Neato XV-11 Review by Janyce Raynolds
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Neato is something of a newcomer to the world of robotic vacuum cleaners. No matter. They’re making up time fast. The Neato XV-11 (named XV-15 in Europe) can clearly give market leader iRobot and their Roomba line some serious competition.
You’ll never confuse a Neato with a Roomba by its looks. The color scheme is quite different and, to my eye, quite attractive. That matte gray offset by orange highlights just looks ready for work.
The XV-11 has a rounded rear and a squared-off front. The overall width is about 13 inches and the unit is 4 inches high making it easy to get under beds and some couches.
The case lacks the airplane-propeller-shaped, horizontally rotating side brushes of the Roomba but they’re a minor loss here. The squared off design gets as close to the edge as your standup vacuum cleaner would and you don’t have those brushes to replace. On the other hand, it can miss a narrow strip next to the wall if you have dog hair piled up there, like yours truly.
The CHM (Cleaning Head Module) does have a wide brush roller, but it’s a single cylinder unlike the dual counter-rotating system employed by the Roomba.
Unfortunately, that roller houses not bristles but a set of rubber strips. They work and work well, but they don’t quite clean high pile as well as the Roomba.
Tests show it provides as much or more cleaning power as the more popular iRobot brand, however. The noise alone would suggest that; the Neato is loud. That’s owing to a jet-engine style impeller that generates considerable suction. However, it’s still not as loud as an ordinary canister or upright so you won’t find it deafening.
Sensors and Navigation
The Neato differs from a Roomba in one other very important respect. The top of the case houses a laser backed by software that lets this vacuum cleaner really live up to the name “robot”. It doesn’t just bounce around, sucking up dirt and hair as it goes. The laser rotates 360 degrees and provides the XV-11 with an intelligent map of the terrain.
You can see that at work in this unit’s very different behavior. Certainly, the Roomba is no slouch at finding its way around. But the XV-11 works more like my robotic lawn mower (only smarter). It traverses the perimeter then moves precisely back and forth across the floor using the info it gathered via the initial laser scan.
As a result, the Neato can cover the same size area much quicker with much less wasted motion. That not only gets it out of the way sooner but optimizes battery usage. Curious pets are put at less risk that way, too. When done, it goes directly back to the charger and connects to a pair of simple charging strips.
To stay in one room, if desired, Neato utilizes a very different restraining system from Roomba. Which one is better is partly a matter of preference. iRobot uses Virtual Walls or Virtual Lighthouses to keep the robot within one room. Neato provides a long strip (about 10 feet) of magnetic tape the robot can sense.
iRobot also offers a component called a Virtual Halo to generate a protective ‘shield’ around pet water and food bowls or anything else you want the robot to avoid. Neato uses more intelligent object sensing in the base robot itself.
Like the Roomba, the Neato XV-11 has a soft rubber bumper to protect furniture from damage, but it’s rarely needed. A Neato can detect upcoming objects using the laser and something the company calls a “Room Positioning System”. The robot simply veers around things without contact.
Operation and Maintenance
Getting it going and cleaning it up afterward are surprisingly easy. Clearly, Neato’s engineers have put some serious thought into an area that sometimes gets second rank.
Initial setup requires only a few hours of charging. Like most battery powered consumer devices we use today the power plant needs to be charged for a few hours before first use. Once charged you can just hit the orange button on the top and let the XV-11 do its thing. Or, you can use the LCD panel and controls on top to schedule cleaning for a later time. The menu is straightforward, resembling an ease of selection comparable to setting up a portable home phone.
That panel also displays useful information at certain times. When the Neato gets stuck or requires some interaction it will tell you. For instance, if the brush roller is full of hair and bogged down you’ll get a message asking you to clean it off.
Ditto when the bin is full. It’s 600 cc (cubic centimeters) – not as large as your upright bagless but not tiny either – so you won’t have to worry about that every cleaning unless you have lots of dogs (like me). It pops out and goes back in easily and is designed well, so the contents don’t fall out accidentally. It’s also clear so you can tell how full it is and with what. Still, it would be nice if it were larger; it’s about half the size of the Roomba equivalent.
Behind the bin is a replaceable paper filter. There’s a filter replacement pack in the original package and, of course, you can buy new ones. You can buy a set of four for about $10 and one needs to be replaced every few months.
All in all the Neato XV-11 is a powerful, easy-to-use, and very efficient robot vacuum cleaner. The laser guidance system is superb and the LCD menu/display is very helpful.