(Pocket-lint) - The Neato Botvac D4 Connected is an affordable smart robot vacuum cleaner from Neato. If the marketing material is to be believed, this bot promises "cleaning for everyone" and "intelligence for all" at a price that certainly makes it appealing.
This robot cleaner comes in at a smidge under £500 yet boasts powerful cleaning potential. With a brilliant D-shaped design, clever features such as multi-floor mapping and voice assistant compatibility, the Botvac D4 Connected is certainly interesting on paper. But does it suck or blow?
- D-shaped design for close edge cleaning
- Combo Brush for all surface types
- Automatic redocking function
The first thing that strikes about the Neato Botvac D4 Connected is the smart finish that has an air of carbon fibre about it. The D-shaped design is also unusual and something we've seen elsewhere (and liked a lot) in the Samsung VR7000 Powerbot.
Underneath, the Neato's larger-than-usual combo brush takes up a great portion of the space. This brush is not only capable of working on both hard floors and carpets, but also ensures the bot can clean right up to the edges of rooms. A mix of rubber fins and bristled brushes ensure a deep clean wherever the bot goes.
Another highlight is the multiple loops of plastic acting as a brush guard for this brush - ensuring that the robot doesn't get clogged up while it goes about its daily cleaning tasks. We found it handled everything from pet hair to general dust and dirt with relative ease.
Large rubber tracked wheels give plenty of ground clearance too - making the bot capable of passing over thresholds and small objects with ease. So much so that we regularly found it attempting to mount items it came into contact with. Though it rarely got stuck in the process.
The Botvac D4 Connected has a large metal pronged charging dock that acts as its day-to-day home when the bot's not in use. During our time with this bot, we noted just how clever it is at docking with this charger: even if it's accidentally bumped at all at any point it will wiggle it's way back onto the prongs to ensure it doesn't deplete battery life unnecessarily.
This robot also includes simple design features that make the world of difference. For example, like the Roborock S5, the Botvac D4 Connected includes an easy-to-use cleaning tool for maintainence. This tool has a small recessed blade built into it which allows you to easily cut knotted hair off the bot's brush to keep it in tip-top working order.
An easy-to-access dustbin is also simple to empty as and when needed. Though we did find it to be a touch on the small side and the design of the filters mean it's not terribly easy to keep entirely dust free.
Setup, cleaning cycles and settings
- Up to 75 minutes cleaning time
- 100 minutes charge
- Quick boost charging for larger homes
- Daily scheduling available
Initial setup of this robot vacuum cleaner is fairly straightforward. The first step is to dock the robot for a charge while you download the Neato app for either your Android or iOS device. The app then talks you through the process of connecting the vacuum to your home Wi-Fi network. From there you can then dive into settings to adjust suction levels, set a cleaning schedule or begin creating a map of your home.
The first time this bot goes out it uses all the sensors and laser mapping tech housed within its frame to get an idea of the layout of the house. This then lets it know how to get about, but also where to go to get back to its charger.
Obstacle detection and floor mapping
- LaserSmart mapping & navigation
- No-Go Lines to restrict cleaning areas
- Cleaning history and location mapping in app
The Neato Botvac D4 Connected features a pretty nifty in-app mapping system. During the initial setup, you're able to use the app to set No-Go lines - virtual barriers to prevent the robot from cleaning in areas you don't want it to. If you don't want it getting into a child's messy bedroom, for example, it's easy to block off the corresponding doorway.
The mapping system is fairly intelligent, but you do need to ensure all the floors are free of obstacles during this initial scan of the home.
Once that's done, you can then get a good visual representation of how the robot cleans every time it goes out. A cleaning history map and weekly graph show where the robot has cleaned and how long it was cleaning for too. Any problem areas are easily visible as black spots on the map, so it's easy to keep track of what's happened.
Cleaning performance and suction power
- 0.7-litre capacity dustbin
- High-performance allergy friendly filter
When it comes to cleaning, the Neato Botvac D4 Connected is certainly no slouch. The flat-fronted design, large combo brush and powerful suction capabilities result in a pretty impressive clean on a multitude of surfaces. It can handle plush carpet, hard flooring, tiles and more with relative ease.
There's only one button on the robot itself and that controls power and sends it out for a clean too. A simple press there or within the app will send it out on a "house" clean.
There are only two cleaning modes: house and spot cleaning. House is akin to auto mode and just sets the robot cleaning everywhere until it has finished or until it runs low on power. Spot focuses on a particular problematic area (but you can't designate this within the app, which is a shortcoming).
If you have enough rooms then this Neato can manage up to 75 minutes of cleaning, but in reality we found it was more like 40 minutes in a fairly average sized home. For larger homes, not only will this bot keep cleaning, it'll also dock for extra juice to carry on cleaning if it needs to.
House cleaning can either be done in "eco" for a quieter and longer cleaning session or in "turbo" mode for maximum suction. We preferred the latter for its cleaning performance.
The app also allows you to set a daily cleaning schedule. You can select a different time each day of the week and choose between the two power modes too. One thing you can't do is send it out for more than one scheduled clean a day. Not necessarily a problem as you could push it out for a manual clean, but we'd like to see more flexibility in these settings.
We also found that spot cleaning mode isn't as user-friendly as other robot cleaners we've used. You can't remotely control the robot to go to a specific spot in the room or house to clean whether via the map or remote control. This means if you have a messy spot that needs special attention, then you need to pick the bot up, carry it there, then set it off in spot mode manually.
That said, suction performance in both modes is impressive. Floors are left relatively spotless. Robot vacuums don't generally give the same results as full-sized vacuums, but this one does manage to deal with cat hair, dust and dirt effectively. We found we were emptying it regularly, which is always a good sign, but then the dustbin is quite small compared to other robots we've seen.
It's far from subtle though. We found this bot to be quite loud and boisterous, but not quite bordering on obnoxious. We did find it could be a bit blowy when passing by - but it's easy to forgive when you don't have to raise a finger to do the household chores. Despite all the sensors, it does manage to bump and knock into household object as it cleans, which is something to bear in mind if you have breakables.
Compatibility with voice assistants and smart devices
- Works with Google Home/Assistant and Amazon Alexa
- Compatible with Apple watch
Another highlight of this robot vacuum is its ability to work with a number of other smart devices. Not only will it work with your Apple Watch, but it's also compatible with voice assistants: there's an Amazon Alexa skill and Google Assistant ability, so you can send the robot out for a clean using Google Home or Amazon Alexa powered devices.
Simple voice commands to your favourite assistant can start, stop, pause and resume cleaning. You can also use this to do other things like find out battery level or get the bot to return to the charging base.
Occasional connectivity issues
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the occasional and sporadic connectivity issues we had with this robot vacuum cleaner. Every so often it disconnects from the home Wi-Fi network and appears as "offline" within the app. Scheduled cleans don't then happen, but it will go out for a manual clean with a press of the power button itself. Resetting and reconnecting the vacuum (by pressing-and-holding the power button and bumper at the same time) allows you to reconnect and repair, but it is a bit of a hassle.
We also found that this robot would very occasionally come out for a clean, then stop for no apparent reason while grumbling about floor plan navigation errors. This can be rectified by replacing the bot on its charger and forcing it to create a new floor plan, but we'd prefer not having this issue in the first place.
For the most part, we love the Neato Botvac D4 Connected. It's a great-looking robot vacuum with some intelligent design features, powerful cleaning capabilities and brilliant edge cleaning power.
That said, we did find ourselves frustrated with the connectivity issues. Over a three week period, we had to reboot and reconnect this robot three times. Not an issue we've had with such regularity while testing other smart robot cleaners. We'd also like to have seen more flexibility in the remote control of the bot - in terms of being able to send it out to clean specific spots or zones from within the app.
Of course, the Neato Botvac D4 Connected is available to buy at a reasonable price compared to much of the competition. And for the features on offer and the power cleaning alone, it's certainly worth the money. As long as you don't mind occasional technological frustrations.
Alternatives to consider
Ecovacs Deebot R95 MKII
The Ecovacs Deebot R95 MKII is another feature packed robot vacuum worth considering. This robot's intelligent interactive mapping system is slightly superior to that in the Neato - allowing you to remotely control the bot and send it to a specific place on the map with ease. It's also powerful and does a fantastic clean too. It is slightly more expensive though.
Dyson 360 Eye
The Dyson 360 Eye is one of the best robotic vacuum cleaners we've tested. It's tall, powerful and bursting to the brim with features you'll love. As with all things Dyson, it does come at a price, but you do get what you pay for.
If you like the idea of a robot vacuum with intelligent mapping capabilities, then the Roborock S5 might be a worthy alternative. This bot is full of surprises too, from simple things like washable filters right through to an easy-to-use mopping system for hard floors. It's roughly the same price as the Neato Botvac D4 Connected and so should be on your shortlist for purchasing.