Neato D7 vs. Roomba i7: A Substantial Upgrade From D4, 960 & 980?

Cam Secore
Updated 05/27/2019

After months of testing, I determined Neato Botvac D7 is the best mapping robot vacuum for most people because it never gets stuck thanks to its in-app No-Go Lines. However, Roomba i7 is a solid alternative. Roomba i7+ with the self-emptying base may be a great option for pet owners.

I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing two robot vacuums (Neato D7 vs. Roomba i7) while evaluating four categories: navigation, floor types, software, and design.

d7

Neato D7

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  • Navigation: You create No-Go Lines in the app to designate areas you want to avoid. You can also schedule specific room cleaning. The battery lasts 120 minutes.
  • Floor Types: It works well on all floor types, but its efficiency shines on hard floors because it picks up 15% more debris in the same time span.
  • Software: You can create three different floor plans and tell it which rooms need attention.
  • Design: The filters and bin are easy to empty and clean. The charging base is far better than Roomba i7’s.
  • Pets: When comparing robots only, Neato is better for pet owners because of the bigger bin, but the brushes are harder to clean out.

Best for you if...

You want to consistently and efficiently clean every spot in your home (usually in one run), regardless of floor type, without a chance of getting stuck. You can tell Neato D7 to clean individual rooms like Roomba, but the No-Go Lines are its best feature.

Budget Option

Neato D4 has the same suction power and navigation, but with 75 minutes of runtime, a hard-to-empty dustbin, no "zone cleaning," no side brush, and just a one-floor plan.

i7

Roomba i7

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  • Navigation: It can clean specific rooms on demand or on a schedule, but there’s no way to keep it out of specific areas without a physical barrier. The battery lasts 75 minutes.
  • Floor Types: It’ll work fine on hard floors, but it needs more time to get the job done. It slightly outperforms Neato on carpet after running full cycle.
  • Software: Setup is easier than Neato and scheduling is great, but you need a physical barrier to keep it out of trouble areas.
  • Design: The dustbin is half the size and harder to empty than Neato’s.
  • Pets: Roomba i7+ is ideal for pet owners because the brushes are easy to clean and it empties itself with the special base.

Best for you if...

You have pets who shed and want to spend $1,100 for the self-emptying base (Roomba i7+). Roomba i7 (minus the special base) is the smartest Roomba of all, but because of the short runtime, tiny dustbin, and no way to avoid problem areas, Neato is a better option.

Budget Option

Roomba 960 has a 75-minute runtime and similar mapping, but the suction power doesn’t work as well on carpets and it doesn’t utilize previous maps.

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best mapping robot vacuum

Things to Know

  • I’ve bought and tested 13 different robot vacuums (ILIFE A4, ILIFE A4S, Deebot N79S, Deebot N79, Eufy 11, Eufy 11+, Eufy 11S, Roomba 650, Roomba 690, Roomba 890, Roomba 980, Neato D4, and Neato D7) over the last three years.
  • Deebot N79S and Eufy are brilliant budget options and you won’t find a better value in the $200 range. They’re great for what they are, but they’re not smart, can’t detect which areas have been covered and know nothing about your home’s layout.
  • Why choose a mapping robot over a budget option? Mapping robots provide more control and a more consistent and thorough clean.
  • As the mapping technology, battery life, and suction power improve, I can see a world where most people choose these instead of a standard vacuum.
  • Mapping robots are smarter. They don’t use the “bump and run” random technique most robot vacuums use. Once the mapping robot has run its cycle, you’ll see exactly where it went.
  • Like the cheap robot vacuums, these won’t work on black or dark floors because the robot sees black and thinks it’s a cliff.
  • These won’t work well in huge empty spaces. They can’t utilize their full mapping potential because they bounce light and lasers off of objects to sense where they are. They’ll function as a regular robot vacuum in large empty rooms.
  • Can they replace a normal vacuum? These mapping vacuums should do most of the heavy lifting if you have a wood floor. You’ll still need a vacuum for the stairs, vacuuming furniture, or getting the tough spots that the robot can’t reach. And you’ll still need a real vacuum for better suction on thick carpets.
  • It’s easier to break out the real vacuum to clean up quick messes or crumbs when they happen, rather than running a cleaning cycle and hope that it eventually reaches the spill.
  • The ability to avoid getting stuck is the most important feature to look for in any robot vacuum. You want flawless navigation that covers all areas of your floor and a way for it to avoid problem areas. The suction on these mapping vacuums is excellent compared to other robot vacuums, but it’s nothing compared to a traditional vacuum.
  • Aside from letting the robots run full cleaning cycles in my house, I ran four structured tests (multiple times each and averaged my numbers).
    • Test #1: Let the robots run in an enclosed 100-square-foot area of wood floor with 50 grams of rice spread evenly for five minutes. Results:
      • Neato D7 30 grams.
      • Roomba i7 25 grams.
    • Test #2: Let the robots run in an enclosed 100-square-foot area of wood floor with 50 grams of rice spread evenly until their cycle finished. Results:
      • Neato D7 50 grams completed in 12 minutes.
      • Roomba i7 50 grams completed in 22 minutes.
    • Test #3: Let the robots run in an enclosed 50-square-foot area of medium pile carpet with 50 grams of rice spread evenly for five minutes. Results:
      • Neato D7 48 grams.
      • Roomba i7 30 grams.
    • Test #4: Let the robots run in an enclosed 50-square-foot area of medium pile carpet with 50 grams of rice spread evenly until their cycle finished.  Results:
      • Neato D7 48 grams completed in 5 minutes.
      • Roomba i7 50 grams completed in 9 minutes.
mapping layouts

Neato D7

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Navigation (A):

  • Neato uses “LaserSmart Mapping” technology to sense walls.
  • Because Neato uses lasers rather than a camera, it can run flawlessly without a light source.
  • Neato uses SLAM technology, which is a better method than a traditional robot that just goes in random directions (i.e., the bump-and-run method). There’s more methodology to SLAM, but without mapping, it’s still not the smartest and similar to the cheaper robot vacuums.
    • For example, before Neato D7 learned the layout of my house, it repeatedly got stuck under a glass TV stand. Neato asks you to move it within two feet of its location, so the map doesn’t get messed up, but Neato went under the TV stand and got stuck four more times. Later, I created a physical barrier under the TV stand to keep it out and get a map of my house. Then, I made a No-Go Line in the app in front of the TV stand and removed the physical barrier. Now Neato doesn’t get stuck there.
  • Your first run with Neato is a “mapping run” so it can learn the layout. This can be painful because the robot isn’t very smart. But if you keep an eye on it, make some barriers, and use the included magnet strip, you’ll be fine. Just remember to set your “No-Go Lines” after you have a map.
  • When Neato is getting low on battery, it’ll do a “quick boost charge.” This only gives it the amount of juice it needs to finish the job, rather than going back to the base to charge for two hours like Roomba.
  • It’s shaped like a “D.” In my experience, this helps Neato get the edges of a room better than other round vacuums.
  • The larger wheels on Neato help it climb things better and clear high thresholds.
  • Neato always knows where its base is and adds it to the map.
  • It took Neato D7 an average of 47 minutes to clean my entire first floor.

Software (A-):

  • The app design is excellent and feels fresh. It looks different than most apps, but it’s intuitive. An example of a nice touch, when you tap on the battery icon, it tells you the exact percentage remaining and how long it’ll run based on its current suction mode.
  • No-Go Lines are a game changer, and no other robot vacuum has anything remotely similar. Once you make your floor plan map, you can keep Neato out of particular areas (i.e., rooms you don’t want to be cleaned, places it’d get stuck, near loose cords or cable, near pet food dishes, shoe mats, etc.) by drawing virtual lines in the app.
  • It can be hard to place the lines in the app because you won’t know precisely where to put them. If your robot is getting stuck in the same place, it would be great for it to mark that on the map, but it doesn’t.
  • You can save up to three different floor plans so you can have a map for each level of the house. You should buy an additional charging base for $40 for each floor that you want Neato to run on.
  • Neato should let you move the base on the map, in the app, before you move it in real life because it won’t recognize your floor plan if the station isn’t placed in the same spot every time, so it’s best not to move it. I had my base misplaced within an inch, and Neato didn’t recognize my house and was forced to remap everything.
  • Once Neato has a map of your home, it can do “Zone Cleaning,” which lets you mark blocks of your house. There are three downsides when compared to Roomba’s room cleaning:
    • You can’t name your zones (i.e., Living Room).
    • You can’t have it clean one room on command, only during scheduling cleanings.
    • You can’t ask Google or Alexa to clean a specific room/zone.
  • App scheduling is excellent. You can schedule times and dates and choose which cleaning mode you’d like it to do or you can tell it to only clean specific zones. The only issue is that the updated schedule isn’t always pushed to the robot instantly and there’s no noise to let you know if the schedule has been sent (Roomba does this).
  • I’ve tested and purchased Neato D7 twice and had trouble syncing it with my WiFi both times. Once the initial setup was done, everything was perfect.
  • Neato is compatible with Google and Alexa. You can say things like “Alexa, ask Neato to start cleaning.”
  • There’s an IFTTT page with awesome options. My favorites are having Neato run as soon as you leave your house and having it dock as soon as you arrive home so you don’t have to listen to it run.
  • You can set reminders for maintenance (brushes and filters) and how frequently you’d like to receive them.
  • If you use Neato without a map or do a spot clean, there’s no way to send it back to the dock without picking up manually and moving it.
  • You can manually control the robot in the app, but I’m not sure when this would be useful.

Floor Types (A):

  • Neato has “Eco” mode that’s quieter than “Turbo” mode and allows Neato to run longer. I didn’t see a difference between the settings in my testing, so I’d recommend sticking with “Eco.”
  • Even while in “Turbo” mode, Neato cleans my entire first floor (500 square feet) in under an hour with 50% battery left.
  • There’s an “Extra Care” mode that slows the vacuum down when it senses objects. This is a great idea, but I didn’t find it necessary with Neato because even in its standard setting, it barely taps the edges and is more gentle than Roomba.
  • You can set it to “Spot” clean, which will do about a 25-square-foot area, but you can increase it to a 13’ x 13’ square too.
  • Neato is superior to Roomba on hard flooring. On the first sweep, Neato gets significantly more debris than Roomba. Roomba tends to get caught up with its dirt detection sensing, while Neato just carries on and is extremely efficient. (See my test results above).
  • Neato and Roomba perform similarly on carpet.

Design (B):

  • The dustbin is 700 ml, which is twice the size of Roomba’s.
  • The dustbin is easy to empty and clean because the filter pops out easily.
  • It’s 3.9 inches tall and weighs 7.7 pounds. There’s a circular piece that sticks up above the robot for the lasers.
  • The main brush is huge and measures at 11″ helping Neato to get more debris in the first run. It’s easy to pop out and clean but due to its design, hair will get wrapped around it and it will need to be cleaned every couple of weeks.
  • The filter is funky because it has a fine mesh in front of it and dirt gets stuck behind the mesh, but it makes cleaning the filter much easier because the big pieces of material stay out.
  • The battery is 4,200mAh and lasts 120 minutes. My real world tests match and surpass the 120 minutes on wood floors. It takes 150 minutes to recharge the battery.
  • You can buy a replacement battery for $80.
  • The charging base is nicer and heavier than the typical Roomba base and it stays in place. You can also tuck the cord inside the base making it look more appealing and reducing the risk the robot will trip over the cable.
  • Magnetic strips come with Neato and are used as barriers. You’re supposed to use these before you create the No-Go Lines, but they’re not something you’d want to leave on the floor permanently.

Roomba i7

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Navigation (B):

  • Out of the box, Roomba i7 is smarter than Neato and tends to get stuck less frequently (Neato makes up for this with software).
  • Roomba i7 uses odometry (number of wheel spins) and the cameras on top to sense the walls and create a map of your house. Everything works great as long as there’s light because the cameras can’t see at night or in dimly lit rooms.
  • Roomba i7 uses “iAdapt 3.0 Navigation with Visual Localization” for its mapping, which is a huge upgrade from “iAdapt 2.0” that Roomba 960 and 980 use.
    • iAdapt 2.0 robots (Roomba 960 and 980) move in straighter lines and have more methodology compared to the entry-level Roomba vacuums, but they don’t use the previously-acquired maps to adjust the routes because the maps are deleted from its memory after each clean. Each time it starts its run, it takes a different path, and it doesn’t remember your house.
    • iAdapt 3.0 remembers your home’s layout and uses its previous maps to make adjustments to the route each time it runs. In my experience, after Roomba gets stuck in a spot a couple of times, it’ll be more cautious and it won’t happen again.
    • Roomba i7 finds the base better than previous Roomba vacuums.
  • When the battery runs low, Roomba can go back the base to charge, then finish the spots it hasn’t hit yet.
  • Roomba i7 takes twice as long as Neato to clean an area with the same effectiveness. Roomba’s first run never picks up debris as well as Neato. Roomba eventually produces the same results as Neato with multiple passes.
  • It doesn’t get the edges as well as Neato, due to its circular shape.
  • It doesn’t climb over thresholds as well Neato, due to it being lower to the ground.
  • If Roomba gets stuck, you need to fix the issue within 90 minutes because if you don’t, it won’t continue its route. It’ll create a new map and won’t be able to find the base, which is frustrating!
  • It took Roomba i7 an average of 50 minutes to clean my entire first floor.

Software (B+):

  • You can choose how many cleaning passes (one or two) you want Roomba to do. Or you can set it to automatic, and it’ll go off of how much dirt it detects.
  • Roomba gives you a “Clean Map Report” to show the areas it covered. Unfortunately, there isn’t an app feature similar to Neato’s No-Go Lines to avoid problematic areas (pet food bowls, shoes, tech areas) where Roomba is prone to getting stuck. A similar feature may be added in a future software update, but for now, you have three options:
    • Use one of the included “Virtual Wall Barriers” shaped like lighthouses. You switch a button on the barrier to either make a circular perimeter or straight line to keep your robot away from areas. I don’t want barriers around my house because they’re ugly and could easily be moved or accidentally kicked. Additional barriers are $50 each.
    • Adjust your problem area by creating a physical barrier or moving the object causing the issue before Roomba makes its run.
    • Let Roomba do its thing and pray the algorithm figures things out. Roomba i7 is the smartest Roomba on the market and makes adjustments to its route based on previous runs, but I’m not sure if you can bank on that. In my case, it got stuck under my swivel chair twice, then approached it more cautiously and never got stuck again.
  • Unlike Neato, Roomba needs a few “Training Runs” where it drives around with the suction and rollers turned off. After the training runs, “Imprint Smart Mapping” lets you add dividers in the app to your home’s map to create different rooms, which you can label.
  • You can store up to 10 floor plans and because Roomba is using a camera for mapping rather than lasers, you can move the base to wherever you want and it’ll still remember your home’s layout and relocate the base on the map. This is a big advantage over Neato.
  • You create schedules in the app and pick the days you want it to run. Then you can choose “Clean All” or select specific rooms you want to be cleaned. For example, you can schedule it to clean the living room and dining room each Monday and Wednesday, then clean the bedrooms on Tuesday and Thursday. There are endless possibilities, and it’s a great way to prioritize rooms that have more foot traffic.
  • Roomba makes a noise when you change the schedule from the app. This feature is helpful because even though I didn’t have issues with Neato’s scheduling, I’m always curious if Neato got the signal.
  • I prefer Roomba’s WiFi setup because you can follow the set-by-step guide and tap the buttons and it brings you to the proper place in your phone settings. Neato is a bit more challenging to navigate.
  • It works with Alexa and Google Home. You can say things like “Alexa, ask Roomba to go home.”
  • The error messages are confusing because they’re a bunch of codes with no clear pattern. There’s a better approach.
  • There are maintenance reminders, like when to replace the filters or brushes based on how long Roomba expects them to last.
  • You can see your WiFi signal strength. This is a nice feature, but once you use it once, you’ll never need it again.
  • Roomba has an IFTTT page with cool options, like having Roomba pause its run when you receive a phone call.
  • iRobot’s use of your mapping data is a bit suspicious. Their executives haven’t dismissed the idea of selling your data to other companies. Roomba has a camera (unlike Neato that uses lasers) and can see your house so, theoretically, they could sell this data to a company like Amazon. Hypothetically, Amazon could see the same sneakers by the door for six months and think they’re getting old, so they start targeting you with advertisements for shoes. Or maybe there’s an empty space in your living room, and Amazon knows a shelf that would fit there perfectly.
  • To be clear, Roomba is NOT currently selling your data! If they decide to do something with the mapping data, you’ll be notified and have an option to opt out. But the idea of it is creepy. Don’t dismiss what tech companies do with your data.

Floor Types (A):

  • Neato runs its cycle and hits every spot a couple of times, but it doesn’t pay attention to what’s on the floor. Roomba vacuums sense dirt with the Roomba’s Dirt Detect system and try to go over a spot more until it doesn’t sense the dirt. In real life, this system doesn’t help much and I think it hurts Roomba’s overall pick up. But I could see it helping if you had a major spill on the carpet.
  • Roomba claims i7 has double the airpower of 960 and 10 times the airpower of the entry-level Roombas. Unlike Roomba 980 that had a normal and turbo mode, Roomba i7 stays on turbo mode and its always on and can’t be turned off.
  • The extra power helps with pet hair.
  • After two sweeps of an area on any surface, Roomba i7 will collect less dirt and debris than Neato D7 on any surface, but the Roombas tend to do more than a couple of passes, and the end result is similar to Neato. (See my rice testing results above.)

Design (B):

  • Roomba i7:
    • The dustbin is 450ml (Roomba 980 was 600ml) and half the size of Neato’s. It’s also harder to clean. The bin size is a deal-breaker if you have pets who shed because the bin will fill up too quickly. (Pet owners will need Roomba i7+. Read more below).
    • The charging base is poorly made. The long cord gets in the way of docking the robot, and because it’s so light, it’s easy to move.
    • It has “Tangle-free Dual Multi-Surface” rubber brushes that are easy to clean. In my experience, human and pet hair doesn’t get wrapped around the rollers as much as Neato’s.
    • It’s 3.6″ tall and weighs 7.4 pounds, making it slimmer than Neato.
    • It has a 3,000mAh battery with a listed runtime of 75 minutes.
    • Roomba 980 was the loudest robot vacuum I’ve ever tested, but Roomba i7 is substantially quieter while delivering the same suction power. Roomba i7 and Neato D7 sound similar to my ears, but Roomba i7 has the slight edge.
  • Roomba i7+
    • iRobot sells a package with the Roomba i7 robot and the “Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal” for $1,100 and called “Roomba i7+”. Or you can buy the clean base separately at another time for $300.
    • The Clean Base is an oversized dock that sucks up the debris from the bin and puts it in a disposable bag that holds 30 robot bins. While the base is huge and sounds like a rocket taking off, it’s an amazing first step into fully automating your cleaning:
      • Because pet hair accumulates quickly in the bin and Roomba’s bin is small, your robot may only get through a quarter of its cycle before the bin is too full to continue. The automatic emptying base is crucial for pet owners with shedding pets.
      • Roomba i7+ is a must-have for pet owners who can afford it.
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