Last year, (it is somewhat surreal to say ‘last’, but here we are already in 2011), we did an extensive review on a robotic vacuum, named iRobot Roomba. Now, we would like to share our opinion with you on yet another friendly household robot, called Neato XV-11.
iRobot Roomba has been leading the U.S. market of the vacuum robot industry, with sales topping over 5 million units, which may fool you to think why bother with this Neato vacuum that you never heard of. Well, keep reading to find out that a Roomba cannot see where it is going, and performs its job by blindly bumping into things. The Roomba is fitted with a bumper sensor in the front, which makes it bounce off walls and other obstacles. The pie shape of the Roomba lets it bounce all around the room eventually covering the whole area minus the corners, which it leaves unattended because being round shape the Roomba cannot get into corners to clean.
This brings us to the first reason to consider the Neato XV-11 over the Roomba — the XV-11 is equipped with a laser not just a bumper, it makes a map of the area and cleans your floor in just one pass instead of wandering around. Its square edges get what the Roomba misses, the corners where all the dust bunnies live.
Based in California’s Silicon Valley, Neato Robotics was founded on the idea that it’s possible to create robots that are smart enough to perform household chores as intelligently as a human would. Our engineers and scientists dream big and innovate tirelessly with the promise of making all of our lives clean and simple. Our goal is to free everyone from the drudgery of household cleaning. Why? Because we all have better things to do with our time.
Neato’s robots think smart and work hard – just like you. And they take cleaning seriously – just like you want them to. Our robots will do the dirty work for you so you won’t have to. In fact, you won’t even have to be home.
The Neato comes in a neat package, black on the outside, and very orange on the inside, the kit includes the Neato XV-11 vacuum, charging base, manual, and extra filters.
The full shape of the Neato is rounded on the backside and square like on the front. On the top there is a monochrome LCD screen for menu access and message display if the Neato needs to communicate with their human.
The more impressive piece of technology that is on top of the XV-11 chassis is a laser range finder, which sweeps around in a full 360 ° circle. Using that laser, the XV-11 plots out how it will vacuum the room using a method known as SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping). When someone walks through a room the Neato XV-11 is cleaning, it knows to avoid the obstacle.
The point of the Neato XV-11 is to clean an entire area using straight lines and with a minimum of overlap. However, as cool as the Neato is, it is still too big to get into really narrow spaces.
The design of the charging station is long but designed to stand flat against a wall, although Neato can be charged by being plugged into the AC adapter that connects to the charging station, eliminating the base.
When it comes to set up, there really is not one other than the scheduling of when you want the Neato to do its thing. The only thing that needs to be done when it first comes out of the box is that it needs to be fully charged, so you will need to exercise some patience before seeing Neato XV-11 in action. To start cleaning all you need to do is press the orange button and Neato will move off the base, scan the room with its built-in laser, and begin vacuuming.
Our impression of the Neato is that it is sturdy; build well, not some cheap wobbly plastic. When you first hear it startup it sounds like a fighter jet taking off which gives you hope that this robot will zoom through your house and leave it spotless.
It’s fun to watch the XV-11 clean and think, there is certainly some cleverness in this little bot. The robot will first clean the perimeter of a room and the work the interior. Then it will return to the doorways it discovered while mapping and proceed to the next room. The bot actively maps and keeps track where it has been and what has been cleaned. Neato is a very dedicated little machine, if the room’s too big and the XV-11 runs out of juice mid-vacuuming, it will go charge itself and then return and finish the job.
Since our home is the habitat for two very fluffy long-haired cats, we have to empty the Neato’s dirt bin very frequently, probably much more frequently than we did with the Roomba, which has a bin twice the size that of the Neato. We have our Neato scheduled to run every single day and have come to accept that the bin needs to be emptied after every run. If you don’t want to bother with such discipline, the XV-11 will alerts you on its own when the dust bin is full and will wait for you to empty it.
In our testing we did encounter that if there is a problem with the brush, or if something gets stuck in the vacuum and it begins to overheat the robot will stop. For example, when the brushes collect too much cat hair, the machine will stop and request that you clean them.
We found that Neato does better on hardwood floors then it does on carpets. In comparison with the Roomba which did the opposite, better on the carpets then hardwood floors. Something that is cool about the Neato, is that it knows when it is on the hardwood floor, and adjusts its brush and gears accordingly. The rotary brush is made up out of six opaque flexible plastic vanes, so you don’t have to worry about scratching your floors. The XV-11 also has a ground sensor to let it know when it comes near a drop.
No-Pass Magnetic Barrier
If you want to seal off a particular area of your home where you do not want Neato go, all you need to do is place a magnetic strip (included in the kit) to mark a “no-pass” line.
This is actually where we preferred Roomba’s solution better. The Roomba comes with sensors you can place in the room and the robot would not get within a certain amount of feet to the sensor. Neato’s magnetic strips however would have to be pinned to the carpet, or picked up and moved every time, which becomes annoying.
Under the Hood
To summarize, Neato XV-11 features a laser technology and solid construction. It sounds impressive on startup, performs decently on carpet and better hardwood floors. It requires to be emptied too often during vacuuming, lacks of corner brush, and in a room with furniture will vacuum about ¾ of the area. However, it rarely bumps into things, and doesn’t dance around in circles on the same spot like the Roomba, so at this time the verdict between the two vacuuming robots is towards the Neato XV-11.