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I am now a believer in robotic vacuums!
on December 22, 2010
For months, no years, my wife has been asking for a robotic vacuum. She does most of the house work and I do most of the fixing. I have followed the progress of the Roomba and decided to have another in depth look at the reviews and how it performed to date. What follows is NOT a Roomba/Neato comparison. I have never owned a Roomba nor do I think I ever will, but who knows. I purchased a Neato Robotics XV-11 about four weeks ago. What follows is a detailed look at what the Neato XV-11 is and how it performs. I will try to be as objective as possible and share my journey of how I decided which robot vacuum to buy.
First, a bit about me. I am an avid Amazon buyer and use them heavily for both personal and work related purchases. They are simply the best at the online experience and I typically only purchase items that they ship. They have the best pricing on a regular basis and ship promptly with a great online experience. I have only had two issues with Amazon and they recovered nicely. I am a former network and systems engineer in the field of technology. I am now a science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) teacher and a coach. I have coached sports, but mostly coach middle school and high school robotics team. Suffice it to say, I do my research on techie stuff and push the envelope in robotics.
The environment: a family of four (two boys) and a yellow lab (2yrs). I will leave the bird and rat out of it...no...I won't actually. They get rat nest and bird seed all over so they are included too. We live in a single floor house of about 2k sq ft. The floor is a combination of wall to wall carpet, tile, hard wood floor and rugs on top of the hard wood floor. There are a myriad of transitions for the Neato to traverse between tile and hard floor, between rugs and the hard wood floor. We also have floor to ceiling windows with no trim at the bottom of the window. We also have some furniture that inclines backward to the ground. Meaning the opening in the front is higher than at the back.
After researching the Roomba I looked at what else was available. I could not get over that you have to clean the Roomba vacuum brushes a lot, especially for those with dogs. I also could not get over 50 minutes to vacuum a room of say 12X12. The Neato had some complainers about its performance, but I was the head of a Quality Assurance department in a past career and know you get some people that want the world and complain if they do not get it. While I do not think the public should beta test, that is the reality people. Lots of beta testing can happen and does happen prior to a product shipping, but until you have experienced a product build cycle you will never understand that all testing cannot be done to exacting standards. Especially with a new company with limited resources. If you don't believe me, look at Apple and the iPhone 4 antenna. I digress. I took a leap at the Neato due to its intelligent mapping system and the fact that Amazon has a great return policy.
Here is what I found:
1. The neato cleans my 16X12 den in 11 minutes on average. It is wall to wall carpet and full of obstacles and dog hair. I empty the easy to remove from the top dust bin. It did say on two of the cleanings that its brush was stuck and I disassembled the brush on the bottom. Basically it is like a regular vacuum brush, but has squeegee like brushes so no hair gets into a "brush." It turns out that it was in fact not tangled with something in its brush. My dog and sons playing had broken two loops of carpet and the Neato had found them and tried to vacuum them. one end of the loop was still attached. Now I know to look out for these and not take the brush off when it happens. The brush is easy to take off and put back on.
2. I can push the big green button and off it goes...to clean the entire house. It comes back and recharges as necessary and then goes back to where it was working and finishes. I have noticed it does not always restart exactly where it was, but it does get all areas at least once and often twice. Just now it returned to base, bumped into something, but got around it and is charging.
3. Not much to maintain. I think we will be replacing the filter and I imagine the belt for the brush eventually, but it pretty much just gets emptied by us. We are not doing the scheduled cleaning as the house needs to get picked up by teenagers first and that requires some whip cracking on my part.
4. My wife loves it. In the beginning she followed it around and would report back frequently on where it was and how it was doing. "This is the best birthday present I have ever gotten!" If we could just figure out how to get it emptied automatically. A docking station with a vacuum that sucks the Neato dust bin dry would be cool. Come on Neato troops...you can do this!
5. It traverses the carpets, throw rugs, various transistions perfectly. I put the magnetic strip down around the problem couch with underside that slopes to the floor. It actually went under one piece of furniture and disappeared vacuuming...only to emerge a minute or two later.
One thing to consider is where to park it. While you could bring it out only when you need it and place it in a room and then hit the green button (this will clean that room only and then return to where it started) that does not use it to its full potential. To use its full potential you need to put the little base station next to a wall somewhere in the house so it can travel back and charge up etc.
After four weeks, we love our Neato and have no regrets. I will check in again six months from now and update. I am also going to update a little video.
One week after this review the Neato started making a strange noise. Kind of like a grinding roar. Very loud. We called support and they said they would send out a new Neato at no charge. They did ask for a credit card to go on file in case we didn't return the original. Access to support was very quick and the new Neato arrived in two days. We actually continued to use the original Neato which, aside from the noise, did a good job. The Neato arrived and we did not miss a beat. I can only speculate what the problem was. We are now on month three of our experience with robot vacuuming and our Neato is awesome!
Time for another update. Unfortunately, I do not have more to say other than the Neato has passed the test of time! We continue to use the Neato in this fashion:
1. Pickup stuff on floor (no robot for that yet).
2. Double check magnetic strip under our couch that inclines to floor. It sometimes gets bumped by humans. This strip prevents the Neato from going into what I call a furniture wedge where the sofa bottom slopes to the floor.
3. Double check that the Neato dustbin was emptied after last time.
4. Open doors to rooms that I want cleaned in entire house (our house is one level). Neato will find the doorway, finish the room it is in, go back to the doorway and enter the room to clean it. Multiple doorways? Not a problem, Neato will clean each one and go back to recharge if necessary.
5. Press the big button to turn on.
6. Press the big button to start cleaning house.
7. Go away or continue to be in house and be careful not to walk on robot.
8. Neato finishes and returns to base and I empty dustbin.
A commenter recently asked about cleaning the brush. Another commenter already responded and I will add that I have only had to dig thread and hair out of the brush twice in about 100 operations. Keep in mind that each time I run the Neato it is usually cleaning about 1500 square feet of house.
At one point, I was going to connect the Neato to the Internet to see if there was an update. Do I really want to? Not sure. Why would I fix something that works great already? Maybe I will take a look at their website.
Neato died. Or, started making noises that were not Neatoish and we humans got concerned. It was scary, thinking of life without Neato. My wife called Neato central support and described what was happening to our Neato. I apologize for sounding so corny, but the whole crisis started out feeling so Orwellian. Neato support responded with a new Neato on its way. Almost as if the little robot was phoning home or being watched by a rescue squad.
This is now our third Neato and I am happy to report that robots do in fact evolve. We have the latest firmware and Neato continues to zig and zag through our busy lives vacuuming up all kinds of crud. We have gotten lax with our pickups lately and the little cleaning bot does not care. It will bump around shoes, push electrical cords out of the way (this I may have to video, can't figure out why it does not get tangled), dodge yellow labs, and take ownership of a room. I actually hate it on when I am home, my wife tends to put it to work regardless.
The third bot was a refurb and free of charge. We ended up with a new brush (more like a rubber rotating squigee). I figure a brush is good for at least 350-400 cleaning sessions of about 1500 sqft. Maybe more. After pressing for the proverbial "why?" our Neato had a close encounter with death. I was told some had a gear not quite right.
I have built my share of bots and the fact that such a device, with so many moving parts, can last many times longer than your average $150 upright simply amazes me. Not to mention that you don't do the pushing.
Neato, and the support team, are our vacuum heroes!
Sad news on the vacuuming front. A vacuum has passed away. Our upright! Our Neato continues to vacuum automagically! Our upright is still needed for occasional deeper cleanings, especially in furniture, corners etc. The Neato is great, but we still need an upright. In my quest for a new upright I looked high and low. I am sick of paying lots of money, but also sick of buying a new vacuum every 2-4years. How hard can it be right? And what of these pricey vacuums from Electrolux, Miele, etc. etc.?? Suffice it to say, I decided to go past the $200 price point and see if these pricey machines really do last five times longer and do ten times the job. The vacuum story continues in an upcoming review of a Miele. Go check out the review if you are in the market or just want...the rest of the story.