The flying cars haven’t arrived yet, but it’s time to sit down, brace yourself and welcome the first of our robotic overlords into your life. Make no mistake, this Neato XV15 is an automatic robot vacuum cleaner in the same way a Ferrari is a car. Throw away all you know about robot carpet cleaners and learn about the future of home accessories.
I’ve been testing one for a few months now, and it’s absolutely amazing, an excellent piece of milestone engineering which should define the standards by which this type of product will be judged from now on.
The Neato comes in a fairly conventional box with a few extras like filters and virtual fences to protect rooms, but you’ll find that getting started is a breeze. Unpack, plug it into a socket to charge and you’ll soon be ready for your first experience with ‘Jack’. Yes, you will end up giving it a name, everyone does, so deal with it and move on.
At its most basic, the device is a fire and forget marvel. Just hit the start button once to wake it up and a second time to get going and it will do just that. It starts up with a sound like a jet aircraft, which tells you that this is a serious vacuum cleaner, not one of those brush beating fops which bump and crash their way around a room barely picking up anything. This puppy works for a living!
There are two seriously impressive things about this machine compared to the other varieties of so called ‘robot’ cleaners. The first is that it actually does suck up stuff from floors which are clearly not just surface elements. It picks up fluff, hairs, dirt and all manner of nasties in the container which can end up literally stuffed with gunk because of the efficiency of the suction motor. The second thing is the fact that it really can navigate. If you’ve ever seen a first generation robot cleaner, you’ll know that there’s generally a lot of bump and crash and not a huge amount of elegant navigation going on.
The Neato on the other hand takes its time to survey the room with its laser tracking before it starts, and then methodically and deliberately works its way around obstacles so intricate you won’t believe it, in order to do its job. Dining chair legs are no match for the laser guidance system, it’s that good. Occasionally it will lose its bearings, usually after getting stuck in a tangle for some reason, but those times are very rare. Not only that, but the thing can actually navigate between rooms without getting lost.
We had another robot cleaner in as a comparison (no names), and it was pitiful to see how badly it failed at moving from room to room to clean the place. It basically got stuck in the first room and couldn’t even move on. The Neato just does it. Are you getting the picture yet? Unlike other systems it also seems to take stringy stuff like long hair and sewing thread discards in its stride.
Where other robots quickly get their rollers jammed with this stuff, the Neato has some sort of super efficient design which militates against jams. You’ll still need to remove this sort of stuff every so often, but it’s not a chore at all, and you’ll barely notice the hassle.
Did we mention that if it’s halfway through cleaning your home and it detects that it’s running low on battery, it will automatically turn around and trundle back to get re-charged before going back to the exact same spot to finish off the job? Yeah it’s that smart, foolish human.
So what’s not to like? Well there’s not a lot to annoy about this beast. Perhaps it could be a little quieter, but that’s a consequence of the powerful suction engine at work really. And there are times when it gets confused, although these episodes are again very rare and replacing it in the cradle and setting it going again almost always cures the glitch and the job gets done as it should. Some people might also say that remembering to empty the smallish – when compared to conventional vacuum cleaners – container is a pain, but really the Neato is designed for a new type of floor cleaning.
Rather than leaving your vacuuming for ages because you hate it, the Neato works best when you use it regularly and often. In these cases it keeps your floor or carpet spick and span, because it picks up the debris before it has time to accumulate. It’s clear that the in-built scheduler is a real bonus feature for this kind of purpose. Set it to start up when you leave for work in the morning and come back to a clean floor.
The other benefit of doing things this way is you keep carpets free of dirt before it can grind in and start to ruin the pile. It’s a small point, but we’re surprised the manufacturers don’t make more of this in the marketing blurb. Regular vacuuming must help lengthen the life of your carpet considerably.
We’ve gushed a bit over this product for which apologies to cynics, but regular readers will know that when we find a standout product we tend to tell it like it is. The final cream on the cake is the fact that the company has a fully implemented software upgrade system in place on their sales site (under support), through which you can update your machine to top spec just by plugging it into your computer via a miniUSB cable and hitting the upgrade button. Seamless and incredibly valuable, it took us all of 4 minutes to do, and in effect it gives the robot a full service and makeover. When was the last time you had the chance to upgrade your fridge or toaster? Awesome, just awesome.
Priced at $399/£399.99 directly from the site or via retailers like Amazon.
[Tip: if you don't want to buy this product, do not show it to your other half, especially if they do the vacuuming. We made that mistake during the evaluation.]
The Neato XV-15 stands apart from all other floor-cleaning robots in the way that it perceives the world. Using focused laser light, the robot can measure precise distances to objects in its vicinity. By rotating this laser at high speed, the Neato XV-15 rapidly scans its environment, quickly building an accurate map of its surroundings whether they’re well lit or completely dark.