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Monday, May 28, 2018

Neato Botvac D7 Connected Review

Neato Botvac D7 Connected Review
PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • $799
Robot vacuum cleaners are getting better. Once a gimmick, they are now big business and are actually getting good enough to replace your normal vacuum cleaner.


Some may think it’s lazy to get a robot to do the work, and they might be right. But if you can buy a robot that will clean your floor every day while you’re not even there, you might be tempted to invest – and gain a lot of time that you’d otherwise spend cleaning.

The Neato Botvac D7 Connected is a bad name for the best robot vacuum cleaner we’ve tested yet. But it is also one of the most expensive and can be frustrating to use. But, like with smartphones, the best often costs a lot, and the performance and versatility of the Botvac D7 actually make it worth the plunge.

NEATO BOTVAC D7 CONNECTED PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The D7 costs £799 direct from Neato or Amazon in the UK.

In the US, it costs $799 from Neato or Amazon.

NEATO BOTVAC D7 CONNECTED DESIGN AND BUILD
While it undoubtedly still looks a little alien, the D7 Connected isn’t the most outlandish piece of smart home technology you could buy. Its shape is not random either – the curve on one side and the corners of the other side allow the D7 to fit itself into corners to clean, and to skirt around obstacles.

The circular bump on the top of the D7 is what Neato calls ‘Botvision’, and is basically the robot’s eyes. This clever, contained piece of the product means the vacuum cleaner intelligently moves around the floor and maps its progress while it does it.

It’s very short too, so it can fit under furniture where rival products cannot.

On top is the lid of the dirt bin which is easily accessible and removable. There’s also a bumper with suspension to allow the unit to gently bump against things before retreating (this is also used as a button during set up).

Otherwise, the top is fairly plain besides an LED readout and physical start button. You shouldn’t need to ever look at the bottom of the Botvac D7, but as you’d suspect it’s all wheels, brushes and rollers that work together for an efficient clean.

On the curved end of the robot are metal charging contacts that the unit automatically aligns to the contacts on the floor charging dock.

So, it is what it is – a functional, black and grey robot vacuum cleaner. It’s the features and performance that make the D7 Connected stand out.
NEATO BOTVAC D7 CONNECTED FEATURES AND PERFORMANCE
The Neato Botvac D7 Connected relies on Wi-Fi to function, and you’ll need a strong connection. In our testing, without a decent Wi-Fi signal the D7 becomes frustratingly useless, so be warned.

It works with either 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi networks (basically, it’ll work) but just make sure your router and set up covers all the areas of the house you want the D7 Connected to cover.

When you set up the D7, think about where you will place the charging dock. The robot remembers where it is and will cleverly return to it once a clean has been completed. You shouldn’t need to move the base at all if it’s in a discreet location, but if you do move it you’ll need to re-map the floorplan.

Then, your attention moves to the app and stays there. On Android or iOS, the Neato app is a minimalist but largely decent user experience. In testing it was sometimes unresponsive, and we were able to put it down to our initial Wi-Fi set up. The app and D7 communicate seamlessly when everything is running properly.

But then sometimes the robot simply wouldn’t connect to the app, and the app is so sparse and uninformative at times that it says there’s a problem, but doesn’t prompt you to know the solution. This is a real shame, as you might find yourself not being able to restart the vacuum and randomly pressing the power button.

But once it’s working and you’re worried that the D7 Connected will miss any of your floor, don’t be – it is amazingly manoeuvrable despite its 3.5kg heft. The rounded and boxed design at either end allows the Botvision to seek out corners of the room, and then the angled end can back into it, ensuring full coverage.

The Botvac D7 also does very well working its way round obstacles. When you start a clean it scans the perimeter of the room in a lasso fashion and then cleans every open space inside it.

Errors can plague use, damaging the user experience

There’s an option to map off parts of the room that you don’t want the vacuum to go to, but in our testing it’s just easier to make space for it. But once you have a mapped area saved, you can draw no-go areas. This means the D7 can run around your home only cleaning the areas it knows are clear and makes it very efficient.

The only thing it struggles with is cables – you might want to put something solid in the way of any cables on the floor (or input some no-go areas) because otherwise the D7 is going to get stuck – and this is its biggest flaw.

The detection system can’t handle avoiding cables, but otherwise the automatic mode proved very good. You can have it on turbo (louder, faster) or eco (quieter, slower, uses less energy) and there’s even a manual mode if you want to drive it about like a remote-controlled car, but this defeats the point – you might as well just use a normal vacuum cleaner.

Other than spot mode, which cleans a square area, you’ll be using the Botvac D7 Connected in auto mode. Using the app, you can schedule it to clean at certain times and also remotely from anywhere, which is great. If you’re at work, you can set it off and be safe in the knowledge it’s cleaning away back home.

Also useful is Amazon Alexa and Google Home compatibility, so you can control your Botvac Connected using your smart speaker. It’ll need to be on the same Wi-Fi network, but with a simple “Alexa, tell Neato to start cleaning”, you won’t even have to open the app to get a nice clean floor. Ah, the future, eh?

SPECS
  • Length 31.9 cm
  • Width 33.6 cm
  • Height 10 cm
  • Weight 3.5kg
  • Battery Lithium-ion
  • Charger Voltage 14.4V
  • 1-year limited warranty

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