Side by side comparison of the Roomba e5 and 960

Roomba e5 vs 960 – Two Very Capable Vacuums Compared in Detail

Lately all of the robotic vacuum hype has been focused on the latest Roomba i7 series. Rightfully so. However, we shouldn’t overlook the other newcomer: the Roomba e5. The entry-level (or economy class, you choose what the “e” stands for) robot has a chance to steal a little bit of the thunder, at least for a minute.

This release marks a new era for iRobot where they not only think about the future of robotic cleaning but remember that not all of their consumers want or need to shell out near a thousand dollars for a vacuum. This article will examine the e5 and compare it against a long-time consumer favorite; the Roomba 960.

Read the full article to get all the details on the comparison. For those who just want the conclusion, pick the Roomba 960.

The Differences between Roomba e5 and Roomba 960

The differences between the models include one you can see and several you cannot.

  • The 960 navigates your home logically like a human would; the e5 uses a pseudo-random pattern to navigate.
  • The Roomba 960 has a camera to help this navigation; the e5 does not.
  • The 960 has a 2600mAh battery and a runtime up to 75 minutes; The e5 has a 1800mAh battery and a runtime of up to 90 minutes.
  • The e5 is slightly smaller in diameter and lighter than the 960.
  • The 960 model has the ability to automatically resume cleaning after a battery charge; the e5 does not.

The Similarities between the Two Vacuums

The two models are quite alike in both performance and appearance. The major areas where they are similar include:

  • Each model will automatically return to the charging dock to recharge the batteries.
  • Both the e5 and the 960 have high-efficiency filters for allergen reduction.
  • Both come with the brushless rollers (easy to maintain).
  • Using the Wi-Fi in your home, you can control both robots with the mobile app or voice commands.
  • Both models utilize the dirt detection system for identifying and handling heavily soiled areas.
  • You will have the ability to use virtual wall barriers for containment with both versions.
  • Both robots are rated for cleaning all floor types.

Specifications Chart

Let me show you the two models side by side so you can see for yourself what each one offers, or doesn’t offer.

  Roomba 960 Roomba e5
Size 13.8×13.8×3.6 inches 13.3×13.3×3.6 inches
Weight 8.6 pounds 7.2 pounds
Navigation iAdapt 2.0 iAdapt 1.0
Battery 2600mAh lithium-ion 1800mAh lithium-ion
Runtime Up to 75 minutes Up to 90 minutes
Charge Time 3 hours 3 hours
Automatic Recharge Yes Yes
Entire Level Clean Yes No
Filter High-efficiency High-efficiency
Carpet Boost Yes Yes
Drop Sensors Yes Yes
Bump Sensors Yes Yes
Dirt Detection Sensors Yes Yes
Camera Navigation Yes No
Wireless Communications Yes Yes
Mobile App Yes Yes
Voice Controls Yes Yes
Floor Types All All
Washable Collection Bin No Yes
Automatic Collection Bin Emptying No No
Side Brushes 1 Side Brush 1 Side Brush
Containment Dual Mode Virtual Wall Barrier Dual Mode Virtual Wall Barrier
Warranty 1 year 1 year
Price Check on Amazon Check on Amazon

Comparing the e5 and 960 in Detail

Now we come to the meat of our program. Here I will dive into the details of the two robots and compare them apples for apples with one another. By the end, you should have a better idea of which model is best for you.

Battery Life

The Roomba e5 Has the Bigger Battery

Upon first glance you might say, oh, battery life and size will go to the e5. After all, it has a larger celled battery holding 3300mAh and has a quite impressive runtime of up to 90 minutes. On the other hand, the smaller 2600mAh battery pack of the 960 only runs up to 75 minutes.

While you would technically be right, there are a few things you need to realize about the batteries and how they are used.

Note: The original shipment of the Roomba 960 shipped with a 2600mAh battery pack. However, in the last couple of years, iRobot has done away with the 2600mAh batteries and has replaced them with an 1800mAh battery.

The size difference is noted as follows: Runtime up to 60 minutes, recharge time: 2.5 hours, coverage: 1600 square feet.

If you get a 2600mAh battery pack in your 960, when it comes time to replace it, you will purchase the 1800mAh battery pack. There is very little difference in performance though.

Roomba 960’s Navigation Makes More Efficient Use of Battery Power

The Roomba 960 uses the full suite of iAdapt 2.0 sensors, including the camera. This allows the 960 to vacuum the floor in a more human-like and efficient manner.

The Roomba e5 does not have cameras and therefore navigates using a pseudo=random pattern. 

Like the 800 series Roombas, the e5 is not equipped with cameras and therefore navigates using a pseudo-random pattern. This means that it will bump around your house randomly until either (1) the battery runs out or (2) it has covered every spot. Therefore, the e5 is not as efficient as the 960.

The 960 has ‘Recharge and Resume’

Both models negate the battery size by being able to tell when the power drops below 15 percent. When this happens, the robots will stop their cleaning cycles and return to the charging dock on their own to recharge.

This means you don’t really have to worry about making sure the battery is good to go on the next cleaning cycle. Unless you have a cleaning scheduled for every four hours, there is no need to ever really worry about the battery life.

The Roomba 960 has a leg up here, though. After the battery is charged, the robot will return to where it left off (assuming the cleaning wasn’t completed) and finish the job. iRobot calls this feature “entire level cleaning,” which is just another way of saying your whole floor will be clean, even if we have to stop to recharge our batteries.

The Roomba e5 doesn’t have this entire level cleaning ability. Because it doesn’t make a map of your floor plan, it wouldn’t know where to resume vacuuming, even if it could.

When all is said and done, the Roomba 960 will actually outperform the e5 in battery life because of this automatic resume feature. On its own, the Roomba e5 will cover an average of 1800 square feet on a single charge. The less carpet you have in this 1800 square feet, the larger the number becomes.

Likewise, the Roomba 960 will be able to cover about 1400 to 1600 square feet on a single charge. However, because it can recharge and resume, you can double, or even triple that number.

Bottom Line: The Roomba 960 wins. Even with a smaller battery, it is more efficient and can potentially cover more floor space.

Navigation and Mapping

The 960 utilizes the iAdapt 2.0 navigation system. This was first used in the 800 and 900 series robots with the advantage being the ability to use an onboard camera. The camera, as you find in the Roomba 960, creates an internal map using a series of low-resolution images.

An illustration of how Roomba 960 maps its environment.

As the robot runs around your home, the robot takes these photos and overlays them to create a sort of three-dimensional map of your home. This way it knows where to go and where it has been.

This technology is what makes the 960 able to utilize the entire level clean functionality and return to where it left off after recharging the batteries.

It also allows the robots to clean in more human-like patterns, using parallel lines and a solid back and forth to cover the entire floor. Models without the camera rely only on the sensors to navigate around.

The e5 is still without a camera and doesn’t create maps. Because there is no map to use, the non-camera models clean in a more sporadic and pseudo-random pattern.

While still relying only on infrared and acoustic sensors, the software tells the robot to go straight until it can’t anymore, however, it doesn’t know how to turn around and head back in a straight line creating the parallel line cleaning you’d find in the 960.

While the e5 does have a less sporadic appearing cleaning pattern, it is often hilarious to watch as it heads straight for danger only to change to some random degree at the last minute and head in a completely different direction.

Don’t be fooled, the entire floor is covered, and you won’t find as many missed spots as you do with the 600 series robots, but the method the e5 uses to get there is entertaining, to say the least.

The Other Three Sensors Are As They Always Have Been

The other three basic sensors found on all Roomba models are still working well in the 960 and e5. The bump, drop, and dirt detection sensors work in unison to keep your robot cleaning practically and efficiently.

A multitude of sensors on the Roomba 960 and e5 help these robots navigate safely.

The drop sensors are a simple infrared sensor on the front undersides of the robots. They detect cliff, ledges and drops of anything higher than about an inch and a half. When your robot approaches the drop, like at the top landing of a stairwell, it will slow down, getting as close as possible before changing direction to avoid the fall.

This also works on smaller ledges like thresholds between rooms. If the drop is significant enough the robot will avoid it. Not that the machine believes a two in drop will cause damage, but because it can easily become high-centered on the threshold and cause you to have to rescue it.

The bump sensors are light-touch sensors that are activated when the robot comes close to a solid object.

The acoustic and infrared sensors will alert the robot that something is coming up. The robot will slow down and gently nudge the object to see if it is passable.

Things like bed skirts and low hanging drapes are passable, and the robot will continue straight through them. However, table legs, walls, low furniture, etc., will cause the bump strip on the front of the robot to depress.

When this happens, the robot will know it cannot pass and will change direction without causing damage to the robot or the obstacle.

The dirt detection sensors are on the bottom of the robot and are now in their second generation of advancement and upgrades. In the first version, which worked well, the robot traveling in a straight line would detect extra debris in the area and make a small loop, going over the area again.

In the second generation, which is found on both the 960 and the e5, the robot doesn’t make the loop anymore. Instead, it stops and cleans the area using small back and forth motions before continuing on.

Bottom Line: The Roomba 960 wins. The camera-based navigation is more efficient than those without cameras.

Controlling and Scheduling the Robots

Both Models Are Controlled the Same Way: Local, App, and Voice

One thing that hasn’t changed is the method of control for the robots. You still have the three primary types: local, mobile and voice.

The local controls are more limited than they have been in the past, reducing the number of buttons to only three. You will be able to send the robot out to do a cleaning cycle by pressing the central Clean button twice. The first press wakes it up and the second press sends it out to clean.

The two buttons to the left and right of the Clean button are the Home and Spot Clean buttons. The Home button (identified with a little house icon) sends the robots back to the charging station, canceling the cleaning cycle. You should note, that before you can send the robot home, you need to press the Clean button once to pause the cleaning.

The Spot Clean button is used for small messes that occur between cleaning cycles. A dirt footprint tracked in by the kids, or the baby spilling her cheerios, for example. You simply lift the handle and transport the robot to the spill or mess, placing it in the center.

Then press the Spot Clean button and the robot will come to life, cleaning the area thoroughly. It will spiral around the start location in an ever increasing outward circle. Once the area has been cleaned (the spiral will be about three feet), the robot will shut down awaiting further instructions.

While you can press the Home button, the robot won’t really have an idea of where it is in the home’s floor plan, so it is easier to transport it back to the dock (or at least within a foot or two) by yourself.

The iRobot Home App is the Main Way of Control for Both Vacuums

The primary method of control will usually always be through the iRobot mobile app. With the mobile app, you have complete control over every aspect of the robot.

Not only will you be able to give a nickname to your Roomba (useful when you have multiples for voice control) but you will also be able to see and interact with the functions.

You will be able to set schedules, edit schedule and cancel schedules for cleaning cycles as well as the same start, stop, pause and resume functions like with voice commands.

You will also be able to see, at a glance, the status of the robot (is it cleaning, charging, stuck, etc.) and the level of battery life it has remaining. There is also screen in the mobile app that will let you know the status and recommended replacement times of the filter and side brushes.

Unlike voice commands and local controls, you don’t even need to be home or near the robot to control it. You can start a cleaning cycle while you are sitting at your desk at work and come home to a clean floor.

iRobot Continues to Add New Voice Commands to the List

When the use of voice commands first came out, there were very limited things you could say. You could start a cleaning cycle, stop a cleaning cycle and send the robot home.

As technology progresses, these commands have grown as well. Now there are several voice commands you can use and for various purposes.

Both the Roomba 960 and the Roomba e5 will use the same voice commands, which can be used with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant enabled devices. You will be able to give commands for the following functions:

  • Start a cleaning cycle.
  • Stop a cleaning cycle.
  • Pause or resume a cleaning cycle.
  • Return the robot to the charging station.
  • Create a scheduled cleaning.
  • Cancel a scheduled cleaning.
  • Find out the cleaning schedule.
  • Find out where the robot is located.
  • Find the status of the robot.

There are about a dozen new commands for other models, such as the i7, but those will not work with the 960 or e5.

Bottom Line: This round is a tie. Both robots use the same commands and controls, so there is nothing to base a winner on.

The Collection Bin

One of the differences you may or may not notice right away is the collection bin. This little drawer is what collects all of the dirt, dust and debris picked up by the robot. Every once in a while you will need to remove the drawer and empty its contents in the trash.

It would be better if you took this time to remove the filter and knock off the big stuff before returning it to service. Alas, I am not your mother and you can do as you please. It is recommended though.

There are two main differences between the collection bins of the two models and they are quite vast. The first difference is the capacity of the bins.

The Roomba 960 has a fairly large collection bin size, with the capacity to hold 0.5L worth of debris. The Roomba e5, though, has a larger bin, with the capacity to collect and hold 0.7L of dirt and dust.

Is 0.2L that big of a difference? Depending on the type of debris you are collecting, it sure is. Unless you are filling your bin every single day, you will notice that the e5’s bin only needs to be emptied about every three or four cleaning cycles. This could mean you go a week and a half or two weeks before it needs to be emptied.

The 960 will need to be cleaned out about every second or third cleaning cycle. Not that much of a difference, but enough to warrant a second thought about it.  Both robots will shut down if their collection bins become too full. There is a sensor inside that makes the robot stop and angrily beep at you when it senses the bin is full.

This is done for the protection of the robot. A full bin can cause debris to back up which will, in turn, cause the motor to overheat. Nobody wants that.

The dirt bin of the Roomba e5 is washable.

The second difference is that the collection bin on the e5 is washable. Obviously, you will need to empty it first, but after that, you can rinse it out under the tap to ensure it is completely clean. The 960 bin isn’t washable. You will only be allowed to wipe it out with a dry towel or paper napkin.

Bottom Line: The Roomba e5 wins. A larger and washable bin is easier to maintain.

Frequently Asked Questions

Allow me, now, to answer some of the more common questions about these machines. If you have further questions, just use the comment section at the bottom of the page and ask away.

Q. What type of filters do the two robots have, will they help with my allergies?

A. Both the Roomba 960 and the Roomba e5 have the high-efficiency filters we have come to know and love from iRobot. These filters are the same HEPA quality filters from years passed, just without the actual HEPA certification.

The filters will capture particles down to three microns in size, which is sufficient for collecting pollen, dust mites, molds and pet dander. By reducing the in-home allergens up to 99 percent, you can breathe easier knowing your floors are cleaner. (Pun fully intended).

Q. How well do these robots suck on hard floors and carpet?

A. I wish I could tell you that the little robots run around each room driving in circles so fast it creates a whirlwind of dust and pet hair, followed by them pushing the dirt tornado to the front door where you just open it up and let the dust cloud vanish outside. That would be awesome.

However, until that technology exists, we will use the standard high volume air suction of a vacuum we have known for centuries. Both the e5 and the 960 create about 1000pa of suction, which is five times greater than the amount created by the 600 series.

On hard floors and carpeting alike, there are two, counter-rotating, brushless extractors that sweep, scrub and agitate the floor. The first bar works as an agitator, loosening debris from deep within carpet fibers and scrubbing hard floors to lift stuck on messes.

The second bar acts as the sweeper. It lifts the debris from the floor and carpet into the air duct where it is suctioned into the collection bin.

Comparison of Roomba e5 and Roomba 960's brushless extractors.

The two brushless extractors interlock in the center as they rotate opposite each other. These rubber bladed bars work to not only lift debris but to separate it as well. This makes debris extraction more efficient and reduces the ability for items like hair and strings to get wrapped around them.

In the event that the robot runs over and collects something it shouldn’t (or can’t) like a power cord or a tube sock, the robot will stop and reverse the extractors, in an attempt to free itself. If successful, the robot will then maneuver around the object, so it doesn’t get stuck again.

If it isn’t successful, the robot will shut down to prevent damage to the item or itself and beep at you to help free it. Because there aren’t any bristles, and the two bars work in tandem, the robots are rated to clean all floor types, even high pile carpeting. Shag carpet, though, still poses a problem.


What I Like About the Roomba 960

  • Camera based navigation is efficient and more human-like.
  • Ability to recharge and resume, which is not available on the e5.
  • Maintenance routine take mere minutes.

What I Like About the Roomba e5

  • Really thorough cleaning
  • Large collection bin is washable and doesn’t need to be emptied often.
  • Navigation is funny to watch.


In Conclusion

One of the largest factors when it comes to making a purchase like this is the overall cost. Your budget is going to play a huge role in your final decision. With the release of the new i7 series, the cost of the 900 series robots is going to continue to drop. The Roomba e5 is already cheaper and has some of the newer technology included.

Which one is for you? It depends on your desires. Both robots will give you the same level of clean and in about the same amount of time. You can use the same controls for operation and even have schedules made from anywhere you like.

The e5 has a larger collection bin, but uses a psuedo-random pattern to navigate. Without logical navigation and recharge and resume, the e5 is not as good as the 960 for large houses or houses with multiple rooms.

The 960 offers the use of camera-based navigation which gives it the appearance of a more human clean, using parallel lines and creating image maps in its memory. It is also more expensive than the Roomba e5. Its ability to clean an entire floor using recharge and resume makes it the better pick for most homes.

Although the Roomba 960 costs more, the upgrades on this popular and long time favorite gets my pick in this battle of the Roombas.

Click here for all the robot vacuum deals on Amazon today.

4 thoughts on “Roomba e5 vs 960 – Two Very Capable Vacuums Compared in Detail”

  1. Thanks for the insightful review. I must have missed something though. In the top portion just before the Contents section, you recommend the E5; however, at the end of the article you recommend the 960. Am I just confused?

    1. Hi Donna,

      Thank you for your kind words and bringing this to my attention.

      You are not confused, I made a mistake. The 960 is definitely the winner in this comparison. I have corrected the mistake in the introduction.

  2. Thank you for this review. I have spent the last week agonizing over the 675 vs 671 and then the 960 vs the e5. I just threw away a 5oo series that served me well for a few years with a replacement of the dock station, battery and the brushes. (Too bad the Roomba company does not have a trade-in service).I spoke to iRobot last week and they informed me that the 675 and the 671 had the same type of brushes of the one I was discarding and the lighthouse virtual wall towers were not compatible . I then started looking at the navigation system of the two now being considered and realized that everything has a lifespan and additional virtual accessories can get expensive especially since, chances are they won’t be compatible with any others in the future.I have made the decision to purchase the 960 while it is on sale on various websites including HSN. Thank you for the time spent and the thorough comparison. It felt non partial as opposed to the other companies just giving it star ratings and short descriptions.

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