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Neato’s new vacuum is cheaper than Roomba, but more trouble

In the robot vacuum wars, Neato has made a name for itself by developing cheaper, laser-guided devices that are just as effective as iRobot’s Roombas. In fact, while Roombas have been bouncing around walls for years with no real intelligence (something that’s finally changed with the camera-equipped Roomba 980), Neato’s lasers have helped its devices wisely navigate your floors since they debuted in 2010. Now with the BotVac Connected ($700), Neato also has a robot vacuum that’s controlled by a mobile app. But while it does a decent job of cleaning floors, I found it to be much more trouble than Roomba’s latest entry. Slideshow-350683

It’s not hard to identify a Neato vacuum from afar. They all have a “D” shaped design, with a flat edge that makes them better suited at cleaning walls and corners. It’s a big difference from Roomba’s iconic circular design, which plenty of other competitors have mimicked. All Neato vacuums also sport a large circular bulge up top, which houses their navigational lasers. The BotVac Connected doesn’t look significantly different from Neato’s other entries: It’s made entirely of plastic, with prominent house clean and spot clean buttons. On the top right, there’s a small color display, controlled by capacitive touch buttons.

Rather than stick the dust bin on the bottom, which can get a bit cumbersome, Neato’s vacuums house them front and center on top. Emptying it simply involves pulling up on the top notch and removing the air filter. While it’s conceptually a much better method than dealing with Roomba’s bottom-facing dust bins, I sometimes found it tough to orient the air filter properly when trying to reattach the bin.

On the bottom, there’s space for Neato’s extra-wide brushes, two rugged looking side wheels, and two smaller front wheels. You can also get at the lithium-ion battery by removing two screws. Neato includes two sets of brushes in the box: one made up entirely of plastic spiral blades, and the “combo” brush with a mixture of plastic and traditional brushes. The latter is better suited for pets and homes with multiple types of flooring. Given that I have two cats, as well as mix of hardwood and carpeted floors, I opted to test the Botvac with the combo brush.

True to its name, the BotVac Connected’s real claim to fame is its Wi-Fi support and companion app, a first for the company’s devices. The app lets you turn the vacuum on and off remotely, schedule cleanings, and it also displays notifications from the vacuum. Much like Roomba’s 980, which was announced around the same time, the app is Neato’s entry into to “Internet of things.”

So how well does it actually clean? Based on several weeks of testing, the BotVac Connected did a solid job of grabbing all the cat hair off of my carpets, as well as sweeping up debris from my bare floors. It seemed about on-par with the Roomba 980 — performing even better when it comes to certain types of dirt — even though that device costs $200 more. Unfortunately though, the BotVac was also far more prone to getting stuck in furniture and sucking up wires it shouldn’t have. Basically, it requires a lot of babysitting; not exactly what you’d want from a pricey vacuum that’s supposed to make cleaning more convenient.

I’ve been using a Roomba for more than a decade now, so I’m used to picking up potential obstacles and hiding wires before I set a robot vacuum to work. But for some reason (probably because of its odd shape), the Botvac Connected wedged itself into all sorts of places (or maybe it just has something against IKEA furniture). It also sucked up speaker wires I secured on the floor multiple times, which never gave my Roombas any trouble.

I can’t confirm the Botvac Connected will have the same issues in every home, but in mine, at least, it ended up being a headache. It typically took around 90 minutes for it to make a sweep of my two-bedroom apartment, and that usually involves me stepping in to save it five or six times. In contrast, the Roomba 980 can do a full cleaning without me stepping in at all. As far as battery life goes, I managed to get the Botvac Connected running for up to two hours before it petered out.

Despite those instances where it got stuck and jammed, the BotVac Connected did an otherwise decent job maneuvering around my house. Thanks to its laser mapping system, it can usually see larger obstacles. And that also allows it to clean in straight lines, instead of bouncing around seemingly at random like older Roombas. The app also performed well, even though it took a few tries to successfully connect the vacuum to my router. It was particularly useful being able to track a cleaning job when I was at home, but when the vacuum was out of sight. I couldn’t rely much on scheduling the BotVac Connected though, since it would inevitably get stuck before getting too far in my house.

At $700, the Botvac Connected comes in $200 cheaper than the high-end Roomba 980, but it’s still a pretty high price to pay when alternatives sell for around $400. At this point, the significant premium for getting a robot vacuum with Wi-Fi and app support just doesn’t seem worth it. If you’re diving into this market for the first time, consider Neato’s Botvac 85 ($500) and Botvac 70e ($400), or iRobot’s Roomba 770 ($480) and Roomba 880 ($600 – $700). The later has the same brushless design as at the Roomba 980, but no mapping technology. I haven’t seen Dyson’s new robot vacuum in action yet, but given its high $1,200 price (not to mention the fact that it’s only available in Japan), it’s probably out of most customers’ reach.

Every home is different, which makes it all the tougher to compare robot vacuums to each other. In my apartment, the Botvac Connected did a decent job cleaning, but it needed far more help than the Roomba 980 I’ve been testing. When you’re throwing down big bucks, you don’t just want squeaky clean floors — you’re also paying for convenience.


Holiday greetings and bad drivers | Podcast 046


For this holiday week, Jonathan Feist, Andrew Grush and Joe Hindy got together to talk about their plans and the weather. Our boss and a few of our YouTube personalities, including Josh, sent a greeting message for you, and we managed to talk about Google’s self driving car initiative for no more than a few seconds before going off track, literally and figuratively. I suppose we should conclude that at least two thirds of our panel would benefit from this expected partnership with Ford.

With just one more show before the end of the year, we want to thank you again, it is your continued support that makes this all possible. We enjoy sharing a laugh with you each week. We hope that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.

The Android Authority Podcast – discussing topics in Android every single week.

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Recorded on December 22th, 2015 – Hosted and Produced by Jonathan Feist, on behalf of Joshua Vergara.

Happy Holidays!




Happy Holidays from your friends at Android Authority!

Today many of us give thanks as we celebrate this Christmas with our friends and family. While not everyone has the same traditions – whether it’s Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, or any of other myriad holidays that people of all cultures, countries and beliefs practice – we want to wish you a very happy holiday!

Android Authority started with very humble roots but over the years we’ve branched out and reached new heights. Our staff has grown, our coverage has expanded, and we continue to set ever higher ambitions for the years to come. As some of you already know, this has included the creation of sites that go beyond the scope of Android, including TabTimes and SoundGuys. One thing that hasn’t changed however, is our appreciation of our fans.

We know we aren’t perfect (who is?) and there’s things we could improve on, but we are sincerely grateful for your continued dedication. Without fans like you, Android Authority wouldn’t be where it is today. Have a wonderful holiday, and here’s to many more years of providing our readers with “all things Android”, and beyond.

Your friends at Android Authority


Ben Heck’s Holiday Present Protection System

The Ben Heck Show - Episode 217 - Ben Heck's Holiday Present Protection System

Scales pack a punch for detecting holiday present thieves when Ben, Felix and Karen hack apart a set of weighing scales with a PIC microcontroller and key lock to use as an alarm system, preventing cheeky people and pets from sneaking an early peak at their gifts. Help Ben solve problems on the element14 community where you can find exclusive content, build files and talk with the team.


[TA Deals] Phonejoy’s GamePad 2 Bluetooth controller is just $59!


Gaming on mobile devices has grown exponentially in recent years. Many people forgo large, expensive gaming consoles from Sony and Microsoft in favor of a little game on their phone or tablet. While they might be missing out on a world-class title or two ever year, mobile gaming does offer unmatched portability and ever-improving quality. The accessories for phones and tablets make the overall experience even better. Take a look at the GamePad 2. This Bluetooth controller from Phonejoy can either hold your phone between its controls or connect to your tablet without any wires.

Want to get Phonejoy’s GamePad 2 for less than its value? Head on over to Talk Android Deals.

Click here to view the embedded video.

  • Expands to three times its original size
  • Fits most any smartphone or tablet (iPhones & Androids)
  • Includes 12 powerful stainless steel springs
  • Packs three different navigation & play modes
  • Delivers up to 14 hours of play time on one charge
  • Charges quickly via USB cord
  • Supports the ability to connect your smartphone or tablet to your TV via MHL to play on the big screen


We’re selling the GamePad 2 from Phonejoy for just $59 on Talk Android Deals, a price that also includes free shipping.

[Talk Android Deals]

Come comment on this article: [TA Deals] Phonejoy’s GamePad 2 Bluetooth controller is just $59!


Getting Christmas right was never this hard for my parents

The most my parents generally had to do for a Christmas present was remember to buy batteries. Okay, maybe I’m underselling their role. One year they got me a bike, and somehow kept it hidden from me until the big day. I would’ve been five at the time, and it was worth it, I’m sure. I don’t actually recall my reaction but it was probably joy interrupted by despair at being told I couldn’t ride it indoors. Some 25 years later, and I’ve spent what seems like a lifetime setting up Christmas presents this year.

My nine-year-old is getting his first proper laptop — an HP Stream 11 — and my five-year-old step-son is getting his first ever tablet — an Amazon Fire Kids Edition. The latter was up and running in no time. It came preconfigured with my Amazon account, so all I had to do was tell the tablet the name of the kid that’d be using it, how old he was, and what I wanted him to access, and we were good to go. Result! The laptop, though. The laptop has been an ordeal.

It arrived on Monday morning, and after work I diligently opened it up to login, update and set up all the necessary parental controls. After logging into my Microsoft account, I was quickly prompted to upgrade to Windows 10. “Glad I did this now,” I thought to myself.

Windows 10 took four hours to download. I’m not sure why — a 10GB download typically takes 20 minutes or so on my connection — but I survived. It was almost midnight by the time it had downloaded, but with some emails left to answer, I figured I may as well stay up for the installation. About 15 minutes in an error appeared.

“Windows needs more space,” it screamed.

“Why didn’t you tell me this four and a half hours ago?” I sighed.

Beneath the warning I had two options: use Disk Clean-up to free some space (I checked, it would’ve freed 2.6MB), or insert a USB drive with 10GB of free space. It seems to me that HP and Microsoft should’ve really thought about this beforehand. Either way, I didn’t have a USB drive to hand, so at 00:30, I gave in to the urge to sleep.

The next night, I opened the Steam 11, vitriol freshly spewed, ready to get this thing ready to be wrapped. The upgrade was pretty painless. About an hour later, and I was in Windows 10. On setting up my son’s sub-account, I was presented with an intriguing option.

Checkboxes unchecked, I was ready to install Office. As a subscriber to Office 365 Home, this was going to be simple, right? I was signed into Windows with my Microsoft account, after all, and it has a valid license for Office 365.

I first typed “Office” into search, assuming it would be pre-installed or at least there’d be a quick downloader. Nope. I then clicked the “Get Office” button on the start menu, assuming it would offer me a download. Nope. Instead, I was presented with two options: buy Office, or try Office. Neither was applicable. I headed to the Windows Store and searched for Office. It wasn’t there. There was a link that kicked me into the browser, though.

From the browser, I logged, in, downloaded the installer, and started the setup. Away we go! Some 45 minutes later, I was presented with an error dialog:

Great! Midnight again. Sleep again.

Fast-forward to Christmas Eve, and I diagnosed the issue. It was a simple enough fix — a quick cleanup job, the error caused by leftovers from upgrading the OS. Next, I opened up Word, activated Office, logged out, and into the profile I’d set up for my nine-year-old.

On logging into Word with his profile, I discovered he would have full access to the contents of my OneDrive. I’m not sure that him reading my Engadget articles is the worst thing in the world, but there are also a few legal documents and other correspondences that would be confusing for a kid. This was kind of my fault — apparently I had to invite him to use the account, and then set it up with his email instead of my own.

With that taken care of, all that was left was to leave him a soppy note, log out, and get with the wrapping. All told, the saga spanned four nights and took some eight hours or so.

I think he’s getting a bike next year.


Merry Christmas from Talk Android!


Everyone here at Talk Android wishes you a joyful and jolly day!

Come comment on this article: Merry Christmas from Talk Android!


Radiohead released a ‘Spectre’ theme tune for Christmas

It’s the season for giving, and Radiohead just gave us a real treat. The British band was apparently invited to write a theme tune for the Bond movie Spectre last year. Ultimately, “it didn’t work out,” and Sam Smith ended up recording “Writing’s On The Wall” for the film. Radiohead’s track became something the band “love very much,” though, so much so that it’s just released it to the world via SoundCloud.

Appropriately titled “Spectre,” it sounds… exactly like you’d imagine a Radiohead Bond theme would sound. Depending on your tastes, that’s either a great thing or a terrible thing. If you fall in the first camp, enjoy! (And if you fall in the second camp, why did you read this article?)

Source: Radiohead (SoundCloud)


Tesla Model Xmas show is cooler than your house’s lights

Currently there are only a handful of owners of the Tesla Model X. But by this time next year, expect everyone with the electric SUV to show off the vehicle’s elaborate holiday light show complete with flashing lights and opening doors.

Tesla CEO tweeted that all Model Xs will ship with the light-show Easter egg.

In the video the vehicles are playing along to Wizards in Winter by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. No word if other songs will be supported or how owners will access the Easter egg. Regardless, if you know anyone that gets one of these SUVs, get ready to hear this song all the time.

Source: Elon Musk


Scientists discover how your brain wakes you up

Researchers believe they’ve identified the part of the brain which ends light sleep, called the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) cycle, and ultimately wakes you up. Professor Antoine Adamantidis from the University of Bern and his team found a neural circuit sandwiched between two brain regions, called hypothalamus and thalamus, and tested its reaction in mice to light pulses. Stimulating the region with this optogenetics technique triggered “rapid awakenings” from light sleep, while a more concentrated effort caused “prolonged wakefulness.”

The discovery is exciting, Adamantidis says, because it could lead to new techniques designed to help people recover consciousness from a vegetative or minimally conscious state. Furthermore, it could be used to help patients with sleep disorders, or at least better understand what’s stopping them from getting a good night’s rest. Electrical stimulation isn’t a new idea, but before it was used without a full understanding of the different brain regions and how they affect our sleeping patterns. With this extra knowledge, more deft treatments could soon be developed.

Just don’t expect them too soon. “Even though we made an important step forward now, it will take some time before novel therapeutical strategies will be designed based on our results,” Adamantidis stresses.

Source: Nature Neuroscience, University of Bern

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