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Vacuum Cleaners

We take the Neato XV Essential for a spin at CES

The newest version of one of our favorite robot vacuums has us excited.

Now playing: Watch this: Taking a look at Neato's wallet friendly robot vacuum
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Now playing: Watch this: Neato Robotics announces the all-new Neato XV Essential
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Admit it. At one point or another you've probably been been tempted by the thought of owning a robot vacuum. Maybe you read our recent review of the Roomba 880 and fantasized about kicking your feet up while a diligent little dust-buster cleaned the floors for you. If you're like me, it's the price tag that always brings you back to reality.

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If that's the case, then we might have found the bot you've been waiting for at CES, where Neato Robotics announced the all new Neato XV Essential. I say all new, but it really isn't -- it's actually the same engine and brains that we saw in last year's highly rated Neato XV Signature Pro, albeit it in a spiffy new white finish. The real difference is the price: the new Neato XV Essential costs $379 -- $70 cheaper than the Signature Pro, and almost half of the cost of the Roomba 880.

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 
iRobot Roomba 880
0.12 
0.10 
0.17 
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 

The Signature Pro performed exceedingly well when we tried it out last year, especially when it comes to pet hair, where it outperformed the Roomba 880 on every surface that we tested. We won't be able to test out the new Neato XV Essential until closer to its release in March, but with the same motor, the same hardware, and the same navigational computer, it stands to reason that it'll be just as competitive.

The price cut comes from Neato stripping away the extra brushes and accessories that comes with the Signature Pro, as well as the bin's HEPA filter. The result is a very appealing robot vacuum that's built to perform and priced to sell.

The Neato tackles room coverage a little different than the competition. Neato Robotics

The Neato isn't perfect by any stretch -- we were a bit surprised by just how loud the Signature Pro was, and I can attest that the Essential is just as noisy. It also lacks some of the Roomba's R2-D2ish charm, coming across a little more like a storm trooper. This is especially true when you watch it map out a room's perimeter, then navigate back and forth in neat rows like a zamboni driver with OCD. With the Roomba, there's more of an oddly engaging personality factor as you watch it wander around, eagerly seeking out messes wherever it can find them (and, in fairness, every Roomba that we've tested has done a much better job at covering floor space than the above picture would suggest.)

The Neato comes with a charging base, and is capable of navigating through multiple rooms, or focusing in on a particular area. You can schedule the Neato for regular daily cleaning runs, or set it for different times on different days. There's no remote with the Neato, which is a little disappointing, given how much fun it is to steer your vacuum around the room like a toy car.

The Neato XV Essential will be sold online exclusively at Wal-Mart starting in March. I know I'll be tempted.

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