Neato XV Signature Pro review: Is this boring little bot better than the Roomba?

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.2
  • Performance: 9.0
  • Usability and maintenance: 9.0
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 7.0

Average User Rating

1.5 stars 3 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Neato XV Signature Pro is simple to use, and it outperformed the competition in almost all of our cleaning tests, at substantial cost savings.

The Bad Compared with other robot vacuums, the Neato is a bit boring and feature-light.

The Bottom Line The Neato offers unmatched value in its field. Its performance, simplicity, and price make it an excellent choice for buyers seeking an effective, low-maintenance robot vacuum.

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When people think about robot vacuums, the first word that probably comes to mind is "Roomba," the signature offering from Massachusetts manufacturer iRobot. Take a look at today's market, though, and you'll find a variety of robot vacuums to choose from, all of which would love to make a run at the Roomba's robo-reign over the living room. One particularly worthy competitor is the Neato XV Signature Pro, the latest model from a smallish, California-based manufacturer called Neato Robotics.

The first, most obvious contrast between the Neato and other robot vacuums we reviewed is the price. Despite being Neato Robotics' newest and most advanced robot vacuum, the Signature Pro only costs $449.99. In comparison, the top-of-the-line Roomba 790 costs $699.99, while LG's Hom-Bot Square costs $799.99. Those are some substantial savings, making the Neato an attractive choice for buyers who might have been curious about robot vacuums in the past, but who found the higher price tags to be a deal-breaker. But still, $450 is a lot of money -- is the Neato worth it?

We say yes. After dozens of cleaning runs across multiple surfaces, and with multiple variations of debris scattered in its path, the Neato emerged as the clear favorite. In almost every situation we threw at it, the Neato picked up more debris than the competition, often in significantly less time. It's an efficient, powerful little machine, and its laser-guided navigation system is one of the smartest you'll find in any robot vacuum. It performed best on standard, medium-pile carpet, and impressed us with how well it picks up pet hair. If you're a dog or a cat owner living in a carpeted home, the odds are good that you'll love this vacuum. As for me -- a non-pet owner who loves hardwood floors -- it's still unquestionably the robot vacuum I would buy for myself.

At 8.6 lbs., the Neato is the heaviest robot vacuum that we tested. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Construction and design
The Neato is sturdy and well-built, with a tough outer shell capable of withstanding the inevitable barrage of gentle bumps against the legs of your dining-room table. It sits low to the ground, too, for greater access beneath furniture and cabinetry. The bin lifts conveniently out of the top of the machine - you won't need to flip it over or yank a drawer out to empty it, which makes for faster, easier cleaning than other models we tested. The backlit menu is easy to use, with a simple interface that makes scheduling a cinch.

At first glance, the Neato resembles the bottom section of your typical upright vacuum, at least in terms of its shape. It's a design approach that might help the Neato feel familiar, but it's also one that fails to highlight its modern, forward-thinking appeal. Throw in the black-and-white LCD menu that seems lifted from the very first generation of iPods, and the Neato actually feels downright dated, and certainly not as fun or quirky as other machines we tested.

Simply put, for all its smarts, the Neato feels a bit soulless. This might sound like an obtuse criticism, but for a machine that relies on artificial intelligence, subtle, playful touches of personality can really go a long way -- something that iRobot seems to have mastered in the Roomba after several generations of development. The closest the Neato comes is when it offers text asking you to put it down on the floor or thanking you for cleaning its bin. It's a polite machine, for sure, but not the life of the party.

Charging the Neato takes 2 to 3 hours. When it's finished, the light will change from red to green. Colin West McDonald / CNET

Usability
For such a sophisticated device, the Neato is surprisingly simple to use. Just press the power button to wake it, then press it again to set the vacuum off on a floor-cleaning expedition. When it's finished, the Neato will automatically find its way back to its charging station for a well-earned nap. It will also return home in the middle of a run if its battery is running low; once charged, it will automatically return to the spot where it left off and resume cleaning.

Even more convenient is the Neato's scheduling ability. Just turn it on and tell the Neato what days and times you want it to clean, and it'll take care of the rest. You can program it to skip days if you want, and you can even program it to run at different times on different days, a nice feature that you won't find on a lot of other robot vacuums. The scheduling feature is particularly useful if you want the Neato to tidy up while you're away at work during the day, or overnight, while you're asleep. I wouldn't recommend late-night cleaning runs, as the Neato was the loudest robot vacuum that we tested. While not as loud as a full-size vacuum, it's still noisy enough to wake you up.

Performance

Rice (out of 2.5 oz)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Medium-pile carpet
Short-pile carpet
Hardwood floor
Neato XV Signature Pro
2.05
2.33
2.13
iRobot Roomba 790
2
2.32
2.25
LG Hom-Bot Square
1.85
1.87
2.13
Infinuvo CleanMate QQ5
1.55
1.8
0.8

Pet hair (out of 0.2 oz)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Medium-pile carpet
Short-pile carpet
Hardwood floor
Neato XV Signature Pro
0.15
0.15
0.18
LG Hom-Bot Square
0.083
0.02
0.08
iRobot Roomba 790
0.047
0.05
0.17
Infinuvo CleanMate QQ5
N/A
0.02
N/A

Sawdust/sand mix (out of 1.25 oz)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Medium-pile carpet
Short-pile carpet
Hardwood floor
Neato XV Signature Pro
0.42
0.43
0.92
iRobot Roomba 790
0.3
0.23
1.12
LG Hom-Bot Square
0.23
0.27
0.75
Infinuvo CleanMate QQ5
0.15
0.13
0.07

In our tests, the Neato was the overall standout, dominating the competition on each variety of carpet and performing well on hardwood, too -- though not quite as well as the Roomba when it came to picking up rice or our sand-sawdust mix. The data paints a very clear picture of the Neato's considerable vacuuming power, and it's hard not to like what you see. Pet owners in particular should pay attention -- the Neato honestly blew the competition away when it came time for dander duty.

The Neato is also an effective navigator. It had no trouble mapping out our test spaces and covered them with ease, rarely getting stuck and needing us to intervene. At only 4 inches high, it was able to clean beneath our couches, coffee tables, and bookshelves, and also navigated beneath low-hanging curtains, an obstacle that regularly confused some of the other robot vacuums we tested.

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