Right in the middle of the Roomba product line are two mid-priced alternatives (960 and 980), and we’ll look at the less expensive option – the 960.
Like the 980, the Roomba 960 has smart navigation but lacks a map-saving feature, so it doesn’t have the advanced containment features the higher-end I6, or S9 possesses.
Is the cheaper 960 better than the 980? They may look similar, but there are critical differences to consider, which we’ll look at in this review.
I’ve tested this robot to see if it’s a better option than the more expensive Roomba 980, and the results were interesting.
Excellent Mid-Priced Option for Carpet
Roomba 960 Review
While the 960 and 980 are similar in many aspects, the 960 lacks the second, higher suction setting. This omission makes it inferior to the 980 on hard surfaces.
Surprisingly, despite the low airflow (around 9 CFM), it did well in cleaning embedded sand, picking up more than the similarly priced Roborock S4 Max and S5 Max.
For those looking for a workhorse robot vacuum minus the premium, the 960 is an excellent option to consider. However, it lacks features like invisible walls and no-go zones – something present with other brands like the Roborock, Dreame, and Neato.
- One of the best in its price range for cleaning carpet
- Decent dirt volume (600 ml)
- Easy-to-empty dustbin
- Efficient navigation and good coverage
- Availability of parts
- The side brush spins fast – tends to scatter debris
- Quite noisy
- No map-saving or containment features
- More expensive than other brands with map saving, like Neato and Roborock
Introduction to the Roomba 960
The Roomba 960 may be an older variant, but it has stood the test of time thanks to its above-average cleaning performance, especially on carpets.
Despite lacking premium features, this robot is still one of the best value options for cleaning debris.
Roomba products are known for their ability to clean carpets; the 960 is a prime example.
Two reasons – the counter-rotating extractors and dirt detection. None of the other brands have this technology, as iRobot owns the patent.
I’ve tested many robot vacuums, and Roombas are consistently on top in deep cleaning tests.
The Roomba 960 is aesthetically similar to the 980, with the same interface and camera placement.
However, the 960 has a lighter color scheme with primarily glossy gray areas.
Underneath, it retails the exact brush placement and the counter-rotating brushes.
It has a single-side brush with bristled tips. One issue is the fast-spinning side brush – scattering debris like sand or quinoa on hard surfaces.
But it won’t be a big problem on carpets since fibers provide more fiction.
Roomba products do so well on carpets because of its patented brush system, which has evolved through the years.
In early Roomba variants like the 675 and 690, iRobot used a more traditional design.
But the design has changed, starting with the 800 and now the 900 series.
Gone are the bristle and blade combo. In its place is an all rubber brush system with grooves.
The change in design enables it to resist tangles better in theory. However, the lack of airflow hampers its performance at picking up hair (more details below).
One positive effect of this change is the ease of cleaning hair. You don’t need any scissors to cut through hair strands since no bristles are getting in the way.
But take note that the Roomba 980 is better at cleaning hair because of the higher airflow. So it’s the better option for pet hair.
The Roomba 960 has an above-average capacity dustbin with 600 milliliters of volume. It’s one of the largest in the Roomba product line and against other brands that usually have between 400 and 500 ml.
A larger dustbin means fewer trips to the trash bin and more time vacuuming.
Unfortunately, the 960’s container isn’t washable since part of the motor is inside.
The Roomba 960 HEPA filter isn’t washable since it uses a paper element that degrades with repeated water exposure.
If you plan on purchasing this robot, I suggest buying an extra set of filters.
How does the Roomba 960 navigate?
When Roomba launched the 980, it was their first robot vacuum with smart navigation.
The 960 has the same navigation as the 980, traversing in straight lines. It relies on a top-mounted camera to track its location and sensors on its front bumper to avoid obstacles.
However, it cannot save maps, which means users cannot draw “no-go” lines or “no-go” zones.
Only the I6, I7, I8, and S9 have the map-saving feature, but these options are more expensive than the 960.
Aside from the camera, iRobot also placed an optical sensor underneath as a backup if this robot encounters lowlight conditions.
This sensor is similar to the sensor found in the Roomba I3 and Roborock E4, but these robots don’t have the top-mounted camera but navigate similarly.
It lags behind brands like Roborock and Neato in this price category in this area.
In addition to not saving maps, there’s no selective room cleaning. But it’s compatible with Alexa, so you can use voice to turn on this robot.
I scattered quaker oats all over the room to test how much of it the 960 picks up. Aside from a few missed spots, it picked up a good chunk.
The areas it missed mostly were zones it didn’t fit, so it gets high marks with coverage.
Will the Roomba 960 scratch furniture?
One of the issues with the early 600-series and even the more recent Roomba E5 is their tendency to bump into objects hard.
This is a slight concern for me with the 960. There were instances where it bumped hard into an obstacle, as was the case with this rail.
However, it slowed down as it traversed around my brand new office chair.
So I’m guessing it will depend on the object’s visibility and location.
App features of the Roomba 960
The Roomba 960 is compatible with the iRobot app. Compared to other brands like Dreame or Roborock, it doesn’t have as many features.
There’s no live map since it only utilizes the iAdapt 2.0 without any map saving feature.
But it does alert users to error messages in lay terms. So there’s little guesswork involved in figuring out what’s wrong – if it pops up.
But there are instances where it spits out an error code.
The app does provide a hands-free option to access the robot. You don’t have to be physically present to turn it on.
It also enables users to change the cleaning settings, like opting for a one or two pass cycle or turning on edge cleaning.
However, it lacks a second power setting – something present in the more expensive Roomba 980.
The lack of a max setting hampers its cleaning performance on hard floors and carpets, but the difference isn’t too significant.
You can also use the app to schedule automatic runs. Unfortunately, it only allows one cycle per day. It’s not as flexible as other brands that permit unlimited runs.
Another option is to enable a feature where the robot will run once you leave the house. It also has the option to schedule which day the robot does this task.
How much airflow does the Roomba 960 have?
The Roomba 960’s most significant downgrade from the 980 is airflow.
I used an anemometer to measure, and the 960 only produced around 9.33 CFM at its single power setting. It’s lower than the Roomba 980 at 13.74 CFM at eco and 19.74 in performance mode.
There’s a correlation between the lower airflow and performance, which I’ll look into next.
One of my biggest questions for the Roomba 960 is how it picks up various debris with its lower power output.
First, here are the scores.
- Overall: 93.92%
- Hard floor: 96.15%
- Sand on hard floor: 97.06%
- Carpet (surface): 96.87%
- Deep cleaning: 85.6%
The scores aren’t as good as the Roomba 980, but still decent.
It was not surprisingly better on carpet as it is on hard surfaces because of the lower airflow (more detail below).
Hard floor results
- Quaker oats: 97.6%
- Coffee grounds: 99.2%
- Quinoa: 88.4%
- Pet litter: 99.4%
The two-fold reason why the 960 didn’t pick up as well on hard floors as the 980 is the lack of airflow and the fast-spinning side brush.
While the dirt-detect made up it somewhat, suction feels a bit weak, especially on heavier items like sand and pet litter.
The side brush scattered a considerable chunk of the quinoa and pet litter. This is an issue for most Roomba products outside the S9.
Sand on hard floor test
One of the toughest pieces of debris to pick up for a robot vacuum is sand. I used 50 grams to see how much the 960 picks up.
It picked up % on average. Not as good as the Roomba 980 picked up a perfect 100% score, but it’s decent.
You can see the effect of the lower airflow in this test. Between these robots, I’d go with the 980 if you need to clean stuff like sand regularly.
Hard wrap test
Another experiment I did with the 960 was a hair wrap test where I spread one gram of five and seven-inch hair strands.
The Roomba 960 struggled with both lengths, picking up less than 15%. Most of the hair tangled on the rollers and axles.
However, cleaning hair from the bristle-less extractors is easier than the bristled brushes of the Roomba 675 or 690.
The 960 was decent in the edge cleaning test, with almost the same results as the more powerful 980. Check the before and after photos above for reference.
Most round-shaped robots I’ve tested don’t do well except for variants with two side brushes, like the Ecovacs T8 AIVI and the ILIFE A10. Both picked up more and left a cleaner surface afterward.
Next, we’ll examine how well the Roomba 960 did on carpets. I tested it using the same debris as on hard floors, and here are the results.
Low pile results
- Quaker oats: 97.4%
- Coffee grounds: 91.6%
- Quinoa: 100%
- Pet litter: 98.8%
The 960 struggled most picking up coffee grounds despite the dirt detect kicking in and doing extra passes.
Again, the lack of airflow is at play here and magnified cleaning fine debris as such.
Mid pile results
- Quaker oats: 95.6%
- Coffee grounds: 92.8%
- Quinoa: 100%
- Pet litter: 98.8%
The results on mid pile were similar to the low pile scores.
It did the best at cleaning quinoa and pet litter but struggled a bit with fine coffee grounds.
Deep cleaning test
Lastly, this section will look at how well the 960 cleaned embedded sand. I rubbed 100 grams of fine sand on medium pile carpet for this experiment, and it picked up an average of 85.6% in three tests.
It’s a decent score for a robot vacuum with low airflow but lags behind the 980, which picked up 91.9%.
Again, the lower airflow is a primary reason why it didn’t do as well.
How long will the Roomba 960 run?
Another downgrade with the 960 is the smaller capacity battery, which cuts into the run time significantly.
It has a smaller capacity 1800 milliamp-hour battery that will only run for up to 75 minutes.
Fortunately, run time shouldn’t be an issue with robots like this since it has recharge and resume.
It will resume cleaning after recharging if it doesn’t finish the task.
You could upgrade the battery to match the run time of the 980, but unfortunately, I don’t see the 3600 mAh batteries on Amazon.
How loud is the Roomba 960?
I used a sound meter to measure noise, and the 960 is quite noisy, producing over 68.1 decibels in its single power setting.
It isn’t as noisy as the 980 in performance mode, but not something I’d recommend using during the evening.
|Battery||1800 mAh Li-ion|
|Run time||Up to 75 mins.|
|Dirt Capacity (dry)||600 ml.|
|Recharge and Resume||Yes|
Roomba 960 Maintenance
All robot vacuums need a certain level of TLC. Fortunately, cleaning the various components isn’t difficult.
Please check my guide on cleaning the Roomba 980 – it provides a step-by-step guide in cleaning parts like the filter, wheel, extractors, and more.
- Roomba E5 vs. 960
- Roomba 675 vs. E5
- Roomba 675 vs. 690
- Roomba 690 vs. 960 Comparison
- Roomba I7 vs. 980 Comparison and Review
- Neato D7 vs. Roomba S9+ Comparison
Availability of Parts
One big plus point of purchasing Roomba products is the sheer availability of parts. There won’t be any issues sourcing components, not just essential items like the filter or extractors, but more obscure parts like the side wheels, battery, side brush motor, etc.
Due to their popularity, these components are available not only from iRobot but also from third-party brands.
Where can I buy the Roomba 960?
You can purchase the Roomba 960 from online stores like Amazon. Check the link below for the latest pricing.
- Roomba 960 on Amazon.
Disclaimer: I’ll earn a commission if you purchase through the link above, but at no extra cost, so it’s a win-win for us!
Is the Roomba 960 worth it?
The Roomba 960 isn’t the most feature-rich robot vacuum at its price. Others, like the Roomba S4 Max or the Neato D5, offer more app features.
However, when it comes to what matters most, cleaning performance, the Roomba 960 is one of the better robots for cleaning carpets.
Despite the low airflow, it picked up more sand than the S4 Max in deep cleaning tests.
The rubber extractors and dirt-detect pay huge dividends with their performance, and none of the other brands have this combo.
If you don’t mind not having advanced features like map saving or keep-out zones, but only value debris pick-up, then the 960 should be on your shortlist.
5 Reasons to choose the Roomba 960
- Cheaper than the Roomba 980: If cost is a sticking point, the Roomba 960 is an excellent alternative to the 980.
- Decent at cleaning embedded dirt: Despite the low airflow, it still picked up a decent percentage (85.6%) in the deep cleaning tests.
- Efficient navigation: The 960 utilizes VSLAM that combines a top-mounted camera and SLAM to traverse efficiently. It’s quite adept at navigating through even tight quarters.
- Large dustbin: The 600-ml capacity is larger than most robot vacuums available.
- Availability of parts: Buying a Roomba is expensive, but modular design and parts availability bode well for its longevity.
The Verdict: An Excellent Mid-Price Option for Carpet
Roombas are popular for their deep cleaning capabilities; the 960 is no exception.
Even with the poor airflow, it still picked up 85.6% – one of the better scores among all the robot vacuums I’ve tested.
Cleaning performance is excellent, particularly on carpet. However, it will struggle with heavier debris like sand with its low airflow.
If you don’t mind not having features like map saving or the option to set keep-out zones, this robot makes sense for homes with mostly carpet.
It’s an excellent alternative to the more expensive Roomba 980. Between these robots, I’d go with the cheaper option.
There are instances where there’s a sale with either, so compare prices before deciding.
Excellent Mid-Priced Option For Carpet
Navigation - 93%
Surface Cleaning - 96.69%
Deep Cleaning - 85.6%
Quality - 95%
Design - 96%
Value - 94%
Despite the lack of features, the Roomba 960 remains one of the best robot vacuums at its price range for cleaning floors – particularly carpet. It picked up an average of 85.6% – one of the best scores of all the robot vacuums I’ve tested so far. Not as good as the Roomba 980, but it still gets the job done. If you don’t mind not having the advanced navigational containment features or selective room cleaning, this is an excellent alternative.