Comparing top Shark and Roomba models
Shark robot vacuums work a lot like Roombas. So much alike, in fact, that iRobot, the maker of Roombas, and SharkNinja have clashed in court over patent infringement. SharkNinja is famous for having a huge lineup of cleaning and kitchen products, while iRobot specializes only in robotics.
At the BestReviews Testing Lab, we wanted to know how Shark robot vacuums and Roombas compare in real-life terms. Using everyday items in typical household situations, assisted by extensive research, we evaluated Roomba and Shark robot vacuums on suction power, navigation, features and price.
iRobot vs. Shark: What they do well
While Shark and Roomba robot vacuums share a lot of strengths, each brand is known for specific advantages.
iRobot Roomba benefits
- Dual rollers: Unlike Sharks and other robot vacuums, Roombas use a patented dual-roller system. During our testing, these unique rollers successfully picked up more dirt and debris from floors.
- Durability: Well-known for their durability, Roombas have been known to last five years or longer. We found that they are easy to take apart with just a screwdriver, and iRobot makes replacement parts available even long after a specific model is retired.
- vSLAM: High-end Roombas use vSLAM technology, or visual simultaneous location and mapping, to navigate. These Roombas use cameras mounted on their top or front to see landmarks and orient themselves in a room, which made them excellent navigators in our testing.
- LiDAR: Shark has adopted LiDAR, or light detection and ranging, in its midrange and high-end models. Using lasers mounted on their tops, these Sharks mapped and navigated with impressive accuracy compared to any other navigation technology when we tested them.
- Edge cleaning: We found that Shark models offer an innovative edge-cleaning technology that uses a side vent to blow dirt into their cleaning path for easy removal.
- Price: Shark is famous for offering great-sounding features at prices significantly lower than those of competitors.
What they could improve
Both Roombas and Shark robot vacuums also have some notable weaknesses.
iRobot Roomba drawbacks
- Bump-and-go: The first Roombas came with what’s come to be known as bump-and-go or bounce cleaning, a semi-random pattern of navigation that amused or annoyed people who watched them go. While we found it to be a mostly effective method, it’s now supported only by the lower-end Roombas. We prefer Roombas that come with the more comprehensive row-by-row cleaning that has replaced bump-and-go.
- Premium pricing: Roombas tend to cost more than their competitors at every price point.
- Cleaning power: Despite the hype, Shark robot vacuums did not impress us in actual cleaning power compared to competitors.
- Longevity: We found that Shark models are less easy to repair and may not last as long as Roombas.
Top Roomba models
We’ve tested over 10 different Roomba models at BestReviews, from entry-level workhorses to midrange favorites. The Roomba Combo j7+, a robot vacuum and mop, and the Roomba s9+, the most powerful Roomba model, scored highest in our testing.
Roomba Combo J7+
Battery life: 128 minutes | Dimensions: 13.3” L x 13.3” W x 3.4” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.4 L | Weight: 7.35 lb | Mapping: Yes | Self-emptying: Yes | Object avoidance: Yes | Scheduling: Yes
Released in 2022, the Roomba Combo j7+ impressed us with its performance both as a robot vacuum and a robot mop. We loved how it cleaned in our testing, appreciating its suction, highly accurate mapping and its extremely convenient mopping function. We especially noted its front-camera navigation that allowed it to react to real-time obstacles faster than any other Roomba.
Battery life: 107 minutes | Dimensions: 12.25” L x 12.25″ W x 3.5” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.5 L | Weight: 8.15 lb | Mapping: Yes | Self-emptying: Yes | Object avoidance: Yes | Scheduling: Yes
The Roomba s9+, which iRobot launched in 2019, was the winner when it came to suction power. It blew away all other Roombas in our in-depth testing, on carpet and on hardwood, in corners and in open areas. Its corner performance was particularly impressive, as its D-shaped body and wide cleaning path let it get closer to a corner than any round vacuum could. Its smart mapping was also welcome, letting us send it to clean a specific zone within a room whenever we wanted to.
Top Shark models
Shark makes several families of robot vacuum models, including the Ion, Matrix, IQ and AI families. Of these, the IQ and AI lines are the most full-featured and advanced, and we tested three models to come up with our favorites.
Shark IQ Self-Empty XL
Battery life: 97 minutes | Dimensions: 12.9” L x 12.6” W x 3.5” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.16 L | Weight: 6.9 lb | Mapping: Yes | Self-emptying: Yes | Object avoidance: Yes | Scheduling: Yes
The Shark IQ line uses camera-based vSLAM to get around. We liked the Shark IQ Self-Empty XL when we tested it, especially appreciating its great performance with pet hair. However, we never did manage to set up its mapping features correctly during the testing period. We did love its scheduling feature that allowed us to return to a neat home without having to lift a finger. Having the self-empty dock was also a welcome feature.
Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1 Robot Vacuum and Mop
Battery life: 94 minutes | Dimensions: 13.3” L x 13.3” W x 3.4” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.7 L | Weight: 6.86 lb | Mapping: Yes | Self-emptying: Yes | Object avoidance: Yes | Scheduling: Yes
The Shark AI line replaces the Shark IQ’s vSLAM technology with LiDAR. The Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1’s mapping was the most impressive thing about it in our testing, managing to scan the layout of an 800-square-foot apartment in eight minutes flat. The map was useful as well. We could send the AI Ultra 2-in-1, which was released in 2022, to a specific room, and it would proceed there without bumping into anything or going astray. We also like its low price despite being a combo robot vacuum and mop with a self-emptying bin.
Roomba S9+ vs. Shark IQ Self-Empty XL
The Roomba S9+ is a better cleaner than the Shark IQ Self-Empty XL. Its results in our tests, including sugar, cereal, cat litter and pet hair on carpet and hard flooring, beat even our overall positive experience with the Shark. While we liked the Shark, we had trouble setting up its map and experienced a few glitches with its scheduling.
On the other hand, all the power and performance of the Roomba s9+ comes at a literal high price: it’s one of the most expensive robot vacuums on the market. The Shark IQ Self-Empty XL, on the other hand, costs hundreds of dollars less and is a great value considering its self-empty bin and other features.
Roomba Combo J7+ vs. Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1
In a showdown between two advanced vacuum-mop combo robots, the Roomba Combo j7+ wins when it comes to performance. We scored it highly in all our tests on carpet and hardwood and were impressed with its mopping skills as well. The Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1 disappointed with only middling performance in cleaning tests, leaving visible residue behind on all surfaces unless we specifically set it for maximum power with its extra-thorough “Matrix Clean” mode.
The Shark was a fast mapper and good navigator, although its carpet zone settings were glitchy when it came to mopping. The Combo j7+ took longer to map, and its vSLAM camera needs the room to be well-lit in order for it to work, while the Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1’s LiDAR didn’t. As for price, Shark wins for affordability, beating the Roomba by several hundred dollars.
Shark vs. Roomba functionality
We broke down various features shared by both Shark and Roomba robot vacuums and compared the brands head-to-head. We found clear winners in some respects, and evenly matched competitors in others.
Neither iRobot nor SharkNinja make standardized suction ratings (in Pa or pascals) easy to find, but based on our testing, Roombas have better cleaning results than Shark robot vacuums.
Shark models we’ve tested disappointed in our materials testing, leaving behind significant amounts of sugar, cereal and cat litter on carpet and hard flooring. Their results were similar to those of lower-end Roombas we tested. The high-end Roombas scored higher in most tests, leaving less debris behind and tracking down more particles.
However, the Shark models held their own when it came to pet hair on all surfaces. Shark models with edge cleaning also did well on hardwood, as the air flow from the edge vent worked easily against the bare floor’s smooth surface.
When it comes to noise, Shark and Roombas both vary depending on model, with ranges generally between a quiet 55 decibels and more noticeable 68 decibels. Both were significantly quieter than the average standard upright vacuum, which operates at around 75 decibels.
Both Roombas and Shark robot vacuums have different kinds of navigation over their product ranges. The Roomba 600-series models and the Shark ION family use the familiar bump-and-go semi-random navigation that Roomba popularized in the early 2000s. Mid-range to high-end Roombas feature mapping and vSLAM technology, while Shark models have precision mapping and LiDAR.
Shark robot vacuums with LiDAR mapped rooms with outstanding speed in our testing. The high-end Shark AI Ultra, which only vacuums, and the AI Ultra 2-in-1, which mops in addition to vacuuming, mapped the rooms of an 800-square-foot apartment in just eight minutes. The resulting maps accurately showed the locations of table legs, chair legs, couches, bedposts and even shoes. When it came time to clean based on the maps, the Shark robots proceeded to specified rooms directly with almost no errors.
The best object avoidance, though, went to Roombas in the j7 family. A front-mounted camera lets it see obstacles, even low-to-the-ground items such as cords, in real time and avoid them, which none of the Sharks nor other Roombas could do. We placed a shoe and a pet toy in front of the Combo Roomba j7+ while it was running, and it changed direction to avoid them without touching them. This kind of quick real-time object avoidance was something none of the other Roombas and none of the Shark models could do.
Shark robot vacuums seemed to clean in more orderly rows than even those Roombas that support row-by-row cleaning. This is true even during the Sharks’ normal cleaning run. With the exception of the entry-level ION family, Shark robots have what the brand calls a “Matrix” clean option, where the robot makes a crosshatch pattern covering a space in perpendicular rows for an extra thorough cleaning.
Roombas have a button that lets you activate a spot-clean mode for localized messes. The lack of a dedicated spot-clean button was something we noticed while testing Shark AI robots. The Shark AI Ultra had no physical spot-cleaning control at all, just an app-based solution, while the Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1 vacuum-and-mop combination features a “Clean” button to activate a spot-clean pattern.
High-end Roombas like the j and s series support zone cleaning. Zone cleaning lets you designate an area within a room as a specific target to clean, such as in front of the couch or under the dining table. We used zone cleaning to clean under a table while testing the Roomba s9 with satisfactory results. We didn’t see zone-cleaning options while testing the Shark IQ or AI families.
Unlike physical barriers like magnetic strips or electronic barriers like virtual fences, no-go zones are based on the robots’ map of your room, so there’s nothing to install. The higher-end Roombas like the j and s series support no-go zones, as do the Shark Matrix, IQ and AI families. The Shark ION robots use flexible magnetic strips to set boundaries, while midrange Roombas can use small virtual-barrier devices that emit an invisible wall your Roomba won’t go beyond.
Shark models tested had the option of selecting three levels of performance, namely Eco, Normal and Max. We tested on Normal generally and found its performance only average. The Max setting provided better results.
Midrange to high-end Roombas adjust their power levels automatically, depending on whether they’re on carpet or bare flooring. Many Roombas, including the entry-level 600 series, can also adjust their cleaning power when they detect areas of extra dirt, which the brand calls “Auto Dirt Detect.”
The Roomba Combo j7+ and Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1 both offer mopping functions. In the Roomba, the mopping pad is attached to an automated mop arm that stays out of the way during vacuuming. The Shark’s pad attaches to a special dustbin equipped with a tank for cleaning solution. You need to switch the mop bin for the regular dustbin yourself. The Roomba combo mop scored better in our spills testing than did the Shark, but both delivered good results on our hard floors.
In self-emptying models, an automatic disposal dock uses a vacuum to suck out the contents of the dustbins of compatible robot vacuums. Shark Matrix, IQ and AI models and Roombas in the i, j and s series come in both standalone and self-emptying versions with included disposal docks. Shark docks are bagless, while Roomba docks use disposable bags. The Roomba bags are more hygienic but add recurring costs and increase waste.
Shark vacuums use a single roller with alternating soft brush bristles and flexible rubber fins in a spiral pattern. Shark calls these rollers “self-cleaning” as they untangle themselves from hair or fur, a claim we verified in our testing. Roomba dual rollers are either a bristle brush roller and textured beater (in the 600 series, for example) or two rubber rollers, of which at least one has a special texture pattern to grip dirt and debris, if not both (Roomba i, j and s series).
Based on our testing and research, iRobot’s Roombas are better and more dependable cleaners than Shark robot vacuums. They clean more thoroughly and more consistently across their product range. However, with the exception of the ION line, Shark vacuums generally have faster mapping and better navigation than Roombas. They also offer a lot of flashy features at lower prices than Roombas.
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Jmar Gambol writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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