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Roomba 860 Vs 880: Which to Get? And What’s the Difference?

Roomba 880 Robot Vacuum - iRobot

Debating whether to make the leap for the Roomba 860 or the Roomba 880? Or like I was, just a little confused about all the differences between the 860, 870 and 880 - basically just want some clarification and the best one to go for?

Like I say, don’t worry, I’ve already been there - so hopefully I can save you from trying to workout exactly which is the best one for you (for those who want a quick answer, I’d recommend you go for the Roomba 880).

On the surface, comparing the three 800 series Roombas can look be a little confusing at first.

However, what we are actually doing (hence the title) and it makes things much simpler, there’s only really a need to compare two. See the 870, has essentially been replaced by the 860 (and has been dropped by iRobot, at least from a marketing point of view) - because they are actually the exact same model, apart from one slight detail.

That detail being:

The 860 is the one with a superior battery, a Lithium Ion as opposed to the X-Life in the 870. The only reason you should consider the Roomba 870 now, is if there’s a significant price cut and difference. So in terms of new features and technology - there isn’t really anything really that ‘innovative’ or ‘new’ per se, it’s just they’ve freshened their ‘upper end’ middle of the line 800 series up a little.

If you aren’t one for the mucky details like me (self confessed, geek here) then it basically comes down to a quick overview of this comparison chart.

- Roomba 860 Roomba 880
Guides 1 Virtual Wall 2 Lighthouse
Battery Lithium Ion (75 Minutes) X Life (60 Minutes)
Finish Silver Black

Apart from the above, pretty much everything else is the same from their specifications, to cleaning power, to bin size - they are pretty much the exact same robot vacuum (which we’ll get into more detail below).

For those in a rush though: it’s just a question of whether you want for an extra 100 bucks the extra room to room cleaning (that the lighthouse offers) as well as a the remote control (and of course with that a slightly less powerful battery)? If, yes then go ahead with the 880 (which is what I plan to do, see exactly why later on) if not go for the Roomba 860.

Now for the juicy details where we break it down feature by feature.

Cleaning Performance

Both the 860 and 880 are fitted with the AeroForce 3 Stage cleaning system (through brushing, agitation as well as five times the suction of previous models) which is the main aspect and unique Roomba technology of what differentiates a Roomba (and hence reflected in their price tags) from that of other standard Robot Vacuums - performing pretty well on all floor types.

It’s claimed to be 50 percent “more effective” at collecting household dirt than the previous 700 series Roomba. Of course seeing this with the naked eye is pretty difficult to judge, but after seeing both an 880 and a 770 tested side-by-side it’s clear that the 800 series is a significant upgrade.

If you were thinking how is a “round” vacuum cleaner, going to get into the corners and edges of my living room? iRobot have you covered, see they’ve integrated them with a little spinning “side bar brush” (they term it “Edge Clean”) so when it comes to the edges and corners of the room it manages to get clean right along the side. You will find that these guys do like to bump into things (even though they are actually designed to approach obstacles with some sort of caution), hence they are also fitted with a little polymer bumper too.

They are actually very good with pet hair and large bits of debris, but if they are having trouble with them the Roomba’s are also integrated with “tangle free extractors” that basically work to free itself and carry on regardless. Not perfect, but it works at least some of the time.

The Roombas are also fitted with HEPA filters that act to capture incredibly small bacteria and allergens (quoted as small as 0.3 microns) so if you suffer when vacuuming with a standard upright or canister, I really do urge you to give a Roomba ago or another Robot vacuum with a quality filter system.


Although, I can’t figure out what the Roomba is doing half the time with regards to where it is heading next, it’s claimed to be “unique” with what they call “iAdapt Responsive Cleaning Technology” and to be fair it does get the job done - although in a sort of odd way about it (they tend to work from the middle outwards). It moves in and out of furniture, doesn’t drop off from points of fall (e.g. the edge of stairs) with cliff sensors, plus it shouldn’t be getting caught in rug tassels and cables (that you find a lot of lesser robot vacuums tend to do) due to “anti tangling technology” and acts to basically map out the entire floor plan to get finished.

What it also has is what they term as “Dirt Detect Series 2” which is basically through the use of sensors (both acoustic as well as optical) it will find where your floor is particularly dirty and where a bit of extra effort is required. When it finds that point, just like you would with a regular vacuum cleaner it will go over that point repeatedly to be rid of the extra debris and dirt. You will see a little blue “sherlock’s magnifying style’ glass symbol turn on when it’s in this mode.

Now of course where the Roomba 860 and 880 differ in terms of navigation is the use of accessories. The Roomba 860 only comes with a singular virtual wall which for the most part is somewhat lacking because essentially all you can do is clean one room on each cycle and block off one line of area that you don’t want it to clean. It also has a Halo mode, so you can fend it off from things you want to “protect”.

The Roomba 880 however (and in part is why I’m going for it, despite it having a little less battery power) comes with two virtual lighthouses. What this allows it to do is basically clean up to three rooms per cycle and offers two virtual walls essentially (and because the bottom and top floor of my house only has three rooms in total - it makes it pretty darn perfect.

Run Cycles

Of course on the flip side, where the Roomba 860 has the upper hand is that it’s now been fitted with an improved lithium ion battery whereas the 880 has the old regular X life battery - (updated:after speaking with an iRobot rep to get some extra knowledge - he reported that the new battery gives a life of an extra 15 minutes - 75 in total - over the hour long standard X Life battery). Although it’s claimed to have “3 x the battery life” the X Life states it has “2 x the battery life” so I think this is being compared to the earlier 500 and 600 series Roombas.

However, another big difference lies is in the ‘recharge time’ the Lithium Ion (Roomba 860) gets done in about 3 to 4 hours, the Roomba 880 X life however “can take up to 16 hours” but usually should be around half that time at 8 hours, but still quite a significance there. I will typically have it start before I go to work, charge up over that time and start again when I get back (so the 8 hours for me, isn’t a deal breaker).

They both are smart enough as well to return to their docking station to recharge when their battery life starts to get low though and isn’t quite as smart as the Roomba 980 so it picks off from where it last started, so you’ve got to place back in the room that it finished in.

Practical Aspects

Of course as the little comparison chart alludes to (see the full comparison chart), the Roomba 880 also comes with a remote control. Not a deal breaker for most, but for me it seems pretty hand being able to operate the Roomba without actually having to get up and change settings directly on the vacuum itself. So certainly a plus point in my eyes.

With the remote, you get directional buttons to control it, a “spot” button to do intensive cleaning within a 1 meter area, a docking setting (taking itself off to get recharged) and a clean button where it basically re-maps the room to start cleaning again.

You can also of course schedule the Roomba up to 7 times per week, which is pretty cool since you can set it going whilst you are at work - and come back to a nice clean floor. So pretty much daily, any more times than that - well basically who vacuums that much?

Roomba 880 Robot Vacuum Cleaner - iRobot

Plus, they’ve thought about the practical side of things too. It’s designed with a low 3.6” profile so should be able to get under most sofas, beds etc. (worth double checking the clearance on that). Although the bin capacity is a little on the small side (being just .6 liters) so you will have to empty a lot more than I’d like to both come with an audible and visual indicator to let you know when the thing is full.

Roomba 800 Series Diameter 13.9 in (353 mm) Height 3.6 in (92 mm) Weight 8.4 lbs (3.8 kg)

They’ve also made maintenance pretty much a piece of cake too, take care of the wheels, the rubber rollers and the spinning brush as well as the caster assembly point - and you are pretty much set. The video below does a nice job of explaining just how easy it is.

So which to go for the Roomba 860 or 880?

For me, it makes sense to go for the 880 for two reasons.

For me the fact that it can clean multiple rooms in one cycle (well 3) is a big plus over the Roomba 860 that can just do one and the fact that it comes with two virtual walls as well as opposed to just one with the 860, means there’s more room for adjustment. I know you can get additional accessories for the Roomba 860 but these of course come with an additional cost.

The other reason, is of course the remote control, just something quite appealing of me not having to get up from the sofa and change the settings on the Roomba 880 if I want to.

The sell on the 860 of course is the much improved battery performance and for others I can see it would suit them, with a longer cycle and recharging time - but for me not so much. If I can get it recharged whilst I’m asleep or at work (for the eight hours) and an extra 15 minutes of cleaning - don’t think it’s going to make a whole lot of difference, as my rooms are on the smaller side anyway.

If you are after a fantastic all round robot vacuum, then getting hold of a Roomba 880 is a safe bet (certainly one, you won't regret - that's for sure).

Looking for the manual for the 800 series? You can grab it here.