Smack in the middle of Neato's robot vacuum lineup, the $599 (£481 in the UK, roughly AU$780) Neato Botvac D5 Connected is mediocre in every way. It doesn't choke on pet hair like its budget sibling, the $399 Botvac D3 Connected, and the D5 picks up less animal dander than the flagship $699 Neato Botvac Connected. The D5 also lacks the special cleaning modes, coverage map creation and support for the Alexa voice assistant, all standard functions on the step-up model.
What the Botvac D5 does provide is decent automatic floor-cleaning plus command and control through its companion mobile app, all at a fair price. You also get a high-capacity rechargeable battery to cover two and a half times more ground per charge than the D3. Of course, if you're already about to drop $600 on a vacuum, an extra $100 likely won't break the bank. That splurge nets you the Botvac Connected, which cleans better, is more capable and earned our Editors' Choice Award.
Design and features
The second in a pair of new additions to Neato's Botvac robot vacuum series, the Botvac D5 Connected has a lot in common physically with the Botvac D3. Both machines have a simplified control panel that only has one actual "start" button. Next to this key are LED indicators, one that communicates general alerts and another dedicated to battery status. It's a departure from the complex panel you'll find on the Botvac Connected. That machine has its own color LCD screen in addition to four capacitive buttons for navigating its menu system.
The two lesser Botvacs share Neato's signature "D" shape chassis as previous models, including the Botvac Connected. TI like this design, since it situates the dust bin in the center of the bot, letting you remove the bin (by tilting back and pulling upward) without disturbing the vacuum when it's docked on its recharging base.
One difference between the D3 and D5 is the Botvac D5's enhanced filter. Neato calls the part an "Ultra Performance filter" which is supposed to improve cleaning performance, and provide better outgoing air filtration. The Botvac Connected is equipped with the same filter.
The Botvac D5 attacks floors in the same way other Neato vacuums do, including the D3 and Botvac Connected. It clearly has a plan that's evident from the moment the robot rolls out of its dock. First the D5 pauses, activates its laser navigation system, then rotates slowly back and forth a few times to get its bearings. With this done, the machine runs along the edges of the room. Next, it systematically vacuums the room's interior in both vertical and horizontal lines.
With its battery fully charged the Botvac D5 will also conduct multiple passes, noting and avoiding any obstacles it encounters along the way. The robot keeps tabs on its battery level too and will return to its base to recharge if required. Designed to cover a total of 4,500 square feet over the course of three cleaning runs, the device is smart enough to push on into additional rooms as well when it detects an open doorway.
Use the app for more control
Just like the other members of Neato's Botvac Connected line, the Botvac Connected is equipped with an internal Wi-Fi radio, which lets it reach out across your home's wireless network and communicate with Neato's mobile application. Available for Android and iOS, the app has a clean, logical layout and allows Botvac owners to control one or more robovacs from smartphones and tablets.
Within the app you can see battery and robot activity status in real time. You can also start, pause, stop or schedule cleaning sessions remotely. The app pushes notifications at you, too, and gives you a heads up when your robot's software is out of date.
Neato saves the app's most advanced app features, like Alexa voice commands, and an app-based view of its coverage map for its flagship Botvac Connected model. You won't find those features in the D3 or the D5.
The Botvac D5 also has just one cleaning mode, unlike the extra "turbo" and "eco" settings you get in the higher-end model.
I had hoped that the Neato Botvac D5 Connected's higher price would translate into substantially better performance. Not so. It's true that the D5 didn't get bogged down by pet hair like the Botvac D3 often did during testing. That said, the amount of dirt and debris which actually ended up in the vacuum's dust bin wasn't much better either.
On our tests we rely on a range of materials to replicate dirty floors. The first is rice since it's a good stand-in for typical household debris, like crumbs and solid bits of dirt. We sprinkle 2.5 ounces of it onto each of our test floor surfaces, then let the robot do its darnedest to clean it all up. Next we weigh what it picked up, thoroughly clean everything, including the bot's dust bin, and run the test again. We average the results of three runs, then move on to the next surface.
Across all three types of test flooring we use (hardwood, low-pile carpets, and soft midpile carpets), the Neato Botvac D3 came very close to pulling every grain of rice off of the ground. Perhaps the robot's side brush was a factor here. Whatever the reason, it performed slightly better than the Botvac D3, which also handled the challenge well. Neither robovac could match the Botvac Connected and the machine's one perfect rice score on hardwood.
The Botvac D5 ran into some difficulty on our pet hair tests, which are particularly tortuous. Here we use a 0.2-ounce sample of the genuine article donated to us from a local pet salon.The D5 didn't get hopelessly tangled or tripped up by the test, still the vacuum sucked up less dander than the Botvac Connected and a hair (pun intended) more than the D3, the worst fur disposer we've reviewed yet.
The D5 found our sand test easier. It removed close to the entire 1.25-ounce portion of grit from hardwood. It couldn't duplicate the result on carpeting, though, pulling less of the substance from low-pile and especially midpile flooring.
As with many midtier products, the $599 Neato Botvac D5 Connected provides some of what you want at a discounted but not rock-bottom price. It certainly hunts down and removes more dirt on floors than its budget sibling, the $399 Botvac D3. It won't be undone by pet hair fibers like the D3 either, plus it has a bigger battery so it can cover a larger area of your home.
Still, the primary purpose of a robot vacuum is to clean floors. Unfortunately the D5 is much less effective performing this task than Neato's flagship robovac, the $699 Botvac Connected. That alone makes the premium machine a much better buy in the long run. Of course, if saving cash is your primary goal and you don't have a home pet hair problem, then by all means consider the Botvac D3. So far it's the most affordable app-linked appliance of its kind.