Roomba 890 vs Roomba 960 – Which iRobot Vacuum is Best for You?

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Roomba 890 vs 960

Roomba is a brand name synonymous with robotic and household automation. When the robot started hitting homes in the early 2000s, people went crazy for those nifty little automatic vacuums. That seemed to have a mind of their own as they wander up and down people’s floors unaided.

The brand has come a long way since that first model in 2002 and the 400 series. Two decades later, it’s still going strong and leading what is now a much larger industry (hello, Samsung Powerbot). It continues to make the journey from being entertaining to being as normal as Eufy Robovac vacuum cleaners.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into two of Roomba’s most popular models of robotic vacuum, namely the older 890 models from the 800 Series versus 960 models from the most recent 900 Series.

Find out which of these great Roomba products are right for your smart home.

Roomba 890 and Roomba 960 Robot Vacuum Similarities and Differences

Though the two may look the same, there are a surprising number of differences between Roomba 890 and Roomba 960 for us to look out for, before we jump into the similarities.

Roomba 960 vs. Roomba 890: The Distinction

Roomba-890-vs-960

The Roomba 890 robot vacuum is a version older, so it has fewer technological and software enhancements than the Roomba 960. Some examples of this are the 960’s top-mounted camera, Edge Cleaning Mode (for hard-to-reach places), and Clean Map Report, which the 890 does not have.

Furthermore, 890 will stop sweeping once the bin is full, while the 960 can be programmed to resume cleaning and compress the dirt in the dust bin. Roomba 960 is also capable of Whole Level Cleaning, which means it will return to the last spot it was cleaning before it ran out of battery. In contrast, the 890 will have to start anew.

The 960 uses iAdapt 2.0, a feature that guides the Roomba around the house. On the other hand, the 890 uses iAdapt 1.0. As you’d expect, 2.0 is the more updated version, therefore better. We’ll tell you more about iAdapt in the next sections of this article.

Roomba 960 has a slightly better battery life (75 minutes) than the 890 (60 minutes).

Common Ground of the Roomba 890 and Roomba 960

Both robot vacuums can be Wi-Fi connected, and you can use them in conjunction with a Smart Voice home set up like Alexa or Google Assistant. You can also force both of them to return to the dock manually using the smartphone app.

Both Roombas 890 and 960 have five times the air power (power lifting suction) of the Roomba 600. However, all three are beaten by the Roomba i7+ which has ten times the suction power of the Roomba 600 Series AeroVac System. Do note that the i7+ is more of a high-end price Roomba.

Both offer spot cleaning mode, where you ask the Roomba to concentrate on an area. Virtual Walls stop them venturing into areas that are out of bounds, while the Aero Force Technology enables better sweeping and makes them pick up more dust. They recharge and resume automatically, then they’ll return to their docking station when their battery is low.

Additional accessories for both Roombas include the Dual Mode Virtual Wall Barrier which is an upgraded version of Virtual Walls, and the Halo Mode which keeps your Roomba away from certain objects.

Side by Side Vacuum Comparisons Chart

Have a glance at the two devices’ main specifications.

 Roomba 890Roomba 960
Roomba 890Roomba 960
Weight15 lbs.8.6 lbs.
Navigation techiAdaptiAdapt 2.0
Vacuum techAeroForceAeroForce
Auto recharge?YesYes
Camera?NoYes
Dimensions22 x 19 x 9 inches14 x 14 x 4 inches
Floor typeAllAll
Ideal for:Tiles, hardwood floors, thin area rugs, under furniture, pet hairAnimal hair pickup, edge cleaning, carpets, hard floors
Virtual wall barriers11
Highlight features3-Stage Cleaning System, Wi-Fi connectivityiAdapt 2.0, 3-Stage Cleaning System, Wi-Fi connectivity
Battery60 minutes75 minutes
Warranty1 year limited1 year limited

Design

All Roombas share the same design and shape (as shown in the table above), barring a few minor alterations like the color of the strip around the top of the robotic vacuum and the clean button itself. There isn’t much to pick between the 890 and 960 in physical design – they look like little hockey pucks.

The only noticeable difference between the two is the tiny camera protruding from the 960, which helps the Roomba with navigation. We’ll talk more about the benefits of the camera for that, plus mapping.

Both robot vacuum models respond to voice controls from Amazon Alexa or Google Voice, and you can use the Central Home App on your phone. In the said app, you can create schedules of when you want your vacuum robot to clean, request special cleaning like spot (both), and edge cleaning (960 only – see technology features).

You can also check the amount of battery left and how long the Roomba needs to charge.

Cleaning Performance

In terms of technology, 890 and 960 are the same. Using its patented Aero Force feature, the vacuum effectively uses brushless debris extractors that pick up dust, dirt, and pet hair.

Both Roombas come equipped with a filter that catches 99% of pollen and particles up to 10 microns small – great news for those who have allergies or children who are sensitive to dust.

The Aero Force promises suction power five times as more than the earlier, pre-800 models of Roombas. The cleaning cycle is extremely effective in picking up dust and dirt and only struggles with gaps in between tiles where dust is stuck. Unlike the Roomba 980, Roomba 960 does not have a carpet boost function.

In tests, both the 890 and 960 picked up 85-90% of the dirt and debris. Though the 890 and 960 use the same cleaning system, the 960’s features give it an advantage over the 890.

The two vacuums use the same motor and brush system. Lastly, they use the Dirt Detect Series 2 (their version of dirt detection system), the most up-to-date software for finding and breaking down dirt.

Battery Life

The 960 robot vacuum is lighter by a few pounds. Using newer technology can offer a slightly longer battery life, lasting for 75 minutes, compared to the 890’s 60 minutes. However, where it comes into its own is the Entire Level Cleaning function.

Do note, though, that how long the battery lasts depends on the functions and your demands for the Roomba. For example, are they mainly cleaning hardwood floors with fewer obstacles, or sweeping carpeted floors dense with furniture? How many square feet of space do they need to clean? Also, the different surfaces and objects in the way will affect battery life. Think of how often the Roomba vacuum cleaner needs to stop, turn, and move in a new direction.

Other than that, the battery life would be shorter if the Roomba works as a vacuum for carpets due to more friction compared to linoleum or tiles.

Recharging

Roomba recharge

Both Roombas will return to their docking station when their power is low, or you can force them to return using iRobot HOME application on your phone. But a massive difference is the Entire Level Cleaning System. In the previous generation, when your Roomba runs out of battery, it returns to recharge and then starts cleaning from its original start point.

Using the improved navigation and memory in the iAdapt 2.0 software, the Roomba 960 can now return to the last place it was before it ran out of battery. This feature is a game-changer, as you can count on the Roomba to clean large floor space, knowing that whatever happens, it will keep track of where it left off.

The 890 can’t do this. This kind of feature is a massive time saver for those with bigger homes. Another slight difference is their charging times: the 890 takes 3 hours to recharge fully, while the 960 can do that in 2 to 3 hours. That’s pretty decent for a lithium ion battery.

Navigation System & Mapping

The 960 comes from the most recent 900 Series, therefore having a series of feature updates compared to the 890. The 890 features iAdapt 1.0, whose breakthrough was stopping the wired cleaning brushes from getting tangled in the carpet or stray fibers lying around.

Firstly, the 960 vacuum features iAdapt 2.0 Technology, building on the 1.0 Technology used by the 800 Series. The system allows the Roomba to map out your room and find the most effective and efficient path to clean the room. The vacuum sensors on the bumper can detect if the Roomba gets stuck on the carpet or into a piece of furniture.

Roomba Navigation
The Roomba iAdapt Technology can find the most efficient path to clean the room

The Roomba 960 goes a step further with the help of a built-in camera. For the first time, a Roomba model can now use visual sensors to map out the room as it cleans. It’s a low-quality cam, so it can’t spy on you, but it makes the Roomba much more effective in navigation and object detection.

Expect Roomba 960 to be much more efficient and bump-free when going through your house. The camera, coupled with the updated iAdapt 2.0 feature, means the Roomba 960 is a new and improved 890.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

The most obvious question that everyone looking to get a Roomba will ask: why is one better than the other?

What Tech Makes Roomba 960 Better than Roomba 890?

The 960 does have superior technology that builds upon the success of the 890, but it comes with a higher price tag.

Clean Map Reporting

Roomba app

Clean Map Report is an additional function provided within the iRobot HOME phone app. A report is sent to you once the Roomba finishes cleaning. It shows you a map of the area it has cleaned, the time it spent cleaning, and problem areas it cleaned multiple times.

Though the map itself may not make for exciting viewing, this is useful information if you see areas that need attention by hand later and any areas of the floor that the Roomba wasn’t able to get. Also, by providing a map, the Roomba gives physical confirmation of the areas it did and did not clean, which means you don’t have to guess if the Roomba has missed part of the floor space for whatever reason. This app is also great for studying its cleaning pattern.

You can control both Roombas using their iRobot HOME app. A super useful feature for both is the location beacon, handy in case your Roomba gets lost.

Edge Cleaning

Both Roombas still have spot cleaning mode concentrating on a dedicated area that you want deep cleaned.

Only the Roomba 960 has edge cleaning mode, which tells the vacuum to proceed to edges only and try to work on those hard-to-reach areas that the 890 would most likely leave out. This new feature, coupled with the camera and updated software, should mean that the 960 provides a more thorough clean than the 890.

Multiple Pass Control

The 890 will make only a single pass when cleaning. However, with Roomba 960, you can adjust the settings so that its spinning brushes clean each area twice. Now, you’re doubly sure that each region would be sparkly clean afterward.

Full Bin Indicator

irobot Roomba Full Bin Indicator
iRobot Roomba Full Bin Indicator

One pet peeve of the 890 from some users was that it would just stop dead in its tracks without any warning as soon as the bin’s full. The downside is that if the carpets and floor are not that dirty, you know all the dirt could compress further, just like how a regular vacuum cleaner does.

Compared to the 890, the 960 compresses the dirt as much as possible before stopping.

Virtual Wall Barrier

Both the 890 and 960 use Virtual Wall Barriers; you can set by putting two black square sensors on a wall you don’t want the Roomba to pass. Or, in radius mode, it keeps the Roomba confined to a certain radius from its starting position.

These limits are quite useful when you need to set boundaries for your Roomba.

What is the battery life of a Roomba?

The average battery life of a Roomba is 60 minutes. But that still depends on how heavy the usage is, how large your house is, and most importantly, how dirty.

How does a Roomba clean?

Dual counter-rotating brush rolls are the main parts that are responsible for all the dirty work. Aside from those, the side spinning brush does its job for thorough corner and edge cleaning by collecting the debris and putting it in the path of the huge brush roll.

The Roomba can move with the help of two central wheels and navigate the house with a sensor (or in the Roomba 960’s case, a camera).

What smartphone is appropriate for controlling the Roomba?

Anything will suffice, as long as you can download the iRobot HOME app from the unit’s respective application store.

Keep in mind that there’s no dedicated remote control for Roombas.

Can the Roomba work on staircases?

roomba 650 on stairs

It’s highly unlikely for a Roomba to operate (or fall) on stairs since they have these things called infrared stair sensors that prevent such a disgrace from happening.

These robot vacuums can only work on simple, flat surfaces! Do not expect much from a “smart” sliding disk (well, unless it’s smarter than you).

These things wouldn’t be efficient at cleaning the stairs thoroughly anyway since they cannot suction the sides of the steps.

Should I be afraid of my Roomba “choking” on large, stray objects?

Error mode will ensue and shut down the Roomba, to keep it from wasting precious energy and overheating.

And, that’s the beauty of the iHome app – you will be notified immediately!

Do I have to pay more for the docking station?

When you purchase a Roomba, its package is already inclusive of a docking station. Here’s a little trivia: each Roomba has its unique docking station. Even if you buy two Roombas and put one docking station on each floor on your house and then switch the two, they won’t go to the other Roomba’s docking station. Try it! We dare you. Buy two of the same Roombas from this site; it doesn’t matter if it’s the 960 or the 890!

Vacuum Robotics: The Bottom Line

A Roomba is a costly but worthwhile choice for those who dread vacuuming. The Roomba 890 is perfectly functional and is an excellent piece of technology. The Roomba 890 is a great entry-level device, particularly for those who couldn’t care less about the bells and whistles of the 900 Series.

However, for us, the Roomba 960 wins hands down in this Roomba 890 vs 960 battle. The improvements in tech and software significantly increase the quality of cleaning as well as ease of use. The Charge and Return system alone is worth the upgrade.

Plus, the camera and iAdapt 2.0 means the Roomba 960 is much more efficient in navigation and memorization of previous cleans. These things, coupled with the longer battery life, means you could get more run time – up to 50% more cleaning done with the Roomba 960 compared to the Roomba 890.

For a little extra cash, you can buy the Roomba 960 and have the ultimate comfort and convenience in home cleaning.

Passtools.com author Anastasia Russell
Anastasia is a 26-year-old blogger who always motivated to observe the ways humans interact with technology. She is currently undertaking a master degree program at the Uppsala University specializing in Human-Computer Interaction & Design Program.
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