Test: iRobot Roomba 981 in the test

iRobot Roomba 981 in review

Conclusion from 07. 12. 2018

With the Roomba 981 iRobot brings many small improvements to the identical flagship model Roomba 783. We particularly like the almost perfect navigation and new app functions in the test. The robot is also a little faster. What is disappointing, however, is that the suction power decreased compared to the test over a year ago – at least in automatic mode. This version of the vacuum robot is also very expensive. There are therefore hardly any reasons not to go to Roomba 980.

Excellent navigation
Easy to use
Suction power only average

From 479, 00 €: Find the best price for iRobot Roomba 981

The values ​​in the article refer to the test time of the product ( 07. 12. 2018 ) .

The ratings below show how it compares to the other products in the leaderboard.

test ratings (compared to all tested products in this category)

iRobot Roomba 981 in the test: Like the 980, only better

Note from 18. 12. 2018: The original test from 13. 12. 2018 referred to the Roomba 981 as “successor model”. This is not correct: According to the German press agency, the changed product number only denotes a different point of sale, in this case as an exclusive product for Amazon. Differences to Roomba 980 – we suspect – come about through software updates. We will be the Roomba 980 test again for comparison and discuss any differences. If we cannot find any differences, both test reports will be merged.

iRobot has been 2017 at the most sophisticated vacuum robot worked in the barn. The Roomba 981 takes most of the features and makes them a little bit better. Not an easy task, because the Roomba 980 let in the test hardly anything to be desired – apart from a lower price, which the new model number also does not introduce.

The basic device remains the same: The Roomba 981 navigates through rooms with an upward-facing camera and pulls the dirt out of the carpet in systematic paths. It avoids hard collisions by forward-facing ultrasonic sensors, automatically switches to high-performance mode when there are dense fibers, and detects particularly dirty spots – then it activates spot mode and drives around the dirty spot once.

There are new killer features for the Roomba 981 Unfortunately not .

Nothing has changed on the outside of the Roomba. Picture: CHIP

Leaderboard: All vacuum robots in the CHIP test

New app functions

The app is still one of the most extensive that can be found on the market. Here you can set times for regular vacuuming as usual. Simply switch the device between automatic, eco and performance mode or deactivate the edge mode – then the robot is finished even faster. You can also view statistics of past runs, locate the robot (in case it should hide under the bed) or view coverage maps. New additions: support for services such as Amazon Alexa or IFTTT. So you can give Alexa the cleaning job or link the robot with other apps in the “If X happens, then do Y” format. These functions are also for the Roomba 980 available.

However, the competition does not sleep: With other robots, for example, you can now define so-called “no go” zones on a map. Then the robot avoids the chaotic children's room. Meanwhile, Roomba 981 still the now old-fashioned Virtual Lighthouse with which you Rooms or even the food bowls of pets can be cordlessly closed.

The iRobot app offers many functions, statistics and intuitive operation. Picture: CHIP

What has gotten better?

The Roomba 981 stands out compared to the last test above all with an improved navigation ability. The robot now seems to have fewer problems with carpet fringes – in many cases the deadly enemy of every vacuum robot. He also copes well with thin runners that heavier robots often fold down into a small wall. The robot continues to circumnavigate cables, Lego blocks, chair legs and socks lying around like a one and takes door thresholds up to a height of 1.7 centimeters. In addition, the robot can now drive almost in complete darkness – previously the robot was easy to get confused in the twilight. In low light the Roomba 981 a little wrong and sometimes sucks twice over the same point , but that doesn't change the respectable night vision.

The Roomba 981 from below – along with rubber slat rollers, dirt sensor (black circle on the top right) and side brush , Picture: CHIP

Buying advice: You should pay attention to this when buying a vacuum robot

What happened to the suction power?

However, we cannot explain a change yet: compared to 2017 er test is the suction power of the Roomba 981 decreased. We tested the robot again in automatic mode with the same amount of quartz sand on the same surface (low-pile carpet). During the identical Roomba 980 a year ago on average 93 grams sucked out of the fibers, comes the Roomba 981 only on 76 grams. That is still not a bad achievement and compensates for itself through frequent operation. However, this also means that the 981 in a single pass at the level of under- 300 – Euro robots like that Ecovacs Deebot DM 82 emotional. We suspect, as described at the beginning of the test, that changes to the software and firmware had an impact on the suction power. We will again the Roomba 980 test and record whether the reduced performance affects had the battery life.

However, the suction power could also be better at full power. We let it run again in the performance mode in a circle over two sand strips. The disappointing result can be seen in the following picture.

Constant drip hollows the stone: Even in power and spot mode, the robot leaves a lot of dirt on a single trip. Picture: CHIP

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Rian Voß

Rian Voß

Rian Voß always has the latest developments in graphics cards and CPUs in mind and writes about everything that conjures up nice pictures on the monitor. His other passion is household electronics: from simple kettles to smart vacuum robots, he tests what makes everyday life easier.




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