Neato XV-21 Review by Janyce Raynolds
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The Neato XV-21 is one of my favorite robot vacuum cleaners. It isn’t hard to see why. Stylish, functional, and just fun. That sums it up. But I couldn’t feel right without explaining in detail.
Like its predecessor, the Neato XV-11, the XV-21 case is a semi-circle on one end and a rectangle at the other. It measures 13″ x 12.5″ x 4″. That shape gives it the best of both worlds. The rounded edge can roll nicely around table legs while the straight sides and rear do a great job of getting those room edges.
And, at just 8.6 lbs, it hits the Goldilocks point in weight: not too heavy, not too light. If you need to pick it up you won’t strain your back, yet it’s hefty enough to be stable during navigation up and down rugs or carpets.
Controls and Menu
The basic operational controls could hardly be easier. Five buttons on top let you do all the basics. The Start switch, a Back button, a Selection button, and two Menu Navigation buttons make it easy for even the technically challenged to operate this robot vacuum cleaner with ease.
The 2.5″ LCD panel on top shows you everything you need to know in a non-confusing way. If you need to spot clean one area there’s no reason for anyone to wonder how to set the XV-21 for that. Scheduling is only a little more complicated, and even that is overstating it.
One of the design aspects I like best about the XV-21 is the navigation system. The better-known iRobot models do a great job. But the top-mounted laser on the XV-21 (and the XV-11) give it the edge, in my view.
It spins around (invisibly) and lets the robot ‘image’ its environment. It records that as a full 360-degree map of the terrain. That laser system has enough power and smarts to detect anything within about 13 feet. The ‘brain’ looks for doorways, furniture and other obstacles to ‘decide’ on the most optimal paths.
The results speak for themselves. I’ve yet to see a Neato robot vacuum cleaner get lost or confused, even in complicated living rooms with lots of differently-shaped furniture. It goes from floor to rug and from kitchen to living room without a misstep.
The XV-21 does a superior job over most iRobots I’ve reviewed in avoiding furniture, too. If the iRobot makes contact it typically does so very gently. Using something the industry calls SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping), the XV-21 refrains from bumping table legs in the first place.
One side benefit of the great sensing technology on board, though not a small one in my view, is the way the XV-21 reacts when it moves from a hardwood floor to a carpet. The unit senses the change instantly then adjusts the brush and gearing accordingly.
Room Entrance/Exit Detection
There is one aspect of the system I’m not overly fond of: the magnetic boundary strips. Here I prefer the iRobot system, which uses small ‘Lighthouses’ that project a beam the vacuum cleaner detects. The Lighthouses are a lot less trouble than trying to figure out how to lay down a strip that the dog won’t chew and the kids won’t trip over.
That issue aside, the navigation algorithms are excellent. Apart from the obvious work of running around the floor efficiently, they keep the robot away from ‘danger’. They work with the cliff sensors, for example, to ensure that the cleaning unit doesn’t fall off a stair or balcony.
Improved Brush & Bin System
I do wish the bin capacity – 22 oz (0.65 L) – were a bit larger. Using the XV-21 for virtually all vacuuming needs isn’t feasible for everyone, especially if you own long-haired dogs. But it would be nice to reduce even more those times when it’s necessary to get out the upright.
Minor complaints aside, the bin is efficient – it holds a fair amount of dust and hair thanks to ample compression. That’s particularly true with the XV-21’s improvement over the XV-11. The brush has been redesigned specifically to do a better job of getting up all that pet hair.
The bin is also uber-easy to remove, empty, and replace. It’s easily accessible on top and pops off with a flip and pull, then goes back in smoothly.
Improved Filter System
All that gunk is kept inside the robot, too, courtesy of an improved filter system. It’s not a true HEPA filter – which, among other things, requires the ability to filter 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns in size.
So, while the XV-21 is advertised for pet owners and allergy sufferers – and does a pretty good job for both by retaining more fine dust particles as standard filters – don’t be fooled.
Depending on use and the air quality in your indoor environment, the life span of the filter will vary from three to six months. Replacement filters can be bought for about $30 currently.
There’s no getting around the fact that the iRobot line has a terrific battery and charging system. But the Neato design is no slouch either. It uses inductive charging so it’s only necessary for the robot to be close to the station to work. No worries about contacts not being firmly touching.
It takes about three hours to fully recharge, pretty decent. And it runs plenty long enough. The robot can clean a 550-sq ft room in a little less than an hour and still have enough charge left over to do two 10-foot x 10-foot bedrooms.
When the unit senses a low battery state the robot will automatically make its way back to the charging station. It won’t die in mid-job, requiring you to pick the robot up and place it in the charging station. Even more clever, when it’s done recharging it picks up the job where it left off.
The Neato XV-21 (known in Europe as the XV-25) is near the top of the list of my favorite robot vacuum cleaners. It’s easy to use, thorough, and intelligent – and watching it work is actually fun, knowing I don’t have to.