Neato Robotics' XV Essential vacuum brings affordable automation to Walmart

There's something to be said for taking the easy way out. Neato Robotics figured out how to get the price down on its well reviewed, but slightly pricey XV Signature line of autonomous vacuums, by simply swapping in a cheaper brush and filter. Thus was was the XV Essential. Under the hood it's the same exact machine as the $400 Signature model, but thanks to the plain plastic blade bush and flat filter, it comes in a cool $30 cheaper. That might not sound like much, but shoppers at Walmart (where the XV Essential will launch exclusively in March) are sure to appreciate the additional value. Otherwise you still get the impressive laser guidance system and smart charging function that tells the little sucker to return home when its battery is running low, then picks right back up where it left off once it's fully juiced.

There are, of course, trade offs. The ridged filter in the Signature model is much better at capturing pet dander and dust, for one. Plus the purely plastic-bladed Essential is quite noisy on hardwood floors -- it easily overpowered the din of Bluetooth speakers, overzealous PR reps and drunken bloggers at this evening's Pepcom event. Before you go, check out the gallery below.