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Neato Botvac D3 Connected review: Neato's budget Botvac chokes on pet hair

Smart yet affordable, Neato's D3 robot vacuum cleans efficiently but pet hair gives it headaches.

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Brian Bennett
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Brian Bennett

Senior writer

Brian Bennett is a senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET. He reviews a wide range of household and smart-home products. These include everything from cordless and robot vacuum cleaners to fire pits, grills and coffee makers. An NYC native, Brian now resides in bucolic Louisville, Kentucky where he rides longboards downhill in his free time.

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6 min read

Robot vacuum cleaners are nifty home gadgets, but they're also comparatively expensive. The price can spike even higher if you'd like one you can control from your phone. The $400 (£320 in the UK, roughly AU$521 in Australia) Neato Botvac D3 Connected disrupts this status quo.

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6.8

Neato Botvac D3 Connected

The Good

The Neato Botvac D3 Connected is the least expensive robot vacuum we've ever tested. Despite its affordable price, it's a true smart appliance that links to Wi-Fi networks and communicates with a companion mobile app. It cleans floors efficiently and across multiple rooms too. You can also program it to clean automatically on a schedule.

The Bad

It often gets stuck when trying to pick up pet hair. It lacks features that are standard in more expensive Neato robots such as a side brush, special cleaning modes and boundary markers. It runs slowly compared to Neato's set-up models.

The Bottom Line

Frugal shoppers looking to score an affordable and app-linked robot vacuum should look into the Neato Botvac D3 Connected, but pet owners won't be happy with its cleaning power.

This new Neato robovac has a more affordable price tag yet cleans with the same methodical efficiency as the company's flagship $700 Botvac Connected. The Botvac also links to phones and tablets via Neato's mobile app for extra control just like its pricier sibling. You do make some tradeoffs if you choose the Botvac D3. You'll have to settle for a lower capacity battery, relatively slow operation and a bare-bones list of features. Pet hair also causes the machine to stumble or stop completely so owners of high-shed animals should pass on this model.

Neato's new Botvac D3 cleans on a budget

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Design and features

If you're familiar with Neato's line of robot vacuums then the size and shape of the Botvac D3 Connected won't come as a big surprise. It uses the familiar "D" shape design (when viewed from above) as previous models include the Neato Botvac Connected. Unlike that robot, this vacuum lacks a screen of any kind.

As a matter of fact the D3 has few controls at all, just one physical "start" button and two LED indicators -- one for generic "info" and another for "battery" status. That's a big departure from the Botvac Connect's six keys that cluster around its control panel.

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The Neato Botvac D3 Connected has no screen and just one button.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Even so, the Botvac D3 operates in much the same way as the company's premier floor cleaner. By that I mean very efficiently and with a clear plan of attack. For example, iRobot Roomba vacuums bounce around a given room seemingly at random, bumping obstacles willy nilly. By contrast when the Botvac D3 begins cleaning, it first rolls away from its charging dock, flips on its laser navigation system, then swivels back and forth to scan its surroundings.

That accomplished, the robot moves to the edges of the room which it will hit first. After feeling its way along the circumference, the machine then begins to scour the room's center methodically. Indeed the machine will start at one end and migrate to the other, all the while rolling in a slalom-like zig zag pattern to cover the entire floor surface.

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The Botvac D3 sports Neato's signature "D" shape.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The device also conducts multiple passes through a room's center, both in horizontal rows and vertical columns. This method is designed to catch any dirt and debris missed in the initial sweep. If there are any objects standing in the way, the Neato does its best to deftly avoid them too and not collide directly into them. Once the robot completes its cleaning cycle, it automatically returns to its dock to recharge.

Another slick ability within the Botvac D3's wheelhouse is multi-room vacuuming. Inherited from its premium robotic cousins, the D3 tries to identify doorways during the perimeter run of its program. Once done with the current room, the robovac will push into any chambers it marked earlier. The only real limitation here, obstacles notwithstanding, is the Botvac's battery level and rated capacity.

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The robot will return to its dock to recharge between runs.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The vacuum is smart enough to return home for a recharge if its battery runs low. It will then continue where it left off. Each of the Botvac D3's vacuum cycles allows for a total of three cleaning runs separated by two recharge sessions. According to Neato, this enables the Botvac D3 to cover one entire floor measuring 1,800 square feet.

An app controls this vac

The Botvac D3 Connected doesn't have many buttons but that's offset by support for Neato's mobile app. Available for both iOS and Android, the application is simple to use and has a clean, intuitive layout.

Linking mobile devices to the Botvac is relatively painless too, especially on the Android side of things. The Android app automatically detects the Wi-Fi network you're currently connected to and merely prompts you to enter its password. The iOS application on the other hand requires the extra step of first manually identifying your home network.

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The Neato app gives more control over Botvac robovacs.

Screenshot by Brian Bennett/CNET

Within the software you can command the robot to clean the entire home (essentially one floor) or focus on a specific spot. Other options at your fingertips include checking battery status and receiving pushed notifications sent directly from the app. Additionally you can program the Botvac D3 for scheduled cleaning at a specific time and day of the week. If you're a big spender and happen to own a fleet of Neato vacuums, the app supports multiple robots too that you can control from anywhere with an internet connection.

There is one smart home feature absent in this and the mid-tier Neato Botvac D5 Connected, support for Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. You can enable this Alexa skill on the original Neato Botvac Connected and launch the robot into action simply by speaking to an Alexa-compatible device.

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Use the app to put the Botvac D3 on a cleaning schedule.

Screenshot by Brian Bennett/CNET

Performance

Perhaps it's the robot's lack of a "turbo" mode or maybe the standard capacity Lithium-ion battery doesn't supply enough juice. Whatever the reason, the Botvac D3 appeared to move slower and require a lot more time to clean than the Neato Botvac Connected. In terms of sheer vacuuming power, the Neato Botvac D3 Connected also turned in mixed results.

On our tests we use a selection of materials to help simulate dirty floors. The first is rice. Rice mimics typical household debris such as crumbs and odd bits of solid dirt. We sprinkle 2.5 ounces of it onto each of our test floor surfaces, then unleash the robot to clean its heart out. After, we weigh what it picked up, thoroughly clean everything including the bot's dust bin and run the test again. After three runs, we take the average, then move onto the next surface.

Whether vacuuming rice on smooth hardwood floors, thin berber-style low-pile carpeting, or plush mid-pile carpets, the Botvac D3 managed to pick up almost the entire 2.5 ounce test sample. The robovac's ability to dispose of pet hair, however, was less than stellar. It's true our trial is a serious torture test, consisting of spreading a full 0.2 ounce of fur equally across our testing surface.

RICE (OUT OF 2.5 OZ.)

Neato Botvac Connected 2.48 2.45 2.50Neato Botvac 85 2.45 2.38 2.45Neato Botvac D3 Connected 2.46 2.37 2.42iRobot Roomba 880 2.38 2.43 2.33Neato Botvac D85 2.44 2.22 2.38iRobot Roomba 980 2.42 2.29 2.13Samsung Powerbot VR9000 2.33 2.23 2.28Neato XV Signature Pro 2.05 2.33 2.13
  • Midpile Carpet
  • Low-pile Carpet
  • Hardwood Floor
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Still, the D3 had particular trouble here and often failed completely by refusing to clean until I removed hair from its tangled brush. This malfunction occurred on all three of our floor surfaces. Even when the robot did complete its cleaning mission, the amount of hair the D3 collected was far below its competitors.

PET HAIR (OUT OF 0.2 OZ.)

Neato Botvac D3 Connected 0.1 0.09 0.13Neato Botvac Connected 0.20 0.18 0.20Neato Botvac D85 0.19 0.20 0.20Neato Botvac 85 0.19 0.20 0.20iRobot Roomba 980 0.18 0.19 0.16Neato XV Signature Pro 0.15 0.15 0.18Samsung Powerbot VR9000 0.15 0.15 0.18iRobot Roomba 880 0.12 0.10 0.17
  • Midpile carpet
  • Low-pile carpet
  • Hardwood floor
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

The robovac redeemed itself a bit on our sand tests, usually our toughest challenge. The D3 sucked up just as much silicon grit as the pricey Neato flagship. It also matched the sand performance of other ultra expensive competitors from Samsung and iRobot.

SAND (OUT OF 1.25 OZ.)

iRobot Roomba 880 0.35 0.58 1.25iRobot Roomba 980 0.28 0.37 1.16Neato Botvac 85 0.43 0.45 1.22Neato Botvac Connected 0.47 0.33 1.22Neato Botvac D3 Connected 0.45 0.48 1.17Neato Botvac D85 0.33 0.25 1.24Samsung Powerbot VR9000 0.38 0.27 1.18
  • Midpile carpet
  • Low-pile carpet
  • Hardwood floor
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Conclusion

There's no doubt the $400 Neato Botvac D3 Connected's low price is enticing. Other than old refurbished Roomba models or suspicious-looking knock-offs, you'd be hard pressed to find a robot vacuum this inexpensive. The Botva also navigates with much of the same intelligence as Neato's premier $700 Botvac Connected. Now throw in the Botvac D3's compatibility with Neato's useful mobile app, and the machine becomes even more tempting.

Of course, Neato made some sacrifices to keep the Botvac D3's price down. Most of the tradeoffs are minor such as the lack of a side brush and bundled magnetic boundary markers. Others though are serious deficiencies, specifically the robot's slow operation and smaller capacity battery. The Botvac D3's biggest weakness is pet hair which often brings the vacuum to its knees. That's why shoppers with domesticated animals should steer clear of this gadget and save up for our Editor's Choice winner, the Neato Botvac Connected.

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6.8

Neato Botvac D3 Connected

Score Breakdown

Performance 6.5Usability 7Design 7Features 7
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