Their are two major players in the robotic vacuum space. Neato, who’s entry level model is the $340 XV-11 and the more widely known iRobot, who’s Roomba line starts with the $300 530 Roomba. In general, robotic vacuums provide the advantage of unattended operation with several trade offs. A thorough cleaning will take longer than if it was done by hand, as the smaller size and lack of precise navigation create a need for multiple passes over the same area. The vacuum will also need a cleaning after each use. In many cases, this is as simple as emptying the waste basket, but pet owners will need to clean hair out of the brushes or risk a dramatic loss of cleaning power. All Neato vacuums include a docking station, which the vacuum will automatically return to for charging. This is also a feature of some Roomba models, while entry level models simply include a charging cord that must be plugged in. The Neato includes laser based navigation. Upon entering a room, the vacuum will scan for walls and furniture and plot a pathway throughout the room. The Roomba takes the simpler approach of moving in somewhat random patterns, ending with a sweep along the corners of the room. It also includes virtual walls which can be used to define the area for cleaning.
Overall, both vacuums are worthy contenders. While neither is perfect, Neato makes the more technologically impressive device. Currently, we would recommend the XV-11, but one thing to keep in mind is that simpler often results in superior reliability.