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

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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.

6.8 Overall
  • Performance 6.5
  • Usability 7
  • Design 7
  • Features 7

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.