Neato Botvac D7 Connected review: The best robot vacuum cleaner gets an update

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Update: The Neato Botvac D7 Connected was the best robot vacuum cleaner when we reviewed it at launch but, thanks to a software update, it's just got even better. A new version of the app now allows you the robot to map multiple floors, where before it was limited to just the one, which is handy for those living in houses. 

Neato is also now selling the charging base as a separate accessory so you if you have a particularly large area of floor space to clean on your second or third floor, you can have it charge itself. And Neato has also improved the algorithm used to detect when it needs to be recharged; instead of waiting until it's almost empty, it'll now run back to base for a quick top up before continuing its clean.

Neato Botvac D7 Connected review: In full

The Neato Botvac D7 Connected is one of those rare things: it’s an update to a product that, in my opinion, didn’t need an upgrade. Before writing this review and using the D7 Connected, its predecessor, the Neato D5 Connected, was the best robot vacuum cleaner I’d used.

That should tell you a lot about how good Neato’s robot vacuum cleaners are (the D5 Connected first appeared nearly two years ago). It also explains why the Neato Botvac D7 Connected isn’t the biggest upgrade. And it’s also why you should carefully consider whether you should spend the extra money on the D7 Connected over the D5 Connected.

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Neato Botvac D7 Connected review: What you need to know

So what’s the difference between the D7 Connected and the D5 Connected? That’s an important question, because it’s not immediately apparent from comparing the two on the company’s website.

Even looking at the specifications, you’ll struggle to tell them apart. That’s because, at its heart, the hardware is the same. The D7 uses the same sensors, motor and drive gear as the D5 Connected, the same filters and battery. It also has the same bin capacity.

The difference is that the D7 Connected has a more efficient blower contributing to longer battery life, better Wi-Fi and the app has extra features, too, which I’ll get onto below.

Neato Botvac D7 Connected review: Price and competition

Robot vacuums are pretty common these days and there are many around, competing for your cash. The price narrows things down somewhat, though, and at £799 there’s a much smaller handful of rivals to consider.

The Dyson 360 Eye is £100 more expensive at £899, then there’s the Roomba 980 at around £850. It’s really Neato’s own product range that offers the strongest competition, though, notably the aforementioned Neato D5 Connected, which you can currently pick up for £420 at Amazon.co.uk.

Neato Botvac D7 Connected review: Design and key features

That price difference could prove a problem for the Botvac D7 Connected considering how close they are in terms of design and function. Because aside from a brushed-aluminium effect finish on the top of the D7, it could be the same thing.

The D7 Connected measures 336mm wide, 319mm long and has a low profile of only 100mm, which helps it duck under sofas, beds and other low-sitting furniture. It weighs 3.5kg, so it’s pretty easy to carry from floor to floor as well.

The power button is in the same place as the D5 Connected, with four status LEDs flanking the dust container handle in the centre. The dust container itself is the same capacity, at 0.7 litres, and the D7 Connected benefits from the same range of advanced sensors, too.

The main sensor is the laser scanner mounted in a disc-shaped module on top of the D7, and it’s this that sets Neato’s cleaners apart from the rest of its rivals. It allows the company’s bots to rapidly build a detailed map of their surroundings and navigate around your home, whether it’s dark or light, and go about the business of getting your carpets clean in a highly methodical manner.

This isn’t the only sensor the D7 uses, though. Along the robot’s straight front edge is one big bumper pressure sensor, and in the two corners underneath a pair of drop sensors prevent the Botvac tumbling off edges and down the stairs.

The other design feature the D7 Connected inherits from the rest of the Botvac range is its full-width roller brush, which sits in front of the drive wheels on the bottom of the chassis. Most other robot cleaners house the brush between the main drive wheels, which means they can’t clean along edges or into corners as effectively as the Neato.

There aren’t an awful lot of differences between the Botvac D7 Connected and the D5 Connected, but the upgrades you do get are worthy. First, the D7 Connected has dual-band Wi-Fi, which is important if your local 2.4GHz environment is clogged with devices and neighbouring networks.

The second is a upgraded blower, which ups run-times to two hours in normal mode, a 33% increase on the D5 Connected in Eco mode. There’s now a Turbo mode for more powerful cleaning when you need it and a manual remote control mode, which is accessed via the app.

And the third is the ability to set up virtual no-zones using the accompanying app, which is a brilliant feature. After the D7 has cleaned an area once, it produces a floor plan of your room and you can then draw lines around areas you don’t want it to go. It’s a bit fiddly to set up, but the system works well in preventing the Botvac from trundling over areas you might not want it to go. I used it to protect the D7 from getting entangled in my various cable nests.

One thing to note, though: the D7 only takes notice of these no-go lines if you use the app to start it cleaning. If you press the physical button on top you’ll have to use the magnetic boundary marking strips included in the box to zone off protected areas. Two metres of these strips are included in the box.

Neato Botvac D7 Connected review: Software and setup

The rest of the app is pretty intuitive and easy to use, though. It can be used to start and stop cleaning remotely and it will send you notifications if your robot gets stuck. And, while it is possible to control the Botvac with the single button on its nose, you’ll need the app to access more advanced features such as manual remote control, gentle navigation and the ability to adjust the size of the area to clean in spot-cleaning mode.

The latter is particularly useful. By default the D7 Connected will clean a square in front of it 2 x 2m in size, but in the app this can be expanded up to a square 4 x 4m in size. The app also lets you see maps of the areas it has cleaned and review historical performance, displaying the dates on which cleaning has been carried out, the area cleaned and how long it took.

It's also possible to use Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT and smartwatches to start and stop cleaning.

Neato Botvac D7 Connected review: Cleaning performance

How good is the Botvac D7 Connected at its core job, though? In a word: thorough. Unlike many cheaper models of robot vacuum cleaner, the Botvac goes about its business in an amazingly methodical way that ensures every bit of floor space is covered.

Press Clean in the app and the D7 ambles off its charger base, spins around to scan the immediate area, then makes its way to a nearby wall or boundary and begins to clean around the edges of your room. Once it’s completed a full circuit, it then fills in the space left in the middle by trundling up and down in straight lines, avoiding obstacles as it goes. And it’s possibly the best robot vacuum cleaner I’ve come across at avoiding getting stuck. It took my cable-strewn living room and the flat “legs” of my Ikea Poang armchair in its stride, never once needing to be rescued.

And that’s not the only good thing about the D7 Connected. It’s a pretty good vacuum cleaner in its own right, and that full-width brush helps it pick up a remarkable amount of dust and fluff. In my testing, I found it wasn’t quite powerful enough to pick up an entire cup of clay-based cat litter on the first pass of a spot-cleaning cycle in Eco mode. However, it managed to get nearly all of it the second time around, leaving only the odd stray grain deep in the carpet pile. And if you find the Neato doesn’t clean everything first time, you can pop it in Turbo mode, run it again and it’ll pick up the rest.

Neato Botvac D7 Connected review: Verdict

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the D7 Connected is the best robot vacuum cleaner money can buy. It has great battery life, is easy to use, is resistant to getting stuck and it cleans remarkably well.

The question is, is it worth the extra over the now far cheaper D5 Connected? At the current time, alas, the answer has to be no. The Neato D5 Connected offers the same clever sensor, floor mapping and navigation tech and largely the same cleaning efficiency for £380 less. The Turbo mode helps pick up a little more dust and debris when you need it to, but it isn’t worth all that extra cash.

Neato Botvac D7 Connected specifications

Dimensions (WDH) 319 x 336 x 100mm
Weight 3.5kg
Bin capacity 0.7L
Vacuum Type Robot
Bagless Yes
Floor types Carpet and hard floors via integrated brush
Telescopic tube N/A
Filters Pre-motor, post-motor
Accessories Charging dock, 
Runtime 30m

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