The Roomba 960 and I7 represent two crucial stages of how iRobot evolved their Roomba product line.
Take note that the Roomba 980 is already discontinued by iRobot, but it is still available on sites like Amazon. In terms of specs, the 980 is very similar to the I7 (non-plus version), so it makes sense for iRobot to ditch the former.
You can check our comparison of the Roomba 960 and 980 in this article if you want to know more about how these two 900 series robots are different.
A quick look at the Roomba 960 vs. I7+
Introduction to the Roomba 960 vs I7
The Roomba 960 is currently iRobot’s only mid-range option in their robot vacuum line. And the only option at its price range that has the camera-based navigation system also found in the higher-end S9 and I7 models.
The I7 is one of iRobot’s two premium options that have the self-emptying cleaning base with the persistent maps (or smart imprint navigation) and the “keep out zones” that act as a virtual wall.
While the 960 is much cheaper than the I7, it doesn’t have the auto empty system of the I7 Plus that makes it a hands-free robot that cleans and empties the bin on its own.
The bag inside the I7’s charging dock can hold up to the equivalent of 30 full bins, so if everything goes well, there’s no need for human intervention except for maintenance tasks.
However, opting for the I7 Plus entails spending more than twice that of the 960 that also has the VSLAM which also has the recharge and resume feature.
Choosing between these two products will boil down to your preferences and let’s examine the features one by one.
Design of the Roomba 960 and I7
There are obvious similarities between the Roomba 960 and I7. The obvious parallel is the round shape as the I7 retains the same form of the older model Roombas. Both robots have the IR sensor upfront and the camera behind the “Clean” button.
Roomba 960 Overview
The Roomba 960 is the “lite” version of the 980 with a smaller motor and battery that won’t run as long or clean as well at least on hard surfaces.
Other than that, it has the same navigation features as the 980 so it has an efficient cleaning pattern capable of resuming right where it left off after recharging.
On the plus side, the 960 is less expensive (around half the price the I7+), and an excellent option for homes with a lot of carpet as the dual rubber extractors will do a decent job at picking up embedded dirt on the carpet.
The Roomba 960 only has one option, unlike the I7 that has two.
Roomba I7+ [with Clean Base Dock]
- The least expensive Roomba option with the smart, camera-based navigation system
- Cleans carpet well
- Not so good at cleaning sand on hard floors
- Runs for only 75 minutes
Roomba I7 Overview
Despite having a similar design as the Roomba 960 and 980, the I7+ is a much different robot with most of the upgrades found under the hood, so to speak.
The most significant upgrade would be the navigation system and convenience features that require less babysitting.
iRobot calls this the iAdapt 3.0 that not only creates maps but also saves them in the cloud to optimize how the robot navigates.
This means that as the robot cleans your home, it will continuously find ways to traverse more efficiently. Saving the map also enables the user to choose specific areas to clean at their most convenient schedule.
The “plus” variant comes with a special charging dock with a vacuum motor and bag that sucks out the contents of the robot’s dust cup every time it recharges.
It is the ultimate in terms of convenience, and the I7 is the first robot to have this feature made available.
There are two options for the Roomba I7 – the standard and the “plus” version. The standard version has the larger dust cup, but it doesn’t have the clean base station that automatically empties the dust cup while the “plus” version has the auto empty feature.
Roomba I7+ [with Clean Base Dock]
Roomba I7 [without the Clean Base Dock]
- The self-emptying dust cup makes the I7+ a truly hands free option that requires minimal babysitting
- Cleans hard floor better than the Roomba 960
- Keep out zones will virtually block the robot from off-limits areas
- This I7 plus model is crazy-expensive
- Short run time of only 75 minutes
Similarities of the Roomba 960 vs. I7
Next, let’s look at how these two robots are similar to one another.
- VSLAM navigation: Both the Roomba 960 and I7 have camera-based navigation systems paired with the SLAM algorithm that helps it map out and plan an efficient cleaning pattern. This feature also helps it pinpoint precisely where it is and give it the ability to resume vacuuming the same area it last cleaned after recharging.
- Round shape: The I7 retains the same round shape that earlier generation Roomba robots utilized. Take note that the Roomba S9 is currently the only Roomba with the D-shape design.
- Dual rubber extractors: These robots utilize similar rubber extractors that are proven in tests to be excellent at picking up dirt (more on that in the cleaning performance section).
- Height: There will be no issues cleaning under furniture because these two robots measure 3.6 inches tall.
- Warranty: All Roomba products come with a one year warranty.
- WiFi and Smartphone app: Both products have WiFi and compatible with iRobot’s Home app.
- Voice control: Alexa owners should consider these robots as both have compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Differences of the Roomba 960 vs. I7
Next, we’ll look into the key differences between the 960 and I7. Knowing this will help you decide whether the I7 is worth the premium or if the 960 is good enough despite the lack of features.
- Airflow: The Roomba 960 does not produce a lot of airflow with only 9 CFM, while the I7 produces 17 CFM. This disparity is reflected in how poorly the Roomba 960 did at cleaning hard surfaces.
- Navigation: While these robots use the VSLAM algorithm that makes it efficient, the I7 has what experts call persistent maps wherein the software saves the map it draws. The 960 does not have this feature; thus, it has to draw these maps from scratch every time it goes on a mission.
- Self-emptying dock: The most significant difference between the 960 and I7 is the self-emptying charging dock that comes with the I7+. This feature takes away the need to manually empty the dust cup after every cleaning cycle and makes the I7 truly hands free.
- Keep away zones: Another upgrade worth mentioning is the keep away zones. It’s a software upgrade that gives users an option to set up one or more “virtual barriers” that block the robot’s path from areas you don’t it to venture in. This feature is only available with the I7 and S9 models.
How do the Roomba 960 and I7 navigate?
Before the Roomba 980 was introduced to the market, all Roomba robots used a random navigation pattern. This means that the robot pinballs around in a random direction when it encounters an obstacle.
iRobot revamped the navigation with the 980, and the Roomba 960 utilizes the same iAdapt 2.0 feature. The system uses a top-mounted camera, gyro, and IMU data to help the robot build a map of your home.
It uses this internal map to pinpoint its exact location and help it remember areas it has cleaned. The 960 utilizes a more efficient back and forth cleaning pattern, unlike the older Roomba robots (namely the 860, 650, and 690).
One issue with using a camera is its reliance on a light source. It will struggle to navigate around pitch-black areas. The Roomba 960 has the floor tracking sensor underneath to help alleviate this issue just in case it case to go under furniture.
It won’t be as good as the laser sensors of the Neato BotVac or the Roborock, but at least it isn’t blind.
But the primary tool it uses is the camera, which means it will rely on visual landmarks to determine its location.
The Roomba I7 pushes the envelope
iRobot could have stopped with the 960 and waited several years before releasing a new product, but as with any tech company, they want to push the boundaries further.
The Roomba I7 uses the same camera and SLAM combo, but it comes with more features on the software side.
One notable improvement is the persistent mapping system that iRobot calls “Imprint Smart Mapping,” where it saves the maps in their cloud server (it can save up to ten).
The ability to save the floor plans gives the I7 several advantages over the 960.
First, it helps the I7 adapt to the layout of your home and determine the best route to clean each room.
However, tests reveal that the 960 holds its own against the I7 in this area. It did better than the I7 in covering a small room and took the same time to clean a larger room.
Second, since it has the floor plans saved, you can name each room or area and tell the robot (through the app or Alexa) exactly what room to clean. Third, you can schedule the robot to clean a specific room (or rooms) at a scheduled time or day.
The Roomba I7+ empties the bin by itself
Perhaps the most significant innovation that iRobot brought in with the I7+ is the ability to self-empty the dust cup thanks to a second vacuum located inside the charging dock.
iRobot is the first to have a robot vacuum with this feature. Shark recently also has its version they call the IQ R1001AE.
This feature is a game-changer, in my opinion, because it means one less task off the checklist.
Every time the robot recharges, the clean base station empties the bin for you. It can hold up to 30 bins, so there’s no need to touch the robot (except for maintenance stuff) for up to one month, depending on the frequency of use.
How do the Roomba 960 and I7 clean?
Another essential feature to look at is how these robots clean.
There isn’t much of a difference when it comes to design as both these robots have the same round shape, single side brush, dual brush roll design that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from iRobot.
The Roomba 960 utilizes the VSLAM that combines a camera sensor to the SLAM algorithm to help the robot navigate.
It also uses a bevy of sensors to help it detect obstacles, cliff points, and pinpoint its exact location to the area it is cleaning.
The single side brush helps it reach corners and edges, but it spins quite aggressively, resulting in dirt scattering even more.
Behind the side brush is a dual extractor system that is one of the best in the business at picking up dirt on carpets.
iRobot has patented this technology, so I’ll doubt that you’ll see something similar coming from other brands.
Underneath the robot is an acoustic sensor that detects the amount of dirt and helps the robot focus on dirtier areas with extra back-and-forth passes.
It lacks the smart imprint system of the I7, so it won’t be able to clean a specific room.
You’ll also have to empty the dust cup manually because it does not have the automatic disposal feature.
How is the Roomba I7 different from the 960 when it comes to cleaning?
The Roomba I7 takes what the 960 has a step further.
While the design looks the same at first glance, the I7 is more than just an upgrade; it is like a new product altogether.
First, let’s look at the extractors. The I7’s brushes have a deeper groove that gives it better agitation, but surprisingly it doesn’t deep clean carpet as well as the 960.
It has more airflow, which translates to better pick up on hard floors.
The smart imprint navigation helps the I7 in terms of allowing users to clean specific areas. It also has the keep away zone feature that blocks the robot from off-limit areas such as the bathroom or the pet litter area.
Cleaning performance between the Roomba I7 and 960
In this section, we’ll be looking at how well the I7 and 960 clean dirt. Tests reveal interesting findings between these robots.
The I7 does better on hard floors
One important feature to look at to determine how well a robot vacuum cleans on hard floors is the amount of airflow the motor produces.
In this area, the Roomba I7 almost doubles the output of the 960 with 17 CFM versus 9 CFM.
The dual brush system of the 960 will have no issues picking up larger debris like Fruit loops, but it will struggle with cleaning small and heavy stuff like sand.
This won’t be an issue with the I7 since it has more airflow, plus the upgraded extractors will pick up better.
It was able to pick up all of the debris large or small scattered on the floor without any issues.
960 is better at deep cleaning carpet
When it comes to cleaning surface dirt, the Roomba 960 and I7 will perform well on carpet, picking up fine to large bits of debris without any issues. It is a result of the outstanding design of the rubber extractors.
Surprisingly, the Roomba 960 does a better job than the I7 at deep cleaning carpet with a score of 91% versus 79% of the I7.
Take note that the deep cleaning test was done on a small portion of the carpet using sifted sand, but it’s a good barometer on what to expect.
The Roomba 960 is the better option for homes with lots of carpets, or if you live with pets, or someone with long hair. One of the biggest surprises for me is how well the 960 does at deep cleaning carpet scoring better than the I7.
That is if you don’t mind not having features like the keep away zones, and the auto-empty system. It’s also much cheaper (more than 50% less expensive than the I7+!).
How long will the Roomba 960 and I7 run?
These robots will run for 75 minutes. Take note that these robots technically have only one power setting.
Seventy-five minutes may not sound a lot, but considering that the 960 and I7 are smart navigating robots, it won’t be an issue as it will simply recharge and go back to the spot it last cleaned and continue until it finishes cleaning the area.
Having a shorter run time is an issue for robots that have standard navigation (or those that just pinball around).
Usability comparison between the 960 and I7
Both robots are extremely easy to use out of the box. Putting together the components is self-explanatory, even with basic technical knowledge.
Even without the app, both these products are easy to use. You can pair either of the two robots with Alexa or Google Assistant if you prefer to use voice.
The iRobot Home app is lightweight and doesn’t feel clunky to use with the I7 having more features than the 960 version of the app.
The I7 has a “training run” where the robot goes through and navigate an entire level with the motor turned off.
Having the motor off allows the robot to run longer to gather data and save it for future use.
You can then assign names for each area of the home and schedule which area to clean at a certain day and time. Another benefit of the smart imprint mapping is the ability to define “keep away zones” that virtually blocks the robot from areas it isn’t supposed to go to.
When it comes to usability, both score high points with the slight edge going to the I7 because it has brought a lot more convenience to the table with the smart mapping system and the auto empty feature.
Noise comparison: Which robot is noisier?
There isn’t much of a difference when it comes to noise levels with the Roomba 960 producing produces 65 decibels and the I7/I7+ producing 68 decibels.
The less powerful motor helps the Roomba 960 become among the most quite robot vacuums available that can deep clean carpet.
One great feature that iRobot has over other less known brands is the availability of parts. I’m not just talking about common stuff like filters; these also include other parts such as the battery. iRobot provides excellent support with parts available for the 600, 700, 800, 900, I, and S-series robots.
Critical parts that require T.L.C. include the high-efficiency filters that need to be replaced every two months.
You can extend the service life of these filters by using a hand vacuum to clean dust, but don’t attempt to wash it because it can void the warranty.
iRobot also recommends replacing the side brush every 6 to 12 months.
Please click on this page for all of the maintenance procedures and intervals for your reference.
Size and Dimension of the 960 and I7
The Roomba I7 is slightly narrower measuring 13.34 inches in diameter, and the 960 measures 13.8 inches.
Both products measure 3.6 inches tall, so it will fit under a lot of furniture.
Spec comparison between the Roomba 960 and I7
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|Run time (Turbo mode)|
Which robot vacuum should you buy?
There’s no question that the Roomba I7 and 960 bring something different to the table. So the question is, which one is the better option that suits your needs?
While the I7 has a lot when it comes to software upgrades, the 960 is much, much cheaper.
The I7’s airflow and the new extractor design make it superior to the 960 when it comes to cleaning bare floors.
But surprisingly, the 960 performs better when it comes to cleaning embedded dirt on medium-pile carpets.
The I7’s smart mapping system saves up to 10 maps and gives it the ability to clean a specific part of your home at a scheduled time. If you’re busy and don’t have much time to monitor and continually empty a robot vacuum, the I7+ may be the better option.
It also has the keep away zones feature that act as a virtual wall and block the robot from off-limit areas.
In my opinion, this feature is much better than relying on a traditional device since you can set multiple walls through the app without having to purchase additional devices.
The Verdict: The Roomba I7 is the Better Option If…
There’s no question that the Roomba I7 brings a lot more to the table than the older 960. It has better software that provides more options to the consumer, and it cleans better on hard floors.
What the 960 has over the I7 is the price (it’s the much less expensive option), and deep cleans carpet better.
The I7 is an excellent option for more substantial homes because of the smart imprint navigation that gives you the option to clean specific areas.
The clean base charging station is a game-changer in many ways because it removes a tedious task of continually emptying the dust cup. This feature turns the I7 into a truly hands-free device that you can leave alone for weeks on end provided that you remove the clutter that can get in the way.
One thing that holds the I7 back is the price. The good news is that it has gone down since Roomba introduced the S9.
3 Reasons to choose the Roomba 960
- Excellent at cleaning carpet: The Roomba 960 surprised me at being the better option at deep cleaning carpet, scoring 91% in deep cleaning tests.
- Less expensive option: It’s the much cheaper option between the two robots. If you want a robot that will clean carpets minus all the frills, this is the better option, in my opinion.
- Efficient navigation: The 960 scored high with efficiency tests than the I7 when cleaning a small room.
Click here to learn more about the Roomba 960.
3 Reasons to choose the Roomba I7+
- A truly hands-free option: The auto-empty system of the I7 plus takes away one tedious task, which is to empty the bin after every run.
- Better at cleaning hard floors: Having a strong airflow enables the I7 to clean debris on hard floors (even sand) much better than the 960.
- Keep away zones: The I7 has the keep away zone option that tells the robot not to go to areas it isn’t supposed to go to. This is a must-have feature that all robot vacuums and mops should have.
Click here to learn more about the Roomba I7+.