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iRobot vs Shark Vacuums
Bought, Tested, and Compared


iRobot is perhaps the most established name in automated cleaning appliances. The company was founded by a trio of MIT roboticists in 1990, with the first batch of products oriented toward military use. The company only applied their expertise in automation to home use in 2002 with the release of the first-generation Roomba. Since then, the company's become a juggernaut in the smart appliances world, currently offering a wide range of Roomba models to suit different needs and budgets as well as the Braava smart mops.

Shark, one half of the massive home appliance conglomerate SharkNinja, is a relative newcomer to the smart appliances space, having released their first robot vacuum, the Shark ION Robot 750, in 2018. That said, they've caught up quickly to their peers, not by trying to go toe-to-toe in performance and premium-grade build quality, but by offering a wide selection of relatively inexpensive, feature-dense robot vacuums.

Test results

Shark vs iRobot: Design Features

Most iRobot models use iterations of vSLAM (Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) technology to map out their coverage area. This system works through top-facing camera sensors that look at furniture, walls, and any other points of interest to both build a map of their coverage area and pinpoint their location in real-time. Newer iRobot vacuums, like the iRobot Roomba j7, combine this vSLAM mapping system with a separate front-facing camera that allows it to spot potential hazards in front of them. In more general terms, since this type of system relies on cameras, vSLAM vacuums require at least some ambient light to work properly.

Shark's flagship AI Ultra model has a LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) sensor instead, which sends out pulses of light that bounce off obstacles and are then measured to determine the position of walls and furniture. Given how fast light travels, this mapping method is faster and more precise than camera-based navigation systems, and it'll have no trouble navigating in areas with zero ambient light. That said, it's worth noting that LIDAR sensors are more mechanically complex than camera sensors, and if they fail, the repair bill is likely to be much higher. LIDAR sensors also aren't meant for identifying the nature of objects in front of them. To give a practical example, a vacuum with a LIDAR sensor might see a set of lightweight drapes covering the doorway to another room as a solid, impassable barrier, while a vacuum with a more sophisticated vSLAM system with object recognition might be able to identify the drapes correctly, allowing the vacuum to pass through the entrance.

Further down the ladder, most of iRobot and Shark's entry-level models rely on bounce pathing instead. These vacuums don't build a map of their coverage area, instead bouncing off of obstacles and walls in a random pattern to move around your home. While this navigation method isn't especially time-efficient, it can be surprisingly effective in its overall cleaning coverage, provided you minimize the number of things the vacuum will ricochet off of. Cliff sensors prevent them from falling off staircases or other edges, while optical encoders that track the rotation of the vacuum's wheels enable them to measure how far they've traveled.

Shark AI Ultra Robot DisassemblyShark AI Ultra Robot Disassembly
iRobot Roomba j7 DissasemblyiRobot Roomba j7 Disassembly

The prevalence of self-emptying docking stations for robot vacuums has exploded in recent years; these let robot vacuums offload any accumulated debris into a debris receptacle built into the docking station, reducing hands-on maintenance requirements since you won't have to empty a vacuum's dustbin manually at the end of every cleaning session. Given their popularity, it's no surprise that both companies offer their own docks, each putting their spin on the concept. iRobot's dock has a bagged design, in which debris from the vacuum is sucked into a dirtbag inside the docking station. It simplifies the debris disposal process since all you have to do is take out a filled dustbag, leaving you without worrying too much about generating a plume of dust and debris.

Much like their selection of full-sized vacuums, Shark has opted instead for a bagless design. These docks are available in two sizes, one with an advertised capacity of 30 days worth of accumulated debris and the other with a 60-day one. Still, even in their extra-large formats, the brand's external dirt compartments have a smaller overall debris capacity than the 2.4 L bags used in iRobot's docking stations. Shaking it out to remove any debris inside will likely create a cloud of fine debris, but you also won't need to purchase new dirtbags periodically, lowering ownership costs.

Shark ION Robot Roller and Side BrushesShark ION Robot Roller and Side Brushes
Shark AI Ultra Robot Roller and Side BrushesShark AI Ultra Robot Roller and Side Brushes
iRobot Roomba j7 Rollers and Side BrushiRobot Roomba j7 Rollers and Side Brush
iRobot Roomba 694 RollersiRobot Roomba 694 Rollers

The brushroll design of Shark and iRobot's vacuums varies pretty drastically as well; new Shark models have bristled rollers with angled fins, reminiscent of the ones found on full-size models like the Shark Vertex Lightweight Cordless. These fins do help reduce the chances of hair getting tangled around the roller, but they aren't nearly as easy to clean as iRobot's rubber brushrolls, which are some of the easiest-to-maintain brushrolls available on any robot vacuum, since there are no bristles on which pet hair can get stuck. Entry-level iRobots use a beater brush to break up larger debris and a stiff-bristle brush to collect smaller material. Neither of these rollers has a self-cleaning design, and the mechanism is very prone to hair wraps.

Shark vs iRobot: Flagship Models

iRobot Roomba S9iRobot Roomba S9
Shark AI Ultra RobotShark AI Ultra Robot

As a general rule, Shark and iRobot cater to different price niches. That said, it's worth comparing the top-end models from each company to better evaluate what each company does best.

The iRobot Roomba S9 sits at the top of the manufacturer's product pyramid, so it's no surprise that it offers a wide range of features and delivers fantastic overall cleaning performance. It's potent for a robot vacuum, enabling it to draw out debris from low and high-pile carpets with relative ease. Its vSLAM builds a very detailed coverage map and allows the vacuum to track its position in real-time, so even if you pick up the S9 and carry it somewhere else in your home, it'll still know exactly where it is and what areas still need to be cleaned. It can drain its battery in just under an hour in its high-power suction power, which is substandard as far as robot vacuums go. However, its recharge and resume function allows it to pick up a cleaning session from where it left off if it needs to return to its dock at any point. It also supports the creation of virtual boundary lines and supports cleaning scheduling for individual rooms within your home.

The higher-end S9+ variant is identical to the standard S9 and delivers identical cleaning performance, but it comes bundled with a self-emptying docking station. Unfortunately, it's worth noting that this bundle pushes the already pricey S9 into a very high price bracket.

The Shark AI Ultra is the flagship model in Shark's lineup of robot vacuums. It's the only model in the company's lineup with a LIDAR sensor, resulting in faster, more precise room mapping in low-light environments compared to the S9's vSLAM system. It comes with a self-empty docking station at a more affordable price too. However, there are a few areas where its substantial price deficit to the S9 is apparent. Its build quality is noticeably less robust, with a body made mainly from cheaper-feeling plastic. Unlike the iRobot, its cleaning head also doesn't automatically adjust to different surface types. Its overall debris pickup performance isn't bad, but it doesn't do quite as well as the Roomba on carpets, and its bristled brushroll is a little more prone to hair wraps than the S9's twin rubber rollers.
A separate 2-in-1 model of the AI Ultra is also available, which features a mopping attachment and water tank to saturate and scrub away dried-on stains.

In contrast, the iRobot Roomba S9 doesn't offer any mopping functionality. It's instead equipped with the company's Imprint Link technology. This feature is only a benefit if you have a separate Braava robot mop, as it'll send out the latter right after the former has finished vacuuming.


Compatible With Self-Emptying Dock External/Internal Dustbin Capacity Pathing Algorithm Mapping Sensor Battery Life HEPA Filter Mopping Variant Available
iRobot Roomba S9 Yes 0.63 gal (2.4 L) / 0.13 gal (0.50 L) Smart vSLAM 49 - 155 min Yes No
Shark AI Ultra Robot


0.16 gal (0.60 L) / 0.04 gal (0.16 L)  Smart LIDAR  92 - 172 min Yes Yes

 Shark vs iRobot: Mid-Range Models

iRobot Roomba j7/j7+iRobot Roomba j7
iRobot Roomba i3iRobot Roomba i3
Shark AI RobotShark AI Robot

The iRobot Roomba j7 falls short in terms of debris pickup performance when compared to the iRobot Roomba S9 and Shark AI Ultra Robot, but it does have one ace up its sleeve aside from its cheaper price tag. Its real-time hazard-recognition system uses a front-facing camera to spot objects in its way, compare them to a built-in corpus of potential hazards, and, if necessary, avoid them. It means you won't have to remove all loose items from the floors in your home before letting the vacuum run. It's also fully compatible with a self-empty docking station to reduce hands-on maintenance requirements.

The separate Combo j7 model has a compact water tank and a mopping pad on a swing-out arm to deal with dried-on stains. It's also currently the only iRobot vacuum with both vacuuming and mopping capability.

If you'd like to go cheaper, the iRobot Roomba i3 is another good option, though it lacks the j7's hazard recognition system and has a less sophisticated mapping system; it uses touch sensors to build a map of its coverage area from the outside inwards, determining where walls and other obstacles are located and building a map off of that info. It's a less efficient system than LIDAR or vSLAM, but you can still use the coverage map it outputs to direct it to specific rooms or label different areas.

Unlike the AI Ultra, the standard Shark AI Robot doesn't have a LIDAR mapping sensor, isn't compatible with a self-emptying docking station, and isn't available for purchase with a mopping module. While it doesn't map as fast as the LIDAR-equipped Shark AI Ultra and isn't capable of spotting hazards like the iRobot Roomba j7, it still offers a pretty decent suite of automation features, with support for virtual boundary lines as well as the ability to direct it to specific rooms after it's mapped out your home. Unfortunately, build quality falls short of similarly priced iRobot models.


Compatible With Self-Emptying Dock External/Internal Dustbin Capacity Pathing Algorithm Mapping Sensor Battery Life HEPA Filter Mopping Variant Available
iRobot Roomba j7


 0.63 gal (2.4 L) / 0.07 gal (0.25 L)  Smart vSLAM/ PrecisionVision 49 - 155 min Yes  Yes
iRobot Roomba i3 Yes  0.63 gal (2.4 L) / 0.07 gal (0.25 L)   Smart Light Touch sensor   87 min Yes   No
Shark AI Robot No 0.08 gal (0.30 L) Smart Laser  90 - 203 min No No

Shark vs iRobot: Budget Models

Shark ION RobotShark ION Robot AV753 Series
iRobot Roomba 694iRobot Roomba 694

Things are much closer at the bottom end of the market. There isn't much to separate debris pickup performance between the entry-level Shark ION Robot AV753 Series and iRobot Roomba 694 - that's more of a compliment to the former, which is not only considerably cheaper than the iRobot but most other robot vacuums as well. Both are relatively simple machines without any smart-pathing or mapping capability, instead relying on bounce pathing to move around their coverage area. The iRobot feels a little better built and does have a surface detection system that lets it automatically increase its suction on carpets, but as noted previously, this doesn't result in any tangible boost in debris pickup when compared to the Shark. There is one area where the iRobot does pull ahead, and that's in its ability to identify magnetic boundary strips, which you can lay down to prevent the vacuum from entering an area in which it might knock over something fragile.


Compatible With Self-Emptying Dock External/Internal Dustbin Capacity Pathing Algorithm Mapping Sensor Battery Life HEPA Filter Mopping Variant Available
Shark ION Robot AV753 Series


 0.11 gal (0.40 L)

Random N/A  172 - 186 min No  No
iRobot Roomba 694


 0.09 gal (0.35 L) Random N/A

 130 min

No  No

Shark vs iRobot: Companion Apps

SharkClean companion app user interfaceSharkClean app user interface
iRobot HOME app user interfaceiRobot HOME app user interface

While feature sets can vary depending on the specific robot vacuum you own, the iRobot HOME companion app unequivocally offers a better user experience than the SharkClean app. It's far more intuitive to use and far more stable than Shark's app, which is not only prone to freezes and stuttering but also has a convoluted menu system and tends to provide incorrect status updates about the vacuum's position and progress.


At the top end of the market, it's hard to contend with the mix of high-end build quality, great maneuverability, and general ease of use that comes with something like the iRobot Roomba S9 or iRobot Roomba j7. While the higher-end Shark AI Ultra Robot punches above its weight in terms of performance and feature set, it's let down by its clunky companion app and inferior overall maneuverability.

Things are much closer between the two brands at the bottom end of the market, with Shark's selection of highly affordable ION-series vacuums delivering similar performance to slightly pricier, though admittedly better-built and easier-to-use 690-series vacuums.

You can see our recommendations for the best iRobot vacuums here. On the other hand, if you don't want or need a robot vacuum but are still considering a Shark, you can see our recommendations for the manufacturer's best models here.