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Roomba i3 vs. i3+ vs. e5

The Roomba i3 / i3+ and Roomba e5 are both Roombas with value in mind. They are equipped with some handy features, while also cutting some extras out to keep the price low.

Roomba i3+ (left) vs. e5 (right)
Roomba i3+ (left) vs. e5 (right)

So what are the key differences between these Roombas? Let’s get started and see!

Roomba i3
Roomba i3
  • Cleaning: 99%
  • Runs: 75 mins.
  • Recharge+Resume? Yes
  • Mapping: Yes*
  • Empties bin? No
  • Path: Straight Lines
Roomba e5
Roomba e5
  • Cleaning: 99%
  • Runs: 90 mins.
  • Recharge+Resume? No
  • Mapping: No
  • Empties bin? No
  • Path: Adaptive
Roomba i3+
Roomba i3+
  • Cleaning: 99%
  • Runs: 75 mins.
  • Recharge+Resume? Yes
  • Mapping: Yes*
  • Empties bin? Yes
  • Path: Straight Lines

*i3 / i3+ map your home to help navigate and provide that mapping report to show you where they cleaned. However, they do not allow you to customize that map or use it for room labels, scheduling, keep out zones, etc.

If you’d rather watch than read we’ve got our full i3 vs. i3+ vs. e5 video below:

Roomba i3 vs. i3+ vs. e5 Differences

The biggest difference is that the Roomba i3+ includes a self empty bin, while the i3 and e5 don’t. Both the i3+ and i3 include better suction, navigation, straight line cleaning, as well as recharge and resume. e5 lacks mapping, has more basic navigation, and cannot recharge & resume.

Roomba e5
Roomba e5

However, the i3, i3+, and e5 all removed the same 99% of total debris in our cleaning tests.

 Roomba i3Roomba e5Roomba i3+
FilteriSeriesiSeriesiSeries
Dust Bin Capacity500 mL500 mL500 mL
Suction10x*5x*10x*
Cleaning Performance99%99%99%
BrushrollDual RubberizedDual RubberizedDual Rubberized
NavigationSystematic NavigationiAdapt 1.0Systematic Navigation
Digital MappingYesNoYes
Zoned CleaningNoNoNo
Full Bin IndicatorYesYesYes
App ConnectivityYesYesYes
Virtual Wall CompatibleYesYesYes
Check PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

*Relative to the Roomba 675, which is the baseline measurement for comparative suction performance that iRobot provides.

Roomba i3 vs. i3+ Differences

The sole difference is the i3+ includes a self empty dust bin, while the i3 does not. The robot itself on the i3+ and i3 is identical.

Roomba i3 / i3+
Roomba i3 / i3+

If the self empty dust bin isn’t important you can save money and go with the i3. You can always add the Clean Base after the initial purchase if you decide you want it later.

When purchased separately, you’ll receive:

  • The Clean Base
  • New Dust Bin

The new dust bin has a special debris release door, which allows debris to be sucked from the onboard dust bin into the Clean Base.

Debris Bags

Roomba i / s series clean base bag

How It Works

Roomba i7+ robot vacuum Clean Base charging station

Cleaning Performance

Specifications and features play a big role in the performance of any robot vacuum, but it’s hard to beat raw cleaning capability.

To put these vacuums to the test we set them loose in our testing lab and measure how effective they were at cleaning debris from a range of floor types.

How do we test?

A full cleaning performance test here at Modern Castle consists of 12 different tests. We run tests against four different debris types:

  • Cereal
  • Kitty litter
  • Rice
  • Sugar

And test the vacuum on three different flooring types:

  • Hardwoods
  • Low pile carpet
  • High pile carpet

The Results

In a nutshell, the i3, i3+, and e5 have nearly identical cleaning performance during our tests. They both collected the debris effectively and completely.

Since the only difference between the i3 and the i3+ is the charging base, cleaning performance would not be any different between the i3 and the i3+.

The bigger difference between these models is how it cleans.

How It Cleans

In short, the Roomba i3 and i3+ use digital mapping and smarter, systematic navigation, while the Roomba e5 relies on a method of bumping into obstacles and continuing in opposite directions. There is no digital mapping on the e5.

Roomba i3 / i3+

Systematic Navigation

Roomba e5

Bump & Continue

Systematic navigation is a fancy way to say that the Roomba i3 and i3+ plot and plans its route more than the e5. The result is navigation in straighter paths, more obstacle detection, and less random zig-zagging around the room.

Roomba 870 cleaning paths

The Roomba e5 uses traditional iAdapt 1.0 navigation sensors, which end up bouncing the Roomba around the room in a star-shaped zig-zag pattern. It feels kind of random and in a way it definitely is, but as our performance tests showed, it still does a great job of cleaning the mess.

Hardwood Cleaning Tests

Roomba i3 / i3+

99%

Roomba e5

100%

Both the i3 / i3+ and e5 were workhorses on hardwood floors. They captured all the debris with ease, even though the navigational approach was a bit different.

Roomba e5 hardwood cleaning performance test
Roomba e5 hardwood cleaning performance test
Roomba i3+ Hardwood Floor Cleaning Tests
Roomba i3+ Hardwood Floor Cleaning Tests

Low Carpet Cleaning Tests

Roomba i3 / i3+

99%

Roomba e5

99%

The low carpet showed similar results, 99% of the debris cleaned up from both of these vacuums. The e5 left a tiny amount of cereal, but barely measurable on our scales.

Overall, these were fantastic results from both of these Roombas.

Roomba e5 carpet cleaning performance test
Roomba e5 carpet cleaning performance test
Roomba i3+ Low Pile Carpet Cleaning Tests
Roomba i3+ Low Pile Carpet Cleaning Tests

High Carpet Cleaning Tests

Roomba i3 / i3+

99%

Roomba e5

99%

On high pile carpet, the results were essentially identical to the results on low pile carpet—99% of the debris cleaned.

Although the i3+ offers more suction than the e5, from our testing the difference felt negligible.

Roomba e5 high carpet cleaning tests
Roomba e5 high pile carpet cleaning tests
Roomba i3+ High Pile Carpet Cleaning Tests
Roomba i3+ High Pile Carpet Cleaning Tests

The Design

From an aesthetic standpoint, the i3 / i3+ and e5 are pretty different, even though their features are similar.

Roomba i3

Roomba i3 robot vacuum

Roomba e5

Roomba E5

The i3 has a silver body with black trim and the e5 has a black body style. Both vacs have the classic bumper on the front and controls on the top.

The Roomba e5 has a carrying handle and the i3 does not.

Both vacuums have wifi connectivity.

Although in different positions, the controls are the same on both vacuums as well. There are physical buttons for the following functions:

  • Spot Clean
  • Auto Clean
  • Dock

The Underside

The underside of the Roomba i3 is basically identical to the underside of the e5. They have a lot of the same parts including:

  • Dual brushroll
  • 3-arm spinning brush
  • Wheels
  • Contact sensors
  • Edge sensors
  • Filter access

Roomba i3

Underside of the Roomba i3 (not +)
Underside of the Roomba i3 (not +)

Roomba e5

Roomba E5 brushroll and spinning brush
Underside of the Roomba e5

The Filters

They both also use the exact same filter. This filter was developed as a part of the i Series lineup, but is shared by the e5 as well.

The new i Series filter is about half the size of the older filters and much more efficient.

Roomba e5 filter - AeroForce 2.0
Roomba e5 filter – AeroForce 2.0

Higher efficiency means that it takes up significantly less space in the machine allowing for a larger dust bin capacity on both the i3 / i3+ and e5.

Of course dust bin capacity is less of an issue for the Roomba i3+, which is the self-emptying dust bin. This brings us to the next big difference, the charging dock.

The Charging Dock

There are two different charging docks that are used between these three Roomba models.

  1. Clean Base: self-emptying (Roomba i3+ only)
  2. Standard: not self-emptying (Roomba e5 and Roomba i3)

Roomba i3+

Smart charging base included with the Roomba i7+ robot vacuum
Clean Base charging dock

Roomba e5 / Roomba i3

Roomba 981 charging base
Standard charging dock

The Roomba i3+ is the only Roomba in this comparison that comes with the Clean Base, self-emptying charging dock. This dock has an on-board dust bin and suction that pulls debris directly from the vacuum after each cleaning cycle and deposits it into the debris bag located in the dock.

The Clean Base can hold up to 30 loads of debris from the i3 dust bin.

The Roomba e5 and i3 come with the standard dock. The only purpose of this charger is to charge the Roomba and serve as a navigational beacon to help the Roomba find its way back home when the cleaning cycle is done.

COMPATIBILITY: Although the Roomba i3 comes with the standard base, it is compatible with the Clean Base charging dock which can be bought separately at any time. The Roomba e5 is not compatible with the Clean Base.

Size Comparison

Considering the size, the e5, i3, and i3+ are identical. This is largely due to the fact that they use a lot of the same parts. The main size difference is the charging base.

Roomba i3 (left) vs. e5 (right
Roomba i3 (left) vs. e5 (right

If you opt for the i3+, you’ll need a bit more room for the charging dock to sit, but this is a pretty minor issue in my opinion.

Here are the exact specs of the i3 / i3+ vs. e5:

  • 13.3″ diameter
  • 3.6″ tall
  • 7.2 pounds
Roomba e5 cleaning cereal on hardwood floor

Accessories & Parts

Wondering what all comes in the box? Here’s a complete list of exactly what you’ll get with the Roomba i3, Roomba i3+, and Roomba e5:

Roomba i3

  • Rubberized brushrolls
  • Spinning brush
  • iSeries filter (x2)
  • Standard charger
  • Battery
  • Cleaning tool
  • User guide

Roomba e5

  • Rubberized brushrolls
  • Spinning brush
  • iSeries filter (x2)
  • Standard charger
  • Battery
  • Cleaning tool
  • User guide

Roomba i3+

  • Rubberized brushrolls
  • Spinning brush
  • iSeries filter (x2)
  • CLEAN BASE
  • Battery
  • Cleaning tool
  • User guide

Some versions (varies by retailer) of the e5, but not all, may also include a virtual wall. This can be used to help block off sensitive areas or rooms you don’t want the Roomba to enter.

iRobot Roomba virtual wall barrier block
Roomba uses virtual walls to stop the vacuum from entering a specific area of your home

Roomba Usability

Concerning usability, there are four main factors I like to heavily consider. These factors tend to work together to ultimately make a vacuum feel user-friendly and intuitive…or not.

  1. Setup
  2. App control
  3. Run Time
  4. Maintenance

#1. Setup

The initial setup for the i3 / i3+ and the e5 is simple and quite similar. Out of the box, all of these vacuums come with a bit of a charge so really you can just unbox and start a cycle.

But that being said, I generally like to fully charge the vacuum before running for the first time for maximum performance.

This is especially important for the i3 and i3+ since those vacuums have digital mapping capabilities.

To start a cleaning cycle, you have a couple of options.

  1. Press “CLEAN”. This button on the top of each vacuum will start an automated cleaning cycle from the dock. When the battery is depleted or the cycle is complete, the vacuum will return to the docking station to recharge.
  2. Schedule a cleaning. You can also schedule a cleaning using the iRobot app. This takes a couple of minutes of setup on your smartphone but can add a lot of usability and convenience.
  3. Spot clean. For small, quick messes, select SPOT CLEAN. This shorter cycle allows the vacuum to be placed wherever a mess is and it will work in a radial pattern until the area is cleaned. After a Spot Clean, the Roomba will simply turn off and you’ll need to manually place it back on the base.
  4. Voice command. With wifi-enabled and when partnered with a voice control device like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, you can start a cleaning cycle with a simple voice command.

#2. App Control

App control is available on the i3, i3+, and e5 also. They use the same iRobot Home app so there are minimal differences here (but there are a few… see below.)

iRobot Roomba App
iRobot Roomba App (3 primary screens)

From the app, you can:

  • Start or stop a cleaning cycle
  • Schedule a cleaning in the future
  • Turn on push notifications to receive real-time notifications
  • View a battery level indicator 
  • Receive automatic software updates
  • Maintenance alerts
  • Change the spoken language of your robot vacuum
  • Name or register your vacuum

Two things that the i3 and i3+ can do using the app include:

  1. Digital Mapping
  2. iRobot Genius

Digital Mapping

Digital mapping on the i3 (and i3+) can show a pretty detailed view of the area that the vacuum has cleaned.

The app doesn’t allow you to name any of the rooms or set up zoned cleaning, but the visual representation of the cleaning area can be really helpful to understand exactly where the i3 or i3+ has been.

Roomba i3+ Digital Mapping
Roomba i3+ Digital Mapping
Roomba i3+ app
Roomba i3+ app

iRobot Genius

The iRobot Genius is a newer intelligence to hit the Roomba app.

This technology is aimed at making the Roombas more user-friendly and smarter. With a simple app date, you can access newer, in-app features like:

  • Targeted cleaning cycles
  • Event-based automation
  • Keep out zones
  • And more…

#3. Run Time

Roomba i3 / i3+

75 mins + Recharge & Resume

Roomba e5

90 minutes

The run time may be another deciding factor between these vacuums. The Roomba e5 has a longer single run time, but the i3 and i3+ have a longer combined run time since they have Recharge and Resume.

Roomba i3+ cleaning carpet
Roomba i3+ cleaning carpet

What is Recharge & Resume?

Because the Roomba i3 and i3+ have digital mapping, they can run a cycle until the battery is depleted and then return to the charging base. Once the battery is restored, it will return back to the last spot that it cleaned and finish the job.

#4. Maintenance

Maintenance tasks between the i3, i3+, and the e5 is all similar.

Regular maintenance includes:

  • Empty the dust bin as needed. (e5 and i3 only)
  • Replace the Clean Base disposal bag as needed. (i3+ only)
  • Clean or replace the filter as needed. (all models)
  • Clear out any tangles from the brushroll as needed. (all models)

There is a full bin indicator on both the i3 / i3+ and the e5, which helps to know when the bin needs to be emptied.

As for the i3+, it will automatically empty the bin once it docks at the Clean Base so you don’t have to worry about manually emptying the onboard dust bin on the vacuum itself.

All of the dust bins are also washable, which can help to keep the system cleaner. Simply wash with cold water and allow to air dry for 24 hours before reinstalling.

But to that end, on the Roomba i3+, you will need to empty or replace the debris bag that is located in the Clean Base docking station.

Roomba i3 vs. i3+ vs. e5 Specifications

Below you’ll find a complete comparison of important specifications on the Roomba i3 vs. Roomba e5 vs. Roomba i3+.

Check out the specifications here:

 Roomba i3Roomba e5Roomba i3+
FilteriSeriesiSeriesiSeries
Dust Bin Capacity500 mL500 mL500 mL
Suction10x*5x*10x*
Cleaning Performance99%99%99%
BrushrollDual RubberizedDual RubberizedDual Rubberized
NavigationSystematic NavigationiAdapt 1.0Systematic Navigation
Digital MappingYesNoYes
Zoned CleaningNoNoNo
Full Bin IndicatorYesYesYes
App ConnectivityYesYesYes
Virtual Wall CompatibleYesYesYes
Check PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

Which Roomba is Right for You?

Best Price

Roomba e5

Roomba E5

Best Value

Roomba i3

Roomba i3 robot vacuum

Best Features

Roomba i3+

Roomba i3+ robot vacuum with Clean Base

The Roomba e5 comes in at the lowest price, which is great for the wallet, has great cleaning performance and wifi connectivity for app control. But it does lack some nicer features like digital mapping, Recharge & Resume, and smarter (straighter) navigation.

The Roomba i3 has these missing features and is just slightly more expensive. Also, the i3 is compatible with the self-emptying Clean Base, which you can buy separately if you decide that feature is worth the cost.

The Roomba i3+ is the most expensive robot vacuum in this review and is identical to the Roomba i3 considering specs alone. The main benefit of the Roomba i3+ over the standard i3 is the addition of the self-emptying dust bin.

ChangeLog

  • February 8, 2021 – Initial version of the comparison was published.

About Derek Hales

Derek HalesDerek Hales is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ModernCastle.com. He has been featured in Fast Company, Reader's Digest, Business Insider, Realtor.com, She Knows, and other major publications. Derek has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Kansas State University. Hales has been testing and reviewing products for the home since 2014.

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