Robot vacuums can be incredible — or extremely disappointing, if you go cheap. I’ve tested more than half a dozen in the last year and I’ve been itching to get my hands on three robot vacuums in particular: the Roomba 980, the Neato BotVac Connected and the new Dyson 360 Eye. Collectively these are the best of the best robot vacuum cleaners on the market and for the last couple of weeks I’ve had the utter joy of watching them clean my house. Here’s what I learned.
I feel like comparing these particular robot vacuums is a lot like trying to compare superheroes. They are all amazing with different strengths (super powers) and I sincerely believe you’d be thrilled to own any of them. That said, it would be ridiculous to say that each of these vacuums will perform equally in all situations — there are scenarios where there is a clear “winner” (but again, please understand I feel like this is a little like saying one diamond is better than another when they’re all gems).
In this article I’m going to try to keep things as simple as possible for you by simply rating which bot performed the best in several different real-world tests. While I’m sure that results could easily vary from house to house — these are simply my observations; still, I hope you find them useful.
Before reading further I’d just say to keep in mind that the right robot vacuum cleaner for you might be different from the right robot vacuum cleaner for me. What I realized while testing was that I’d end up preferring/recommending a different bot for different rooms, furniture types, requirements and various other factors. Alright, let’s go.
In several tests placing various amounts and types of dust and dirt on a carpeted floor the Roomba clearly cleaned the best (it had the least amount of leftovers). The Neato was a very close second. The Dyson came in last (I think the video makes plain why). But here’s an important caveat: the test conditions DailyTekk put these robot vacuums through were not typical. I’ve never had a pile of dirt just sitting on my carpet before. Under “normal” cleaning conditions, I’m confident that each of these vacuums would do a great job.
Along those same lines, it was very obvious where the Roomba and Neato had been. In other words it was easy to visually see the effect they had on the carpet as they rolled through my house. It was a bit trickier to see where the Dyson had been.
In our speed test the Dyson handily outperformed the Roomba and Neato — kinda. The Dyson took just three and a half minutes to finish cleaning the test area. Meanwhile it took the Neato almost nine minutes and the Roomba just barely over ten. But I’m not sure that makes the Dyson better in this case as opposed to simply faster. The thing is: the Neato and Roomba were much more thorough. The Dyson certainly covered the entire area — but the other two vacuums did so and then some.
Edges, Nooks and Furniture Legs
It’s too hard to actually rank the vacuums in terms of which one will be able to cover/clean more of your floor. For one thing there are places that are simply unreachable by any robot vacuum like behind potted plants, baskets, bookshelves and other obstacles that just don’t leave enough room for a robot to prowl.
But these robots seem suited to different tasks and types of furniture. The Neato and Roomba with their slimmer profiles could easily fit under the test couch and test chairs in the living room whereas the Dyson was so tall that it barely fit under the same couch and couldn’t quite make it under those same chairs. But the Dyson’s smaller width meant that there were a few places it could traverse where the other, wider bots couldn’t: behind some plant pots and inside the legs of certain stools (it performed especially well in the kitchen with all the bar stools and table chairs). But then again the height of the Dyson prevented it from being able to get very close to the base of a certain tapered plant pot.
The Roomba and Neato have side brushes that seemed to help them do a great job getting edges. The Dyson has no such brush — the marketing essentially says it’s full width brush means it doesn’t need one. Well technically speaking the Dyson’s brush doesn’t quite come in contact with the wall… but it’s a very small gap.
Finally, the Neato has a square front that lets it fit into corners just a little bit better than the other bots.
One of the best features of these models is that they are all app connected. That means you can do things like start them cleaning while you’re out of the house or easily setup cleaning schedules. All three apps are simple, attractive and easy to use.
The Neato app lets you put the bot in eco or turbo mode, clean the house or clean a specific area or even remotely control it (like an RC car!). You can also name your robot: I chose the classic… Jeeves.
The Dyson app has a really cool reporting feature that shows you a map of where the robot cleaned and provides a visual cleaning history. Unfortunately there were several times the Dyson app wouldn’t connect and where I had to start the cleaning by pressing the physical button on the bot itself.
The Roomba app gives you options like toggling carpet boost (which is turned on automatically), edge clean or having the Roomba make multiple cleaning passes. And if you ever lose the Roomba under a couch you can hit the locate button to have it play a sound.
In terms of looks I think you have to hand it to Dyson — the 360 Eye looks sleek and modern and like something you’d want to show off. That will matter to some people more than you might assume. It’s not that the Rooma or Neato look bad — they don’t — but I wouldn’t call them designer.
Speaking of looks, don’t expect any of these vacuums to necessarily stay in mint condition for very long. Depending on where you place them and where you turn them loose there’s a decent chance they are doing to get some scuffs and scratches. The Neato and Roomba each got some pretty deep scratches on their top sides while the Dyson got scuffed up on it’s side — all within the first five cleanings. Then again, the first robot vacuum I had (and still love — we always joke that it feels like a member of the family) was a Neato that still doesn’t have a scratch on it. But that vacuum only ever lived in the living room whereas I tested this batch of robots all around the house — I’m pretty sure the Neato and Roomba got dinged cleaning under a treadmill.
The Neato is the most affordable bot of the bunch at $699. The Roomba follows at $899 and the Dyson tops them all at $999. I found that the lowest priced vacuum doesn’t automatically equate to the lowest amount of performance. Likewise, the highest price doesn’t automatically equate to the highest performance.
Final Recommendations: What’s The Best Robot Vacuum?
What is the best robot vacuum? That’s going to depend on where you’re going to be placing it. Still, I felt like the Roomba 980 was definitely the most intelligent and capable vacuum of the group. As a general recommendation, if you want the most cleaning power I think the Roomba is your best option.
The Neato BotVac Connected, though, is an incredible vacuum that performs slightly under the Roomba — but it also costs $200 less. Of these three the BotVac Connected offers the best price to performance value.
The Dyson 360 Eye looks awesome and cleans fast and can indeed fit into places where the other two bots just can’t (again, the kitchen was where it shone brightest in my test setup). On carpet it did seem to be the least powerful of the bunch, though, despite having the highest price tag.
At the end of the day the truth is that owning any of these bots will mean a major life upgrade for you or your family!