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Neato vs. Roomba vs. Hom-Bot
on August 10, 2013
Here is my comparison review of the Neato Signature Pro, iRobot Roomba 780, and the LG Hom-Bot Square. I bought and tested all three, and ended up keeping the Neato and returned the other two. Here are the details of our comparison and review of each model:
iRobot Roomba 780 - It is one of the dumber vacuum robots on the market, because it lacks the more advanced navigation abilities that competitors have, while costing more than some of them. It uses brute force blind navigation of bouncing around in a room randomly until it cleans the whole room. Watching it running around like a chicken with its head cut off can really try your patience. You can't help but think if it was smarter in how it navigated, it would get the job done much quicker and more efficiently. It also went over many areas multiple times because it has no memory of where it's been (iRobot says these's an algorithm to its randomness, but you can't tell by observing it). It doesn't get caught up by power cables or get stuck on raised surfaces too easily, but it will get stuck at some point if your home isn't totally flat. Its little corner spinning brush helps it clean corners pretty well, and its overall cleaning power seems fine. It does bump into things though--that's part of its navigation method.
One really disappointing aspect of the Roomba is it's lack of ability to resume cleaning where it left off. It can return to base for charging battery or after it finishes cleaning, but it cannot continue cleaning after charging the battery if it had to return to base to charge before the cleaning was finished. The other two models are able to finish charging and then navigate back to where it left off and then continue.
The Virtual Wall Lighthouse is iRobot's attempt to catch up to competitors, but it's not that useful because the Roomba isn't capable of going home to charge and then return to where it left off, and the Virtual Wall/Lighthouse only allows 25 minutes before it stops and lets the Roomba out of the room. What if you have a big room? The way the Roomba bounces around like an idiot takes much longer than 25 minutes to clean a large room.
For the price you pay, the Roomba 780 should be far smarter and more advanced in every way, but it's essentially a dated technology from the previous century that iRobot overcharges for.
LG Hom-Bot Square - On paper and in video demonstrations, the Hom-Bot Square seemed like it would do the job. We really wanted it to be "the one," but despite its pretty looks and great specs on paper, it ended up being a big disappointment.
It turned out that smarter isn't necessarily better. I had already read other reviews mentioning this, but I wanted to be sure, just in case our house and furniture is laid out more efficiently for the Hom-Bot. But other reviewers were right--it got stuck constantly (15 times in one room) and would also turn itself off for no reason. My wife and I are very tidy and we don't have children or pets, nor do we have clutter in our house. It should have been easy for Hom-Bot, but it couldn't even clean one room properly. Protruding corners were especially problematic for Hom-Bot--it kept getting stuck, and even if we moved it, it would go back to the same corner and get stuck over and over. When it's not getting stuck, it seemed to be pretty smart and efficient, but what's the point if you have to constantly babysit it? You might as well vacuum clean yourself.
We did like the two corner spinning brushes though--it is the best solution we've seen thus far (versus just one corner brush on the Roomba 780). We also liked how quiet it was, and how well designed the internal/removable parts were. But none of that matters when it couldn't even navigate around corners.
In the end, the other reviewers were right. Even though the iRobot Roomba series is a lot dumber, it at least got the job done and didn't get stuck all the time. it might take its sweet time going over the same areas over and over, but it eventually gets the job done and you don't have to babysit it as much. We were unsatisfied with both the Hom-Bot and the Roomba, and we were about to give up on robot vacuums altogether, when I decided to give the Neato a shot.
Neato Signature Pro - Third time's the charm, as they say. We were ready to give up on robot vacuum cleaners and just stick to normal ones, but I wanted to leave no stone unturned, so we bought the Neato Signature Pro and tested it out. We're so glad we did.
The Neato's navigation is superior than the other two by far, because it uses a 360 degree scanning approach that allows it to see the entire room's layout and updates its internal memory/image of the room's layout constantly. It can sense when someone walks near it., or moved an object in or out of the room, and then adjust its navigation accordingly. It is also able to go home to recharge when low on battery, and then navigate back to where it left off and continue.
The Neato can navigate from room too room by itself, but we've noticed that it sometimes might miss a room, so we use the barrier strip it comes with to section off our home into separate areas of two rooms or so (you can buy additional barrier strips from Neato), and it worked perfectly. With less rooms to navigate to, it cleaned every room in each of the areas we divided.
The Neato almost never gets stuck/caught on anything. We're really good at removing cables and making sure our furniture all have their bottom edges high enough for the Neato to get under. We're also very clean/tidy, so we would never have clothes and random objects on the floor like some households. If you want to use a robot vacuum, you really should help it operate in an environment that's suitable for robot vacuums. If you have random loose items on the floor everywhere and with furniture that has low bottom edges for the robots to get wedged under, then don't blame the robot because you didn't do your job as the owner.
The Neato isn't perfect though. It's battery runs a lot shorter than the Roomba (they say it's because it's suction is a lot stronger, and I would agree--you can see/feel/hear the difference easily), so it has to return to home to recharge more often. (EDIT: It turned out the battery we had was faulty, and Neato sent us new batteries, and it runs much longer now.)
The Neato is a bit louder than the other two models, but it really isn't so loud that it drives you crazy, although it would force you turn up your TV a bit. The Neato has no corner brush, which is a bummer because its corner cleaning performance is obviously inferior (youtube has videos showing this). Neato actually was contracted by Vorwerk Kobold to make a higher-end model called the VR-100, and it has a corner brush and a better battery. It sucks that those features are probably exclusive to Vorwerk Kobold, since Neato did not add them to the later domestic models. The Neato also has the tendency to blow stuff around with its exhaust vent, and that means it might blow something to a spot it's already cleaned. It doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen.
One thing that rarely gets mentioned in reviews is the Neato's menu has multiple languages, and for any household with members that don't know English well (we're an immigrant country after all), this is a blessing. My wife's Chinese is far better than her English, and Neato's Chinese menu makes it much easier for her to use the robot.
I kind of wish Neato provided a remote control like the other two companies did, since having to chase down the robot and press the button on it while it's moving is a little annoying. I also think the barrier strip it comes with should be at least double in length, and the extra ones you can buy should be a lot cheaper than what the company charges.
The Neato beat out the Roomba and the Hom-Bot by being smarter and not requiring nearly as much babysitting. It won't clean 100% of your home (more like 85%), so you'll need to touch-up the corners and clean the stairs yourself (we highly recommend the Dyson DC44 Animal Cordless Vacuum for that). But for regular maintenance to keep your home looking good, the Neato does its job well and without much hassle.