We’ll compare Roomba’s entry-level and mid-priced options, the E5 and 960.
Is the 960 worth the premium price, or is the E5 good enough to clean your home?
One thing’s for sure: both options are excellent at cleaning carpets thanks to iRobot’s patented counter-rotating extractors and dirt detectors.
A quick look at the Roomba E5 vs. 960
Introduction to the Roomba E5 and 960
iRobot has been busy adding new options to its product line over the past few years. The E5 and the 960 are prime examples of it.
These robots are excellent alternatives for cleaning floors, especially carpets, thanks to the counter-rotating brushes.
The E5 is the cheaper option and the least expensive Roomba with rubber extractors.
I believe it uses the same type as the premium I-Series robots.
This upgrade makes it a better alternative than the Roomba 675 when cleaning pet hair since these brushes don’t attract as much hair or dust.
In contrast, the 960 is the least costly Roomba with smart navigation.
It uses iRobot’s iAdapt 2.0 navigation. It could draw maps but not save them. So it navigates in straight lines.
Roomba E5: Better than the 675
The Roomba E5 is a recent release addressing some issues with the 675. iRobot improved two critical parts – the dust bin and brush roll.
The Roomba 675 dustbin is bigger, at 500ml, and it’s washable.
It has a high-efficiency filter, so filtration is decent – better than the Roomba 675 and 690.
These two upgrades address the most glaring issues with the 600-series robots.
However, the E5 doesn’t have smart navigation in the 960, I6, I7, or S9 models.
Like the 614, 675, and 690, it traverses randomly. No SLAM, gyroscopes, and automatic resume.
Consider it an entry-level Roomba with the premium extractors and dust bin in the I-series models.
I think it’s a better deal than the 675 since the price difference is minimal.
Roomba 960: Least Expensive Roomba with Smart Navigation
The Roomba 960 is iRobot’s least expensive option with smart navigation.
It has the iAdapt 2.0, so it can draw maps. However, it can’t save them.
So users won’t have access to features like no-go zones or selective room cleaning.
I like to call this the “lite” version of the Roomba 980 since it has a smaller battery and motor.
Like the E5, it’s an excellent carpet option because of the rubber extractors and the thoroughness (thanks to the detect sensor).
Similarities of the Roomba E5 and 960
Next, we’ll examine how the Roomba E5 and 960 are similar.
1. Round Shape
Both robots have round frames you’ll see in most Roomba products.
This design has been a staple since iRobot began manufacturing robot vacuums a few decades back.
2. Single-side Brush
You’ll notice the E5 and 960 have a single side brush underneath.
The design remains the same across all the variants, except for the
3. WIFI and Compatibility with iRobot Home App
These variants are compatible with the iRobot Home App but with varying levels of functionality.
The E5 has more basic features since it lacks the smart navigating features of the 960.
In contrast, the 960 has more features, like controlling the number of passes, turning off edge cleaning, etc.
But since it doesn’t have map-saving features, users cannot access selective room cleaning.
4. Dirt Detect
One reason why Roomba products are excellent on carpets is dirt-detect. This sensor tells the robot to focus more on dirtier areas by doing additional passes. It adds a layer of meticulousness not present in other brands because it’s an iRobot patent.
However, both robots differ in how it does additional passes. The E5 does it in a spiral pattern, while the 960 in straight, forward, and backward movements.
The button layout of the E5 and 960 are similar, but the placement is different.
In the 960, it’s slightly above the camera. For the E5, it’s in the middle.
Differences between the Roomba E5 and 960
Navigation is one feature that separates the E5 and 960, which is why the latter is more costly.
While the E5 traverses in a random pattern, the 960 is more calculated with its camera sensor and VSLAM algorithm.
VSLAM is an acronym for Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping.
According to iRobot, their technology uses a top-mounted camera that captures 230,400 data points, enabling the robot to map out its surroundings and pinpoint its location.
The 900 series was the first to adapt VSLAM, but it doesn’t have Smart Imprint, so it can’t save maps.
2. Dust Bin
The 900-series has the largest capacity in the Roomba line at 600 ml.
In comparison, the E-series is 18% smaller at 500 ml.
Aside from the size difference, the E5 bin is washable since the motor is not inside.
In comparison, the 960 dustbin isn’t since part of the motor is inside it.
Both utilize a non-washable HEPA filter, so stocking up is a good idea to prevent any downtime.
Check how the Roomba E5 filter looks below. It’s located at the side of the dustbin with a smaller profile.
And the Roomba 960 filter.
3. Brush Roll
Although the E5 and 960 use rubber extractors without the bristles, the E5 has a newer version similar to the I6 and I7.
These newer extractors have redesigned grooves that iRobot says provide better agitation, reflected in the deep cleaning tests, where the E5 picked up more embedded sand.
The 960 utilizes the older extractor design with shallower grooves.
It’s still excellent at picking up embedded stuff, but a notch below the E5’s newer rollers.
The Roomba E5 and 960 are the same height, but the E5 is a little narrower (13.3″ vs. 13.6″).
I don’t think it has any bearing on navigating through tight spots, though the 960 is better in this category.
Both can go under furniture with at least 3.7″ of clearance, so it’s better than a Roborock or Neato since it doesn’t have the laser sensor cover dangling over it.
How do the Roomba E5 and 960 navigate?
One significant difference between the E5 and 960 is navigation.
The Roomba E5 utilizes a similar algorithm as the 600-series, where it pinballs around randomly.
In comparison, the 960 is more sophisticated with its top-mounted camera and iAdapt 2.0 navigation.
The 2.0 version means it can draw maps but not save them. Unlike the E5, which wanders randomly, the 960 is more precise, moving straight back and forth.
I like the Roomba 960 better because it’s more efficient.
Once done with the cleaning cycle, it automatically heads to the dock.
If it doesn’t cover the whole area, it recharges and resumes cleaning at the spot it previously left.
The E5 doesn’t have this polish and roams around randomly. It does so until the battery reaches the 20% mark and then docks.
Fortunately, iRobot’s standard navigation is such that it still covers the whole area.
The Roomba 960 is better for larger spaces and cleaning multiple rooms between the two.
The E5 is better in smaller zones if you don’t mind moving it from one room to another.
App features of the Roomba E5 vs. 960
While both robots have access to the iRobot Home app, the E5 has more basic features. The only thing you can do with the app is schedule runs and check error codes if they appear.
With the 960, there are more customization options. Users can adjust the power settings, number of passes, turn off edge cleaning, and schedule.
Unfortunately, there’s no option to save maps. So there’s no access to selective room cleaning or keep-out zones.
You’ll have to block the robot to keep it off areas it isn’t supposed to enter.
How much power do the Roomba E5 and 960 have?
The Roomba 960 has less power than its close sibling, the 980. It has 9.33 CFM of airflow at the main nozzle versus the 19 CFM of the Roomba 980.
The E5 has less airflow, with only 6.98 CFM in its single power setting.
The E5 did better at cleaning embedded dirt on mid-pile carpet (more below).
Cleaning performance comparison
Next, we’ll look at how well these robots clean hard floors and carpets.
One of the surprising results for me is the results of the cleaning tests on both surfaces.
First, let’s look at the results.
|Roborock Model||Roomba E5||Roomba 980|
|Carpet (Surface Pickup)|
|Sand on Hard Floor|
|Carpet (Deep Cleaning)|
The Roomba E5 did better in all the tests, picking more debris despite having lower airflow and random navigation. I’d attribute this to the newer extractors with deeper grooves.
It seems to have better agitation, picking up more debris. It isn’t perfect, but it gets the job done.
The lower airflow of the Roomba 960 hampers its performance on hard floors, mainly cleaning heavy debris like sand.
It will do well with lighter stuff like dust particles or light clumps of pet hair.
The fast-spinning side brush issue won’t be as problematic as the 675 and 690 because it moves in straight paths.
Hair wrap comparison
Despite having lower airflow, the Roomba E5 was (slightly) better at cleaning hair, with more hair going inside the dustbin after the five and seven-inch tests.
Results after the 5-inch test
The photo above shows the hair inside the dustbin (left) and wrapped on the brush (right).
- Inside dustbin: 40%
- Around the brush: 60%
Results after the 7-inch test
- Inside dustbin: 30%
- Around the brush: 70%
The Roomba 960 didn’t do so well. I didn’t bother computing the score since most of the hair wrapped around the brush and axles.
This was a surprise because the 960 has slightly more airflow. It could be the newer extractors being better at resisting tangles.
One silver lining is removing hair from the rollers is easier than the bristled brush found in the Roomba 600-series robots.
There’s no need to use a scissor to dislodge – all you need to do is pull it out.
Edge cleaning comparison
Next, we’ll look at how well these robots clean the edges.
One area where round-shaped robots struggle is cleaning this area, but these robots are surprisingly decent.
First, here’s the result for the Roomba 960.
And the Roomba E5.
Both robots didn’t pick up everything, but they cleaned most of the coffee grounds I scattered. It isn’t as good as robots with two side brushes like the Ecovacs T8 and ILIFE A10.
Which is better for hard floors?
The results show that the E5 did better across the board. It picked up more of every debris type – from light quaker oats to heavy debris like sand.
It picked up slightly more sand (97.3% vs. 97.01%), but the side brush scattered portions of it.
My only concern is the random navigation, which won’t be as efficient for a larger space and cleaning multiple rooms.
All Roomba products are excellent options for cleaning carpets, and these robots are no exception.
The counter-rotating brushes and “dirt detect” allow these robots to pick up debris under carpet strands.
Surprisingly, the e5 did better on both surface and embedded dirt (check table above).
The E5 picked up more embedded sand in deep cleaning tests with an 89.66% score versus the 85.6% pick up of the 960.
Again, the newer extractor design is a factor why it picked up more.
Dust bin comparison of the Roomba E5 vs. 960
One feature I like about these robots is the above-average dustbin size.
The E5’s receptacle is up to 50% bigger than the 675 at 500 ml, while the Roomba 960’s is more spacious at 600 ml.
Having a large dustbin does matter for these robots as it enables the robot to clean a larger zone without having to dispose of the contents.
One difference is the E5 dust container washable. The 960 isn’t because part of the motor is inside it.
Run time comparison
Next, we’ll look at the run time. The E5, with its 1,800 mAh battery, will run for up to 90 mins. In contrast, the 960 will only run for up to 75 mins.
I’m not sure why the E5’s battery runs further since both have the 1,800 mAh Li-ion battery.
All Roomba products require a level of upkeep to run at their peak. I’ll enumerate the to-do list applicable for both variants.
- Brushes: The brushes take the most abuse and need constant TLC. Any hair or contaminant accumulating inside it will cause friction and wear. It’s essential to check these components regularly to ensure it functions efficiently.
- Sensors: Check the sensors around and underneath and wipe with a clean microfiber towel to prevent dust and dirt accumulation. These components are vital for the robot to avoid obstacles and not fall from the stairs.
- Dustbin and filter: Empty the dustbin after every cleaning cycle and check the filter. The filters aren’t washable, but you can use a handheld or shop vacuum to remove dirt buildup.
- Wheels: Don’t forget to clean the wheels – side and caster. Debris will also gather and could potentially burn out the motor.
Here are guides for more information about cleaning these robots.
Availability of Parts
One reason why iRobot is so popular is the abundant supply of parts.
You won’t have any trouble finding components like the battery, filter, wheel, and brushes. Even stuff like the side brush and wheel module is available online.
Replacing these parts is easy. You can check several of my guides on replacing components like the battery here.
Other Roomba Comparisons
I’ve written other Roomba comparisons to help you decide which option will be better as there are many variables to consider.
- Roomba Comparison [Guide to the latest Roomba options]
- Roomba 614 vs. 675
- Roomba 675 vs. E5
- Roomba 675 vs. 690
- Roomba 690 vs. 960
- Roomba 960 vs. 980
- Roomba 960 vs. S9
- Roomba I7 vs. I7+ vs. E5
- Roomba I7 vs. 980
- Roomba I7 vs. S9
- Roomba I3 vs. I6 vs. S9
- Roomba I6 vs J7
Comparing Roomba to other brands.
|Run time (Turbo mode)|
Where can I buy these robots?
You can buy the Roomba E5 and 960 from online stores like Amazon and Walmart. Check the links below for the latest price.
Disclaimer: If you purchase through any of the links above, I will earn a commission, but at no extra cost to you, so it’s a win-win for us!
Which is better, Roomba E5 or 960?
Choosing between these two robots will boil down to the size of your home and budget.
The Roomba 960 is a better alternative for larger homes with its smart navigation. It can navigate through larger spaces with better proficiency versus the E5.
However, the Roomba 960 is more costly, but it’s a trade-off you’ll have to consider.
The E5 is cheaper and, in my opinion, the best budget Roomba option with the upgrades versus the 675.
It doesn’t have smart navigation but only pinballs randomly.
Surprisingly, it did better than the 960 at cleaning embedded dirt, despite having less airflow, making it a more compelling option.
But the random navigation hampers its potential to clean smaller spaces. It cannot match the 960’s smarter algorithm.
So it’s the choice between a cheaper Roomba without VSLAM or a more expensive one with better efficiency.
4 Reasons to choose the Roomba E5
- Cheaper alternative: The E5 is one of the least expensive Roomba options with the I-series extractors. I like it better than 600-series robots because of the larger dustbin and bristle-free brush.
- Less maintenance: Another benefit of the extractors is that cleaning isn’t as tedious.
- Washable dustbin: The dust container is washable, making it easier to thoroughly clean.
- Excellent for small homes: The Roomba E5 is an excellent option for folks looking for a budget robot vacuum that cleans well in a small home or apartment. It’s not efficient but thorough.
- Picked up more embedded dirt: Despite having less airflow, it’s random algorithm is more thorough and picked up a higher percentage in the deep cleaning experiments.
4 Reasons to choose the Roomba 960
- Smart navigation: The Roomba 960 algorithm is more proficient and traverses straight lines.
- Better for larger homes: Its smart navigation (iAdapt 2.0) makes this ideal for larger homes. The ability to recharge and resume negates the shorter run time.
- Larger dustbin: The 600 ml dust container is 100 ml bigger than the E5.
- Decent at embedded dirt: The 960 picked up less embedded sand in the deep cleaning test (85.6% vs. 89.99%) than the E5.
The Verdict: Roomba 960, Better for Larger Homes, and E5 for Smaller Spaces
To conclude, the Roomba 960’s smart algorithm enables it to traverse multiple rooms inside a larger home. There’s less risk of it not docking because it can pinpoint its location with the SLAM and camera sensor.
If you live in a three-bedroom home with more carpets than hard floors, the Roomba 960 is the better choice since it’s more efficient.
The Roomba E5 is an excellent, less expensive alternative for smaller homes. It doesn’t have the smart navigation of the 960, but it should be adequate inside smaller homes.