A decent app, great connectivity and handy virtual barrier system make the iRobot Roomba e5 stand out – but there's plenty of competition at this price.
- Excellent carpet cleaning
- IFTTT channel
- Brilliant connectivity
- Additional virtual barriers are expensive
- Left deeper dirt on wooden floors
- Review Price: £499.99
- Integrated filter
- IFTTT channel
- Up to 90-minutes run time
- Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility
- Wi-Fi and app connectivity
- 0.5-litre bin
What is the iRobot Roomba e5?
When the robot vacuum cleaner craze kicked off, iRobot was the name at the forefront, but I haven’t seen many models from the firm recently.
With the iRobot Roomba e5, the company is back on form, with a solid mid-range robot that ships with a battery-powered virtual barrier system to stop the vacuum from going where you don’t want it to.
A decent app, plenty of connectivity and decent navigation complete the package, but there are cleaners with better dirt pick-up available for this price.
iRobot Roomba e5 – Design
As with iRobot’s other robot vacuum cleaners, the Roomba e5 has a circular body. It feels well made, with a chunky feel. At 338 x 338 x 129mm, the e5 is short yet quite wide. This means it will fit under many sofas, but could find some gaps a little trickier to navigate.
On top of the unit you’ll find three simple controls. There’s a button to start a regular clean, which can often be quicker than using the app. There’s a button for a spot clean (1-metre square), which is a handy way of getting the robot to pick up a specific spill. And there’s a button to return the vacuum cleaner to its charging station. A helpful carry handle on top makes it easy to take the robot where you want it go, without having to put your hands on any of the dirty bits.
Unusually, the 0.5-litre bin doesn’t lift out of the top, but hinges out of the back. Once out, you just hold it over your main bin and hit the eject button to get all of the dirt out quickly and easily. I’d go so far as to say that this is the easiest robot to empty that I’ve used.
On the underside of the iRobot Roomba e5 there are two rubber brushes, which the company says make better contact with hard floors and carpet, compared to bristles. There’s a single side brush for sweeping dirt into the main suction path, too.
The edge-sweeping brush and main brushes should be replaced every 12 months, although the app will let you know when. Annoyingly, the “buy” link provided is for a US site. Brushes cost around £10 for a pack of three, main brushes are around £25. Filters should be replaced every two months, at around £16 for a pack of three.
A charging dock should be placed against a wall with enough clearance for the robot to find it. I found that I had to adjust the position of the dock on my wooden floors, as the robot wasn’t making good contact with the charging contacts at first.
iRobot Roomba e5 – Features
While you can operate the iRobot Roomba e5 using just the buttons on top, you get more control if you hook it up to the iRobot App (Android and iOS). It’s incredibly simple to use: you just tap the Clean button to start a clean. If you want to stop the clean, you can tap the button again to pause the vacuum cleaner, and then have the choice to resume the clean or return to base.
You can set schedules and view your cleaning history, but that’s it: this robot doesn’t provide you with a cleaning map or let you set virtual no-go areas.
In the box, you get one battery-powered Virtual Wall Barrier. This can be used to create a virtual wall, say, for keeping the iRobot Roomba e5 in a room. It can also be used in Halo mode, where the robot won’t move within a 60cm radius of the device: it’s a handy way of stopping the robot from crashing into pet bowls. Additional Virtual Wall Barriers can be bought, although they’re expensive at £49.99 a pop.
iRobot Roomba e5 – Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT
It’s good to see that you get support for the main voice assistants. Amazon Alexa control works well, with commands to start and stop a clean, and to ask the robot to return to its dock.
Related: Amazon Alexa Guide
You get a similar level of control with Google Assistant, so you can use your Google Home devices to control the e5, starting and stopping a clean, or asking the robot to return to its dock.
Related: Google Home Guide
IFTTT support is nice to see on this model, too. You get one trigger, which is for when the cleaner completes a job. Actions are more useful, as you can start a clean automatically – when you go out, for instance. Or, you can pause a clean when you get a call through on your phone.
iRobot Roomba e5 – How well does it clean hard floors and carpet?
According to iRobot, the e5 has Dirt Detect sensors to find the dirtiest parts of your home and give them an extra thorough clean, and the auto-adjust cleaning head changes its height to cope with hard floors and carpets automatically. Testing it out with a combination of flour and carpet freshening powder, I put X patterns at the centre of the floor and at the edge of the room. The robot successfully navigated over the spots, hugging the edge well.
In the middle of the floor, the pick-up was excellent, capturing most of the dust. However, it struggled to pull out dust from indentations in the floorboards, leaving spilt powder.
It was a similar story by the edge of the room, with the robot not quite able to pull dust out of indentations, but doing well with the surface-level mess. More suction power would have been useful to pull out dirt deeper down.
Moving onto carpet, I sprinkled yet another X pattern. This time, the robot managed to pick up everything, thoroughly cleaning the carpet. The combination of the two brushes were clearly working well here and demonstrates that this is a great cleaner for those with mostly carpet.
Checking the history, the e5 took 21 minutes to clean the test room, showing that it navigates well to get full coverage.
iRobot Roomba e5 – How well does it cope with obstacles?
Moving around the edge of the room first, the robot neatly made its way around the house. It can be a bit indelicate finding its way around, charging into furniture and bouncing back. With the edges covered, it moved inwards, starting to cover the inside.
The Roomba e5 managed to avoid falling down the small step to the kitchen, with the cliff sensor stepping in. Manoeuvring beneath furniture wasn’t a problem, but the wide body meant that it couldn’t quite squeeze between my dining room chairs.
This is a common issue with robot vacuum cleaners, and getting the best coverage means that you’ll have to move some furniture out of the way. Once done, the e5 found its way back to the charging dock easily enough.
The Virtual Wall Barrier worked well. In Wall mode, it did a good job of stopping the cleaner passing by. Halo mode is a little trickier, as you need to more carefully place it to prevent the robot from going where you don’t want it to whilst continuing to clean enough of your floor. Virtual no-go lines are easier (and cheaper) to set, and tend to be accurate enough to block of rooms and rough areas.
iRobot Roomba e5 – What’s the battery life like?
The battery is set to last for up to 90 minutes before the robot automatically returns to its dock. The exact battery life will depend on the type of obstacles the robot meets.
iRobot Roomba e5 – How loud is it?
I measured the iRobot Roomba e5 at 64.4dB from standing above the robot while it was running on a hard floor. This is in line with other models I’ve tested and amounts to background noise: you can talk over it while it runs, but you certainly know that the cleaner is on.
Why buy the iRobot Roomba e5?
The iRobot Roomba e5 is well priced, offers great connectivity and its dirt pick-up was pretty good – although it struggled a little with dirt in cracks in the floorboards; it’s better on carpet.
Note, however, there’s plenty of competition at the price, as you can see from my best robot vacuum cleaner guide. At this price, it’s a question of what you want. For example, the Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 930 can mop hard floors, too, so would be a better option for such surfaces.
A decent app, great connectivity and handy virtual barrier system make the iRobot Roomba e5 stand out – but there’s plenty of competition at this price.
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