July 2014 Update: Checkout our review of Botvac 85 the latest robotic vacuum from Neato Robotics and how it compares to the Roomba 880.
Why buying a vacuum robot? To make your life easier, of course! Ideally, it should do its job silently and let you enjoy saved time in a clean environment. But, which robotic vacuum is the best? Most people know about Roomba, the market leader. This best seller by iRobot pioneered this niche market and continues to evolve since 2002. But, competitors are getting better and better. Most of them simply make clones of the Roomba. Neato Robotics has a different strategy. It introduces original features including what all geeks consider as mandatory in any dream robot: a laser! This is why in this article, we will be comparing the best vacuum robot from Neato: the XV Signature Pro with the latest Roomba 880.
There are plenty of Roomba series and models, with different features and enhancements compared to the original. But, the latest Roomba 880 introduced what can be viewed as a true revolution. According to iRobot, its dual counter-rotating dirt extractors (see Video 1) require virtually no maintenance. No more entangled debris that require frequent dismounting and cleaning. A bonus feature is that extractors are supposed to break down dirt into smaller parts easier to suck.
Another interesting feature of the Roomba 880 is a combination of an optical and an acoustic sensors for dirt perception. They ensure a better detection of dirtier areas and trigger the persistent cleaning behavior at the right spot. The first version of this focused cleaning function has been introduced on early versions Roomba, based on the acoustic sensor alone. Recently, it has been improved on some models of the 700 series with the addition of the optical sensor. It is this second version that is shipped on the 880.
Regarding the price, the Roomba 880 is expensive, costing approximatively $700. A cheaper alternative is to buy a Roomba from older series starting from $300. This obviously means that you won’t get all the nice features of the 880.
Video 1: Roomba 880
Neato XV Signature Pro
As we have already mentioned, Neato vacuums embed a laser (see Video 2). It makes a huge difference in cleaning behavior as compared to other vacuums. Competitors including the Roomba randomly bounce around the room. They do statistical cleaning, meaning that they are not 100% sure to cover a room, although in practice they are nearly there. The Neato has a more systematic approach. It scans the room to build a map of the area to clean. Based on the map, it moves around in a way that is closer to what a human actually do with a traditional vacuum. The laser has a secondary interesting consequence. The vacuum avoids furnitures without bumping into them. Moreover, it does not get trapped since it finds its way using the laser.
Video 2: Neato Robotic Vacuum Cleaners
Another interesting characteristic common to all Neato vacuums is that they are hacker-friendly. Their mini-USB port can be used not only for software updates, but also for programming. A detailed information is provided for programmers who want to experiment with the robot, read its sensor values, change the display, or control the motors.
Regarding the price, the Neato XV Signature Pro costs approximatively $450, which is significantly cheaper compared to the Roomba 880. You can even save an extra 90 bucks if you take the simpler Neato XV-Signature that has no HEPA filters (for allergy & pets).
Both the Neato XV Signature Pro and the Roomba 880 share many desirable features including:
- Scheduling: You can set up your vacuum to operate when it’s most convenient, typically when you’re out.
- Self Charging: Once the cleaning is over, the robot goes back to its docking station for recharge.
- Dirt Bin: You don’t need to buy dirt bags. It’s also better for the environment.
- Pet & Allergy HEPA Filters: They capture fine particles and hair.
- Corner cleaning: The Neato with its flat head reaches corners. The Roomba has a side brush to compensate for its cylindrical shape. None of these solutions is perfect, though.
- Wall following: The robot follows walls to clean dirt that accumulate on room edges.
- Spot mode: make the robot clean only a small area. This is typically useful if you spilled something.
Now, let’s see the differences on the hardware level as summarized on Table 1. Both robots do equally well with a score of 2 over 4. The 880 has its unique tangle free brush that significantly reduces robot maintenance time. It also comes with a remote control. The Neato has an LCD which is more convenient for setting up the robot and scheduling its operations. Last, both robots are shipped with boundary markers to restrict the cleaned area. The difference here lies in the need for batteries. The Neato’s boundary marker is passive requiring no battery to operate. This results into less waste, making the Neato more eco-friendly than the Roomba.
Table 2 summarizes the differences at the software level. The Neato is significantly superior to the Roomba at this level. The Signature Pro scores 4 over the 5 evaluated features, while the 880 scores only 1! The first three features of the Neato are consequences of embedding a laser. Since it builds a map of the room, the Signature Pro computes a path ensuring a methodical cleaning, while avoiding furnitures. A nice consequence of this natural cleaning is that you can see the vacuum progress.
On the contrary, with the Roomba, its hard to distinguish dirty areas from clean ones until it’s almost done. This is because it moves randomly bouncing from one obstacle to the other. It can pass nearby some dirty spot and ignore it until much later. However, in case its sensors detect a location with a lot of dirt, the 880 switches to persistent cleaning mode. This mode consists in spending some time going back and forth on the dirty area.
The Neato does not have such focused cleaning mode, though this is somehow counterbalanced with systematic cleaning. A dirty spot nearby the robot will not be ignored too long. Besides, the Neato is more effective for cleaning large areas. In case it runs out of battery, the robotic vacuum will go back to its dock. Once recharged, it will resume cleaning at the same position where it did stop.
We recommend the Neato XV Signature Pro over the Roomba 880 even though the 880 innovates with the tangle free brush that should significantly decrease maintenance. The Signature Pro exhibits a more interesting behavior (systematic cleaning, avoid furnitures, and recharge and continue) thanks to its laser. We also love the Neato because it is open to programmers. Last but not least, the Signature Pro is significantly cheaper (approx. $450) compared to the Roomba (approx. $700).