Neato BotVac Connected vs Roomba 980: Comparison and Review

Improvements in robotic vacuum technology have been exponential the past few years.

Today we’ll be looking at two of the latest – the Neato BotVac Connected and Roomba 980.

These two robots represent the best that we have in the market. Dare I say even better than a Dyson 360 Eye – I have a section for this below.

All these products use the latest navigation algorithm called the S.L.A.M. or Simultaneous Localization and Mapping.

SLAM is essentially the “brains” of these robots that helps in drawing a map of the area it is cleaning.

By having that map, the robot can pinpoint its location using whatever navigation aid it has and know exactly where it is and how to get back to home base to recharge.

The Google self driving car (or Waymo) also uses this technology so it’s pretty high tech.

But the similarities end there.

These smart, sophisticated robots are capable of cleaning even large homes with minimal intervention.

But sophistication comes at a cost but if you can afford spending between $700 and $1,000 these are great helpers that will make your home a cleaner environment to live in.

Top View

First obvious difference off the bat is the shape.

BotVac has been using its patented D-shape design since the first Neato as manufactured. Roomba has a round shape.

The 980 interface is pretty simple with only three buttons – home, spot and clean. You’ll also notice that it has a camera at the middle that helps it keep track of its location.

Using a camera though has a downside. It may not work in pitch back environments because camera is dependent on light.

Neato also has a pretty simple interface with two buttons, the clean and spot located at the bottom part. On the upper right portion is an area where you can schedule.

Unlike Roomba, Neao does not use any optics. Ever since it first came out it relies on a laser sensor for navigation.

Personally I prefer this over a camera based system because it does not rely on light.

Bottom View

One of the biggest differences between these two machines is the motorized brush.

First difference is size. The BotVac’s brush is much wider than a Roomba, if you look at it side by side it’s almost twice as wide.

But the Roomba has counter rotating brushes that work better at “grabbing” dirt. And it does not have any bristles so there’s less maintenance involved.

The wider side brush does have a big advantage in that it’s more efficient. And since the brush is close to the side it will do better cleaning corners and edges.

It has perhaps the widest motorized brush among the robot vacuums available in the market. Wider than a Dyson 360 Eye.

The first generation Neato robots did not have any side brush. Since their robots were very efficient in terms of how it navigated they felt that it didn’t need one.

But when Roomba released the 980 that with the upgraded navigation, Neato did not have a choice.

But times have changed. From the first BotVac onwards all Neato robots have a side brush.

Navigation

When the Roomba first came out, it used a series of IR sensors to detect obstacles. This system was simple and relatively cheap to produce.

Navigation of the first generation Roombas were pretty aggressive meaning it doesn’t slow down even when there’s something in front of it.

While it cleaned well, it left a lot of scuff marks so iRobot had to tweak it in future releases. The 800 series had the upgraded algorithm where the robot slows down when it detects obstacles.

They revamped the whole system in the 980. Instead of just relying on infrared sensors, it now has a top mounted camera to track location like a GPS but still relies on the bumper to detect obstacles.

The redesigned navigation improved efficiency from random to a more predictable pattern that improves efficiency.

Neato on the other hand relies on its laser distance sensor mounted on top.

This sensor spins over a thousand RPMs per second, constantly mapping out its location with the aid of the SLAM algorithm.

Already known for its efficiency, Neato didn’t have change anything.

Watch this video to see the nuances of how these two navigate…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COKy8gD6eO8&t=343s

Spot Cleaning

When it comes to spot cleaning the Neato covered more area compared to the 980. It was able to go even under the table and smartly go around the legs. The 980 didn’t even go past the legs as it only did a like a half circle in that area.

Roomba’s spot cleaning wouldn’t be an issue cleaning a wide open space but in tight areas with a lot of obstacles the BotVac seemed to perform better being able to cover a lot more area.

Default cleaning mode

iRobot with its camera based system is a bit more finicky. It starts out cleaning the middle portions of the room and then cleans the edges.

I noticed that the 980 struggle in terms of how it handled obstacles and missed quite a few spots in the kitchen whereas the Neato was oblivious to them and went about its business covering just about every square inch.

Neato is a bit more methodical. This may be due to the lack of dirt detect sensors that Roomba possesses.

It starts out cleaning the edges of the room first before moving towards the middle portion of the room.

This version of the BotVac is more thorough compared to its older siblings. It goes through its cleaning cycle twice at least covering more area than the Roomba.

If you’re home has more obstacles the Neato would do a better job with its laser guided system. For homes with less clutter and more wide open space, the Roomba will have less trouble navigating through it.

Containment

Another difference between these two robots is containment.

Neato uses a strip of black magnet that you layout on the floor that basically tells the cliff sensors that an area is off limits.

You could actually any use any piece of black object like electrical tape because it will not go over anything black.

iRobot uses a device called they call a virtual wall that fires an infrared signal to block the path of the robot. This signal has a range of 10 feet so you can block virtually any entry point in a small to medium sized home.

It does need a pair of AA batteries to work.

The virtual wall looks like a better solution compared the strip of magnetic tape because there is less baby sitting involved.

Unless you stick the tape on the floor, you’ll have to constantly monitor to see if it’s still in place.

This is useful in areas where there isn’t any physical boundary that separates two different areas. A good example would be the kitchen and dining room.

For example you could place a virtual wall in front of the kitchen entry point and let the robot clean the dining room while you cook.

I call this 21st century multi-tasking but with a robot.

Cleaning Performance

On paper, the BotVac looks formidable with its more powerful motor and wide motorized brush.

But the Roomba 980 had some tricks up its sleeves.

First feature that makes it perform better on both surfaces would be the counter rotating rubber extractors that work together in “grabbing” dirt off the surface.

This design is more sophisticated than the traditional design of a Neato that requires more maintenance.

It is shorter in terms of size but it did not affect cleaning performance because it was more thorough.

You’ll notice in the cleaning test part of the video earlier that the 980 performed better in the carpet cleaning test. It was able to pick up nearly 100% of the sand while the BotVac picked up half.

An interesting part of the cleaning test was the leaves part of it. It isn’t something you’d normally clean in doors but the test showed that Roomba was able to dump all of it inside the bin while the BotVac only dumped half leaving the other half on the intake area where the brush is located.

Neato also struggled cleaning recessed areas of tile and even with the wider motorized brush it didn’t clean everything on the edge as I’d hope it would.

The Roomba 980 looks to be better equipped in terms of cleaning fine and large debris thanks to the counter rotating extractors that grab these particles instead of just sweeping. The dirt-detect system and carpet boost also forces the robot to clean the dirtiest areas more thoroughly.

WiFi and App

In an era of smart mobile devices and apps it’s nice to see manufacturers taking advantage of this technology.

These robots are have WiFi connectivity that allow remote connection in a cloud environment.

Once you’ve linked the robot to your homes WiFi network and app, you now have access to all the robots functionality even outside your home.

These apps aren’t the same and will have their nuances.

Neato probably has the most stable app because of its simplicity. It does not have the fancy features that the Dyson app has like real time tracking or battery status.

After connecting the robot to your home’s WiFi network, it prompts you to name the robot.

You can also register it with Neato for warranty claim purposes.

The app itself is pretty basic – it allows you to schedule, start a cleaning cycle and control the robot like an RC but that’s just about it. It does gives you the option to use the eco or turbo mode.

Eco mode would be enough on bare floor. But on carpet you will need to use turbo mode for the extra suction.

You can’t monitor progress and it does not have a lot of previous cleaning cycles.

If it gets jammed or something gets stuck on the motorized brush, the app simply flashes “error” message without any specifics.

The Roomba app is pretty similar to the Neato in terms of simplicity. It comes with the same clutter-free layout with a large “clean” button at the middle. You can schedule cleaning different cleaning times for each day of the week or just engage the default cleaning mode by pressing the clean button.

But there are some nuances that are unique like toggling edge cleaning, spot clean or have it make toggle multiple passes.

And if you can’t find the Roomba just hit the locate button and have it play a sound.

Comparing the Roomba 980 and BotVac Connected to the Dyson 360 Eye

No other robotic vacuum made a splash as big as the Dyson 360 Eye. And now the waves have calmed down and we’ll have a better look at how this product performs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGzgmz0dbdk

Surprisingly Dyson didn’t perform as well as the Roomba or Neato in the cleaning tests. It placed last on all

So obviously this is a huge disappointment and it is reflected in customer reviews.

The 360 Eye is considerably narrower and taller which is good and bad.

Being narrow allows it to fit in tighter areas that the other two may not fit in.

But at over 4.5 inches tall it would not fit under low profile furniture and this is a big con.

A big reason why people buy robot vacuums is autonomy and cleaning areas under furniture is something that a robot cleaner should be able to do. Unfortunately a Dyson will not be able to do it.

That’s because of the motor that Dyson used, a V2 motor – the same found in the DC44. So it’s pretty surprising that it did not perform as well.

Product Specifications

RoombaRoomba 980Neato BotVac ConnectedDyson 360 Eye
Multi-room navigation
Yes
No
No
HEPA Filtration
Yes
Yes
Yes
WiFi
Yes
Yes
Yes
Battery
Li-Ion
Li-Ion
Li-Ion
Run Time
120 mins.
Eco mode: 120 mins.

Turbo mode: 90 mins.
45 mins.
Width
13.8"
13.2"
9.05"
Height
3.6"
3.9"
4.72"
Containment
Virtual wall
Magnetic tape
None

Price

These robots range between $700 and $900 and you’ll get the absolute best deals in Amazon.

A Roomba 980 would cost close to $900 but a cheaper version, the 960 is also available for a few hundred dollars less.

It retains the same navigation, WiFi and App but has a smaller battery and motor so there is less power.

The 980 would be better suited for homes that have a lot of carpet because of the carpet boost feature while the 960 would do just fine on homes with only bare floor.

The Neato BotVac Connected costs around $700 but cheaper variants are also available – the D3 and D5.

All three have the same WiFi capability and have the smartphone App that allows you to schedule and control remotely.

The D3 is the cheapest at around $400 but it does not have any side brush, has the smallest battery and has no HEPA filtration. D5 is more expensive by $200 but it comes with HEPA filtration, side brush and a larger lithium ion battery that will run longer.

To Wrap It Up

The Roomba 980 and Neato BotVac Connected are two of the best performing robotic vacuums available right now.

And surprisingly both have outperformed the more expensive and high tech Dyson 360 Eye in one such test.

The Roomba 980 performed better in cleaning tests thanks to counter rotating rubber extractors that provide better agitation over the bristled BotVac. That’s even if it has less power and a narrower beater bar.

It also has acoustic sensors that detect areas that have more accumulated dirt and concentrate on those areas more. But it struggled with obstacles as it missed quite a few spots.

To maximize the cleaning performance of the 980 you’d have to make the room as clutter free as possible.

The BotVac Connected has a more predictable pattern compared to the 980.

It does not have any acoustic sensors but it makes up for it by going over its cleaning cycle twice.

Despite the added thoroughness it still lagged behind on cleaning tests especially on carpet.

But its $200 cheaper so that’s a substantial amount and could be a deal breaker for some.

For everyday cleanups where you only need to clean dust and small messes, the Neato would be a good option. But in homes with a lot of carpet, the Roomba would be a better investment.

Garrick Dee
 

Garrick is the founder of the Cordless Vacuum Guide that originally focused on cordless vacuums but he has now expanded to reviewing corded vacuums and carpet cleaners to be able to provide a more complete guide in terms of choosing the right cleaner.

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