It didn’t take long for Neato to follow iRobot’s lead and release a WiFi enabled robot vacuum. The much anticipated release is definitely worth getting excited about. There are now TWO WiFi enabled robotic vacuums on the market.
It’s been interesting to watch as Neato has released a flurry of new series while iRobot was biding their time developing the Roomba 980.
First, Neato released their redesigned – and re-branded – Botvac series a few years back. There were some minor improvements, but most changes were cosmetic. There was even a few performance issues with unsealed brush bearings getting clogged with hair.
Then, there was the more recent release of the Botvac “D” series (see my review of the “D75” here). This series delivered more reliability (fixed the ball bearing issues) and enhanced suction power. The revamped design also featured a classy sleek display system.
The “Botvac Connected” looks very similar to the “D” series, with the obvious improvement being WiFi capability. This isn’t all, though.
Key Features of the Botvac Connected
Here’s some of the core “selling” points of this new Botvac. I’ll judge how the device lives up to these features in the “Pros and Cons” section below.
- WiFi Enabled: This is obviously the marquee feature of the new Botvac. The Neato app allows you to set a schedule, start/stop for spot cleaning, and get status updates on your phone. The app works with iOS and Android devices.
- D-Shaped Design: This is an often under-appreciated feature of Neato’s in general. The D-shaped design allows for the Botvac to better clean corners and along baseboards. The circular design of many competitors is an inherent design weakness.
- Faster: The Botvac Connected promises to clean your respective area/home twice as fast as previous versions. This suggests that it’s a significant upgrade from even the recent Botvac “D” series.
- Better Clean: Neato advertises that the new device has 2x the airflow, leading to 50% more dust flow than “competitors”. It’s unclear specifically which competitors, but I’ll touch on this in the Pros and Cons section.
- Organized Cleaning Pattern: This is another hallmark of Neato vacuums (especially compared to competitors like Roomba). The Botvac Connected has a methodical approach to cleaning, segmenting rooms with a straight linear back and forth pattern. This is in contrast to Roomba’s which appear to bounce around nonsensically (although there is a strategy behind it). For OCD types (or just people who want something methodical in approach), I can see how this would be important.
- Eco and Turbo Mode: The latest Botvac offers two modes of operation, Eco and Turbo. Turbo is ideal for fast and deep cleaning runs, while Eco is best for maintenance cleaning that conserves battery power (and is less noisy – great for night cleans). This is a nice little element of added control, depending on your floor plan and cleaning needs.
- New Filter Design: The Botvac Connected features a new filter that is much easier to remove as well as an added screen mitigate dirt accumulation.
- Auto-Resume: This isn’t new, but the Connected Botvac still uses “SLAM” technology to map the room and resume where it last left off (say, if the battery died partway through).
- Scheduling (Improved): Just like the older Botvac’s, the Connected version has all the same auto-scheduling features so you can leave the house and let the device do it’s job. The added benefit – of course – is that you can set the schedule easily from your phone/app now.
Pros and Cons of the Botvac Connected
The following are my big takeaways after testing out the Botvac Connected. Regardless of the advertised features, these are the things I think work really well and some that don’t.
- Cheaper Than Roomba 980: Again, this is the obvious distinction. Neato has once again undercut iRobot with essentially the same landmark feature (WiFi control). I’ve seen it on sale, but be sure to check out this listing for the latest pricing.
- Still Awesome for Corners: The Botvac might be neck and neck with the Roomba in a lot of categories, but in terms of “corner cleaning” the Botvac is still the best. By nature of it’s size as well as some extra built in “cornering” technology, it’s able to get those hard to reach places. For example, under coffee tables (as long as there is enough clearance), along the baseboards, and into every corner.
- Eco/Turbo is a Nice Feature: I’ve been enjoying this option quite a bit so far. The extra battery life with Eco mode is very helpful, especially for larger areas and when you don’t have enough time to wait for the robot to recharge/resume.
- Appears More Methodical: I’ll admit that robots like the Roomba can drive me crazy with the random patterns. This is usually why I’m not home when my Roomba is going. It’s a great clean, but a bit nerve-wracking to watch. This is where the Botvac has a leg up. This might mean more to different people, but it’s definitely a “pro” in my book.
- Better Filter: This might be overlooked by some, but the new ultra high performance filters are definitely better at collecting dust. This is probably one of the reasons behind the “50% improvement in cleaning” that Neato talks up.
- Relatively Fast: I was surprised, but my Botvac Connected is actually faster than my Roomba 980 at running a full cleaning cycle. However, I’ll caveat this by saying that speed is not everything. It’s faster on turbo mode AND with the one pass cleaning option selected. The the end result is a quicker run, but sometimes a less thorough clean. Depending on your needs, this may be a factor to consider.
- Can Operate in the Dark: Since the Botvac does not use an on-board camera for navigation like the Roomba, it can operate just as well at night. This is definitely a factor worth considering, depending on your usage habits.
- RC Control Requires Same Network: The app has a nice feature where you can manually control the Botvac (much like a remote control car), however it only works if your on the same WiFi network. This might not be a huge issue for most users, but it still would be “neat” if Neato would allow remote control from other networks and include an on-board camera.
- Still Struggles With Some Objects: Putting down the magnetic boundary tape is still a chore to initially set up. Unlike the Roomba which uses “Virtual Lighthouses” with invisible beams, the Botvac still relies on the old tape system. Although I haven’t personally experienced this because I don’t have any furniture with this feature, reflective surfaces like chrome furniture legs cannot be picked up by the Botvac. This means it will keep bumping into them unless you mark it with tape. Overall, it will take a few runs of close observation to make sure the Botvac is navigating the tape and other household furniture correctly.
- No “Carpet Boost” Mode: When Roomba came out with “carpet boost” for the new 980, at first I was skeptical. It sounded like a sales gimmick. However, it actually DOES clean carpets better. The Roomba 980 auto-detects carpets and kicks into gear, resulting in a more thorough clean. Carpets have traditionally troubled robots. The Botvac Connected isn’t “bad”, but it’s not quite as good. It will still struggle with the longer trim carpets (sorry, the shag rug might cause some problems), but this is fairly common for most robots.
- No Multiple Pass Cleaning: While the Roomba may appear to bounce around randomly like a crazed animal, there is a method to the madness. iRobot has their unique “persistent pass” cleaning system which ensures every inch of floor is covered multiple times. Let’s face it, even the most powerful vacuum isn’t perfect. A few extra passes is worth it to get a better end result. The Botvac has the option for you to cover an area twice (as a setting option), but it’s not quite the same level of redundancy.
- Not Fully Integrated Into the “Smart Home”: I gigged Roomba for the same issue, to be fair. WiFi apps are great, but it would still be nice if I could manage all of my smart home devices from one interface. The proliferation of smart hubs like SmartThings, Wink, VeraEdge, etc… is quickly becoming the norm. Call me greedy, but I want my robots fully integrated with my Google Nest, smart locks, etc…
- Price: Okay, I’m not complaining because it’s cheaper than the new WiFi Roomba, but even at a discount (see this listing), this is a steep price to pay. It begs the question, what are you actually paying for? Granted, WiFi is an awesome feature and the other speed and suction improvements are not without merit, but it still may be out of reach for many would-be users.
Botvac Connected Video Overview
For a closer look at the Botvac Connected in action, see the following video:
Botvac Connected Alternatives – What’s the Competition?
I don’t like evaluating my robots in a *cough* vacuum, so let’s look at some of the main competition.
Roomba 980No products found.
The elephant in the room. iRobot was first to market with a WiFi enabled smart robot. It pays to be first.
The early results based on customer reviews – and my personal experience owning one for 2 months – are that the Roomba 980 is the smart vac we’ve all been waiting for.
The higher suction power is noticeable, especially on carpets and the app works flawlessly so far for me. You can read my latest full review right here.
The main sticking point is price. And it’s a MAJOR sticking point for some. Usually retailed for a high price (For the latest prices and discounts, check here), this is currently THE most expensive robot vacuum on the market.
On cost, Neato has undercut iRobot by a great deal of money, a significant difference. You can check this listing for the latest deals on the 980.
Pros: Well designed app interface, has carpet “boost” mode to auto-detect carpets and turn on extra suction, comes standard with HEPA filters, and new state of the art “VSLAM” navigation system (scans the whole room better).
Cons: Price is the obvious one, still wish it could connect with “other” smart devices (like my Google Nest and other home automation systems), still some minor hiccups with certain carpet types and some larger thresholds (above 1/2 inch or so).
It doesn’t have WiFi, but it does have a lot of the same core technology as the Botvac Connected. Even the designs are quite similar. In my experience, the “D” series was a big improvement over the Botvac and Neato XV line.
The new SpinFlow technology allows for enhanced dirt collection. The simple fix of the non-sealed ball bearing also was an important fix for the “D” series vs the regular Botvac line.
The price is perhaps the most attracting part. Most of the “D” series retails for a good price. This is another amount off the sticker price of the Botvac Connected and more so compared to the Roomba 980. You should check out this listing for the latest pricing on the Botvac D80.
Pros: Same core cleaning technology, same design, and accessories, less expensive than the Botvac Connected.
Cons: No WiFi or app control
Roomba 650 + Thinking Cleaner Faceplate
This is a creative alternative, but if you are looking to save money AND introduce WiFi app control, this is a nice “work around” solution. The Roomba 650 is still among the best selling robotic vacuums on the market. The technology is a bit dated, but it’s still a very competent cleaner.
The 650 was a HUGE improvement over the 500 series Roomba’s in many ways (in particular, the introduction of automatic scheduling). You can read my full take here.
The Thinking Cleaner Faceplate is a third-party software and accessory specifically developed with the intent of converting your older Roomba’s into WiFi enabled devices with their own app.
It’s a simple accessory “plate” that you add on top of your 600 series Roomba which re-programs the device to communicate over a WiFi network to your app (iPhone or Android).
They are working on a similar device for the 700 and 800 series, but as of yet it is only available for the 600/500 series. You can check out our review of the Thinking Cleaner Faceplate, right here.
It’s not quite the same as a fully integrated WiFi robot like the Roomba 980 or Botvac Connected, but it actually DOES work as advertised. It’s a great way to re-purpose your older robot OR buy a new 650 and apply the faceplate.
Pros: It’s less expensive than the Botvac Connected, one of the best selling (reliable) robotic vacuums, Thinking Cleaner faceplate actually works.
Cons: Random cleaning patter (it’s a Roomba after all….), somewhat dated technology, Thinking Cleaner is a third-party product not supported by iRobot.
Final Take – Is the Botvac Connected Worth the Money?
Bottom line up front? Yes, it is worth the money.
Roomba 980 vs Botvac Connected: Neato is always going to be compared to the market leader. In this case, it’s the new Roomba 980. As you can see from this review, there’s plenty of “Pros” and “Cons” to consider.
I own both and consider myself a “happy owner”. The discounted price makes the Botvac Connected a very attractive value, while the extra features of the 980 are similarly tantalizing.
Clearly, both vacuums have really pushed the envelope for home robotics. WiFi app control is quickly becoming the norm and rightfully so. You really can’t “go wrong” with the Botvac Connected. Even the “Cons” are relatively minor in contrast to how much better this generation is relative to even just 2 years ago.