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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: Neato Robotic Vacuum

I'm good at many things, but cleaning is not one of them. We finally hired a cleaning woman since I've done basically nothing the past three years. She came to give me a quote, looked around the house and said, "you haven't had a cleaner in a long time, have you?" Uh, yeah.

Around the same time, the Neato Robotic vacuum cleaner people asked me to do a review. They probably know I'm not such a good cleaner too. Maybe they felt bad for me. You probably know the Roomba - it's a disc shaped vacuum that does its thing without your involvement. The Neato is like that.

It probably wasn't the best idea to test the vacuum a few hours after the cleaning woman left, but test it we did. My son was practically begging me. After all, he likes to watch appliances do their jobs. (the picture below is out of order, but fits in thematically).

Fortunately there's not much to do after removing it from the box. Set up is simple.

It seems to have a sense of humor, though maybe that's just me. The picture below is the menu window on the Neato.

When it starts up it sounded like an airplane taking off.

The Neato went straight to one of two areas of the room I was most concerned about: the dressers. We have two awkwardly placed dressers, with a coil of unused television cable between them (I really need to trim that cable back). It took the Neato awhile to maneuver around, but it did it, cleaning underneath each dresser without banging up the dresser feet. To turn in tight spots, the Neato launched itself up on its hind wheels (looking a bit like a crab) and maneuvered around. That was impressive.

Below you'll find my photo essay of the Neato making its complicated way around the dressers and dresser legs. There's more text below, so read on!

The Neato is supposed to go back to its charger, but I left the charger in another room. Since it had been running for more than 30 minutes and seemed to have gotten all the areas it had access to, my husband begged me to stop the thing. I carried it downstairs while the electronic window begged me to put it on the floor.

I was curious how much dirt would be in the container (they recommend you clean it out after every vacuuming - the container is pretty small). In spite of the cleaning woman vacuuming, and actually cleaning under my bed (she didn't the last time), there was a fair amount of dirt and hair the Neato picked up. So either it's doing a really good job or my cleaner has to shape up (or both).

A week later I tried it in the living room, where its base is. When it's done, it's suppose to go back to its base on its own (it did that when I hit the "spot cleaning" option). But after cleaning in the living room for 30 minutes, it found its way into my office, which is a "no vacuum" zone. I picked it up like a naughty cat, and put it back on the floor in the living room. I think it was confused, because that's where it stayed until I hit the resume button.

Watching the Neato return to its base is impressive. It scurries up and adjusts itself until it hits the sweet spot. Unfortunately, while it returned to its base within 5 minutes of doing the spot cleaning, it spent about an hour in the living room, which isn't mansion size.

The box does contain a strip you can use to block off an area that the robot should avoid. Personally, though, I should have just shut my office door.

The Neato I got specializes in cleaning pet hair and allergens. The only pets we have are fish, so we couldn't test it out on that. And we don't seem to have indoor allergies (hay fever, yes). So I can't speak to whether it works for those.

Overall, it's fun to have and nice to turn on and leave the room. Would I run out and buy one? I'm not sure. It takes a really long time and doesn't work well going over rug fringe (my hand-held vacuum doesn't either, but at least I can avoid the fringe and still vacuum the rest of the rug easily). Also, if you want a thorough vacuum, you need to move some of the furniture more than once, so it can get into the tighter spaces. That said, for routine vacuuming, it's a good autopilot type of thing - especially if you have dogs or cats and have to clean up their hair frequently.

-Just leave and let the vacuum do its thing.
-No cord to drag around
-It got under the bed! It got under the dressers!
-No damage to the furniture - even if it bumped something, it was gentle. It did knock over my fireplace tools. They fall off easily, so I can't blame it, but it sounded pretty bad.

-It didn't do well with the rug fringe and needed rescuing.
-You have to really make sure it has room to get the areas you want - whereas with a hand-held vacuum you can vacuum, move the furniture, vacuum and move it back again.
-It can't get into tight spots, whereas a vacuum hose can be stuck into narrower areas.
-It took a really long time - like 30 minutes for our master bedroom and bathroom which aren't all that big - and an hour for the living room before I finally stopped it (it needed to be cleaned out anyway). However there are a lot of obstacles in that room.
-Don't know if this makes a difference, but the accordian-shaped filter got really full of lint that didn't shake out when I tried dumping it. I had to get something in there to clean it out.

Neato is offering Frisco Kids readers $10 off if you use the code "friscokids10" (without the quotes). Shop here. ChaChaBee offers free shipping as well. You can also get the vacuum at Amazon, but the prices are actually higher.

Disclosure: ChaChaBee gave me the vacuum for review purposes. All opinions are my own, as if you couldn't tell. Duh!

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