by Garrick Dee
Updated October 17th, 2017
In the world of robotic vacuums two brands stand head and shoulders above everyone else, IRobot a market leader since 2002 and Neato Robotics a California-based start-up founded by Joe Augenbraun looking to seriously challenge the Roomba.
But how do they differ?
Let’s look beyond marketing lingo and dig deep on how each robot navigates and cleans plus much more.
I’ve created this visual illustration to help you understand the differences between the Neato vs Roomba side by side. Enough fluff, let’s get to the topic at hand.
Neato mainly uses a laser sensor called the RPS located on to so before it starts cleaning it first scans the whole room 360 degrees to map out the perimeter and potential obstacles.
A plus for this setup is that it lets the robot know what obstacles to avoid thus it bumps into objects with less frequency than the Roomba.
Downside is if an object is out of the laser’s line of site, it’ll bump into it and if the object is light enough, the Neato will push it around. To avoid falling of stairs, it has two cliff sensors underneath.
Roomba has a more complex setup.
It a combination of an infrared sensor, object sensors and wall sensors to navigate.
The infrared sensor is used to determine the size of the room to let the robot know how long it’ll clean.
Object sensors detect potential roadblocks in its path and once it bumps into something let’s say a chair, it moves in a random direction.
Wall sensors detect for the presence of walls and allow this to follow its path without touching it.
The Roomba also has cliff sensors so you don’t have to worry about it falling off.
The best way to explain the difference between the two is by using long exposure as one tech blogger did.
Have a look here
Here’s another long exposure shot of the Roomba cleaning pattern.
If you look at the photo above, Neato’s pattern has a more predictable pattern.
That’s because it starts off by mapping out the shape of the room and cleans the perimeter first before moving towards the inner part in a straight back and forth pattern until the whole room is finished.
iRobot’s pattern on the other hand is more random that’s because when it bumps into an object it’ll move in a random direction.
This randomness is also quite effective as it’ll certain areas more than once and will basically cover an entire room albeit a little bit slower compared to the Neato.
How does it Clean?
The Neato mainly uses suction from a vacuum motor located in the rear which they call the “centrifugal compression-impeller” that uses jet engine airflow principles.
Judging from video reviews, it does sound like a jet engine and it is loud.
It is close to 90 decibels in a review done by RobotShop. It also has a beater bar and a pet hair brush (in newer models) that augment suction.
Roomba uses two counter rotating brushes, 700 series and older models use a bristled brush and another made from rubber.
The new 880 meanwhile uses two brushless “agitators” made from rubber. This supposedly makes it maintenance free because hair will not get stuck because there are no more bristles but several reviews mentioned that hair will still get stuck on the edges (see photo below).
So users will still need to regularly clean this area in order to prolong the life of the robot.
Which one is better?
If you have a lot of pets, the Neato Signature Pro is still the robot of choice as it outperformed the Roomba 880 in CNet’s pet hair test.
Price wise, a top-of-the-line Neato like the XV Signature Pro is a few hundred dollars cheaper than a top-of-the-line Roomba.
Take note that the Neato does not have any remote control or virtual lighthouses that block off limit areas, it uses magnetic strips of tape to block off areas. A bit low-tech but I wouldn’t mind this because I’ve just saved $250.
Some More Useful Resources around the Web
Neato vs Roomba – A Beginners Guide – If this is your first time buying a robot vacuum, this is a must read as ‘tstreete’ breaks down in detail what to expect from both brands from a consumer’s perspective as he or she has purchased several Roombas and Neatos.
How Robotic Vacuums Work – A must read for more techie consumers that are interested in the inner workings of a robotic vacuum. This article from How Stuff Works details how a Roomba works. It includes everything from what’s inside to how it navigates and cleans. Even though they tested on older model (Roomba Red), newer models still use basically the same principles in navigation and cleaning.
iRobot Roomba 560 vs. Neato XV-11 – Evan Ackerman compares in detail the differences feature-wise of the Roomba 560 and an XV-11 way back then when it just entering the market to challenge iRobot.
One cool thing I noticed in this article is the cleaning pattern photos (don’t know exactly how he did it) he posted side by side to give you a visual on what route each one takes.
Neato XV-25 (21 in the US) vs Roomba 780 – convince me – “Andyuk” asks in a forum which one of the two would RobotReviews.com users recommend. If you have the same question, take some time and read what real consumer who’ve tried both brands have to say.
Robotic Vacuum Wars: Roomba vs. Neato – A detailed head to head product review from a pet owner – this one includes videos to demonstrate how long it took to clean a room and the differences in spot cleaning mode. Another must read.
RobotShop Ultimate Challenge: Neato XV-11 Results In; Roomba Outclassed – Robotshop really did a good job on this review testing the Neato on every possible area that you need to look out for, one of the best video reviews I’ve seen so far.
The site itself is a great resource not only for robot vacuums but everything robotics.
RobotShop Ultimate Challenge: iRobot Roomba 780 Tested – Another thorough test done by the Robotshop this time with the Roomba 780. It scored well in removing various types of debris on bare floors though it took a little longer to do so.
iRobot Roomba 5xx 9 Beep Error Bumper Sensor Fix – If you’re a Roomba 500 series owner and got the dreaded 9 beep error and would like to repair it on your own, check out this page by Avi on how he did it. It is a great resource with photos to help you along.
iRobot Roomba Broken? 9 Beep Error Questions – Another side dedicated to help you fix a Roomba with the dreaded 9 beep error. Not only they sell the repair kit, they’ll also help you diagnose the problem itself by answering questions that you may have with your Roomba running around in circles.
Robots Dreams – They feature the latest news and product developments in the robotic industry, a must visit if you’re a fan of robots.