Smart home products should make your life easier. We want convenience, simplicity of use, and a genuine reason to own them rather than just completing a task ourselves. Ideally, they should automate what we hate doing. Vacuuming is usually time that could be better spent doing something different, and giving it to a robot to do makes sense.
The Neato Botvac D6 Connected robotic vacuum cleaner ($699) was announced in early September, and is a step below the Neato Botvac D7 Connected. The D6 has all the features of the D7, except without the Zone Cleaning system. The Botvac D6 has been taking care of vacuum cleaning in our apartment for a few weeks, and this is what it’s like to live with it.
Design and setup
The Botvac D6 continues Neato’s viewed-from-above D-shape design ethos, which helps the robot vacuum in corners and maximizes the space it covers. Does it look like a robot? No, not really. The D6 doesn’t have googly-eyes, a Knight Rider-style flashing light, or the a brain the size of a planet. It is instead, rather cute. The D6 isn’t small, with a footprint of around 13-inches by 13-inches, and rolls around the floor on two chunky wheels and a pair of rollers that hide under a four-inch thick body. This slimness lets it clean under most couches and beds. On the top is a circular laser guidance system, which keeps the D6 on track even in the dark.
The dust bin is hidden under a panel. There is a single button used for power, and a pair of indicator lights for battery charge and the robot’s state. On the rear are two horizontal contact plates that attach to the D6’s charging station, while along the left-hand edge of the robot is a side brush to get into the harder to reach corners. Under the D6 is a surprisingly large brush — Neato says it’s 70 percent larger than other round vacuum robots. The body has a brushed metal finish, but is mostly made of plastic, which helps keep the weight under control. It’s still pretty heavy when you pick the robot up. We wouldn’t call the D6 attractive, but it’s more than functional.
Setting up the Botvac D6 should be the model for all smart home products.
It does take up a fair amount of room. Even though the cable is long, the charge station needs to be near a mains outlet. When the robot is docked, it extends about 20-inches away from the wall. The footprint is no larger than the average upright vacuum cleaner; but it can’t be hidden away like a standard cleaner. In an ideal world, it would be nice to hide it under something like a couch or in a corner; but Neato recommends a few feet of clear space on either side of the base station. The charging station shifts over time, caused by the robot shuffling into position.
Setting up the Botvac D6 should be the model for all smart home products. Place the dock on the floor and put the D6 robot on charge, download the app, connect the robot to Wi-Fi, and that’s it. The first vacuuming run is exploratory, and the process is straightforward. There really is nothing else to do.
The D6 can be fired up in a few different ways, either manually in the app, using your voice with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, or by scheduling a regular cleaning. Which you choose depends on the size of your home and how busy it is. A daily cleaning routine may be overkill for a one-person home, for example. Regardless of your method of control, it’s very easy to do. We used voice with Google Home along with the iOS app, and both worked faultlessly. One button starts the cleaning routine, and only a few more steps are needed to schedule a cleaning, right down to the time you want the D6 to start.
The single, 12-inch roller brush is joined by a side-mounted brush that gets close to the wall, and we haven’t noticed any build up of debris around the edges of a room. The apartment — a combination of carpets and hardwood flooring — has been kept very clean, with almost no need to vacuum normally.
It’s also great to know it cleans under the bed and other raised furniture, where we’re not always able (or inclined) to do so. Neato emphasizes the D6’s ability to clean up pet hair and allergens, and the comfort of knowing hard-to-reach areas of the home are kept clean can’t be underestimated if you’re susceptible to dust allergies.
The collection bin needs regular emptying, and with daily vacuuming, the app would remind us to empty it every three or four days. When we did, it was around two-thirds full. The capacity is about 0.7 liters (24 ounces), which is larger than many of the cheaper models out there, which can fall as low as 0.25 liters (8.5 ounces). The battery should last for two hours, with a nearly three-hour recharge time. During our month with the Botvac D6, it only once needed to return to the base station mid-cleaning for a recharge, then returned to its duties later.
It bumps into stuff. A lot.
Problems are not ones unique to the D6. It doesn’t enjoy finding cables or anything that can get wrapped around the roller, but we only once needed to step in and untangle it. Most times, it just nervously backed away and went somewhere else. It did lose its way on one occasion, and simply went backward and forward in a tight space like a vacuuming Austin Powers until we told it to return to the base station. Since it couldn’t do this either, we had to carry it. It’s likely this may have been a connectivity issue, but it hasn’t reoccurred.
It also bumps into stuff. A lot. It’s not the most careful of ‘bots, and knocks its way around the edges of each room every time. There is a setting in the app for it to be more careful, but this also has the effect of it not vacuuming right up to the edges. The front of the robot is spring-loaded for absorbing these constant bumps, but sadly, any delicate paintwork may become damaged over time.
Finally, we’ve been using it in a one-bedroom apartment of moderate size, where it has been the right fit. In a larger home, the D6 will require more setup in terms of designating no-go areas and the placement of the magnetic strips. Also, the more it sucks up, the more often the bin will need emptying. The bigger your home, the more cleaning time is required, and the Botvac D6 is not massive. We’d say the D6 is definitely best for smaller spaces.
Attention smart home device makers: Please look at the Neato app as an example of its type. It’s one of the very best we’ve used, with an intuitive design, clear instructions, sensible notifications, and easy access to the main features. It doesn’t provide unnecessary information, it hasn’t crashed, and has operated perfectly whether we were connected to our home Wi-Fi network or out using 4G LTE.
There’s something incredibly satisfying about telling the robot to vacuum the house when you’re not even home.
If you run the Floor Plan program, the robot will map the house, ready for you to add ‘no-go’ lines in the app. These lines prevent the robot from going where you don’t want it. They can be changed at any time. We used it to keep the D6 out of the bathroom, where we’d rather clean without its help; but it’s also ideal for stopping the robot from suddenly falling down stairs to its doom. Neato also includes magnetic strips that can be strategically placed around the house that perform the same task. The robot tells you when it’s finished, and presents a map to show where it has been.
Any piece of smart home technology, especially when a “robot” is involved, can be intimidating. The Neato app takes all this fear away, and makes living with the Botvac D6 a pleasant, friction-free, effortless experience. You can even give the robot a name, really making it one of the family.
The Neato Botvac D6 comes with a one-year warranty, or six-months on the battery, and is a repair-or-replace service depending on the problem.Our Take
A truly time-saving piece of smart home technology, the Neato Botvac D6 effortlessly becomes one of the family, taking over a tedious task and performing it superbly with minimum input from you. However, it is one of the more expensive models on the market, which is something to consider.
Is there a better alternative?
We recommend the Eufy RoboVac 11S, which costs only $230 — a third of the Neato Botvac D6. However, it’s missing all of the D6’s best features, including app control and laser guidance. It’s perhaps better for robot vacuum newcomers, who aren’t sure if such a device is going to be helpful.
If you’re looking to save a few bucks, consider the Shark ION Robot S87, which costs $500 and is both a robot and a handheld vacuum all in one.
If you’re looking for the limousine of robovacs, consider the iRobot Roomba i7+, which is much quieter than the D6, and features multi-room zoning and even an self-cleaning base station. However, it’s more expensive than the D6 at $950.
How long will it last?
Ask yourself, how long do you normally keep a regular vacuum cleaner? The Neato Botvac D6 isn’t a smartphone or a laptop, so it’s not going to suddenly be replaced by a considerably more capable model in six-months. It only performs a single task, for which it’s built, and we don’t think you’ll suddenly need an upgrade. Do remember that maintenance is important if you want to keep the D6 in the family, and Neato recommends replacing the filter and brush every few months — a pack of two filters is $30 and brushes are around $40. The only part that will limit the D6’s life is the battery, which will eventually deteriorate; but it’s not something to worry about for a few years.
Should you buy it?
If you’ve got the money, then yes. It’s powerful, easy to use, is intelligent, and the app control makes controlling it simple. If you’re cost-conscious and don’t need as many bells and whistles, you might want to bypass the D6 and look at the lineup of robovacs from Shark, Ecovacs, or Eufy instead.