Neato Botvac D5 Connected review: Neato's second best botvac falls short

The Neato app gives more control over Botvac robovacs.

Screenshot by Brian Bennett/CNET

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 tracks only cleaning stats, but the Botvac Connected also creates maps of where it cleaned.

Screenshot by Brian Bennett/CNET

The Botvac D5 also has just one cleaning mode, unlike the extra "turbo" and "eco" settings you get in the higher-end model.

Performance

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.

RICE (OUT OF 2.5 OZ.)

iRobot Roomba 880
2.38
2.43
2.33
iRobot Roomba 980
2.42
2.29
2.13
Neato Botvac 85
2.45
2.38
2.45
Neato Botvac Connected
2.48
2.45
2.50
Neato Botvac D3 Connected
2.46
2.37
2.42
Neato Botvac D5 Connected
2.47
2.44
2.47
Neato Botvac D85
2.44
2.22
2.38
Neato XV Signature Pro
2.05
2.33
2.13
Samsung Powerbot VR9000
2.33
2.23
2.28

Legend:

Midpile carpet
Low-pile carpet
Hardwood floor

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

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.

PET HAIR (OUT OF 0.2 OZ.)

iRobot Roomba 880
0.12
0.10
0.17
iRobot Roomba 980
0.18
0.19
0.16
Neato Botvac 85
0.19
0.20
0.20
Neato Botvac Connected
0.20
0.18
0.20
Neato Botvac D3 Connected
0.10
0.09
0.13
Neato Botvac D5 Connected
0.13
0.13
0.14
Neato Botvac D85
0.19
0.20
0.20
Neato XV Signature Pro
0.15
0.15
0.18
Samsung Powerbot VR9000
0.15
0.15
0.18

Legend:

Midpile carpet
Low-pile carpet
Hardwood floor

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

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.

SAND (OUT OF 1.25 OZ.)

iRobot Roomba 880
0.35
0.58
1.25
iRobot Roomba 980
0.28
0.37
1.16
Neato Botvac 85
0.43
0.45
1.22
Neato Botvac Connected
0.47
0.33
1.22
Neato Botvac D3 Connected
0.45
0.48
1.17
Neato Botvac D5 Connected
0.49
0.65
1.17
Neato Botvac D85
0.33
0.25
1.24
Samsung Powerbot VR9000
0.12
0.10
0.17

Legend:

Midpile carpet
Low-pile carpet
Hardwood floor

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

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.

Conclusion

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.