I grew up in an era when technology was expected to make the future an endless round of fun and games, while robots did all the work. Although technology has made many of our daily tasks more convenient and easier to accomplish, we don’t quite have flying cars yet or robots that do all the work, but they can do some of our more mundane everyday chores. The first robot cleaner was launched by Electrolux, in 1996, and although that first early model frequently collided with furniture, left patches not cleaned, and generally had problems with walls and other obstructions, things have come a long way since then.
Today I’m going to be taking a look at the Roborock S5, a robotic cleaner that’s about as far removed from those first primitive models as we are from the dinosaurs. It utilizes a range of smart features that attempt to make it as independent as possible, and able to leave your floors shining clean with the minimum of effort, at least from you. But how well does it work? And how well does it clean? We’ll be taking a look at these questions as well as discovering what types of cleaning it’s suitable for, and whether it’s worth the cost, so let’s get started.
The Xiaomi Roborock S5 Robotic Vacuum and Mop Cleaner Review
Roborock are part of the Chinese based Xiaomi Corporation. Xiaomi was founded in 2010 and released it’s first smartphone the following year, and by 2014 it had became China’s largest smartphone company. Xiaomi have partnered with a number of manufacturers of smart products, that all utilize their Mi Home app, and these days Xiaomi Smart devices include everything from smart webcams and cameras, to smart blood pressure monitors and air purifiers. The company is valued at over $46 billion and is the World’s fourth most valuable technology start-up. They operate globally, particularly at home in China, but with a strong presence across Asia and quickly developing markets such as India. Xiaomi employ more than 15,000 people Worldwide.
The Roborock S5 is a 2-in-1 cleaner, capable of both mopping and sweeping, and it’s suitable for a range of floor types, including carpets. With a high-quality glossy plastic finish the S5 is packed full of smart features that aim to make it one of the more intelligent robot cleaners on the market. It’s designed to have superior path finding, and more efficient cleaning patterns. This isn’t a robot that’s going to clean in a straight line and turn in a random direction when it meets a wall, the S5 is designed to clean your floor, all of it, as efficiently as possible. With support from the Mi Home app, S5 owners also get to look forward to improvements in the app that eliminate previously discovered weaknesses and issues, and improve performance overall, and I’ll come to that in more detail a little later.
- S5 Robotic vacuum
- Dock charger
- Water tank and Waterproof pad
- 2 x Water tank filters
- 2 x Mopping cloth
- Beak-like cleaning tool
- Washable strainer
- User manual
Once you have your Roborock S5, download the Xiaomi Mi App, and it’s a straightforward process to link your robot cleaner to the app. Once you’ve done that just tap the button on the front of your S5, and it will begin mapping out the floor plan of your home, or wherever you’re going to be using it. There are a variety of modes to choose from, Quiet, Turbo, Max or Balanced, and if you intend to use the S5 for carpeted areas there’s a Carpet mode that increases suction from the fairly powerful 2000Pa motor.
The S5 has a brush underneath that rotates to loosen dirt before it’s sucked up, it also has a brush on the edge that pulls dust from the side into the range of the vacuum. In order to use the mopping system, firstly it’s recommended to make the microfiber cloth damp. After that you fill up the water tank and slot it into place. The mop system does have a slight drawback in that there’s no control over how much water is released, it just drips through via gravity. The mopping system doesn’t turn itself off when cleaning over carpets either, so when the mop function is installed you can designate no-go zones for the cleaner to avoid.
When the S5 has done it’s work it will return to it’s charging port, which comes with a drop tray to avoid water accumulating on your floor if the water tank still contains water. The S5 has a battery with around 150 minutes of charge, and the S5 will return to the dock if it needs to mid-clean, and return to the job when fully recharged, so it can be left to finish the job no matter how big an area it has to clean.
The Roborock S5 has an impressive array of smart features, and due to it’s connectivity to the Mi app, these can always be improved on, and they recently have been, as I’ll explain in a moment. Several users of the S5 notice immediately that this is a cleaning robot that doesn’t move about randomly, instead it begins by mapping your floor plan with it’s in-built laser distance sensor (LDS), creating a precise floor plan that you can view on the Mi app. It uses intelligent route finding to work out the most efficient cleaning pattern, and begins at the edges of an area, before moving into the center. Once the S5 has finished one section of your floor, it moves onto the next.
Like all cleaning robots, the S5 doesn’t clean right up to the very edge of a barrier, but the LDS does allow it to clean up to around 10mm from a wall, and although corners are obviously going to be left a little dusty by a circular robot, it does have reasonably good edge detection, so it will clean as close as possible without bumping into walls and obstructions, and if it does misjudge, there’s a 2mm rubber bumper that makes sure it doesn’t get damaged on the odd occasion it hits something.
This is a positively reviewed product on Amazon, with around 90% of reviews considering it a highly effective and efficient cleaner, but of the 7% of reviewers who were less impressed, one of the recurring complaints that was raised was the inability to save a floor plan, which is necessary in order to designate no-go areas, if you want to avoid cleaning a carpeted area with the mop function utilized for example.
Roborock addressed this issued on Amazon by promising that updates to the Mi app would solve the problem by 2019, and true to their word, on December 20th 2018 an update to the Mi Home app included a map saving function, and the added ability to be able to draw up to ten no-go areas and lines that the robot cannot cross. Once your robot has cleaned your entire floor and knows what your home looks like, these features should work perfectly, giving you even greater control over the S5’s functionality.
When Carpet mode is selected, the S5 detects carpets and automatically switches to maximum suction for these areas, and it will revert back to medium suction when it leaves the carpet. The S5 also has the ability to cross obstacles up to 2cm high, so thresholds and floor linings shouldn’t be a problem for it, and if you don’t need your entire home cleaned every day, you can set certain zones to be cleaned while the S5 ignores the rest of the saved floor plan.
The S5 has few faults in terms of it’s smart features, but one slight drawback is that the Amazon Alexa support is somewhat limited, at the moment, although Roborock intend improving this in the future too. You can start the S5 using Alexa, as well as stop mid-clean, but the S5 won’t return to it’s charging port when you do this. Currently the S5 has no Google Assistant support, although again this is something that may be added in the future.
Potential Issues or Pitfalls
Of the small percentage of people who had problems with the S5, one or two had problems connecting it with their Wi-Fi, others had problems connecting to the US server for the Mi Home app, but the vast majority of users found no problems connecting with the Mi Home app, or using the S5 as intended.
One or two users did note that when the S5 does collide with something, it appears to ‘lose it’s way’ slightly, becoming misaligned with where it thinks it is. This can lead to problems with it finding the charging port again and missing areas to clean. The problem is solved by re-setting the map and leaving the S5 to map out your floor plan again.
A small number of reviewers found the S5 loud when in operation. When in Balanced mode on a hard surface, the vacuum peaks at around 69 decibels, loud enough to hear, but not so loud that someone talking in a normal tone couldn’t be heard over it.
The mop attachments can be slightly fiddly to install, and the lack of control of the mop function does make it less than ideal for carpeted areas, but overall there are no significant issues with the S5, other than perhaps failing to squeeze through tight gaps due to it’s size, but that’s a problem shared by all robot cleaners. Overall most users consider it able to clean effectively and with superior path-finding compared to other similarly priced robot cleaners.
Does it Clean Well?
The mopping ability of the S5 is limited by the constant dripping from the water tank. Effectiveness of the mopping function depends on how damp you’ve made the microfiber cloth, how dirty your floor is, and what type of surface it’s cleaning. Most users with tiled floors, hardwood floors, and sealed surfaces found it adequate for the task, although heavier stained areas may still have marks when the S5 has finished. It can be configured to clean only a small area, or just one room however, and this may help, but the mopping function is not going to be able to deal with seriously dirty floors.
The ability of the Roborock S5 to dust and vacuum your floor is far more impressive however. The brush that gathers dust works well, and the powerful suction of the robot can clean even relatively large amounts of dust, hair and fine particles of loose dirt. It will clean less effectively in corners, but it does manage to clean very close to walls and other obstacles. Many users noted that this function of the S5 was far better than they expected, and most agreed that for the price, the S5 was a highly effective and impressive machine.
The path-finding ability of the S5 saves a lot of time too, making it able to clean large areas in less time than other, less intelligent, robot cleaners. It doesn’t leave patches that are not cleaned, and it works in a methodical manner that covers all areas in an efficient pattern. Users can always use the Mi Home app to operate it remotely, and one user noted that it had once become stuck in a closet, when a dress had blown over the sensor, leaving the S5 blind. She was able to tell the S5 to move out of the closet, before instructing it to continue with it’s cleaning pattern while avoiding the closet. This kind of advanced functionality, with just the occasional bit of human guidance, makes the S5 an excellent choice able to compete reasonably well with other, far more expensive, cleaning robots.
How To Use The Robot Mop
Once you have your S5 fully charged in the docking station, press the button to start it for the first time, and it will use the LDS to map out your home. Once this is done you can designate no-go areas, or rooms to concentrate on, or you can customize which areas to clean. The dust bag is easy to empty and replace, and contains a washable filter that captures over 99% of household dust, as well as pet hair, mold and pollen. The strainer is washable which extends it’s lifespan, making the need for replacement less of a regular occurrence.
Cost & Pricing Information
The Roborock S5 costs $829.99, less expensive than other cleaning robots with similar functionality, and it compares well to the more expensive robots on the market. An accessory pack containing 3 spare filters, 2 replacement center brushes, and 3 side brushes costs around $28.99, meaning that additional costs should never amount to much once you’ve bought the S5.
Overall the S5 is a good price for the amount of functionality it offers, the potential for new and improved features from the Mi Home app, and it’s efficient path finding ability. It cleans well on a variety of surfaces, particularly the dry cleaning aspect, and although the mopping ability of the robot is limited compared to other robots on the market, it still offers a reasonably effective cleaning solution with wet cleaning. For a mid range robot, the Roborock S5 is a good product that is reliable and effective, all in all, a good solid product with plenty of potential.
Easy to Use7
Intelligent path-finding and navigation
Great dry cleaning ability
Programmable lay outs and no-go zone designation
Mopping ability cannot be turned off and is not always effective
No support for Google Assistant
The Roborock S5 is an intelligent and effective robot cleaner packed full of smart features, and the room for further improvement. It cleans well with a powerful vacuum and is suitable for carpeted areas as well as hard surfaces. The mopping function has some limitations, but overall it's a highly effective and efficient cleaner for a mid-range price.