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Neato XV-21 Pet and Allergy Automatic Vacuum Review

Home Test of Neato XV-21 Robot Vacuum

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Neato XV-21 Pet and Allergy Automatic Vacuum Review

Neato XV-21 Pet & Allergy Automatic Vacuum

Photo © Neato Robotics Inc
A robot to vacuum when you don't have time nor feel like it, can be pretty handy if you like a clean home. But, it must do a good job to justify the expense and not all robotic vacuums work efficiently. So, on with taking Neato XV-21 for a test drive.

Product Despcription

    Neato XV-21™ Pet and Allergy Vacuum made by Neato Robotics Inc, includes vacuum, charging base, boundary markers, charging cable, 2 brushes, 1 filter
  • Specially designed for pet owners and allergy sufferers
  • Works on all floor types
  • Full-display LCD screen
  • Methodical cleaning
  • Easy to use by pressing start, selecting spot cleaning or programming a cleaning schedule
  • Automatically adjusts between hard and carpeted floors
  • Charges automatically; returns to charging base when done
  • Large dirt bin - about 3/4 of a quart
  • Obstacle avoidance sensors
  • Smart Path cleaning, planning using the laser map
  • Designed as a true vacuum with a beater brush
  • Strong suction; increased airflow (from previous model)
  • Picks up dirt, debris, the toughest pet hair
  • Allergy filter retains more than three times the amount of fine dust particles of standard filters
  • Includes Pet & Allergy Brush and Filter
  • Bristled brush improves the pick-up of pet hair, dander and fibers
  • Learn more from the manufacturer
  • 1 Year limited warranty
  • MSRP $429.99

How Neato XV-21 Performed

Neato XV-21 Pet & Allergy Automatic Vacuum

Photo © Neato Robotics Inc
June 11, 2012
It was fairly easy to get familiar with the Neato LCD display and to program the vacuum. Just watch the 12 or 24-hour clock set up that runs the scheduling time, if you don't want to be awakened by an eager vacuum during the night. If you just want cleaning on demand, you simply hit the start button to wake up the machine and again to get it going. It couldn't be simpler.

We tried the spot cleaning, but since that's limited to a 4' x 6' space, a scheduled cleaning every day takes care of most crumbs, lint, dust, hair, allergens and best meets our lifestyle. We could still get a full cleaning again on-demand (hit start twice) should we need it or if transferring the vacuum to another level or room.

We positioned the base on the main floor, allowing some wall space on each side and that worked well. The vacuum itself is roughly 13" x 15" but with the base, you need a 15" x 15" block of floor space. And it doesn't work well to try and hide it under something. This is not a cave dweller; it likes a visible home base. Though it appeared confused at times when returning to its base, even stopping occasionally to mull things over when coming from the other end of the house, it never failed to return and properly connect.

Our floor plan is anything but typical and not robot vacuum friendly, semi-open with adjoining rooms and hallway. Steps by the way were no problem; the vacuum sensed the drop and turned away every time. We did clear its path to some degree when time allowed. This just makes sense, since energy wasted by Neato trying to disentangle from cords and so on, means less run time.

Speaking of run time, that's excellent. Neato took an hour or more to vacuum the main floor and only twice halted to recharge and then resumed without prompting. Cleaning seems very planned, the way it scouts around, then starts row by row in the first section, moving on as needed to the next area. Definitely more focused than I am sometimes (vacuuming). Recharge time is very reasonable. We didn't find the magnetic strip very useful. It mostly tried to go over and pushed it around. I found it easier to just place a chair/obstacle there, or close a door.

As for performance, I have to say that it wasn't love at first clean, since I'd occasionally find specs that it missed. I know this may sound crazy, but Neato seemed to clean better, the more familiar it got with the space. It now seems less confused and more focused after a few days of cleaning, though it still occasionally misses something near furniture and I'm sure it missed an adjoining room a couple of times. Its obstacle sensors might be too sensitive, causing it to turn and vacuum a couple of inches alongside furniture, missing the odd spec there. That said, I still found it extremely handy even with the odd miss.

Being able to get the main living areas vacuumed every day (scheduled) without lifting a finger - except to empty the bin - is a big help. It also does not bump into furniture; more of a nudge and most of the time, just turns when it gets close to obstacles, without touching. Low pile entrance mats were no problem. My hubby loves working wood and that means there's usually some sawdust around, especially on the mats. Neato kept them clean.

The main floor is all hard surfaces but the basement is berber-style carpeting. It didn't seem to mind either way, but motored slightly slower of course, on carpets. How much it picked up in the bin while vacuuming carpets was amazing. As for operating noise, you can certainly hear it but it's reasonable vacuum-wise. I've heard much noisier (regular) vacuums. There are no pets in this home but lots of allergies, so keeping allergens at bay is important.

Overall Impression

Things that impressed me the most about Neato: The smarter cleaning strategy, stronger suction than expected (just look in the bin), the way it transitions around obstacles and its ability to back out of tight places and free itself. Love the allergy filter and the size of the dirt bin.

But, appalled at the stuff in that dirt bin after just a couple of cleanings. Where did all that dust, hair, dirt come from? I can understand the haul from under the bed - there are bunny conventions there, but the main living area? And it's not even going under/behind furniture. So every time I started pondering if an automatic vacuum was really necessary or practical given that I would also want to keep a regular vacuum on hand, I just needed to look into that dirt bin. And I've been shocked every time I look in that bin, especially when Neato did the same route the day before and there's only two of us.

As for cleaning efficiency, Neato has the best suction I've seen in an automatic vacuum and the brush really helps with hair pick-up. It cleaned efficiently most of the time. There were some noticeable small specs that were missed and it occasionally returned to a previously cleaned area (to get more?). It was not able to pick up the dirt just below the edge of the recliner, or navigate in between some chair legs or in tight spaces, which is rather typical of robotic vacuums. Only twice did we have to help when it got stuck in odd places.

Overall, you still can't beat the convenience of hands-off scheduled cleaning or starting it as you leave the home, to return to a mostly vacuumed spaced. In my opinion, Neato or any automatic vacuum will not totally replace a regular vacuum. I would still use one for those tight spaces and under/behind furniture, for stairs and crevices. That said, one place that a robotic vacuum does a better job than a regular vacuum, is under the bed and Neato did a great job there.

A robot vacuum can certainly free you from vacuuming or sweeping for several days in between routine cleanings, when you have better things to do, or you're rushing to get ready for company. Neato did allow me to do other essential tasks during the testing phase so I didn't have to vacuum for several days and that was very helpful. So it did prove its worth during testing.

As for price, Neato is comparable to some other robotic vacuums and reasonable considering the technology. Replacement parts unfortunately seem a bit pricey and you should get extra filters if purchasing one. A good question to ask yourself when justifying the expense of an automatic vacuum is: What's your time worth?

As far as vacuuming strategy goes, it actually did a better job than many would do, because it took its time to stay the course. With our busy lifestyles, we often tend to run the vacuum around quickly and that's not really good. Vacuuming slower is better; you pick up more. Neato took an hour or more to vacuum the main areas - more than I would take for that space. The proof was in the dirt bin!

About the Company and Related Resources

Neato XV-21 Pet & Allergy Automatic Vacuum

Photo © Neato Robotics Inc
Neato Robotics, Inc is based in California’s Silicon Valley. That certainly doesn't surprise me since the area seems to be a hub for computer specialists and electronic advancements.

And Neato Robotics, Inc is on a mission - to replace homemakers with robots (that's my take) - but certainly in the best way possible. That is, to make the smartest automatic vacuum - one that can do the work for us, so we can do more enjoyable things.

According to Neato, their "engineers and scientists dream big and innovate tirelessly with the promise of making all of our lives clean and simple." I like that, so keep dreaming big. We can all use a helping hand.

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