Now that we’ve reviewed both the iRobot Roomba 560 and the Neato XV-11, you’re probably wondering which one you should get. There’s no easy answer, but in this post we’ll highlight the features of each robot and the differences between them, so that you can decide which one is right for you.
If you haven’t read our individual reviews of each robot, you can get lots more detail at the following links:
BotJunkie Review: Neato Robotics XV-11
BotJunkie Review: iRobot Roomba 560
And, there will be jousting, after the jump.
Both robots are approximately the same size, with two driver wheels underneath and a touch sensing bumper at the front. The Roomba is round, allowing it to turn all the way around in place, while the XV-11 has a square front to help it get into corners more effectively.
The XV-11 is slightly taller:
This means that if you have furniture that’s within that height difference, the Roomba will clean underneath it but the XV-11 won’t. The XV-11 is just under 4 inches tall, while the Roomba is a bit over 3.
Both robots have a built-in carrying handle. The XV-11 is a little bit heavier. They both seem very solid and robust (although you probably want to avoid dropping them), and both come with a one year warranty.
Both robots include one button cleaning, meaning that whatever else they can do, at the very least you can just push the big “clean” button on them and they’ll go vacuum. The Roomba 560 has additional dedicated displays for scheduling cleaning times, while the XV-11 has a small multipurpose LCD display.
Both robots come with charging docks that they can return to autonomously. The Roomba’s dock is drive-on, which means that the robot charges by driving onto a little platform. The XV-11’s dock is drive-up, which means that the robot presses against the dock. The XV-11’s dock includes a storage compartment for the power adapter, which is a useful feature, since you can store the adapter inside the dock if you don’t need the extra power cord length. Both robots will attempt to ’snug’ back up to their charging contacts if they get accidentally moved.
The Roomba 560 and the Neato XV-11 both allow for on-board scheduling. You can set different times for each day of the week, and the robot will undock, clean, and redock to recharge itself. It’s relatively easy to program this on both robots, although the XV-11’s LCD makes it a bit easier.
Due to its LCD, the XV-11 has a distinct advantage when it comes to user communication. The screen tells you if you need to perform maintenance tasks, or what to do if the robot isn’t doing what it’s supposed to be doing. The Roomba will sometimes speak in a female voice when it needs assistance, but for more obscure technical issues it just beeps, and you need to keep track of the number of beeps and look up what they mean online, which is far less convenient.
Both robots come accessories that you can use to keep them away from certain areas. The XV-11 uses a magnetic strip (you get 15 feet of it and can buy more for $30) that you place on the floor, and the robot will clean up to it but not go over. You can cut the strip up, and it sort of bends enough to make curves. The Roomba uses Virtual Walls, which are little towers about the size of a coffee cup that project infrared beams which the robot won’t cross over, so you can leave them up around doorways and stuff even when the robot isn’t vacuuming. The beams will reach out to about 8 feet, and the Virtual Walls run on batteries. The 560 comes with two, and buying another one will cost you $40.
The Roomba and the Neato XV-11 use significantly different techniques to vacuum areas. The Roomba uses a variety of cleaning behaviors to cover a room, using input from its sensors to decide where to go next. It doesn’t know where it has or has not been in the absolute sense, but on average, it will cover each area of a room 3-4 times, which helps it to clean more thoroughly.
The XV-11, on the other hand, has a laser sensor that creates a map of walls, doorways, and obstacles. The robot then plans a route to cover the entire area efficiently, generally with a single pass over most points.
We should point out that neither the XV-11 nor the Roomba is a total replacement for a human wielding an upright vacuum with a hose attachment. Rather, they’re maintenance tools, designed to minimize the amount of vacuuming that you have to do. That said, we found both robots to clean very effectively on hardwood, comparable to a conventional upright vacuum over most of the floor. Because of their shapes, however, the robots aren’t quite as good close to obstacles, along walls, and in corners.
The XV-11 is better at cleaning along walls and corners in most cases, since its square front allows it to get in closer, although it doesn’t always get into corners in the ideal orientation. Because the Roomba is round, it relies on a spinning brush to sweep into corners, which is less effective than getting the entire vacuum in there. It’s worth noting, though, that this spinning brush extends beyond the reach of the vacuum, outside the body of the robot, which means that the Roomba can (sort of) clean beyond its own chassis, while the XV-11 can’t. The effectiveness of the spinning brush is mediocre at best, however, since it often just kicks dirt somewhere else where the Roomba may or may not get later. Basically, neither robot can make up for the hose attachment on a conventional upright vacuum when it comes to tight areas.
On carpet, both the XV-11 and the Roomba did fairly well, although not as good as an upright. The Roomba cleaned slightly better in general, and significantly better when it came to pet hair, probably because of its bristle brush. The rubber brush on the XV-11 tended to leave streaks of pet hair behind it. Neither robot got pet hair completely cleaned up, though, and they did especially poorly around table and chair legs. Also, iRobot has pointed out that crossing over carpet from multiple angles changes the nap of the carpet and is better for getting dirt out, which I tend to believe… The XV-11 cleans in a single pass.
The XV-11 is significantly faster than the Roomba, about four times faster, cleaning my living room in 12 minutes as opposed to the Roomba’s 45. This difference will increase as the robots are asked to clean larger rooms or more rooms. The XV-11 doesn’t move faster, but since it doesn’t cover most areas more than once, it’s done much faster. Also, it knows exactly where its dock is, and doesn’t have to spend time searching for it after it’s finished. Of course, if you’re taking advantage of the scheduling feature, these vacuums are running by themselves when you’re not home, in which case speed (and noise) may not matter nearly as much. In this case, the question changes from is it faster to how much area can each robot cover per charge, how long does it take to recharge, and how effectively can it resume coverage of multiple rooms? The XV-11 has a pronounced advantage here, because it cleans more efficiently: It spends significantly less time on each room, is better at finding its way from room to room (since it can see doorways), can more reliably find its way back to its charging dock if it needs to (since it creates a map), and then can return to exactly where it left off and finish cleaning without any redundancy in coverage. Some models of Roombas include Lighthouse technology which helps them clean multiple rooms more efficiently, but the 560 does not.
The XV-11 seems significantly louder than the Roomba; both are significantly quieter than an upright vacuum. We’re waiting for exact decibel numbers.
Both robots have minimal issues cleaning entirely autonomously, meaning that in general, you really can just let them do their thing from start to finish without having to worry about them getting lost or stuck.
Both robots require you to empty their dustbins on a regular basis. Depending on how many rooms you have them clean, and how dirty your floors get, this could be anywhere from every cleaning to every three cleanings or so. Both robots will inform you when their dustbins need to be changed, so it’s not something you really have to worry about… Although it’s better to empty them before they fill completely, especially if you have the robots clean autonomously.
The dustbin on the XV-11 is marginally easier to access than the one on the Roomba, since it lifts out of the top of the robot instead of out of the back. Also, the XV-11’s air filter keeps the dust in when you lift the bin out; you remove the filter to empty the bin. The Roomba’s bin doesn’t have a cover like that, so there’s the potential to make a huge mess unless you pull the bin out carefully and keep it in the correct orientation. The XV-11 also has a larger dustbin, but I wouldn’t call it significantly larger.
The air filters on both robots are easy to access and replace, being integrated into the dust bins themselves. Replacement filters for the XV-11 cost $19 for 6, and for the Roomba it’s $19 for 3.
The XV-11 is much better at keeping itself clean as it cleans, especially when it comes to hair (pet and otherwise). I have a couple cats, and while the Roomba was significantly better at picking up cat hair, it also got a lot of cat hair wrapped around its bristle brushes, as well around the bearings holding the brushes in place. After just a few vacuumings, you’ll need to take the brushes and bearings out and clean them by hand, which is a dirty and annoying process. iRobot includes a tool to help with this, but I’ve often had to resort to scissors and brute strength to get the hair out of the bristle brush. The XV-11, on the other hand, while not as good at picking up pet hair, remains very clean, on both its brush and bearings. After 3 rounds of my living room, the Roomba was very dirty and tangled underneath, while the XV-11 looked brand new.
Lastly, there are maintenance tasks that you shouldn’t have to do very often, or (ideally) at all, like replacing brushes, bearings, and batteries. We didn’t get a chance to test the XV-11 to this point, but my guess is that the XV-11 would be more resistant to bearing damage (something I’ve experienced with my own personal Roomba), simply because not as much stuff gets caught up in its cleaning system.
Both iRobot and Neato offer replacement components for their robots. iRobot’s website has nearly every component for the robot available, while Neato mostly focuses on accessories. I didn’t try to take either robot apart, so I can’t comment on how easy it is to replace major components, but I like the fact that iRobot gives you the option to try to fix things yourself.
The Neato XV-11 is currently on pre-order for $400, to be available “this summer.” The iRobot Roomba 560 is available now for $350. However, the Roomba 560 does not include the Lighthouse multi-room technology. To get that, you’d need to upgrade to the Roomba 570 for $450, which might be a more realistic robot to compare the XV-11 to in terms of multi-room cleaning capability. And even then, the XV-11 is still likely to be significantly better at cleaning multiple rooms due to its mapping technology.
So, to summarize:
-Both robots clean hardwood equally well, about as well as a traditional upright vacuum.
-The Roomba cleans carpet noticeably better than the XV-11, and is significantly better at picking up pet hair. Neither robot is as good at these tasks as a traditional upright vacuum.
-The Roomba requires significantly more maintenance than the XV-11, especially if it picks up hair of any kind.
-The XV-11 cleans rooms about four times as fast as the Roomba.
-The XV-11 is significantly better at cleaning multiple rooms than the Roomba.
-The XV-11 seems louder than the Roomba.
-The fact that the Roomba uses cleaning behaviors derived from foraging insects is very cool.
-The fact that the XV-11 uses a laser to map rooms is very cool.
There are a few other things to potentially consider… If cost is an issue, iRobot sells Roomba models that are less expensive than the 560. If you only need to clean one or two rooms, and don’t need the scheduling feature, you could get a Roomba 530 for $300.
Also, iRobot has been selling Roombas for a long time, while Neato is introducing a new product. The fifth generation of Roombas embodies many years of improvements and refinements while the XV-11 has yet to prove itself as a commercial product. That said, the mapping technology in the XV-11 is very impressive, and I feel like irrespective of which robot makes a better vacuum, there’s a lot of potential there.
What it comes down to, though, is that both the iRobot Roomba 560 and the Neato XV-11 are solid autonomous robot vacuums that use different techniques and technologies to get your floor clean and keep it that way without you having to lift a finger.
And once again, I’d encourage you to read our individual reviews of each robot, since there are lots more details (plus more pictures and video):
BotJunkie Review: Neato Robotics XV-11
BotJunkie Review: iRobot Roomba 560
[ iRobot Roomba 560 ]
[ Neato XV-11 ]
Oh yeah, and here’s the jousting:
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.