I’ll just skip to the important part: Yes, you need to get a robot vacuum cleaner. And yes, you should probably choose the Roborock S5.
Xiaomi, one of Roborock’s backers, has made a name for itself by developing products that check all the right specs boxes at a competitive price. The Roborock S5 vacuums floors like a normal Roomba, but, perhaps more impressively, it also offers mopping functions. Its software also supports smart home integration with Alexa and Google Home. While 2-in-1 cleaners are growing in popularity and many vacuums support voice assistants, this combination of the two is practically unheard of.
At its price — $599 — the device compares favorably to iRobot’s Roomba e5 that costs $449. The Roborock has a suction power of 2,000 Pa, though better than the e5’s PA of 900. Throwing in the Braava 380t mopping bot brings the latter’s price to $749.
To see if such a device could deliver despite the reasonable price-point, Inverse went hands-on with the Roborock S5 for seven days, and I unexpectedly found my quality of life significantly improved.
- Product: Roborock S5
- Price: $599
- Perfect For: People with non-carpet floors that like clean houses.
A little about my living situation: I share a one-bedroom flat of around 50 square meters (540 square feet) with my partner. There’s a single kitchen/living room area, a reception area, a bathroom, a bedroom and a balcony area. It has the same porcelain tile floors throughout, covered by a 1.3m (4 foot 3 inch) circular Ikea Ådun rug in the living room and a 60cm by 90cm (24 by 35 inches) bath mat. I vacuum all this — or “hoover” as we say in the U.K. — every other week, and I hate it.
Unboxing the Roborock is straightforward. A base station plugs into the wall, a waterproof mat slots onto the station, and the vacuum sits on the two contacts on top. The machine makes a weird chimey noise when I plug it in, and updates the room with its status in an American accent. You can turn down the volume or switch off the sounds, but I couldn’t get the voice change feature to load.
The Xiaomi Home app used to control the device is a bit shakey. The app complained when I put my location as the U.K. and chose to connect to the EU server, claiming the locations didn’t match. Brexit hasn’t happened yet! Loading the vacuum into Google Home is simple enough, but the advanced features are found in the Mi Home app.
First clean! Getting started is as simple as telling my Google Home Mini to “start the vacuum” — unfortunately “start the hoover” calls up a Spotify album — and the bot starts bumping its way around the room to get working. It has a spinning laser to feel its way around, while a front bumper alerts it to other obstacles.
Suddenly, disaster. The vacuum has trapped itself in a Habitat Mickey chair facing toward the sofa. Its wheels pushed it over the metal leg, but it’s unable to move back over or escape through either direction. We have to pick it up and out, which stops the cleaning.
Eventually it’s cleaned the whole house over the space of 30 minutes with 75 percent battery left. It’s picked up most of the dirt, though I still need to beat the Ikea rug and bath mat on the balcony to get them fully cleaned. The S5 has a carpet cleaning function, but with the caveat that it reduces its ability to detect obstacles. Still, it’s impressively thorough.
For some reason, the ability to save maps is off by default, meaning you can’t draw no-go zones or ask to clean up a specific zone. Once you’ve switched it on the vacuum needs to complete a full clean before you can use these features.
There’s four cleaning modes: Quiet, Balanced, Turbo and Max. They vary in volume, but as the robot makes its own noises the Quiet mode still makes a noticeable din while it’s working. I still keep it on Max, though, because, to be honest it’s not that loud.
It’s hard not to anthropomorphize the robot. We settle on calling it “Mike,” so that way I can say that “Mike” did the cleaning today.
Little tidbit I learned: The base station orients the vacuum. I learned this when I unplugged it to use the figure-eight power cable for a different device, and the vacuum started crashing into the station.
Today I’ve decided to set it cleaning while we leave the house. Around 15 minutes later I check the app and the vacuum is off. I return home and it’s wedged itself under the U-bend in the toilet. Fortunately I can open the app to set a new line the robot shouldn’t cross. The app also allows for scheduling, so I can set up a routine.
Mopping time! The instructions tell the user to vacuum the floor three times before mopping, but a Roborock representative tells Inverse that this is not a strict rule and is only meant to ensure there’s no big dirt left.
The mop is a semicircular tank that fills up from the tap, and comes with a fabric attachment underneath that drops water through slowly. It slots into the front, and there’s also a special “Mop” mode through the app.
I’m unclear on what this “Mop” mode does, because as far as I can tell the robot just completes its normal routine while holding the wet fabric against the floor. I was willing to write it off completely, but at the end I removed the module and saw the fabric was nearly black with dirt. Color me impressed.
I have to say though, that while I would comfortably go all-in with robo-vacuuming, a very thin layer of water is no substitute for a mop and big bucket of soapy water, especially with harder food spills and difficult stains. The floors were relatively clean already though, and for the sake of shinier floors with zero effort, I wouldn’t underestimate the S5’s mop.
Emptying the dust collector is a breeze, by lifting up the front lid, taking off the filter and bashing it against the bin. I cleaned the filter under the tap and placed it on the side to dry, though when I returned a few hours later, it still didn’t feel dry. Still, I ran the vacuum later though and experienced no problems.
At the end of one week I noticed something. The house was consistently clean with zero effort. It looks nicer, feels more welcoming, and I daresay provides health benefits by reducing dust. I also don’t have to vacuum any more. I feel like I’ve just discovered the dishwasher or the washing machine: more important than clean floors, the Roborock S5 delivers liberation from household chores.
Update 15/04 5 a.m. Eastern time: An earlier version of this article referred to the product as the “Xiaomi Roborock S5.” While Xiaomi is one of the product’s backers, the company does not own nor control Roborock. The article has been amended to reflect this.