Roomba vs Shark: which robot rules in 2024?

We pit the Roomba vs Shark to see which robot vacuum brand comes out on top

Roomba vs Shark: An iRobot Roomba j7+ and a Shark AI Ultra Robot Vacuum and Mop on a white background
(Image credit: Future)

Since the invention of the robot vacuum in 2002, iRobot have ruled the roost. It's not surprising — their first Roomba was the original robot vacuum. They  literally invented the technology. However, this paved the way for upstart vacuum brands like Shark to develop their own robot vacuums. 

TLDR: Roomba is better, but Shark offer better value. We love the Roomba Combo j9+ — our tests have shown that it's the best robot vacuum. However, its 95% score is narrowly followed by the 90% of the Shark AI Ultra Robot Vacuum and Mop, which retails for around half price, and often even less if there's a deal running. 

Our verdict? If money's no object, opt for a Roomba, but if your budget is tighter, opt for a Shark. We go into all the detail below. 

Roomba vs Shark - the top two

Roomba vs Shark - the best of the rest

Roomba vs Shark - which is best?

WINNER: iRobot Roomba Combo j9+

The best robot vacuum we've ever tested is the Roomba Combo j9+. It combines efficient vacuuming with mopping in a way that's fully hands-free, unlike many other robots that require you to manually switch between the two functions. It's a quick and quiet cleaner and even has a dirt detective function to let you know which parts of the house accumulate the most dirt. 

Our runner-up is the Shark AI Ultra Robot Vacuum and Mop. It also has excellent debris pick-up but innovates by including a mop, so it's a good choice for hard-floor houses and apartments. However, this mop needs a little oversight, so it's not as automatic as it could be. The app also isn't as good as the Roomba j9+, so while it's cheaper, it narrowly misses out on the top spot. 

Roomba vs Shark - which has better suction?

WINNER: iRobot Roomba s9+

The Roomba has better suction. The Roomba s9+ has exceptionally good suction, never once getting clogged or stuck on large debris. It has a turbo mode for particularly soiled areas.  If anything, this robot is too strong, which is why we marked it down. It has a tendency to knock down light furniture like dining chairs or lamps. 

The next best is the Roomba Combo j9+, which won't knock anything down, but isn't quite as strong. Our reviewer found that it could easily tackle all sorts of debris and, unlike other robots, no dirt got stuck to the wheels, avoiding dragging it round the house. 

While the suction on the Shark AI Ultra is nearly as good as the j7+ easily tackling rice and potting soil, the Shark IQ fell short, pushing cereal around the carpet and not picking it up. We think that Roomba wins out for suction. 

Roomba vs Shark - which has the best app?

WINNER: iRobot Roomba Combo j9+

A good app interface is crucial with a robot vacuum cleaner. There are no buttons on most robot vacs, so if the app is poor, it can be hard to control. 

The best user experience came from the Roomba Combo j9+. It's easy to use with a clear mapping system and a universally user-friendly interface. It took around 50 minutes (and two runs of the house) for the robot to develop an accurate map of the home.

Once it knows your home well, the robot will give special attention to areas of the home that tend to get dirtier. It also becomes more efficient over time, moving in a more patterned way rather than moving erratically - as it did at the beginning. It's also great at avoiding any keep-out zones you set.

The app of the iRobot Roomba j9+ Combo

(Image credit: Future)

By comparison, the Shark AI Ultra was a little confusing to use. Our expert tester Camryn found that she needed 'several tries to figure out how to select just one room for cleaning'. The functions are also unclear, as they have similar names  — it's hard to differentiate between 'Zone Cleaning' and 'Room Cleaning', or 'Max suction' and 'Ultra mode'. Overall, Camryn though that Shark's app needed 'a little more finessing' to ensure that it's 'more streamlined' and 'easier to navigate'. 

Shark AI Ultra 2 in 1 review

(Image credit: Camryn Rabideau)

Roomba vs Shark - which is quietest?

roomba s9

(Image credit: iRobot)

WINNER: Shark (as a brand)

Vacuum manufacturers are loathe to release their recorded decibel levels. That's because dB (decibel) recording are relative, and the same noise level can sound very different in one room with soft furnishings and another with more echoey acoustics. So while we can't report on exact dB readings — and it wouldn't be particularly helpful if we did — we can say how they sounded in person. 

We had big issues with the noise level of Roomba robot vacuums. The biggest culprit is the Combo j9+, which is loud as it operates but nothing compared to the noise of its bin. When the self-emptying bin fills, it makes an incredibly loud noise. It's so loud that our tester Alex described it as like 'a jet plane taking off'. That's not hyperbole, it really is that loud. You can't hear yourself talk over the noise of it, and it lasts for several seconds. If you work from home, it's not a noise you want to interrupt your meetings, and it might disturb you on the weekends. With that said, Shark vacuums aren't exactly subtle, but they're not as bad as Roomba. 

Roomba vs Shark: which is best for pets?

irobot roomba j7+ hero

(Image credit: iRobot)

WINNER: iRobot Roomba (as a brand)

Roomba wins if you want a robot vacuum that's good with pets. The Shark AI Ultra is great at picking up pet hair, and it's a little quieter than Roombas, so is the option for jumpy pets. 

However, iRobot run a policy of P.O.O.P. — a Pet Owner Official Promise — that the j7+ won't run through any pet messes. If it does, they'll replace the machine for free. That's a fantastic guarantee, because the danger with a robot vacuum is that it will run through pet droppings, creating a gross mess. 

Also, we found that the Combo j9+ had perhaps the best anti-hair wrap we've seen in a robot vacuum. This is thanks to two bumpy silicone rollers that always pull hair out of the carpet while never getting stuck, rivaling some of the best vacuums for pet hair.

Roomba vs Shark: which has the longest battery life?

WINNER: Shark AI Ultra Robot Vacuum and Mop

This is a straightforward one to answer. Of the Shark and Roomba robot vacuums we've tested, the Shark AI Ultra has the longest runtime. It offers two hours of cleaning, enough to fully clean an entire floor of most houses. 

Roomba vs Shark: which has the biggest capacity?

WINNER: iRobot Roomba j7+ Robot Vacuum 

Another easy answer. The Roomba j7+ has the biggest capacity of these brands' robot vacuums, offering a 0.42 gallon dust bin. 

Do you need a robot vacuum? How they stack up against an actual vacuum

Dyson Ball Animal 2 vacuum cleaner

(Image credit: Dyson)

Robot vacuums are brilliant for specific users, so whether you need one ultimately depends on your habits. If you're tight on time and often too busy to tidy, you'll find the schedules and independent cleaning capabilities of vacuums really useful. They'll save you time and stress, without compromising on cleanliness. If you struggle with mobility, they can save you a lot of pain and frustration too. 

However, there are plenty of people who enjoy cleaning at a specific time with a cordless or upright vacuum. These models are also much more useful if you have a specific area that you need to clean, so if you've had a spill, a handheld vacuum will give more direct results. Although some robot vacuums do have mess detection, like the Euphy.

Dan Fauzi
Home Tech Editor

Dan is the Home Tech Editor for Homes & Gardens, covering all things cleaning, smart home, sound and automation across the Solved section. Having worked for Future PLC since July 2023, Dan was previously the Features Editor for Top Ten Reviews and looked after the wide variety of home and outdoor content across the site, but their writing about homes, gardens, tech and products started back in 2021 on brands like BBC Science Focus, YourHomeStyle, Homes & Antiques and Gardens Illustrated.

Dan is based in Bristol, UK with a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Magazine Journalism. Outside of work, you'll find them at gigs and art galleries, cycling somewhere scenic, or cooking up something good in the kitchen.

With contributions from