Just over a month ago I introduced my new Neato D3 Connected robot vacuum to the world. I called him “Barry”. My first impressions of the D3 Connected Botvac were very good, but what do I think now that I have had it for a while?
Real World Use – Neato D3 Connected Botvac
The first point that I need to make with this review is that is based entirely on real world experiences. I don’t conduct lab tests or simulate dirty floors – I live them. The Neato D3 Connected Botvac has slotted into my regular (sometimes lax) cleaning routine.
The advantage of this kind of testing, of course, is that one quickly gets an understanding of how useful the product would be to own long term. A product like a robot vacuum comes with a huge novelty factor, but that rapidly wears off and you are left to face the facts. A product that it full of gimmicks, but that delivers little long term benefit is of little value.
I’m pleased to say that the Neato D3 Connected has certainly had a positive impact. It does some things very well. It’s not perfect (I’ll go deeper into that in a little bit) but the positives substantially outweigh the negatives, enough so that I think it is a worthwhile product to have scuttling about my house.
Controls and Connectivity – Neato D3 Connected Botvac
The thing I like most about the controls of the Neato D3 Connected Botvac is the simplicity. There is no great array of buttons on the device, nor is there a screen providing me with information. That is because those features simply aren’t required.
There is a button to send the robot on its merry way, should you wish to set it off without reaching for your smartphone, but all the rest of the controls reside within the Neato app.
To me that makes perfect sense. There is simply no need for every device and gadget to have its own screen and buttons, when it can easily borrow the (better) ones you have in your pocket. The Neato D3 Connected uses a WiFi connection to communicate with your Android or iPhone. This means that it can be operated even when you are nowhere near home.
That connectivity has come in handy more than a couple of times over the past month. On several occasions I have planned to vacuum the house, only to forget to set the D3 Connected off as I walk out the door. I tend to remember about half way to the shops, or mid-swing at the park. All I have to do is open the app and press a button. Simple.
“Barry” is a great communicator. I get a message on my phone to let me know when the chore is done and the vacuum its self makes an audible sing-song noise. On top of that I get a coverage map, which is really useful for seeing what parts of the floor the vacuum has covered, and what has been missed. In my experience, the Neato D3 Connected only ever misses parts because of obstructions to its path.
For those of you truly living in the future, the Neato D3 Connected integrates with Google Home and Alexa. In fact, Neato were the first robot vacuum company to announce such integration. That means that you can set your new robot helper on their merry way simply with the power of your voice. That makes my inner geek very happy indeed!
The Neato D3 Connected does have the option to schedule cleans. While this worked very well in my testing, I don’t actually tend to use it. There are several reasons for this. The first is that Hannah is still a little startled when the robot makes unexpected noises or starts moving by its self. She is only two, so that’s completely understandable. She loves the D3 Connected when she is in charge of it. If I have to set it off while we are home, she pushes the button (she then sits, watches and cheers Barry on).
The second reason that I don’t auto schedule is that I like to make sure everything is off the floor before the Neato D3 Connected begins vacuuming. That way I can ensure I have had the best possible clean. I know that I could just let it clean around the obstacles, but I find it works better for me this way.
The final reason is that if I remember to set it off, I also remember to clean it out. The D3 Connected does send handy reminders to clean its filter and dust bin to my phone, but if I’m out and about that quickly gets forgotten. If I return home and see that I have moved everything out of the way for a vacuum, it immediately reminds me to empty the dust bin.
Cleaning Ability – Neato D3 Connected Botvac
This is the big one. Can the Neato D3 Connected actually clean? All the simplicity and connectivity in the world doesn’t matter if the robot can’t deal with the plethora of day-to-day messes that accumulate in a house with a toddler.
The short answer is yes, the Neato D3 Connected can vacuum very well. However, there are some caveats to go with that “yes”.
I’ll focus on the positives first. The Neato D3 Connected seems to be powerful enough to deal with any dust and debris that I would expect my regular upright vacuum to deal with. The D3 Connected leaves both my tiled and carpeted floors looking and feeling clean.
The advanced guidance systems on the Neato D3 Connected enable it to cover the entire floorplan of my upstairs or downstairs (it obviously can’t move between the two by its self) in a methodical way. The D3 Connected sets out to map the perimeter of the room, then it vacuums the middle. As it conducts its perimeter sweep, the D3 Connected takes notice of any doorways or openings.
Once it has finished the first room, it heads back to the opening and maps the second room. It does this until it has completed every room. My understanding is that if it runs low on battery, the D3 Connected will return to base to recharge, then continue where it left off (my townhouse is too small to test that, it has never run out of battery mid-clean).
That is the kind of smarts I expect from my robot vacuum cleaner. If it is truly going to take over the chore of vacuuming, it has to do it in a reliable and methodical manner. Again, the coverage map is invaluable as it shows me if an area has been missed.
On average I run the Neato D3 Connected 2-3 times per week downstairs, and once per week upstairs. The downstairs cops the brunt of dirt that finds its way into our house and we never eat upstairs, so once a week is fine for dust removal.
Generally speaking, that schedule is enough to suit my standards of cleanliness. However, every now and then some manual labour is required to cover the shortfalls of the D3 Connected Botvac.
The main issue with this entry-level Connected Botvac is the lack of side brush. That means that the D3 Connected doesn’t get in close to the edges of the room. Over time dust and debris tends to build up around the skirting boards. I deal with that by brushing it out just before the next clean, or by pulling out the upright and going around the edges. It’s not a huge problem as the manual vacuum still needs to come out for tasks like stairs anyway, but it might just be a compelling enough reason to upgrade to a robot with a side brush. The Neato D5 Connected or the flagship D7 Connected both come with the side brush (as well as some other features), although they do also come with a price premium.
As far as cleaning goes, I find that the Neato D3 Connected achieves fairly pleasing results if I ensure there are as few obstacles as possible (chairs up on tables, etc.), and if I contribute a small amount of manual labour around the edges every now and then. If I use it in this way, I have an acceptably clean house while spending far less time manually cleaning than I used to.
Navigation – Neato D3 Connected Botvac
The laser navigation of the Neato Botvacs is impressive. It was not what I had come to expect from robot vacuums (in my admittedly limited experience of watching cats ride them on Youtube). The navigation system is methodical and comprehensive – the D3 Connected maps the space then sets about cleaning it efficiently. Unless there are obstacles in the way, the D3 Connected Botvac consistently ensures it passes over every piece of floor.
When there are obstacles, the D3 Connected appears to attempt to circumnavigate them. By doing so, the D3 Connected Botvac really does try to clean as much of the open areas as possible.
I found the Neato D3 Connected’s cliff detection to work well. I watched the robot carefully as it navigated the landing leading to the stairs. The D3 Connected came right up to the edge and stuck the front over, but it never looked like it was going to fall. The Neato registered that there was a drop there, so it adjusted its position and on it went.
There are two options when it comes to navigation control – normal or Extra Care. The extra care mode is supposed to stop the D3 Connected from bumping in to as many objects as it navigates its way around the room. The trade-off is that you may not get as close a clean around the edges. I have tried both modes, but I find that the D3 Connected does a pretty good job of not running into things in normal mode. Also, with the cleaning around the edges already the D3 Connected’s weak point, I want it getting in as close as possible. That being said, there are a few scratches on myD3 Connected to indicate that every now and then it does run into things.
The shape of the D3 Connected is also well thought out. The “D” shape lets in get in closer to corners than a round robot could, although a round robot with well-positioned side brushes could probably achieve a similar result. While the robot looks fairly wide, the cured rear allows it to navigate in smaller spaces than I initially expected it to cope with. The squared front of the D3 Connected also allows for a bigger brush – something that no-doubt contributes to the vacuums excellent open-space performance.
Ease of maintenance – Neato D3 Connected Botvac
Cleaning out the Neato D3 Connected is fairly straight forward. The sizable dust bin lifts out from the top of the vacuum and can easily be emptied into a bin. I find it easier to empty than my upright vacuum cleaner as there is plenty of space at the mouth of the dust bin for the debris to fall right out.
The filter also needs to be cleaned each time. I take mine outside and give it a couple of taps against a wall, that seems to do the job. Keep in mind that the Neato manual states that the filter needs to be replaced regularly for optimum performance, so there is an ongoing cost.
Speaking of ongoing costs, the brush and battery also have finite lives (I imagine that is similar for all robot vacuums), so you will need to factor that into any decisions that you make when purchasing the device.
Other than that, the D3 Connected just seems to look after its self. It finds its way back to the docking station after each downstairs clean (except for when hadn’t given it enough space when I first set it up). When I take the D3 Connected upstairs, the robot returns to the spot that I started it in upon completion. It’s not heavy, so moving it up and down stairs is not a chore.
Robot vacuum cleaners have come a long way, and the Neato D3 Connected Botvac exceeded my expectations in terms of its cleaning capability and navigation. Those two things combined make it a worthy, time-saving product to have at home. The connectivity is fantastic, and invaluable for forgetful people like me who only ever remember that they had chores to do while they are out having fun.
The Neato D3 Connected isn’t perfect, and those who want a closer clean around the edges should carefully consider a robot with a side brush, like the D5 Connected. But for those who want a budget-friendly option that saves time and generally does a great job of cleaning, the Neato D3 Connected Botvac is a compelling choice.
Disclosure – Neato provided Blog of Dad with the D3 Connected Botvac free of charge, for the purpose of review and inclusion in the Alternative Mother’s Day Gift Guide. The views expressed in this post are entirely my own views, based on my experiences with the D3 Connected Botvac. For further information, please visit my disclosure statement.