The Neato vs. Roomba debate gets hotter by the day. The recent release of the D7 Connected by Neato Robotics was a red flag to iRobot. It further fueled the controversy on what’s the best robot vacuum brand considering the unique features it brought on board.
If you are looking for a vacuum cleaner, these two are a great place to do your search. However, settling for either brand is the biggest challenge because you don’t understand much about them.
- A Short Overview of the Brands
- Neato vs. Roomba; A Head-to-Head Brand Comparison
- ROUND 1: DESIGN AND DIMENSIONS
- ROUND 2: CLEANING PERFORMANCE
- ROUND 3: NAVIGATION AND RUNTIME
- ROUND 4: WI-FI, APP CONTROL & 3RD PARTY INTEGRATION
- ROUND 5: COST AND VALUE FOR MONEY
- NEATO VS ROOMBA HEAD-TO-HEAD MODEL COMPARISON
- Buying Guide: Choosing the Right Neato or Roomba
- Wrapping Up
Today we want to separate the wheat from the chaff. We want to find out what the best robot vacuum brand is. We are also examining whether Neato is posing a threat to Roomba’s dominance.
So, our big question today is, has iRobot finally got a worthy competitor in the Botvac Series?
A Short Overview of the Brands
Before we start the primary business of the day, it wouldn’t hurt having a chat around these two robot vacuum brands.
Neato Robotics is the company that manufactures Neato and is the equivalent of iRobot, Roomba’s manufacturer. On the other hand, Roomba Series is the equivalent of Botvac Series. That’s why it’s common to find Roomba vs. Botvac model comparisons.
Established in iRobot Corporation is a Massachusetts based robot vacuum brand that also designs a range of robotic products including military robots. But it is best known for their variety of home cleaning solutions including robot vacuums (Roombas) as well as robot mops (Braava). Regarding success, Roomba is second to none, and it is often argued that 75% of the robot vacuum cleaners in the US are Roombas. That I can’t dispute considering on the premiere of Amazon Prime Day, iRobot sold 14,000 units!
Neato Robotics, on the other hand, is an only robot vacuums brand. Though established in 2005, it was not until 2010 that their first robot vacuum, the Neato XV debuted in the market. The company was not doing so well, especially concerning funding and it took the help of Vorwek, a German company, to awaken the sleeping lion. Neato went ahead and released the D3 Connected, and today, the D7 Connected seems to be the talk of the town. Vorwek took over Neato Robotics in 2017 and from the look of things, it will run its operations independently. But one thing I’m sure of, they have the funding to invest in R&D just like iRobot.
Neato vs. Roomba; A Head-to-Head Brand Comparison
Like earlier mentioned, Neato always has an alternative to any Roomba.
For the budget buyer, Roomba 890 seems a great option, but still, the D5 Connected would do everything the former does. As for the Roomba 960, the high price would make you think twice and go for the D5 Connected.
Whichever model you choose, whether Roomba or Neato, the budget seems quite okay on either side. On average, there is a $50 – $100 difference in price subject to discounts.
But there is one thing that is not the same; features and performance. You want to buy a robot vacuum cleaner that will suit your cleaning needs; that is the elephant in the room. Value for money is crucial when purchasing anything, not just robot vacuum cleaners.
So, what exactly should you look for when buying Neato and Roomba vacuum cleaners? Here are the critical factors to consider when choosing between Roomba and Neato.
In the discussion, we are going to pit several models and see how they compare. We have also nominated the winner in each category. Now, enough said, let’s get down to work.
ROUND 1: DESIGN AND DIMENSIONS
The first thing you will notice about Neato and Roomba is that they offer vacuum cleaners in two shapes.
Roombas come in a round shape whereas Botvac comes in a D-shape. It is unusual for a robot vacuum to have a different shape from the regular round shape.
So, is there anything you need to know about the rare design of Neato? Also, which robot vacuum brand has a shallow profile design?
D-shape vs. Round Shape
If you have used Roombas, you understand that they don’t clean to the very end of the corner. This is for obvious reasons; the edge of the Roomba will arc on the angle, it won’t fit.
This is a common problem with all the robot vacuum cleaners except Neato Botvac. The D-shape allows them to fit in the corners and brush walls in a better fashion than any round vacuum cleaner. Even though the side brush is always there, you are not guaranteed that it will be in the appropriate position to sweep the corner when the Roomba passes there. Candidly speaking, there is zero chance for this.
Shorter robot vs. thinner robot
Another important consideration when assessing the design of Neato and Roombas is the dimensions and particularly the height.
Roombas measure 13.8 x 13.8 x 3.6 inches whereas Botvacs are 12.7 x 3.9 x 13.2 inches. What are the key observations from the dimensions above? As you have seen, Neato is thinner on one side while Roomba has a slightly shorter height. A thin robot, Neato Botvac for that matter will pass between small spaces.
However, it is quite tall and may fail to go under some household stuff. In fact, the LIDAR turret on top of Botvac models makes them snagged quite often. In the case of Roomba, it is much shorter so it will creep under most furniture, but in the downside, it is thicker.
ROUND 2: CLEANING PERFORMANCE
The market is full of lies and deception. Every brand will tell you that their vacuums are the best for several cleaning needs. For them, making a sale is all that matters, not customer satisfaction. However, these two brands have strived to fulfill customer expectations. So, how do they compare as far as cleaning performance is concerned?
The first thing you need to address here is the cleaning priority. Each household has its unique cleaning needs depending on a few factors.
For example, my house has a partial hardwood floor and a carpet. I also have two dogs. When buying a robot vacuum cleaner, I should buy one that can handle hardwood floors, tile, carpet and pet hair as well as bad odor.
One advantage of robot vacuum cleaners is that they have specialized features to suit specific cleaning needs. On the other hand, regular vacuums depend on their suction power to clean. In this segment, we want to compare the cleaning features that these two brands have.
Motor and Suction Power
If you have a carpet, then you want to know what type of motor is used in these two vacuum brands. Maybe you don’t have a carpet, and you want a vacuum that can clean the house with minimal noise, the motor is still where your focus should be.
So, what’s the best motor and why? A Gen 3 motor is the best so far because it is efficient and can run in two modes; low and high. But then, it is noisy when in high mode because of the increased RPMs and airflow as well. If you have a carpet, you want to buy a Gen 3 motor only. However, the Gen 2 motor will still work well but not as effective as a Gen 3 motor.
This is why the Roomba 980 is the best Roomba for carpets. The brushless Gen 3 motor increases power when in Carpet Boost (high mode) to vacuum the deepest parts of the fabric. On the other hand, the Roomba 890 and 960 use a Gen 2 motor which still works fine but on thin carpets only. The older models, Roomba 650 and 690 use a 1st Gen motor. It has a quieter operation but lowers suction power.
For Neato, this is still the same case with the D7 Connected having a Gen 3 motor, Botvac Connected and D5 Connected a Gen 2 motor while the D3 Connected has a 1st Gen motor.
However, it is imperative to note that two same generation motors can have slightly different performance.
For example, the Roomba 980’s Gen 3 motor is somewhat powerful than Neato’s Gen 3 motor. Roomba 980 averages 1500 Pa when in high mode while the latter does 1300Pa. But both will work quite well even on heavy pile carpets. Neato also makes a comeback for having a quieter motor between the two; even in Turbo mode, it is relatively quiet.
Brush and Extractor System
For pet owners as well as those with hardwood floors, you want to be very careful with the type of brush you pick.
Neato and Roomba offer entirely different brush systems, but the performance is almost the same. However, this is not the case for all the cleaning needs.
So, let’s find out what Neato and Roomba offer.
Here, the battle is between dual multi-surface extractors and the spiral combo brush/combo brush. Roomba 890, 960 and 980 come with a tangle free dual multi-surface brush system. This is the latest brush system that has the anti-tangle technology. It performs quite well on hard floors, breaking and picking up dirt.
On the other hand, Neato offers two brush options; a combo brush, and a spiral combo brush. Combos combine rubber blades and bristles while the spiral brush is a combo brush with the blade and bristles aligned spirally. Both brush systems pick up dirt quite well despite their differences
Neato combo brush has some powerful bristles to scrub and remove all the grime from floors. The rubber blades in particular work well on hardwood floors but unfortunately, the bristles are too harsh for delicate hardwood floors. When new, they will scratch and bruise the hardwood floor finish, and in a few days, your floor loses the glare. I wouldn’t recommend Neato combo brush on hardwood floors. But the spiral brush works quite well on hardwood without scratching the floor – the bristles are a bit gentle.
The dual multi-surface extractors, on the other hand, will do an excellent job on all surfaces. On the hardwood, the brush is very gentle and won’t bruise the floor. This is among the reasons that make Roombas the best hardwood floor cleaners. Another advantage, this extractors are ideal for pet hair pick up and won’t tangle. Unfortunately, there are those tough grimes that it will not be able to agitate as effectively as the combo brush would do.
If you are allergic like me, you want a robot that will filter out allergens. But then, there are two types of vacuum cleaner filters; HEPA and HEPA-style.
It is imperative that you buy a filter that is almost 100% efficient, that’s a HEPA filter. This is what Neato and Roomba have used in their robot vacuums. They can filter 99.97% of allergens, ranging from pet dander to pollen.
However, note that HEPA filters won’t guarantee you fresh, breathable air if there is too much dirt in the house or if the ventilation is poor.
Dirt Detect is among the unique features that Roomba beats Neato with. This is a technology that enables the Roomba to know where dirt is concentrated. It goes to the area and switches to Spot mode cleaning all the dirt.
There are two versions of Roomba’s Dirt Detect; Series I and Series II. Thje first version uses acoustic sensors to detect dirt while the second series combines acoustic and optical sensors. This means it is more accurate and advanced. The Roomba 890, 960 and 980 all have this features; Series II.
On the other hand, Neato doesn’t have a feature of the sort. In as much as it is a downside for Neato, the Botvac fans are asking, won’t the vacuum finally reach that area with more dirt? It is just a matter of time and patience, and the entire area will be covered.
ROUND 3: NAVIGATION AND RUNTIME
How does your robot find its way around the house? Where will the robot vacuum reach? For how long will it run on a single charge? All these and more are some of the questions you will also need to ask yourself when buying a robot vacuum cleaner. It is also the case when choosing the best robot brand between Roomba vs. Neato.
iAdapt vs. LaserSmart
The debate on navigation is between Neato’s LaserSmart and Roomba’s iAdapt.
The first difference between the two is that Neato is a SLAM navigation robot whereas Roomba has both SLAM and VSLAM navigation systems.
So, what’s the difference between LaserSmart and iAdapt?
Generally, there are two types of navigation systems; SLAM and VSLAM navigation. Simultaneous Localization & Mapping (SLAM) uses laser beams that are sent from the robot to the walls and back. The robot’s software uses the data to calculate the position of the vacuum cleaner in the room.
On the other hand, Visual Simultaneous Localization & Mapping (VSLAM) combines the sensor data and real-time camera imaging to find the position of the vacuum away from the major landmarks in the house. The additional visual data makes VSLAM navigation the best for high traffic rooms as well as large apartments.
Roomba 800 and older Series have iAdapt 1.0, a SLAM navigation system. It navigates quite well in my two bedroom apartment save for a few times when there is too much clutter on the floors. The cliff and obstacle sensors are very accurate, but still, there is a lot to be desired. This is the same case with Neato’s LaserSmart navigation which is also SLAM.
Please note, many websites describe Neato as a VSLAM navigation thinking the top circular raised part is a camera. No, that’s where the laser beams are flashed; nothing else beyond that. Neato has SLAM navigation which makes Roomba a big deal.
But if you are the type that likes vacuuming at night, you might have to leave the lights on because the camera requires light to function correctly. If energy bills are a concern, go with Neato’s LaserSmart; cheaper and works just like iAdapt 1.0 the Roomba 890 has.
Virtual Walls vs. No-Go Lines
Roomba took the market by storm with their revolutionary infrared boundary marking technology, Virtual Walls. It enabled homeowners set boundaries where the vacuum cleaner was not supposed to pass. Over the years, none of the other brands have challenged Roombas boundary marking technology.
Only Neato has the physical barriers in the D5 Connected Botvac Connected. The D7 Connected has also set new standards as far as border set up is concerned. The new boundary marking feature in the D7 Connected is called No-Go Lines. It enables homeowners to draw boundary lines right from the Smartphone App on a feature known as FloorPlanner. This is much easier and cheaper than using Virtual Walls, Lighthouses, and physical markers.
Roomba vs. Neato Battery Performance
For those with very large floors to clean, you need to be very careful with your Roomba or Neato’s runtime.
Bothy brands have exploited NiMH and Li-ion batteries but none of the vacuums in our list today has a NiMH battery. What we have is Li-ion which lasts longer and still packs quite some powerful performance like NiMH batteries.
But how do Roomba and Neato compare when it comes to battery performance?
Roombas have been known to have poor battery performance until Roomba 980 stepped in. The rest of the vacuums have very short runtimes and very long recharging time.
Neato, on the other hand, has slightly better performance in the lower models and excellent runtime with the high-end models. Besides, Neato vacuums will all resume cleaning from where they left after recharging. This is a notable feature considering only the recent Roombas have this feature.
But how about durability? Yes, Neato’s batteries have the longer runtime, but do they last as long? Candidly speaking, Roomba’s cells have a longer life cycle than Neato batteries. On average, a Roomba battery will last you somewhere between 18 and 24 months. However, for Neato, expect a drained battery after 18 months, but fortunately, they are cheaper and readily available.
But remember Roomba 890 doesn’t have resume function so there are days you might find your house dirty and the Roomba comfortably sitting in its charging base. It ran out of charge, went and recharged but forgot to finish the cleaning.
ROUND 4: WI-FI, APP CONTROL & 3RD PARTY INTEGRATION
In this era of Smart Homes, robot vacuums are among the best Smart house cleaning gadget to buy. Neato and Roomba happen to be the industry leaders as far as connectivity and integration are concerned.
So, how do these two brands rank? What is the best vacuum for Android and Apple users?
WI-FI – 2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz
Neato and Roomba are among the few brands that have Wi-Fi on most of their models. All the models in our review today come with Wi-Fi. However, one important thing you need to understand is that there is a difference in Wi-Fi signal reception.
Neato models tend to have weak signal reception, and this explains the dragged Smartphone operation and also voice control. These are observations made when the Botvac is far from the Wi-Fi router or extender. That said, you don’t want to pick Neato if your house is full of dead spots.
But wait a minute, what if I told you that Neato is the winner? It sounds ridiculous but so far so good it is a possibility. Neato has Wi-Fi signal reception problems, but it is the only brand with 5 GHz Wi-Fi band compatibility. The new model, Neato Botvac D7 supports both 2.4 GHz bands as well as 5 GHz. But how many homes have 5 GHz bands?
iRobot HOME App vs. Neato HOME App
For the average homeowner, Roomba and Neato offer all the standard features you will require. But some models have extra features as we are going to see in the head-to-head comparison.
But I think the most important thing to consider here is wireless updates. A model might miss this feature today, but tomorrow, you can update the HOME App and get the new feature.
I will tell you that Neato is the real deal here. A good example is the Coverage Maps feature, a pretty new technology with Neato that works in the same way as Roomba Clean Maps. Remember, the D3 Connected and D5 Connected didn’t have this feature, but you can now upgrade your Neato and see where it cleaned. This is not something shared with all Roombas.
Voice Control and Integration
But assuming you have a stable connection, how do the two brands compare? Is there one with more features that could be of help to you?
I am glad that cleaners from both brands support voice assistants so if you are using Alexa or Assistant, there’s no worry at all as long as your internet and Wi-Fi connection is stable. However, IFTTT compatibility gives Neato an edge over Roomba. Besides, Neato has the exclusive Neato for Facebook Chat Bot. This is a very active support feature that Roomba can’t match.
ROUND 5: COST AND VALUE FOR MONEY
Roombas have often been criticized for being very expensive. Personally, I agree that Roombas are expensive but then, at the end of the day, the most important thing is value for money.
If you have observed the market, you will realize that except for discounted prices, there is a $100 difference between what Roomba offers and the Neato alternative. It is actually safe to say that iRobot vacuums are more expensive than Neato vacuums. For example, the Roomba 980 has a suggested price of $900 while D7 Connected retails at $800.
NEATO VS ROOMBA HEAD-TO-HEAD MODEL COMPARISON
Now, it’s time we put a few Roomba, and Neato models head on to see how they rank against each other. Like mentioned above, every Roomba has a Botvac alternative. That will be our foundation in this Roomba vs. Neato model comparison.
Roomba 890 vs. D5 Connected – Budget Choices
Roomba 890 retails slightly cheaper than the D5 Connected and has somewhat higher suction power. Like all Roombas, it also has Dirt Detect, in fact, advanced Dirt Detect. This is a feature Neato doesn’t have.
The D5 Connected on the other hand has better connectivity as it works with Alexa as well as IFTTT. It also supports Coverage Maps while the Roomba 980 lacks Clean Maps, the equivalent feature. Another important thing, you can use it in a large apartment as it has a longer runtime than Roomba 890. Besides, Neato comes with resume function, a feature Roomba 890 lacks. The brush is also larger than Roombas.
Roomba 960 vs. Botvac Connected – Midrange Budget Choices
Roomba is still the king as far as navigation is concerned – iAdapt 2.0 VSLAM navigation beats Neato’s LaserSmart SLAM navigation. So, if you have a high traffic room, you want to buy the 960. The signal reception is also better in Roombas than Botvacs, but then this is only a concern if you have an unstable connection. Another thing, Virtual Walls in Roomba 960 work far much better and easier to set than the physical markers Botvac Connected has.
However, Neato is my choice here for several crucial reasons. First, it has a much-advanced motor that runs on two modes; Eco and Turbo. Of importance here is the Turbo mode which comes in handy on carpets and rugs – it works like Roomba’s Carpet Boost. But mind you, the Roomba 960 doesn’t have this feature so, to Neato, this was a job well done. Neato also has a longer runtime which is also a points-earner though they may all have resume function. For homeowners with large apartments, Botvac Connected is the best.
Roomba 980 vs. D7 Connected – High-End Models
This is where the real battle is and features the latest models of the best robot vacuum, brands. The Roomba 980 has dominated the scene, but Neato cut the celebrations suddenly with the release of the D7 Connected. But is it a worthy competitor of Roomba 980?
You may want to stick with the Roomba 980 for several reasons. It is ideal for high traffic rooms courtesy of the new VSLAM navigation while D7 Connected has SLAM navigation. Another thing, iRobot develops better motors. This is evident from the slightly higher suction power in Roombas. The Dirt detection technology in Roombas is also a plus, in fact, a unique feature Neato doesn’t offer. But then, all these come at a high price tag; $900 to be precise.
On the other hand, the D7 Connected is an affordable choice; you save around $100 when you compare it to Roomba 980. The first thing you will want Neato D7 for is No-Go Lines. It is easy to set up and requires no devices like Roomba’s Virtual Walls and Lighthouses. The D7 Connected also works with 5 GHz Wi-Fi bands and is compatible with IFTTT giving you more Smart power. Lastly, it has a longer runtime than Roomba 980, so it is best suitable for large apartments.
Buying Guide: Choosing the Right Neato or Roomba
We are almost coming to the end of this Neato vs. Roomba comparison review. But before we wind up, let’s have a little chat about buying Neato and Roomba vacuums. Like earlier mentioned, there are different vacuums designed for various cleaning needs. We now look at the best Roomba and Neato models for a variety of household cleaning needs.
If you have a hardwood, tile, linoleum or even vinyl floor, any robot vacuum cleaner will surely do the job. This is if the brush system is up to the task. For our case, Roomba and Neato have some of the best brush systems in the market so any model will surely work on hard floors. But as a word of caution, avoid these tough bristles on hardwood floors – they scratch and bruise the smooth finish.
Roomba 890 and D5 Connected are great options here because they are cheap.
A lot of carpet owners complain that their robots are not cleaning carpets thoroughly. Unlike floors, rugs require specialized cleaning, and that’s why you need to be careful when buying a robot vacuum for your carpet. Here, there are only two robot vacuums that are ready for the task; Roomba 980 and D7 Connected. Roomba 980 comes with Carpet boost, a high power mode that increases suction power on carpets. D7 Connected also has a high power mode called Turbo that works the same was like Carpet Boost.
So, if you have carpets, these two will offer you value for money.
This is also an area where both Neato and Roomba excel. Both brands offer quite some great performance on pet hair as well as allergens. But I am more inclined to go for Roombas because of their anti-tangle brushes. When it comes to allergens and odor, both brands use Ultra performance HEPA filters so you can be sure of free, breathable air despite dirt like dog urine, dander, skin flakes among others.
Roomba 890 is a good option because it is cheaper.
High traffic rooms
Neato and Roombas are not invincible, and from time to time, they may get stuck depending on the traffic of your house. For those with many pieces of furniture, the Roomba is the best, no debate about that. But make sure you get either of the Roomba 900 Series – the 960 or 980 as they are the only ones with iAdapt 2.0 VSLAM navigation.
Large apartments mean more cleaning area. That said, you want a vacuum cleaner that can finish the job on one full charge.
Neato wins the battle here because their vacuum cleaners have a longer runtime.
The D7 Connected can clean up to 5000 Sq. Ft on a full charge. The D5 Connected and Botvac Connected can do over 4,000 Sq. Ft. If you decide to go with Roomba, only the Roomba 980 passes the test. It can do well over 100 minutes, amounting to around 4,000 Sq. Ft.
For homeowners like me, I have to look for something that can do all the cleaning. I have a two bedroom apartment, with partial hardwood and tile as well as a carpet we use in winter. We also have pets, so pet hair and allergies are a concern too.
In that case, Roomba 980 is the best choice because it meets the threshold of an all-around robot vacuum cleaner.
AeroForce 3 stage cleaning system offers the best all-around cleaning performance; from hard floors to carpets and pet messes. It is worthy to note that even though Neato has these features too, Roomba’s new navigation makes the difference. A Roomba will work in high traffic rooms without any problem, unlike Botvac cleaners.
Neato may not have finally dethroned Roomba because of one thing only; the navigation system.
I also expect Neato to come up with a dirt detection system however much it may seem useless. Like earlier said, you’d rather have it and not need it. Now that Vorwek has taken over things at Neato Robotics expect some significant shifts when it comes to Neato Robotics innovations. The next model must fix the navigation flaws, and once they move to VSLAM navigation, Roombas will have been outshone.
However, for now, Roombas still rock!