for your convenience, the i7+ has a whole host of smart features, and it’s Alexa and Google Home compatible. The i7+ can even make virtual maps that can track cleaning cycles and keep it out of individual rooms.
Fancy tech aside, the i7+ can vacuum up quite a bit. On average, it picked up 10 grams of debris, which means that in a week, it can keep up with a mild manual cleaning on a variety of surfaces, including hardwood floors and carpet.
The i7+ is expensive, but every penny is accounted for in the large number of features and its excellent performance on a variety of floor types.
Another of our best Roombas, the iRobot Roomba i6+ and i8+ are retailer specific versions of the i7+, sold at Amazon and Costco respectively. They are more or less clones of the i7+, which means everything from dirt and debris pickup performance to the installation are all the same.
The key difference is that the Roomba i6+ lacks a spare filter and extra bags.
The Roomba i8+ has a larger battery and comes with a virtual wall, which is a device that fires an infrared beam that the robot will not cross. Both these features are somewhat redundant, since we found during testing that the Roomba i7+ can already cover most homes in a single charge and the Genius Home Intelligence app can direct where you want your robot vacuum to go.
Both the i6+ and the i8+ are fine, especially if you are already an Amazon Prime or Costco member. However, we don’t see a major advantage in buying them over the i7+ unless they’re on sale.
If you’re looking for the most affordable, the iRobot Roomba 694 is your best bet. During testing it picked up an average of 11 grams of testing debris. Anything above 10 grams per run gets our gold star of approval.
However, the great cleaning performance does come at a cost. We observed that the 694 is pretty aggressive when it comes to navigation, ramming into furniture. It never damaged any of our testing furniture, but it was enough to cause a racket.
While the 694 is compatible with iRobot Genius, you don’t need it. This is a simple robot vacuum. People looking for a robot vacuum to plug in and go need to check this one out.
The iRobot Roomba S9+ is unique amongst iRobot robot vacuums with D-shaped chassis—a style pioneered by Neato. The idea of a D-shape is that it can get flush with walls and corners, something that circular robot vacuums can have trouble doing. After spending a week with the S9+, we think that it’s a fine robot vacuum, but it’s too expensive for what you get.
In our cleaning tests, this robot vacuum picked up an average of eight grams per run, slightly lower than our standard of 10 grams.
The S9+ is gentle, only lightly nudging furniture and walls to find its way around. This behavior can be great, but it also means the S9+ avoids jamming its brushes into places to find dirt and debris.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.