Time for something just a little bit different. Cast your mind forward a few months to New Year. The house has had parties, your bellies have had lots of food, and your sofa is starting to resemble custom fit clothing due to the length of time you’ve spent slouching on it! You know you should clean, but you really can’t drag yourself away from that “Eastenders” omnibus, so you could do with a hand. Well, perhaps this will help take some of the sting out of your post-holiday season cleaning; read our full review of the Neato BotVac Connected.
Let’s assume that you’ve never seen one of these devices before. It wouldn’t altogether be that strange. They’ve been around many years but you don’t see many in the wild due to their niche application. Well, Neato have been delivering automated, robotic vacuum cleaning devices for a number of years now and the aim of these products is relatively straightforward to work out; They clean…so you don’t have to (as much).
First Impressions & Contents
Let’s get this out of the way first. The elephant in the room so to speak is the obvious question; “Will this replace the need for me to clean/vacuum at all?”. No, the answer is no. It will do a lot of the work for you, but if you really want to maintain that spic and span household, you’ll still have to put some elbow grease into it.
Now, with all that said, the Neato BotVac Connected does do a lot for you and makes your life easier.
Anyway, more on that shortly, let’s take a look at what comes in the box.
- Neato BotVac Connected vacuum
- EU & UK power connector for the Charging/Base station
- Base Station with charging functionality
- 2 x Spare ultra performance filters
- 1 x Spare spiral blade brush
- 1 x Spare side brush for edge cleaning
- 1 x Brush and Filter cleaning tool
- USB OTG cable for connecting to
- Magnetic boundary marker roll – keeps the BotVac Connected from roaming outside of area to be cleaned
- Instruction and Warranty material in multiple languages
The unit itself is a little heavier than I expected. That’s not a bad thing; it simply highlights my limited frame of reference for this particular type of gadget. It weighs in at about 3.7 kilos and sits proudly at 32.1 x 33.5 x 10 cm. Quite a small nifty unit that could be stored just about anywhere. The Neato BotVac Connected comes in a glossy black plastic, and its finish along with it’s brushed metal accented branding is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, not that this is going to be too much of an issue where the device is going to be in operation.
Immediately it does feel expensive. A lot of people say that in their articles, but what does it actually mean? Well, I mean it’s a small compact unit, which doesn’t feel like bits are going to break off it, and has significant heft. It’s travel wheels are well built and sturdy and the bin release mechanism and the buttons all feel like they fit perfectly in their particular holes. A good solid start. Its design is sleek and not an inch of space is wasted. This can be seen most readily in the charging station. On the back of the charging station is a number of different cable loops to allow the plug to come out of either side, neatly, and it’s bars are easily found by the device when docking, yet not too wide as to make it look like a “Tomy” toy!
Getting the Neato BotVac Connected on the warpath is as easy as connecting the device to your WiFi network (optional, but recommended) and then hitting the “clean” button. I experimented with both manual cleaning and automatic and found both equally acceptable, with manual being a little more fun due to the interaction and the “cool” factor of “driving” a vaccum cleaner!
Performance & Use
Battery & Setup
There are a couple of different operating methods that can be used with the Neato BotVac Connected. Firstly, there is the choice between Turbo and Eco mode. Turbo, as you might expect delivers the best pickup/cleaning performance and suction, but drains the included 4200 mAh batter much quicker. Eco mode is good for around 90-120 mins of constant use (around 100 mins in our testing) whilst Turbo mode is good for just around 60-90mins. However the Neato BotVac Connected can be instructed to return to base, re-charge, and continue the cleaning cycle where it left off, helping to tackle those larger rooms. A great little feature, but we’d recommend moving as many objects from the devices’ path so it limits the amount of turns and mapping required during use to extend the battery life as far as possible. Once you do manage to completely suck all the juice from your Neato BotVac Connected device however, a full charge is only 3 hours away, which, considering how sporadically this device could be in operation, isn’t too bad at all.
The Neato BotVac Connected manages to map it’s surroundings and plan it’s cleaning path via the integrated ‘Botvision’ (laser-based position and path-planning system) and its SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) navigation system. To give you an idea of just how advanced this device is, the SLAM system used in all Neato BotVac products is the same navigation system Google uses in their self-driving cars. Most other robotic cleaning solutions seemingly utilise a vSLAM system which relies on camera mounted somewhere on the device instead of the SLAM lasers, and as such struggles in low light/darkness.
Of course, there are no doubt areas you don’t want your Neato BotVac Connected to roam, and that’s why Neato include magnetic boundary strips to be cut to size and placed appropriately. During our testing, I put these strips in front of some dining furniture, and the bot did indeed react to it, steering clear and looking for the removal of it’s boundary to continue cleaning. More obviously, I’d expect these to be used around beds and sofas.
Thanks to the SLAM navigation system, the Neato BotVac Connected device set off in a methodical fashion and, once mapped, simply delivered a “lawn-mowing” type path. This seemed optimum to me.
Not many people care about what their vacuum cleaners look like. I think that’s a fair enough statement given the amount of just hideous contraptions I’ve seen. Consumers care about quality in this particular section of gadgetry and vacuums need to first and foremost deliver a good cleaning experience.
With this in mind, I ran a couple of tests on the Neato BotVac Connected to see exactly how it dealt with different scenarios. Pro Tip…don’t try using this on a landing near stairs…it won’t go well. Luckily I’m a good catch..that’s all I’m saying.
So, our first test was to formulate a test area in a Conservatory so that the Neato BotVac Connected (that I named “Gerty” for some inexplicable reason) would have more than a fair shake at delivering good performance. The result? Well, see for yourself below.
Suffice to say that the Neato BotVac Connected – ‘Gerty‘ – performed admirably. It roamed from its base, mapping out the boundaries of its available paths and then proceeded to methodically clean the area of rice and coffee that I accidentally/on purpose happen to leave in its vicinity. So, yes, a big tick, it cleaned all the freshly spilled rice and coffee from a laminate flooring. Check! However, it’s worth noting here that this did take around 10 minutes to finish this small area…something that could quite easily have been achieved in 3-5 minutes with a ‘normal’ manual vacuum cleaner.
So, how does it perform on a carpet? Not everyone has hardwood floors everywhere. Well that was our second test. A bit of rice on the carpet (short pile) later and I was ready to test again. The device performed as expected once more and delivered a good cleaning experience. This test was conducted on manual mode due to the numerous bits and pieces that the BotVac could have bumped into, but the results still stand.
I continued to throw different scenarios at it. Vinyl flooring, longer pile carpet (but by no means very long), and the almost ill-fated landing area. In each scenario the Neato BotVac Connected delivered exactly what was expected of it, even if it did take a little longer doing it. One are in my conservatory that was within the mapped area of the device was subsequently filled with cables from a nearby adapter. Instead of getting snarled up in them, the Gerty simply tried in vain to get free of them, before rearing its suspension and driving effortless over them before resuming cleaning all of 1 inch aware from the roadblock that would have crippled prior generations of robotic vacuum cleaners. Kudos Neato, kudos.
Under normal operating circumstances however the BotVac would no doubt remain in one location and would, once it has mapped its environment once, remember the paths it can take and will skip at least 30% of the time it took to deliver the mapping the first time around. Once that is entered into the mix it becomes quite a different proposition with cleaning of existing mapped areas being relatively speedy, and efficient.
Another efficiency that the Neato BotVac Connected seemingly delivers over competing products is bin sizing. It’s all well and good collecting a lot of dirt and, in this case, Rice and Coffee grounds, but if there is nowhere to adequately store them until the rest of the house is cleaned, its little use. The bin in the Neato BotVac Connected is around 0.7 litres (which is around 1.25 pints ). Whilst this might not sound a lot, and it isn’t compared to “standard” vacuum cleaners, it demolishes the Roomba products by delivering anywhere from 33% to 133% more dirt space in its bin. Impressive no?
Finally, we’ve got to consider the sound implications of this device. It isn’t quiet by any means but it’s certainly quieter than a conventional vacuum. That is to be expected
Using the Neato BotVac Connected is easy via the integrated control panel on the device itself, but is even easier from an app. Neato’s app allows the same level of control, and even more in manual mode. Switching between Turbo and Eco mode, controlling the Neato BotVac Connected as though it were a remote control car in manual mode, or scheduling the device to clean during the night-time, or when you’re at work is all a doddle with this free app.
Not only is the app easy to use, and free, but due to the Wi-Fi connectivity instead of Bluetooth, users can schedule cleans over the air from anywhere. Whilst it doesn’t sound like this would be something consumers would use, just take a second to think about all those times somebody announces a surprise visit….
There is a slight lag between operation and device movement when cleaning in manual mode, which is to be expected, but it is still eminently usable, and the addition of this app-based control mechanism is another nice-to-have that can be of use in some scenarios. During testing, I used the app solely to set up and control the device.
So the Neato BotVac Connected is a device that really does seem to offer a nice hybrid of form and function, not to mention a cracking piece of technology to marvel at! Once mapped, an area of around 2.5 x 2.5 metres is cleaned within 3-4 minutes on Turbo mode, and it really does clean. I tested not only with Coffee and Rice, but with hair also, and it treated it all the same with it ending up in the ample-sized bin. These were by no means extensive tests however so your mileage might vary, and those with smaller floorspaces but multiple floors (townhouses for instance) might find a little less use from one of these devices than I did. Ideally, an open plan flat is where this device would thrive.
The package you get consisting of lots of little extras, as well as the cracking little app to control the device and schedule cleans are all bonuses, and additions that perhaps give this Neato device the edge over its competitors.
All of this technology doesn’t come especially cheap. At an RRP of £549 with it on Amazon UK currently at £532.73, you must have a good reason for purchasing one. Here are a few reasons why you might want to stump up the cash. Perhaps you have a dwelling where space is at a premium. Or perhaps you aren’t at home much and you want to cherish the time you do have at home, enjoying it rather than cleaning it? Furthermore, you could simply be a tech-head and simply love the idea of a mini-dalek roaming your rooms ‘exterminating’ the dirt it encounters? The most likely scenario however is a combination of all of the above.
For the price there really is a lot of value in this product, if you are specifically in the market for it. A ‘conventional’ vacuum cleaner will give better results when comparing best case scenarios – that’s a given. The Neato BotVac Connected cannot compete with these types of devices in many areas. It can however save you a lot of hassle, some elbow grease, some time, as well as looking cool as all hell gliding around your house! Money can’t also quantify that feeling can it?
For more models, a comparison of them, and more information about the specific technologies within the BotVac range, head over to the Neato Robitics website.
Neato BotVac ConnectedRRP £549.00
- Good battery life
- Turbo/Eco cleaning modes
- Wi-Fi connectivity/App use
- Good suction/brush pickup
- Geek factor
- Can take some time to map a large area
- Multi-level floors provide an issue
- Desired outcome can be achieved for less money