We got one of these yesterday, and I think it's really going to be nice.
This is our first foray into the world of robotic vacuum cleaners (or any sort of home robots), so I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew it would be cool, because I think gadgets are cool, but I was less certain how effective or useful it would be.
After one day... I'm impressed. It has some quirks and I've realized that the main floor of the house is a little on the large side (~2000 sqft.) for one little robot vacuum to clean. I ran it some yesterday but didn't get the whole house covered. This morning I had it start work at 6 AM and it just finished at almost 2 PM.
Unlike the Roomba and similar, the notion of "finished" actually has meaning to the Neato. While the Roomba's algorithm is basically "clean in a straight line until hitting an obstacle, then pick a random direction and repeat", the Neato has a laser ranger it uses to figure out the shape of the house and then it uses a systematic method to clean until it's covered everything. It goes around edges first, then covers open areas with a back-and-forth pattern.
With the Roomba, I understand that you basically set a time range for cleaning and then it cleans randomly for that long. With the Neato, you set a start time and it cleans methodically until it's covered everything. When its battery runs low it heads back to its base station and recharges, then picks up where it left off.
That need to recharge is the main reason it takes the vacuum 8 hours to do my main floor. It has to recharge three times, and it spends more time charging than cleaning, though I noticed today that after the third recharge it only had about 5 minutes' work left to do. I'll put my Kill-a-Watt meter on it to find out how much power it uses.
So how good a job does it do?
Well, it does not get the floor as clean as a human with a decent vacuum cleaner. It seems to do better on carpet than on tile, but on both it sometimes misses a little here and there.
With that said, I think the floor as a whole is cleaner right now than it gets very often. Our floor gets spot-cleaned as necessary, and on most (well, some) Saturdays various areas get vacuumed more thoroughly, but it's pretty rare that the entire house is vacuumed all at once. It's quite nice to walk around and see that all of the floors are clean... no little piece of thread here, or lint ball there, etc. Finally, even if the robot doesn't do as good a job with a single cleaning as a person could do, it probably does a better job than my kids actually do, and the robot will do it every day, rather than once per week. Or two. Or three. I expect that repeated, daily coverage to make up for a lot.
Some other things I noted about it, in no particular order:
* We have one piece of furniture that the Neato almost, but not quite, fits under. Worse, it's the top of the scanner module lump that catches, so the Neato seems to think it can fit, but then sometimes gets stuck. I put a strip of the "boundary marker" tape that came with it under the furniture in question. Problem solved.
* The rest of the furniture is high enough off the floor that the low-profile Neato slides right under. This means that a lot of places that pretty much never get vacuumed, such as under couches and beds, will get cleaned daily.
* The Neato generally seems to have litte trouble with cords lying on the floor. It goes over them without disturbing them too much. However, the nest of cords behind my desk (two computers, four monitors, three speakers, and a bunch of assorted accessories) traps it. It doesn't break anything, but it consistently gets caught. I need to bundle the cables up to fix that. For now I used another strip of boundary marker.
* Loose papers on the floor will get chewed up, and various small clutter items will get pushed around and beat up. I think this may actually be an advantage from a tidiness perspective, because everyone will learn not to leave stuff on the floor where the robot will eat it.
* I saw various reviewers on Amazon and other places who mentioned setting the Neato to run in the middle of the night, but it's too loud for that if your bedroom is part of the area it will clean. It's not terribly noisy, but enough to be bothersome while you're trying to sleep. It's loud enough that I close my office door when I'm on the phone or in a meeting and it's working nearby.
* I think I may wish that the Neato did have an option to set a time limit on cleaning. For example, I think I might like it to clean every day just until it runs low on battery (an hour or so), then stop for the day, but pick up where it left off the next day. I think the systematic approach of the Neato is better than the random walk of the Roomba, but the latter does have the advantage of enabling regular partial cleaning.
* The dust bin in the unit is small. Small enough that unless the volume of stuff it picks up drops off over time (which may happen, with daily cleaning) you have to empty it every day. What would be super awesome is a robot vacuum that can automatically connect itself to the central vacuum and empty its own bin. But emptying it is easy enough.
* We had a challenging time finding a place to put the base station. It's small, and sits tight against a wall, but needs at least 3 feet of clear space on three sides, and we don't have six feet of bare wall in many places. It's in the hallway for now, which isn't working out too badly but may not be a good place long-term.
Anyway, if anyone is thinking of buying something like this, I think it's a great idea. Granted I've only had it for 24 hours, so my opinion could change. Time will tell.