Robot vacuums perform two important tasks. First, they are adept at scurrying around the floor and cleaning up after you, and second they make amusing videos involving your pets trying to figure out what this metallic creature is that’s invading their personal space. Whichever way you look at it, robot vacuums are a great addition to any household, which is why the Roborock S5 should be your next choice if you’re looking for a handy little helper around your home.

It may not be a brand that you’ll instantly recognize, but despite this the Roborock S5 has some fantastic features that puts it on par with brand-level devices with a much higher asking price.

Pricing and availability

The Roborock S5 is available exclusively on Amazon for $546.99, though you can find it on Souq.com for around AED 1,594.

By comparison, the iRobot Roomba 980 with similar features sits in at $899, or AED 3,999 in most retail stores. That’s a lot to ask for a robot vacuum, which is why the Roborock S5 instantly stands out a much more budget-friendly choice.

Design

Most robot vacuums follow a similar circular design, and the Roborock S5 is no different. Our review model was a pure white version, but there’s also a classier Rose Gold edition which bumps up the price slightly.

The Roborock S5 features just three buttons at the top – the first one is to turn it on and start cleaning, the second to spot clean a small area, and finally the third button to send it back to the charging dock. The power button flashes during operation and charging, but other than that there’s no status screen or other LED indicators. What’s nice is that a voice prompt lets you know when the Roborock S5 has started and finished cleaning, as well as if there’s an error with the device.

Near the center of the Roborock S5 is a little tower, which contains a laser system that rotates five times per second to scan the environment and plan an efficient path for the robot to follow. It also lets you ‘see’ (via the app) exactly where the robot has cleaned and where it’s heading next, while simultaneously avoiding obstacles and furniture. There’s no more harsh banging into objects – the laser system and combined sensors (a collision sensor and 4 cliff sensors) allows the Roborock S5 to only softly touch edges before it turns around and goes on its way.

The dustbin is hidden away under a large cover which you can gently flip up when it’s time for a cleanup. This 480ml bin is easy to remove and tip into a bin for cleaning, and the included filters can likewise be replaced when required or just dusted off. There’s also a very handy brush that’s included to help you clean the bottom rollers and dislodge trapped fibers or tangled hair.

Flipping the Roborock S5 you’re introduced to the single bristle roller that sweeps the floor as the device makes it way around. There’s also the expected side brush that helps to guide debris into the path of the vacuum. This side brush spins much faster when the Roborock S5 is guiding itself along walls, and resumes a normal spinning speed otherwise so as to not fling debris anywhere.

The Roborock S5 also features a mopping mode, which utilizes the bundled mopping attachment. Simply slide on the washable microfiber cloth, fill up the 140ml tank with water, and then snap the whole thing to the underside of the vacuum. There’s even a waterproof pad that attaches to the charging station, so that the Roborock S5 doesn’t stain your floor while it’s charging.

Initial setup

Setting up the Roborock S5 is quite straightforward, at least at start. You simply unbox it, slide it on to the docking station to charge, and you’re good to go. While you can, in theory, use the Roborock S5 straight out of the box, you’ll want to download the accompanying app to ensure that you get the most of your new vacuuming buddy. And unfortunately, this is where you’ll start to experience most of your frustration.

The Mi Home app lets you connect to your Roborock S5 and take advantage of its advanced features, but that’s only if you can actually get it up and running. The app is available for both iOS and Android, but on Android it turned out to be a nightmare to set up properly. There were constant issues with the app failing to detect the Roborock S5, and even after countless resets and a quick chat with technical support, we still weren’t able to get it working. 

Finally we realized it was because we hadn’t granted the correct app permissions for location sharing – once this was switched on, the Roborock S5 appeared instantly in the app and could be configured. 

Cleaning and mopping performance

The Roborock S5 scans its environment and automatically maps it out every time it starts a clean. This makes sure that you always have an up to date map in case you’ve moved around furniture etc. It first starts by following edges for an initial clean, before retracing and doing a Z-pattern sweep to clean the rest of the area.

The benefit with this method of cleaning is that it allows the Roborock S5 to thoroughly clean a particular area before moving on to the next, rather than randomly moving around the entire space. It also means that there’s less time spent wandering around, so your cleaning cycles are actually much shorter. Our previous Roomba would take around 45 minutes to finish cleaning the apartment, while the Roborock S5 took only 27 minutes to do the same.

The other cleaning mode is the spot clean, which lets you move the Roborock S5 to a particular location for a quick tidy up. This is great for when something has spilled on the floor, or you want to do a quick cleanup after a pet. The Roborock S5 will scan the surrounding area to create a map, and then go about with a regular clean of the area. Once it’s finished it’ll announce so, and you can then pick it up to return it to the dock or press the dock button to do so automatically. It’s worth noting that the Roborock S5 won’t automatically return to the dock after a spot clean – you have to either press the dock button on it or command it to return using the app.

The one thing we do wish the Roborock S5 had was a carrying handle of sorts. It’s a bit awkward to carry it by the sides, especially if you’re carrying it into a room and need a free hand to open the door.  

The Roborock S5 handles carpets with ease, automatically increasing suction when it detects that it’s rolled on to a carpet. Low and medium pile carpets are easily tackled, but high pile carpets and rugs will cause a few sticking problems. The Roborock S5 did get stuck on a fur rug that was on the floor, and rather than spinning its roller to try and get free, it just stopped cleaning and stayed there until we manually had to free it. Another time it sucked up a phone charging cable and ground to a halt, so it’s important that you keep loose cables away from the floor.

Mopping with the Roborock S5 is as easy as filling up the water tank, sliding on the mopping cloth, and snapping the mopping module under the Roborock S5. The overall mopping however, is rather poor. The Roborock S5 just drags the wet mop cloth across your floor, which left behind long water streaks in certain parts of the apartment. The Roborock S5 will also happily drag the mopping module across your carpet, which is a real disappointment. Overall while vacuuming was spot on, the mopping feature just wasn’t up to scratch, and we honestly wouldn’t be using it very often.

Mapping your space

The other two features are No-go Zone and Barrier Tape, which help you to section off areas that you don’t want to be cleaned. The No-go Zone lets you draw a red rectangle near delicate furniture or objects, which the Roborock S5 will deftly navigate around. The Barrier Tape lets you draw a line that the Roborock S5 will not cross, so it’s good to keep the robot away from certain rooms or areas indefinitely. 

The mapping technology of the Roborock S5 is very, very good. Our test 600 sqft studio has plenty of furniture of different heights and sizes, and the Roborock S5 had zero problems navigating around. It even mapped out the three bar stools near the kitchen countertop, and found a way to properly clean in between each of them.

A great advantage of the mapping system is that it opens up finer controls for your Roborock S5 through the app. Once a map has been generated, you can permanently save it on the app, and in doing so you can do a number of great things. The first is a ‘zoned cleanup’, where you can drag one (or multiple) boxes onto the map, and instruct the Roborock S5 to only clean those areas and then return to its dock.

App control

The Roborock S5’s app is where you can update the device firmware, look at previous clean cycles, and adjust various settings. The app does require a bit more finesse when it comes to various translations – for example the section ‘Timer’ is actually where you set up your scheduled cleaning, so this should be named as such.

The app allows you to adjust the Roborock S5’s cleaning settings, such as running it in a quieter mode or activating the mopping cycle. You can also select alternative voice packs, though at the moment only one English voice is available.  There’s also a remote control option which lets you steer the Roborock S5 around manually when you’re on the same Wi-Fi network.  

Smart home integration is one area where the Roborock S5 could be improved on. An Amazon Echo skill currently exists for the Roborock S5, but all it does is turn the device on or off. We would love it if there was a way to rename certain zones in the map, and then instruct the Roborock S5 via voice to go and clean only that specific area.

Maintenance

Cleaning the Roborock S5 is as simple as opening up the top flap, retrieving the dustbin, and emptying it into a trash can. The app will let you know when various elements have to be cleaned or replaced, such as the side brushes, sensors, or filters. The handy comb attachment is also great for quickly cleaning out the filter or dislodging trapped fibers, and you don’t have to ever misplace it since it’s got a dedicated storage compartment built right into the robot.

Final verdict

For intelligent cleaning around your home, the Roborock S5 ticks all the boxes. It’s very effective at navigating around your space, does a good job of cleaning up after you, and can tackle most dirt and debris with ease.

The mopping mode feels quite weak by comparison, so we’d only ever use the Roborock S5 for vacuuming as that’s what it does best. The app offers plenty of features to play around with, and the mapping mode makes cleaning different areas a breeze. If you’re in the market for a robot helper that doesn’t break the bank, then we can’t recommend this highly enough.

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