Robotic vacuums have been in residential homes since the late 1990s. The early models were novel and fun to own but didn’t do an excellent job cleaning our floors. Today, with companies like iRobot, Neato, and Eufy leading the way, these robot cleaners are fast approaching the reliability and cleanliness of a standard plug-in upright.
The iRobot Roomba 960 remains one of the most popular robot vacuums on the market because of its advancements, cleaning ability, and mapping features. While iRobot continues to push out better and more technologically advanced models like the i7 and s9, the price of the 960 continues to fall, making it even more attractive.
With so many brands, models, and features to choose from, how can you be sure you are getting the best deal and vacuum for your home? We take a close look in this Roomba 960 review, to find out if this model is right for you.
iRobot Roomba 960
The Roomba 960 uses a 3-stage cleaning cycle to clear your floors of debris and dirt. With the edge sweeping side brush, dual multi-purpose rubber extractors and powerful suction, dirt and debris are no match.
The Roomba 960 navigates your home using vSLAM (Video Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) to map and maneuver through your home accurately. vSLAM uses a camera to take thousands of low-resolution photos of the robot’s surrounding which it uses to build a 3-D map of your home and furniture.
The sensors allow the robot to tell if an obstacle is passable or avoidable while keeping the vacuum from falling off the stairs, or damaging itself, your furniture, or the walls.
Finally, the high-efficiency filtration captures in-home allergens to keep your air and floors clear of mildew, spores, pet dander, and dust mites.
Benefits of Robotic Vacuums
Besides having a robot do the work for you, there are several reasons you should have a robotic vacuum in your home. First, it saves you time and effort. While the Roomba 960 is running around cleaning your floors, you can be doing other chores to cut down on the total time it takes to keep your home in order.
It is also beneficial to cut down on the number of allergens floating around your home. The Roomba 960’s high-efficiency filter is HEPA quality, capturing up to 99 percent of particles down to 3 microns in size.
The Roomba 960, unlike other models, uses iAdapt 2.0 navigation technology which utilizes vSLAM mapping. This allows you to have a more human-like clean on your floors and carpets and can rest assured the entire space will be cleaned, even if the robot has to stop to recharge the battery.
Up to 75 minutes
13.8L x 13.8W x 3.6H inches
Up to 1100 square feet per charge
12 months limited on the robot and the battery
Features of Roomba 960
iRobot has unveiled a lot of technologically advanced features over the last 20 years. The 900 series models are considered top-tier robotic vacuums because of them. The Roomba 960 is no exception.
iRobot Home App
The mobile app for the Roomba vacuums is arguably one of the best in the industry.
This app is a free download form your app store (Android or iOS) and is so intuitive you will have your robot named, programmed and cleaning in just minutes.
The app is famous for being simple to use with more information than you could ever think of. Let's take a look at its features.
You can take full control of the robot by selecting the cleaning mode, scheduling future cleans, starting, pausing or resuming an unscheduled clean or even stopping a cycle and returning the robot to the charging station.
You also get updates on the status of the Roomba 960, the battery life and when to change the side brushes and filters. The map (once created by the robot) will appear showing you the progress of a clean. You can do everything right from your phone or tablet, even if you aren’t at home.
3-Stage Cleaning System
Roomba’s 3-stage cleaning cycle makes a complete pass of each section of flooring. Even along edges, baseboards or in corners, the Roomba 960 goes everywhere.
The side brush is the first stage of cleaning. By sweeping the floors along the edges of the robot body, the side brush will gather the dirt from along edges and in corners, pushing it to the middle of the floor where the robot can pick it up.
The dual multi-surface rubber extractors are the second cleaning stage. They agitate carpet fibers, brush hard flooring, and collect the dirt brought in by the side brush.
Finally, the motor creates suction the pulls all of the debris into the air chamber and deposits it into the collection bin.
One of the cleaning mode options through the mobile app is the Edge Clean mode. When selected, the robot will back out of the Home Base charging station, make its way to the nearest wall and begin cleaning.
The process is a little slower than a standard cleaning cycle in the middle of the room as the robot concentrates on getting along your baseboards, corners, and around furniture that is against the walls.
When the entire space is clean along the edges, the robot will return to the charging station awaiting further instructions from you, or the next scheduled cleaning cycle.
One of the sensors that are almost exclusive to the Roomba line is the dirt detection sensor. This infrared light rests on the bottom of the robot sensing out an infrared beam and calculating the amount of dust and debris that reflects it back.
If more than a nominal amount of light is reflected, the sensor alerts the robot that the area is not yet clean.
When this happens, the robot will take a sizeable 360-degree loop and circle back over the area for a second pass, ensuring the area has been cleaned to the best of the robot’s ability.
Smart Mapping and vSLAM Technology
As we mentioned before, vSLAM Technology allows the robot to create a map of your home. By layering low-res photos taken as the robot moves around your floor, the Roomba 960 can chart where it has been, where it currently is and where it has left to go.
These all show up on the map on the mobile app, if you want to see or get updates of the cleaning progress.
The smart mapping feature keeps the robot inline and allows a more human-like clean. Instead of the random and sporadic cleaning of earlier generations, the 960 will go back in forth in parallel lines, much like you would with your upright vacuum.
iAdapt 2.0 Navigation
Together, the camera-based navigation and smart mapping come together in what iRobot calls iAdapt 2.0.
This navigation technology makes it possible for the robot to resume cleaning right where it left off after a battery charge and complete a thorough cycle each time it sets out.
Even if you have ample floor space and the robot cannot complete a clean on a single battery charge, it will resume cleaning once a recharge has occurred.
iRobot has named this “entire level clean,” and only the Roomba models with cameras, such as the Roomba 960, can accomplish it.
One of the three primary sensors located on the robot is the cliff detect sensors. These surround the outer edge of the bottom side to alert the robot of cliffs, drop-offs or ledges. Using infrared lights, the sensors can detect when something is higher than 1.5 inches from the bottom of the robot.
When alerted, the robot will stop moving forward, alter its direction, and move forward slowly to ensure it has avoided the fall. Stairs, sunken living rooms, and large doorway thresholds are among the most common areas where these sensors will come into play.
Gen 2 Motor
The 900 series robots, including the 960, all use the second generation of motors produced by iRobot. Commonly referred to as Gen 2 Motors, these provide more suction power than previous models.
According to iRobot, the suction power of the 960 is five times more powerful than the suction created by the 600 series robots.
When tested, the motor on the 960 has shown to produce up to 1100 pa of suction power and 15 CFM of air flow.
These numbers are higher than any other Roomba that came before it. Only the Roomba 980, Roomba i7 and Roomba s9 produce more power.
iRobot no longer attempts to be HEPA certified when it comes to their filters. A HEPA certification means the filters are tested and approved to collect particles down to 3 microns in size. This will include the capture of in-home allergens such as pet dander, dust mites, and mold spores.
Just because the certification is no longer sought after doesn’t mean the filters are not any good. The Roomba 960 uses iRobot’s “high-efficiency” filters. These are the same filters that achieved the certifications in the 700 and 800 series robots.
No one knows why iRobot (along with Neato, iLIFE and several other brands) stopped sending their filters out to get certified. However, as long as the packaging says “high-efficiency,” you are getting the same HEPA quality filter that reduces allergens by up to 99 percent.
Tangle-Free Rubber Extractors and One Side Brush
On the bottom side of the robot where all the dirt lifting power happens, you will find two tangle-free rubber extractors. These extractors use small rubber paddles instead of bristles, to collect the dirt, dust, and debris from your floors.
By removing the bristles and using rubber paddles, the Roomba 960 is safe to use on any floor type, including softwood and sealed stone. The rubber paddles won't scratch any surface and are hardy enough to agitate even high-pile carpeting.
There is also a single side brush located in front of the extractors. This stiff bristle brush rotates to collect debris just outside the reach of the extractors. It gets along edges and in corners to loosen and lift dirt from these areas and push it to where the extractors can collect it.
iRobot is well known for its containment options. The virtual lighthouse and virtual wall were the first two iterations that became quite popular among consumers.
The third generation is a dual-mode virtual wall barrier that produces an infrared beam either in a straight line or a ring around the tower.
One barrier is included with the purchase of the Roomba 960 and when activated, will act as a wall, preventing the robot from crossing the beam.
In linear mode the beam will stretch out 10 feet, blocking doorways and portions of rooms you don’t want the robot to have access to.
In halo mode, the infrared beam comes out in a 4-foot diameter circle around the tower, which is useful for protecting things on the floor such as pet food dishes or smaller lighter tables that may get knocked over if bumped into.
Scheduling your robot isn't a new feature, and most modern robots have the ability. The early Roomba models in the 500 and 600 series would allow you to schedule one cleaning a day for seven days.
The 960 will use the mobile app or voice commands to allow you to create a scheduled cleaning any time you wish. All you have to do is open the app, click the schedule link, and enter the date and time you want the cleaning performed. You can schedule several weeks in advance if you wish, or create a recurring weekly schedule.
Recharge and Resume
Since the Roomba 960 makes a map of your floor plan and stores it for future use, the machine will be able to resume cleaning where it left off. The robot will need to return to the charging station when the battery falls below 15% charge.
If the cleaning cycle has not been completed, the battery will recharge (about 3 hours to charge fully), and the robot will undock, return to where it left off, and resume the cleaning cycle until it is complete.
Full Bin Indicator
A small blinking trashcan icon on the Roomba 960’s faceplate means that it senses the collection bin is full. When this happens, the robot will stop cleaning and send out an audible alert to let you know.
You will need to manually remove the bin, empty it, and clear the bin indication sensor. When you put the collection bin back in and press the clean button, the robot will resume cleaning.
While it is good practice to empty the bin after every cleaning cycle, the 0.5L bin allows you to go two or even three cycles without having to empty it, depending on the type of debris being collected.
Performance of the iRobot Roomba 960
How does the Roomba 960 hold up to different floor types, debris, or floor sizes? Read on to find out.
The Roomba 960 is one of the few models on the market that is capable of cleaning high-pile carpet.
Most robot vacuums will only be able to clean low pile carpeting and hard flooring. The tangle-free rubber extractors allow the robot to agitate high-pile carpet fibers without getting tangled.
In the event the robot does become tangled, it will reverse the motor in an attempt to free itself.
While high-pile carpeting is okay, rug fringe and shag carpeting are not. The Roomba 960 won’t handle shag or fringe at all.
Hard flooring of all types is no real concern with the Roomba 960. The rubber extractors mean it won't scratch softer surfaces like pine. However, there are some problems with the side brush on hard flooring.
Namely, the brush spins so fast that debris is often pushed around the floor instead of under the robot. It is all eventually picked up, but you may notice a lot of scattering of debris while the 960 is on hard flooring.
Pet Hair Removal
The Roomba 960 will collect all size and types of pet hair. The brushless extractors and powerful motor prevent tangles on the extractors and keep the hair in the collection bin. If you have a lot of animals (or one that sheds like it is three), you will need to do regular maintenance upkeep.
Pet hair (and human) will get wrapped around the end caps of the extractor bars. It is simple to pop out the extractors, pull off the caps and remove the hair build up. The entire process takes less than a minute but should be done at least weekly.
The Roomba 960 is better suited for larger floorplans and homes that have multiple rooms.
Since the robot will map the entire space and resume cleaning after a battery charge, there isn't’ a need to make multiple cleaning cycles to get the entire floor clean.
However, in smaller homes, apartments, or condos, the 960 may not be the best option for you.
It will be more efficient to get a sensor-based navigating robot like the Roomba 890 that doesn’t have a camera.
Comparison with Other Roomba Models
As we mentioned in the beginning, there are a lot of models and brands to choose from. The Roomba line has well over 40 different models to decide on, so how does the Roomba 960 stack up against the other popular models? Let’s find out.
960 Vs. 980
The top two models of the 900 series are virtually identical in stature, abilities, and features. Both use camera-based navigation and iAdapt 2.0 technology. However, the Roomba 980 has an even more powerful motor thanks to Carpet Boost technology, that can produce suction up to 10 times more than the 600 series.
If you have a larger floor plan, a lot of obstacles or need the convenience of the mobile app and voice commands, you could go with either model. However, homes with more rugs, carpeting, and larger layouts will appreciate the power and efficiency that the Roomba 980 offers over the 960.
We have done an in-depth comparison of these two models that can be found here.
960 Vs. 690
The Roomba 690 is a budget-friendly model that still packs a punch and has a ton of features. Wireless technology allows both the 960 and 690 to use the Home App and voice commands with Amazon Alexa devices.
Where they differ, though, is what is essential. The 690 doesn't use camera-based navigation, nor does it have a HEPA quality filter. If in-home allergen reduction and a more timely, powerful, and efficient clean are vital to you, the Roomba 960 is the choice for you here.
However, for those with smaller homes, apartments, or are on a tighter budget, the Roomba 690 will still clean your entire home and can be programmed remotely. You won’t have the benefit of human-life cleaning patterns or recharge and resume functionality, but the 690 gets the job done.
960 Vs. i7
The Roomba i series came out in late September 2018 and was highly regarded as the best robot vacuum yet. However, the price point was also the highest of any robot vacuum and attention fell back to the 900 series.
The i7 has much higher suction power than the 960, a washable collection bin and can be upgraded to the self-emptying Roomba i7+. The most significant change, though, was the addition of Imprint Smart Mapping and, later, Imprint Link. These two features allow you to take control of the map and specify a specific room for the i7 to clean (Smart Mapping).
It also allows you to sync with the new Braava M6 robot mop to have the mop follow the vacuum to keep your floors clean at all times.
The 960 still holds a few advantages over the i7 though, aside from the price. The higher power and faster speed of the new motor in the i7 produce even more scattering of lighter debris and the i7 makes more of a mess before cleaning it up.
If you don’t need the latest and greatest in technology, the Roomba 960 is still a viable option. However, the Imprint Smart Mapping and ability to upgrade the i7 make it a worthy contender for your purchasing dollar.
960 Vs. 880
There are little differences between the 960 and the Roomba 880. The most obvious is the camera-based navigation of the 960. However, the 880 uses the same Gen 2 motor and has the same high-efficiency filter.
The battery of the 960 is more efficient and will last up to 30 minutes longer, and the clean is more thorough. However, if you want to save money and have a smaller space to clean, the Roomba 880 could be the right choice for you.
If you want a robot that will complete the job, even after a battery charge, the Roomba 960 is your choice.
960 Vs. 985
The Roomba 985 isn’t a different model from the Roomba 980, it is only sold in Costco stores, and Costco requires that manufacturers give their units a different model number to avoid price matching or coupon use.
However, there are a few differences to note. Like the 980, the 985 uses the Gen 3 motor for even more suction power over the 960. The mapping algorithms are also slightly better, and the cleaning cycles are a bit more efficient.
The only drawback here is that you have to be a Costco member to purchase one (or find a reseller on Amazon), whereas the Roomba 960 is sold in more places. The Roomba 985 has a longer lasting battery and will cover more square feet, so for those with more extensive floor plans (1200 square feet or more), the Roomba 985 is a decent choice.
960 Vs. 860
The 800 series doesn't include the camera navigation that was released in the late 900 series models. However, that aside, the most apparent difference between the Roomba 960 and 860 is wireless communications.
The Roomba 860 doesn’t use your home WiFi network and will not utilize the iRobot Home App. You also won’t be able to use voice communications with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant devices like you can with the 960.
However, for the price, the 860 is a decent model. It uses the iAdapt 1.0 technology that is all sensor-based for navigation and uses a standard filtration instead of HEPA quality. If neither of these things concerns you, you can save a lot of money over the Roomba 960.
960 Vs. 890
When it comes to the Roomba 890, you gain the wireless communications over the 880, but it still doesn't match up with the 960. Besides the lack of camera-based navigation, the 890 doesn't have edge cleaning mode, recharge, and resume or clean map reporting as the Roomba 960 does.
The cleaning is still just as good, even without the human-like cleaning patterns and the slower motor speed doesn't spread lighter debris around quite as much. With the release of the i series and s series robots, the price of both the 890 and 960 are dropping, so both make an excellent choice when buying your next robot vacuum.
960 Vs. e6
The 36 is another Costco model that is similar to the e5. Both models were released alongside the Roomba i7 as the new budget-friendly models. The e6 uses the Gen 3 motor, which has been displaced to allow even more airflow and prevent moisture from getting inside.
The e6 collection bin is washable, and it does come with the HEPA quality high-efficiency filter. What it doesn't have, though, is the camera-based navigation like the 960. The choice then is simple, do you want a more powerful clean on carpeting, or a more thorough clean in a single pass? The 960 still rivals the e6 model in terms of cleanliness, and it does so more efficiently.
Roomba 960 Accessories
The Roomba 960 is compatible with the Home Base charging station, and one comes included with your purchase. You also get a dual-mode virtual wall barrier and the two batteries required for its use. Also in the box is an extra side brush and filter to prepare you for when it comes time to change them.
The 960 is also compatible with the iRobot Home App, which is a free download from your app store. You will also have the ability to use the Virtual Lighthouse, or Virtual Wall is the dual mode barrier isn’t right for you. All extras can be purchased directly from the iRobot store or Amazon.
Setting Up the WiFi Connection
Setting up wireless communications is all done through the mobile app. You will need to download and install the app and then create an account or log into an existing one.
Once into the app, you will need to supply power to the Home Base and ensure it is within WiFi range. The app will guide you through the steps required to get your Roomba up and running. When prompted, you will need to put the robot on the charging station. The app will find the robot and take you through a few other simple steps.
After the robot has charged a few hours, it will be ready to use either through local controls or through the mobile app.
How to Charge this Roomba Model
Charging the Roomba 960 is done virtually without any assistance. Except for the initial set up, you won't generally have to touch the robot. After the initial charge, the robot will keep track of where the charging base is and return to it automatically when the battery level drops below 15%.
In the event the robot doesn't return to the base before the battery dies, you need to pick it up and place it on the dock and the Home Base will charge the battery for you.
Positioning the Roomba Home Base
To make it easier for the Roomba 960 to find the Home Base, it will need to be set up in a specific area. You will need to be close enough to an outlet so that the power cord will reach. The surface should be flat and level as well.
You need to leave about two feet of clearance on either side of the Home Base so the robot can maneuver and line up correctly as it approaches. You should also keep at least four feet in front of the Home Base station clear.
When applicable, you should place the dock on a hard surface like tile, linoleum, or hardwood. Using carpet can cause the base to tip to one side, making it difficult for the robot to climb on the ramp into position.
Tips for Using a Roomba 960
Using your Roomba should ease the number of chores you have to do, not add to it. Keeping a regular cleaning maintenance schedule and fixing issues before they become a problem is vital.
You should replace worn parts and filters to keep the robot running at top condition. For other tips on how to make the Roomba 960 more efficient, you can watch this video.
How can I Extend the Battery Life
Lithium-ion batteries are known for long life and several thousand charging cycles. However, you can extend the life and expectancy of your battery with a few simple tips.
Cleaning, Care & Maintenance
A regular maintenance routine is crucial to the longevity and performance of your Roomba 960. The process is quite simple and should only take you a few minutes a week. Aside from checking the collection bin and keeping it empty and clean, you will need to check the bottom side of the robot, too.
Examine the side brush for wear and tear and replace as needed. It is recommended to replace the side brush every 6 months, depending on use. The filter will need to be cleaned weekly. You cannot wash it, but you can knock it off on the inside of your trash can to keep it clear of larger debris. You should replace the filter with a new one every 3 to 6 months.
Next, remove the extractor bars and wipe them clean of hair, string, or debris. Don’t forget to remove the end caps and clean that area as well. Finally, wipe the robot off with a dry towel to clean off the sensors and wheels.
Doing this maintenance regularly will keep the robot running as expected for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Roomba 960 remember a home’s layout?
The Smart Mapping Technology stores the images taken by the camera and uses the map created each time it runs a cleaning cycle. In the event you didn’t allow the robot to do a map run before cleaning, it will build the map as it goes. It will also remap the home when something occurs to cause a change in the map, such as moving furniture around.
How do I reset a Roomba unit?
To perform a factory reset of the Roomba 960, remove the robot from the Home Base charging station and press and hold the Clean button on the robot for about 10 seconds. When you release the button, the robot will play a tone to let you know the reset was completed.
How do I contact iRobot Roomba customer support?
There are several ways to contact iRobot Customer Support. You can call, email, write, or initiate a live chat. The phone numbers will vary depending on your needs (warranty claim, technical assistant, or pre-purchase advise. All of the communication methods can be found on their website.
Where and when can I get the best deals on a Roomba 960?
Currently, the best deals for the Roomba 960 are found on Amazon. Since the release of the i series, followed by the s series, the 900 models, including the 960, have had better and better pricing. These lower prices show up on Amazon before any other reseller.
Where to buy parts and accessories for Roomba 960?
If you need to replace the battery pack, filters, side brushes, or any other part for your Roomba 960, you can do so at several locations. Most brick and mortar stores where you purchased your Roomba will have the parts and accessories. You can also shop online at the iRobot store. However, your best deals and fastest shipping will come from purchasing through Amazon, who is an approved vendor for iRobot devices and accessories so that it won't void your warranty.
Does the Roomba 960 work with Amazon Alexa or Google Home?
All Wi-Fi connected Roomba devices are now compatible with both the Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistants. Simply enable the command on your Amazon Alexa or Google Home, and then sign into your iRoomba account to pair the devices and begin cleaning via voice command.
Where are the best places to buy a Roomba 960?
Currently, most outlets no longer carry the Roomba 960 so they can make room for the e, i and s series robots. For the best pricing, fastest shipping and possible extended warranty, you can shop at Amazon. Most reseller outlets will have Roomba 960 Black Friday deals or Roomba 960 Cyber Monday sales that may be worth waiting for. You can save hundreds by watching the ads for when the Roomba 960 will be listed for sale.
The Roomba 960 is a top-tier model with advanced navigation and mapping. The camera-based navigation makes the robot clean more like a human, using parallel lines and not missing any areas of your flooring,
The 960 is adept at cleaning low, medium and high pile carpeting but should avoid shag and rugs with fringe. It also handles all types of hard flooring without leaving scratches or marring the finished surfaces.
If you want a daily cleaning robot that you can control with a mobile app or your voice, need a reliable machine that is easy to maintain and generally cares for itself, the Roomba 960 is a worthy choice.
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