It was with some apprehension that we opened our doors to Neato XV-15. Inviting a robot into your house as a domestic servant shouldn’t be taken lightly. We’ve all seen what happens when robots go bad, become self aware and throw aside the shackles of human enslavement. And Neato XV-15 comes equipped with lasers.
To get human-cyborg relations off to a strong start we named the Neato XV-15. Noah, in fact, was a US variant so technically the XV-11, but we’re assured that the only difference is the colour scheme. The Neato robot cleaner hasn't been available outside the US previously; its imminent arrival was announced this week.
In the box are two components, the robot vacuum cleaner - Noah - and the base charging station. The only set-up required is to plug the base station in a suitable location. After offering Noah up to the charger, the coloured LED on the top illuminated to tell us the cleaner was charging.
Rather than being round, the Neato XV-15 comes with a square front edge. This front edge is both a pressure trigger, so it knows when it has bumped into something, and houses the rotating beater bar, so it can get fairly close to edges when cleaning.
Unlike many domestic vacuum cleaners, the beater bar has plastic fins on it rather than brushes, and in practice we found this meant that it didn’t get tangled in hair quite as readily as brushed versions do. Along with the pressure sensitive front edge, the robot cleaner is equipped with lasers. Fortunately these are used for mapping the local environment, rather than melting human brains.
A small display on the top of the cleaner offers a basic menu and will allow you to check the status, like the battery level or what Noah is doing at any particular moment. This is combined with a selection of alert tones, so if the poor chap has got himself into a pickle, you’ll be able to glance at the screen and see what’s wrong.
Essentially the Neato XV-15 maps the room using the lasers and once you set it off cleaning you can see how it works things out. It first runs around the perimeter of the room and then comes to fill in the middle, cleaning all the way. Once it has finished, it will solemnly trundle back to it’s charging station, playing a jubilant tune on its arrival.
We welcomed Noah into a typical British household. A 1930s semi-detached, filled with a family of four and a cat. It’s a far cry from the spacious residences the Neato XV-11 cousins might have experienced in the US, but that didn’t deter Noah: he just got stuck into the filth.
The low profile of the cleaner means he can fit under radiators, chairs and sofas and given the chance we found that Noah would try to get into all these places to clean. The laser guidance means that he can “see” larger objects, anything over 4-inches tall, which he will automatically avoid. However, we were impressed at how close Noah would get to the edges of things.
Noah had no problem working around the ground floor of the test house cleaning, and wasn’t bothered when he encountered different floor surfaces. The hard kitchen floor got cleaned, as did the carpeted hallway and the lounge with a deep pile rug in the centre. The chap happily runs from room to room to get the job done.
Noah managed to avoid most pilfalls we put in his path. An open doorway with a step down into the scullery was keenly avoided, trailing wires and the odd shoe weren’t a problem. He even managed to navigate around the cat food.
Occasionally Noah would get lost, although this was an exception rather than a rule. In such cases a beep would let us know there was a problem and a distressing message asking us to clear the path would appear on the screen. The other thing he will do is get tangled in things like ribbons, shoelaces and pink fluffy cat toys, just like any other cleaner would.
Should it encounter a problem or get stuck, it will try to recover itself. The height adjustable wheels will lift the body slightly to help get off things that it might run into - for example it ran over the frame of a baby bouncer and then had to back off which it didn’t have a problem with.
So navigation isn’t a problem and the little chap is polite enough to let you know what’s going on in his world, but was Noah actually any good at cleaning? Surprisingly good actually. Obviously the size of the unit means that suction is limited and there isn't much space internally for the dirt it collects. Generally speaking it was effective at cleaning daily dirt, but running over the area with a more powerful conventional vacuum cleaner would lift a lot more ground-in dirt.
As such, the Neato XV-15 is probably best suited to a relatively clean house and one that is clear from baby toys and discarded school bags. We found it really convenient to be able to tap Noah’s start button and have him run over the house whilst we were doing something else, saving the need to do it ourselves and critically saving time.
The Neato XV-15 isn’t cheap though. Retailing for £379.99, it costs more than anything you might buy from Dyson or Vax. It might save you plenty of time though and the fact you can set it to clean on a schedule means you can come home from work to a clean house. It's just a shame it can't arrange your library by Dewey Decimal.