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Neato Botvac D85 Robot Vacuum review:

A fresh coat of paint does not a new Neato make

iRobot's Roomba 880 scored the highest for sand with 0.35 ounce on midpile (out of a total of 1.25 ounces), 0.58 ounce on low-pile and 1.25 ounces on hardwood. The Botvac D85, on the other hand, did not handle the sand well at all. In fact, it picked up only 0.33 ounce on midpile carpet, 0.25 ounce on low-pile carpet and 1.24 ounces on hardwood.

It also returned a rather annoying "My bumper is stuck, please free it" message in the middle of the sand tests. According to Neato's robot vacuum user manual, you should simply "Jiggle the bumper" to fix this issue, but that didn't work. As it turns out, perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of sand was stuck in and around the bumper, causing it to return this error. I carefully cleaned the entire vacuum and the message went away, but it was definitely inconvenient and it never happened when I tested the original Botvac 85.

Ice cream sandwich, anyone?

When we first wrote about Neato's new D85 back in May, CNET commenter osman_shez aptly said that it looked like an ice cream sandwich (specifically that "the neato in the first pic reminds me of an ice cream sandwich...that is full of dirt."). As a lover of ice cream products, I fully support the design aesthetic Neato went with here. In fact, the brand is known for championing quirky design. Just one look at the Neato XV-21 and you'll see why reviewer Ry Crist referred to it as a Super Nintendo -- the resemblance is uncanny.

But, while Neato tends to play around with paint colors in fun and unexpected ways, there's still very little that separates the Botvac D85 from the Botvac 85 when it comes to design. You'll see the same shape, the same size and many of the same filter and brush accessories, with the exception of the new spiral blade brush, an all-silicone brush that looks only slightly different than the original silicone blade brush (which, as far as I can tell, is only different because it features straight, rather than spiral blades).

The new Botvac D85 and older Botvac 85 side-by-side. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

There's also very little that's new in the way of features and nothing new as far as overall usability. The touchscreen display offers the same language-and-clock-setting options as before. And, it's still able to complete full-room or smaller area cleaning cycles by way of laser guidance.

One (supposedly) key difference is the D85's SpinFlow technology, a built-in function that "combines potent suction and precision brushes leaving floors immaculately clean," according to Neato's website. I asked Neato for more details on this feature and learned that an "improved brush system" and a "quieter, more efficient blower" are the main components of this new tech. But, since I didn't see better performance or significantly quieter cleaning cycles, I'm not convinced that SpinFlow technology is adding any value.

And since brands like Dyson are unveiling robot vacuums that come with accompanying Android and iOS apps, it's about time for Neato, iRobot and others to do the same. Still, there doesn't appear to be any movement in that direction on Neato's part.

Conclusion

Neato's Botvac D85 is a cute bot with very good performance, especially when you consider that I compared it to some of the best automated bots around. Even so, it's hard to see this new D-series as anything more than a new coat of paint and a new spiral blade brush.

And while it's a fine option overall, the original Botvac 85 scored so high that it's tough to follow Neato's decision-making on this one. Why introduce a brand-new robot vacuum for $499/£449 and simultaneously reduce the price of the once $599 Botvac 85 down to $499, too? (I contacted Neato to see if there were any plans to replace the 85 with the new D85, but haven't heard back yet.)

Either way, I'd suggest sticking with the $499 Botvac 85 . It's a well-rounded robot vacuum with a very reasonable price and impressive performance results.

What you'll pay

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