Win an XV-11 Robot Vacuum from Neato Robotics!

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Neato Robotic VacuumNeato Robotic Vacuum

Is the Neato Robotic XV-11 Vacuum Cleaner sentient? The company isn't saying.

When Neato Robotics offered GeekDad the chance to try out its XV-11 Robotic Vacuum, I jumped at the opportunity. Although my house is small, my family seems to be cleaning-averse. I have to admit that visions of a whole staff of robotic household help began dancing in my head – a self-emptying dishwasher, an android to dust the bookshelves and put the piles of DVDs back in their drawers, arranged by genre. A cadre of mechanical men to fold the laundry, check the kids’ math assignment, and automatically pull out the pork chops to defrost… But I digress.

Of course, robot vacuums are nothing new. But according to Neato, the XV-11 is the first robotic vacuum with “laser-based vision.” Turn it on and the XV-11 scans the room with laser eyes, mapping the layout with its Room Positioning System (RPS). This allows the robot to skirt around even moving objects like you, your pets, your kids, etc. In a smaller, older home like mine, with lots of corners and stuff stored on the floor, being able to find your way around the bumpouts, bags, and boxes is a big plus. The XV-11 also has a low 4-inch profile and squared-off front that lets it get into more tight places than first-generation robot vacuums like the Roomba.

Being technologically-challenged (at least compared to the typical GeekDad writer), I particularly liked that the Neato XV-11 was so easy to use. What’s more, the User Guide is exceptionally readable and jargon-free – in fact, it’s downright entertaining. Assembly consists of plugging the charging base into the wall and nestling the robot up to it. To get started, all you need to do is push the big orange button to wake it up, then push it again to make it go. To pause, you just push any button. A display screen prompts you through simple menus to schedule the robot to automatically clean at a set day and time, or to instruct the robot to knock off for the day and return to base. The screen also lets you know when the robot wants its dirt bin (comparatively large for a robot vacuum) emptied or needs to recharge in the middle of a job. There’s a barrier strip you can cut to size and place on the floor to block off areas you don’t want the Neato to go. And sensors underneath stop the XV-11 from throwing itself off the stairs.

How well does the Neato robot work? According to the company, the XV-11 uses “jet engine air-flow principles” to create a powerful suction. (In fact, one review likened the robot’s start-up to the sound of a jet getting ready for take-off.). And, at least in my house, it managed to suck quite a lot of grime off wood and vinyl floors and carpeting. The little machine had no trouble climbing over door sills or up onto the edge of area rugs. And it did a pretty good job of getting under tables and chairs and even some low-slung pieces of furniture.

But I have to admit that even after a couple of pass-throughs, I still had to come in with the old upright and hit the odd-shaped nooks and crannies and the spots where furniture or other things covered the floor. Unlike the Jetsons’ robotic maid Rosie, the Neato doesn’t have arms to lift something out of the way and place it right back (although I did see it nudge a chair when it needed to get by). And although the company suggests going around beforehand and moving everything that might get tangled in the XV-11’s brushes (like small toys, heavy bedspreads, or long window drapes) out the way, doing that on a daily basis just doesn’t seem practical. But if all you’ve got to work with at the moment is one of your kids, a robot vacuum does have some definite advantages. Here’s a chart that compares the Neato XV-11 to your teenager and to you:

Neato XV -11TeenagerYou
Responds to direct requests to vacuum
Covers open spaces thoroughly
Also vacuums under tables and chairs
And under low-slung furniture and behind doors
Moves piles of stuff and picks up small toys as it goes
Never needs to be reminded
Vacuums regularly regardless of how busy the week is
Chases pets and babies around the room for fun?
Goofs off when no one’s looking?
Never complains about housework

Most of all, the Neato XV-11 is cute. When it pulls out from its dock for the first time it will look around as if to get its bearings. If you get in its way, as my husband did when he started to make a sandwich at the counter as the Neato was trying to clean the kitchen, instead of continuing along the kickspace under the counter the XV-ll might rub up against your legs as it passes by, like a cat hoping to score a dropped piece of tunafish. Watching it try to extricate itself from the tangle of chairs under the dining room table or the scalloped edge of our old mahogany bookcase is quite entertaining. And it’s fun to carry the Neato upstairs (while its display screen complains, in what I imagine as C-3PO’s voice, “Please put me down”), turn it on in the hallway, and watch it make its way into each bedroom by turn, scaring the bejesus out of the oblivious kids plugged into their laptops.

Although the company doesn’t make any claims that the XV-11 is sentient, I’m convinced that it has the capacity to learn; when I moved its charging base to a spot the user guide warned would be hard to find, the robot figured out how to dock itself the second time I used it. And I could swear the machine spends less time looking around and covers ground more thoroughly after a few pass-throughs.

So, is the Neato XV-11 worth it? If you’re hoping to avoid ever having to vacuum again, then unless your house looks like an ad out of Ikea, you’re probably better off waiting for true robot maids that will move the couch away from the wall as it goes by. But if what you want is a virtually effortless daily once-over through the most high-traffic areas, and a fun addition to your household’s electronic denizens, then the Neato XV-11 is for you.

The Neato XV-11 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner goes for $399 on Amazon.

Want to win your own? Neato is letting us give away an XV-11 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner to a lucky GeekDad reader! This is the same demo model I got to try out for a month in my no-smoking, no-pet household. (I promise to empty out the dirt bin before shipping.) To enter, just fill out the form below. The winner will be chosen at random from all entries received by 11:59 pm Sunday, December 19. We’ll announce the winner’s name on Monday and the Neato XV-11 will be shipped to you on Tuesday, (hopefully) in time for Christmas! Good luck to everyone who enters!

UPDATE: You can also find the Neato Robotics Giveaway Entry Form on the JotForm site.

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Giveaway rules:

Open to North American residents only.
One entry per physical address.
Must be 18 or older to enter.
Winners will be chosen by random from the giveaway entries.
Winners will be notified via the email supplied at time of entry.
Prize is supplied by a 3rd party, and may be a demonstration or review unit, previously used for evaluation.
GeekDad.com cannot be held liable for non-new condition, or items damaged or lost in shipping.

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