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iRobot Roomba e5 review: Superb and affordable

A iRobot Roomba e5 sits on the floor.
iRobot Roomba e5
MSRP $349.00
“For a budget-friendly bot it checks a lot of boxes.”
Pros
  • Cleans well
  • Can recharge itself and resume cleaning
  • Finds its way around fairly gently
  • Affordable
  • Not too loud
Cons
  • Small dustbin
  • No full dustbin alerts
  • Cleaning is more random, less methodical

Robot vacuum makers put a lot of effort into creating all kinds of new technology, and the newest, fanciest robots can cost hundreds of dollars. But what about those in the more budget-friendly realm? Are they still as effective, efficient, and reliable as their pricier cousins?

I received a sample of the Roomba e5 from iRobot. In my in-home review, I’ll tell you about its cleaning power, effectiveness, and whether it stands alone compared to those more expensive robots — or if you’ll be wishing you’d spent a few more bucks for those features.

iRobot Roomba e5: The basics

iRobot Roomba e5 press image of a vacuum on carpet.

The iRobot e5 is a Wi-Fi-connected, app-controlled robot vacuum that’s about the same size  as other Roombas, but without the price tag. For just $350, you receive a capable robot vacuum that can keep your floors clean and your home tidy.

The e5 works just like any other Roomba, though this version seems to feel more than see its way around your room by bumping gently into things, then backing away from obstacles and carrying on. One key difference in this robot over the more expensive options from iRobot: It doesn’t have mapping and intelligent navigation where it can truly see around those obstacles, so you might say it navigates more by touch than sight. (Fear not: Cliff sensors prevent it from toppling down stairs.)

Roomba e5: What’s missing compared to higher cost Roombas?

When compared to the much more expensive Roombas, navigation and home mapping are missing. Those features would normally allow you to create a map of your home so you can clean specific rooms of the house or set cleaning schedules for those specific rooms for particular days. While you can schedule this bot, you can’t tell it exactly where to clean when it does go out.

The e5 has less suction than the Roomba s9+, and there’s no suction boost on carpets with the e5, unlike on the s9+. There’s also a $650 price difference between the two; even the base model of the s9+ starts at $1,000. The Roomba e5 gets the job done admirably, if somewhat blindly.

With the Roomba e5, you will need to empty the dustbin yourself when it’s full. The e5 does not have the option of using automatic dirt disposal. iRobot indicates that you will get reminders to empty the dustbin, but I couldn’t seem to get this to work in practice. Too often, I’d remember to check and the dustbin would be overflowing. (Ewww.)

Since we’re comparing the e5 to the s9+, while the s9+ will return to base and recharge itself as needed to complete the clean of your whole house, the e5 has a maximum run time of 90 minutes.

How does Roomba e5 clean?

iRobot Roomba e5's overflowing dustbin.
The overflowing dustbin.

Enough with what it’s missing; let’s dig into what the Roomba e5 has and what it can do. Generally speaking, I’ve found that iRobot Roombas clean quite well and this vacuum is no exception.

The e5 picked up a lot of different things, from pet hair to crumbs and fine dirt, as well as grittier bits. While it does seem to clean in a more random fashion and less methodical one, it still seems to get the job done.

Different floor types

The e5 was able to transition well between different floors, from tile to hardwood to carpet, and it cleaned each area well. I have seen some users say it struggles with taller flooring transitions, but in my home where the transitions are fairly low, it was able to get around just fine.

In my testing, the e5 would do about two or three rooms of my 1,000 square foot main floor on a single charge. The robot would go from room to room and find its way in through doorways and around beds or furniture easily.

Spot cleaning with Roomba e5

This Roomba also has a very handy “spot clean” mode where the device will begin a series of swirl patterns and inhale everything in that single area. I decided to test this feature by pouring some flour on the floor and then bringing the Roomba over to attack it. There’s some grout missing from the tile floor, and while the Roomba e5 did not have the suction power to get the flour out of those deeper spaces, it was able to suction all flour from the tile surface.

Roombas are the least likely of all the robot vacuums I’ve reviewed to get stuck.

Does the Roomba e5 get stuck?

Roombas are the least likely of all the robot vacuum brands I’ve reviewed to get stuck in the first place. I will say I have come home a couple of times to find older Roombas paused at the edge of the stairs, or stuck on a rug or a stray sock. That’s because these bots don’t have the same obstacle recognition and avoidance tech that the newest Roomba j7+ has.

Using the iRobot app

irobot Roomba e5 app.

With the iRobot app, you can manage your vacuum easily, adjust settings, and start cleaning from anywhere, even inside the house or from your office across town. Using the schedule feature, you can pick which days of the week and at what times you want cleaning to happen. The app is very intuitive and easy to manage.

Noise level

The first question a lot of people have about a robot vacuum is about noise. I did feel like the e5 was marginally quieter than the s9, though that could be because of its slightly lower suction power. If noise is an issue for you, it’s easy enough to schedule the vacuuming for when you’re out.

The digital assistant features work quite well — and they’re convenient.

Will Roomba e5 work with Google or Alexa?

iRobot’s Roomba devices work with both Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant, meaning you can just ask your assistant to send it out, send it home, pause the vacuuming, and more. The digital assistant features work quite well — and they’re convenient.

Our take

A iRobot Roomba e5 sits on the floor.

iRobot e5 is a superb robot vacuum at a fraction of the price of other models. It sweeps your home thoroughly and has a plethora of remote-controlled features. I got great cleaning power and all the important features I needed. On the downside, I never received any full dustbin alerts to my iPhone. I also wish that for this vacuum’s size, the dustbin was larger.

I’ll bet you won’t even miss the stuff this robot doesn’t have, like home mapping or automatic dirt disposal, though if you think you must have those features, an increase to your budget will give you lots more to play with. You save a lot of money (as much as $650) compared to the top-tier models at the expense of these features.

Is there a better alternative?

Could there be a “better” alternative to this robot vacuum? Certainly, if you’re talking about more advanced features.  The iRobot Roomba s9+ or the very-new Roomba j7+ are both far smarter and loaded with more features and customizations, but at a budget price point, this bot is pretty great. You could also check out Shark’s budget bot, the Shark ION 750.

How long will it last?

I’ve owned another Roomba (the iRobot Roomba S7+) for about five years. With regular maintenance like keeping the rollers clear and filters clean, and ensuring wheels and components are free of tangles, it runs like a dream. I have no doubt the Roomba e5  will also keep my home clean for years to come.

If something does happen to your Roomba e5, iRobot provides a one year limited warranty.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Overall, the Roomba e5 is easy to set up, easy to use, and cleans your home very well at a great, low price. I think it’s a great starter robot housekeeper for people on a budget and I can absolutely recommend it.

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