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Hands-On

Hands on: Neato's iPhone-controlled Botvac D7 Connected

The Botvac D7 Connected is the top-of-the-line robot vacuum from California's Neato, with nearly all of the features you could theoretically want to see in an autonomous cleaning device for your home. We're just starting our review, but here's an early glimpse.

Neato Botvac D7 Connected



In most respects you'll know what to expect if you've seen a robot vacuum before. Relying on lasers and internal mapping, the D7 gradually vacuums whatever floor you set it on, independent of any help. When it's done, it returns to a wall dock to recharge and wait for your command. You can control it with an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant, though maximum control demands one of the first two.

A distinguishing feature of Neato's vacuums is their "D" shape, which lets them reach into corners a round robot like a Roomba might miss. The D7 adds features like a side brush, a 120-minute battery, and a turbo mode for debris such as pet hair.

In an initial cleaning session the vacuum seemed to be a champ at tackling different surfaces, switching from tile to rugs and even a Christmas tree mat without too much trouble, though it did hitch on the tree mat once. Its wheels are designed to lift when the vacuum encounters rough terrain.

You do need to make a lot of accommodations to ensure a smooth run. Any strings or cords that could get entangled in the D7's brush need to be picked up, and some furniture can be problematic. Our test unit kept trying to go under a low-slung coffee table, only to get stuck because of the dome on top of the vacuum.

You can create "no-go" lines for the robot using Neato's iOS app, but that requires a complete floor map, which we haven't been able to record yet because of the coffee table issue. The solution may be risers or simply a new table.

Neato iPhone app



Other software features include scheduled cleans, support for multiple floors, a "gentle" navigation mode, and the option to perform on-demand zone work that targets especially messy areas. If the vacuum runs into trouble, it'll stop and let you know via an iOS notification.

Noise-wise the D7 does seem to rattle more than we'd like, yet it's otherwise quieter than a lot of vacuums.

Expect a full review from AppleInsider in coming weeks.

If you're already sold, the Neato Botvac D7 retails for $830, but is frequently on sale at Amazon for around $700.