Roomba 960 Review – A More Affordable WiFi Enabled Robot?

When iRobot came out with the Roomba 980 vacuum cleaner earlier this year, everybody was excited to learn that it was Wi-Fi connected.  But some people were turned off by the $900 price tag.

Special Note on Discount Pricing: The 960 just want on sale for June, it’s available for a record 24% off at this listing right now.

So is the Roomba 960 the perfect choice for your vacuuming needs?

The Skinny on the Roomba 960

The Roomba 960 takes the same form as the earlier Roombas: round in shape with two main rotating brushes and one side brush.  It also features a: removable dust bin and a CLEAN button that is hard to miss.

If you purchase the Roomba 960, you also get the Home Base Charging Station, the line cord, a dual mode Virtual Wall Barrier, a pair of AA batteries, an extra filter, and extra side brush.

However, unlike older Roomba models, the Roomba 960 features several sensors.

For one, it has the cliff detection sensors that prevent the unit from falling off the stairs.   There’s also the optical and acoustic sensors that help the robot vacuum cleaner find the dirtiest parts of your floor and focus its cleaning on these areas.

That means that the Roomba 960 stays longer at spots that require more attention, making sure that you have a cleaner floor.

The Roomba 960 also makes use of the iAdapt Navigation with Visual Localization, which helps the vacuum cleaner know exactly which area it is in the room.  Unlike earlier Roombas, such as the 800-series, the 960 no longer cleans randomly.

What’s more, the Roomba 960 can clean for 75 minutes on a single charge and can work in several rooms, too.  After that, it automatically goes back to its charging station.  And once recharged, it will resume vacuuming!

A better, more efficient cleaning

The Roomba 960 claims that it has 50% better cleaning performance compared to the 600-series Roombas because of its AeroForce 3-Stage Cleaning System, which features debris extractors, as well as its Gen 2 motor, which increases cleaning efficiency without the hassles of maintaining it too much.

You also get five times the air power with this particular motor.

roomba 960 clean

s that help clean dirt off any type of floor.  Like earlier Roombas, the 960 can also clean under chairs and sofas because of its lower height.  Plus, its side brush can take care of dirt and dust that gather at the wall corners.

And with the AeroForce high-efficiency filter, the Roomba 960 can trap very small particles.  Allergens, particles, and pollen as small as 10 microns are easily trapped in the filter.

The iRobot Home App

Connectivity is one of the unique features that you would love on the 960.  This particular model comes with the iRobot Home App, which is available on both the iOS and Android app markets.  Setting up this app is very straightforward and simple.

Once downloaded, you plug in the charging station and dock your Roomba 960.  Fire up the app and follow the onscreen instructions that will take you through the process of connecting your 960 to your Wi-Fi network.  The setup should take no longer than five minutes!

You just enter your Wi-Fi network name and the network key, and then hold down the Spot Mode and Home button to activate your Roomba 960.  There will be alerts and sounds to let you know that your 960 is trying to connect to your Wi-Fi network.

With the iRobot Home App, you can easily schedule your floor cleaning and vacuuming.  And you can do this from anywhere!  You can use the app so that your Roomba can start cleaning even when you are not home and even when you are out of town.

You can also set it to clean the way you want it, as well as check to see what is happening with your cleaning jobs.

Is the Roomba 960 still cleaning?  Is it charging? Or do you need to empty the dust bin?  The app allows you to set your Roomba 960 so that it cleans seven times a week.

Additionally, the app provides you with tips on how to use your Roomba 960 to its fullest potential, as well as offers support for your unit.

Comparing the Roomba 960 with the Roomba 980


Looking at the capabilities of the iRobot Roomba 960, you cannot help but compare it with the iRobot Roomba 980 (read full review) that came out earlier this year.  Take a look at this table comparing each of their specs:

iRobot Roomba 960 iRobot Roomba 980
Price (as of this writing) About $699 (check here for latest) About $899.99 (check here for latest)
Diameter 13.8 inches 13.8 inches
Height 3.6 inches 3.6 inches
Weight 8.5 lbs 8.7 lbs
Battery life 1 hour 15 minutes 2 hours
Self-Charging? Yes Yes
Automatic resume after charging Yes Yes
Dirt Detect Concentrated Cleaning Yes Yes
Multi-room Navigation? Yes Yes
Soft Touch? Yes Yes
Tangle-free Debris Extractors Yes Yes
Scheduling? Yes Yes
Custom Cleaning Preferences? Yes Yes
iRobot HOME App Yes Yes
Bin Full Indicator? Yes Yes
AeroForce 3-Stage Cleaning System 5X 10X
AeroForce High-Efficiency Filter Yes Yes
Carpet Boost? No Yes
3-Stage Cleaning System Yes Yes

As you can see, the 960 generally has the same features as the more expensive Roomba 980.  But for $200 less, you are actually using an older motorThe Roomba 960 makes use of the same motor found in the 800-series. For a better frame of reference, this motor was first seen in 2013.

Yes, that is at least a three-year-old technology right there.  But for some people, the 800 series motor actually performed better than the Roomba 980 motor, so using an older motor might not necessarily be a negative point for the 960.

The Roomba 960 also has a much shorter battery life, as you get almost 60% more vacuuming time with the Roomba 980.  Plus, it lacks the carpet boost feature that makes the Roomba 980 much more efficient at cleaning rugs due to the increased suction power.

Alternatives to the Roomba 960

Dyson 360 Eye: When it comes to good alternatives, you have the Dyson 360 Eye (link to website).  Like the Roomba 960, the Dyson 360 Eye features  a lithium ion battery, cliff sensor, app control, dustbin, and a circular shape.  The Dyson 360 Eye, however, has a smaller diameter, at only 9 inches.

That makes it perfect for cleaning tight spaces.  However, it is also more than an inch higher than the Roomba 960, which might hinder it from going under some of your furniture.  The 360 Eye is also more than three pounds lighter.

The Dyson 360 Eye makes use of a more powerful motor than the Roomba 960, with a rated 78,000 rpm suction.  It also makes use of a full-width brush bar, instead of the side brushes you find on Roombas.

But while it can clean and pick up dirt and dust more efficiently than the Roomba 960, the 360 Eye is also $300 more expensive and has a shorter battery life at only 45 minutes on a full charge.

Neato Botvac Connected: Meanwhile, if you are looking for a Roomba 960 alternative that is closer to its price, then you might want to consider the Neato Botvac Connected, check here for live pricing.

The Botvac Connected is generally praised for its navigation, better suction performance, and bigger dirt bin. It’s also better at cleaning corners than the Roombas. You can read my full take (link to website), for more details.

Roomba 980: I’ve discussed the 980 in depth already but if you 1) want the latest motor, 2) need longer cleaning cycles (bigger house), or 3) have more carpeting, it is definitely worth considering. You can check the latest pricing on the 980 here.

What would make the Roomba 960 better?

It feels like the Roomba 960 is only nominally connected and that iRobot is still working on making it truly connected.  By that, we mean that it still needs to work well with other connected devices in the house.

Perhaps it could work with the Nest Thermostat or check the GPS of your car so that it could automatically start cleaning when you are away from the house.

The app is well-designed and it works intuitively.  It gives you all the information you need about the Roomba 960, including when to empty the dust bin and what the Roomba is doing at a specific moment.

But since the app already has a way to fetch that information on demand, it is a wonder why push notifications are not available.  For instance, it would be great to get an alert when your Roomba 960 has finished cleaning.

The Final Verdict

The Roomba 960 is far from perfect, but it does its job well.  There is no denying that it cleans much more thoroughly than earlier Roombas and even other robot vacuums.

The 3-Stage Cleaning System, the side brushes, and the AeroForce high-efficiency filter all ensure that you get a more satisfactory cleaning.

Additionally, the beauty of working with an iRobot device is that you benefit from the company’s mature products.  The company has been in the business for so long that you can really expect intuitive and very useful products from it.

And the Roomba 960 does not disappoint in this regard.  You can just set it up and it will do its job all its own: vacuuming while you are watching TV, checking your Facebook account, or out for work.

The addition of the remote control and the well-designed mobile app is just icing on the cake, but it adds a whole new level of usability and a whole new range of features that help the Roomba 960 justify its more expensive price tag compared to non-smart robotic vacuum cleaners.

For its price range, features, sensors, and performance, you cannot go wrong with a Roomba 960. 

You might, however, want to first check out the Neato Botvac Connected before finally deciding on the 960, just to make sure that you have the best Wi-Fi connected robotic vacuum cleaner that is just perfect for your needs.

Another consideration is if you have carpeted floors and you want the Wi-Fi connectivity features, then you might want to consider the more expensive Roomba 980 with the Carpet Boost feature or the more powerful Dyson 360 Eye.

Where to Buy the Roomba 960

For now, the 960 is available exclusively via iRobot here. You can’t find it anywhere else. This could change, so I’ll keep this page updated with the latest information.

UPDATE: Amazon has recently started carrying the 960 at this listing. Currently, there are no special discounts or promotions, but if you prefer shopping at Amazon, you do have that option.