2 December 2017

REVIEW: Neato Botvac D3 Connected

Housework homie

As you can imagine, Test Pit Towers is, at times, a complete and utter hovel. It's pretty tricky to sort out cleaning what with all those damn drones that need testing. So we always really appreciate a helping hand - especially when it comes from a robot. Thankful to see the carpet again, we've been well served of late by the Neato Botvac D3 Connected robotic vacuum cleaner.

We're no strangers to robot vacuum cleaners, but if you are, think of this as a dust buster with wheels that will drive itself around your home, sucking up debris as it goes. We've always enjoyed testing these things, especially the high-tech ones like this effort from Kobold, but we've never had one quite like the Neato Botvac D3 Connected. Because we can literally tell it to start cleaning.

The Neato range of robot cleaners, which the D3 - from what we can tell - is the simplest and least feature-packed, come with WiFi allowing them to connect with a smartphone app. You can, therefore, start, pause, and stop cleaning wherever you might be (even while out of the house), as well as set the programming and timer. But, most importantly, Neato vacs are compatible with smart assistant systems, including Amazon's Alexa and Google Home, which is what we hooked it up to.

By simply uttering, 'Hey Google. Start the Neato', the Neato Botvac D3 sprang to life and started to clean. Which is effing awesome. Being able to just speak to the cleaner whenever and wherever you are was great, and - like most smart voice functions like this - it was a good way to impress your friends. Oh yeah, and the cleaning was good.

Speaking of which, the Neato Botvac D3 uses LaserSmart technology to sense its way around the house. Turn it on, and it will automatically drive until it finds a wall. Then, using the sensitive bumper on the front, it will turn and begin to edge around the room or space, until it has completed a full tour. Then the Neato Botvac D3 will start to fill in the gaps, speedily crossing the room back and forth until all the floor area has been covered. Once done, it will return to the start point and await the next command.

In the app you can also set it to 'spot clean' which means it will start up and clean in concentric circles over a smaller area. Its handy for quickly cleaning crumby areas, which if you have kids you'll know you get several times a day. The quality of 'the pass', meaning how well the Neato Botvac D3 picks up stuff after just one go-over, is very good, and the robot's combination of spinning brushes and suction works well.

Our living room, which is about an average size, gets the once-over by the Neato Botvac D3 in about four or five minutes, and in a single charge it can cover an impressive 1800 square feet. That does, however, depend on how much stuff it picks up and flings into the removable reservoir. When that is full, the Neato Botvac D3 will stop and emit a few bleeps to alert you that it requires emptying. So, if you're setting this to give the house a clean at 3am while you sleep, make sure it is empty before you go to bed.

On that note, once the battery is all but depleted, the Neato Botvac D3 Connected will happily wander back to the charging station for a juice up. Despite not being the most advanced of robotic vacuum cleaners we've seen (apart from the WiFi and smart compatibility), it found and manoeuvred into the charger better than any other. It can navigate directly back to it very quickly and efficiently, dodging obstacles without having to first bump into them.

But, one thing we thought was sorely missing from the D3, was a side brush. Every robot vac we've reviewed in the past featured a small spinning brush on the right side; one that could reach right into the edges of the room and fling bits into the path of the rollers. The Neato Botvac D3 doesn't have one, which means it can't quite reach all the stuff wedged up in the corner where the floor meets the wall. We believe all the other Neato bots have one, so it's a shame the D3 misses out.

But apart from that, we have to say that the Neato Botvac D3 is possibly the most reliable of robot vacs we've tested. It switches on, does a solid job, and returns to base each and every time we wanted it to. It has never become stuck somewhere, never missed an entire spot on the carpet, and always manoeuvred well around obstacles. Plus, the Google Home voice controls and app make using it actually fun, which isn't something we say often about a vacuum cleaner.


Available from www.amazon.co.uk

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