We always get a little bit excited when we review robot vacuum cleaners. There's just something about using a device that can scurry around under its own steam that sets the geeky senses tingling. The latest to pass through our labs is the Neato XV-15, and it's the best yet.
To look at, there's little to set the Neato apart from other robot vacuum cleaners. With a width of 330mm and height of 100mm, it's a bit shorter and narrower than the Samsung Navibot SR8855, and less stylish too, but there's not much to set it apart from the iRobot Roomba 520.
One thing that does separate the Neato from both these models is that it's not entirely round. While the Roomba and Navibot use a centrally positioned main rotor, then tease dirt in from edges via a long bristled brush, the Neato uses a only its main rotor, which is mounted right at the front. As such it has a squared-off front edge to accommodate this. In practical terms this doesn't make it any larger than the competition though.
The XV-15 may look a little bland, its dark grey plastic body only broken up by the odd utilitarian looking red flash – in fact, it's rather reminiscent of the Lenovo ThinkPad range of laptops – but this is after all a household appliance so its simple rugged styling is a welcome protection against looking tatty once it has got a bit dirty and taken a few knocks. Besides which, you may want a Dyson because you want something that looks nice while you're using it, but the whole point of a robot vac is it does its thing without you watching, so it doesn't matter what it looks like.
As well as the rotor, the front edge accommodates a bumper. This is used as a last resort to stop the cleaner from knocking too heavily into your precious antique furniture. Helping to prevent such a collision even happening is the laser scanner that sits in a little tower on the top. In front of this is the rugged dirt collector, which is easy to remove without spillage and incorporates a replaceable filter (four for around £20) for keeping suction at its best. It's also clear so you can easily see when it's full or spy any bits that should be rescued before binning.
Powering the cleaner along are two chunky notched rubber wheels mounted on sprung arms. These enable it to easily traverse most floor types and transitions, so no matter how varied your floor surfaces the XV-15 should be able to cover the lot.
Also in the box you get a docking station, which consists of a housing for the power supply into which are set two large metal contacts. These are what the robot butts up to when docked to keep it charged.