It would come as a surprise to more people than you think that "roomba" actually isn't the generic term for a robot vacuum. The interchangeability is nearing Kleenex or Band-aid territory, exemplifying just how iconic iRobot's impact has been on the world of small household appliances.
Though 20-ish Roombas have come out since the debut of the first Roomba in 2002, iRobot's lineup of models at any given time is less chaotic than what a Google search would lead you to believe. When talking about the core lineup, we're referring to the vacuums currently available for purchase at iRobot's website. Filtration A Diatomite
Admittedly, things do get confusing when older models discontinued by iRobot itself are still available for purchase at various stores. There's also a curious little arrangement between iRobot and select retailers involving store-exclusive spinoff versions of current Roombas with negligible differences but notable price variations. For instance, Walmart's Roomba i1+ is identical to the mainstream Roomba i3+ (aside from a color change), but goes for way less than the i3+ when on sale. (We wouldn't be surprised if these relationships change now that Amazon owns iRobot, though.)
Speaking of sales on Roombas, they happen year-round. Roombas are definitely on the pricier end of the spectrum compared to vacs from Roborock, Shark, and eufy, which typically offer similar advanced features, like room mapping or automatic emptying, at lower price points than iRobot. But you can almost always find main Roomba models on sale for $100-$200 less than their MSRP, making them a more digestible purchase.
Before delving into the differences between the current Roombas, consider these general Roomba elements that apply across the board:
All recent Roombas — including every one in our guide — is WiFi-enabled, app-connected, and compatible with Alexa. On the iRobot Genius app, you can schedule recurring cleanings, start a spontaneous cleaning from your phone, and if your model supports it, send your Roomba to a specific room or zone. Each time iRobot updates Genius, every Roomba receives the update (even if you bought it pre-update). The latest version whips up custom cleaning suggestions based on where it worked the hardest during earlier rounds, like suggesting a kitchen sweep after dinnertime each night.
All Roombas deploy a three-stage cleaning system that loosens and lifts dust and dirt from carpets while relying on a side-sweeping brush to push debris from edges and corners into the bot's cleaning path. Dirt Detect is an adaptive method even the most basic Roombas use to sniff out dirtier areas of your floor and work harder on them.
The plus sign in a Roomba's title denotes the inclusion of a self-emptying Clean Base. The Clean Base is where those models will charge as well as empty the debris they've collected into a bigger canister for a few weeks at a time. (Without the Clean Base, Roombas are still self-charging and know to return to their dock when cleaning is finished.) i Series Roombas and on can be purchased with or without a self-empty dock.
Here's our guide to the best Roombas:
We would say that the j7+ goes where no Roomba has gone before, but it's more about where it doesn't go. The j7 bots are the first to use iRobot's PrecisionVision Navigation sensors to avoid small, oddly-shaped obstacles that are typically blind spots for vacs not being operated by humans, like phone chargers or pet waste.
The j7+ self-empties into a more compact auto-empty dock without sacrificing the 60-day capacity. Though it doesn't mop like the Combo j7+ does, skipping the hybrid capabilities saves you $300 when both models are on sale, which is worth it in our book if you're fine with occasional Swiffering.
Finally, the robot vacuum that's least likely to eat your phone charger is now also the least likely to soak your carpet. In Oct. 2022, iRobot announced a mopping version of its smartest device, the well-reviewed j7+ — the first true hybrid Roomba. The Combo j7+ looks nearly identical to the original, but with the addition of what looks like the spoiler on a sports car — a retractable mop.
iRobot's PrecisionNavigation allows the j7+ to perceive obstacles that other robot vacuums plow right into. Those smarts extend to sensing carpet in mop mode, too: Instead of dragging the mop on the plush surface, the arms lift the mop to its original spot on top of the vacuum.
Unfortunately, unlike some similarly-priced premium vacs from Roborock or Ecovacs that wash their own mopping pads, you'll be responsible for swapping those out yourself.
The oldest model that's still active in iRobot's rotation is the s9+. Two unique facets explain why it has stuck around while other releases from the same year have been sunset: Deep carpet cleaning and a flat edge.
Plush pile meets its match with iRobot's most powerful bot to date, providing 40 times the suction power of the 600 Series Roombas. (For reference, the j7 line provides 10 times the suction of the 600 Series.) That boosted suction takes on medium and high-pile carpets with ease, using a wider rubber brush roll to collect pet hair without tangling. Despite exerting so much oomph, the s9+ cleans for two hours before returning to charge.
During that long cleaning run, the s9+ will also detail your walls, undersides of cabinets, and corners. Its D-shape allows it to sneak right up along flat edges where round vacuums are solely dependent on the reach of a side brush.
Earn Roomba bragging rights without going over $300 with iRobot's current baseline vac, which offers a standard clean that you can trust for light daily upkeep. Hard floors are a breeze and low-pile carpets are tackled efficiently with Roomba's loosen-then-lift strategy.
iRobot's suite of sensors handle surface changes with ease and can be trusted not to eat scattered toys or low-hanging curtains. This Roomba's cleaning gets more methodical over time, and seeks out high-traffic areas with Dirt Detect. Though it can't be sent to certain rooms or zones like its more advanced siblings, cleanings can still be scheduled through the app.
(Note: The only difference between the Roomba 694 and 692 is that the 692 doesn't come with an extra filter.)
The iRobot fam has grown considerably since it first brought the self-emptying innovation home — for over $1,000. Now, the i3+ exists as a more affordable path to that hands-off convenience. Its Clean Base gets you off the hook from touching a dust bin for the same amount of time as the j7+ and s9+.
The i3+ does skimp on some tech like smart mapping. However, those in smaller spaces shouldn't be affected much by its inability to target specific rooms. They will, however, appreciate its peaceful noise level and effectiveness on pet hair (specifically, 10 times the suction power of the aforementioned Roomba 694).
The i3+ faces the most intense example of that odd retailer-exclusive spinoff thing we were talking about. Walmart sells the Roomba i1+(opens in a new tab) , which is identical to the i3+ aside from an aesthetic switch from gray to gold, for as low as $288 during the holiday season. Compared to the i3+'s best sale price of $349, the i1+ is the one to check out first.
Stripped of the plus sign, the regular j7 doesn't self-empty like the j7+ or mop like the Combo j7+. But it's still one of the best robot vacuums you could have under your roof, especially if your small space would benefit more from reliable clutter navigation than finding somewhere to house an auto-empty dock.
The j7's frequent sale price of $349 makes it an absolute no brainer — but even at its MSRP of $599.99, it's still on the modest side price-wise because of its status as a standalone vac. Almost every competing robot vacuum with similar obstacle avoidance smarts comes paired with an auto-empty dock, naturally costing more.
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Paper Bed Filter Leah is a shopping reporter at Mashable, where she covers shopping trends, gift ideas, and products that make life easier. She graduated from Penn State University in 2012 and is watching horror movies or "The Office" when she’s not shopping online herself. You can follow her on Twitter at @notleah.