The Neato Botvac Connected is a very capable robot vacuum cleaner that takes a sophisticated approach to cleaning, using an array of sensors to intelligently map your home rather than just pinballing its way to a clean floor. The problem is that this former flagship has been thoroughly usurped by the newer Botvac D7 Connected.
Lacks features of D7
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Why the Neato Botvac Connected? Neato may not be the biggest name in robot vacuum cleaners, but it is one of the best, and one of the biggest difficulties facing anyone considering purchasing one of its devices is the sheer variety on offer.
There are a number of different vacuum cleaners from the manufacturer that sit in the ‘D’ range: so named after their distinctive semi-circle shape, like a capital 'D'. The Botvac Connected was the range's flagship device, taking the design and features of the collection to their luxury extreme.
Then in early 2018 Neato released the Neato Botvac D7 Connected, a new flagship robot vacuum cleaner that definitely sits at the head of the table, with features that blew us away, and a price tag to match.
The difficulty that the Neato Botvac Connected faces is that it still carries a flagship price tag, with an RRP of $699 (£729.99, about AU$930), but is no longer the head of the pack. As you’d expect, the release of the D7 has caused retailers to somewhat lower prices on the Botvac Connected, but is it worth the still-hefty investment?
The Neato Botvac Connected follows the D-shaped design language of the rest of the Neato Botvac range, with a flat front and rounded main body.
On top of the cleaner is a ‘turret’, a small round protrusion that houses the Botvac Connected’s sensors. This enables the cleaner to asses not only where it is in a room, but also which items of your furniture it can fit around / under.
The great irony of this is that, when cleaning our apartment, it was often the turret that caused the Botvac Connected to get stuck on the underside of our furniture – and what made this even more frustrating is that it isn’t smart enough to learn from its mistakes, so would get stuck at the same point time and again.
Interestingly, even though the D7 Connected has the same turret on top (and the exact same physical dimensions), we found that it never got stuck on the offending piece of furniture. It wasn't clear to us why this was the case, but it may simply be that the D7's sensors are slightly more effective
The Botvac Connected’s 0.7-liter bin is accessed via a plastic panel that covers the majority of the top surface of the robo-vac. This is a fairly standard bin size for a robot vacuum cleaner, but given how effective the Botvac Connected is (something we’ll talk about in more detail later) we found that the bin often over-filled.
Unlike the Roomba 980, this vacuum cleaner isn’t able to register when its bin is full and so will carry on sucking up dirt, eventually clogging itself up.
The plastic panel that covers the bin is a dirt-magnet, easily becoming marked with fingerprints and attracting dust – not ideal for a device that’s supposed to clean.
Next to the turret is a small screen with a few buttons for navigating the Neato’s menus. The menu interface is fairly easy to navigate, but we found the app far more satisfying to use than the on-device menu.
The app’s design is simple without being simplistic, and for the most part is easy to navigate. If you’d rather just kick off a cleaning cycle with a single press of a button, there are a couple of buttons towards the front of the Connected that start either a ‘whole house’ or ‘spot clean’ cycle.
The main things you’ll be thinking about in terms of maintenance with the Neato Botvac Connected are the cleaning elements, and there are three that will require attention: the internal filters and the two brushes.
The first of these is the main spiral brush at the front of the device. The Connected comes with a combo brush that has a combination of different kinds of bristles to attack any type of dirt on your floor. You can buy replacements for this brush, but there’s also a maintenance comb included with the cleaner to keep your brush in top condition.
The other brush is a smaller, less sophisticated array of bristles that rotates at 90 degrees to the main brush, and which helps to kick up dust and dirt hiding in crevices and along skirting boards. This is attached with a magnet, and pops off for cleaning and replacement.
You can get a few different types of filter for the Neato range, but as a high-end model the Connected comes with the Ultra Performance Filters as standard. How quickly you get through these filters will depend on how often you use the vacuum, but they’re easy to swap out, with a simple plastic latch mechanism.
Performance and features
The Neato Botvac Connected is a brilliant vacuum cleaner. The depth and quality of its cleaning are among the best on the market.
An option you get with the Connected that you don’t get with a cheaper model like the D5 Connected is the ability to choose between ‘Eco’ and ‘Turbo’ modes.
Eco is a quieter cleaning mode that’s gentler on your carpets, with Turbo being more anti-social in terms of its volume, and more vigorous in its cleaning efforts.
We found that as we most often used the robo-vac when we weren’t at home we opted for the Turbo cleaning mode, as the louder volume wasn’t a consideration.
The Turbo mode was so efficient at sucking up dust, dirt and dog hair that it required numerous trips around our apartment per week just so that it didn’t overfill the bin every time.
One of the features we absolutely love in the Botvac D7 Connect is no-go lines, which lets you use a map generated by the cleaner to dictate where it cleans on future cycles. The Botvac Connected doesn’t have this feature, and is the lesser for it, requiring you to crate physical obstacles for it if you want to stop if from cleaning an area of your home.
One feature shared by both cleaners is the ability to manually control them via the app like you would a remote control car. This is a brilliant feature, as it enables you to specifically target an area where you may have had a spill.
If you’re the type of user who would rather have your home cleaned when you’re not there, you can use the app to program the Neato to do a maximum of one cycle a day. The scheduling section of the app is the least intuitive, which is a shame as it’s the feature we imagine will get the most use.
One major positive is that the Connected boasts a battery life of 120 minutes, equivalent to a surface area of 5,000 square feet – that’s about the size of a basketball court, so unless your abode is truly palatial, it should manage your whole pad on a single charge. And if it doesn’t you needn’t worry – it will just take itself back to its charging station for a top-up before setting off again.
The level of cleaning you get from the Neato Botvac Connected is truly brilliant; the design of this robo-vac allows it to really get into the nooks and crannies, plus with the different cleaning modes it does an excellent job even in a more challenging abode like that of a pet-owner.
The intelligent sensors and sophisticated app mean you can rest assured that you’ll be getting a thorough clean, with all (accessible) areas of your home taken care of. We like the range of different options in terms of cleaning modes, and once we got to grips with the scheduling section of the app it happily stuck to its regular routine, taking all the pain out of keeping our floors clean.
The plastic panel housing the bin is too easily marked, making the Connected feel cheap, which it definitely isn’t – and that’s a major problem for the Connected: it’s a flagship-priced product in a market where it’s no longer a flagship.
Another complaint we have is the bin size, and the lack of a bin sensor. While the 0.7-liter capacity is fairly common for robot vacuums, the fact that the Neato is as powerful as it is means it often overfills.
The Neato Botvac Connected is a great robot vacuum cleaner, but it isn’t as good as the D7. This would be fine if it was significantly cheaper than the D7, but it isn’t. And if you’re planning on spending hundreds on a top-of-the-line cleaner, we’d highly recommend stretching your budget a little more to get the current flagship.
That said, if you see this model reduced in a sale, or if it gets further reductions as time goes by, you’ll definitely get a good clean out of it. Plus, as Neato goes from strength to strength you can be fairly certain that software support will be continued for this great range of robot vacuum cleaners.
Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.