This post is a combination of our Neato XV-21 Review and our Roomba vs. Neato XV-21 comparison.
Neato XV-21 vs. Roomba at a Glance
The Neato recharges and cleans much faster than the iRobot Roombas, but the cleaning results leave much to be desired – maybe because the Neato is in such a hurry. The results are not terrible, but they simply cannot compare to the Roombas. The Roombas win in terms of quality and results; they don’t fall down stairs, they almost never get tangled (my 880 actually never did), they don’t chew on cords, and, to be honest, I prefer Virtual Walls or Virtual Lighthouses to Boundary Strips. What’s more, HEPA filtration is very important to me, and that is something the 880 offers that the Neatos do not. Honestly, it baffles me how the Neato XV-21 Pet And Allergy Automatic Vacuum Cleaner is called an Allergy Vacuum and does not come with these filters.
Bottom-line, if you are looking for a great entry-level robot vacuum, even cheaper than the Neato XV-21, we recommend you check out the Roomba 650. Go for the Roomba 770 if you have allergies, and if second best never is an option for you, check out today’s best available automatic vacuum cleaner, the Roomba 880.
If you are interested why we believe you get more for your money going with one of the Roombas in detail, have fun reading our review and comparison. If you have your own experiences with any of these robotic vacuum cleaners, feel free to share them below to help other readers make better decisions.
Our Neato XV-21 review and Roomba vs. Neato XV-21 comparison
iRobot is the market leader and their Roombas have been among the best-tested robot vacuum cleaners for years. They currently are the best selling robot vacuums on Amazon, accompanied by the best overall review ratings, and the 880 even won a Red Dot Design Award. In our experience, they are where they are for many reasons.
If you haven’t read much of my reviews, I’m the proud owner of two Roombas – the iRobot Roomba 650 on the lower level of my home and the Roomba 880 upstairs – and I have to admit that I’m pretty happy with the cleaning quality. My son breathes better because of the HEPA filters in my Roomba 880, which cleans our bedrooms, and we don’t spend nearly as much time cleaning as we used to. We have dogs, too, so pet hair is a common concern. Of course, the kids also play a role in carrying dirt and debris in the house, especially now that it’s warm out.
I’ve reviewed several robotic vacuum cleaners over the last several weeks, and aside from the two I own, I’ve also tried the iRobot Roomba 630, the Roomba 770 Pet Hair Vacuum, and even the remarkable iRobot Roomba 780. I’ve also been lucky enough to check out the Bobsweep PetHair Edition (which was the first robot vacuum that I’ve owned), but I can’t say I was very lucky when it came to the LG HOM-BOT, which looked like a winner on paper, but quite literally got left in the dust in real-life tests. Feel free to click on any of the links above to read my in-depth reviews of those brands and models.
Introducing the Neato XV-21:
A Really Neato Opportunity
I recently had an opportunity to try a couple of offerings from Neato in their XV series of Pet and Allergy Automatic Vacuums, this Neato XV-21 and the Neato XV Signature Pro (make sure to check out my review), which is sold as the XV-21’s follow up model.
I happened upon the first, the Neato XV-21, quite by chance as I was visiting with my next-door neighbor, Pat. Pat is a neat freak, and that is evident by her perfectly manicured and landscaped lawn. We stood on her front porch a few days ago discussing our dying petunias (we both hang petunias from the front porch, and they seem to be dying off regardless of what we do), when I happened to hear a somewhat familiar “whirring” sound coming from her living room. I snuck a peek past her and in through the screen door, only to witness a brand new robotic vacuum cleaner I’ve never seen before.
As you can imagine, this really piqued my interest. The first thing I noticed was its square appearance. According to what I already knew, Neato picked this design because of its advantages in getting closer to walls, sideboards and other furniture than its round designed competitor’s models, like the Roombas, of course. It reminded me a bit of the square LG HOM-BOT, and with my obsession with robotic vacuums, I had to ask questions. I mentioned my fascination with the automatic vacuums and my beloved Roombas to Pat, who told me she has owned an iRobot vacuum in her time, but she prefers the Neato currently in her living room. As we kept up the discussion, she mentioned that the Neato cleans her home in half the time of a Roomba 780 (check out my review about it), which was the model she owned prior to the Neato XV-21 Pet & Allergy model.
Taking the Neato Home
I mean, for anyone else, it is probably odd to come right out and ask someone to borrow his or her automatic vacuum. For me, though, it’s a piece of cake. I pulled up this website and showed her all of my previous reviews, and she actually took the time to read the iRobot Roomba 780 review, claiming that I was right on the money with its operation and features. In fact, I didn’t ask to borrow her Neato at all. She flat out offered. I took her XV-21 into my home and placed it on the charging dock. I had high hopes for this gadget; after all, if it pleased Pat, it had to be good.
My Neato XV-21 Review – Was the Neato Really That Neat-O?
While it charged, I did my customary reading about the Neato series online. Neato Robotics, US based like iRobot, has the Botvac, the Botvac D and the XV series and according to what I found out is the second biggest player on the US market after iRobot.
As far as I understand it, Neato claims to offer the most intelligent robot vacuums currently available. Check out this video:
Because of their AI they are supposed to deliver incomparably effective high end cleaning results using methodical cleaning passes. So this sounds really interesting as I have to admit that the Roombas seem to go around not even knowing what a cleaning pattern is. I also found that the XV-21 had powerful suction, edge-to-edge brushes, huge filters, and a massive bin to collect dirt, hair, and debris – something that is pretty coveted in my house, especially with my shedding dogs, Smokey and Bandit.
After the XV-21 charged, I put it to work. Now, as I understood, the vacuum actually maps the room as it goes, so it would take more than one trip through the house to show its true colors. It did its thing and I didn’t really pay much attention to it the first time around. It seemed to make its way around the house fairly well, but I didn’t notice exceptional results. The second time I let the Neato loose, I paid closer attention to it. First, the Neato charges faster than the Roomba and is ready to roll in no time flat. The second thing I really noticed was that it moved much like I would if I were pushing a manual vacuum cleaner – in a back-and-forth motion. And watching this really made me believe that there is some sort of AI at work in this device. It seems to really know where it’s going, and it doesn’t waste any time at all. I bet it doesn’t go over the same spot twice, which is not exactly what I am used to with my Roombas. But as their cleaning results are very good with the 650 and outstanding with the 880 I wasn’t thinking about how they do their job too much, but this definitely looks like the next level. Neato XV-21 vs. Roomba: Winner Neato
Make sure to check out this video:
The Neato XV-21 vs. Roomba comparison isn’t over yet and looking good is not enough. The result counts, right?
After it returned to the charger, I checked the floors, and what I saw was not exactly what I expected. They weren’t as clean as after my Roombas. The result was okay, I guess, but I am accustomed to better and there actually was debris and a few pet hairs left on the floor. What I expected and what I saw just didn’t match up. I decided to try again just in case it was a fluke.
To find out, I set it loose in another room, which I prepared a little, and watched it go around again. I believe I understand where the not so good cleaning result comes from. The upside of its highly efficient cleaning pattern is speed, and it does the job really, really quickly. I assume it needs less than half of the time my Roombas need in a single room; I haven’t taken time for the whole floor with multiple rooms, though. The downside of its efficiency could be that it doesn’t go over the same spot twice, as far as I can tell. The chaotic looking behavior of the Roombas may not be that inefficient and chaotic after all.
I would guess that because of the way the Roombas are moving around they cover every single spot of the room at least twice, which gives them at least a second (maybe even a third) chance to pick up everything that’s on the floor. The Neato, on the other hand, has to pick it up the first time around, which doesn’t seem to work out. So the Neato looks smarter in its behavior and is definitely faster, but it does not perform as well as my Roombas and it not at all worth the money, in my opinion. Since this is a cleaning and not a beauty contest, my winners are my Roombas. Roomba vs. Neato XV-21: Winner Roomba.
And that’s when things started to go downhill.
I have kids, so electrical cords are just a part of life for me. Whether they are charging their iPads or laptop computers, there’s almost always a cord to something laying across the floor. My Roomba 650 passes right over them without any problem, not to speak of the 880 which doesn’t seem to know that a cord could be picked up at all, but the Neato seemed to want to snack on them. In fact, I was a bit concerned that if I hadn’t been watching, it might have chewed right through the cord. Scary stuff. Roomba vs. Neato XV-21: Winner Roomba.
What’s more, even though I didn’t take the Neato upstairs, it fell down the two steps leading from my living room down into the dining room. The fall was short so nothing was damaged, but if there had been more stairs, I’m afraid Pat would have been very upset with me. It got tangled on my tasseled rugs, too, which is never much of a problem for the Roomba. Finally, it seemed that the Neato had a hard time with certain types of furniture, especially when it came to my kitchen table and the chairs. It bumped into the legs and had difficulty maneuvering around them. Roomba vs. Neato XV-21: Winner Roomba
Neato XV-21 Review – My Summary
- The Neato charges fast – and I mean FAST.
- It cleans pet hair very well, but I am quite sure it is not as good as my Roombas overall.
- The back and forth motion allows it to cover more ground in less time, so it works faster than the Roombas, too. However, since the cleaning results aren’t as good as the Roombas overall, the speed is not really an advantage to me.
I wish there were more pros, to be honest. I attempted to compare the Neato only to the Roomba 650 since they both were put to the same test in the same room, and they are both considered entry-level products, but my Roomba 650 was clearly the better choice. Neato XV-21 vs. Roomba 650: My winner is the Roomba 650. Since the Roomba 880 is even more advanced, I skipped my planned Neato vs. Roomba 880 comparison. There was just no need.
- There is no HEPA filtration in the Neato XV-21 Pet And Allergy Automatic Vacuum Cleaner. I’m not sure how they go about marketing it as an allergy vacuum cleaner, but they do. I know I wouldn’t want this robotic vacuum cleaner upstairs (my son has allergies and sleeps there); after all, once I discovered how much the HEPA filters help, I wasn’t about to go back to a vacuum without them.
- It fell down the stairs, chewed on cords, and got tangled in my rug.
- It beeps – and it’s a loud, ear-piercing, annoying beep – whenever it strays away from its base and cannot find its way home. The Roomba never does this. Ever.
- It’s loud. Definitely louder than my Roomba 880, and the Roomba already isn’t really quiet. Maybe as a result of the mentioned greater suction power, which unfortunately doesn’t result in better cleaning results.
- The quality and workmanship does not seem to reflect the price, but that may be a very personal opinion, as I prefer the round design of the Roombas.
- It does not have Virtual Walls or Virtual Lighthouses like the Roombas; instead, it comes with “Boundary Strips”, which are a bit of a pain. If you don’t know Virtual Walls / Virtual Lighthouses check out this video:
Overall, it just didn’t clean my floors the way I’d hoped. Since it costs more than the Roomba 650, I was sure it would clean better and I really expected to write about Neato vs. Roomba 880. There was a difference in the main parts of the room and when I inspected the corners and the edges of the walls beside the baseboards, there was still pet hair – and plenty of it. For a vacuum supposedly designed to clean these areas better than any other, I was disappointed.
A quick overview of the Roomba 650:
Why I stay with my iRobot Roombas.
iRobot’s Roomba vacuum was born at MIT in an engineering lab. Students there had already built robots designed to diffuse bombs and technology allowing people to remain virtually connected from practically anywhere on planet Earth. The company focuses on the end user of its products, and it vows to continue to develop new technologies and software to make our lives easier. iRobot is a truly 21st century company, and that is evident in the products it offers. They are of the highest quality and workmanship.
iRobot’s customer service is amazing, too. The company is available via telephone and email, and if you prefer live chat, you can find them there, too. Of course, if you are like me and you’d rather try to solve your issues on your own, the extensive FAQ section and videos on the iRobot website are probably all you will need. If something breaks or goes wrong, most of the time all you have to do is contact their friendly customer service team. They’ll send you a replacement part (and you’ll get it fast, too) along with a link to a corresponding tutorial video showing you how to replace it on your own! What other company does that? None that I know of.
Neato’s website isn’t terrible by any means, but it doesn’t come close to iRobot. They offer telephone, email, and live chat support, but from what I understand from reading customer reviews, their agents are a bit slower to understand the caller’s issue. What’s more, repairing your own Neato is pretty much out of the question. If something happens to it, be prepared to send it off for repairs. And based on customer reviews thy over all product quality and durability seem to be in need of improvement.
Neato is the brainchild of Stanford University’s Entrepreneurial Challenge. The company claims that their vacuums are as smart as the people who purchase them thanks to their innovative technology and design. While Neato also claims that their vacuums have the most powerful suction in the robotic vacuum industry, while this may be true on paper, it certainly wasn’t evident in my experience.
Returning Pat’s Neato
I took Pat’s Neato back over a little later that afternoon, and she was anxious to hear about its performance. I had to be honest with her, but I tried to break the news gently. (We are neighbors, after all, and since neither of us plans to move soon, an amicable relationship is a requirement.) I told her that the Neato was indeed neat looking even though not a design I like, but it did not outperform my Roomba 650 by any means. I explained how it had fallen down a couple of stairs, nearly chewed up an electrical cord, and tangled on my rug.
That’s when Pat invited me inside her home for the first time.
Pat’s house is immaculate. She lives alone with her three cats, and there is not a single piece of anything out of place. Pat does not have allergies at all, but her cats do shed quite a bit, and that’s why she invested in the Neato. She says it does a great job of removing the visible cat hair from her carpet, and that’s her main concern. She doesn’t have any rugs; her entire home is carpeted – even the bathroom! What’s more, there aren’t any electrical cords about, and there isn’t a single stair in her house. I suppose the Neato XV-21 is perfect for her, after all, but if she had come to me before buying it, I would have pushed her toward the Roomba 650 as it is the best value out there for the money and it does a better job when it comes to cleaning.
My Final Thoughts
Honestly, I can’t find a real reason to recommend a Neato XV-21 over a Roomba 650. I just can’t. The Neato is flawed in a few ways that the Roomba isn’t, and I wouldn’t trade my Roomba for one, let alone pay more for one. I suppose if you already own one and you don’t have kids, rugs, allergies, stairs, or different types of flooring in your home, it may not make much sense to replace it. But, honestly, not many people fall into all of those categories.
In short, if you want to buy your first robotic vacuum cleaner and you are interested in an entry-level model of some sort, go with the Roomba 650. At this point, I’ve tried the Bobsweep. I’ve tried the LG HOM-BOT. I’ve tried other Roomba models (which are phenomenal, by the way). Now, I’ve tried the Neato XV-21. The Roomba 650 takes the prize every single time due solely to its ability to clean better than anything else I’ve tried on the entry-level. It might take its time a bit when compared to the Neato, but if you ask me, what difference does it make if it takes a little longer to get the job done when the job is automated, anyway?
Have fun, please share your thoughts below this post and come back soon for more reviews.