Neato's Botvac D7 Connected launched this time last year, but that year-long journey has proven to be a very fruitful one for owners of the powerful robot vacuum. While the design and overall performance reflected an improved and refined vision of the original Neato Botvac Connected vacuum, several software updates and feature additions have rocketed the Botvac D7 Connected to the top of the must-have list of robot vacuums. The Botvac D7 Connected has a repertoire of fantastic features including zone cleaning, multi-floor support, virtual no-go lines, and integration with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant that work perfectly with its LaserSmart laser-guided navigation system.
Many of these features aren't unique to the Neato Botvac D7 Connected though, and will likely leave many wondering what makes the vacuum worth $829 when compared to brands like Roborock, which offer what appears to be an identically matched vacuum for quite a bit less. The difference is in distribution, particularly in countries like the US, where many Chinese-brand robot vacuums aren't officially sold and, more important, are not officially supported. It's this last part that needs to be paid attention to, as it is a true reflection of how long your product can last since it will eventually need to be serviced, especially if it's regularly used.
In our time with the Botvac D7 Connected over the last 6 months or so we experienced an issue with a firmware update that broke the zone cleaning feature. After troubleshooting with support, it was determined that the fault lies with the vacuum and a replacement was sent out that worked exactly as expected. Similar things can happy to any product, as we've seen in comments and emails from users who imported one of the many excellent, less expensive vacuums from Chinese brands but weren't able to get them serviced because warranties aren't offered in countries where they aren't officially sold.
A Different Design
The capital D-shape is a trademark look for all of Neato's vacuums and differs quite wildly from the more standard circular hockey puck that represents that vast majority of robot vacuums on the market. While the circular design with large rotating side brushes is a solid design, Neato's D-shape is designed to better fit into corners and, as such, doesn't utilize a large side brush at all. In fact, you'll notice that this side brush is rather tiny when compared to most other robot vacuums, and that's because it doesn't need to be large.
The first reason is its shape; with a flat front and flat sides, the Botvac D7 Connected can hug walls more closely than other robot vacuums. This is helped further by the excellent LaserSmart navigation on top which can get the vacuum within millimeters of the wall, not centimeters as some other navigation systems do. The other secret is located underneath the vacuum in the form of wider roller brushes. Most robot vacuums have roller brushes that take up around 50% of the middle section of the vacuum and sit in-between the main wheels, while Neato's takes up almost the entire width of the base instead and is situated almost completely toward the front of the vacuum.
This extra brush width means it doesn't need as large of a side brush to push debris toward the middle since the middle brush reaches out nearly to the edges. The top-loading dustbin is also quite different from many robot vacuums on the market, which often use a rear-loading bin. Top-loading means that it's simply easier and cleaner to perform regular maintenance, with a hassle-free lift-up design and a clip-in filter. This keeps junk from being spilled onto the floor in the process and just works incredibly well in general.
My least favorite part of Neato's design is in the roller brushes themselves, which are more standard brush-style rollers like that of a traditional vacuum. Some robot vacuums use this type of brush while others, like the Roomba series, utilize a set of silicone rollers that just work differently and don't get tangled as often. Depending on your home you may find that this more traditional brush style cleans better, but there's no getting around the fact that it adds more maintenance to the care of your vacuum, as you'll regularly need to cut hair and other strands out of it to keep it performing at tip-top shape.
Neato was one of the first manufacturers to ship a robot vacuum with laser-guided navigation, but we've been there and done that and see this type of navigation on may high-end robot vacuums now. As a result, Neato had to come up with other concepts that would add value based on navigational accuracy and ability, and that's where the latest updates come into play.
One of the biggest improvements over the previous generation was in the addition of virtual no-go lines, which removed the need to use the magnetic strips that shipped with the original Botvac Connected vacuum. Instead, the Botvac D7 Connected will learn your home's layout and create a map within the app, which you can section off as you please. Drawing a no-go line within the app will keep the vacuum from crossing it, and the temporary nature of a virtual line means you can easily change or remove these at any time.
It's also possible to create individual rooms and any combination of these rooms as well, giving you easy cleaning options for the whole house. This new zone cleaning feature is a must-have for any connected robot vacuum as it provides a far more effective spot-cleaning feature that's now done by room, or sections of a room, depending on what shape you draw on the map found within the app. The app now also recognizes multiple floors within a house and can be switched between by using different base stations for charging.
While it's inconvenient and slightly expensive to have to purchase additional base stations just to unlock this feature, it really just makes more sense to do things this way since the robot will have to go back and charge eventually. There's also the possibility that your floorplan is too large for the robot to clean on a single charge, and that's another area where the new app design comes into play. Since the Botvac learns floorplans and can calculate how much time it takes to clean each and every section of your house, the robot can determine how long it needs to go back and charge in order to more quickly clean your house.
The Botvac D7 will then only charge to the battery percentage it calculates is needed to complete the house, cutting down on charge times between cleaning significantly. Compare this with other robot vacuums which head back to the charging base with a low battery and will take several hours to fully charge, followed by venturing back out to finish cleaning your home. This extends the cleaning process needlessly and makes Neato's intelligent design an obviously better choice.
It's also a more gentle vacuum than previous generations thanks to the Extra Care Navigation option, which forces the vacuum to move more slowly and methodically than when in turbo mode. While turbo mode is best for cleaning extra dirty messes or picking up pet hair better, Extra Care Navigation provides a way to work more precisely in complex environments with lots of furniture or obstacles. One of our biggest complaints with the original Botvac Connected was that it tended to be too aggressive and this directly addresses that complaint.
The app will also help you get your Botvac D7 Connected tied-in with your favorite virtual assistant or smartwatch, which adds to the ways that the vacuum can be started and managed. It can be added to the Routines feature on Google Assistant, which lets you schedule the vacuum's cleanings based on other events like when you leave the house in the morning, for example. It can also be started and managed from your favorite smartwatch via the Neato app, although the amount of options is fairly limited given the size of a smartwatch and the simplicity of the interface.
Neato's latest flagship robot vacuum is more about improving efficiency and cleaning through software rather than massive hardware changes or additions, and it does its job admirably. The biggest detractor for the Botvac D7 Connected is the price, which is $30 more than the similarly-specced iRobot Roomba i7. The Neato has a distinct advantage in navigational abilities thanks to its laser-guided navigation system, which is both more precise and performs equally well in any lighting condition. The biggest differences come in the many forms of design, where Neato's choices are clearly different from many competitors, including the app itself and its features.
These designs may work better in your home depending on the configuration of walls and other obstacles than a round vacuum would, including a more traditional style brush underneath that's also wider than other robot vacuums. Neato's new software updates provide very real added value to customers, including a way to better manage homes with multiple floors. The iRobot Roomba i7's biggest advantage over the Botvac D7 Connected is the self-cleaning base station, but at a $350 upcharge is likely just too expensive for quite a few folks, especially considering that both of these vacuums already cost over $800.