The Best Robot Vacuum

The best robot vacuum for most people is the $400 iRobot Roomba 650. It’s easy to use, works on bare floors and carpets alike, and leaves out the unnecessary features that drive up the price on most bots. And when something goes wrong (an inevitability over time) a fully modular and easy-to-service design means you can repair rather than replace.

Last Updated: September 4, 2014
Dyson's first robot vacuum is finally official; see What to Look Forward to for details and why we're skeptical. Miele's first robot vac has finally gotten reviewed and you can definitely pass on it; see the Competition section.
Expand Previous Updates
May 16, 2014: After using our pick for more than five months, we updated the guide with our long-term test notes. We also added dismissals of the new Neato BotVac line and Moneual's mop/vacuum combos, the Rydis H67 and H68--both Moneuals received very poor reviews for their ability to navigate and handle pet hair. The Miele Scout RX1 is an upcoming robot vac we're very interested in; see the What to Look Forward to section for more.
April 30, 2014: Linked to an early review of Moneual's Rydis H68, which doesn't look very promising. But we'll keep an eye out for other tests too.
April 24, 2014: The first reviews of the new BotVac vacuums from Neato are out. We linked to CNET's review of the top-of-the-line model, the $600 BotVac 85, below.
March 14, 2014: Updated What to Look Forward to section with first details about Neato's BotVac line scheduled to arrive in mid-April.
March 6, 2014: Updated with CNET's review of the Neato XV-21. It does have slightly better navigation skills than the Neato XV Signature Pro, but it's not better than the Roomba.
February 28, 2014: We added the follow-up to the Infinuvo QQ5, the Hovo 510, to the competition section. While its performance is much improved from the QQ5, it's still not a vacuum we can recommend because it still can't handle any amount of pet hair.
February 5, 2014: After 22 hours of research and living with the semifinalists for a few weeks, we still like the Roomba 650 best.
January 8, 2014: Added Moneual's Rydis H68 Pro, a combination mop and vacuum bot, for $500. It has really low clearance so it can get under furniture, and uses a camera to determine areas in the room that need to be cleaned. See the What to Look Forward to section below for more.

If you schedule Roomba to run a few times per week, you won’t have to think very often about keeping your floors tidy. While it won’t fully replace your regular vacuum, it will prolong the time you can go between manual cleanings with very little effort and oversight on your part. Indeed, almost every household can benefit from a robot vacuum—it’s just a matter of whether or not you’re willing to pay for it.

No carpets or pets? Check out the $200 iRobot Braava 320 floor cleaner instead.

How do I know? Over the course of 22 hours researching the category, I looked at about 50 different robotic vacuums and floor cleaners. Based on conversations with editors from CNET and Geek.com, moderators at the RobotReviews.com forums, and an allergy expert, as well as info from tons of expert and user ratings, I whittled the list down to a few semifinalists. Then, I lived with the cream of the crop for a few weeks to get a feel for how those actually work.

Will a robot work in my house?

Yep, bots will be helpful in most houses and apartments. They work well on medium and short-pile carpets, as well as pretty much any bare flooring surface. They can steer around furniture (and often under it, since most bots only need about three inches of clearance) and are pretty good at stopping themselves from getting tangled.

Most of the reasonably-priced models we considered have a maximum cleaning area of 1,200 square feet, though 800 square feet seems to be more typical, judging by user reviews. The real limit has more to do with how much debris is on the ground and the openness of the floor plan. If you have lots of pets and lots of furniture, temper your expectations for how much ground a bot is able to clean in a cycle. Pet hair can stuff up the bin, leaving no room to pick up other debris that cycle. If the bot is constantly bumping into chairs and tables, it spends more time doing corrective steering and less time actually cleaning. Every so often, the bot will find a way to get stuck between chair legs or under the couch. But even with the hairiest dogs and most cluttered layout, robots will still reliably clean a few hundred square feet.

What if your house is bigger than the maximum cleaning area? The bots don’t remember your floor plan once a session is finished, so there’s no disadvantage to just picking it up and starting a cycle in a different room or floor. The good models all have ledge sensors, so you shouldn’t have to worry about your bot tumbling down the stairs.

Anyone who already vacuums a few days per week out of necessity, discipline, or enjoyment doesn’t need one…
So who aren’t bots good for? Anyone who already vacuums a few days per week out of necessity, discipline, or enjoyment doesn’t need one—it won’t clean anything that a full-size vacuum (even a cheap one) can’t already clean better. If you expect a $400 robot to clean as deeply and consistently as a $400 vacuum used properly, you’re going to be disappointed.

That said, an hour of automated cleaning does more than 10 minutes of half-assed manual vacuuming.

“[Robots] are best at what I’d call maintenance cleaning,” says Sal Cangeloso, who has reviewed most of the iRobot Roomba vacuums for Geek.com over the past five years. “The human does the big clean, say once a month, and then you have the robot clean a few times a week. This’ll keep your place clean and make it so that a few missed corners and stuck-on grime aren’t a big deal.”

Certain layouts and flooring types aren’t particularly friendly to robots, either. They aren’t equipped to handle elevation changes of more than a couple centimeters, so tall thresholds might as well be walls. High-pile carpets are problematic—the modest suction and small agitator can’t really clean anything that thick, and the bot bodies are heavy enough to sink into the soft surface. Area rugs with tassels around the edges are a tangling hazard, if the strings are longer than two or three inches. Most bots come with at least one “virtual wall,” so if you have a room that will pose problems, you can block it off and let the robot run free everywhere else.

How we picked

The original Roomba came out nearly 12 years ago, but very few serious competitors have emerged since then. iRobot, the company behind Roomba vacs and Braava floor cleaners, is still the heavy hitter. Their bots are consistently well-reviewed by experts and owners alike. And who could forget DJ Roomba?

The only noteworthy challenger is Neato, whose robovacs have earned praise for powerful cleaning capabilities and a straightforward navigation system. That’s really it. All of the other brands we investigated are poorly reviewed, prohibitively expensive, or both.

Since it was pretty easy to settle on iRobot and Neato as the two focal points, it was just a matter of settling on the right models within each lineup.

Since these are vacuums, cleaning capability was the top priority. In a group comparison, CNET gave 4-star “excellent” ratings to the Roomba 790 and Neato XV Signature Pro. (That’s while the LG Hom-bot Square only managed a “Very Good” and the Infinuvo CleanMate QQ5 received just an “OK.”) These are both high-end models, but most cheaper Roomba and Neato bots have the same vacuum components (motors and agitators) as their more-expensive siblings. So we set our sights on cheaper models that clean just as well as the expensive bots CNET tested.

“The scheduling feature is critical—it lets you take full advantage of the robot’s autonomy.”
The other must-have feature is scheduling. “The scheduling feature is critical—it lets you take full advantage of the robot’s autonomy,” Cangeloso says. “I think the key is the set-it-and-forget-it approach, then you just need to empty the bin once a week and then [occasionally] find the bot when it gets stuck in the bathroom.“ Every Neato bot, and all but the cheapest Roomba model (the 630) have scheduling.

Reasonably smart navigation is also important, but there’s no way to spot this on a spec sheet. A bot should have the wits to cover all the nooks and crannies of a room, avoid tangling itself on cords, and should get back to its dock under its own power (most of the time, at least). In the Roomba line, the cheapest bots have the same nav systems as the halo models, so the extra cash doesn’t buy you a smarter robot. With Neato, there’s no indication on any spec sheets or marketing literature that the bots use different navigation. But CNET noticed a difference in their testing, finding that the newer models seem to be “smarter” about navigating through crowded, cramped areas—even when the firmware on the old models had been updated. More on that later, if you’re interested. But the short version is that the differences will not make a big difference for most people.

The Neato (left) and Roomba (right) at their docking stations.

The Neato (left) and Roomba (right) at their docking stations.

We settled on two semifinalists: The $400 iRobot Roomba 650 and the $335 Neato XV-21. Their vacuum parts are the same as on more expensive models. They have scheduling. Their nav systems are effective. And they also leave out most of the feature-bloat: extra dirt sensors, full-bin indicators, and touchscreen controls—stuff that isn’t likely to be missed.

We didn’t design any specific tests for this, really, because there’s already good data at CNET about how these bots clean in controlled settings. The real advantage to be gained from going hands-on is seeing what it’s like to live with both of them, so I brought them into my home for a few weeks, and used them like any bot owner would use them.

Our pick

The Roomba 650 is pleasant to live with and cleans better and more quietly than the competition.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $380.
The iRobot Roomba 650 is our pick for the best robot vacuum. It gets floors cleaner more quietly than the competition, and it’s generally more pleasant to live with. Also, its modular design makes maintenance and repairs easy.

Let’s start with the Roomba 650’s obvious advantage: it simply cleans better in real-world situations than the Neato XV-21. In the first few cleaning sessions, both bots would return with full dustbins—they were cleaning areas that I’d missed or been to lazy to clean properly with a big vacuum. But after a few weeks of regularly scheduled cleanups, the Roomba 650 still managed to find enough cat hair and debris on my floor to fill itself, whereas the Neato XV-21 started coming back with less and less in its bin.

A beauty shot of the Roomba 650.

CNET has some useful test data on how the Roomba and Neato each perform on floors versus carpets, and with different kinds of particles like rice, pet hair, and sawdust. In those controlled tests, they’re pretty closely matched, though the Neato emerged with a slight advantage because it was able to get much more pet hair out of the carpeting.

In practice, though, the Roomba has the advantage because its iAdapt navigation system lets it pass over the same spots a few times per cleaning session. It looks like it’s scooting around randomly, coasting until it bumps into a chair or a wall or a cabinet, then changing course and repeating until it gets tangled or lost or the battery gets low. But there’s a method to the madness. Cangeloso says that it’s “the smartest” of all bots. Rich Brown at CNET says that watching it work is “like a party.” Watch it long enough, and it’s clear that there’s some sort of logic, even if it’s difficult to discern. According to the Roomba manual, it starts a cycle in a sort of Fibonacci spiral to establish the boundaries of a room, and then works from there—once it figures out where the walls are, and then runs a specific cleaning pattern to clear dust away from the edges with its spinning side brush.

So if the Roomba it doesn’t quite get all of the grit out of the carpet on the first pass, it’ll pick up a little more by the third and fourth time it goes over the same spot. (Cycles last for a little over an hour before the Roomba starts heading back to the dock to recharge—that is, of course, when it doesn’t get stuck somewhere else first). Sometimes, it’ll just miss a spot in a cleaning session—I found one or two dust bunnies leftover after some cycles. But after it runs three or four times per week, it’ll have covered all the ground in its cleaning area.

The Roomba 650, stuffed full of dust bunnies.

Some owners feel very strongly that the Neato uses a better nav system. It uses lasers to map out a room before it starts cleaning, and then follows a very obvious, deliberate, linear pattern. It passes over each spot once (maybe twice), and doesn’t miss many patches.

But in our real-world experience in an apartment with a mix of flooring and carpeting, the Roomba just picks up more stuff than the Neato. It may not look very elegant if you watch it work, but for most floor plans, its persistence yields better results than Neato’s logic.

…the Roomba’s more manageable whirring and seemingly nonsensical cleaning patterns almost make it feel like a pet of sorts.
The benefits of the Roomba’s approach extend beyond mere cleaning, it’s just an overall more pleasant machine to live with. Whereas the Neato’s linear approach is obnoxiously loud and appears cold and calculated in its movements, the Roomba’s more-manageable whirring and seemingly nonsensical cleaning patterns almost make it feel like a pet. Ry Crist at CNET sums it up well: “The Neato feels a bit soulless. This might sound like an obtuse criticism, but for a machine that relies on artificial intelligence, subtle, playful touches of personality can really go a long way—something that iRobot seems to have mastered in the Roomba after several generations of development.”

People who own it love it—at Amazon.com, it has a user rating of 4.6 stars, the highest of any bot that we scoped out and unusually high for any product on Amazon. Cangeloso told us that, as the cheapest Roomba with scheduling, it’s the bot that he’d buy if he wanted to replace his old 500-series model. CNET praised the Roomba line’s cleaning prowess, too: Reviewer Katie Pilkington wrote that it “was the top performer on hardwood in all but one of our tests and a close second in most of the carpet tests.”

The Roomba's UI is nice and simple.

The Roomba’s UI is nice and simple.

The UI on the Roomba 650 is super simple. Setting the clock and scheduling cleanings is a lot like using an old alarm clock; there’s nothing wrong with that (though, c’mon, it’s a little silly that iRobot couldn’t include some sort of touchscreen on a $400 gadget). Owners can schedule one cleaning per day, and the calendar repeats itself every week. If you want to clean outside of the schedule, you can just press the “clean” button on the bot and send it on its way. It has a spot-cleaning feature for concentrated messes, though I usually just found it easier to use a dustbuster.

Day-to-day maintenance is a lot like any other bagless vacuum or dustbuster, too. Just pop out the dustbin and empty it into the garbage about once per week (or more often if you have pets). Shake the filter off when it looks dirty, wash it when it looks super-dirty. And keep an eye out for tangles around the rollers, like you should with any vacuum. Long human hair was a bigger problem than cat hair in my testing—any strands longer than a few inches will probably get wrapped up. (Check out CNET’s review of the Roomba 880 for an idea of how long-haired dogs can seriously jam things up.)

Easy repairs also help Roombas stand out from other bots. It’s a modular system, basically, so one broken component doesn’t ruin the whole bot.  “The key is that almost all the parts are easy to replace,” Cangeloso says. “Since I’ve had [my 500-series Roomba], I’ve replaced almost all the parts, because it’s cheap, easy, and frankly fun to do so. The most expensive part is $45 but a lot of the time these things will be under warranty.”

Flaws but not dealbreakers

So we already know that the Roomba vacuum’s performance falls way short of any upright or canister cleaner, though uprights and canisters don’t have robots attached to them. Its nav system is imperfect, though it’s better than any other solutions. And it collects a serious amount of hair around its bearings and spinning parts, enough to cause a breakdown if left uncleaned. But it only takes a few minutes every couple of weeks to keep things moving freely.

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The Roomba’s brush is easy to take out and keep clean, allowing you to prevent buildups.

While the Roomba’s adventurous, free-wheeling nav system helps it pick up more debris than the Neato, it also leads the bot to getting stuck, tangled, or lost more often. I ran the Roomba 10 times over the course of three weeks, and it only once did it successfully make it back to its dock under its own power. When I’d find the bot, it had usually sucked up the end of a rogue USB cable or charger and shut itself down to prevent damaging itself or the cord. One time, it ate the edge of a light area rug and couldn’t free itself (though it was able to steer up onto the rest of my area rugs pretty easily). On another occasion, it somehow found a laundry bag stashed under my bed and got the drawstring tangled around the side brush. The really mystifying one was when it wedged itself between the legs of my office chair and couldn’t get out.

…if you have clothes or cords lying on the floor or dangling around in range of the Roomba, there could be more problems…
That said, not everyone’s experience with the Roomba will be the same as mine. Wirecutter editor-in-chief Jacqui Cheng reports her older-generation Roomba has found its way back to the base roughly 75% of the time over the last 10 years. That’s quite the disparity in experiences, and we attribute that to differences in habits, as well as the layout of your home. It probably goes without saying that if you have clothes or cords lying on the floor or dangling around in range of the Roomba, there could be more problems than if those things weren’t there. Some of us pick up after ourselves regularly while others let things languish until cleaning day; some stash their cables out of sight while others have extension cords running across their living rooms. So depending on your own habits, your mileage may vary.

Whatever the case, even the neatest people may still find the Roomba getting stuck occasionally. It’s safe to assume you’ll probably have to track the bot down and bring it back to its dock at least some of the time.

Other little gripes: The 650 comes with one virtual wall, which is an invisible wall that I sometimes used to keep the bot out of the bathroom. It’s handy. But it runs on 2 C batteries, not included. Who keeps C batteries? The good news is that the wall should run for 6 months per pair of batteries. The bot will also run right into your pet’s food and water bowls, probably pushing them around, definitely spilling water. And while the 650 isn’t as loud as other bots, the sound still gets obnoxious after a few minutes.

On the whole, the Roomba was worth having around—even actually kind of fun, like an extra pet that spent most of its time cleaning up after the other pet. The bleep-bloops are pleasant and friendly. I got a kick out of watching it steer its way into trouble and then (usually) finding its way out. It won’t clean everything, and needs some attention to work properly, but it’s as good as a bot gets at this price.

Long-term test notes

After nearly five months of regular usage, it’s been smooth sailing with the Roomba 650. Every other week, I need to cut tangled hairs away from the rollers, as I would with any vacuum. Once every four to six weeks or so, I pop out anything that spins, including the rollers, the front wheel, and the side brush, to clear the bunched-up cat hair. The original filter is still good after a few rounds of washing. It still runs great, even after some serious work while my cat shed her winter coat.

During the initial testing period, the Roomba had some trouble finding its way back to its dock. Now, the Roomba ends up back at its dock almost every time—but it’s not because the bot learned my floor plan, it’s because I learned how to clear the way for the bot.It’s become second nature to spend two minutes folding up the area rugs that give it trouble, and to stash the charging cables that it can choke on. I also moved the dock to a more central location, so that the bot is more likely to pass by the docking signal at the end of its cleaning cycle.

The bot’s body does look a bit banged up after five months of service, with some shallow scrapes around the sides from when it bonks into walls and chair legs. If I had nicer furniture, I might put a foam bumper around the bot’s bumper to prevent impact marks and smudges. But I’ve dinged up my apartment more with upright vacuums than anything that this bot has done.

No carpets or pets?

Also Great
*At the time of publishing, the price was $180.
If you have hardwood and tile floors with no carpet or pets running around, you’ll be better served with this vacuum.
If your home is rug and animal free, the $200 iRobot Braava 320 is your best bet. It’s the same machine as the Evolution Mint (our previous pick for robot floor cleaner), but iRobot purchased the parent company last year and rebadged the bot. This isn’t a vacuum; it’s more like an automatic Swiffer. It comes with two washable cloths—one meant to be moistened, the other meant to be used dry—and will work on any bare, smooth surface. The navigation system is much more methodical than the Roomba’s, and it’s almost silent when it’s working. It can cover about the same area as a Roomba on a charge—up to 800 square feet—but works on a room-to-room basis, rather than a “hey let’s just bounce around until my battery dies” basis.

This isn’t a vacuum—more like an automatic Swiffer.
Best of all, it costs $200, way less than any decent robot vacuum. There’s a higher-end model, the 380t, that has longer battery life and can remoisten its cloth in the middle of a cycle for $300. Not a bad pick, but I think it’s safer to recommend the cheaper one for starters, and I didn’t find any complaints about the 320’s ability to hold moisture in the first place.

It won’t get the stains that are stuck on the hardest (like dried tomato sauce), and I don’t think it’s a great pick for people with several hairy pets, because hair covers the surface of the dry cloth pretty quickly. The navigation cube also runs on D batteries (included, thankfully). You can also use disposable cloths rather than the washable ones, but the cost adds up quickly and it’s just a wasteful practice.

The only other possible rival is iRobot’s Scooba line. These robot moppers are better at cleaning grime than the Braava bots, but they’re more expensive, too, and some owners have complained about their Scoobas breaking down after about a year. The Scooba 450 was announced at CES in January 2014—it could be a breath of fresh air for the line when it comes out this spring, but it’s $600, which is just way too much to pay for any single-purpose robot.

Why no step up or step down?

Below the sweet spot ($350-400), robots lose at least one of the three important features—vacuuming prowess, scheduling, or smart navigation. Check out CNET’s Infinuvo QQ5 review for an example of what you can expect from a cheap, white-label bot.

Spend more than $400, and you’re just paying for feature-bloat. Toss-ins like touch-sensitive controls, full-bin indicators, extra dirt sensors, and Wi-Fi scheduling do very little to improve the cleaning capabilities or user experience but drive the price up by hundreds of dollars.

Higher-quality filters get dangled out there as an upgrade. But we couldn’t find any mainstream robots that have earned a reputable air-quality certification. A representative from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) told us that there’s no way that any bot would earn their badge. A tighter HEPA filter could provide some incremental benefit but won’t magically transform a bot into a sealed, clean-air system.

Some of the extra navigation equipment can come in handy. iRobot’s “virtual lighthouses,” for instance, can help a Roomba distinguish individual rooms from each other. The bot will concentrate on thoroughly cleaning, say, your entire living room before wandering into the kitchen. The lighthouses only come included with higher-end Roombas—but they’ll work with the 650. Before you pile on the extra equipment, see how the bot does on its own. It’s probably going to be fine. But if it just wanders aimlessly, half-cleaning most rooms rather than mostly cleaning a few rooms, then add a lighthouse or two—iRobot sells them a la carte for $40 each.

In general, bots are more expensive than they should be. Mike Fortuna, a forum moderator at RobotReviews.com says, “my biggest disappointment since becoming a robotic vacuum user in 2005 is the prices have gone way up but the robots have not improved to match the price increase.” Our semifinalists are midrange robots, but cost more than most full-size vacuum cleaners (including some very good ones). Cangeloso says that the current generation of robovacs isn’t really an improvement over the older generation. You just get new designs and price tags that keep creeping upward. He notes in his Roomba 650 review that the bot’s firmware is an improvement over what the 500 series came with, but there aren’t many significant hardware changes. Then again, if it’s been more than a decade since the original robot vacuum and nobody has found a significantly better design, maybe the value of a proven bot counts for more than it seems.

Why not Neato?

Our other semifinalist, the Neato XV-21, is still a pretty solid robot. Owners generally like it, giving it an average of 4.2 stars on Amazon.com.  It earned a “very good” rating at CNET, where reviewer Ry Crist says that it’s “a very effective floor cleaner, earning impressive scores in all of our tests.” (Since our review, Neato has released a new product line called the BotVac, but we still would not choose any of them over the Roomba 650. Most of our problems with the XV-21 will also apply to the new models, with some exceptions.)

The laser-guided navigation system makes the Neato run in a linear back-and-forth pattern, prevents it from running into obstacles or getting stuck in tight quarters, and usually gets the bot to return back to its dock at the end of every session—it got back to its dock 8 out of 10 times over a few weeks of testing. It seems smarter than Roomba’s bump’n’run approach.

It’s alarmingly loud to the point that I didn’t feel welcome in my own home while it was running.
But in the real world, the XV-21 just doesn’t pick up as much stuff as the Roomba 650 in the long run, and isn’t really any easier to use or live with. The linear nav pattern doesn’t do multiple passes over the same area, the battery life is shorter, replacement batteries are more expensive and needs to be replaced more often, it’s difficult to repair, and it’s alarmingly loud to the point that I didn’t feel welcome in my own home while it was running. You will ultimately be more annoyed by the Neato’s loudness and inferior cleaning ability than the Roomba’s more frequent need for attention.

On its first few runs, the Neato picked up as much hair and debris as the Roomba 650, but diminishing returns started to kick in after about a week—for two reasons, I believe.

First, it only makes one pass, maybe two, over any spot on the floor during a cleaning session, whereas the Roomba makes three or four (or sometimes none, but it works out better for the Roomba over multiple cycles). Second, the Neato’s nav system is more hesitant to let the bot get into corners or under furniture, which is where debris tends to pile up. It also has no spinning side brush to kick debris away from walls. So, sure, it’ll usually cover most of the visible flooring in your house in a single run and get back to its base. But it’s still leaving a bunch of stuff behind in the hardest-to-reach places.

The UI of the Neato is slightly more modern in looks, but not in function.

The interface on the XV-21 is slightly more modern than the Roomba, in that the monochromatic LCD looks like it was recycled from a clickwheel iPod rather than a Memorex clock radio. But functionally, the scheduling and cleaning options aren’t any easier or harder to use than the Roomba. Rather than battery-powered “virtual walls,” the XV-21 comes with magnetic strips that the Neato will avoid crossing—it’s a more elegant solution, and one that doesn’t require stupid D batteries.

In terms of maintenance, the Neato doesn’t need quite as much dirty-hands upkeep—hair doesn’t jam up its moving parts as readily as the Roomba’s, so you really just need to empty the bin, clean the filter, and cut away the odd tangle from the roller bar with scissors. But if a major component breaks down, the Neato isn’t as easy to fix. It isn’t designed to be opened up as easily as the Roomba—there are a handful of screws to get out and a few tiny parts that can fall out and roll away. It’s also harder to pop the rollers in and out, since you’ll need to work around the drive belt (the Roomba uses a belt-less direct-drive system for its rollers).

The Neato is also not as easy to keep clean and clog-free.

The Neato also has a tougher time driving up onto area rugs than the Roomba—during every session, the XV-21 bunched up at least one rug, whereas the 650 only struggled with one specific rug. The XV-21 doesn’t have as much clearance to get under furniture as the 650, and some users have complained that Neato bots aren’t aware of their own height (and in situations where they get wedged, the users say the bots can’t comprehend how to steer out of the situation).

A short battery life—either per cleaning session, or the lifespan of the battery—is a common complaint with Neato bots. I found that the XV-21 usually cleaned for about 25 minutes at a time before returning to its station, charging for 45 minutes, and then returning to the spot where it left off. Other owners complained of the batteries no longer holding a charge after 8 to 12 months (and replacements are $80, which is steep). Based on this customer service email shared on RobotReviews.com, it looks like Neato recognized that the 8-month lifespan was a problem, and updated the firmware on their bots to favor shorter cleaning times (25 to 40 minutes is normal) per session so that the battery functions properly over more months. Since the bot does a good job of charging itself and picking up where it left off in the middle of a session, I don’t see a problem with that.

Lastly, the Neato just doesn’t give off the warm-fuzzies that the Roomba does. It’s not there to blend in with its surroundings and become a part of your home. It’s a machine that’s there to do a job, period. Noise is the chief offender—vacuums are loud, but the the XV-21 is deafening for such a small machine, especially compared to the Roomba.

There’s one compelling case for picking a Neato over a Roomba. If your floors are carpeted wall-to-wall and there isn’t too much furniture to steer around, the Neato might be the way to go. It’s still loud and slow, and you’re still going to have problems with the battery. But the vacuum is most effective when its on carpet, and when it can drive in straight lines.

How we tested

CNET provides great data about several bots’ raw cleaning power. The goal of our testing was to see how those numbers translated into the real world, and to get a general idea of what it’s like to live with these things.

The procedure was basically to schedule each bot to go clean a few times per week…
The procedure was basically to schedule each bot to go clean a few times per week—mainly times when I’d be away, but also occasionally while I was at home, trying to work or relax. I was looking for patterns: areas where the bots would get lost or stuck, anything that posed a significant tangling hazard, areas or types of debris that the bots frequently missed, the amount of debris the bots managed to pick up, how often they’d make it back to the dock without help—that kind of thing.

I also wanted to get a feel for maintenance: how often do these things need to be opened up and cleaned to work properly, and how much work goes into the upkeep?

I’ve covered most of the specifics above, but I learned a few general lessons that apply to most (if not all) current bots. For starters, they don’t “learn” your house. They just go and run their nav systems every single time you send them out for a cleaning, so there’s no disadvantage to just picking them up and moving them to a different starting point.

Also, as nice as it is to think that the bots should just work on their own, you might have to prep your home before cleanings. Both bots had trouble with one of the light area rugs in my apartment, so I just got in the habit of folding them up and putting them away while the bot ran. Same thing with cords; the robots tangled on charger cables pretty easily (especially the Roomba), so I got used to stowing them away.

The competition

As for the dozens of robot vacuums that didn’t make our semifinals…

Miele, maker of the best high-end vacuums, released a robot of their own in 2014. Rather than lasers or bumpers, the RX1 Scout navigates using a camera system. User ratings are generally favorable, but some reviewers wrote that any Roomba they’ve owned was a better cleaner than the Miele. Other commenters have speculated that the scout is just a re-badged Yujin iClebo Arte, which got a mediocre score at CNET.

Neato has a product line called BotVac, with four new models. The BotVac 80 is the best one, because it’s the cheaper of the two models that use a two-brush agitator system. That said, we’d still recommend the Roomba 650 over any of these updated Neato bots. We checked out CNET’s review of the BotVac 85, some early Amazon user reviews, and a deeply informative thread at the excellent Robot Reviews forums  Based on all that we’ve read, not enough has changed to fix most of the shortcomings of the XV series.

The navigation system in the BotVac is supposed to be smarter, but the early adopters at Robot Reviews can’t spot the difference. The dimensions are almost identical, so the same obstacles will block it the same way as before. It’s just as loud as its predecessors, and still gets caught on the edges of some rugs. And even though Neato (finally) added a sweeping side brush to the BotVacs, it still doesn’t clean edges as well as Roomba bots do.

And then there’s the issue of price. One of the most popular pro-Neato arguments was that even the best model was cheaper than the low-end Roomba. That’s no longer the case, as the mid-range BotVac 80 now costs $500. Prices are creeping upward without major improvements, the same way they have with Roomba models—it’s not a great trend for anybody.

There are some incremental upgrades in the BotVacs. CNET’s testing found that they clean bare floors better than the XV models did, probably because the brushes are wider and can collect debris from a larger area under the bot. The dustbin is bigger, the filter allows more airflow, and there are some mechanical tweaks that should prevent debris from building up around gears and bearings. And ah yes, the display has leaped ahead a few years—it’s now like the color LCD from a late-decade iPod nano.

We still think that the Roomba 650 is the better pick for almost everyone. And if we were to recommend a Neato, we’d still go with the XV-21, because it’s cheaper.

The Neato XV-11 and XV-12 are the oldest Neato models, and use an agitator design that (as far as we can tell, though there is no independent hard data on this) doesn’t clean as well. They’re also more expensive than the XV-21 at the moment, so no dice.

The XV Signature uses the same agitator as the XV-11/12 and costs more than either, so that’s also a no-go.

The XV Signature Pro is very similar to the XV-21. It ditches the Super Nintendo motif in exchange for a black finish, and comes with two “high performance” filters rather than a single standard filter. It also costs an extra $100 (at the time of writing), which is too much to pay for a boring paint job and a spare part. Both models use the same motor and agitator, so cleaning performance should be nearly identical. CNET found that the Sig Pro, which is a newer model than the XV-21, has a more confident navigation system—even controlling for firmware. If anything, the XV-21’s less-polished mapping tech helps it clean more, since it’s more likely to get a little bit lost, then re-tread ground that it’s already covered. We did some non-scientific side-by-side testing of our own, and did notice a difference, but it’s nothing that changes our main conclusion, which is that you should buy a Roomba.

Neato recently announced the XV Essential, which is yet another iteration on the XV-21 and Signature Pro models. It costs more than the XV-21, and will only be available at Walmart. Pass.

The Roomba 630 is basically the same bot as the 650, but has no scheduling feature, which is a dealbreaker for us.

I strongly considered including the Roomba 760 as a semifinalist, but decided against it. It’s one step up from the 650, only costs an extra $50, and has some features that looked like they might’ve been useful—particularly the Persistent Pass, which will allegedly spend more time cleaning areas that are extra-dirty. I couldn’t find any solid evidence that this is actually useful, though. My hunch is that, since bots aren’t especially great cleaners anyway, it’s like spending time trying to break ice with a snow shovel—it’ll get the job done eventually, but you should just use the right tool (an icebreaker) instead. It also has a remote control, which could be useful, and an extra virtual wall. The dust bin can hold slightly more dirt, too, because it uses a smaller filter than the 600 series. It’s not a bad bot at all, but I don’t think there’s anything here that really makes it a better buy. (The previous Sweethome guide to robot vacs suggested that it might be better for pet owners because of the HEPA filter, but that just didn’t turn out to be true.)

The rest of the 700 series (770, 780, and the now-discontinued 790) are what Cangeloso calls “luxury” robots. Each successive model adds one or two extra features, like a full-bin indicator for the 770, and touch-sensitive controls for the 780, that do nothing to change the cleaning ability. Each tier costs $100 more than the one before it, which isn’t worth it.

The new Roomba 880 is a better vacuum than any of the older Roombas. According to CNET’s testing, the new brush design brings its carpet-cleaning performance up to par with the XV Signature Pro without losing the floor-cleaning prowess of other Roomba models. That said, it’s $700, which is way too much money for something that still is nowhere near as effective as a $200 upright vacuum. As Cangeloso put it in his review of the 880 for Geek.com, “What’s interesting about the Roomba 800 series is that while it’s a much better vacuum than the previous models, it’s not a better robot.” If iRobot puts this cleaning head in its cheaper models down the line, they’ll be onto something.

Moneual makes a few hybrid bots that both mop and vacuum, the Rydis H67 and Rydis H68 Pro. They aren’t very good. CNET absolutely trashed the H67, rating it “Poor” with just 1.5 out of 5 stars. It constantly jammed itself on pet hair and had trouble navigating itself back onto its dock from just a few inches away. The Wall Street Journal doesn’t like the H68 Pro, either. Their testing procedures were sub-par, but even so, the Moneual failed to match the performance of either the competing Roomba or Neato models.

As for other brands, LG and Samsung both have their toes in the water, but their bots are too pricey. It’s $800 for LG’s current Hom-bot, and Samsung doesn’t even list their bots on the US version of their website (imports are about $1,200). CNET reviewed LG’s latest, the Hom-bot Square, but said that “after comparing its price and performance with the competition, it’s a tough purchase to justify.”

The forum moderators from RobotReviews.com that I chatted with spoke highly of the Kärcher RC3000, available only as an import from Germany with a hefty price tag. “The Karcher robot is renowned for being reliable but costs over $1,000. It seems to clean well but that price point is prohibitive,” says Mike Fortuna, one of the forum mods.

CNET reviewed the top-end CleanMate QQ5 from Infinuvo, saying that it “failed to deliver acceptable performance” and adding that “between its hard-to-clean rollers, thoughtless dust bin design, and, in certain circumstances, its inability to clean, we wouldn’t recommend this vacuum at any price.”

CNET also reviewed the newer Infinuvo, the Hovo 510 model. It’s a huge improvement over the QQ5, and keeps pace with Roomba and Neato in most cleaning situations. But it just cannot handle any amount of pet hair—in CNET’s test, no measurable amount made it past the brush roller into the dust bin. If Infinuvo can fix that fatal flaw next time around, it could be a contender—and for much less than any Roomba or Neato model.

Dirt Devil has a couple of low-end models with middling user reviews and nothing from the experts.

Then there are unknown, unproven brands like iTouchless and Techko—there were no reliable expert reviews for these models, and the few user reviews weren’t impressive enough to warrant a closer look.

What to look forward to

After 14 years of not-so-secret development, Dyson is set to release the 360 Eye robot vac. The marquee feature is a nav system powered by a 360-degree panoramic camera and infrared sensors. It also uses the same powerful motor as some of its older stick and hand vacs. No word on pricing yet, nor a specific date for availability in North America, though it will be sometime in 2015.

At a glance, the vacuum components look great. The brush roller extends the entire width of the bot, which should help it clean up against walls and corners more effectively than a typical bot with a side brush. The V2 motor, also used in the DC34 and DC44 vacuums, is quite powerful.

The nav system looks promising, but this is Dyson’s first bot, so we’re skeptical. Yes, it’s the first bot to use a 360-degree camera. But plenty of others use optical systems—with mixed results. Optical bots work great with open floor plans, but stumble when they have to steer around a bunch of furniture. The Dyson bot is also pretty tall, which means that it won’t get under your couch, and might struggle near any cabinets that jut out a few inches. What’s more, the Dyson’s battery life is only 20 minutes (Roomba is more like 90, by comparison), so the bot will have to be as quick and agile as a human with a DC44 stick vac to clean a space in one pass. Maybe Dyson nailed it, but we’ll need to see it in action—and in any case, we’re pretty confident this will cost a lot more than the entry-level Roomba that we recommend, so there’s no sense in waiting around for this thing.

Wrapping it up

After a few weeks of living with these cleaning bots bouncing around my apartment, I can say for sure that they have made it cleaner, mostly by just doing a diligent job of keeping cat hair off the floor, and finding crumbs brushed away in places I’d never bother to hit with a manual vacuum. They actually do save time and are pretty fun to have around. And they sure as hell beat vacuuming by hand. If you ask us, the iRobot Roomba 650 is the one to buy due to its superior ability to pick up dirt, its more thorough cleaning patterns, its longer battery life when cleaning, and its modular nature that makes the device easy to fix when things go wrong. If you have lighter cleaning needs and don’t have carpets or pets, the iRobot Braava 320 is a more affordable option.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $380.
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Sources

  1. Sal Cangeloso, Geek.com, Interview
  2. Mike Fortuna, Forum Moderator, RobotReviews.com
  • guoxin

    Don’t you think Neato is smarter with their laser mapping thing? Verge tested it and it seems it cleans much faster than Roomba. According to the reviews the vacuum in it is also more powerful.

    • http://www.lisabrewster.com/ Lisa Brewster

      I was waiting with bated breath for reviews on the new Neato XV
      Signature Pro so I could decide between it and a new
      Roomba, but strangely nothing ever hit the blogs. There are a few reviews from users on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CBW63QU/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_6?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

      The dealbreaker for me is that the Neato has to have 3 feet of empty wall space to figure out where the dock is, and that’s just not happening in my apartment.

      • Russ

        i only give the neato dock 2 feet max. it’s right next to a power cord and a subwoofer. it works fine for me and finds its way back home most of the time (unless it gets stuck). i think the 3 ft rule is more of a guideline than a requirement.

    • http://www.carlthuringer.com Carl Thuringer

      I’ve had both the Roomba and the Neato and if I could exchange my current Neato for the old Roomba right now I would do so in a heartbeat.

      Neato has 2 main flaws. It has no side brush, so it leaves about a half inch radius from any wall or table leg uncleaned. Second it cleans each section of floor only once with a single pass. You would not even do that with a powerful upright vacuum if you were vacuuming yourself, so imagine what the neato accomplishes with its weaker, battery-powered suction and rollers.
      The roomba’s random behavior helps a lot because it passes the same patch of floor multiple times with different spans of its vacuuming hardware at different angles, resulting in a clean almost as good as a thorough upright can accomplish, and for much less effort from you, the owner. Also, its spinning brush takes care of that half-inch that the vacuum cannot touch. My apartment has a half inch trail of dust neatly marked around every wall where the neato missed.

      One more thing. If you have a couch or bed with a skirt that hangs down to the floor, the neato’s ladar mapping treats it exactly as it would treat a solid wall, where the roomba’s bump and go technique allows it to go under couches and beds without issues.

      • Phillip Levinson

        I am curious on this while I agree the side brush lacking is disappointing (on the neato) and it doesn’t do multiple passes I think it does a pretty dam good job for what it does. and the suction is alot stronger from what I have seen of the roombas.

        Not to mention at least as opposed to older Roomba’s the neato does my entire first floor room by room easily without having to lighthouse anything.

  • jpp221

    Got the roomba 650 a month ago. Absolutely love it. A few points not made in this article: while it doesn’t clean as well as, say, your mother, it might do, say, 90% as well. But here’s the thing: you’ll use it EVERY DAY. So the 10% it missed today, it will get tomorrow. Before long, you’re saying, “mom who?”.

    Also, with daily cleaning, there’s less dust in the house. Soon, you’re dusting everything, not just floors, less often–because that dust on your coffee table probably got kicked up off the floor when you walked by–so cleaner floor eventually translates to cleaner coffee table.

    Finally, and this is really weird–the hardwood floors eventually become BRIGHTER. I think it’s the little spinning side brush. With daily use, it’s whirling seems to polish, not just dust, the floor.

    I can’t say enough about this excellent product.

    • Mike

      I agree with you. I used to order professional carpet cleaning companies. I forgot about them when I bought roomba 650. If you use it regularly- your carpet is kept in a perfect state. BTW these guys use it even as commercial cleaning machine http://ny-carpetcleaning-nyc.com/. Unbelievable!

  • PatrickTulskie

    I’ve had a Roomba for about 4 years now and I just keep upgrading and replacing parts in it instead of upgrading the whole unit. My Roomba 500 series has the sweeper module of a 600 series, as well as the upgraded dust bin with HEPA filter. I also have 2 hairy animals in my house and it does the job extremely well. iRobot isn’t going anywhere and there’s tons of replacement parts for these bots.

  • Aajaxx

    Do you need one for each level of a house?

    • riopato

      yes and no. You can easily move it to each level but that would defeat the automated feature

      • Aajaxx

        Which features would not work, exactly?

        • http://www.carlthuringer.com Carl Thuringer

          The feature of the robot leaving the dock, cleaning the space while guided by the IR lighthouses, and then returning to the dock on a schedule.

          The robot cannot climb stairs.

          • Aajaxx

            Thanks. I went and bought a 620 for cheap anyway. I hope it doesn’t need IR lighthouses to work at all.

          • http://www.carlthuringer.com Carl Thuringer

            It doesn’t need the lighthouses, though you can add them on later to improve its cleaning efficiency. It just lets the robot know where space is divided, so it will clean a space for a fixed amount of time before crossing a lighthouse. It also aids the robot in returning home.

            Place your robot’s dock in a spot it is very likely to cross. Because it moves randomly, it will not always be near the dock when it wants to go home and charge. Corners don’t tend to do well, because the robot will not find the dock often. The dock shoots an invisible IR beam about 9 feet in front, so you want the robot to pass that beam with some regularity if you want it to dock itself.

            Experiment and you’ll figure out the best spot.

          • Aajaxx

            Thanks. Wish me luck. With my wife’s propensity to, ahem, ‘overdecorate’, I suspect I will be guiding the poor thing home a lot.

  • elijahnicolas

    Any chance of an update to the iRobot Roombas especially since the entire lineup is over 15 months old? I’m looking soon. Also, as a rec, besides the dates of the post, could you please include a release date of the recommended product. Thanks!

    • elijahnicolas

      Currently, Best Buy has the Roomba 770 for $449.99. I went with that and so far, for the first clean, I’m impressed. I chose not to manually vacuum my floor and had to empty the Roomba bin twice, but it’s looking good. Any rumors on an update especially since the debut of the Braava.

  • John123John

    According to Amazon, the iRobot Braava 320 is the updated version of the Mint.
    Comments?

  • http://kartickv.tumblr.com/ Kartick Vaddadi

    What do you recommend for an apartment larger than the 800 sq ft limit of the Mint? My apartment is 1800 sq ft, with a tiled, hard floor (no carpets).

    What prevents the Mint from working for larger apartments? I’m fine with it taking more time to clean the larger apartment. Will it run out of battery?

    I prefer the mopping, but if that’s not available, I guess I’ll make do with just a vacuum. Thanks.

    • Mitchell Cardwell

      You just need the version that has the navigation cube and it’ll be able to find it’s way.

  • http://gdtdesignstudio.com Garrick Dee

    With all due respect, the Mint isn’t a vacuum cleaner but a robot mop so while it picks up dirt (to a certain extent because microfiber will grab dirt), it is very limited and if you use disposable wipes – it can get pretty expensive in the long run.

    I’d rather have the Neato XV-11 with its more predictable cleaning pattern and it has a stronger motor than the roomba but it is louder and it’s around 50 bucks cheaper in Amazon.

    All the Best,
    Garrick of Cordless Vacuum Guide

  • slfisher

    I have gone through several Roombas and Scoobas and I’ve given up on them. Between getting stuck, needing cleaning, and needing repair, it’s just not worth it. It takes more time than it saves.

  • Andrew Kalinchuk

    After 22 hours of research and living with the semifinalists for a few weeks, we still like the Roomba 650 best.

  • Georg Müller

    FYI: The LG Hombot is much cheaper in Europe (probably differences in models or whatever). 300 EUR (~400 USD) will get you the current one. And it is very well received in reviews and forums. It can be connected to WiFi and you can log in to its embedded Linux and change parameters, read logs etc. In addition to that geeky part it has also been the best robot vacuum I’ve ever used.

  • Jason Williams

    what about carpet like this?

    http://shawfloors.com/carpetdetails/jones_beach_52v38-poetic_cream

    this is almost a borderline shag carpet (not my pick – we all have to stay happily married)

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      The Roomba will able to drive on the carpet fine. Not sure if it’ll get all that deep between the fibers, but like I said in the guide, if you run the bot often, you won’t notice the stuff that’s left over in the carpet. You can bust out your upright once a month or so to get deep if you feel the need.

  • PeterLLLLL

    Have had a 650 for 14 months, it does work very well. My only complaint is that I wish it had a “lighter touch,” it tends to push pretty hard against the legs of tables, chairs, etc. It hasn’t knocked over anything yet, but I did have to put rubber feet and extra weight on a light, delicate table I have on hardwood floors.

  • Stephanie

    Question for you guys who have them: As a gal who is prone to shlep dirty clothing in a corner, could a Roomba still work for me? I’m sure doing something as simple as adding a laundry basket would help, but I doubt I’d be 100% faithful with it. Would it get a sock or a shirt sleeve perilously stuck in its robot jaws?

    • http://www.carlthuringer.com Carl Thuringer

      Mine tends to push things around more than suck them up. It is supposed to detect a jam and reverse rollers, spitting out the sock or sleeve.

      What I found over years of using a roomba is that it changed my behavior to better suit it. I finally was able to buy some furniture and one of the criteria is that the roomba should be able to move underneath.
      I pick up the floor a bit on roomba day, and make sure that cords stay up and out of the way.

      My new 650 has run for two weeks and only got stuck once when it went into the bathroom and closed the door behind itself (by bumping the door around).

      So unlike Jurassic Park, when the robots are loose we’ll be safe because they can’t open doors. But we will still do their bidding.

      • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

        Yeah it’s supposed to avoid strangling itself on clothes, I don’t know that it *always* would though. I never found it caught on a sock or pant leg, but it did get stuck on a thin area carpet (which is kind of the same thickness / weight as a pair of pants). And it doesn’t do well with drawstrings, so it might eat your hoodies. A hamper is a good idea.

        When it does get caught, though, nothing catastrophic happens. It turns itself off, you have to clear the tangle (only takes a few seconds because it’s so easy to open up), and then set it on its way.

        Like Carl said, it changed my behavior a bit, I found myself being more mindful about clearing up hazards after I had the Roomba around for a couple weeks.

  • fanirama

    As someone who owns a Roomba and a Neato, this is my one statement about each –

    Neato – precise, efficient, methodical and sober.

    Roomba – drunk village idiot that bounces all around the room inefficiently and does okay job taking thrice as long and costs twice as much

    • http://www.carlthuringer.com Carl Thuringer

      Before I sold my neato I noticed another big flaw with the laser mapping and navigation behavior. It just doesn’t get the hint if there’s something it shouldn’t bother attempting to navigate around.
      Stand-up oscillating fan. It has a broad, flat circular base with a crown of about 2 inches, like a shallow dome. Neato would drive up onto it and then lose traction on one wheel, back up, drive straight back onto it, back up, turn very slightly, go up, reverse, turn another few degrees, forward, back, forward, back. We’d laugh at the love affair with the fan but it could spend minutes bouncing off the fan and getting nowhere before it would finally give up and turn completely around. This also seemed to give it amnesia about the bedroom, as it would then proceed to do a circuit of all the walls, find the fan again, and repeat the process until its battery was low enough for it to go home.

      Second case, 3-legged ikea lamp. The legs form a tall arch. The neato bumps them and very carefully turns around and bumps and turns and wiggles its way between the legs. Then is stuck and can’t get out and beeps and stops cleaning.

      Roomba bumps around, but when it finds that fan it does the same thing it does with anything else, bump off and go somewhere else. Eventually it criscrosses the floor and cleans the whole bedroom, and every other room of the house.

      You may think that the neato is doing a better job because of its systematic approach to cleaning, but the software has a few flaws that cause it to get tied up in its own logic and maneuver into situations that it cannot get out of.

      Roomba’s dumb bounce/turn/bounce and occasional follow-the-wall algorithm looks haphazard and wasteful, but because it passes the floor multiple times from random directions it does a better job of cleaning and gets stuck less often. In fact the only time I have found it stuck in four weeks of ownership was once when it closed the bathroom door after entering the bathroom.

  • tjwolf

    Darn – didn’t see this thread until now. I hope someone can answer this question: I have a large (4000sq ft) single-level home that is mostly open floor plan. Can any of these robots handle such a large area without me having to manage it (via use of virtual walls, whatever)? What are the limits of the Neato’s lasers? There are parts of my home where I can see clear to the other side (50-60ft).

    I was thinking of a Roomba some time ago, but when I contacted customer support and asked this question, they said I’d have to use virtual walls. That was a couple years ago – hoping either Roomba got better or Neato can handle my floor plan.

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Bots have an effective cleaning area of 800-1200 sq. ft because of the battery life. In the 75-90 minutes that a Roomba’s battery lasts, it effectively cleans about that much space. You don’t *have* to use virtual walls in a 4000 sq. ft house, but the Roomba will probably just wander from room to room, won’t spend enough time in any area to clean it very effectively.

      The people I talked to who have been using Roombas for a few years don’t think that the new bots are much better at nav than the old ones, so you’d probably get the same answer from customer service today.

      That’s a really good question about Neato’s lasers…I’d imagine they can “see” 60 feet and map the room effectively. But again, it just doesn’t have enough battery power to clean that area in one pass. I don’t know if this will actually work, but the Neato might be clever enough to map out the area, return to its base when it needs a charge, and then pick up where it left off…it would just have to do that 4-5 times and would take the better part of a day to do it. Again, not actually sure if it can do that (or if it’s practical, or if you’re home if you’d want to listen to a vacuum droning for that long). Somebody at the robotreviews.com forum *might* know if the Neato can theoretically handle an area that size.

      Short answer, I guess, is that none of the bots are really designed to clean an area as large as that, so it’ll be a hacky solution, or you’ll have to buy a couple bots.

      • Phillip Levinson

        This is correct the neato will self partition off long rooms. It picks an area will edge the area then fill in and continue on. I have at least 1 room that is always split into two seperate edging events.

    • Sir Jordan

      Get two of them!

  • RochellCattaneo
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  • CelestineFranchi
  • discutter

    Roomba wins hands down in my opinion (I have both). That’s my own experience.

    Suction: Neato’s is stronger, but that’s irrelevant given that the multiple passes by Roomba gets the floor/carpet as clean or cleaner than the Neato. The Verge and CNet can say anything they want but my real-world experience contradicts them

    Method: Neato appears more methodical but it’s also irrelevant. The Roomba finishes the job and gets the room clean, which is what you need

    Time: I also consider irrelevant that Neato takes, say, half the time of the Roomba per room because the Neato charging time is far longer than the Roomba’s

    ———–

    Things the Neato can’t accomplish that the Roomba can:

    * Because of the side brush it allows to clean the part that is very close to the walls and the bottom of my drawer chests

    * You have to find a spot with 3ft to the sides and to the front to put the Neato’s base: that’s the hugest deal breaker with the Neato, I think. Roomba’s base can be put basically anywhere in a room, and the robot will find it.

    * Neato has no dedicated button to go back to its base. Many times when the Neato loses its position while trying to return to the base, you can put it in FRONT of the base and it won’t find it. No, I don’t have a defective unit. This mostly happens when the spot you used for its base is less than perfect

    * Roomba has no problem with A/C vents, but they confuse Neato. Sometimes it gets “stuck” there for no apparent reason

    * Roomba goes under every piece of furniture it can. Neato treats skirts as walls. That’s a big problem too.

    * Roomba is much better at cleaning big rooms with few furniture. The Neato is simply incapable of doing so. I am not taking about ballrooms, just a big living room like mine. The Neato website even recommends “try putting a few pieces of furniture around”. Otherwise, it gets lost and confused (I guess its laser has nothing to use as reference)

    * Hard floors get much cleaner with the Roomba. At least mine. I put the Neato in the kitchen, and as expected, it finished in less than 20 minutes. However, all along the cabinets it left dirt (given the absence of side brush). OK, no big deal I said, I will put the Roomba to clean it as well to take care of that part. My surprise was huge when, after 45 min or so of cleaning, the Roomba finished and its bin containing a LOT of dirt. I mean, a lot. It was as though the idiotic Neato had not even done anything

    ———–

    Things the Roomba can’t accomplish as easily/well as the Neato:

    * Doing an entire floor without supervision. With Roomba you have to either do room by room manually, or buy the expensive house lights, which are NOT compatible with all the models.

    * Obstacle avoidance: Roomba bumps on obstacles, the Neato doesn’t

    * Maintenance: Neato’s bin is easy to take out and I don’t see anything else I need to do with it. On the other hand, with the Roomba I have to empty the bin but I also need to clean the brush (remove threads, etc.) and the other part close to it (have no idea what it is but it also rotates)

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  • http://bestrobotsguide.com RoombaOwner

    Roomba650 is still one my favorites even compared with others (Neato or Infinuvo), it just feels to be more intelligent and better engineered. http://bestrobotsguide.com

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  • tsquares

    I’ve had both bots. I had the 500 series roomba, and it did an OK job. The author really seemed to have love affair with the back and forth movements of it. To me, it was just dumb. When I decided on the Neato, and after the initial charge, I pushed the start button. My god, now THAT was the sound of a vacuum cleaner! It has stages it goes through. When it first starts up, the motor starts working, when it begins to work, you KNOW the deep dirt is coming out. It cleans as well as my $400 vacuum I use for upstairs. I liked the loudness of it, as I knew it was getting my carpets cleaner than the roomba, which sounded like a weak system. My New to definitely picks up more than my roomba. And, it was less expensive.

  • http://ignorethecode.net LKM

    I bought a Roomba about 6 years ago. It cleaned the floor well, but it also damaged my furniture. It ran over the feet of my speakers, scratching them, and when it bumped into my stuff, it left plastic scratches. I eventually switched to a Samsung, which (mostly) doesn’t do that.

    Now I’m looking into buying a new robot vacuum. Question: are newer Roombas still running into furniture, or are they smarter in detecting stuff before running into it?

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      They still run into furniture. The nav systems are the same as they’ve been for years, still uses the bump n run technique. Not ideal for everyone.

      • http://ignorethecode.net LKM

        Thanks!

        I ended up buying another Samsung, the NaviBot SR 8980. It’s the shortest robot vacuum I’ve ever seen, only 8 cm high, and can get under almost anything. Its navigation system is pretty good: it only cleans everything once, and “sees” most stuff before bumping into it.

        It’s also extremely quiet; I wasn’t sure if it was broken the first time I let it run, because it sounded as if only the wheels were powered up. If I close the door and let it run in another room, I don’t hear it at all. Finally, the power station empties the robot, and cleans the brushes — but that is extremely loud, somewhat negating how quiet the actual vacuuming is.

        On the minus side, because it only goes through most areas once, it often misses spots, so when the floor is noticeably dirty, I sometimes have to let it run more than once. It also gets stuck in weird places, like on the feet of my chairs, so it only finds its way back to the stations about half the time. And, weirdly, while it’s possible to program it to run once a week, you can’t program more frequent schedules (like every other day, or daily).

        Everything told, I think this is one of the better robot vacuums available, even though it retains most of the issues common to these devices.

        • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

          Can I ask, where are you located? The only way I’ve found to get a Samsung bot in North America is via eBay, which is a non-starter for most people. Curious to hear how you got yours.

          • http://ignorethecode.net LKM

            I’m in Switzerland. Samsung vacuums are sold in stores here. Samsung even makes special Swiss editions of some of them, for some weird reason (probably a simple way of increasing the price in one specific country).

  • Sven

    look the German Vowerk VR100, this is realy the best, place two is maybe Samsung Navibot

  • Sven

    oh, I forgot!
    The Germany VR100 has much more Vacuum power! and a better filter and a brush at the side..it is pased on an Neato but much more stable, the germany Company Vorwerk has got many new things inside, you can stand on it, without damage!

  • Sven

    oh, and it has an bigger Accu Li-Ion longlife!
    German Quality, you know ;-)

  • Farmecol

    Unfortunately, I do not agree with your review. I have a Roomba 650 and a Neato.

    At least in our case, we are seeing completely opposite results. The Neato seems to pick up much more than the Roomba, and does so in a more efficient manner (the laser guidance works great). The Neato also NEVER gets clogged where the Roomba floor brush does gets clogged every few runs.

    I am puzzled by this.

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  • Jerome Tankersley

    Is this sturdy/large enough for an average cat to ride it?

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Yes! Mine won’t sit still long enough to personally test (believe me I’ve tried), but there’s evidence all over YouTube.

  • Sheryl

    Looking for a vacuum/mop. Would rather not get 2 different products. Any suggestions?

    • http://liamfmccabe.com Liam McCabe

      Moneual makes a hybrid vac/mop bot, but it’s terrible. If you don’t have carpets, the Braava might work—see above. Otherwise, nothing worthwhile out there.

      • Sheryl

        Thanks for the update. I was hoping to consolidate, but I guess not. I will vacuum the floors before I mop them I guess.

  • Russ

    I’ve been an xv-21 user for a year and a half now. I’ve had to replace the battery once (a $80 repair) but otherwise it has worked pretty well. My chief complaints are: 1) it is loud. It’s not something I want to run while i’m at home, so i have to trust that the scheduler is working. I do run it while i’m home sometimes just to make sure it’s working.
    2) it’s navigation prowess has degraded over time. it used to be really efficient at cleaning my whole 1BR apartment. Now, however, it doesn’t seem so intelligent. It’s not predictable at all. Sometimes it cleans my bedroom multiple times and neglects my cat-hair covered living room. Sometimes it will continually attempt to clean the kitchen while i’m in it.
    3) it gets stuck on idiotic things, like my chair that’s just slightly too low for its body but it insists it must attempt to go under. It tends to get stuck under my kitchen table by repeatedly bumping into the chair legs, and there’s a corner in my bathroom where it gets stuck between the door and toilet.
    4) The magnetic strip that acts as a barrier doesn’t function very well in practice. Tape doesn’t hold it in place on carpet,and even when taped to my hardwood floor it doesn’t stay put long.
    5) hair ties clog this thing up such that all the dirt and pet hair gets stuck in the opening, preventing more dirt from entering. you won’t know it until after it’s done cleaning and the dirt bin is empty.

    Other than that, having a regularly scheduled vacuuming has made my apartment exponentially cleaner than it would otherwise be. The vacuum is powerful enough to whisk all of the cat hair from my carpet. It does a pretty thorough job when it works.

  • HenkPoley

    The Miele Scout RX1 appears to basically be a rebranded Yujin iClebo Arte, just like the Philips FC9910.

  • http://www.vilaku.com vilaku

    great detailed review. there is a newer model that is better than 650. I’ve compiled top 10 reasons to ditch old vacuum cleaner:

    http://www.vilaku.com/2014/08/04/top-10-reasons-to-ditch-your-vacuum-cleaner/

  • http://theseonut.com/ Adam

    Old article – but I’ll give my 2 cents.

    I’ve literally tried every one of these bot vacuum’s regardless of price (neato’s and roomba’s)….and it really depends on your needs.

    If you have pets that shed a lot, and don’t mind the louder noise – the neato is by far the better of 2. It’s an actual vacuum that sucks up the hair instead of sweeping it up, and the brushes have much better agitation than the soft fluffly brushes of the roombas – so your floor is going to get cleaner if you have shedding pets. The roombas did OK at picking up the hair – and if you have a pet that sheds, but it’s not that bad – then the roomba should be fine. But we have dogs that shed a LOT, and the roomba just couldn’t hack it. Even the top $800 models.

    The roombas were quieter and looked better (if that’s important to you). I felt like it would get “stuck” less as well – but that comes at a cost. They just go around bumping into stuff and use it as a guide of where to go next. The neato is a bit more efficient due to how it maps the room – BUT it did get stuck more – which I don’t really understand. The roomba was also easier to clean when needed. The neato wasn’t hard by any means – but the roomba’s mechanism wasn’t as tedious.

    If you don’t have pets, or pets that shed as much: get the roomba.

    If you have pets that shed a lot, and don’t mind the noise: get the neato.

    If you have pets that shed a lot and you DO get the roomba, it will still clean the hair, but you’ll have a small layer of hair that will never get clean unless you use a real vacuum, like a good Riccar.

  • G Close

    I bought the Roomba 650 a couple of weeks ago, based on this article. We have both hardwood floors with throw rugs, plus some wall-to-wall carpet. All carpet medium length or shorter.
    Here’s my short review:
    Pros
    – This gadget works. Sometimes gadgets don’t work, but it does clean. As stated in the article, the vacuum is not strong compared to a regular vacuum, but then again, it will sweep areas which you probably wouldn’t with a regular vacuum (under the bed and couch, anyone?)
    – My kids love it, and it’s fun to watch. The “drunk village idiot” comment below is spot-on, however. It’s dumber than a box of hammers, just blundering about. Sorry, Roomba engineers, whom I am sure are very talented, but that’s how I see it.

    Cons
    – Cleaning the brushes and bearings is work. The manual says to do this after every cleaning. Since I usually clean my vacuum cleaner rollers every 6 years or so, this is more work than I am used to, for a vacuum.
    – I move the chairs and cords out of the way before using it. This may be overkill, but with 4 dining chairs and three bar stools, I suspect the Roomba would take to the end of time to navigate around all of them, plus also clean the room.
    – Battery appears to be quite fussy. The manual warns about leaving this uncharged for a couple of days could damage the battery. Hmm. That’s pretty strict.

    *If* it lasts at least 3-4 years without breaking, this will be a big winner. It does free up a lot of cleaning time.

    I will still need to vacuum once in a while, but for “maintenance” cleaning, it works.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Excellent input! We love these types of comment. Thank you for sharing!

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  • Manioca35

    As far as I can tell, the 650 is NOT compatible with the virtual lighthouse. I just bought one based on your review so I’m hoping I’m wrong, but according to iRobot. Seems like a pretty major error in the review.

    http://homesupport.irobot.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/7284/~/virtual-wall-lighthouse-and-wireless-command-center-compatibility