In this comparison, we are putting the iRobot Roomba 980 against the Neato Botvac Connected D7, arguably the two best robot vacuums on the market today. This first round is just about debris pickup tests on hard floor and carpet. So we tested various sizes of debris and pet hair on carpet and hard floor in both low and high power settings.
The results were interesting. They both were able to pick up all the sizes and types of debris we tested. This is actually better than 90% of the expensive upright vacuums we test and that most of those eventually fail to pick up the large or extra-large debris, especially on hard floor. But these two premium bots had no issues with the size of any of the debris we tested.
This was true even in their echo or low power modes. Both the Roomba and the Neato eventually picked up all the debris in their path but that doesn’t mean they were totally equal. First, keep in mind that the default cleaning modes of both of these vacuums have them pass over the same area at least twice but more often three times.
On the hard floor tests, we noticed that the Roomba 980, while eventually cleaning all the debris, did not pick up nearly as much on its first pass as the Neato D7 did. The Roomba also tended to kick around larger debris more than the D7 on hard floor. We also found that the Roomba 980 was slightly less effective on hard floor in its low power setting than the Neato, which did just as well on hard floor in low power.
On carpet, they were much more equal as they both picked up a majority of the debris on the first pass and eventually all of the debris by the end of their run. On eco mode, they both seemed to pick up a little less on their first pass but it was minimally different. In short, both of these vacuums did very well on carpet, performing as good as you would want a robot vacuum of this caliber to clean even in low power mode.
So although this first round was extremely close, I think we’ll give the point to the Neato D7 for its slightly better performance on hard floors.
Welcome to round two of our competition. This round is all about suction and airflow. We put both vacuums through an airflow test, a crevice pickup test, and a deep-clean test to see which one of these premium robot vacuums is the most powerful.
First up was the crevice pickup test. This is an interesting test because many upright vacuums can’t even pass it. We set it up with two crevice sizes: an eighth inch and a quarter inch crevice. They both did better than I personally expected as they both picked up a good deal of the eighth inch crevice, but it appeared that the Neato D7 picked up just a little bit more than the Roomba 980 on the quarter inch crevice.
With the deep clean test, we rubbed exactly 30 grams of sawdust into our medium pile test carpet and ran them with an equal number of passes on high power. We then weighed their dustbins for the difference. Here, again, it was very close. In fact, it was a tie as they both picked up 28 of the 30 grams of sawdust that I put down.
The most interesting test was the airflow test. Here I made an airtight seal and tested the airflow in feet per minute with an anemometer. So here are the results. You can see that the Neato botvac connected D7 has 13.6% more airflow than the Roomba on high power and 36% more on low power. Keep in mind there’s a margin for error with all these tests but I try very hard to keep them consistent. So because of the higher airflow and the slightly better performance on the crevice pick up test, the Neato D7 wins round 2.
This round is all about navigation and obstacle avoidance. Both of these robot vacuums represent major advances in robot vacuum navigation systems, though they accomplish the same thing in very different ways. The Roomba 980 has a top mounted camera that faces the ceiling at an angle and uses the shape of a room to develop a cleaning map. The Neato D7 uses invisible lasers at ground level to create its map.
We tested them on bare floor, bare floor with minor obstacles, and in a living room setting to see if one method was better than the other. Though there were a few notable issues which we’ll talk about in a second, for the most part, I think these two methods for smart navigation and room mapping were equal and excellent. They both covered the entire area and did so in an incredibly efficient way, navigating around obstacles using a combination of their map and the various sensors.
The differences we noticed were mostly about hardware. For example, the Neato D7 has a slightly larger clearance because of its larger wheels. It was able to climb the three quarter-inch board on the floor with little trouble where the Roomba 980 was only able to climb it if it hit it at the correct angle. This means that the Neato D7 is better at clearing high thresholds, something that could be all the difference depending on the threshold height in your home.
Also because of the higher clearance, the D7 was much better at clearing small rugs than the Roomba 980 was. The Roomba 980 tended to disturb the rug in our tests, though it never actually got stuck on it. The D7’s higher clearance did come at a price, though, since it makes it slightly taller at 3.9 inches to the Roomba’s 3.6 inches. While it’s only about 7.5 millimeters difference, on our living room test, it was just able to squeeze under the couches, which affected its general performance, while the Roomba, which had a lot more room to maneuver, ended up being more efficient in the real world test.
One other point about the navigation before we score this round. Even though I think that the laser navigation and the camera navigation performed equally in optimal conditions, the Neato’s laser navigation has one important advantage because it doesn’t require the lights to be on in a room in order to function optimally, where the Roomba 980’s camera does. This could be an issue if you’re scheduling cleanings while you’ll be away from your house with the lights off.
So although this was the closest round yet and although they both are absolutely amazing with their navigation systems, the Neato D7 is just a little better at obstacle avoidance and I think it’s enough to give it the point for this round.
Welcome to round four of our multi-part series. In this round, we’ll be testing battery life, bin volume, and noise level. First up is the bin volume test. We filled up each bin and poured the contents into a measuring cup. It’s not the most exact method but it should get the job done.
The Roomba 980 measured about one and three-quarter cups and the Neato D7 had about two and a half cups. So another point for the D7. Next is noise level. The Roomba showed about 78 decibels in turbo mode and 69 in eco mode. The Neato D7 was quieter showing 70 decibels in turbo mode and 66.5 in eco mode. So another point for the D7.
On to the battery life tests. Both of these robot vacuums claim to have 120 minutes of battery life in eco mode but I couldn’t duplicate those results. The reason is because I don’t have a big enough testing area so I had to restart the bots several times when they completed cleaning the area and restarting causes a lot of battery output. If they ran continuously, I’m sure that both would be very close to the advertised amount.
Here are the results I got with an average of five restarts per run. In eco mode, the Roomba got 100 minutes and the Neato got 107 minutes. In turbo mode, the Roomba got 48 minutes and the Neato got 74 minutes. So although the Neato D7 won again, the battery test is non-admissible because with the Roomba 980 I was using a third-party battery, which although is supposed to give the same amount of life as the factory battery, I can’t be sure it’s the same. So no points awarded here because of that.
Welcome to the fifth and final round of our competition. In this round, we’ll be testing edge cleaning, cleaning modes, barrier effectiveness, and the mobile app features. First up is barrier effectiveness. The Roomba 980 comes with two virtual wall barriers which can be used to create a circular perimeter or a straight line to keep the Roomba out of difficult areas and the Neato D7 is the only Neato model that has a feature on the app called floor planner with no go lines.
I was very impressed by the Neato D7’s no go lines feature. In fact, I did an entire article about it. But basically, you create a floor plan and then draw as many lines as you want which keep the vacuum out of problem areas. It’s really very accurate, and as I mentioned in the companion article, I think it’s a game changer in robot vacuum technology because it makes scheduling cleanings when you’re away so much more effective.
No more coming home to stuck robots that didn’t clean much of anything. The Roomba 980’s virtual wall barriers are great and they do work very well, but when compared to the no-go lines, there’s no competition. The Neato wins this category.
Moving on to the modes: both the Roomba 980 and the Neato D7 have a housecleaning mode and a spot cleaning mode. The Roomba’s spot mode causes it to clean in a circle around a three feet diameter. The Neato cleans a square area in front of the robot and you can expand this area to 13 by 13 feet in the app. The Neato spot mode is more useful in my opinion and the Roomba tends to kick around more debris in spot mode than in regular mode.
The Neato D7 also has a manual mode that the Roomba does not. It’s basically like using the robot as a remote control vehicle. It’s actually pretty responsive and I suppose it could be useful. Either way, because of a better spot mode and having the manual mode feature, the Neato wins this category.
Next is edge cleaning: even though the Roomba 980 has a longer edge brush, the Neato has a d-shaped design with its brush roll mounted in the front so they both have different methods of edge cleaning. Edge cleaning was hard to judge. They both do an adequate but not perfect job, cleaning large amounts of debris on the edges and I suspect that in normal cleaning jobs they would do much better. I’m going to give this one a tie since there wasn’t a clear winner.
Finally, we have the app and software. Both apps are easy to use and can do much of the same things, like scheduling cleanings, changing modes or power levels, and displaying cleaning stats with maps. They both can be controlled by Amazon Alexa or Google assistant. But the Neato app does have more options like the extra care option for gentler navigation. It also seems like the maps are much more accurate in the Neato app than with the Roomba app. So the Neato gets a point here and sweeps the series.