Roomba 980 vs Neato BotVac Connected: Review of the Two Best Robotic Vacuum Cleaners

Roomba 980 vs Neato BotVac Connected: Review of the Two Best Robotic Vacuum Cleaners

One of the innovations introduced by Neato Robotics since its inception is systematic cleaning. While competition simply replicated the iRobot Roomba random navigation and bouncing on furniture and walls, Neato vacuum robots build a map of your home and cover every part of it methodically. The path followed resembles very much how we humans proceed when vacuuming an area. Compared to the random trajectory, this systematic approach is not only more natural but also faster. With the same battery, the robot can cover a larger area. It seems that iRobot made this very analysis, since the latest Roomba 980 switches to systematic cleaning. In the following, we’ll review this new version of the Roomba and compare it to the latest vacuum by Neato: the BotVac Connected.

Compared to previous versions, the Roomba is making significant progress (see Video 1) in an attempt to catch up with the BotVac. Still, Neato continues to improve its BotVac (see Video 2) which has unique patented features that makes it hard for the competition to reach the same level. This can be seen on Table 1 which summarizes our review based on multiple criteria. It shows that the Neato BotVac Connected gets a better score than the Roomba 980. In the remainder of this post, we provide a detailed analysis of the multiple criteria we used for our review covering both the hardware and the software of the two robotic vacuums.

Video 1: Overview of the Roomba 980

Video 2: Overview of the Neato BotVac Connected

Hardware Comparison

First, let’s have a look at the main cleaning system, that is the main brush. The Roomba has actually two brushes rotating in opposite directions. The major benefit from this so-called tangle free brush is less maintenance. There is much less hair and dirt entangled around the brush. The BotVac brush is a simple one and thus requires being cleaned more often. However, the BotVac’s brush is wider than the Roomba’s one, and hence covers a wider area at each pass. This is the first benefit of the unique D-shape of Neato vacuums. This shape allows for a brush located at the front of the robot, before the wheels (see Figure 1, right), while the brush is located in between the wheels for the Roomba (see Figure 1, left). The length of brush is nearly equal to the width of the robot. So, the Neato is a bit faster at cleaning your house. Besides, the Roomba wheels may get dirty and spread the dirt around.

Roomba 980 vs. Botvac Connected Brush Comparison

Figure 1: BotVac has a wider brush, while the double brush of the Roomba is tangle free

The second benefit of the Neato’s shape is better corner cleaning. Most robotic vacuums copied the Roomba’s round shape, and thus leave corners dirty. In an attempt to fix this limitation, iRobot introduced a side brush on the Roomba from the beginning. Neato also has a side brush since it improves cleaning room edges. Still, the side brush is not enough for corners.

Both robotic vacuums are shipped with boundary markers to restrict cleaned areas. The difference here lies in the need for batteries. The BotVac’s boundary marker is passive requiring no battery to operate. This results into less waste, making the BotVac more eco-friendly than the Roomba.

For Pet owners and sensitive people, both vacuums have high-performance filters, though only the iRobot one is HEPA certified. Compared to basic filters, high-performance filters are able to capture finer particles. As a result the dirt bin is filled faster. Better have a large bin since you have to empty and clean it less often. The BotVac’s one is slightly larger (0.7 L) than the Roomba’s one (0.6 L).

Last, from the user interface point of view, the Roomba has only a set of multi-function buttons. The BotVac has a color LCD screen. It’s more convenient for setting up the robot and scheduling its operations.

Software Comparison

Both the Neato BotVac Connected and the Roomba 980 share many desirable features including scheduling and self-charging. So you can set up your vacuum to operate when it’s most convenient, typically when you’re out. Once the cleaning is over, the robot goes back to its docking station for recharge. So, all you’ll have to take care of is maintenance, i.e. emptying the dirt bin and for the BotVac cleaning the brush once in a while.

As mentioned above, the Roomba 980 introduces systematic cleaning pioneered by Neato. Both will methodically clean the floor by following a map of the area to clean. The map is built based on a SLAM algorithm which stands for Simultaneous Localization and Mapping. This approach is now mature enough and we are likely to see it more and more in commercial robots. The robotic vacuum builds and update a map while cleaning.

Thanks to the SLAM, robots clean an area by following a trajectory close to what a human actually do with a traditional vacuum. Beside looking much more natural than the random motion, initially adopted by earlier Roombas, the major advantage of SLAM is a much faster cleaning and covering a wider area with a single battery charge. Besides, if battery is low before finishing, the robot memorizes the curent position before going back to its docking station. Once the battery is charged, the bot resumes cleaning at the location where it stopped.

To achieve systematic cleaning, Neato and iRobot took different solutions. Neato, from it’s beginning features a 360 degrees laser range sensor in its vacuums, and hence performs Laser-based SLAM. The Roomba relies on a camera oriented 45 degrees towards the ceiling, and thus perfroms Visual SLAM (VSLAM). The laser-based solution of the BotVac is superior to Roomba’s camera. Indeed, a camera cannot operate in the dark. Besides, a single camera cannot accurately allow estimating distances. As a result, the Roomba still bounces on furnitures.

Regarding cleaning modes, the two vacuum bots offer the Spot mode that makes the robot clean only a small area. This is typically useful if you spilled something. Both vacuums also detect the kind of floor and automatically adjust the suction power accordingly. But, the Roomba has a combination of an optical and an acoustic sensors for dirt perception. It can then detect dirtier areas and trigger its persistent cleaning behavior at the right spot.

With the BotVac, you can choose between the Eco and Turbo modes for cleaning your house or office. In the Turbo mode, the brush motor runs at full speed for maximum pick up. The Eco mode is more quiet and hence more appropriate if you are at home. You can still do a deep cleaning by instructing your robot to clean the same area twice. The Roomba seems to be constrained regarding motor speeds. However, it allows two successive passes.

Last, the two robots are Wifi enabled. They can be controlled via a smartphone app from anywhere through the Internet. This app turns your smartphone into a remote control for your vacuum. So, you don’t need to use the robot buttons if you have your phone at hand. You can select a cleaning mode and the robot, suspend/resume/cancel cleaning, or make the robot go back to its charger. The app also provides info and notifications about the robot status (e.g. remaining battery, or dirt bin is full), and allows to set and update cleaning schedule. It also allows steering around your robotic vacuum manually like a toy car, which you can do just for fun or to move the vacuum to some particular location without lifting it.

Conclusion and Recommendation

The Roomba 980 and the Neato BotVac share many must have features such as systematic cleaning, self charging, and double pass for intensive cleaning. Both will save you time and keep your home or your office clean. However, our analysis shows that the Neato BotVac Connected is technically the better option (See Table 1). It turns out that it is also the cheapest one. Roomba 980 costs nearly $900, while the Neato BotVac Connected costs about $700. If your budget is tight, we recommend the Neato Botvac D80 that costs less than $400 while still providing many of the features of the BotVac Connected.

Review of the Roomba 980 and the Neato BotVac Connected - Comparison of Hardware and Software of the two best vacuum cleaner

Table 1: Comparison of Roomba 980 and Neato BotVac Connected

>NooTriX choice: Neato BotVac Connected

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  1. MS
    MS February 11, 20:36

    Botvac Connected does not have a HEPA filter. It has what they call an Ultra Performance filter. I contacted Neato and they told me that it is not HEPA though it may be as effective and even more. You might want to correct your article.

    Reply to this comment
    • NooTriX Editor
      NooTriX Editor Author February 13, 12:39

      Thanx for pointing this. Indeed, the Neato filter is not HEPA certified. However, it’s a high performance one, and thus can capter small particles.

      Reply to this comment
      • PeterB
        PeterB March 11, 08:00

        But how many? It’s not relevant to capture small particles if it only captures 10% og them. The 980 is certified to capture 99% of all particles as small as 1 micron.
        Why do you say that the 980 does not have turbo and eco modes? You can choose between performance, automatic boost and eco mode in the app.

        Reply to this comment
        • val
          val March 29, 09:08

          Neato says that the Botvac filters particles as small as 0.3 micron. Would be better than the Roomba!

          Reply to this comment
          • PeterB
            PeterB April 04, 19:17

            The Roomba cal also filter as small as 0.3 but it’s a certified filter (99% of particles as small as 1 micron) Neatos filter has no certification

  2. Carl
    Carl March 27, 02:37

    I love my Roomba 980.

    Reply to this comment
  3. manhattan
    manhattan May 02, 16:59

    I had two neato that had to return.
    It works, netro is great.
    Customer service is not that great at neato as well.
    I am switching to roomba 980

    Reply to this comment
  4. Pier
    Pier July 05, 13:05

    Roomba can’t avoid furniture, can’t run in the dark and doesn’t even have a proper lcd display. That sucks for sure. Neato is the winner and no doubt about that.

    Reply to this comment
    • Scott
      Scott January 25, 02:07

      My 960 avoids furniture, it also runs in very low light and I don’t really care about a display when I have the app.

      Reply to this comment
      • NooTriX Editor
        NooTriX Editor Author January 25, 13:31

        The Roomba 900 mapping series relies on an onboard camera. When it is in the dark, the robot still manages to move but in a degraded mode.

        Regarding bumping into furniture. This is the default mode. Camera helps detecting obstacles to avoid the bumping. Also, iRobot improved their contact sensor in latest Roombas enabling gentle bumping.

        Reply to this comment
  5. Jon
    Jon August 25, 01:00

    My two cents … buy anything other than a Neato product. Bought a Connected unit, side spinner broke within 7/8 months. Returned it and they sent me a cheaper model as a replacement. Ok, mistake, no big deal. They then sent the correct unit. Oops, this one was defective also. So we’ve been through three units, about 2 hours of customer service chatting and still don’t have a working unit. They then took the position that they wouldn’t ship a working, correct one until they got both back so we could wait for these to make their way back to Neato, wait form them to process the return, and then wait for the new one to get here. I ate the shipping on the first return and have been without a working/correct replacement for four weeks. I don’t know what customer service looks like with these other producers but Neato is just about the worst I’ve ever experienced.

    Reply to this comment
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous October 17, 19:41

      Did I read this right you did not ship back either unit, “They then took the position that they wouldn’t ship a working, correct one until they got both back”

      I do not know a single company that will keep sending you replacements without getting the other one back.

      Reply to this comment
      • Guest
        Guest December 15, 15:24

        Irobot does the same when they know it is a common problem. You will get a replacement without sending your old back. But of course without accessory and without battery.

        Reply to this comment
  6. Sammy
    Sammy September 29, 10:13

    Can’t go wrong with the Roomba 980! One of the best robot vacuums I have used.

    Reply to this comment
  7. 2 Cats
    2 Cats October 03, 20:33

    First time tryers and those who are cost conscious, may want to know that iRobot does not honor store coupons for price reductions. I was able to redeem my 20% off coupon for the Neato.

    Reply to this comment
  8. may
    may December 26, 23:16

    we have a split level home. will the mapping work from one level to another?

    Reply to this comment
    • grramage
      grramage February 05, 22:56

      For the Roomba 980,no. Each floor is handled separately, the stairway to the next level being the border. To clean the next level, you need to start it anew on that floor.

      (Perhaps if one were to install a smooth enough ramp system, it may be able to handle two floors as one, but……..)

      Reply to this comment
      • Scot
        Scot January 25, 02:03

        The Roomba builds its map each cleaning cycle, so you can absolutely move it between floors.

        Reply to this comment
  9. Christian
    Christian June 29, 15:32

    My 2 cents – Avoid Neato. My girlfriend had a Neato XV‑21 that she barely used (1-2 times a month). A little after a year, it broke completely. I contacted Neato for help, and they referred me to a shop I’d have to pay to even get the bot checked out to see what’s wrong. Really awful experience for a product that cost us a good amount of money and is now useless.

    Reply to this comment
    • CP
      CP August 31, 03:40

      I’ve have been using my Neato XV-11 for almost 5 years now. Only need to replace the batteries. It is still working and cleaning …..loving it…

      Reply to this comment
      • Stan the Robotman
        Stan the Robotman December 09, 23:27

        Ditto here, except I’ve had mine since 2010. In fact I’ve bought up used ones that “die” and just need the batteries replaced and to flash the firmware. Thanks to all of you out there who do not do this – I keep getting killer deals on your great-working old ones.

        Also, since this is an appliance that picks up dirt they all need cleaning and servicing. The Neatos also clean better because how they laser-map the room, rather than just the bump-and-go method used by Roomba. BTW, the corner brushes are not big enough to clean your baseboards like the simulation in the commercial, so I’d suggest getting one without and wipe them by hand before setting the vacuum loose..

        Reply to this comment
  10. Hatecleaning
    Hatecleaning July 05, 20:45

    Uh oh…..just order the Neato Connected. Thought the review recommended it over the Roomba. Hope I didn’t make a mistake.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Jack black
    Jack black July 26, 04:13

    I favor roomba over neato. I’ve had both and roomba is much better. It actually cleans well as neato doesn’t get it all. I’d say roomba dirt trigger makes the difference.

    Reply to this comment
    • NooTriX Editor
      NooTriX Editor Author August 05, 05:52

      This is true for early neato vacuums. However, they improved their brush and suction. This combined with systematic cleaning, the D shape, and a wider brush makes the neato collect almost all the dirt.

      Reply to this comment
  12. NooTriX Editor
    NooTriX Editor Author September 18, 08:04


    Reply to this comment
  13. Al
    Al September 24, 04:59

    I agree customer service st Neato is the worst. I had one a little over a year & then it died. Tried everything & the company was no help. Just bought a roomba 860. We will see.

    Reply to this comment
    • Lil
      Lil January 30, 16:21

      Neato’s customer service is in Ireland not the US – only found that out when I had to call them after my battery died after 2 weeks.

      Reply to this comment
  14. AChiTwn
    AChiTwn November 14, 17:25

    One thing which in my mind device that costs almost $1000 shall have it solved – furniture damage. I have Roomba 800 series for 5y and was cleaning great, but damaged my expensive dinning set chair legs..every single one of them.
    Basically Roomba does great agains big pieces of furniture, but it aways hit chair legs almost at the fool speed. And as a result i have these marks at the same level at each chair leg. Since it bounces all the time at the same hight, it keeps deepening them… from what i read, 980 still bounces and i anticipate would do same damages..

    Reply to this comment
  15. Randy
    Randy November 21, 13:55

    Had a Neato. Lots of trouble. Poor customer service. After one year of light duty use the LCD screen failed. Not economical to repair. First year spent with battery issue messages and multiple times of flashing memory to get it to work right. I’m trying a different brand.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Avis
    Avis November 23, 01:43

    This may be a stupid question… Will either of these models work without wifi?

    Reply to this comment
    • NooTriX Editor
      NooTriX Editor Author November 23, 13:22

      Yes. The use of WiFi and the mobile app is optional. One can simply operate both Roomba and Neato vacuum robots by pressing their buttons. Note that the Neato has a screen that displays menus and information. The Roomba has only LEDs that light up or blink to notify the robot status.

      Reply to this comment
  17. dane
    dane November 24, 16:58

    I can’t decide!! They both seem like great machines. Roomba made is a tough choice once they updated the navigation. The vacuuming in the dark might be the deciding factor here. Then again, the comments for neato aren’t the best and costumer service seems lacking. Again, I’m stuck errrr.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Patty
    Patty November 26, 01:03

    Will the Neato still run on carpets that have thick black lines on it?

    Reply to this comment
    • NooTriX Editor
      NooTriX Editor Author November 26, 07:35

      Neato will clean your carpet even if there are black lines on it. The boundary marker of Neato is a weak magnet. Neato vacuum robot does has a magnet sensor that allows detecting the marker.

      Reply to this comment
  19. HavokSMR
    HavokSMR December 26, 18:47

    Not a fan of having to put tape down on my floor to have the Neato skip an area.

    Reply to this comment
  20. tjm5398
    tjm5398 December 27, 20:27

    I have a Neato Botvac and it is great!

    Reply to this comment
  21. Deepwest
    Deepwest January 02, 02:54

    I had a Neato xv 21 for 3 years.
    Worked good for a year.
    Batteries died after 1 year.
    Freezed many times. Showed codes on screen and had to be reset many times.
    Finally stopped working. Laser is dead.

    Reply to this comment
  22. Russ
    Russ February 03, 18:14

    The Neato is a piece of junk. It gets jammed up around chairs and can’t find its way back to the charging base. After fighting with the Neato technicians for the past month I returned the Neato for a Roomba. It works great with no problems.

    Reply to this comment
    • NooTriX Editor
      NooTriX Editor Author February 05, 11:44

      It seems that you got a broken Neato. In our experiments, it manages to navigate around chairs, table legs, and narrow places without any noticeable problem.

      Reply to this comment
  23. Dave
    Dave February 12, 22:35

    I had to return my Neato. Probably a good product when it works, but costumer service was nearly non-existant.

    Reply to this comment

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