Roombas are some of the most popular robot vacuums because they offer many advanced features that make cleaning your floors easy. But their steep prices don’t fit every budget. That’s why entry-level models like the i1 and i3 EVO, which have some of the same features as high-end Roombas at a much lower price, can be an ideal alternative.
The Roomba i1 and i3 EVO are very similar robots, so they are roughly the same size, clean for more than 90 minutes and map your home for more efficient cleaning. Neither model is self-emptying, so if you don’t want to deal with emptying the dustbin, the i1+ or i3+ EVO are better options. However, while both the i1 and i3 EVO map, the i3 EVO can remember specific rooms, so you can do targeted cleaning.
The BestReviews Testing Lab put the i1 and i3 EVO to work in real-world situations to see how they stack up against one another. Ultimately, while their performance is very similar, the i3 EVO is our winner because of its smart-mapping capabilities. The i1 cleans effectively but is best suited for homes with an open floor plan.
The i1 and i3 EVO are so similar that many basic specs match up almost exactly. However, their navigation software and mapping capabilities differ, affecting how each model performs.
Battery life: 92 minutes | Dimensions: 13.5” L x 13.5” W x 3.6” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.4 L | Weight: 7.44 lb | Navigation software: iAdapt | Mapping: Yes | Self-emptying: No | Object avoidance: No | Scheduling: Yes | Selective room cleaning: No | Warranty: 1 Year
The Roomba i1, which launched in 2021, is a Wi-Fi-connected robot vacuum that can clean for more than 90 minutes before it needs recharging, which is similar to the battery life of most high-end models. Like the i3 EVO, it also has the Recharge and Resume feature that enables it to return to the base to recharge when the battery is low and then pick up its cleaning where it left off. The i1’s dustbin has a slightly smaller capacity than the i3 EVO, but it still did well during testing, cleaning for 37 minutes before it was full, compared to the i3 EVO’s 46 minutes.
Unlike many other entry-level robot vacuums, it has mapping capabilities to help it navigate. However, the i1 doesn’t learn specific rooms, so it can’t clean rooms you select. When you send it out to clean, it will cover the entire area. It doesn’t have the obstacle-avoidance feature like the Roomba j-series robots, either, so it can run into items scattered across the floors, including children’s toys or even pet poop.
Battery life: 96 minutes | Dimensions: 13.26” L x 13.26” W x 3.63” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.5 L | Weight: 7.44 lb | Navigation software: iAdapt 3.0 | Mapping: Yes | Self-emptying: No | Object avoidance: No | Scheduling: Yes | Selective room cleaning: Yes | Warranty: 1 Year
During our testing, we found that the Roomba i3 EVO can clean for a few minutes longer than the i1, but both models offer more than 90 minutes of cleaning time, which is 15 minutes more than most entry-level robot vacuums. Slightly more narrow than the i3 EVO, which may help it squeeze into more spaces, the i1 features a somewhat larger dustbin that may be handy in larger homes.
Originally launched as the i3 in 2020, the i3 EVO, which came out two years later, has one very important difference: smart mapping. While the i3 EVO offers similar navigation capabilities as the i1, it has updated software that allows it to learn specific rooms in a floor plan and clean certain areas instead of covering the entire space. Like the i1, it doesn’t have obstacle avoidance, so it can bump into objects while cleaning. It doesn’t support Keep-Out Zones like the i8+, j7+ and s9+, either. That means the only way to keep it from cleaning an area is to physically block it from reaching it.
The setup process for the i1 and i3 EVO are nearly identical. However, during testing, we encountered some issues with the i3 EVO that prolonged the process.
At first, all went smoothly for both. Once we had both robots out of their boxes, we plugged in the bases and set the vacuums on them to charge. Both models require the iRobot Home App for operation, so we downloaded the app and connected each robot to Wi-Fi. This setup process took less than 10 minutes for each robot.
When we returned to the i1 an hour later, it was fully charged and ready to clean. On the other hand, when we came back to the i3 EVO, it hadn’t charged enough to clean. We left it for another hour, but it still wasn’t fully charged. We repositioned the robot on its base to ensure that its contacts were touching those on the base and left it again to charge. After another hour, the i3 was finally ready to clean.
The Roomba i1 and i3 EVO both offer 10 times the suction power as the Roomba 600 series robots, and we found that their performance on carpet and hard flooring such as laminate, tile and vinyl plank was similar.
We tested the robots mainly on medium-pile carpeting and low-pile rugs. When we placed pet hair in their path, both the i1 and i3 EVO picked up most of the hair but left behind some visible strands after their first pass. Both removed the remaining hair with a second pass, though. With coarse kosher salt, both robots picked up all of the particles except for a few stray granules that required a second pass. The i3 EVO was more successful in removing kitty litter from medium-pile carpeting, capturing it all in a single pass. The i1 left a few particles behind that it captured on a second pass. Both robots struggled a bit with cereal, crushing a piece or two as they traveled over the area and grinding the crumbs into the fibers. They had to move over the spot two more times for a total of three passes to fully remove the debris.
When it came to hardwood and other hard flooring, the i1 and i3 both showed better suction power. They removed all the pet hair in their path in a single pass. With kosher salt and kitty litter, both models blew some particles out of their path that they needed a second pass to remove. They both captured nearly all of the cereal on hardwood but blew three to four pieces out of their path like many models we tested. The i1 picked up the stray pieces on another pass, but the i3 EVO blew them under a table that it was too large to fit beneath, so we had to recover them ourselves.
Because their suction power is similar, there isn’t much difference in the noise the i1 and i3 EVO make when cleaning. The i3 EVO is slightly quieter, registering at about 60 decibels compared to the i1’s 65. Both models made less noise than a standard vacuum.
The Roomba i1 and i3 EVO are both round and roughly the same size. Their design differences mainly concern their coloring — the i1 is a light bronze, while the i3 EVO is gray. The i3 EVO also has a textured ring around its top, making it look a bit more stylish. This design element doesn’t affect its performance, but we did find that it helped it resist fingerprints and dust, so it looked a little cleaner after testing than the i1.
The robots both have two large plastic side wheels that help them move around during cleaning. These wheels are thick and sturdy and felt durable during testing. The i1 and i3 EVO also have a front pop-out caster wheel that’s easy to remove if any hair or debris gets caught around it.
Both robots also have an anti-tangle brush roll with rubber brushes designed to prevent hair from winding around them. After testing, we didn’t see much hair on either model and could easily remove the pieces we did find with our fingers.
Unlike premium Roombas, such as the j7+ and s9+, the i1 and i3 EVO don’t have onboard cameras to aid in navigation and mapping. Instead, these models use floor-tracking sensors to map their space.
However, the i3 EVO uses smart mapping, allowing it to learn specific rooms as it maps your home. Because it remembers the rooms’ locations, you can send the robot out to clean a specific room, giving you greater control over your cleaning. The i1, on the other hand, maps an area as it cleans but doesn’t remember the layout for the next vacuuming run. Instead, it only provides a map after cleaning that shows where it cleaned during that run. The rooms aren’t labeled or divided as in the i3 EVO’s smart map.
We explored this difference by sending the i3 EVO out to clean just the living room rather than the entire floor, which saved time and let us target a specific area with crumbs. But neither robot has obstacle avoidance, so they can’t anticipate items in their path. For instance, we placed a purse, shoe and rubber pet toy in their paths, and both robots bumped into the objects at least twice before finally moving around them.
Because the i1 doesn’t break up a floor into rooms, it would work best in a home with an open floor plan, where you’d likely want to clean the entire area. The i3 EVO is a better option for a large home with many distinct rooms to clean.
The i1 and i3 EVO both feature Roomba’s Dirt Detect Technology, which means they have sensors on their underside that detect areas of heavy dirt and debris. The robots work harder in these areas, increasing suction power and making multiple passes until the sensors determine that the dirt has been removed. The robots produce maps after cleaning that indicate where areas of heavy dirt were found with dark green dots.
During testing, we checked the maps the i1 and i3 EVO developed after they’d gone on cleaning runs. When we identified the areas where the Dirt Detect Technology was engaged for each robot, we examined the floor to see how successfully they’d been cleaned. We didn’t observe any visible debris with either robot in the spots indicated on their maps, so both the i1 and i3 EVO effectively cleaned those dirtier areas.
While the iRobot Home app makes it extremely easy to use the i1 and i3 EVO, both are compatible with voice commands through home assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. We connected the robots with Alexa and tested several basic voice commands with the robots, such as “start vacuuming,” “return to base” and “pause vacuuming.” Both the i1 and i3 EVO were highly responsive to the commands, carrying them out within seconds.
The i1 and i3 EVO require similar cleaning and maintenance. Because they aren’t self-emptying, you must empty the dustbin after each use. Their dustbins are located at the back of the robots and are easy to remove by pressing the release button. The bins aren’t dishwasher-safe, but you can remove the filter and rinse them in warm water to remove any residual dirt.
When you have the filter out, it’s also a good idea to clean it. Tap it against the side of your trash can to remove any debris. You’ll also need to replace the filter every two months to keep your robot working properly.
iRobot recommends you clean your robot’s brushes weekly — or twice weekly if you have pets. Turn your i1 or i3 EVO over, and you’ll see a green tab near the brushes that releases them. Once you remove them from the vacuum, you can pull off any hair or debris with your fingers and wipe the brush with a clean microfiber towel.
Like the filters, the i1’s and i3’s brushes must be replaced periodically. If you’re unsure whether it’s time to replace any of your robot’s components, check the Product Health tab in the iRobot app to see how many cleaning hours are left for each.
To better understand how the i1 and i3 EVO compare, we tested basic details, such as how long their batteries lasted and how long they took to recharge. We also noted how long they took to clean an entire room, recording its square footage as well. Additionally, we placed different types of debris, including kosher salt, pet hair, kitty litter and cereal, in their paths on hard flooring and carpeting to evaluate how well they handled each mess and assess their suction power.
The Roomba i1 and i3 EVO share many of the same features, including their suction power. However, the i3 EVO gets the edge because it allows you to vacuum specific rooms for more targeted cleaning. Considering they’re about the same price, it only makes sense to go with the robot offering more cleaning options. However, the i1 could be a good fit for a home with an open floor plan where you wouldn’t necessarily need to send it out to clean a specific area.
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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.