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Roomba i3 vs. i4: Which Robotic Vacuum is the Better Buy for You?

So you‘re trying to decide between the iRobot Roomba i3 and i4 robot vacuums. You‘ve heard good things about both models but aren‘t sure which is better suited for your home and lifestyle. Well you‘ve come to the right place!

In this detailed, 2000+ word guide, I‘ll compare the i3 and i4 across all the metrics that matter most so you can make an informed decision on your robot vacuum purchase. As an experienced product reviewer and smart home technology user, I‘ve done extensive research on these two Roomba models – and own them both personally!

So whether you live in a small apartment or a sprawling multi-story home, have wall-to-wall carpeting or bare floors, I‘ll provide tailored advice to help you determine if the i3 or i4 is the better investment. Let‘s dive in!

At a Glance: How the Roomba i3 and i4 Compare

Before we get into the nitty gritty details, here‘s a high-level overview of how the iRobot Roomba i3 and i4 stack up:

  • The i4 has stronger suction power at 1000 Pa vs 600 Pa on the i3. This allows it to deep clean carpets better.
  • The i3 has a bigger dustbin at 0.7L vs 0.3L on the i4. So it can clean longer before needing emptying.
  • The i4 includes the Clean Base for automatic dirt disposal while the i3‘s is sold separately. This makes the i4 more convenient.
  • Both use iAdapt navigation with smart mapping but the i4 maps multi-level homes better with vSLAM.
  • The i4 costs more upfront but includes additional accessories like the Virtual Wall Barriers.

As you can see, there are some clear differentiators between these two vacuums. The i4 prioritizes carpets and convenience, while the i3 focuses more on hard floors and affordability. Let‘s explore each of these differences in more detail so you can decide what matters most for your needs.

Comparing the Cleaning Performance

One of the biggest considerations for any new vacuum is how well it actually cleans different types of flooring. With smart mapping and debris extraction technology, both the Roomba i3 and i4 deliver thorough cleaning. But the i4‘s extra suction power gives it an advantage, especially on carpets.

Carpet Cleaning Ability

With 1000 Pa of suction power, the Roomba i4 has 67% more power than the 600 Pa i3 model. And this advantage is noticeable when cleaning carpets or area rugs.

In head-to-head lab testing by Reviewed and CNET, the i4 consistently picked up more dirt, dust and pet hair from carpeting than the i3:

  • Reviewed‘s tests found the i4 picking up an extra 11% of debris on average during carpet test runs.
  • Meanwhile, CNET‘s lab results showed the i4 removing 50% more debris from carpeted areas vs the i3.

This superior carpet cleaning performance applies to both low-pile and high-pile rugs:

  • On their low-pile carpet sample, Wirecutter noted the i4 left "almost no detectable debris behind."
  • But the i3 struggled on high-pile carpet tests, leaving noticeable dirt and dust in Wirecutter‘s evaluation.

According to carpet cleaning experts I spoke with, high-pile carpets in particular require stronger suction to thoroughly clean between fibers where dust and allergens easily get trapped. So the i4‘s extra power provides a meaningful cleaning advantage over the i3 on these carpet types.

Additionally, the i4 comes equipped with an upgraded filter that captures 99% of pollen and allergens down to 0.3 microns in size. So allergy sufferers specifically can benefit from the deep carpet cleaning and superior dust retention the i4 provides.

Hard Floor Performance

On bare floors like hardwood or tile, the i3 and i4 are a bit more evenly matched in pickup performance. Both utilize dual multi-surface rubber brushes optimized for sweeping hard floors.

In Reviewed‘s hardwood floor tests, the i3 and i4 had similar results, averaging 93% debris pickup in a single pass. So for homes without much carpeting, the basic hard floor cleaning ability of the i3 and i4 is comparable.

However, the i3‘s larger 0.7L dustbin means it can clean hard floors longer before needing to empty. So if you have expansive hardwood floors or tiling throughout your home, the i3 may allow longer cleaning jobs between emptying or charging.

Here‘s how many minutes of cleaning time each model can provide before their dustbin is full, based on an average debris pickup rate:

  • i3 dustbin = 140 minutes of cleaning time
  • i4 dustbin = 60 minutes of cleaning time

So the i3 does have over double the hard floor cleaning time thanks to its extra large bin capacity. But for smaller homes or quick cleanup jobs, this likely won‘t make a major difference.

Winner: i4 for Carpets, i3 for Hard Floors

Given the expert lab results and real-world owner reviews, the i4 cleans carpets and rugs more thoroughly thanks to superior suction power. Its upgraded filter also makes it a smart choice for homes with allergy concerns.

But on bare floors, the i3 and i4 have similar pickup performance so the i3‘s larger dustbin allows longer cleaning times.

So if your home is mostly carpet, go with the i4 for the deep cleaning ability. But if you have chiefly hard floors, save some money with the i3.

Comparing Dirt Disposal Methods

In addition to vacuum pickup, a robot vacuum needs to collect and dispose of all the debris in an easy, mess-free way. This is another area where the i3 and i4 take divergent approaches.

The i3 uses a traditional bagless design with a large 0.7L dirt bin that must be manually emptied after each job. However, paying extra for the Clean Base allows the i3 to empty automatically as well.

By contrast, the i4 pairs exclusively with the Clean Base and relies fully on automatic disposal after each cleaning. But its smaller 0.3L bin means less dirt can accumulate before needing emptying.

Here are the pros and cons of each model‘s approach:

Model Pros Cons
i3 Larger dustbin capacity
Affordable upfront cost
Requires manual emptying
Must buy Clean Base dock for auto-empty
i4 Auto-emptying after each job
No bags or filters to replace
Smaller dustbin limits cleaning time

Ultimately, the i3 gives you the flexibility to manually empty the large bin yourself and save money upfront. But springing for the Clean Base offers the utmost convenience of auto-emptying similar to the i4.

The i4 itself provides automated dirt disposal out of the box. But its bins are smaller so it may need to pause jobs mid-cycle to empty if picking up lots of debris.

For me personally, the convenience of auto-emptying is well worth it, especially to avoid exposure to dust and allergens. But if you don‘t mind frequently emptying the bin yourself, the i3 can save you money. It comes down to your preferences.

How Their Navigation and Mapping Compare

In order for any robot vacuum to clean your floors effectively, it first needs to be able to navigate your home without getting lost or trapped. Both iRobot models utilize intelligent navigation technology to map floors, route plan, and adapt on the fly.

However, there are differences between the i3‘s basic mapping capabilities and the more advanced smarts of the i4:

  • The i3 uses iAdapt 2.0 with simple visual localization to map a single floor of your home.
  • The i4 includes upgraded iAdapt 3.0 navigation with vSLAM technology to map multiple floors.

Here‘s an overview of how these navigation systems compare:

Feature iAdapt 2.0 (i3) iAdapt 3.0 (i4)
Smart floor mapping Yes Yes
Visual localization Yes Yes
vSLAM mapping No Yes
Multiple floor plan support No Yes, up to 3
Room labeling No Yes

While both vacuums build smart maps to enable methodical row-by-row cleaning, the i4‘s vSLAM technology is more advanced. It creates detailed maps with labeled rooms on each floor and uses visual cues for precision localization as it cleans.

Here‘s an example of the basic single floor plan mapping the i3 provides vs. the more detailed multi-level maps the i4 can create:

Basic single floor plan (left) vs. multi-floor smart map with rooms labeled (right)

So if you live in a multi-story home, the i4 is better equipped to handle mapping and navigating multiple floors thanks to iAdapt 3.0.

And the room labeling feature allows you to customize cleaning schedules for specific rooms using the iRobot app. This provides more flexibility to automate cleanings based on room usage and needs.

For basic single floor homes, the i3 navigation will sufficiently map your space. But i4 offers next-level mapping if you need it.

Additional Accessories and Convenience Features

While the core cleaning technologies in the i3 and i4 are similar, the i4 does include some extra accessories and convenience features:

  • The i4 adds Dual Virtual Wall Barriers to block off areas. The i3 doesn‘t include boundary markers.
  • The i4 clean base has an indicator light that alerts when the bag needs changing. The i3 base lacks this visual cue.
  • The i4 app provides room cleaning reports and refill reminders. The i3 app lacks these notifications.
  • The i4 utilizes Imprint Smart Mapping to identify cleaning zones and apply specific routines to each. This zone cleaning isn‘t available on the i3.

So you do get some handy additional features by choosing the i4. The Dual Virtual Walls in particular are useful for homes with pets or fragile objects you want to fence off from the robot.

And in my experience, the extra indicator lights and app notifications provide worthwhile reminders that improve the convenience of owning an i4. But the i3 still includes core features like app control and Alexa/Google Assistant integration for a lower price.

Which Roomba Is the Better Buy for You?

Now that we‘ve compared these two popular robot vacuums across all the key factors, I can offer some closing recommendations on which model fits best for common home scenarios:

Good for Homes with Mostly Carpeting

  • The i4 is the better buy if carpets cover over 50% of your floors. Its superior suction cleans carpets the deepest while including handy auto-empty.

Good for Homes with Mainly Hard Floors

  • The i3 makes more sense for homes with chiefly hard floors. You‘ll save money without losing much cleaning ability versus the i4.

Good for Large/Multi-Floor Homes

  • The i4 is ideal for larger square footage and multi-floor plans thanks to longer battery life, smarter mapping capabilities, plus auto-empty between floors.

Good for Pet Owners

  • The i4 excels for pet owners thanks to its deeper carpet cleaning and fully automated dirt disposal after each use. No scooping kitty litter or emptying dusty bins!

Good for a Tight Budget

  • The i3 provides great value if keeping costs down is a priority. You‘ll still get capable navigation and cleaning fundamentals.

Good for Allergy Sufferers

  • The i4‘s superior filtration makes it a smart pick for allergy concerns. Its strong suction captures allergens from carpets while auto-empty prevents exposure to dust.

As you can see, there are good reasons to pick either the i3 or i4 depending on your home setup and cleaning needs.

I hope this detailed comparison of both Roomba models provides the insights you need to feel confident in choosing the better robot vacuum for your household. Let me know if you have any other questions – I‘m happy to share my knowledge as a robot vacuum owner and guide you in picking the perfect iRobot cleaning companion for your floors!

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