by Garrick Dee
Updated March 14th, 2019
When the Neato busted into the scenes in 2010, it aimed to topple Roomba by using a better navigation system that used laser navigation.
Instead of going in a random direction, the laser-guided system went in a predictable back and forth pattern.
It has proven to be so effective that Roomba has since ditched the random navigation in favor of a more efficient pattern in their 900 series.
Xiaomi may be the best budget alternative to Neato to date.
Both use the same LDS sensor and SLAM based algorithm that makes it one of the most efficient robot cleaners we have right now.
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And the price difference won’t reflect in the performance.
I’ll be comparing these two products in this article to help you just in case you’re torn between these two robots.
One look and you’ll immediately notice how different these two products are at least with the exterior.
Neato retains the D-shape that they’ve used in all of their products since they came into the scene.
At the middle is a round case with the “Neato” logo on it. This houses the LDS sensor that detects obstacles and maps out the shape of the area it’s cleaning
Dirt bin is at the middle with the clean and home buttons at the bottom.
Neato does have a small LCD screen beside the LDS sensor that allows you to schedule and check the status of the robot.
Color is charcoal/dark gray which I like because it’s easier to clean and not prone to staining.
Xiaomi did not copy Neato’s exterior design. Instead of using a D-shape, product designers opted for a round shape similar to a Roomba.
But like the Neato it has the same round case at the middle that covers the LDS sensors. It does not have any screen as all of its functionality can be accessed through the app.
The dirt bin is accessible by opening a door on top. There also two buttons – the home and clean.
Finish is all white which looks nice but it will be prone to staining. If this is a concern go with the Neato.
Flip the robots and you’ll see more differences.
First and most obvious would be the width of the motorized brush.
Neato has a wider brush at around that’s over 10” wide. Xiaomi’s brush is a little over 6.5” wide.
In terms of design, both have the same bristle/squeegee combo that works well on carpet and bare floor. It actually performs better on bare floor and struggle in terms of cleaning fine dirt on carpet.
Both have a single side brush with the Xiaomi having the longer brush. But I don’t think this will have any effect on the edge and corner cleaning performance.
The wide brush of Neato does help it in terms of efficiency by virtue of having a wider cleaning path.
If you look at the spec sheet, both the Neato and Xiaomi the same navigation that combines a laser distance sensor (or LDS) and the SLAM algorithm.
This means it’ll have the same navigation pattern that starts out in the perimeter and works its way toward the middle of the room then back to home base.
Here’s how Xiaomi navigates…
You’ll notice that as it starts, it makes a quick 360 turn to scan its surroundings then start off by cleaning the perimeter of the room.
After finishing the edges, it goes on to clean the middle part of the room.
It does this cycle twice. But you’ll have to update the app for this feature to be enabled.
Out of the box, the software will only instruct it to go around the room once.
Here’s how Neato navigates…
Here’s a time-lapse of that pet hair test. Most cleaners have a pretty easy time with it on hardwood floors. pic.twitter.com/pRPr5tFwkh
— Ry Crist (@rycrist) October 26, 2015
Early Neato’s were efficient, too efficient for their own good because it would just go around sweeping the walls then cover the center of the room in a single back and forth pass. It lacked the thoroughness of a random moving Roomba.
Neato has upgraded the software in the BotVac connected. Instead of just sweeping around the walls and center of the room one time, it goes through it multiple times. It’ll go around the walls more than once and the middle part of the room in rows and columns.
This gives it more thoroughness and pick up dirt that it may miss in a previous pass. It won’t be as efficient but it’ll pick up more. And I’ll gladly take this because it will leave my room cleaner.
Both of these robots are ready for 21st homes thanks to the smartphone app.
That means you can control the robot even when you’re not at home using this technology.
But this will only work inside homes that have a router. This device is the link that connects the app to the robot and without it, it will not function.
These apps are compatible for both the iPhone and Android devices.
Connecting to the Neato App is easy. After you tether the app and your home’s WiFi, it’ll ask for a name.
After every cleaning cycle, it’ll notify you through the app.
The Neato app is pretty simple. It allows you to schedule when it’ll clean, clean your home and even control the robot manually.
I like the idea of controlling the robot manually but the novelty eventually wears off. And you’re better off just using the default cleaning mode.
The app also allows you to register the robot’s serial number and take a photo of it just in case you need to claim the warranty.
There are also two power modes – normal and turbo. In normal mode the robot will run longer – up to 120 minutes but suction will be weaker.
Suction will be weaker which makes this setting more suitable on bare floor. Turbo mode will activate the maximum power of the motor but run time will be down to 90 minutes. Only use this when cleaning rugs or carpet.
While I like the idea of controlling the robot remotely using this tool, I found it lacking in features.
The app does not have any features like showing you a map of the area it’s cleaning, how long it took to finish cleaning or details of the problem if something goes wrong.
You’ll have to look at the robot’s LCD to see what the problem is.
The app is simple though and robust which means it will not crash. But I hope that Neato adds features like perhaps a map of the area it’s cleaning, battery status, cleaning log, etc.
The Xiaomi app isn’t as straight forward to connect. After downloading it, make sure to select “Mainland China” as the default locale to get access to all the features you see here.
You’ll need to register for an account then log in. When you log in you’ll see something like this…
Click on “my devices” then the “+” button at the bottom then select the robot vacuum icon. When the app detects the robot’s WiFi signal it’ll ask for your router’s username and password.
And once connected you’ll see all the goodies that the app brings to the table.
To summarize this is what the MI Home App can do…
Unlike the Neato app where you can only schedule it to clean once a day, the MI home app is capable of scheduling it more than once. And all at different times for each scheduled cycle. This gives you lots of flexibility.
You’ll get a notification in your phone once the robot is finished.
It also logs at least the last 8 to 10 cleaning cycles in your phone. This includes the size of the room and how long it took to clean.
Once you press the clean button on the app, you’ll notice that it’ll show you a map of the area the robot is cleaning. And it shows you exactly where the robot is at.
Below the map, you’ll see the size of the room and duration, all updating in real time.
When to replace parts or clean sensors
Under the “care” section, the app tells you the status of the filter, side brush and main brush – when to replace these items. It also tells you when to clean the sensors.
You can also control this robot using the app like an RC. There are two options – the using the arrow keys or a joystick.
This setting tells the vacuum when the robot should not clean or play voice prompts. You can set this during the time you sleep or your child sleeps because this robot is quite noisy.
During the initial stages of the app, voice prompt was only available in Chinese. Now you can choose different languages – I have mine in English.
Although I have not tested the BotVac Connected, consumers have raved about its performance especially on hard floors.
In a test done by CNET, it picked up all of the rice, pet hair and more than 90% of sand on hardwood. But will struggle with pet hair because it does not have enough suction to pull it out from the brush roll.
It will still struggle cleaning sand on carpet with the turbo mode on. Out of the 1.25 ounce scattered, it only picked up 0.47 ounces.
It also struggles with cleaning plush carpet so if you have such at home better have an upright in hand for deep cleaning tasks.
I’ve tested this robot a bunch of times, before the firmware upgrades and after.
Here was the first test I ever did…
Without the updated firmware the robot only went around once, leaving a lot of paper and baby powder in its track.
Initially I was disappointed because I though this robot is a good alternative to a Neato.
After upgrading the firmware here’s how it performed…
The upgraded firmware improved performance two-fold. Out of the 71 grams I scattered on the floor, it was able to pick up around 67 grams which is a big improvement over the first test.
I’ve also tested this on a big run and here’s how it did…
Despite not going over the black parts of the rug, it did a pretty good job picking up 34 out of the 40 grams. Not cleaning black rugs will be an issue not only with this robot but all the robots that have a cliff sensor.
That means Neato will also struggle in this area as well as the ILIFE robot.
|Brand||Xiaomi Robot Vacuum||Neato BotVac Connected|
|Cleaning sessions per week|
Eco mode: 120 mins.
Turbo mode: 90 mins.
If you want to save a little bit you can opt for the BotVac D5 or the D3 but the latter does not have any side brush and will run for only 60 minutes.
The D5 will run slightly longer – at around 90 minutes. All BotVac series vacuums are compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Facebook Chatbot so you have any of these devices, this is a great option.
But you’ll get a better deal in GearBest – it’ll cost less than $300.
- White International Version – $279.99 *Flash Sale (33% OFF)
- QY2R47P8702V9 White Version (HK Warehouse) – $259.99 *Flash Sale
The 2nd generation Xiaomi is also available as well. Check the links below for the latest prices and coupon codes…
- RBROCKPL (Poland warehouse) – $429.99 *Ships to most EU contries within 7 days
- QY2X6624IP702 (S55 EU Plug) – $419.99 *Price with coupon code
- International Version White – $459.99 *Flash Sale (20% OFF)
- White CN Plug – $549.89
- Black version – S55 – $546.35
Unfortunately the Xiaomi robot isn’t compatible with Alexa. If you need something compatible with such then go with the Neato.
Both of these products have similar architecture when you look past the differences aesthetically. Each has the same navigation, brush design and single side brush.
Everything about Xiaomi screams Neato. Except for the narrower motorized brush and shape.
And the best part is you’ll save a few hundred dollars if you buy this from GearBest. One thing that Xiaomi lacks is compatibility with Alexa.
If you have any questions please share them in the comments section below.