Walking around a room while dragging an air-sucking vacuum machine really isn’t that fun. What is fun is owning a robot that does all the vacuuming for you. I think most people are familiar with the Roomba by now, but there’s a new competitor vacuuming people’s attention – Neato Robotics. Will Neato Robotics out clean the iRobot Roomba? To compare the two I’m going to look at the best robotic vacuums (or robovacs) by each brand, including the iRobot Roomba 880 and Neato Botvac D85.

To start, let us take a closer look at the design and shape of these two robot vacuums.

Design

In most reviews design has little impact, but when it comes to robotic vacuums design has a lot to do with performance. Robovacs are expected to clean under beds and tables, in the dark, and even in tight spaces.

Roomba 880: Round shaped; 13.9inches diameter; 3.6 inches high; weighs 8.4 lbs.

Two views of the iRobot Roomba 880 robot vacuum (Image Credit: Amazon)

Two views of the iRobot Roomba 880 robot vacuum (Image Credit: Amazon)

Botvac D85: D-shaped; 12.7 inches in length x 13.2 inches in width x 3.9 inches in height; weighs 9 lbs.

Various views of the Neato Botvac D85 robot vacuum. (Image Credit: Neato Robotics)

Various views of the Neato Botvac D85 robot vacuum. (Image Credit: Neato Robotics)

The Roomba is round while Botvac is more D-shaped.  As such, the Roomba’s round design allows it to easily maneuver around the room, but the Botvac’s D-shape lets it clean walls and edges with ease. To have a large brush for effective cleaning, round robovacs usually have their brush placed somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, it makes the actual vacuum force far from walls, let alone corners. Thankfully, the D-shaped robovac allows a large brush to fit in without keeping it far from walls. In the end, the design is definitely a win for the Botvac 880’s D-Shape with CornerClever™ design.

Navigation

Think of your home as a large obstacle course scattered with furniture, appliances, precious vases, and people. Robovacs face the challenge of moving around a house with all these obstacles using just mere algorithms.  Both the Roomba and Botvac have their own ways of navigating efficiently around your house.  The Roomba calls it iAdapt® Responsive Navigation Technology while the Botvac’s is called LaserSmart™ Mapping and Navigation System.  It is important to note that navigation not only affects the speed of a robovac, but also the amount of space it can cover.

Roomba’s iAdapt® Responsive Navigation Technology lets the robot vacuum perform many tasks:

  • Locate Dirt and Debris using optical and acoustic sensors. This allows Roomba to hunt down dirt in the open or even under a couch.
  • Thoroughly clean hard-to-remove dirt. It senses areas with excessive dirt, and that’s where it applies its Persistent Pass Cleaning Method. It is a back-and-forth pattern directly on the dirty area, just like what you would do on a manual vacuum cleaner.
  • Follow walls for a thorough clean. It uses the side sweeper to sweep through corners.
  • Avoid getting tangled by spitting out carpet fringes and cords that can possibly cause entanglement.
  • Avoid stairs and cliffs using sensors.
  • Softly bump through furniture, wall and breakables like vases.
  • Determine a soft obstacle from hard ones. It knows the difference between solid barriers such as walls from soft ones like curtains, bed skirts, and couch skirts. It passes through them and cleans thoroughly under beds, couch, and tables.

That being said, LaserSmart™ Mapping and Navigation from the Botvac is wiser in my opinion. Before going into action, the technology uses laser sensors to scan and map out the house. It allows the vacuum to plan for a methodical and thorough cleaning, so it can to do its job as quickly as possible. It can even move from one room to another without missing a spot.  Furthermore, it knows where it is and remembers where it has already been. It automatically goes back to its charging station when the battery is low, and then it comes back to the exact same location where it left off before charging, in order to continue the cleaning. Now that’s smart. In addition, the Botvac knows how to avoid a cliff, and only softly touch objects to avoid breaking them. The only thing is, unlike Roomba, it has a tendency to suck up fringes and cords that may cause entanglement and cannot be determined soft obstacles.

From a mere performance standpoint, the Botvac is better. With the ability to clean systematically, it does the job faster and more efficiently. In the case of Roomba, it also does a good job, especially in ensuring that the robovac steers clear of trouble while navigating around the room while cleaning.

Brush and Vacuuming

However, none of the above matters so far if the vacuum can’t actually perform its main task – cleaning. The type of brush used and the technology employed usually determine a robovac’s cleaning performance and even its noise level.

The Botvac D85 uses a new kind of brush with spiral blades. These are precision blades that do well in removing pet and human hairs from carpet. The Botvac also comes with a combination brush. The combination brush makes vacuuming quieter, yet still effective. On top of that, Neato employed their trademark SpinFlow Power Clean system to increase the efficiency of the Botvac by using a combination of precision brushes and powerful suction. Hardwood, tile, or carpet, the Botvac cleans them all, and it cleans quietly.

The Roomba, on the other hand, does not use brushes (except for the side sweepers). Instead of a pair of brushes as extractors, it uses two rubber treads counter-rotating with each other. These are called Aero-Force Extractors™. The counter-rotating flow prevents it from getting tangled up and the rubber effectively grabs dirt and debris. It also employs something called Airflow Accelerator to increase the vacuum force right from the floor surface. On top of that, the Roomba has a high-powered vacuum motor that provides better air power. It sucks in pet hairs, dirt, and debris easily and efficiently.

Ultimately, the Roomba performs better in this category and iRobot’s brush-less design makes it easier to keep the vacuum clean. Though it is noisier than the Botvac, a cleaner house is worth the sacrifice in my opinion.

How Often Do They Clean?

The short answer is – that depends on your preferences. Both have several options for you to choose from. The Roomba lets you create a schedule using a seven day per week plan, or you can press the “Clean” button for an on-the-spot cleaning. You can even make it clean just a certain spot where there is heavy dirt. After cleaning or when the battery is low, it automatically comes back to the HomeBase™ to dock and recharge. The only thing left for you to do is empty the bin, and it notifies you when to do that.

The Botvac works the same. It cleans on your pre-set schedule or on-the-spot. And as I have mentioned earlier, it knows where it left off in case it has to go back to its dock to charge.

Price

The price can be a determining factor from here. We’ve seen the two collide with each other and I would say it is a pretty tight competition. The Roomba 880 is sold for $699 (Available at Amazon) and the Botvac D85 is sold for $599 (MSRP per Neato website; just recently released).

Final Thoughts

If I were choosing I would give the Neato Robotics Botvac D85 a try. It is a $100 savings, and it still cleans systematically, thoroughly, and efficiently. It knows how to navigate around your house, eat dust, and uses a D-shape to clean corners. However, the Roomba is a tried and true brand and has features worth strongly considering. It has Persistent Pass Cleaning Method, Anti-Tangle Aero-Force™ Extractors, and Soft Pass feature.  Ultimately the choice is up to you – would you give a robot vacuum cleaner a try?  Please let us know your thoughts by posting a comment below or by starting a new discussion in our community forum.

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