Neato Botvac Connected Robot Vacuum Review
For now, it's the best connected robot vacuum you can get.
Robot vacuums need to anticipate every kind of obstacle, flooring type, and home design—all while carrying around a heavy battery that must power all on-board functions. It explains why so many robots we've tested are jacks of many trades and masters of none.
After thorough testing, however, we feel the Neato Botvac Connected (MSRP $699) is truly an "go-anywhere" robot vacuum. Large wheels let it climb onto thick carpeting, while a high-profile exhaust helps blow dust off woodwork and out of corners. Combine this with advanced, smartphone-controlled navigation, and the Botvac Connected will whiz around your house, no matter what's inside of it.
Although it is currently our favorite robot vacuum, its reign may be brief: At CES 2016, we saw two models that may dethrone it. Both LG and Samsung plan to release robot vacuums that can memorize the floorplans of rooms they've cleaned. That allows them to clean multiple rooms, and do so more efficiently.
While this Neato may have great judgement, it lacks the ability to learn from its mistakes—so if you're looking for a high-end robot vacuum that's almost as smart as you are, you might want to wait a few months.
Design & Accessories
Pick any color, as long as it's black
The Neato models of old always looked more like old video game consoles than cutting-edge small appliances. Now, the Botvac Connected has grown up, and donned a black suit.
This black finish won't clash with your home decor like the old, bright-white color scheme. And while the Connected has a new paint job, its internals are tried and true. Like all Neatos, this Botvac is shaped like a D–giving the unit a front edge that can clean flush against the wall.
Along with the D-shaped robot, inside the box you'll find a spare brush, a USB cable, the charge station, brush cleaners, and a magnetic strip which works as a big, virtual "No Robots Allowed" sign. Consumers sometimes scoff at the strip because it's not as fancy as an iRobot virtual barrier, but a magnet doesn't need batteries. Of course, in order to cover multiple entrances or one big doorway, you may need to purchase another strip.
The app is the only other "accessory" worth mentioning. Downloadable for either iOS or Android, the Neato app lets you remotely schedule cleanings, or even take direct control of the unit to navigate tricky spaces. We found it very easy to use, although we only really took advantage of the easy scheduling interface.
Cleaning & Navigation
Where no dirt can hide
Where a robot vacuum can't go, it can't clean. So when it comes to these little machines, you don't want a sports car—you want an off-roader.
The Botvac Connected's large wheels and high-profile body allowed it to overcome many obstacles, most notably high-pile carpet. And while we normally don't pay attention a robot vacuum's exhaust, this Neato's fans blew dirt off our testing risers, allowing it to scoop up dirt that's otherwise out of reach. These two advantages meant the Neato picked up, on average, 10.9 grams per cycle.
That's impressive: 10.9 multiplied by 7 days is more than 76 grams a week, an above-average haul that's comparable to the weekly work of a full-sized vacuum.
The only dirt left behind in our tests was under stool legs and toekicks. Its 3.9-inch height meant that it couldn't get under as many places as the shorter iRobot 880, which only measures 3.6 inches tall.
This Neato also missed a few spots because of its gentleness. Cheaper vacuums, like the iRobot 650, get a lot of dirt because they ram their brushes into furniture, potentially causing some surface damage. The Botvac Connected's Botvision software keeps the unit from wedging into places it can't pass straight through.
Neato will cover the Botvac Connected's battery for up to six months after purchase. The rest of the components are covered for any workmanship defects up to one year from purchase.
Why We Like It
You'll feel an instant connection
Any device that's battery powered must compromise either size, power, or speed. But after thorough testing, we think the Neato Botvac Connected sits at the perfect crossroads of those three.
Although larger than most robot vacuums, the Connected still zoomed around our testing room without a hitch. While doing so, it picked up an above average amount of dirt, and thanks to the next generation of Botvision, it cleaned the room quicker each time. $699 is a bit steep, especially when there's an almost-as-good Neato for $500.
But, unless you want to wait for forthcoming competitors from Samsung and LG—which promise to be even pricier—the Neato Botvac Connected is the best robot vacuum you can get.
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