The Neato vs Roomba debate has heated up with the popularity of robotic vacuums increasing rapidly. Arguably the two best brands on the market, I will review them head to head.
I’ve been around robotic vacuums from almost the beginning (starting with my Roomba 400 series). I’ve owned both Roomba’s and Neato’s and have loved some of their models and struggled with others. For the original comparison series, we contrasted the Roomba 770 vs Neato XV-21, but we’ve also denoted “updated” assessments for the latest series’ at the bottom.
First a little bit about the two companies…
Roomba: The company behind the Roomba – iRobot – originally had its start creating robotic solutions to bomb disposal in the early 1990s. Since then, the company has expanded to included a wide range of both defense industry and domestic product offerings. Their robots range from rugged military devices to automatic pool cleaners as well as vacuums. Here at All Home Robotics we track the domestic offerings from the company.
Neato: Neato Robotics is a much smaller company than iRobot, but draws from the Silicon Valley expertise of technologists and engineers specifically dedicated to robotic vacuums. Founded in 2010, Neato Robotics has released a number of generations of their best selling Neato vacuum already. What Neato Robotics lacks in size, it makes up for in focus and technology implementation.
For the purposes of this comparison we will be using the latest models of each line. While Neato Robotics has since released a “signature series” and “botvac series” the last best selling version is still XV-21 and we will compare that to the 700 series vacuums, still the best selling series from iRobot.
Neato XV-21 vs Roomba 700 Series
To compare these two brands side by side, we will break it down by the following categories: Design, Cleaning Technology, Charging, Maintenance, Accessories, and Price.
Both the Neato and the Roomba pride themselves on a sleek modern design. It kind of goes with the territory when you are a robotic vacuum cleaner. What really matters is the functionality of the design. Here is where the two vacuums contrast.
Both robots are about the same size, a sensitive touch bumper around the front and two steering wheels on the underbelly. However, there are some important distinctions between the two devices.
Neato: The Neato XV-21 has a square front with a rounded back (see pictures above). This helps it round corners more effectively and sets this little machine apart from its competitors. In terms of the “curb appeal” the Neato appears to be constructed with some cheaper plastic; whereas the Roomba is a more industrial finish.
The XV-21 model comes standard with a large dust bin, larger than the Roomba 700 and even slightly larger than the 800 series cleaners. In fact, the Neato has the industry leading largest dust compartment for robotic vacuums.
The Neato is about 4 inches tall which can get stuck under some low hanging furniture.
Roomba: One of the complaints about the Roomba is that the circular design provides less cornering ability than the Neato. Still, the Roomba has a sleek modern design with a relatively small footprint. The outer finish comes in two shades of gray that mitigate any visible scratching to device.
One of the biggest draws for the Roomba 700 and 800 series is the significantly quieter motor and relatively advanced touch screen controls. This is where the Roomba stands out as a more “polished” machine.
One of the advantages of the circular design of the Roomba is that it can switch directions on a dime while the Neato has to turn itself to face front (a slight time waster).
Another small bonus is that with a height of 3 only 3 inches, the Roomba can get under more varieties of furniture than the Neato.
Winner? It is pretty close. But, in this category, the Neato features a more functional design. While the quick direction changes with the circular Roomba design and the low clearance are nice, the lack of dusty corners from the Neato’s horizontal back is more useful. If you have to go back with the dust buster to get the corners, that takes time and effort. Similarly, a larger dust bin simply means less work for you. One point Neato.
This is the most important test of a robotic vacuum. How well does the technology work? Behind all the frills, this is the ultimate test of a good device. Thankfully, both the Neato and the Roomba are market leaders when it comes to the latest technology. Unfortunately, this also makes it difficult to compare them.
Neato: The Neato has the best suction of any robotic vacuum on the market. Including the Roomba. This powerful suction easily sets the Neato a part as the industry leader. The rotating silicone brush also means less cleaning for the user. Because of the set-up, pet har, dander, and dust does not clog up the cleaning mechanism easily.
Perhaps the only downside to the Neato cleaning technology is the noise it makes. It is significantly louder than the Roomba and similar machines.
Roomba: While the Roomba may not have the suction of the Neato, it does try to make up for it in different ways. If the Neato has the best suction, the Roomba is a close second. The Persistent Passing technology makes up for the less powerful suction, imitating the method traditional vacuums (and vacuumers) employ by passing over sections repeatedly to ensure they are cleaned. Update: The new Roomba 800 series makes some good strides with the new AeroForce patented cleaning system. It’s about 50% better at picking up debris than the 700 series models. Although we haven’t had a way to definitively prove this, we have seen a noticeable improvement.
While the Roomba makes up for the Neato’s power suction advantage in many ways, the Neato still wins this category, especially with the unveiling of the newer models. Of course, this is a hotly debated subject and it could easily change with the upcoming models. For now, suction is what counts. One point Neato.
This might not be the first feature that springs to mind when considering a robotic vacuum. From the perspective of a long time user (Yours Truly) it has become one of the most important specs I look at. Not all home robots have auto-scheduling. Thankfully, both the Neato and the Roomba have the ability to do automatic scheduling, but they are by no means equal to the task.
Neato: The Neato offers a paltry 15 minute interval presets. Meaning you can set it to 12:00, 12:15, 12:30, 12:45, 1:00. This is probably sufficient for most users; however, when compared with the Roomba it seems like an unnecessary limitation.
Roomba: The Roomba allows complete freedom to schedule any times that you like. Because of this, Roomba sweeps this category. One point Roomba.
Just like with any other remote appliance, battery life can make or break an otherwise good systems. Similarly, robot vacuums with longer battery life are obviously more desirable assuming all other things are equal.
Neato: The Neato is able to find its power “dock” automatically which in theory means owners do not need to worry about recharging their device. However, navigating to the dock is a skill in and of itself. The Neato can get stuck when it attempts to navigate to the dock which can be a huge inconvenience. When it does find the dock, the process is actually quicker than the Roomba (but this can be small comfort if your Neato gets stuck frequently). In my testing, I got my Neato up to close to 70 minutes on one charge.
Roomba: While the Roomba takes longer to dock itself, it has much better path finding ability. The Roomba will always find he dock because it uses a “virtual lighthouse” that constantly communicates with the Roomba to help it problem-solve and find the best path. This provides peace of mind, which is a nice bonus. Finally, I’ve been about to get close to 4 hours on one charge. Clearly the Roomba has the edge here. One point Roomba.
Maintaining a robotic vacuum ideally should not be difficult. A device smart enough to clean your house should be smart enough to take of itself, right?
Neato: The larger dust bin on the Neato immediately gives it a headstart in the Roomba vs Neato head-to-head test. However, the Neato is especially problematic if the bin starts to reach capacity. It will proceed to spread dark streaks around your carpet. This is counter-productive to say the least. Strangely enough, the larger bin does not mean you have to empty it less frequently. In my experience, you still have to empty it about once per week (on average).
Another problem with the Neato is that you will probably end up having to clean the sensors every 8-10 uses because they can become blocked by dust particles.
Roomba: The new AreoVac dust bin on the 700 series is actually not too shabby. With steady daily use, you probably won’t have to clean out the bin more than once per week…even with the smaller bin. This is probably due to superior technology; however, the explanation is far from clear.
With the Virtual Lighthouse, you will never need to touch your Roomba (except to change the bin). Both the Lighthouse and the Roomba turn on automatically per the schedule you set.
For whatever reason – probably better engineering and quality control – the Roomba is generally more reliable than the Neato. The Neato is no chump, but it just can’t quite keep up with the Roomba in this area.
UPDATE: Another aspect that I didn’t consider when I first wrote this article is the marketplace for replacement parts. This obviously isn’t something a new customer might think of, but I’ve found it to be incredibly important (many battery packs and filters later)! Thankfully, both the Neato and Roomba do have a fair selection of replacement brushes, batteries, and filters (and more) to choose from. Whether its due to market share or some other reason, iRobot has the most abundant market for replacement parts. There are quite literally dozens of replacement batteries to choose from, for example. You can even find selections that are better than the default batteries that ship with a new Roomba.
One point Roomba.
Both the Neato and the Roomba come standard with a few similar accessories. Namely, they both come with a home dock and and the assorted user guides needed to get you familiarized with your device.
Neato: The Neato comes with magnetic marker strips to delineate “no-go” zones in your house. The neato also comes standard with two replacment brushes. The marker strips are okay, but not nearly as “sexy” as what the Roomba can offer (below).
Roomba: The Roomba comes standard with one Virtual Wall (Lighthouse). It emits an invisible beam that tells the Roomba not to clean certain areas (you can order additional Virtual Wall’s if you need them). The beam can cover up to fourteen feet of open space. Thankfully, the can be autoset to start up automatically when the Roomba starts so you can keep them in place. The Roomba also comes standard with three replacement filters. The Virtual Wall alone makes the Roomba the clear favorite. One point Roomba.
Let’s not beat around the bush; price is frequently the determining factor.
Neato: The Neato XV-21 retails for $429. However, on you can get a savings of 25% by ordering through this listing on Amazon. That brings the tag price down to roughly $320 with FREE shipping included. The high end latest Neato “Botvac” 85 can be had for roughly $599 here.
Roomba: The Roomba 760, 770, 780, and 790 are progressively scaled up with slightly better features. The latest 790 can retail for up to $650, which is a hefty price tag for most. The 780 usually goes for about $570-600, however you can find it for $570 on Amazon. The lower base model 760 can he had for even lesson Amazon. More recently, Roomba has introduced the 800 series which makes a number of improvements, including a noticeably more powerful cleaning suction technology. You can now find the Roomba 880 on Amazon, as it has previously proven hard to find.
On price alone, the Neato is the clear winner. If you are on a budget but desperate for a good robotic vacuum, it’s a safe bet. One point Neato.
Put simply, the Roomba is a better device when compared head to head. It is a close one, but the Roomba wins the head-to-head comparison 4-3.
To get a good sense of the key features of all of the robotic vacuums currently on the market, you can check on this comparison article and chart here.
UPDATE: Roomba 800 SUeries vs Botvac
With the release of the next generation of robot vacuums from both companies, I wanted to update this page with my evaluation.
Both the Roomba 880 and 870 have some nice improvements over the 700 series. While none of the improvements are ground-breaking or game-changing, they certainly were enough to make me upgrade to the Roomba 880. For starters, it is up to 5x more effective at picking up debris than the 700 series vacuums and has a 60% larger dust bin to go along with it.
The Neato Botvac series also has some improvements. Namely, a 50 percent bigger brush, a larger dust bin, and an enhanced filter. Overall – however – the improvements are not as impressive as the Roomba 800 series. I think the release of the Botvac series had more to do with a “rebranding” effort. Still, the improvements are nice and the core technology is still very comparable to the Roomba. If you can save a few hundred dollars on a Botvac vs Roomba, it’s probably worth it.
Bottom line: the improvements in both new generations do not fundamentally change my evaluation. I still give Roomba the slight edge.
You can read our head to head comparison of the Botvac 80 vs Roomba 880 here.
UPDATE 9/10/15: New Botvac “D” Series and Roomba 880 Pricing
In a relatively surprising move, Neato released their Botvac “D” series shortly after re-branding to “Botvac” from just “Neato”. At first I though this was just another gimmick to drive sales with a new release. While some of this is probably true, there are some notable improvements. The Botvac D80 that I tested featured a sleek design, but I was more interested in the inner workings. The main improvements? 1) Better suction power and 2) a revamped main brush. With the plain Botvac series, the vacuum featured a non sealed bearing at the end of the brush. This led to frequent problems with hair (pet and human) getting tangled and jamming the device. The new mechanism is a simple brass bearing which has alleviated this problem. The additional suction power and better brush ARE an improvement, but not necessarily a game changer. When compared to the Roomba 880, it’s a lot closer now.
Roomba Pricing Adjustment: While Roomba has been quiet on a new series release, they have just recently dropped the price on the top line Roomba 880 by about $100 (see here for details). This is likely to prepare consumers for the Holiday shopping season which will likely not feature a new Roomba. A price reduction IS appreciated, however. My main gripe with the Roomba 880 to this point had been the cost. Now it’s a bit more competitive with the Botvac and others.
UPDATE: 9/18/15: A New “Connected” Roomba!
So, I quickly have to eat my words. Roomba just released their new flagship Roomba 980! It features a WiFi enabled device that can be controlled from a remote web app? So, now I can press “clean”, monitor the battery/dust bin, etc… from work. This is the next evolution in home robotics. Rumor has it that other brands will be moving in this direction soon as well (see Neato press release here). Still, the Roomba 980 is the first to market with this feature. It also boasts a stronger, longer lasting, battery (good for up to 2 hours), recharge and “resume” functionality (automatic), a better navigation system (VSLAM), and better suction power especially for carpets. You can read my full review after a few days of use right here. The Main Downside? As always, PRICE. It’s a $900 investment right now (available exclusively here). In my estimation, it’s the best Roomba yet. Until the competition catches up (namely the Dyson Eye and new Connected Neato Botvac), the 980 is the best in class. Period.
Interactive Poll – User Votes
Where to Buy
It can be incredibly difficult to find the Neato or Roomba models in retail stores. Whether you go with the Neato or Roomba, you will find the best prices online. I have purchased both my Neato XV-21 and my Roomba 770 and 880 online. You can find almost all of the latest Roomba versions (and a number of the 600 and 500 series) over at Amazon for a good price.. Similarly, you can find the Neato Signature Pro for an affordable price as well. Thankfully, both can qualify for free shipping.