Neato is expanding its robot vacuum offerings with a new "BotVac" series due in mid-April 2014. The initial launch will include four models: BotVac 70e, BotVac 75, BotVac 80, and BotVac 85 with prices ranging from $479.99 to $599.99. So, how do BotVacs differ from the $379.99
One obvious difference is the color scheme. All of the XV line of bots have different finishes -- from the black and dark gray XV Signature Pro to the light gray and purple XV-21 -- but every BotVac model will have a white finish with bright orange, green, purple, or blue accents, depending on the model you choose. The more significant updates are a bit harder to spot.
Flip a BotVac over, and you'll see that Neato has added a side brush to its existing design. That might just fix one of the issues we encountered while testing the XV series. We like the way a Neato bot scans and then systematically makes its way around a room, but it tends to leave debris behind when it changes direction. This side brush seems to solve that problem; the idea is that it will sweep any errant dirt back into the path of the vacuum.
Neato also made a couple of updates to existing design elements. It borrows the XV's standard and combo brushrolls, but super-sized them for the BotVac models. According to Neato, BotVac brushrolls will be the largest available on any robot vacuum model. The brand even crunched some numbers and determined that the BotVac brushrolls are 50 percent larger than what competitors offer.
But what about Neato's own XV line? Aren't the new BotVac brushes also larger than the old XV brushes? Regardless, this sounds like a positive update, since the bigger brushroll should literally be able to cover more ground. Neato even claims that its BotVacs can clean within 10 millimeters of the wall, thanks to the new brush design.
I would like to see how noise factors into this change. Neato robot vacs tend to be on the loud side of the models we've tested. So an even larger silicone brush slapping against your hardwood floor has potential to be pretty oppressive.
In addition to the side brush and larger brushroll, Neato is also making the dust bin on its BotVac models larger. This isn't the most exciting update, but the logic behind the decision is clear. You probably won't have to clean out your dust bin quite as often, making the whole process even more hands-off. It's hard not to appreciate that. And like two brushroll styles, Neato is also recycling its standard filter and pet and allergy filter to fit on its new dust bins.
While I'm looking forward to comparing BotVac performance to the XV Signature Pro, XV Essential, and XV-21, this announcement feels a bit hollow. I really like Neato's core robot vacuums, but think this small, successful brand could do more on the innovation side. And the new BotVac line kind of sounds like a clever way to repackage the XV with slightly different design features and call it a brand new product (with a higher price point). I do think the addition of a side brush could make Neato even more competitive with pricier robot vacuums like iRobot's Roomba, though, and I'm all for that.