Monday, September 23, 2013

Best robot vacuum for residential use

This is purely my personal opinion here, and it will almost certainly change in the future as technology continues to improve and evolve.  But having owned and experimented with several different robot vacuum models, my qualified favorite is the Neato, of which the near-current edition appears to be the XV-14. 
Sam's Club in LaMarque (not the one at El Dorado) recently had it for a good price.  Note the words "one time buy".  I don't know if they still have it.  Presumably they were selling out the stock so that they could replace with the next model number. 
Note the use of the word "qualified" above.  Again, this is all just personal opinion, but here's what I feel are the relevant observations on the Neato XV-14: 
  • Our Neatos have not lasted long-term, but we got our value out of them anyway.  We've lived in our home for 3.5 years now and we are on our second Neato, the first one having been bought shortly after we moved in.  The first one required repairs and even with them, it remained dead after about 2 years of use.  But do the math:  If it vacuums your house every week for two years before it dies, that's 100 vacuums for $300 or approximately $3.00 per whole-house vacuum.  It takes at least an hour to vacuum my house and so this is simply worth it to me.  I would have to pay a human laborer several times that amount to do the same work, not that I could ever procure a la carte housekeeping services (we are two working professional parents who choose not to hire a maid service - I needed something to lighten the overall load, which is why we tried the Neato in the first place... I'd rather spend my home time gardening and cooking healthy meals). 
  • Our Neatos have come with their share of minor aggravations even when they do function.  Scenes like this are fairly common: 
For the most part, the laser guidance system is very impressive, but entrapments still occur, and I often wonder how in the the hell it ever managed to insert itself into those places. 
  • Our experiences with this product may not be the same as in your situation.  The Neato does a really good job of picking up dirt, but we have ceramic tile throughout our entire house.  Furthermore, we intentionally chose that tile to be as low-maintenance and easy to clean as possible. 
This is a low-light photo to show the matte surface texture of the tile.  Notice that there is no rough texture, heterogeneity, or deep grooves in which dirt can become trapped.  The matte surface is extremely easy to clean while minimizing the potential for being slippery. 

By design, these are near-ideal floor conditions for any robot vacuum (or any conventional vacuum).  I don't know how the same device would perform in a home dominated by wall-to-wall carpet (it also does a very good job of our wool area rugs, but those are low-pile). 
My suggestions for future improvement on this product are as follows:
  • The dirt cup should be larger.  I generally have to empty it three times during a vacuum of our house (we are outdoorsy people, dragging in lots of dirt, plus we have a large dog).  But having to empty the cup is OK, because...
  • If the dirt cup is made larger, the battery should be correspondingly larger.  It generally takes two to three battery charges to complete the vacuuming of our 2,500 square foot house.  I have empty the cup every time I put it back on the charger.  We were originally hoping to repair our first Neato so that we could divide the house between the two of them for greater efficiency.  But that's a time-sink that hasn't happened yet. 
  • There are still some glitches that need to be worked out of the software"Neato fail!" is a common human refrain around here.  Messages such as "please clear my path" sometimes occur when there is nothing blocking its path.  It just gets befuddled and needs to be reset. 
  • The Neato doesn't specialize in edge cleaning.  I have to do that manually myself, but I have to do it a lot less frequently than I would otherwise.  Sometimes I just take a broom and sweep all the edge dirt out into the middle of the floor where the Neato can reach it. 
Bottom line:  Far from perfect, but as long as the Neatos continue to perform as well as they have been to date, I'll keep buying and/or repairing them. 
Vid below:  Neato flashes a recharge directive even though its battery bar shows that it is already fully charged.  A minor irritation.

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