Review: Neato Botvac Connected uses iPhone, Apple Watch and lasers for an effective clean

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2016
With autonomous cleaning modes built in, and the ability to use iPhone and Apple Watch as a controller, the Neato Botvac Connected proves we are finally living in the future.


The Neato Botvac Connected


Vacuum cleaner robots have the potential to remove an act of drudgery from our lives: cleaning floors with a suction machine and beater brush. When they work, an owner's duties end at emptying a dustbin.

From industry leading products like Roomba to no-name cleaning robots, many autonomous vacuums clean by performing multiple random passes over a dirty area until their little battery hearts run out of juice. This works well when set to run at a time when users aren't at home, but tends to annoy the heck out of people expecting the efficiency of a human operator.




Roomba long exposure shots... pic.twitter.com/wiGG4VqUo4

-- Ziya (@ziyatong)


This is where the Neato Botvac Connected gets human expectations right. Neato detects and patrols the perimeter of a room, and then within that perimeter makes back and forth stripes, moving over as each stripe completes. Making Botvac's navigation more impressive is the fact that a form of Lidar is used to map the room. The machine also includes a bumper, though its sees much less use than competing vacuums.

Scheduling is cool
Scheduling is cool


Neato Botvac Connected works with both iPhone and Apple Watch. The iPhone app controls lets users start, stop, and change basic settings on the robot, like whether it uses Turbo or Eco mode for cleaning. It also allows the user to manually drive the robot. This, it turns out, is a huge success for kids 11 years old and under.

The Watch application is less comprehensive, offering push notifications (battery, obstacles, etc.) and start/stop control. It's not very elaborate, but it doesn't need to be. Though it would be fun if users were able to remotely drive the robot from their wrist.







For years, iRobot's Roomba has been synonymous with autonomous robot vacuums. The Roomba is workable, if somewhat messy. The bin comes off the back of the Roomba bot, and in the old Discovery series, inevitably some dirt, hair and lint gets stuck above the carrier that holds the brush and beater bars.

Is it unfair to compare the old robots with a brand new one? Absolutely, but the old ones were built like tanks, requiring little in the way of maintenance. Even the new versions mount the bin in a similar way.

By contrast, the Botvac's bin detaches from the top of the robot's body. This method is a lot cleaner and a much more elegant -- no dirt spills out of the canister or stays in the robot. Cleaning the filter is a lot easier, too. Since Botvac's bin is larger than Roomba's, the machine boasts a larger filter area to collect horrible things we had no idea were lurking in the carpets.


The bin comes out the top of the robot, and is in every way, so much cleaner


If there's a downside, it's that the BotVac loses its side brush frequently. Most robots include a main brush and an ancillary side brush to get into hard to reach crevices. The side brush on a Roomba is screwed onto the motor shaft, but Botvac uses a magnet to secure its component. Hair often gets knotted in the brush spindle, displacing the part from its nook. We frequently find the brush some 15 feet away from the robot when the cleaning has finished.


The side brush comes off easily... too easily.


Botvac uses a local Wi-Fi network to talk to iPhone and Watch, providing notifications if it gets stuck, runs out of battery, or finishes cleaning. Updates are accomplished via an included USB on-the-go adapter.

To protect itself from a wild and wooly internet, Botvac employs SSL and HTTPS protocols to communicate with its command cloud. Searching the forums of robot vacuum enthusiasts indicates that if someone tried to intercept the connection between the robot and its servers, a "man-in-the-middle" attack with a self-signed certificate, that the robot automatically terminates the connection.

Conclusion

If you're in the market for a robot vaccum cleaner, this is one of the best models around. It supports complex scheduling functions, cleans very well, is easy to empty and clean, and is controllable via iOS and WatchOS. The advantage to cleaning by schedule once a day is that the floors are always pretty clean, meaning there's less to do when we take out our traditional vacuum for a deep clean on the weekend.

It might be nice if the side brush stayed on reliably, and it was easier to clean the beater brush from hair that gets wrapped around it, but on the whole, Botvac is a darn good robot.

When kids are around, they love to drive it around with iPhone, which is a win: they get to play with a robot, and we get a cleaner floor as a byproduct. It's not hard to see why, Botvac picks up everything from oatmeal, dirt, cereal, baking soda, and sand without issue, both from bare floors and carpet.

The Neato Botvac Connected sells for $659 from Amazon.com.

  • Scheduling is cool
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    Gee, I thought the Roomba was mainly a yuppie cat toy.  You saying it cleans floors, too?
  • Reply 2 of 24
    what would be great is pointing at a speck of dirt with your phone and having the robot vacuum go after it.
    caliravnorodom
  • Reply 3 of 24
    calicali Posts: 2,818member
     I've actually imagined Apple announcing one of these. Would be awesome.

    I thought you could control this one with your Apple Watch. Now that would have been fun and futuristic.
  • Reply 4 of 24
    cali said:
     I've actually imagined Apple announcing one of these.
    It'd be funny if the mysterious Project Titan were actually a self-driving... vacuum!

    (At least Apple would have fewer liability concerns.)
  • Reply 5 of 24
    Really.. I hate these things. If you are that lazy to pick up a vacume and sweep up your own floor, then just give up on life. Let's not become the fat people from the movie wall-e.
    zoetmb
  • Reply 6 of 24
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,345member
    ljm828312 said:
    Really.. I hate these things. If you are that lazy to pick up a vacume and sweep up your own floor, then just give up on life. Let's not become the fat people from the movie wall-e.
    You hate it because you have one? You obviously don't have kids and dogs and a three storey house. Man, I'd love one of these. Specially if it picked up all the inevitable obstacles. A vacuum for a present is the biggest insult ever for obvious reasons but this one? I may chance it  
    edited October 2016 williamlondon
  • Reply 7 of 24
    Don't buy this from amazon. Retail is 599. Bed bath and beyond will have this soon for that price, and you can use a 20% coupon. They also have a less feature filled version with smaller battery but still lithium ion. That ones 399. 
    emoellerSpamSandwichadm1
  • Reply 8 of 24
    Biased reviews, such as this one, really make me wonder if it's just product placement... give AI a bunch of money and they'll write a glowing review. A magnetic side brush? Seriously? It falls off all the time (=unusable), but other than that, the product is GREAT! Oh yes, and Roombas suck. 

    I have a Roomba 980 for half a year now, which maps the apartment, goes back to the charging station if necessary during cleaning, can be controlled through an iOS app from anywhere over the internet. It's a huge step up from the previous, arbitrary devices and I'm genuinely happy with it. The house is always clean and it neatly sits on its charing station when I come home. A robotic vacuum in general was one of the best purchases ever.
    jeanmouloud66adm1
  • Reply 9 of 24
    cali said:
     I've actually imagined Apple announcing one of these. Would be awesome.

    I thought you could control this one with your Apple Watch. Now that would have been fun and futuristic.
    Na, Apple is more likely to make one of these. See the real project titan: http://www.cobalt-aircraft.com/

    edited October 2016
  • Reply 10 of 24
    To clarify, it works from Android as well.
    And it's quite convenient, yes, but not a life changer...
  • Reply 11 of 24
    hucom2000 said:
    A robotic vacuum in general was one of the best purchases ever.
    The only problem is durability.
    After a few years with my Roomba, the robot only lasts 15ish minutes on a single charge and cannot clean the whole house in such time.
    Buying a replacement battery worked fine for the first couple months but quickly back to 15 minutes max...

    And also you still need to empty the robot's bin every day.
    And to cleanup or replace some parts once in a while if you want it to remain efficient.
  • Reply 12 of 24
    Another useless gadget.
  • Reply 13 of 24
    Puh, these are truly hot & relevant news – 27th can't come soon enough.
    The neato-Logo looks very "nest"-like.
  • Reply 14 of 24
    entropys said:
    cali said:
     I've actually imagined Apple announcing one of these. Would be awesome.

    I thought you could control this one with your Apple Watch. Now that would have been fun and futuristic.
    Na, Apple is more likely to make one of these. See the real project titan: http://www.cobalt-aircraft.com/

    Getting into this business early could be more interesting:  http://www.inquisitr.com/3184465/the-passenger-drone-taxi-is-coming-testing-approved-in-nevada/
  • Reply 15 of 24
    ljm828312 said:
    Really.. I hate these things. If you are that lazy to pick up a vacume and sweep up your own floor, then just give up on life. Let's not become the fat people from the movie wall-e.
    Well, we're all lazy about different things. Some are too lazy to learn the proper way to spell vacuum.
    nolamacguymike1zoetmbrealjustinlongwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 24
    ronmgronmg Posts: 156member
    hucom2000 said:
    Biased reviews, such as this one, really make me wonder if it's just product placement... give AI a bunch of money and they'll write a glowing review. A magnetic side brush? Seriously? It falls off all the time (=unusable), but other than that, the product is GREAT! Oh yes, and Roombas suck. 

    I have a Roomba 980 for half a year now, which maps the apartment, goes back to the charging station if necessary during cleaning, can be controlled through an iOS app from anywhere over the internet. It's a huge step up from the previous, arbitrary devices and I'm genuinely happy with it. The house is always clean and it neatly sits on its charing station when I come home. A robotic vacuum in general was one of the best purchases ever.
    Agreed as far as the product placement is concerned. Insulting the Roomba because of how the bin slides out from the back?!?!? Give me a break!! Love our 980 as well. Works so well. As for the guy insulting people who would rather live life than vacuum, my family is thin and healthy even though we have been using a Roomba for years!! Just takes the mundane out of life - which is completely worth it. Keep your ignorant comments to yourself.
  • Reply 17 of 24
    I had an earlier model (not wifi connected)
    Did a good job if run on a daily schedule.  Would not cover the whole house.  I was happy to have den and my office done daily.
    I have 4 dogs and they would overwhelm the "dust bin" even on a daily basis.

    I personally liked the mapping feature over the then current random Roomba. I also think the Neato system did a much better job
    of cleaning.  Would consider another but price/value is higher than I can justify after parts problems with previous unit.
  • Reply 18 of 24
    ljm828312 said:
    Really.. I hate these things. If you are that lazy to pick up a vacume and sweep up your own floor, then just give up on life. Let's not become the fat people from the movie wall-e.
    Don't be so quick to judge. I have been considering one of these for years. We have 2 kids, a dog, all hardwood floors and life is nonstop. I cycle to work 1-2 days a week, race about 2 marathons a year, pick up and drop off kids from activities, help with homework, spend family time and work a full time job. We love the hardwood floors since no crumbs get hidden in the carpet but to keep it clean it needs at least one vacuum a day. If this would work well it could free up time for me to get my marathon time down to qualify for Boston. 
  • Reply 19 of 24
    For those with indoor dogs, be careful. Mine decided to forget his house training on the very day that the robot was scheduled to run automatically when we stepped out. Yeaahhhh... Let's just say it did a thorough job of running through the entire house. Turned out we weren't the only ones; lots of similar stories from friends too.
  • Reply 20 of 24
    This should have meant this device failed this review.
    If there's a downside, it's that the BotVac loses its side brush frequently. Most robots include a main brush and an ancillary side brush to get into hard to reach crevices. The side brush on a Roomba is screwed onto the motor shaft, but Botvac uses a magnet to secure its component. Hair often gets knotted in the brush spindle, displacing the part from its nook. We frequently find the brush some 15 feet away from the robot when the cleaning has finished.

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