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Is the Roomba worth it?

If you’ve ever heard of robotic vacuums, you’ve undoubtedly heard of iRobot’s cornerstone product: the Roomba. While iRobot has been one of the most established, and long lived providers of robotic vacuums, that’s not the only reason Roombas are so popular. Consumer studies, as well as reviews from the robotic vacuum users themselves show that Roomba is a reliable, and trustworthy product.

Even in the past year, through an additional round of robovac roundups and testing, the Roomba 960 has risen above the competition of both other manufacturers and other models.

We’ve taken the time to get expert advice and opinions. Robotic vacuum experts gave us their advice on the most important features in this competitive robovac market. We’ve also taken the perspective of actual robovac users, and asked them about what features they enjoy and which they could do without. The majority of people agree that having a robotic vacuum is worth it on a few conditions: it doesn’t spend too much energy going over the same areas, cleans the floor well, and doesn’t need much attention to keep working.

When we looked at the 960, we considered all these factors to see how this model fits expectations. If you’re wondering Do Roombas Work? and if it’s worth it, read on!

Roomba Comparisons:

Roomba 960 vs 690

Roomba 960 vs 980

Roomba 890 vs 960

Points To Take Note

Roomba 960 is Powerful

This Roomba easily does away with shed hair (whether from you or your pets). Even better, it does an equally good job on carpet and hard floors. When we tested it against other robovacs, it cleaned up more coffee and flour than any of the others, with about 71% efficiency. The 960 is perfectly adept at gathering up all the debris, dander, dust, dirt and insects/bugs that hide in tough spots and agitate your allergies.

Suitable for Certain Messes

It isn’t as easy for the Roomba to get big pieces, so when it eventually reaches capacity, it can leave a slight trail or debris. When we tested its ability to pick up larger particles by putting cereal in front of it, it did initiate the ‘dirt detection’ mode and circle over the mess to clean it. That’s when the small particles and crumbs come into play, since it does have a limit to what it can do with big chunks of debris. 

Best Suited for daily use and maintenance

Really big or gunky messes may be more difficult for your Roomba to really clean efficiently, but it’s still good help to have one in the home. The Roomba isn’t meant to replace larger cleaning jobs for a mop or upright vacuum, but it does replace the work of regular sweeping and dust mopping. Since it works for carpet as well as hard floors however, it’s much more convenient than either of the former options. Read my post on Does Roomba Work on Carpet?

Is the Roomba 960 Worth It? 

Yes, it is. For Convenient Automatic Vacuuming

If you want to stop stressing about little messes (pet hair, the dirt that gets tracked inside, gathering dust), it’s more likely than not that you’ll enjoy having the 960 to take care of it. Even if you’re away from home, you can still initiate a cleaning cycle; just open the app and press the green “clean” button. If you prefer to have a schedule rather than choosing when to clean on the fly, you can also use the app to program a year’s worth of cleaning schedules down to the day and time. The app is a standout for being so user friendly; it’s rated 4.8 stars and 4.2 stars on the App and Google Play stores, respectively, so you can trust it’s easy to use. 

This robotic vacuum is more or less maintenance and supervision free; unless the dustbin needs emptying, this Roomba will take care of the rest. If it runs out of battery during a cleaning session, it uses the ‘recharge and resume’ feature, which allows it to return to the charging dock, and then resume the cleaning session directly after. Basically, you don’t have to finish the job for it. 

Yes – for removing dirt in narrow spaces

A big advantage of robovacs is their ability to clean in places that are difficult to reach, or that your full size vacuum can’t get to. While the 960 isn’t the smallest model available, at a mere 3.6” tall, it gets to all those spots under furniture where dust gathers. If you have rooms that you want cleaned up a specific way, that’s no problem; you can custom tailor how the 960 goes about it. Or, if you want to take care of all those dusty edges, turn on ‘edge clean’ via the app, and the 960 will go around the edges and baseboards of the entire room. 

Yes, if you can afford it

While the Roomba 960 is migrated to use as a mid level robotic vacuum as the market expands, it does have a higher price point than some models. According to Ken Bazydola, iRobot’s director of product management, the newer, i7 model will phase out the 960 in not only price, but functionality as well. Choosing the 960 over newer models will be easier on the budget, as long as you don’t mind giving up some of the upgraded features (dustbin that self empties, upgraded navigation tech). 

No – if you have unrealistically high expectations

While the term ‘robot’ brings to mind a hyper intelligent AI being, robotic vacuum technology is still developing. While the Roomba 960 does a better job of navigating and assessing obstacles than previous models, piles of clothing, upholstery and dressings that reach the ground can be mistaken for dirt, and end up stuck in the vacuum as a result. Using a Roomba is better when you get the space ready for it; move obstacles and non-debris items (clothing, cords, etc) out of the way and off the floor. You wouldn’t try and vacuum around a trash bin, you’d move it right? That’s the idea with robovacs, too. 

No – if you want to replace your upright vacuum

When we tested out upright vacuums, we found they were clearly more efficient. After a pass or two, they got 100% of the mess up. While the Roomba 960 did better than the other models we tested, it still only picked up 71% of the mess after half an hour. In short, your robovac isn’t going to take care of big, heavy messes as efficiently as an upright.

Another factor to consider is the ability to clean stairs; robovacs aren’t very adept when it comes to cleaning slanted areas, and they definitely can’t clean stairs. That’s where upright vacuum attachments can take over. 

No – if you want to make it clean very specific spots

There are some robotic vacuums that allow a higher level of detail and control when you map out their cleaning schedule; you can focus cleaning to a very specific track, and specific spots in each room. The Roomba 960 uses iAdapt 2.0 navigation technology, which means that while it can’t target specific areas, it does send you a mapped report of your home and the areas it cleaned, although it does frequently wipe its memory afterward. Sometimes this is actually a bonus since you don’t have to worry about a machine taking a plan of your home, or don’t wait the delay that comes with loading a cleaning map. The 960 is a quick study; it doesn’t take much time to figure out navigating your home. If you’re really stuck on the smart mapping features, the EcoVacs Deebot 900 and iRobot Roomba model i7 and above are options.

The EcoVacs robovac allows users to target specific spots, and prioritize. This is so that a recent spill gets picked up right away. The i7 will learn your floor plan over a few cleaning sessions and determines which spaces are rooms; you can then direct it to these rooms to clean. 

Alternatives to the Roomba 960

EcoVacs Deebot 900

Much like the i7, the EcoVacs Deebot 900 segments your home into different rooms after mapping the home. It does this fairly quickly too, which is nice. There have been reports in the past the the Deebot can be somewhat buggy and has a habit of forgetting maps, although we didn’t experience these issues. In fact, the degree to which you can custom tailor maps was refreshing. It’s easy to draw a specific area you want cleaning (around a trash bin, over an entry rug, etc), and when you direct it to clean a certain room, it doesn’t get lost and go into another. While the Roomba 960 is inarguably more powerful than the Deebot 900, it does a good job if mapping is your major concern – otherwise the 960 is a more solid choice. 

Eufy RoboVac 30C

The Eufy RoboVac 30C was released in September 2018, when it also premiered the Wifi compatible features. It cleans similarly to the Roomba 960, with a more streamlined, cleaning process, although it doesn’t provide a map of the cleaning. It’s not as noisy as many robovacs, and is slim enough to fit under furniture, while maintaining ample suction strength. A nice bonus is that you have two methods of controlling the 30C; it includes both a physical and virtual remote. 

Various Roomba models

If you’ve gone looking for a Roomba, you’ve surely noticed a plethora of robovacs for sale, although not from iRobot directly. Many models sold through online marketplaces aren’t available through the official iRobot site, so be careful when purchasing. Make sure you’re buying from an authorized dealer, because this will affect whether or not a warranty is included (and possibly the length thereof too), and will affect the level of customer support you get. Currently, the iRobot website includes the new i series (i7+), the base level 690 model, 960, and e5 Roombas. The more standard, or entry level, the Roomba is, the more ‘guess and check’ the level of cleaning and navigation becomes. However the newer models feature more advanced mapping and navigation technology. If you want to know more about the individual Roomba models, look at our Roomba review.

The Bottom Line

The Roomba 960 is definitely worth taking a closer look at if you’re considering a new robotic vacuum. The important things to think about before making the leap are how budget friendly the price is for your needs, and what level of performance and extra features you expect the 960 to include. It’s unique in providing equal amounts of competent navigation, and suction strong enough to pick up the messes that gather around your home. The best thing about the Roomba 960? It makes keeping your home clean throughout the week easy, stress free, and it allows you some much needed time to kick back and put your feet up.  

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