Artificial Intelligence

Which Roomba should you buy? Here’s a guide to iRobot’s latest robot vacuum lineup.


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.

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:

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