There’s a myriad of robot vacuums on the market. Most are round and use bump sensors to aimlessly navigate, sucking up any dirt they might pass. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Neato Botvac Connected. The robot vacuum uses a clever “D” shaped design and laser sensor to map rooms and clean floors in a systematic, orderly fashion.
What is Botvac Connected?
It’s a robot vacuum developed by Neato Robotics, a California-based robotics company. Botvac Connected is equipped with a spinning laser sensor (the same type of sensor you see on self-driving cars) to accurately map rooms and detect furniture. The “D” shaped design cleans edges and corners better than the competition. A motorized brush roll sweeps up dirt and pet hair and a smaller side brush cleans edges and corners. Botvac Connected is slightly less expensive than iRobot’s Roomba or Dyson’s 360 Eye, making it a better entry device into robot vacuums.
In addition to a unique design and sensor setup, Botvac Connected works with a companion smartphone app. This is used to schedule cleanings, check battery life, and manually control the robot vacuum. The app called Neato connects to the home’s Wi-Fi network and sends notifications. It’ll send notifications if Botvac Connected is cleaning or needs help getting unstuck. In turn, Botvac Connected connects to your Wi-Fi network (password is entered during initial setup).
You can schedule Botvac Connected to clean any day of the week at any time; I had Botvac Connected running every day for the sake of this review. The robot vacuum doesn’t get tired (save for recharging its battery) or complain, and it follows Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. Though I wouldn’t place Botvac Connected near feet, it occasionally runs over them.
Manual control with the Neato app is sub-par. You tap up, down, left, and right to drive Botvac Connected around, but there’s noticeable latency between tapping the controls and the robot vacuum responding. Tinkering with manual mode is a time suck, you’d be better off leaving the bot work by itself.
How well does it clean?
Pretty well actually. Botvac Connected features two cleaning modes (Home and Spot) and two levels of suction (Eco and Turbo). Home vacuums up to 5,000 square feet with a few battery charges in between. Spot vacuums a smaller area, ideal for smaller messes. Eco is more energy efficient and won’t drain Botvac Connected’s battery as much as Turbo. The suction power on Eco is less powerful, though. Turbo picks up significantly more mess (leafs, food crumbs, etc) but drains more energy. It’s also a bit louder.
Battery life is decent. Eco lasts a couple hours on a single charge whereas Turbo needs to recharge every hour. In some cases, Botvac Connected requires a recharge before committing to a full-on House clean. Spot clean doesn’t require as much battery as it’s cleaning a smaller space. Nonetheless, the robot vacuum can find its way back to the charging base. The automatic charging works about fifty-fifty; Botvac Connected sometimes gets stuck, asking for help through smartphone notifications.
An integrated dirt bin contains everything Botvac Connected sucks up. It’s easily removable and holds a few handfuls of contents (technically Neato says .7 liters). For Turbo mode, I found myself emptying the bin a couple times each cleaning run, but this ultimately depends on how dirty the floors are. Affixed to the plastic dirt bin is a filter; Botvac Connected ships with two extra filters and more are available from Neato. The dirt bin is washable though I wouldn’t risk it in a high-temperature dishwasher. Neato doesn’t recommend washing the filter but says to tap it a few times inside a trash bin. I tried this and it works well; dirt flings right off the filter.
A large motorized brush on the underside of Botvac Connected scoops up a majority of debris. On the right side, there’s a smaller brush that tackles edges and corners. Each brush can easily be removed and cleaned using an included Neato comb. An additional brush with rubber blades works best on hard surfaces; the combo brush with rubber and bristles is ideal for carpets. Neato has replacement parts if need be.
It’s best to prep a room for cleaning by picking up kids toys, clothing, and small items a typical vacuum would disagree with. Botvac Connected doesn’t recognize entryways and doorways but uses magnetic boundary markers to determine closed off areas. The boundary markers come as a magnetic strip and can be cut to size using an included cutting tool. The magnetic boundary marker works great, but it’s more work to set up than Roomba’s virtual wall.
What tech is Botvac packing?
Lasers and a few other neat bells and whistles. Botvac Connected maps rooms using a laser sensor and cleans floors using powerful suction and motorized brush rolls.
SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) lets Botvac Connected “see” the room it’s in and return to where it started (the charging base if on a schedule). It works by sending a laser beam out and measuring the reflection bounced off surfaces. Unlike vSLAM, which uses a camera instead of a laser, Botvac Connected can “see” in the dark. This is helpful when the robot vacuum cleans under beds and sofas.
A “real” vacuum is integrated into the Botvac Connected and not some gimmicky sweeper that shoves dirt around. The suction is powerful enough to pick up deep hair and dust. A motorized brush scoops in large debris such as leaves and food crumbs. It sometimes gets mangled on carpet fringe, but only sometimes.
Botvac Connected won’t climb stairs, but it’s safe to place on the second story of a house. With its two bottom-facing infrared sensors, the robot vacuum will detect edges and stay clear.
The adjustable wheel drive adapts to different floor surfaces, lifting and lowering the Botvac Connected on hardwoods and carpets. If you lift the robot vacuum up when it’s cleaning (which Neato doesn’t recommend), it’ll beep and display a message asking to be placed back down. Even removing the dirt bin can incite a buzzing tune and a “thank you” message from Botvac Connected.
So it works with Amazon Echo?
You bet. Download the “Neato” skill to your Echo or Echo Dot, and you can ask Alexa to power on Botvac Connected. As of now, the skill supports phrases such as “Alexa, ask Neato to start cleaning” and “Alexa, ask Neato to stop cleaning”. I tested Alexa integration with Botvac Connected, and it worked flawlessly. The robot vacuum started cleaning about a second after Alexa said: “okay, starting Neato”.
Neato has a few other Botvac models on the market, but Botvac Connected is the only one compatible with Amazon Echo. If you don’t have an Echo but want in on this futuristic home automation, the Echo Dot costs just $39 through the holiday season. This is the device I used for this review, and it works amazingly well. Siri doesn’t even come close.
I want one. Where can I get one?
We thought you’d like Botvac Connected. The robot vacuum retails in stores such as Walmart and Target but is also available online from Amazon. It costs $649 which is cheaper than the competition. If you’re wanting to keep your floors nice and clean without lifting a finger every day, Neato is offering a great piece of tech to get the job done.
Rad: Easy to setup. Automatically cleans floors according to user-set schedule. Sucks up all kinds of mess: dirt, pet hair, food, leaves, and more. Navigates rooms in orderly fashion.
Bad: Sometimes gets stuck on carpet fringe. Doesn’t always go back to the charging base without running into problems. Magnetic boundary markers require extra room prep.