Some people are very enthusiastic about this vacuum cleaner. I think for a lot of users, seeing it in action is exciting for its novelty and they are willing to overlook its functionality as a robotic tool. I'm less impressed as I work in the industry, and in school we made toys similar to this robot.
I bought this because I was hoping it would cut down on cleaning time around my apartment. I was not expecting this cleaner to be perfect, I've read about spots of dust that this might leave in the corners, or near chairs. I would not have a problem if it performed moderately well and left a few small spots here and there... I've run the Neato only a couple times, and though I may update my review, so far this is nowhere near a 5-star product.
The following was my experience:
-When it runs it's LOUD. That's good in a sense, because the suction power is strong, but it also means that I'd be reluctant to have on any time that I'm at home. This would still be fine if it were reliable, and I could trust it to not get stuck when I'm not present...
-Despite the 'mapping' functionality of the robot, it has a hard time navigating around regular household objects. I have a rolling office chair in my apartment. The neato had trouble 'seeing' the chair with its rangefinder and kept running into it. It would push the chair around my room slightly. It would also push a small wastebin around my room as well. It didn't tip over, however I could imagine a situation where it might...
-Around electric cords it also does poorly... To be fair they warn you about this, but from a practical standpoint I can't imagine anyone who would unplug everything, or move cords each time the vacuum is in use. As a work around, I might consider laying down strips of their 'no-go' tape, but its a little ugly and I'm not enthusiastic about leaving the tape semi-permanently on my floor.
-It found its way into my bedroom closet (I left the door open), navigated its way around the door and got stuck. For 15 minutes it cleaned the same spot, going back and forth, but could not find its way out. I had to re-position it finally before it eventually found its way out.
-The mapping feature, doesn't handle re-positioning well. After leaving the closet, the power went low so it attempted to find its docking station. It went in the completely wrong direction across different rooms for about 10 minutes or so, until finally I manually just placed it back to dock.
-It never found its way into my bathroom, though I left the door open.
With all those cons, I will say that the areas it did clean (which was most of my living room, kitchen, and bedroom) it did a pretty decent job. It also cleaned certain areas (like under my bed, and certain crevices) that I personally clean much less frequently, and did a good job. At the end of the cleaning, the trap was completely full of debris, though I though I'd had a fairly clean apartment.
Here are my impressions so far:
1) There is some light prep involved before the Neato can be effective. You can't leave things lying around the floor. If you're really ambitious, you might carefully ziptie all the electric cords / cables in your house, or place no-go strips in certain spots.
2) It will get stuck in certain regions. I've set it up for scheduled cleanings. As I come home and find it stuck, I may begin closing certain doors or laying out the tape.
3) The regions it does clean are cleaned well.
I've since upgraded the software to the latest version (you have to go to the website to do this, and it requires a specialized usb cable that did not come with the robot). I'm hoping that performance will improve, and I'll learn the nuances more. Worth $400? At this time probably not... something closer to $250 would be a much more reasonable price given its current capabilities.
Certainly with software upgrades this has more potential as a time saver.