Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Roomba, the most popular brand of robotic vacuum. iRobot brought the idea of a robotic vacuum to the masses, and now their chosen model name has become synonymous with the product type a’la Xerox or Kleenex.
Name-brand Roombas are expensive (some models cost more than $1,000), but the days of iRobot exclusively owning the idea are over.
Other brands have realized that it’s a helpful technology — it allows users to focus on other chores while the vacuuming is done around them, autonomously — and they have developed competitors for, usually, a fraction of the price.
That begs the question: Is it worth it to spend extra on the Roomba name, or should you try one of the lesser-known brands and save your money?
To evaluate this concept, we tested two models over the span of months to see if there really is a difference.
For the expensive side of the equation, we called on the iRobot Roomba 980, which was named Best of the Best by BestReviews and typically costs around $900. We compared those results to the ECOVACS DEEBOT N79S Robot Vacuum Cleaner, which is listed at around $225, but is usually marked down — especially for shopping events like Prime Day and Black Friday.
Here’s what we found: There really isn’t a noticeable difference between the two.
The Roomba model is clearly a powerful machine. It has all of the bells and whistles — like a superior, smooth-running mobile app that alerts you when it is stuck or needs to be emptied. It handles cleaning a modestly sized apartment with a particularly sheddy dog living in it with ease.
But did it outperform the DEEBOT N79S? Not really.
This more budget-friendly robotic vacuum has been going strong for more than a year. It works on the same collection of low-pile rugs and hardwood floors. It hasn’t needed any serious repairs or attention that would make one rethink buying it. And it’s kept the apartment clean and tidy.
Both need to be emptied frequently during the process of a cleaning job. Both can get stuck under certain furniture and on wires. And both also quickly get hair looped around the wheels, although that is easy to remove.
The only real difference we noticed between the two is the app, which iRobot does very well and ECOVACS does not. Also, if you have a much larger space, the Roomba will likely be a better choice.
But is that worth a difference of nearly $700? This test would suggest the answer is no.
Good news no matter what model you are leaning toward: If you want the name brand Roomba but don’t want to spend on this top-of-the-line product, consider buying the Roomba i7 7150. You’ll get 33% off if you buy it now for $538.99. And if you’re more interested in saving money, the Shark 750 is similarly marked down, but will only cost you $248.95.
For a comprehensive shopping guide on all that’s available to you in the robotic vacuum market, check out BestReviews’ full review of top-rated models.