The Neato vs Roomba debate has heated up with the popularity of robotic vacuums increasing rapidly. Arguably the two best brands on the market, we will review them head to head.
First a little bit about the two companies…
Roomba: The company behind the Roomba – iRobot – originally had its start creating robotic solutions to bomb disposal in the early 1990s. Since then, the company has expanded to included a wide range of both defense industry and domestic product offerings. Their robots range from rugged military devices to automatic pool cleaners as well as vacuums. Here at All Home Robotics we track the domestic offerings from the company.
Neato: Neato Robotics is a much smaller company than iRobot, but draws from the Silicon Valley expertise of technologists and engineers specifically dedicated to robotic vacuums. Founded in 2010, Neato Robotics has released a number of generations of their best selling Neato vacuum already. What Neato Robotics lacks in size, it makes up for in focus and technology implementation.
For the purposes of this comparison we will be using the latest models of each line. While Neato Robotics has since released a “signature series” the last major version is still XV-21 and we will compare that to the 700 series vacuums from iRobot.
Neato XV-21 vs Roomba 700 Series
To compare these two brands side by side, we will break it down by the following categories: Design, Cleaning Technology, Charging, Maintenance, Accessories, and Price.
Both the Neato and the Roomba pride themselves on a sleek modern design. It kind of goes with the territory when you are a robotic vacuum cleaner. What really matters is the functionality of the design. Here is where the two vacuums contrast.
Both robots are about the same size, a sensitive touch bumper around the front and two steering wheels on the underbelly. However, there are some important distinctions between the two devices.
Neato: The Neato XV-21 has a square front with a rounded back (see pictures above). This helps it round corners more effectively and sets this little machine apart from its competitors. In terms of the “curb appeal” the Neato appears to be constructed with some cheaper plastic; whereas the Roomba is a more industrial finish.
The XV-21 model comes standard with a large dust bin, larger than the Roomba 700 and even slightly larger than the 800 series cleaners. In fact, the Neato has the industry leading largest dust compartment for robotic vacuums.
The Neato is about 4 inches tall which can get stuck under some low hanging furniture.
Roomba: One of the complaints about the Roomba is that the circular design provides less cornering ability than the Neato. Still, the Roomba has a sleek modern design with a relatively small footprint. The outer finish comes in two shades of gray that mitigate any visible scratching to device.
One of the biggest draws for the Roomba 700 and 800 series is the significantly quieter motor and relatively advanced touch screen controls. This is where the Roomba stands out as a more “polished” machine.
One of the advantages of the circular design of the Roomba is that it can switch directions on a dime while the Neato has to turn itself to face front (a slight time waster).
Another small bonus is that with a height of 3 only 3 inches, the Roomba can get under more varieties of furniture than the Neato.
Winner? It is pretty close. But, in this category, the Neato features a more functional design. While the quick direction changes with the circular Roomba design and the low clearance are nice, the lack of dusty corners from the Neato’s horizontal back is more useful. If you have to go back with the dust buster to get the corners, that takes time and effort. Similarly, a larger dust bin simply means less work for you. One point Neato.
This is the most important test of a robotic vacuum. How well does the technology work? Behind all the frills, this is the ultimate test of a good device. Thankfully, both the Neato and the Roomba are market leaders when it comes to the latest technology. Unfortunately, this also makes it difficult to compare them.
Neato: The Neato has the best suction of any robotic vacuum on the market. Including the Roomba. This powerful suction easily sets the Neato a part as the industry leader. The rotating silicone brush also means less cleaning for the user. Because of the set-up, pet har, dander, and dust does not clog up the cleaning mechanism easily.
Perhaps the only downside to the Neato cleaning technology is the noise it makes. It is significantly louder than the Roomba and similar machines.
Roomba: While the Roomba may not have the suction of the Neato, it does try to make up for it in different ways. If the Neato has the best suction, the Roomba is a close second. The Persistent Passing technology makes up for the less powerful suction, imitating the method traditional vacuums (and vacuumers) employ by passing over sections repeatedly to ensure they are cleaned. Update: The new Roomba 800 series makes some good strides with the new AeroForce patented cleaning system. It’s about 50% better at picking up debris than the 700 series models. Although we haven’t had a way to definitively prove this, we have seen a noticeable improvement.
While the Roomba makes up for the Neato’s power suction advantage in many ways, the Neato still wins this category, especially with the unveiling of the newer models. Of course, this is a hotly debated subject and it could easily change with the upcoming models. For now, suction is what counts. One point Neato.
This might not be the first feature that springs to mind when considering a robotic vacuum. From the perspective of a long time user (Yours Truly) it has become one of the most important specs I look at. Not all home robots have auto-scheduling. Thankfully, both the Neato and the Roomba have the ability to do automatic scheduling, but they are by no means equal to the task.
Neato: The Neato offers a paltry 15 minute interval presets. Meaning you can set it to 12:00, 12:15, 12:30, 12:45, 1:00. This is probably sufficient for most users; however, when compared with the Roomba it seems like an unnecessary limitation.
Roomba: The Roomba allows complete freedom to schedule any times that you like. Because of this, Roomba sweeps this category. One point Roomba.
Just like with any other remote appliance, battery life can make or break an otherwise good systems. Similarly, robot vacuums with longer battery life are obviously more desirable assuming all other things are equal.
Neato: The Neato is able to find its power “dock” automatically which in theory means owners do not need to worry about recharging their device. However, navigating to the dock is a skill in and of itself. The Neato can get stuck when it attempts to navigate to the dock which can be a huge inconvenience. When it does find the dock, the process is actually quicker than the Roomba (but this can be small comfort if your Neato gets stuck frequently).
Roomba: While the Roomba takes longer to dock itself, it has much better path finding ability. The Roomba will always find he dock because it uses a “virtual lighthouse” that constantly communicates with the Roomba to help it problem-solve and find the best path. This provides peace of mind, which is a nice bonus. One point Roomba.
Maintaining a robotic vacuum ideally should not be difficult. A device smart enough to clean your house should be smart enough to take of itself, right?
Neato: The larger dust bin on the Neato immediately gives it a headstart in the Roomba vs Neato head-to-head test. However, the Neato is especially problematic if the bin starts to reach capacity. It will proceed to spread dark streaks around your carpet. This is counter-productive to say the least. Strangely enough, the larger bin does not mean you have to empty it less frequently. In my experience, you still have to empty it about once per week (on average).
Another problem with the Neato is that you will probably end up having to clean the sensors every 8-10 uses because they can become blocked by dust particles.
Roomba: The new AreoVac dust bin on the 700 series is actually not too shabby. With steady daily use, you probably won’t have to clean out the bin more than once per week…even with the smaller bin. This is probably due to superior technology; however, the explanation is far from clear.
With the Virtual Lighthouse, you will never need to touch your Roomba (except to change the bin). Both the Lighthouse and the Roomba turn on automatically per the schedule you set.
For whatever reason – probably better engineering and quality control – the Roomba is generally more reliable than the Neato. The Neato is no chump, but it just can’t quite keep up with the Roomba in this area. One point Roomba.
Both the Neato and the Roomba come standard with a few similar accessories. Namely, they both come with a home dock and and the assorted user guides needed to get you familiarized with your device.
Neato: The Neato comes with magnetic marker strips to delineate “no-go” zones in your house. The neato also comes standard with two replacment brushes.
Roomba: The Roomba comes standard with one Virtual Wall (Lighthouse). It emits an invisible beam that tells the Roomba not to clean certain areas (you can order additional Virtual Wall’s if you need them). The beam can cover up to fourteen feet of open space. Thankfully, the can be autoset to start up automatically when the Roomba starts so you can keep them in place. The Roomba also comes standard with three replacement filters. The Virtual Wall alone makes the Roomba the clear favorite. One point Roomba.
Let’s not beat around the bush; price is frequently the determining factor.
Neato: The latest Neato XV-21 retails for $499. However, on you can get a savings of over %160 by ordering through this listing on Amazon. That brings the tag price down to roughly $335 with FREE shipping included.
Roomba: The Roomba 760, 770, 780, and 790 are progressively scaled up with slightly better features. The latest 790 can retail for up to $650, which is a hefty price tag for most. The 780 usually goes for about $570-600, however you can find it for $570 on Amazon. The lower base model 760 can he had for roughly $435 on Amazon. More recently, Roomba has introduced the 800 series which makes a number of improvements, including a noticeably more powerful cleaning suction technology. You can now find the Roomba 880 on Amazon, as it has previously proven hard to find.
On price alone, the Neato is the clear winner. If you are on a budget but desperate for a good robotic vacuum, it’s a safe bet. One point Neato.
Put simply, the Roomba is a better device when compared head to head. It is a close one, but the Roomba wins the head-to-head comparison 4-3.
UPDATE: Roomba 800 Series vs Botvac
With the release of the next generation of robot vacuums from both companies, I wanted to update this page with my evaluation.
Both the Roomba 880 and 870 have some nice improvements over the 700 series. While none of the improvements are ground-breaking or game-changing, they certainly were enough to make me upgrade to the Roomba 880. For starters, it is up to 5x more effective at picking up debris than the 700 series vacuums and has a 60% larger dust bin to go along with it.
The Neato Botvac series also has some improvements. Namely, a 50 percent bigger brush, a larger dust bin, and an enhanced filter. Overall – however – the improvements are not as impressive as the Roomba 800 series. I think the release of the Botvac series had more to do with a “rebranding” effort. Still, the improvements are nice and the core technology is still very comparable to the Roomba.
Bottom line: the improvements in both new generations do not fundamentally change my evaluation. I still give Roomba the slight edge.
You can read our head to head comparison of the Botvac 80 vs Roomba 880 here.
Where to Buy
It can be incredibly difficult to find the Neato or Roomba models in retail stores. Whether you go with the Neato or Roomba, you will find the best prices online. I have purchased both my Neato XV-21 and my Roomba 770 and 880 online. You can find almost all of the latest Roomba versions (and a number of the 600 and 500 series) over at Amazon.com. Similarly, you can find the Neato XV-21 at Amazon for about $320. Thankfully, both can qualify for free shipping.