Robotic vacuum cleaners are hands-free, battery-powered gadgets that seek out and suck up dirt, debris and dust from carpeting and hard floors. Robot vacuums are generally squat and round, some with squared corners. While it would be nice to think that a robotic vacuum could keep your whole home clean with no human intervention, reviewers say that's just not yet the case. You'll still need a regular vacuum for deeper cleaning, and for getting behind furniture and appliances and vacuuming stairs. So while robotic vacuum cleaners do work, they are more of a fun splurge than vacuuming nirvana.
While many manufacturers (including Samsung and LG) are selling robotic vacuums in other countries, the two main competitors in the U.S. right now are iRobot (which makes several Roomba vacuums) and Neato Robotics, which makes just one model. We found the most comparisons between the iRobot Roomba 560 (*Est. $350) and the Neato Robotics XV-11 (*Est. $400). While it's certainly not a landslide victory, the edge in the most recent reviews goes to the Neato robotic vacuum.
The two robovacs are compared in reviews on Engadget.com and BotJunkie.com. Editors at Engadget.com say the Neato Robotics XV-11 has a few distinct advantages over the Roomba 560: It has two square corners, allowing for more efficient corner and edge cleaning, and it vacuums more efficiently. While the iRobot Roomba vacuum uses a more meandering approach, bumping into obstacles and changing direction, the Neato robotic vacuum first scans the room with a laser eye; it then maps out the most efficient cleaning path. In Engadget.com's test, the Roomba 560 took 45 minutes compared to just 12 minutes for the Neato vacuum to clean the same space. On the other hand, some reviewers argue that the iRobot Roomba 560 does a more thorough cleaning job, since it ends up vacuuming over the same spots multiple times.
The Neato Robotics XV-11 is also capable of vacuuming an infinite number of rooms without human interference. Because it maps out a room in advance, it knows the exact location of its charging station and returns to it promptly to recharge when its battery runs low. The Roomba 560 also returns to its charging base, but after the Neato vacuum refuels, it returns to the exact spot it left off to finish the job. Both the Neato Robotics XV-11 and the iRobot Roomba 560 transition well from carpeting to floors, say reviewers, but the XV-11 wins again when it comes to cleaning the unit: Pet hair and other large debris tend to become tangled in the Roomba 560's brushes and bearings, which user reviews say is a pain to clean. The Neato robotic vacuum, on the other hand, remains tangle-free, and owners posting to Amazon.com who've owned both vacuums say the dust bin doesn't have to be emptied as frequently.
Even the least expensive Roomba robotic vacuum, the iRobot Roomba 510 (*Est. $280) costs almost $300. If you like the idea of a robotic vacuum cleaner but don't want to invest that much, there aren't many options.
The Infinuvo CleanMate QQ-1 (*Est. $100) and CleanMate QQ-2 (*Est. $100) are the least expensive robotic vacuums we found. Neither is widely available, and the QQ-2 is too new to have user reviews, but the QQ-1 robotic vacuum cleaner gets decent feedback in two dozen reviews posted at Amazon.com. The Infinuvo QQ-1 has a few unique extras: a compartment for a scent packet to freshen your home as it vacuums, a remote control and an ultraviolet light to disinfect floors. It's noisier than other robot vacuums during use, and it doesn't automatically return to its charging station (the newer QQ-2 does return to the charging base). Owners say the Infinuvo QQ-1 works better on hard floors than on carpeting, and many say they wish the battery lasted longer (it runs for about 70 minutes on a single charge, and it takes about four hours to fully recharge). The Infinuvo QQ-1 comes with three reusable, washable air filters that cut down on maintenance costs over time. The overall consensus is that the QQ-1 does an adequate job and is far less expensive than the Roomba or Neato robotic vacuum cleaners.
We found helpful comparison reviews covering the Neato XV-11 and iRobot Roomba 560 at Engadget.com and BotJunkie.com. CrunchGear.com covers the Neato XV-11 and offers limited comparison to iRobot Roomba vacuums in general. Gizmodo.com offers in-depth coverage of the iRobot Roomba 610 Professional Series. We found hundreds of consumer-written reviews for robotic vacuum cleaners at Amazon.com, and many models have several dozen reviews or more on Viewpoints.com and Epinions.com.