by Garrick Dee
Updated March 19th, 2019
When iRobot introduced the 980 to the market, it represented a significant shift in the way they designed their robots.
The first significant change would be the navigation.
Instead of using a thorough but yet inefficient random algorithm that a lot of consumers come to love, it followed suit with Neato’s more efficient back and forth cleaning pattern that covers more ground in less time.
The second change would be including an app that allows you to gain access to this cleaner even if you’re not at home thanks to the WiFi-enabled feature.
But the 980 is very expensive at close to $800 which is out of reach for most consumers looking for an autonomous cleaning device.
A quick look at the features of the Roomba 960
- iAdapt 2.0 uses a combination of sensors, SLAM, and top-mounted camera to help this robot navigate efficiently
- The lithium-ion battery will give you 75 minutes of run time
- You can download the iRobot Home App to control, schedule and setup cleaning preferences for your robot
- Tangle-free extractors do away with the bristles which mean less maintenance
- Equipped with both acoustic and optical sensors to detect areas that have more dirt and clean those areas
- Cliff sensors prevent this robot from falling from stairs
- iRobot Roomba App allows you to let this robot clean and schedule anytime and anywhere
- The app allows you to check the cleaning status of the robot as well as the preferences
- Dust cut detect tells you when the bin is full
- High-efficiency filter captures up to 99% of allergens, particles, and pollens
- Gen 2 motor provides up to 50% more power than the previous 700 and 600 series Roombas
- 1-year warranty
- A cheaper version of the Roomba 980 (around $200 less)
- App-based control means you can control this robot anywhere with an internet connection
- Comes with the same iAdapt 2.0 navigation found in the 980 for less
- Predictable cleaning pattern make this more efficient than the older 700 and 800 series
- Extractors require less maintenance because it has no bristles
- Goes back to the exact area where it left after recharging
- Short run time (just 75 minutes)
- Uses the older motor found in the 800 series
- No turbo mode on carpet
What to expect from the Roomba 960 (Comparing this to the souped-up 980)
In terms of functionality, both 960 and 980 are the same. The most significant difference would be the motor and battery.
Roomba 960 has the same battery as the 800 series, so performance suffers on carpet.
It means it will have the same power as the 880 and will not have the carpet boost functionality of the 980. iRobot says that the 960 will have five times more power compared to the 600 and 700 series while the 980 will have ten times more power.
For homes with mostly bare floor and low pile carpet, this should not be an issue because it comes with the same extractors which will provide needed agitation.
Smaller Lithium-Ion Battery
According to Engadget the 960 has a smaller sized lithium-ion battery that reduces the run time from 120 minutes down to 75 minutes.
It should not be an issue if you have a small to medium-sized home thanks to the more efficient cleaning pattern and upgraded camera-based navigation system.
iAdapt 2.0 means a more efficient navigation
Speaking of navigation, the 960 comes with the same iAdapt 2.0 navigation as the 980. Without going deep into the technicalities, it is more Dyson than Neato meaning it uses a camera to help it mark landmarks and help it keep track where it is at.
Roomba 960’s navigation is different than the Laser-based feature that Neato BotVac has.
When this robot docks, it remembers the exact area it last cleaned and will return to that same spot after recharging.
To see how it navigates around a 1,500 square foot home with six rooms watch this video from iRobot.
You will notice a sharp turn from the previous generation 800 series that used a random cleaning pattern.
It means more efficient cleaning that will maximize run time and cover more real estate.
The problem with a bristled brush is the amount of hair it captures that you will need to cut at least once or twice a week to maintain the efficiency.
Here’s a photo of the ILIFE A4 motorized brush with some hair wrapped up on it…
Another problem with bristles is that it wears out over time and you will eventually have to replace it.
These rubber extractors all but eliminate this problem to some extent but you will still have to do your due diligence and remove tangled hair.
But these extractors should last the lifetime of the robot if you maintain it properly.
Having the iAdapt 2.0 navigation means the 960 can do without a virtual lighthouse.
In its place is a virtual wall that acts as a wall and uses an infrared signal to block an area you don’t want it to go to.
This device is much different from what Neato uses which is a strip of magnetic tape.
One Side Brush
Like all Roomba vacuums, the 960 comes with a single side brush that helps it reach the edges.
iRoomba Home App
In the age of smartphones, companies are finding ways to take advantage of this wireless technology, and iRobot has developed their app that allows you to control this robot remotely.
It means you can ask the robot to clean your home even when you’re at work or the gym as long as you have access to the internet.
Aside from turning on the robot to start its default cleaning cycle, the app has several other functions.
Instead of manually starting the robot, you can set a schedule the exact time each day the robot will clean your home.
You can set different times for each day depending on your schedule. For example, on Monday set it at 8:30 am then on Tuesday at 3:00 pm and so forth.
It is the type of flexibility that an app-based robot gives you.
How to connect the app and robot
Connecting to the app and robot is easy.
For the app to connect to the robot, make sure the robot is on and connected to the dock.
Fire up the app then follow the instructions on the screen as it takes you through the process of connecting the Roomba 960 and the router.
The app will ask for the name and password of the WiFi network, after inputting those fields hold the spot and home button to activate the robot.
Let’s you know when the bin is full
Inside the bin is a sensor that lets you know when the bin is nearly full – this feature is also accessible through the app.
Available for IOS and Android
The iRobot app is available for download for both IOS and Android devices.
Bare Floor Cleaning
Even with the weaker motor, the Roomba 960 is more than capable of cleaning most bare floor surfaces around your home.
One unique feature found in the Roomba and not found in other robot vacuums is the dirt detect system. It uses optical and acoustic sonars to identify areas that have more dirt, and when it detects it, it cleans that area more thoroughly.
Compared to the more powerful Roomba 980, this robot will not have as much power as the 980 with the carpet boost feature.
It means that the 960 won’t be able to clean as thoroughly as the 980, but for homes with low pile carpeting, it should not be an issue.
Even if the 960 can clean carpet don’t expect this to be a deep cleaning machine. But as an everyday cleaner, it helps prevent dirt from piling up and reduce the number of times you have to bring out the upright.
Pet Hair Removal
Since this comes equipped with the same counter rotating rubber extractors as the 980, it will reasonably do well picking up pet hair though slightly less effective as their bristle brushed counterpart the BotVac Connected.
Will It Clean Stairs?
Unfortunately, no robot vacuum in the market can clean stairs, yet.
The app-based control will allow you to schedule this robot to clean at different times each day of the week.
To give you an example on Mondays, you can set the schedule to 8 am, on Tuesday you can set a different time to let’s say around 10 am and so on.
iRobot did not specify how long it will take to charge this robot but based on experience it will take roughly 2 to 3 hours to charge fully.
Even the 960’s rubber extractors are advertised as maintenance free; you; will still need to check it from time to time to see if there is hair wrapped around it and on the sides.
It is an essential step in ensuring it will work as efficiently as the engineers designed it.
Other areas that you need to watch out for are the sensors, camera, side brush, and filter. You can see how to care for these components in the videos below.
Emptying the filter
Removing and cleaning the side brush
Cleaning the camera window – this is probably the most critical part of this robot in terms of navigation
The 960 is advertised to run for about 75 minutes before needing to recharge. The more efficient iAdapt 2.0 somehow offsets the lack of run time and allows this to clean larger areas without having to charge.
All iRobot robot cleaners have a 1-year warranty on the robot and 6-month warranty for the battery.
Consumers who’ve used this product say that it is easy to use. Navigation has improved dramatically where you don’t need to babysit as much.
It is a great option for pet owners
A lot of the folks that used this have some pets inside their homes like dogs and cats. And if you’ve ever owned a dog or cat, you know that these animals shed like crazy and it can lead to respiratory ailments like asthma.
If you have pets and care for old people, then a smart navigating robot vacuum like this would be beneficial like some consumers have shared because it keeps the environment clean without them having to do vacuuming themselves.
It has reduced their workload by around 90% – instead of vacuuming the whole house, they only have to clean those hard to reach areas which are such a relief.
Also, busy people who don’t have time to vacuum every day have benefited from this product.
Great on bare floor but not strong enough on thicker pile carpet
On bare floor, it is capable of cleaning fine dust particles, and if you live in a dusty area, this product will help you keep your floors dust free. And since you can schedule it, it does the cleaning for you without you having to turn it on manually.
On carpet, it will not be as thorough as the Roomba 980 because it lacks suction power. But according to reviews it still does a good job picking up pet hair.
If your home has deeper pile carpet, I would suggest opting for the more powerful BotVac Connected or Roomba 980.
The navigation while vastly more efficient than the previous 800 series may miss some spots here and there, but you can turn on the robot again and again.
As with most robot vacuums, you will need to set up your home to be robot friendly that means. It means tidying up all the wires, keeping all possible roadblocks like toys, socks, etc.
Should I buy the Roomba 960?
The Roomba 960 is a great option for folks looking something cheaper than the Roomba 980. This variant has the same navigation and WiFi connectivity as the Roomba 980 minus the Gen 3 motor.
The biggest weakness of the Roomba 960 would cleaning carpet because of the weaker motor. The short run time isn’t a big deal because of the recharge and resume feature. If you have a bigger home though, the 120-minute runt time of the 980 would be a better fit.
You should buy this robot if you:
- Don’t want to spend as much: The Roomba 960 is a few hundred dollars cheaper but still retains the smart navigation, WiFi and Alexa compatibility
- Don’t have carpet: The Roomba 980 is overkill inside homes that do not have carpet so save your hard earned money with this variant.
- Want a smart robot that does not require a lot of babysitting: Unlike the older Roomba 890, this robot will be able to clean multiple rooms without getting lost thanks to the iAdapt 2.0 navigation.
Learn more about the Roomba 960 on Amazon.
Where can you buy this?
You can buy this robot from Amazon for less than $550. And it is eligible for their free 2-day shipping if you join Prime. Amazon also sells extended warranties of up to 3 years if you want peace of mind.
The verdict: Is this a better option than the Roomba 980?
If the Room 980 is too expensive or if your home does not have too much carpet then the 960 is a good option because it retains the same navigation system and app-based control that make the 980 one of the best-selling robot vacuums in Amazon (even outperforming the $950 Dyson 360 Eye).
The bad news is that it comes with same motor f0und in the 800 series. So performance suffers on bare floor. The smaller lithium-ion battery means less run time – only 75 minutes.
But even with these features, this robot will have the same efficient cleaning pattern and dirt detect system that will help any homeowner keep their home clean and prevent dust from piling up on carpet and bare floor.
The app-based control controls allow you to control this robot, set the schedule and cleaning preferences anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.