Neato’s Botvacs and iRobot’s Roombas are among the most popular robot vacuums on the market. But which brand really is better? Has the newer Neato surpassed the Roomba, or does iRobot’s experience win the crown? Let’s take a look at all the important features and how the two brands compare to help you make up your mind.
Neato has six models on the market right now (plus a couple that are out of stock and with uncertain futures). These models provide a number of different battery life and room-mapping options, plus extra filtration and cleaning in some cases.
The iRobot brand, meanwhile, has around 10 Roomba vac models, three Brava mop models, and even a mower model in production. The Roomba models have a lot of variety when it comes to power settings, smart features, and suction features designed for specific tasks (extra suction for pet hair, etc.).
So, when it comes to pure variety, iRobot vacs have a big lead. But this isn’t always a good thing. Roombas have been around for a while and have seen many improvements made and new features added. This can quickly become confusing when searching for the right model. Neato vacs, on the other hand, have fewer choices, but making up your mind will be easier.
Botvac models offer a square head that’s really great for getting close to walls and taking care of corners. Obviously, this works well if you have a lot of walls and angles in your house, and want the vacuum to clean up in the corners where dirt can gather. Botvac brushes are also particularly large.
The iRobot specializes in sucking power. The top-end Roombas have very powerful motors and suction features that can apply a lot of power, which is useful if you have a lot pet hair or need to clean a particularly dirty spot with your bot vac. The spiral-like brushes of the Roomba are also easy to clean if they get wrapped up in any tangles. Some Roombas do come with HEPA filters for extra filtration, giving them an edge if someone is allergic to dust or dander.
In this case, there’s not a clear winner: It depends mostly on what you want to use the bot for.
The higher-end Botvacs and Roombas are loaded with smart features. But what company does a better job here? Neato’s smart features enable laser mapping and setting virtual barriers around specific zones so the bot knows exactly what area to clean, and can automatically devise a route to clean that area as efficiently as possible (no random patterns). It can return to its charger when it needs to, and you can schedule cleanings via the app whenever you want — there’s also a screen and buttons on the vac for quick, spontaneous cleaning. Botvacs also work with Amazon Echo devices and the Apple Watch. Advanced models have zone control that allows you to assign zones for particularly messy areas.
Roomba’s most advanced models come out swinging with smart mapping and learning algorithms that can adapt to your furniture over time. You can set schedules, assign rooms names, and use voice commands via Alexa or Google Assistant. However, its cleaning pattern is primarily random within a given area, although the smart mapping and optical sensor prevents it from falling down the stairs or going over the same area too many times. Not only can advanced Roombas automatically return and recharge when needed, but they can also automatically empty their bins into a trash can-like receptacle at their charging station, making disposing of the debris much more efficient. Roombas have little to offer in terms of onboard controls, so expect to use the app and voice commands for most tasks.
The Roomba has the edge for smart features, but keep in mind that this primarily applies to high-end models that are very expensive. Down at the mid and low end of the brands, there are fewer differences, and we’re fans of the simple, effective patterns of the Botvacs.
Neato’s Botvacs have spot modes, which are used primarily for unexpected spills. Some models also offer eco modes, which save battery life, and turbo modes, which increase power for extra-dirty areas.
Some Roombas, particularly the midrange models, also have spot modes where you can set the Roomba down and press the spot button to have it clean a space 3 feet in diameter, which is alson ideal for spills. Otherwise, Roombas don’t really have a lot of modes to switch between. There are automatic sensors that, when enabled, can detect especially dirty patches and give them extra attention, which is nice.
So Botvacs do have a couple more modes than Roombas. If you like this amount of control, that’s a nice feature.
Botvacs can last anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes on one charge, depending on the model. Roomba batteries are mostly the same way: Cheaper models tend to run for around 60 minutes, and top-tier versions offer two hours of charge.
This isn’t really an issue with today’s robot vacuums, as the top brands use automatic return features to recharge whenever their batteries get low. That makes battery life a very minor issue when comparing models.
The two brands have a very different approach to cost. The iRobot brand focuses primarily on the high end and low end of the market. The top Roomba models, like the i7+, cost around $1,000 or more. The lower-tier Roombas with much less advanced technology only cost around $200 to $350.
Neato, meanwhile, focuses primarily on the middle of the market. Botvac models range from around $400 to $800, with the higher-cost models offering more battery life and extra cleaning features.
Both brands have a lot to offer. Roombas generally do better in open spaces, while Botvacs perform better with walls and angles. Roombas are a little more hands-off, while Botvacs need more attention. Choose the brand based on your ideal cleaning buddy.