iRobot’s Roomba line of robot vacuums includes many advanced models, but these robots all have pretty hefty price tags. The Roomba e5 and Roomba i3 EVO are mid-tier entries in the range, so they don’t have all the bells and whistles as those high-end models. However, they don’t cost as much, either.
If you’re deciding between the e5 and the i3 EVO, the two robots have several things in common. They’re both Wi-Fi-connected models that are compatible with voice commands through a home assistant like Alexa and operate with the iRobot Home app, which the BestReviews Testing Lab found easy to use for scheduling cleaning sessions. And their anti-tangle rubber brushes prevent hair from getting caught around them and can detect areas of your home that have a greater concentration of dirt where they need to clean more carefully.
However, iRobot no longer makes the e5, so while it’s still available at some retailers, it can be difficult to find. On the other hand, you can find the i3 EVO at multiple retailers. The i3 EVO also offers smart mapping, so it can learn and remember the rooms in your home. Conversely, the e5 travels your home randomly, roaming around until the entire area is clean. The i3 EVO also has double the suction power as the e5 and a Recharge and Resume feature that lets it return to its base to charge and then pick up cleaning where it left off.
Considering these key differences and the e5’s limited availability, the i3 EVO is the clear winner. It offers stronger suction on hardwood and carpeting, boasts smart navigation for more efficient cleaning and extends its battery life by continuing cleaning jobs after recharging, so it’s a solid robot vacuum for many homes.
Battery life: 90 minutes | Dimensions: 13.8” width x 3.6” high | Dustbin capacity: 0.5 L | Weight: 7.2 lb | Navigation software: iAdapt 1.0 with reactive sensor technology | Mapping: No | Self-emptying: No | Object avoidance: No | Scheduling: Yes | Selective room cleaning: No | Warranty: 1 year
Released in 2018, the e5 has an advertised battery life of 90 minutes, but it doesn’t have a Recharge and Resume feature to continue cleaning where it stopped once it’s fully recharged. It is roughly the same size as the i3 EVO and other robot vacuums, and its 0.5-liter dustbin has the same capacity as the i3 EVO’s.
The e5’s navigation software is fairly basic compared to the i3 EVO and high-end Roombas like the s9 and s9+, so it doesn’t map or learn your home’s floor plan. It can’t clean specific rooms or avoid objects, either, so it can get stuck around the house. The e5 allows for scheduled cleaning in the iRobot Home app, though.
Battery life: 96 minutes | Dimensions: 13.26” L x 13.26” W x 3.63” H | Dustbin capacity: 0.5 L | Weight: 7.44 lb | Navigation software: iAdapt 3.0 | Mapping: Yes | Self-emptying: No | Object avoidance: No | Scheduling: Yes | Selective room cleaning: Yes | Warranty: 1 Year
The Roomba i3 EVO has an advertised battery life of 90 minutes, but it cleaned for 96 minutes during testing. It also has the Recharge and Resume feature, so even if it runs out of power during cleaning, it will finish the job once it’s recharged. It’s approximately the same size as the e5 and has the same dustbin capacity of half a liter, which makes it one of the larger bins among the Roombas we tested.
The i3 EVO features more advanced navigation software, so it offers smart mapping. It learns your home’s floor plan, identifying and remembering rooms to clean more efficiently. Its smart maps also allow you to select specific rooms to clean rather than the entire floor. It doesn’t have obstacle avoidance, though, so it may get caught on power cords, wires and other items.
Read more: iRobot Roomba i3+ EVO
The e5 and i3 EVO have the same setup procedures. When you remove the robot and base from the box, you have to attach the power cord to the base and plug it in. The robots arrive partially charged, but they should be set on the base to charge completely for cleaning.
Both robots use the iRobot Home app to complete their setup. It’s available for Android and iOS devices and takes only a couple of minutes to download. After creating an account, the app has to recognize the robot by scanning a QR code on the Quick Start card included with the vacuum or manually entering the model number. Next, you must connect the robot to the same Wi-Fi as your mobile device before it is ready to clean.
All in all, the setup process takes less than 10 minutes.
The Roomba e5 offers five times the suction power of the Roomba 600-series robots. However, the i3 EVO boasts 10 times the suction of those entry-level models. With double the suction power compared to the e5, the i3 EVO delivers a better cleaning performance on carpeting and hard flooring such as vinyl plank, tile, hardwood and laminate.
Both robots feature Roomba’s patented three-stage cleaning system to loosen, lift and remove dirt and debris from flooring surfaces. They also have dual multisurface rubber brushes that flex to adjust to different floor types. The e5 and i3 EVO both have dirt-detect technology, too. The sensors on their underside detect areas with higher concentrations of dirt and debris, so the robots know these locations require more thorough cleaning. They continue vacuuming in these spots until their sensors detect less dirt.
Like most robot vacuums, both models have better suction on hard flooring. The e5 and i3 EVO sometimes have trouble with smaller types of debris on carpeting, including kitty litter and salt. However, unlike the e5, which cleans in a random pattern, the i3 EVO vacuums in neat rows, so if it misses some debris on its first pass, it can usually capture the rest on its next row.
Because the i3 EVO offers better suction power, it is slightly noisier than the e5. It usually hits a max of 68 decibels, while the e5 typically reaches 65 decibels, which is about the level of a normal conversation.
The e5 and i3 EVO are both round and have similar dimensions, so neither model can clean corners and along walls as effectively as the D-shaped Roomba s9 (or s9+). The e5 features a charcoal and black plastic design, while the i3 EVO has a light gray and charcoal plastic design. The i3 EVO also has a textured ring around its top that resembles fabric and can hide fingerprints and smudges. As a result, the i3 EVO looked cleaner after vacuuming than the other Roombas we tested.
As mentioned, the e5 and i3 EVO both have an anti-tangle rubber brush roll that helps them adjust to different flooring and prevents hair from getting caught around it. They also feature two large side wheels with rubber treads and a front caster wheel that help the robots transition between floors. The caster even pops out for easy cleaning if hair gets caught around it.
The Roomba e5 features fairly rudimentary navigation. It moves around your home in random patterns, changing course when it bumps into objects. It does not map the space or learn the rooms, so it can’t clean specific areas.
On the other hand, the i3 EVO uses floor-tracking sensors to map and learn your home. It identifies the rooms and dividers in your floor plan and creates a smart map afterward that you can edit for accuracy. Once the map is established, you can send the robot out to clean specific rooms or the entire floor, depending on your needs.
Unlike the Roomba j-series robots, which have a front-facing camera to detect objects in its way, neither model has obstacle avoidance. As a result, they can both get caught on items like power cords, wires, rug fringe, clothing, toys and more. That’s why it’s important to go around your home and pick up objects from the floor before these robots clean.
The e5 and i3 EVO both have an 1,800 mAH lithium-ion battery. The e5 has an advertised battery life of 90 minutes, while the i3 EVO’s advertised cleaning time is 75 minutes. However, during testing, the i3 EVO cleaned for 96 minutes before recharging.
The i3 EVO also has the Recharge and Resume feature, which allows it to return to its base to recharge when the battery is low and then return to cleaning where it left off once the battery is full. As a result, you never have to worry about the i3 EVO not completing a cleaning job. The e5 doesn’t have this feature, so the robot won’t finish the job if it runs out of power during cleaning.
Neither the e5 nor i3 EVO is a self-emptying robot, meaning you must empty their dustbin after each use. Both models have their dustbins located on their back side. The bin has a button that you press to release it from the robot. Once you carry the bin over to the trash, you press the bin-door release to open it and dispose of the debris.
iRobot also recommends washing the dustbin regularly. After emptying it, remove the filter and rinse it in warm water. Clean the filter by tapping it against the side of your trash can to knock off the dirt. Be sure to thoroughly dry the bin before reinserting the filter and replacing the entire unit in the robot.
It’s also important to clean your robot’s brushes and sensors. Turn the vacuum over, and press the green tab on the right side of the brushes to release them. Use your fingers to remove any hair on the brush roll. Next, take off the caps at the ends of the brushes, and pull out any hair located there. Replace the caps, and wipe the brushes with a microfiber cloth before reinserting them into the robot. You can use the same cloth to wipe down the sensors at the front edge of the robots’ underside — the e5 has four sensors, while the i3 EVO has six.
In addition to cleaning, you’ll need to replace the filter and brushes periodically. Replace your filter every two months and the brushes every six to 12 months.
With a quick look at their features, it’s clear that the Roomba i3 EVO is superior to the e5 in every way that affects their performance. Its suction and navigation are more advanced, and the Recharge and Resume feature ensures more consistent, thorough cleaning. To top it off, it’s hard to find the e5 since iRobot no longer manufactures it, so you’re more likely to find the i3 EVO — and usually at a better price.
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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.