- Efficient room coverage
- Good dirt pick up
- Good edge and object tracking
- Easy to use
- Leaves 1in unclean border
- Only so powerful
- Still can't clean whole house
- Review Price: £330.00
- Full room scanning
- Automatic scheduled vacuuming
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.
The Neato XV-15 is fairly limited when it comes to controls. As well as the large Start/Stop button you get just four buttons (Up, Down, Back and Select) for navigating the fairly limited menu, and there’s no remote either. You can change the language, set the time, choose a schedule or set the robot to spot clean, and that’s it. Otherwise you just press the Start button and it goes off and does its own thing. The buttons aren’t the most easy to use but as the whole system is so basic it didn’t cause any head scratching – or robot kicking for that matter.
If there’s a particularly grubby spot or you’ve split something (dry) the spot clean mode can be used. Just place the robot over the dirt and it will give an area of about a metre in diameter around its starting position a thorough going over.
The real trick of this device, though, is setting it to do its own thing, navigating its way round your house of its own accord. You can either do this by just pressing the Start button or you can schedule it to do this at any time of day, or particular day of the week – a couple of times a week while you’re away at work is enough to really take the strain off from everyday vacuuming. This is all the more true as the Neato XV-15 is by far the most accomplished little navigator we’ve encountered.
When we reviewed the Samsung Navibot SR8855 we were very impressed by its ability to map the layout of a room and clean the whole area, efficiently zigzagging up and down before moving onto the next room. It could even return to its base station for a charge mid-clean, returning to the spot it left off to finish the job, even if the base station was several rooms away and out of sight. However, it wasn’t very good at getting into corners or navigating round obstacles – it just bounced off them and ended up missing our large chunks of floor.
Meanwhile the iRobot Roomba 520 was utterly useless when it came to navigation, employing a tactic of essentially moving randomly until by sheer brute force persistence it eventually covered what it vaguely thought was the whole area. It didn’t track where it was going, and couldn’t return to its base station if out of sight. However, it did have very good edge tracking and was good at persistently poking into nooks and crannies.
The Neato XV-15 combines the best of both these machines.
It quickly scans the layout of a room, then sets of cleaning all the way round the edge before efficiently zigzagging across the bulk of the room. If it encounters an object like a table leg or coffee table it will very closely track round it before heading off again in the direction it was going. Once it has finished a room it will then move onto the next one, and so on until it has finished or run out of battery, in which case it will return to its base station up to two times to recharge and finish the job.
Stairs are automatically detected and the three metres of magnetic strip included in the box can be used to stop the robot crossing a certain threshold. You can cut the strip into as many lengths as you like; about three metres’ length is included in the box.
We tested the Neato XV-15 both in our office and at home and it performed quite flawlessly when it came to navigation. However, it wasn’t without issue.
Due to its lack of a long brustled brush to get right into the corners it consistently left a gap of about an inch around an object. This is still sufficient to maintain a mostly-clean carpet throughout the week, allowing you to just have a whip round the corners at the weekend. However, it does highlight how such robot vacuum cleaners still aren’t really a replacement for manual ones, a point we’ll return to shortly.
Another problem is the rotor, which uses rubber strips rather than bristles. This is fine for most floor surfaces when it comes to picking up loose dirt but it doesn’t really agitate the surface of carpet to prize out more stubborn dirt, though in fairness none of these robot vacs are really powerful enough to pick everything up. Our other concern about using rubber, though, is that it could get frayed and torn by rough floor surfaces, potentially shortening the life of the product.
The Neato XV-15 is also a surprisingly noisy machine. It really does sound quite jet engine like with the whooshing noise it creates. Though we don’t test sound levels, we’re quite sure this was considerably higher than other robot vacs we’ve tested.
Nonetheless, we’re overall very impressed by the Neato XV-15, and it is by far the best robot vac we’ve yet tested. It picked up a decent amount of dirt and was a cinch to empty when full. In fact our only real concerns would be down to the whole idea of having such a device.
Not only will you also need a manual vacuum for other jobs round the house but you’ll need to think of where you’re going to be able to conveniently position the vac and its dock so that it’s neither in the way all the time or so out the way that you need to reposition it every time you want to use it. Costing around £320, it’s a lot of money for a bit of convenience.
The Neato XV-15 is the best robot vacuum cleaner we’ve ever tested and is reasonably competitively priced. So if you have a sufficiently flat and open plan house, it’s a great convenience tool. However, you will still need a manual vac to finish off the details, so its still an expensive luxury rather than a revolution in household maintenance.
Score in detail
Build Quality 8
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