roomba vs neato: the matchup

Roomba vs Neato – Here’s Why Both Brands Fail to Measure Up

The Roomba vs Neato matchup is the classic young startup vs market leader showdown.  Roomba is currently dominating home robotics big time, but the company is also dangerously complacent.  Neato, on the other hand, is young and hungry– but Neato robots are still very rough around the edges.

Want to know what Roomba and Neato are doing wrong?  If so, keep reading.  Otherwise, jump over to the official Robot Fanatics Ultimate Robotic Vacuum Roundup to find out why bObsweep and Bissell brand carpet ‘bots are better.

Intelligent navigation: a pricey & overrated feature

Both Roomba and Neato make advanced robotic vacuums that are equipped with cameras and intelligent nav systems.  But when put to the test, so-called “advanced” robotic vacuums actually do a worse job of cleaning.

iRobot got lazy

iRobot captured our imaginations back in the early 00s with the debut of the very first commercially successful home robotic appliance– the Roomba.  What most people don’t realize yet is that iRobot has lost its edge.

Stock market experts have noticed that iRobot is no longer the dominant market force that it was 10 years ago.  And according to Consumer Reports, the latest Roomba doesn’t even clean as well as its predecessors.

We believe iRobot is a struggling consumer product company whose dominance in the home vacuum market is now in question.

Ben Axler, SeekingAlpha

Neato still has a lot to learn

Neato Robotics first entered the robotic carpet cleaner market in 2010– a full 8 years after the first Roomba hit the shelves.

Neato’s first offering– the deeply flawed Neato XV– looked like a Nintendo NES.  (And it also vacuumed about as well as one, too.)

The company did improve a bit in 2014 when they debuted the Neato BotVac.  However, even though Neato vacs seem to be getting better the brand still isn’t in a position to dethrone iRobot Roomba.

The Neato BotVac D80 isn’t bad.  It’s a lot cheaper than Roomba, plus it is a stronger performer in some categories.  But because Neato is still plagued by quality control issues and customer service problems, the company isn’t likely to gain the dedicated following they’ll need to beat iRobot anytime soon.

Roomba vs Neato: Both Brands Need a Big “K.I.S.S.”

Consumer Reports lab tests have demonstrated that robots that retrace their paths tend to suck up more dirt compared to “smart” vacs that move in straight lines.  So when it comes to robotic vacuums, “Keep It Simple, Stupid” should be every robot manufacturer’s motto.

Roomba vs Neato: keep it simple stupid

So-called “dumb” vacuum robots do a much better job of cleaning floors compared to “smart” ones that are equipped with navigational cameras.

If Neato and iRobot want to improve, they should ditch the somewhat useless apps and fancy navigational features and focus on designing improvements that help their bots become better cleaners.

Neato is a better at navigating compared to Roomba

As mentioned above, I think “intelligent” robotic vacuums are highly overrated.  Lab tests have shown that better navigation doesn’t necessarily equal better cleaning.

But for what it’s worth, Neato BotVac D80 deserves credit for being smarter than Roomba 980.  Consumer Reports rated the Neato BotVac D80’s navigational abilities as “superb,” but criticized the Roomba 980 for its tendency to miss spots.

Neato’s bin is slightly bigger

People buy robotic vacuum cleaners because they want to save time.  That’s why one of the most important factors to consider when buying a robotic vacuum is: how big is its bin?

Robotic vacuums with big bins require less maintenance compared to robotic vacuum cleaners that have tiny bins.

Roomba vs Neato: dustbins
Neato robotic vacs have bigger bins compared to Roomba and they are also easier to clean.

When it comes to bin size, the Roomba 980 and Neato BotVac D80 are essentially equal.  However, the Neato BotVac can hold just a bit more dust and dirt.

  • Neato BotVac D80 has a .7 liter bin
  • Roomba 980 has a .6 liter bin

Neato is easier to clean compared to Roomba

What’s the point of owning a robotic vacuum if it’s a pain to maintain?

The Roomba isn’t hard to clean.  However, the Neato is a bit easier to deal with.

To get to a Roomba’s bin, you have to pick it up.  But with Neato, all you have to do is pop open the lid and pull the bin upwards.

Roomba has a superior boundary system

Both the Neato and Roomba come with boundary systems that keep the vacs from wandering off.

Roomba vs Neato: Boundary Markers
Neato has a physical boundary marker system, but Roomba uses a more advanced electronic fence.

The Neato BotVac’s boundary system relies on ugly magnetic boundary markers that you’re supposed to lay on your floor.  But if you lay the strips on a hardwood floor, they tend to get pushed around when the BotVac moves in close.

The Roomba 980 has a better boundary system– the Virtual Wall Lighthouse.  It’s much better because it’s more effective, takes up less room and doesn’t get in the way.

Neato & Roomba both have vacuuming performance issues 

Both Neato and Roomba have fancy navigational computers and built-in cameras.  But that extra hardware doesn’t really amount to much, because Neato BotVac and Roomba 980 both struggle in key areas when it comes to vacuuming.

In a recent review, Consumer Reports slammed the Roomba 980 for missing spots during the lab test.

This vacuum cleans in a row-and-column grid pattern. That apparently made a difference in its cleaning of carpet surfaces, scoring a notch below excellent for the first time.

Ed Perratore, Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports also criticized Neato BotVac for being “so-so” at cleaning along edges.

Roomba 980 missed obvious spots in the middle of the floor.  But, at least it did a better job of cleaning hard floors compared to Neato BotVac.

Roomba is almost twice as expensive as Neato

Neato BotVac D80 is better at navigating and vacuuming, plus it’s easier to clean compared to Roomba 980.  So why does iRobot feel that they can charge close to twice as much for their ‘bot?

The answer, simply put, is: marketing.

When people buy a Roomba, they still think they are buying the best.  But unless the next Roomba robot is a lot better than the 980, people will begin to catch on to the fact that other robotic vacuum cleaners offer better performance and value.

Both Neato and Roomba have troubling customer service problems

The news media has gone very soft on both Roomba and Neato.  But when you take a look at what their paying customers have been complaining about, you start to get a much more realistic idea about what is going on with these two robot makers.

Both Roomba and Neato exaggerate what their carpet bots can do in order to impress their silicon valley investors.  But when it comes to supporting the people that buy their actual products, Neato and Roomba put minimal effort into meeting their needs.

Instead of charging extra for features that their customers don’t really want or care about, Roomba and Neato should follow bObsweep‘s example and work on improving their customer support systems.

Roomba vs Neato: Roomba Pros and Cons

Roomba vs Neato: roomba pros and cons

Good

  • The Roomba name.  Like Apple, the Roomba brand has become a status symbol.
  • The Roomba app.  The new Roomba app allows you to do nerdy things like examine maps of your home.
  • Advanced navigation system.  Like many modern robotic vacuums, the Roomba 980 comes with an advanced microcontroller and a camera based navigation system.

Bad

  • Poor customer support.  Currently, iRobot has a 2 star rating on consumeraffairs.org.
  • No remote control.  The 980 has an app, but it doesn’t have a remote that you can use for “point and click” spot cleaning.
  • Outrageous price tag.  In my opinion, the Roomba 980 is way too expensive.
  • Its pricey features don’t help it clean.  Older Roomba vacs outperform the Roomba 980.
  • Smallish bin.  The Neato BotVac D80’s bin isn’t huge either, but it is slightly bigger than Roomba’s.
  • Vacuum performance issues.  Even though the Roomba is pretty good at navigating, cheaper vacuums are much better at vacuuming.
iRobot Roomba 980 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner
List Price: $899.00
Price: $798.90
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Roomba vs Neato: Neato Pros and Cons

Roomba vs Neato: neato pros cons

Good

  • Almost half the price of a Roomba.  Even though the Neato BotVac D80 is arguably better overall compared to the Roomba 980, the Roomba 980 is almost twice as expensive.
  • Bigger bin.  The Neato BotVac’s bin is slightly bigger compared to the Roomba 980’s.
  • Better brain / navigational system.  Neato BotVac D80 isn’t so great at edge cleaning, but it doesn’t miss as many spots as the new Roomba.
  • Easy to clean.  Unlike most robotic vacuums, the Neato BotVac D80 features a top loading bin– that’s a big plus for ease of use.

Bad

  • Poor customer support.  Neato’s online reviews are littered with customer service horror stories.
  • Uneven quality control.  Every manufacturer sends out a lemon from time to time, but Neato sends out more than most.
  • Annoying boundary system.  Neato’s physical boundary system looks primitive compared to iRobot’s Virtual Wall Lighthouse and bObsweep’s blOck.
  • Still pretty expensive.  Even though Neato BotVac is cheap compared to Roomba, it’s still pretty pricey.

Roomba vs Neato: Final Verdict

In my opinion, Neato BotVac is a better product in comparison to Roomba.  However, I am not a van of the Neato brand.

Neato’s aim is to bring affordable robot products to the masses.  But it has a lot of work to do before it can really accomplish that goal.

In my opinion, bObsweep PetHair and Bissell Smartclean are much better than both the Roomba 980 and the Neato BotVac.

Want to learn more about how the most popular robotic vacuum cleaners compare?  Check out the official Robot Fanatics Robotic Vacuum Roundup to learn everything there is to know about robot vacs.

About Alex Munkachy

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