There was a time when automated vacuum maker iRobot ruled supreme in the domestic robot world, but no product can dominate an industry forever. iRobot's latest high-end model, the Roomba 980, has plenty of serious competition, much of it offering equally impressive features at lower prices. The 980's standout innovation is Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing it to be controlled via smartphone app, but this would seem more innovative if competitors Dyson and Neato didn't have the same feature. The 980 has longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries, but so do Dyson and Neato. The 980 has an advanced, grid-based mapping system, but so does Neato. And, yes, Dyson and Neato charge substantially less for this advanced tech.
Swedish appliance maker Electrolux created this product niche at the start of the millennium when it introduced the Electrolux Trilobite. The Trilobite was a remarkable piece of consumer tech, with ultrasonic sensors that mapped out a room and strategically sucked up whatever dust bunnies lurked on the floor without the need for a human operator to guide it.
A year later, military robotics contractor iRobot introduced the Roomba, a superficially similar vacuum cleaner that rolled around a room randomly bouncing off the furniture and eventually scouring up the dust bunnies through sheer persistence. The Roomba was little more than a toy, albeit a useful one, but it cost less than a tenth of what the Trilobite did and was a hit. It came to define the product category Electrolux had created, while the Trilobite eventually followed its namesake prehistoric arthropod into extinction.
Given Roomba's high-profile name and the availability of lower-cost models, it seems unlikely that it will ever follow Electrolux's Trilobite into the dustbin of consumer history. But it could do a better job of competing on price.
It has an uncanny ability to cover the entire level and to avoid marring any furniture . It has sensors in every direction.
You don't need to have your Roomba 980 connected to WiFi to use it, but it's worth doing.
That ability is the signature feature of the iRobot Roomba 980, an app-controlled robot vacuum.
It does great on the tile floors... It does not do nearly as well on the carpet... It also gets stuck a lot regardless of what type of flooring.
The Roomba 980 is iRobot's best robotic vacuum yet, adding Wi-Fi and app control for even easier home cleaning, but the price for convenience is higher than ever.
Even though the 980 boasts an array of smart features, it didn't perform as well as the older Roomba 880 and it costs $200 more.