Robot vacuum cleaners aren’t a new thing, but the technology has slowly moved on since the first Roomba was introduced back in 2002. These days, your bumbling domestic cleaning companion can lay claim to multiple technological advancements, including in the case of the Neato Botvac D5 Connected, laser-based lidar room scanning and Wi-Fi-based app control and monitoring.
The best robot vacuum cleaner currently on the market is the Dyson 360 Eye. It’s great because it manages to combine powerful suction with a methodical way of getting around your house. Instead of simply bumping around randomly as cheaper robot cleaners do, the Dyson sets out from the centre of a room working in a spiral pattern so it reaches all the areas you need to clean and doesn’t miss anything out.
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The D5 Connected also takes a methodical approach, but it differs from the Dyson in a few key areas. It’s smaller for starters, standing a mere 10cm tall, which means it can duck under low-lying furniture more easily. And despite the small size, the D5 has a bigger dust bin, at 0.7 litres compared with the Dyson’s surprisingly small 0.33-litre bin.
I also prefer the positioning of the D5 Connected’s brush – at the front of its D-shaped chassis – which means it can get further into awkward corners than the circular Dyson. This brush doesn’t extend across the full width of the chassis, but it does stretch out fully on the right-hand side, enabling the robot to clean along edges and in corners more effectively than most. There’s also a small spinning side brush on the right side to dislodge dust lodged up against skirting boards and the edges of objects.
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There are benefits to having the brush mounted behind the vacuum’s wheels as the Dyson has, since it means there’s less likelihood of the wheels tracking dust and dirt around behind the cleaner, but I’d rather have the corner-cleaning abilities of the D5.
A bigger difference is that the D5 Connected uses laser scanning to find its way around and map out its environment as it cleans, where the Dyson uses a camera. This means it can operate at night in the dark, conditions in which the Dyson can struggle. The laser is mounted in the circular housing on top of the D5 Connected and it builds up a map of your room(s) as it travels around.
It doesn’t display this map to you via the Wi-Fi-connected app as the more expensive Botvac Connected does, but you can start and stop cleaning remotely via the app, schedule cleaning and view cleaning stats. And the D5 Connected will notify you, wherever you are, whenever it gets stuck.
In the absence of a camera or any kind of manual remote control, there’s a limit to the usefulness of this feature if you happen to be out of the house when the D5 becomes grounded, though. I also experienced a couple of connectivity issues at first when the app suddenly, and for no apparent reason, insisted the robot was offline. I had to reset it as a result, but I haven’t had any problems since the first day or two of use.
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The laser is joined in its sensory duties by a bumper bar at the front of the vac, and a pair of drop sensors in the corners to prevent it from tumbling down the stairs. Together I found these did a great job of getting the D5 Connected around the cramped floors of my narrow Victorian terrace without getting stuck or confused.See related Best robot vacuum cleaner 2022: Clean up with the most effective robot vacuumsDyson 360 Eye review: Still the only robot vacuum to buy?
As with any brush-based vacuum, you have to keep the floor clear of cables and make sure tassels and ties are tucked away or they’ll get tangled around the roller. It’s also a good idea to place physical barriers around low-lying obstacles or other areas you don’t want the vacuum to go, otherwise you can drop the special barrier strips (included in the box) on the floor to prevent the D5 venturing into areas you don't want it to go.
Once you’ve done that, you can leave the D5 Connected to its own devices to get on with cleaning. And it does a pretty good job of that. Once you kick off a cleaning cycle – either by pressing the button on the top of the robot or by tapping Start in the app – it trundles out of its charging dock, gives the room a quick scan and then makes its way to a nearby room edge and starts to work its way around.
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Next it will roll its way up and down the floor, steadily cleaning the area in the middle and, once it’s finished, it will return to the docking station to charge itself. It will even go between rooms if you leave the doors open, and it’s capable of covering a lot of floor space before needing to be recharged. In my small house, I was able to get it to clean the living room, upper hall and bedroom twice before it ran out of juice.
As with most robot vacuum cleaners, the Neato Botvac D5 Connected isn’t a replacement for your current vacuum. It can’t do the stairs, for one, and it won’t suck the life out of your carpets like a powerful upright cleaner. But it copes well with most types of grit and dust, and I found it picked up a remarkable amount of household detritus that I had missed with my trusty Hetty (Henry’s sister vacuum).
It coped well with with pet hair, and long female hair didn’t faze it either. It even comes with a tool in the box to help you free the roller of long strands of hair that get wrapped around the brush.
I have to say I’ve been impressed with the versatility of Neato’s Botvac D5 Connected. It could do with a camera and manual remote control so you can extricate it from awkward situations remotely, but it gets on with the business of cleaning generally without fuss, and it picks up an impressive amount of dust, leaving carpets, rugs and hard floors clean as a whistle.
And although the D5 lacks the Alexa integration, manual remote control and visual maps of its (slightly) more expensive brother, the Botvac Connected, it is more powerful. Perhaps most significantly, however, the Neato Botvac D5 Connected is a full £200 cheaper than the Dyson 360 Eye.
So although the Dyson 360 Eye remains our pick of the robot vacuum cleaners, principally due to its cleaning power. I’ve no hesitation in recommending the D5 as a better-value alternative.