While the 960 does retail for about $200 less than the flagship Roomba models, there were definitely some concessions made in terms of cleaning performance. However, it does an excellent job of navigating around your home and has an impressive set of smart features.
iRobot Roomba 960 Review
Pros: Good at navigating, solid set of smart features
Cons: Abysmal at collecting pet hair, cleaning performance isn’t as good as the top models
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The 960 finished right behind the Neato Botvac D80 and ahead of the Samsung POWERbot R7070. The 960 navigates a little better than the D80 and has a more impressive set of smart features, but can't match the cleaning performance or the price of the D80, which costs about $200 less than the 960. The Samsung cleans better than the 960, but can't match its navigational skills, though it does cost about the same.
To pick which robot vacuum are our favorites and worth the money, we bought all of the best and most promising products out there and tested them head-to-head. We have been testing these products for over two years at this point, so we are confident that our top picks are truly the best you can get.
For our Navigation metric, responsible for 30% of the largest score, we ran each robot in a single room full of our simulated furniture and scored their competency at navigating it, as well as how proficient each robot is at finding their dock or if the sensor read any false-positives when traversing flooring with high contrast or driving under low furniture. The Roomba 960 did quite well in this metric, matching the performance of the Roomba 980 and earning a 7 out of 10 for its performance.
This robot doesn't quite navigate the most confined areas perfectly, but it never became stuck around any of the furniture and could usually navigate its way out quickly whenever it ventured under a chair or table.
This robot does very well when instructed to return to its docking station, heading straight for it. It did this both when it was in the same room as the dock and in a different room.
It also easily drives under low furniture, up to the point where it physically would not fit.
Unfortunately, this robot did struggle with high-contrast flooring, thinking it was driving over a drop-off and backing up and turning around, when in reality it was really driving over a dark area rug from the light colored carpet.
Our Home Coverage metric is responsible for 20% of the total score and is based on how much of the floor each robot cleaned, as well as its spot cleaning abilities and if it had a barrier system that could be implemented. The 960 again did very well, earning another 7 out of 10.
The 960 covered essentially the entire furnished room, a direct contrast to some of the other models that omitted large portions of the room because they detected too much clutter.
This robot utilizes the same virtual wall barrier system that the other Roomba models, allowing you to project either a virtual wall or a circular, do not enter zone.
The 960 didn't have the most impressive spot cleaning, only covering an area about 12 sq. ft, but it does complete two passes of this area, spiraling out and in.
This robot handles will clean your entire home (on the same level, of course!), automatically pausing to recharge and resume cleaning if the battery level drops too low while cleaning.
Next, we looked at and evaluated how well each robot did at cleaning carpets, which is responsible for 15% of the total score. The Roomba 960 did quite well, meriting a 6 out of 10 for its performance. We used a handful of different types of debris to simulate a handful of different household messes, as well as rating how closely each robot cleaned along the walls and in the corners of a room.
The Roomba 960 did about average in the corners and edges test, leaving a strip of uncollected debris about 3.5" in width along the walls of our test pen and triangles measuring about 5" at their apex in the corners.
This robot again did about average in our flour collection test, leaving a decent amount of flour behind.
However, this robot improved drastically in the rice collection test, doing well above average and collecting all of the rice on the low-pile carpet and only leaving about ⅛ of a teaspoon behind in the fluffier, medium-pile carpet. This product did similarly well in our oat collection test, again getting all of the oats from the flat carpet and leaving only trace amounts on the fluffy carpet.
The Roomba 960 finished out our carpet cleaning test with a strong showing in our large object collection test, getting all of the mini-wheats on both types of carpet without issue.
Hard Surface Cleaning
Similar to our carpet cleaning test, our Hard Surface Cleaning metric also is responsible for 15% of the overall score for each robot and is comprised of the same tests as the previous metric, though this time they were conducted on a section of hardwood floor. The Roomba 960 again did about average, earning it a 5 out of 10 for its efforts.
This robot did about the same in the corners and edges test as it did on carpet, though this time it left a slightly wider strip of leftover debris along the walls. However, there were plenty of visible brush marks after it finished cleaning.
Unfortunately, the 960 did quite poorly in our flour collection evaluation, leaving behind tons of flour on the floor and tracking plenty of it around as it cleaned.
The 960's performance did rebound greatly in the rice and oat collection test, getting all of the oats up and only missing about 3 grains of rice.
For the final test, the 960's performance again dropped considerably, failing to collect any of the mini-wheats from the hard floor.
For our final cleaning assessment, we scored how well each robot does at cleaning up the hair left behind from your furry companions. We spread out a measured amount of pet hair on both flat and fluffy carpet sections, then gave a score to each product based on the percentage of hair collected. The Roomba 960 did relatively poorly, only earning a 2 out of 10 for its disappointing efforts. It only got about 2% of the hair from the fluffy carpet and about 7% from the flat carpet.
Finally, we looked at the different smart home functionality available with each robot for the final 10% of the total score. The 960 did quite well, earning a 7 out of 10 for its impressive set of connected features.
This robot was quite reliable at remaining connected to wifi and has a fully-featured app, allowing you to locate the robot, track accessory life, view the cleaning history and cleaning maps, as well as set the schedule and adjust the number of passes. The scheduling capability is quite versatile, allowing you to set a different time each day for the robot to clean.
The Roomba 960 is compatible with several smart home ecosystems, including Alexa, Google Home, and IFTTT. You can also control basic functions on the robot itself, such as initiating a spot clean, full clean, or send the robot to the dock.
This robot isn't an amazing value, as it is priced a little on the high side compared to its middle-of-the-road performance.
All in all, the Roomba 960 is a solid vacuum that navigates a little better than it cleans. It did fine in most of our tests, only falling short when it came to collecting pet hair, but it failed to impress overall, being overshadowed by a handful of other products — some that retail for considerably less!
— David Wise and Austin Palmer