iRobot Roomba 981 Robot Vacuum Review

Robot vacuums can be a great addition to your home. Simply press a few buttons and it’ll take care of the cleaning for you. That way, you’ll have more time to do what you enjoy. Depending on the model, you might even be able to control it remotely with your smartphone. Honestly, it doesn’t get any more convenient than that!

And they’re small too. In other words, they won’t take up much space in your house. Not only that, but their slim profile will allow them to slip underneath furniture and other hard-to-clean areas.

Other Benefits of Using a Robot Vacuum:

– Most can be used on a variety of surfaces from tile to carpet
– They’re generally quieter than your regular vacuum cleaner
– Some feature voice controls
– Some models feature automatic emptying

The only drawback is price. That is, they typically cost a bit more than your average vacuum. With that said, the pricier models tend to come with more features. Take the iRobot Roomba 981, for example, it can do a lot of things that other robots can’t.

But does it have any cons? How well does it clean? Those are some of the things that we’ll be discussing in this post!

The iRobot Roomba 981

iRobot is one of the biggest names when it comes to robot vacuums. As of 2021, they’ve sold more than 30 million units worldwide. And they don’t just sell vacuums either—they also sell the Braava, which is a mopping robot. For those who are interested in checking them out, you can find their products at most retailers including Target, Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Best Buy. Of course, you can also get it from Amazon if you prefer to do your shopping online.

Product Description

The iRobot Roomba 981 is one of the “fancier” models that the company offers. Not only is it capable of learning your cleaning habits, but it also comes with cutting-edge vSLAM navigation technology, which will allow it to map its surroundings. That way, it’ll be able to clean the entire level of your home. And like all Roombas, it can be controlled with the iRobot Home App.

What’s In the Box?

  • 1 iRoomba 981 Robot
  • 1 Home Base
  • 1 Side Brush
  • 1 Pair of Extractors
  • 1 HEPA Filter

The iRobot 981 comes with three buttons at the top—one for cleaning, one for spot cleaning, and one for docking. There are also a number of indicators at the top, which will let you know about its status. And at the front, is the bin release button, which you can press to remove the dustbin.

As for the bottom, that’s where the brush, wheels, and extractors are. As listed above, the product comes with one side brush and it will come pre-installed. The same thing goes for the extractors. If you need extras, you will have to purchase them separately.

Last but not least, it also comes with a HEPA filter that comes inside the dustbin.

Note: This particular model does not come with a remote control; the only way to control the device is with the mobile app.

Smart Features

iAdapt 2.0 Navigation

The iRobot 981 comes with vSLAM technology that gathers over 230,400 data points per second. In doing so, it’s able to logically and purposely clean your floor in neat rows. In other words, there won’t be any missed spots.

Recharge and Resume

The iRobot will automatically return to the home base when the battery is low. Once it’s fully charged, it will then pick up where it left off last time.

Mobile App

The robot vacuum can be used with the newly updated iRobot Home App. You can use it to schedule cleanings in advance, check the status, and more. Also, it will give you live updates when the robot is running. For example, a notification will come up if the robot is stuck or if the dustbin is full.

Imprint Link Technology

The Roomba 981 comes with Imprint Link Technology that allows it to work with the Braava Jet M6 Robot. That is, it’ll let them clean in sequence—vacuuming and then mopping.

Voice Control

The robot vacuum can be controlled with voice commands if you sync it with Alexa or Google Assistant.

Drawbacks of the iRobot Roomba 981

Here are a few cons that people have brought up about the Roomba 981.

It Doesn’t Do That Well With Area Rugs

The Roomba 981 isn’t the best for area rugs. It’ll either drag it around until it gets stuck or chew up the fibers. Either way, it won’t do a good job of actually vacuuming the surface. Considering that, you might want to move them out of the way before vacuuming.

No Option To Vacuum Specific Areas 

This particular model starts a new map from scratch every time it vacuums. It doesn’t store the maps, though, so you can’t vacuum specific areas or rooms—it’ll clean the entire house each time. Speaking of which, there’s also no option to block out certain areas like other models.

“Dustbin Full” Error 

The dustbin sensors aren’t very reliable. If there are even a few strands of hair blocking the input, the robot will think that the bin is full and it won’t let you continue cleaning until you empty it.

Not the Best For Pet Hair 

This particular model isn’t the best when it comes to picking up pet hair. For one thing, it has a tendency of leaving hair balls on the floor—this is especially noticeable if you have pets.

Needs Light To Work 

Like most robot vacuums, the 981 needs light to work. In other words, you won’t be able to run it at night—it has to be able to “see” the floor when it’s cleaning.

It’s Noisy 

The robot vacuum is fairly noisy (particularly on tile and hardwood). For one thing, it can squeak if hair gets tangled on the side brush. It also plays loud musical tones when it needs help so it’s probably not the best thing to use in the middle of the night.

Dustbin Has To Be Emptied Frequently 

The dustbin isn’t particularly small (it’s about the same size as other robot vacuums) but it will have to be emptied frequently, more so if you have dogs or cats. And remember to wipe down the sensors, otherwise, it’ll tell you the bin is full even when it isn’t.

Trouble Finding Charging Station

Every now and then, the robot will have trouble finding its way back to the charging station either when the battery runs low or when it’s finished its job. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to happen as often compared to some of the other robot vacuums out there.

How to Use the iRobot Roomba 981

Start by placing the home base in an open area. Make sure that it’s always plugged in and that it’s in an area with consistent WiFi coverage. From there, you can download and install the iRobot Home App. Follow the instructions to sync the robot.

Once the Roomba is fully charged (it has to be charged prior to being used), you can turn it on by pressing the clean button at the top. Or if you want, you can control it via the mobile app.

Using Virtual Wall Barriers

While you can’t set up invisible barriers with the app, you can keep the Roomba out of certain areas with the Dual Mode Virtual Wall barrier. Simply position it on the floor and it’ll the device away (you can choose between virtual wall mode and halo mode).

Regular Maintenance 

Regular maintenance is necessary to keep the robot running at peak performance. For one thing, the bin has to be emptied after each use. As for the HEPA filter, it should be cleaned once per week (you can rinse it with water).

Other parts such as the side brush, charging contacts, camera, and cliff sensors should be cleaned once per month. For more information, refer to the instruction manual.

How Well Does It Clean?

The Roomba 981 has decent suction. It might not be able to remove all hair from the floor but it will get rid of dirt, dust, and other small debris. Keep in mind, however, that it’s not the best for edges due to the shape of the robot. Also, it doesn’t work that well on area rugs as mentioned earlier.

Who Would We Recommend It To?

  • Those who don’t have pets
  • Those who live in apartments, condos, and houses
  • Those who want something that will clean in an organized pattern

Price and Costing Information

The iRobot Roomba 981 isn’t the cheapest. Currently, it’s being sold for $554 on Amazon and that doesn’t include tax. Shipping is free, though, so there’s that.

As far as accessories go, the company offers pretty much everything from side brushes to extractors in their shop. Keep in mind, however, that they can be a bit pricey. For those who want to save some money, you can always go for third-party parts instead. Just make sure that they’re compatible with the model.

Our Take
The iRobot Roomba 981 is a solid machine that comes with a variety of features. Not only will it map your house, but it’s also capable of navigating in neat rows. On top of that, it will pick up where it left off after charging. There are a few things that you want to keep in mind about it, though. For one thing, it doesn’t do that well with area rugs. Also, the dustbin sensors can be a little finicky in that it’ll tell you that the bin is full when it isn’t. As a result, you’ll have to empty it frequently. All in all, however, it’s a decent robot that will get the job done.
Easy to Use
Smart Features
Vacuuming Ability
Value (Price)
Reader Rating1 Vote
Has auto-charge and resume function
Navigates in neat rows
Can be controlled with a mobile app
No extra parts included
Dustbin sensors are finicky

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