Shark vs Roomba 2021 [Comparison & Buyer’s Guide]

written by Sam Harris
part of Robot Vacuums
created on September 26, 2021
updated on September 26, 2021

With dozens of Shark & Roomba being sold, it can be hard to know which one to choose since they share plenty of similarities in specs, features, and even pricing.

You’re in the right place if you want to make better decisions while maximizing value on select Shark and iRobot automatic floor cleaners.

Long post ahead! Use the Table of Content below to skip to products of interest.

Shark vs iRobot Reviews

Below are comparisons of popular models from iRobot (maker of the Roomba & Braava line) and Shark, reviewed with quick and concise verdicts, and per your budget, lifestyle, needs, and home layout.

Shark IQ auto-empty vs Roomba auto-empty

In case you’re wondering…

  • IQ in a Shark robot name (as in IQ rv1001, IQ av1002, IQ av1010, etc.) indicates it can plan cleaning, clean methodically, and keep track of its activities. 
  • AE & SR, XL (as in Shark IQ 1001ae, 1010ae, 1002ae, 1000sr, etc.) means it can automatically empty its dustbin. Plus in the name of a Roomba (as in s9 Plus, i7 Plus, or i3 Plus) means the same thing. While the auto-empty station of the Shark is only available as a bundle, the Roomba’s is available as a bundle (i3 Plus, i4 Plus, i6 Plus, i7 Plus, or i8 Plus) or an accessory.
  • RV or UR (as in rv1001 or ur1000sr) means it’s the first generation of the Shark with navigation & mapping issues and inferior carpet cleaning ability. AV (as in av1010 or av1002) indicates the newer generation that was meant to address the problems of the first generation.
  • There are variants of the Shark IQ bots (rv1001ae, av1002, av1010, ur1000sr, etc.) and Roomba (i3/i3+/i4/i4+/i7/i7+/i8/i8+). Mostly the same with the only difference being where they’re sold and accompanying accessories (or lack thereof).

Ready to dive into a comparison of the Shark IQ and Roomba auto-empty robots?

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Roomba i3 auto-empty floor vac

There’s, first off, a Roomba i3 (main unit w/o the clean base) or i3 Plus (bundle w/ the auto clean base) that boasts independence and convenience. 

The iRobot i3 cleans gently in a straight line, avoiding as many obstacles while ensuring optimized reach and coverage. Add that to the self resume & evacuation function (reduces human intervention) and full bin sensor (avoids bin overflow while maintaining pickup performance). What’s more, the i3+ is low tech (uses Gyro + floor tracker for navigation) therefore it  doesn’t require as many frequent software updates that, you know, could mess usability.

Long story short, the iRobot Roomba i3 self-cleaning robotic cleaner is ideal if you…

  • Don’t want personalization such as room select or keep out zone.
  • Don’t live in a split level home (it doesn’t save floor maps).
  • Live in a home (~1200 ft²) with fewer obstacles, pets, and rugs.
  • Are looking for a capable, stable & fully automatic floor robot.

Related: Roomba i3 Plus review

Despite the iRobot i3’s potential, remember it lacks mapping capability. Meaning you can’t schedule or select rooms for cleaning or keep off your kids’ or pets’ play area. Another thing I didn’t mention is the iRobot’s i3 inability to handle anything but low carpets.

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Roomba i7 auto-empty floor vac

iRobot’s response is the Roomba i7 self-emptying floor cleaner. With this one there’s a trade-off of independence for efficiency (the biggest culprit being its navigation & software). Feature-rich, advanced, and, of course, pricier, you however can’t go wrong with the Roomba i7 (Plus) if you want intensive cleaning of your medium pile carpet in a small to mid-sized home (~1500ft²). Again, and while the Roomba i7 doesn’t give you the luxury to run it unattended, especially if you have pets or live in a busy house, it does give you enough flexibility and control to customize the cleaning to your needs and lifestyle, and is one of the best out there for pet-hair, human-long-hair, and hard-floor vacuuming situations.

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Roomba s9 auto-empty floor vac

Moving on, full-length rugs in a 2000+ft² home will not only delay vacuuming if you get one of the i3 or i7 but will most likely overwhelm the motor. That’s why you need something with more power. The iRobot Roomba s9 Plus with suction of 2200Pa and cfm of 22, that is. While pricier plus its navigation and software can use improvements, the iRobot s9 Plus thanks to a combo of its power + rubber rollers (w/ deeper grooves) and 120 minutes of run time makes sense in a large split level home with an extended carpeted area. On top of that, the s9 is D-shaped, ensuring improved pickup in corners and along wall edges.

Other than the price iRobot Roomba s9 Plus, there are ongoing expenses on accessories, in particular, dirtbags. Would you rather buy a bagless automatic robotic vacuum cleaner?

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Shark auto-empty floor vac

Thankfully, there’s the Shark IQ auto-empty robot (there are quite a lot of them with different names, including rv1001ae, av1002ae, and av1010—all the same unit nonetheless) that won’t only help you save on bags, but also on the initial purchase as it about $200 less than the price of the i7 Plus, and half the price of the s9 Plus.

But… $800 in combined, potential savings. Too good to be true? Is there something about the Shark XL that isn’t immediately obvious?

If you’d rather spend your time on something more rewarding instead of troubleshooting or chasing down support–or want a fully automatic bot that cleans well at night or under low lighting conditions and that’s less hands-on–then take a look at the iRobot Roomba i3 Plus. The auto-clean station of the i3 Plus is a bagged system (perfect for people with allergies). The bot itself doesn’t support map saving either. The Roomba i3 Plus does, however, offer stable and reliable performance, is well-built, capable, and durable.

su_note] VIEW CURRENT PRICE OF THE IROBOT ROOMBA I3 PLUS ON AMAZON [/su_note]

Shark IQ vs. Roomba 980 vs 960 vs 890 vs e5 vs 675

Quickly, here are a few pieces of information to keep in mind as you follow along in this comparison…

  • IQ in a Shark robot name (as in IQ rv1001, IQ av1002, IQ av1010) indicates it can plan cleaning, clean methodically, and keep track of its activities. 
  • IQ in the name of a Shark without XL or auto-empty means it DOESN’T self evacuates (as in the r100 or rv1001). Ditto a Roomba without Plus in its name (as in the 980, 960, 890, e5 & 675).

Recommended: Shark IQ robot vacuum models compared 

So, with lots of similarities being shared, which explains why there can’t be a complete Shark versus Roomba comparison without a mention of the Shark r100 (rv1001 is the same unit sold at Amazon) and the iRobot Roomba (980, 960, 890, and e5).

For a bit of context, all five vacuum models…

  • Are priced similarly ($250 – $400); 
  • Clean mixed floors (including low & medium pile carpets) exceptionally and methodically (doesn’t apply to the 890 & e5); 
  • Traverses floors & thresholds impressively;
  • Have decent-sized dustbins that are also easy to empty; and 
  • Self-recharge & resume (doesn’t apply to the 890 & e5).

For general floor upkeep, any one of these should suffice.

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Shark r100

Assuming you don’t want to engage in whole-house cleaning then your money should be on the Shark r100 robotic cleaner. Having mapped your house, this Shark model will let you select rooms for cleaning or mark zones off-limit. 

Don’t know if you can use the Shark r100 on multiple floors? 

You can, but ONLY by operating it wifi-less since it can currently save one floor plan. If you connect to the App, you’d lose personalization because previous floor plans will get overridden, therefore, forcing a re-map the next time around. While none of the Shark r100, iRobot 980, 960, 890, and e5 are intended for split-level homes, the Shark gets close enough.

It’s worth mentioning that there’s one thing the Shark doesn’t get right; software, where it errors time and again, consequently affecting its usability. 

Thankfully the iRobot is an upgrade in this aspect, not only because it’s low tech (doesn’t store floor plan), but it also rarely receives software updates that could otherwise screw functionality. 

Modular, well built, cheap, with readily available parts (being the product of a popular brand)–the iRobot (980, 960, 890, or e5) automatic vacuum is the one to get if you’re big on durability or sharing your home with animals (dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, etc).

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Roomba 980

Do you have an extended (low through medium pile) carpeted area in a house ~1500ft²?

Check out the iRobot 980:

Discontinued and being an older model (but one that continues to enjoy full customer and product support regardless), the iRobot 980 may not be readily available. If or when that’s the case, consider the iRobot 960 which is basically a cheaper 980 with reduced motor and battery power.

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Roomba 960

The iRobot Roomba 890, 675, and e5 if it helps to mention clean floors using persistence as against intelligence. As a result, the cleaning process is a lot more involved (rescuing from trapped situations/transferring to other rooms/physically blocking from unwanted areas/keeping an eye on the dirt bin/emptying out multiple times in between runs, etc.). Not only that, cleaning output may not be as thorough.

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Roomba 890
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Roomba 675
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Roomba e5

The iRobot 890, e5, or 675 nonetheless suffices if you’re on a budget (typically selling under $300), living in a small home (~800 sq ft) with fewer obstacles & kids, and mostly hard flooring. Also, if you don’t want personalization, have some time to spare for monitoring its activities and emptying the dustbin, or if you won’t be running on a schedule or completely unattended.

Consider the iRobot Roomba 890 and e5 if you live with long-haired humans or pets and/or thin, medium-pile carpets.

Shark AI vacuum mop vs Roomba

Next up is a comparison of the Shark AI vacuum mop and the Roomba.

For your information, Roomba is a generic name for robot vacuums from a company called iRobot. Popular models in the Roomba line include the 675, e5, 960, 980, i3, i7, and s9. 

The Shark AI is a vacuum and mop model and the only one in the Shark robotic cleaner line as of this writing.

Which is worth it? Which should you choose between the Shark AI vacmop and a Roomba?

While the i7 & s9 aren’t perfect–i3, 980, 960, e5, 890 & 675 also limited in functionality–they boast smarter technology and work as advertised for most users. So, yes, get a Roomba.

Optionally you can pair with the Braava (Roomba 960 + Braava 240, Roomba 980 + Braava 380t, Roomba i3 Plus + Braava m6, Roomba s9 Plus + Braava m6, etc.) or other mopping robots such as the iLife (w400 & w450) if you need the mopping function.

Buying a combo of the Roomba and Braava though will set you back by at least $700. If you had got the Shark AI you’d saved at least $200. But are you wondering why I instead recommended a Roomba (or a Roomba-Braava collabo)?

Well, it is simple: the Shark A1 rv2001wd (rv2001 is the same unit w/o the mop attachment) has multiple unresolved performance-related issues. While it picks up cat hair, for one, it struggles with cat litter and medium-pile carpet. Another thing is its poor navigation (getting stuck and cleaning the same place over and over) and mapping (takes longer and forces re-mapping). It’s loud, errors out, switching to mopping is manually done, and carpet detection (in mopping mode) isn’t very effective. 

Shark AI vacuum mop vs Braava

Following the trend in the Shark AI vacmop vs Roomba, Braava is a generic name for robotic mops from iRobot. The m6, 380t, and 240 are the three models in the Braava line. 

The Shark AI is a vacuum and mop model, and the only one in the Shark robotic cleaner line as of this writing.

Which is worth it? Which should you choose between the Shark AI vacmop and a Braava?

While the m6 isn’t perfect, with the 240 and 380t having limitations in functionality, they work as advertised for most users. So, yes, get a Braava.

Optionally you can pair Braava with a Roomba (Braava 240 + Roomba e5, Braava m6 + Roomba i7, Braava 380t + Roomba 980, etc.) or other robotic cleaners (Roborock s4 + Braava m6, Wyze bot + Braava 240, Roborock e4 + Braava 380t, etc.) if you need the vacuuming function as well. 

With a combo of the Braava and Roomba costing as much as $1000, had you bought the Shark AI, for example, you’d have saved at least $200. 

But are you wondering why I instead recommended a Braava (or a Braava-Roomba collabo) despite the Shark’s huge money-saving potential?

Well, here it is: the Shark A1 rv2001wd robotic mop (rv2001 is the same unit w/o the mop attachment) has multiple unresolved performance-related issues. While it picks up cat hair, for one, it struggles with cat litter and medium-pile carpet. Another thing is its poor navigation (getting stuck and cleaning the same place over and over) and mapping (takes longer and forces re-mapping). It’s loud, errors out, switching to mopping is manually done, and carpet detection (in mopping mode) isn’t very effective.

Shark ion vs Roomba

The flagship Roomba and Shark up until now received the most attention. This time I’m taking you to the days of humble beginnings. 

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Shark Ion r720
shark_ion_750_robotic_cleaner
Shark Ion r750
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Shark Ion r761
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Shark Ion r85
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Shark Ion r87

So, Shark r720, r75, r761, and r87 represent the Shark ion line. Robot vacuums you’ll find here are of the entry-level category. In plain English, with any of the Shark r720, r75, r761, or r85, r87, you’ll miss out on auto-return (can only auto-recharge), mapping (can’t remember home layout or save floor plans), and personalization (can’t create in-app barriers or select rooms for cleaning). Navigation is also random.

The above information about the Shark ion also applies in the Roomba. Entry-level Roomba (675, e5 & 890), that is.

Regarding which one to choose between the Shark ion and the Roomba, without wasting your time, I’d say get one of the Roomba 675, e5 or 890. Why? With either of them, there may be failures (or defective units) typical of most things with moving parts. These experiences/events are however far and in between, or at least significantly lower in comparison to users who got a perfectly working machine…which is exactly the opposite of what’s obtainable with the Shark r72, r75 and r87. Truthfully, the Shark ion are cheaper, but their performance/quality issues–inability to connect or stay connected to wifi, diminishing suction, redundancy in as early as six months in some cases–makes them a less than desirable choice.

That mentioned and to further help you make the right choice, the Roomba e5 or 890 with iRobot’s patented silicone rubber rollers and 1700/1000Pa of suction is the one to get if you live in a small apartment with a mix of hardwood, tile, and thin/medium pile carpets. The Roomba e5 or 890 also suffices if you have husky or other dog breeds that shed non-stop.

As for the Roomba 675, consider it only if you don’t have pets or kids, live in an apartment with mostly tiles, hardwood, and thin rugs, and can prep the floor or at least keep things tidy.

Is Shark or Roomba better?

So, the Shark line feature boasts of some promising bots at very attractive prices. On top of it, the Shark brand leads in innovation: It has the first & only bagless auto-clean base in the market, and is one of the first adopter of the obstacle avoidance technology as seen in its rv2001wd model. 

All these prospects/interesting facts about the Shark is however overshadowed by the lack of/poor quality control over their robotic vacuum line. Customer support then takes the hit, as getting replies could take days in some cases.

iRobot Roomba bots on the other hand, while they may have inadequacies in navigation–and definitely pricier–are nonetheless solid performers on carpets, and the most ideal for pets and human hair. In the unlikely event of defective units, iRobot products work as advertised for most users. Not only that, Roomba and Braava in my experience and from what I have gathered from other users, last at least three years in most cases, with parts readily available (even for discontinued models such as the 980 and 690). Customer support is through phone, or you can catch them on Twitter or get community support through Reddit. The app is good too if it helps to add, plus software updates often get released on avg. once every three months.

The Roomba, it turns out, has more in its favor than against it, the reason I think it’s better than the Shark, and should be money well spent.