|Features||Neato XV-11||Neato XV-21|
|Full Bin Indicator||Message on LCD||Message on LCD|
|Room Confinement||Boundary Marker||Boundary Marker|
|Dimensions (W x D)||13″ x 12.5"||13″ x 12.5"|
|Weight||8.6 lbs||8.6 lbs|
|Review||Neato XV-11||Neato XV-21|
|Where to Buy?||Best Price||Best Price|
The title of this section is a little misleading. The basic designs of the XV-11 and XV-21 – the case size, weight, and so forth – are virtually identical except for the color scheme. Unless you really care about that, and some reasonably might, there isn’t much to distinguish the two models in this area.
Both units sport the same shape: rounded at one end, rectangular at the other. Neato knew a good thing when it saw one. This robot can sidle up to room borders with ease and get into corners better than even the superb Roomba.
The Roomba has some swirling brushes that the Neato lacks that help out there, but the XV-21 really doesn’t need them. Its powerful suction rarely leaves behind much, though it will occasionally miss some dirt in corners. The XV-11 does well on this score, if not quite as well as the XV-21.
The reason for that difference in performance is more likely due to simple improvements in manufacturing quality that naturally occur over time. The XV-21 is newer so you would expect that. The internal parts – with two notable exceptions discussed below – are the same and even those exceptions have little to do with the motor.
A side benefit not often considered when looking at robot vacuum cleaners is the low height. It’s true that a robot cleaner isn’t (yet) as powerful as a good upright. But how often do you use that full-sized model to go under the bed where dustballs collect? Not often, if you’re like me. The XV-11 and XV-21 both, at a mere 4 inches high, can get under most beds and many couches.
Brush & Bin System
The brush/roller system inside the XV-21 is one of the two exceptions mentioned above. It features a redesigned roller with bristles, which are much better at picking up dirt and pet hair. The XV-11 uses a series of rubber strips; they do a good job just not as good, especially on carpet.
You don’t have to rely on the manufacturer’s spec sheet or even this review (or any other) to verify that difference. Apart from simple inspection, actual use shows that the XV-21 will pick up dirt and hair left behind immediately after the XV-11 finishes a run. The difference isn’t enormous; the XV-11 does a good job; but it is measurable.
Fortunately, the XV-21 also improved the bin system even without changing the shape and size. The bin capacity in both is 22 oz (~0.65 L). But because of the improved suction and brush system of the XV-21 it does a somewhat better job of packing hair and debris inside. So, you actually get a little more vacuuming time before needing to empty the XV-21’s bin. Every little bit helps.
Another change, this one directly physical, is the filter system. I wouldn’t classify it as major, even though Neato has sometimes made a big selling point out of it. In some of their advertising, Neato calls the XV-21 a Pet & Allergy model. The use of the term “Allergy” can be a little misleading.
The filter system is not True HEPA; it can’t filter out 99.97% of debris down to 0.3 microns. It doesn’t have the fine structure of a hospital environment HEPA filter the way those in quality air purifiers do. It doesn’t have any anti-bacterial or virus-killing ability like those products. Still, it’s a good filter, better than the one inside the XV-11, which was decent if a bit thin.
Still, the new design is an improvement. You can see and smell the difference. Let an XV-11 run for an hour and observe the air with sunlight streaming in a window. You’re likely to see a fair amount of dust floating around. You’ll see much less with the XV-21 under the same conditions.
To put that in perspective, however, not to leave you with a bad view of the XV-11, even a good upright will usually blow up some dust. People tend not to notice it but those who are sensitive might. It’s those latter buyers – frequently, they’re allergy sufferers – who need to be aware that the XV-21 is not a real ‘allergy fighter’.
The other major exception alluded to above is a substantial improvement to the Neato’s navigation system. The XV-11 had a good one; the XV-21’s is better. A new logic board and updated firmware containing improved algorithms makes the newer model more efficient.
In both models an invisible laser beam atop the case lets the Neato map out the terrain. It records the location and relative positions of furniture, walls, and other obstacles. It uses that information to make an internal layout of the room and its contents. The result is something that, again, you don’t need to rely on anyone’s opinion to judge. You can see it in action.
Watch an XV-21 (or even an XV-11) run around the room. Then watch an iRobot such as the Roomba 780. Both do an excellent job. But the 780 will (gently) bump furniture that the Neato will avoid. Watch the XV-21 do its work and you can see it display a much more regular pattern. The Roomba is good but the pattern can be a little more chaotic at times.
One note about those major upgrades inside the XV-21. The new filter, brush/roller system, and the newer firmware can be installed on the XV-11. If you already own an XV-11 it might or might not be worth the expense and bother. It depends on how satisfied you are with the XV-11 and your budget.
Currently on Amazon the Pet & Allergy Upgrade Kit costs around $60 for the filter and brush/roller. Updated software is available here. It costs nothing but installing it can be tricky for the technically challenged. Get your local computer savvy person to investigate if you’re interested. Click here to find instructions on how to update your vacuum software.
The Neato XV-11 and the Neato XV-21 are both fine robot vacuum cleaners, both among my favorites. The XV-21 has an edge in firmware, filter and roller system, and overall performance. But the XV-11 is still a fine choice and it can be upgraded to nearly match the XV-21.