Had a problem deciding between iRobot vs iLife – High-End, Mid-Range and Entry-Level Models?
We did too, so thought it was best to compare them side by side.
As you might know, iRobot makes the very popular and successful Roomba automatic vacuum series. Their vacuums range from a standard bounce around the room to a room learning genius. ILife makes automatic vacuums which initially started on the low-end and today have really been creating some fully featured models.
What should we expect from our automatic friends though?
Are there criteria that you better meet your needs?
There are quite a few differences between the models and though we are not going to concern ourselves with mopping features or theoretical stair climbing models (See here) we do want to compare the main features that every vacuum cleaner needs to have.
In our opinion an automatic vacuum today should in the very least have:
- Fairly good battery
- Reasonable suction
- Ability to auto charge
- A basic schedule planning tool
- Drop detect sensors to ensure we don’t lose our vacuum down the stairs
Anything else is a bonus for us!
We’ll consider the latest offerings from these two companies in our comparison as of 06 September 2018 and categorise them into High-end, Mid-Range and Entry Level Models.
Table of Contents
Entry Level Comparison
iLife has really cornered the market here, providing great budget models which cover the very basics.
We will compare the iLife A4s and the iRobot Roomba 690 at this level.
It goes without saying that if you are looking to buy your first automatic vacuum or you are on a tight budget then price is an issue.
The iLife A4s currently retails around the $179.99 bracket and is a great deal of robot for a very low price. Although iRobot has recently released the thinner A40, it is not available in the US yet, so the A4s is currently iLife’s budget model.
iRobot Roomba 690 is currently retailing on their website www.irobot.com for $349.99 so is almost double the price, but is there a difference in performance that warrants the price difference.
Comparison of Features
We can see there are some huge differences between these two models and perhaps justify the higher price tag of the iRobot Roomba.
The iLife A4s is certainly lighter and thinner which has the advantage over the Roomba 690, but the Roomba 690 has invisible wall barriers and connectivity which the A4s doesn’t.
As I wrote at the above, it really is a deciding factor what you are purchasing the budget model for. If you are trialling out a product then perhaps an initial low starting price will sway you and you also get the experience of a budget model.
Though this is often where many careful buyers make the mistake that they initially purchase a budget model and then are unhappy that it doesn’t perform or have the capability of performing like a high-end model.
Our advice – be clear in why you are purchasing your automatic vacuum at this level.
The Roomba 690 has wifi connectivity and that is a bonus if you have Alexa or Google Assistant within your home. This is not something you can upgrade on the iLife A4s. You are stuck without it and so must be a consideration.
The other feature that the Roomba 690 has are the invisible wall barriers. The Roomba 690 uses something called lighthouses to block the automatic vacuum from entering a certain room or avoiding the water bowl for your dog.
The iLife A4s doesn’t have this feature, and yes we know you can use a door to keep the vacuum out or some sort of physical barrier, but it does make life a little easier when you don’t have to keep moving things around just for your automatic vacuum.
Note that the iLife does have twin edge sweeping brushes though. This means the A4s can clean from both sides of the vacuum rather than like the 690 that only has one!
Finally, the scheduling needs to be mentioned. The A4s is a very basic automatic vacuum cleaner. It requires scheduling to be set through the remote only with limited options.
The Roomba 690, due to its wifi connectivity, can be set up via the iRobot phone app (Android and iOS) leaving you with more flexibility to start basic and improve.
Within the mid-range, you have a plethora of choice. There are developers and innovators from many different companies trying to create their niche market. Here we again are only looking at two currently mid-range automatic vacuums from iLife and iRobot.
At the Mid-Range level we tend to look for value paired with features and so we will compare the iRobot Roomba 890 with the iLife A6.
Both very able automatic vacuums, but features again will sway your choice.
Comparison of Features
You are able to see that certain features stand out right away. For us, the fact iLife have not included Wifi at this level is a little bit of a disappointment. It still feels very budget level even though there is an updated beater bar which has fewer tangles and a battery life that seems to go on.
The iLife doesn’t feature any sort of intelligent mapping. It generally goes about the room and house until near battery depletion then navigates its way back to the charging station.
The Roomba 890 though does incorporate this functionality. Even though it is running iAdapt 1.0 it still manages to clean the room in a more methodical way than the A6.
The Roomba 890 has a High-Efficiency Filter too, which removes a fair amount of dust from the air. This is important to ensure the dust isn’t being blown around the house after the air exhausts from the vacuum.
Our let down for the 890 though is the battery. The iLife outperforms the Roomba and includes a manual turbo mode to boost suction in areas requiring a deeper clean too.
The Roomba 890 is marketed at the pet owners market and here is where it really shines. Picking up hair and not getting caught in the rollers is a little bit of genius that iRobot developed and developed well. The iLife does have a more advanced roller at this level but the Roomba certainly wins on beater bar dexterity.
As with the budget models, it is the Roomba 890 which has the wifi capability and connectivity to Alexa and Google Assistant. Their App also works well to ensure you can program and start cleaning right from your phone.
Sadly, the iLife A6 doesn’t have this feature, rather choosing a lower price range. The included remote does make life easy though. No downloading of an app or trying to work out what you need to do. The remote makes it simple to start cleaning immediately.
Within the high-end automatic range, there is far more to consider than just the price. Of course, you are looking to invest in a product that delivers substantial improvements and make your life easier.
We will compare the iLife A8 and iRobot Roomba 980 at this level. Here, it is important to note the features you are receiving for the money you are paying.
|iLIFE A8||iRobot Roomba 980|
|Dimensions||12.2" Diameter by 2.83" high||13.8" Diameter |
by 3.6" Tall
|Home Base Charging||Yes||Yes|
|Invisible Wall Barrier||No - Uses Panoview navigation||Yes - Included 2x Virtual Wall Barriers|
|Multi-surface Brushes||Yes - One with Bristles and one with Rubber||AeroForce™ |
|Edge Sweeping Brush||Yes - Twin||Yes - One|
|Turbo Mode||Yes - Manual||Yes - Carpet Boost|
|Return to Base||Yes - Recharge and Resume Function||Yes - Recharge and Resume Function|
|Battery||High-Capacity Li-Ion Battery||High-Capacity Li-Ion Battery|
|Battery Life||90 mins||120 mins|
|Filter Type||Ultra-Performance Filter - Part of a 3-Part filtration system||AeroForce®|
Filter - captures 99% of dust, mites, and allergens as small as 10 microns
|Alexa and Google Assistant Compatible||No||Yes|
|Remote||Yes - batteries included||No|
|Warranty||12 Months Warranty||12 Months Warranty|
It would certainly be a requirement for us at this level to have Wifi included as standard with a featured App to ensure monitoring of cleaning paths and cleaning reports.
However, you will be surprised!
The iLife A8 still doesn’t feature Wifi functionality but rather opted to go for a sleek looking design, that talks to you. Yes… it really talks to you to tell you what’s going wrong or what is needed.
Now that may interest some buyers, but for us, that was not an improvement. The constant voice really didn’t help our nerves when we just wanted it to get on and clean or for it to wait silently for us to find the time to attend to it.
iRobot instead went all out on their flagship model (though soon to be overtaken by the Roomba i7+) and included room mapping technology, iAdapt 2.0, map reporting where rooms are memorised and the best cleaning pattern determined and there is, of course, the iRobot App.
The iRobot App provides detailed reports, a home scan of where your automatic vacuum has been and can be controlled from your phone whether you are at home or away.
That cannot be done with the iLife A8. The A8 does have 4 different cleaning modes (Auto, Spot, Edge, MAX) and can perform many of the functions that the Roomba 980 can though.
They are both able to return to base and recharge before heading off to clean from where they left off.
They both have mapping technologies, with iLife using Panoview Navigation and iRobot using iAdapt 2.0 Navigation with Visual Localization, but only the Roomba allows you to see that report.
The big question then is what are you looking for in your high-end automatic vacuum cleaner?
iRobot has certainly made a powerful automatic vacuum with anti-tangle technology and a user interface which is easily accessible through a number of sources.
The iLife is a little less qualified to sit at this level due to the lack of interaction the user can have with their automatic vacuum. Sure it has a remote and some clear mapping technology but that means you always need to know where the remote is and your room should be as trouble-free as possible.
Of course there are those who prefer a remote to another app on their phone, but for us, the integration with our mobiles that we always have with us was a far better and simpler solution than the remote. We appreciate you may disagree.
Okay I know I said price wasn’t an issue at this level, but the iLife A8 is less than half the price of the Roomba 980 and that must be a consideration, even with the current reduction in price on the Roomba 980 model!
How to choose your ideal vacuum depends firstly on budget and then on practicality. I will always say those two are the most important factors in any choice one makes when purchasing a product.
No point buying a cheap used car when you need to drive thousands of miles a week in it. The price to practicality just doesn’t make sense!
While comparing the iRobot vs iLife – High-End, Mid-Range and Entry-level models we have a vast range and price options to suit each of those requirements and there are certainly individual reviews you can read further on all these models.
At the end of the day if your budget is restrictive, the iLife will have something for you, but if you are able to afford it, the higher cost of the Roomba and subsequent better interaction with your automatic vacuum may just outweigh the whole cost discussion. (It did for us!)