In our household, we resisted buying a robot vacuum cleaner because, for such a long time, we held the belief that they didn’t do as good a job as a traditional vacuum and were more of a gimmick than a helping hand.
Despite being the most technology literate person in my family, other family members (including my mother in law) purchased robot vacuums before we did. We kept resisting the need to buy something that we were sure would end up in a closet after a couple of weeks.
We have two messy children, a six-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. Collectively, they make a lot of mess. It has become so crazy with the lockdowns and school holidays (so many) that we decided enough was enough, and a robot vacuum might be a welcome helping hand.
Even if it only picked up 50% of the mess the kids make, that’s 50% less mess my wife or me have to clean up.
What this review is and isn’t
Unlike more professional reviews, I will not talk about the vacuum’s kPa (suction pressure) or other meaningless technical metrics. We are a small family (two adults and two kids), currently in a single-story home comprised of tiled flooring in everyday and wet areas, carpet in the bedrooms.
You will learn how good it cleans, the features we like, the things we don’t like, and other real-world things most people care about, like whether it works and the battery life offers.
The research phase
We immediately took the cheap no-name brands off the table. Our budget wasn’t going to be huge for this thing, but spending too little will result in a classic case of, “You get what you pay for” — this is the case with Kogan robot vacuum cleaners, even if you buy the more expensive Kogan models, they still seem to suck.
Remember how I mentioned my mother in law buying a robot vacuum cleaner? It was a Kogan one, and it did such a poor job, she ended up sending it back (lol). We had a Kogan TV, and it barely lasted a year before it became a buggy messy, and we replaced it with a Samsung. “You get what you pay for”.
Ultimately, we settled upon the Roborock S5 Max. Sure, it’s not the most affordable robot vacuum, but it’s also not the cheapest. Suppose you can get one on sale, even better. Feast your eyes on the glowing reviews for this thing on Product Review. A 4.6-star rating out of 487 reviews. — what’s the point in a cheap robot vacuum if you’ll end up having to manual clean anyway?
The S6 and even S7 were considered, although they are more expensive. The extra cost of these newer models seems to outweigh the benefits. You get better mopping functionality on the latest models, but that’s about it. The S5 Max has proven in tests that it’s the king of conventional vacuuming and the best value for money.
Unboxing and setup
Setting this thing up is easy. The large box comes with the robot, the dock and power lead, as well as the mopping attachment that clips on. From unboxing to plugging the dock in, it was about five minutes.
The dock has some adhesive tape beneath, which will hold it in place. There is also a moisture mat (a piece of transparent plastic) that sticks to the floor with adhesive backing tape. Make sure these are correctly attached. The robot is quite strong and will shift it around if not affixed correctly.
I downloaded the Roborock app from the Google Play store while it was charging and, once again, took a short period to get it installed and an account created.
How noisy is the S5 Max?
The “silent” vacuum setting is excellent for the night, but it can still make a bit of noise. The gentle setting (the lightest suction) is whisper quiet, but it doesn’t pick up much. I would avoid using the gentle setting unless you want to mop (it’ll just mostly push around dirt on this setting). If you have a sleeping baby or child that isn’t a heavy sleeper, the silent setting might still be too loud.
The higher settings (turbo and Max) get a little noisier, but they are no louder than a conversation. My wife and I were able to sit at the dining table, which vacuumed in turbo mode around our feet as we drank our coffee. In a house at night with no T.V. or other noise, it might stand out, though.
The mapping and navigation are amazing
Please resist the urge when you get your new robotic helper to start using it right away. Let it charge to 100% before you attempt to map your house, or it could prolong the process. Watching it roll around the house and seeing your home come to life in the app is both fantastic and addicting.
Maybe it’s because I am a nerd, but I loved seeing the S5 Max create a detailed map of our house. I equally had as much fun naming the rooms, creating zones and specifying boundaries. You can see the radar discovering door openings and room boundaries as it drives around. It’s pretty remarkable to watch.
Before letting it do its first map creation, make sure that anything can be removed from the floor. I am talking chairs, clothes, toys and anything else that can be easily moved out of the way. Once the initial mapping is done, the robot will navigate around obstacles.
As you might have also noticed in the screenshot above, the rooms are all named. Furthermore, once the robot has done its thing, you can edit the map. You can merge spaces. You can create new rooms by adding dividers in and so on. In the case of our dining table and living room, from a layout perspective, they’re one of the same, but our dining table area gets messy, so we made it its area.
And the most incredible thing of all is that the map will continue to update with each cleaning run that it does. If the S5 Max goes into a room with new furniture or things that have been moved around, it will update the map itself, and this is handy if you mapped your house with chairs moved and then moved them back after the fact (which is what we did). Or, as was the case in my study, my computer chair wasn’t moved the first time, but subsequent runs when it was moved, it cleaned that area.
How good does it clean?
A lot better than you expect it to clean. We were pretty sceptical (my wife especially) that this robot vacuum cleaner was going to do a good enough job that we could get away with one big clean weekly, but on the first day of use, we were proven wrong.
The S5 Max on the balanced setting cleans exceptionally well. When it detects carpeted areas, it’ll spin up the suction to give it that extra clean. Unless you’ve got super thick carpet, you don’t need to worry about using the battery draining turbo or max settings.
The mopping functionality is also quite decent. It doesn’t remove anything too stubborn from the floor, but it will quickly remove spills, footprints, and dirt. It uses a microfibre mopping cloth that gets dragged along the floor. It seems to use a decent amount of pressure to effectively clean. It won’t replace the need to manually mop every once in a while but will make a noticeable difference.
After your first mopping clean, check the cloth, and you’ll see how dirty it is. Our cleaner went under furniture (sofa, bedside tables) and seemed to pick up a lot of stuff throughout a conventional clean would get missed because of the inconvenience. Sadly, you don’t get an extra cloth in the box (or nothing extra, really), which is disappointing considering the cost.
The timing was great when our S5 Max first arrived. We were due for a mop and let Robi do his thing as he mopped and vacuumed the house. Afterwards, a few spots needed to be manually cleaned (some of which was McDonald’s sweet and sour sauce dried on the floor), but the house looked noticeably cleaner.
You need to be aware of the first time it does its mapping. It’s not going to clean that well. It’ll map out your house, and it will miss things. When it does a subsequent clean after mapping is completed, it’ll do a much more thorough cleaning job (especially the edges of a room).
Don’t be surprised after its first thorough cleaning if it picks up more than you were expecting. We noticed our S5 Max went under sofas, bedside tables and other areas that are usually difficult to reach or forgotten about. We don’t have a pet, but it managed to find a lot of hair (it’s excellent at picking up hair).
Using deterrgents and cleaning products for mopping
Xiaomi advises against using anything in the tank for mopping other than water. We are huge fans of using vinegar to clean in our household. It’s natural and effective. Many online have experimented with different products in the water tank.
At first, we used just water in the S5 Max, but subsequent cleans experimented with mixing vinegar and water. The mopping feature works even better with a bit of vinegar, and while it’s not recommended, we’ve had no issues using it over prolonged periods. If anything, it’ll help prevent bacteria and other nasties from growing in your water tank. If you add anything, do so at your own risk.
Battery life is fantastic
The promised battery life on this is very accurate. How long this thing will clean for on the balanced setting will surprise you. According to the app, to do a full clean of the house, it’s 103 square metres, which takes 127 minutes.
Even after the whole clean, it still had a decent amount of charge left in the battery. This thing could have easily gone for another 30 minutes (or more) if it needed to. Unless you live in a mansion, there will be plenty of juice left in the tank in your beloved robotic cleaning specialist.
Customise cleaning settings on a per-room basis
Not only can you break your home into named regions, but you can also specify specific cleaning settings for each room. We set the mopping to heavy for our dining table and the vacuum to the turbo setting (the second-highest). We did the same thing for our kitchen.
We opted for a medium mop for the common area (the main hallway)and used the balanced setting for vacuuming. We made sure the water was turned off and used balanced for the vacuum setting.
Customising per-room cleaning settings can help maximise battery life but also help you focus on areas that get dirtier than others (hallways, entrance doors, eating areas). for the bedrooms
No robotic vacuum would be complete without support scheduling cleans. You can schedule one-off or recurring cleans, specifying the types of days you would like to clean. We have a daily clean that does the kitchen and dining table area at 9 am (after breakfast is over and kids are no longer making a mess). After lunch, we have another clean cycle and, finally, a clean cycle for the kitchen and dining after dinner.
If you’re vacuuming at night and you have kids, you probably want only to specify specific areas to be cleaned and using a quiet setting. For any night cleaning, we have it set to ignore the kid’s rooms (their doors are closed) and focus on the main areas of the house.
This is a great feature if you have a specific area in your house you want to be cleaned. For example, I dropped some food from a plate while scraping it into the bin. It made no sense to clean the entire kitchen, it was an area near the bin (it was rice and hard to pick up myself). Using the zone mode, you can drag a box around an area and summon the S5 Max to take care of it.
Interestingly, my wife uses zone cleaning over the room cleaning mode when she wants to clean a particular area of the house.
Multi-level support (for those who need it)
If you have a two-storey home, then you’re in luck. Because Xiaomi is still updating the S5 Max and adding new features, a recent addition can support multiple apps, which includes multiple floors. If the budget doesn’t extend to two of these, you can map both floors and carry it around.
I haven’t tried the multi-level feature yet as the place we are currently in is a single-story. However, we are building a two-story house, and this will eventually come in handy for us.
Home assistant support rocks
One feature I was curious about when we bought this was the home assistant support, notably Google Home. It works well. My wife and I can say, “Hey Google, clean the kitchen,” and out strolls the S5 Max to clean the kitchen for us. It’s simple and effective.
If one of our children drops their dinner or a drink on the floor (a regular occurrence), we can ask Google to send the vacuum to the area where the mess is located, and it will take care of it for us. It’s more convenient than getting out a mop or vacuum to do it manually.
Our son, who knows how to use Google Home, has started asking Google to clean up messes he sees. It’s the most proactive we’ve seen him when it comes to cleaning up. Kids love robots and voice assistant technology.
The Roborock S5 Max will blow you away with how good it is. Unless you want better mopping functionality, the S5 Max offers the best value for money and really, you want a robotic vacuum for vacuuming hard to reach places and messes. Keep in mind the mopping functionality is better than expected.
The only things we didn’t like about the S5 Max were the lack of extras. You get no extra filters, no extra mopping pads, no extra moisture mats or double-sided adhesive if you want to move the dock around. The robot cleaner itself is excellent, but it’s the lack of inclusions (considering the price) that may disappoint you.
P.S. Robots deserve names. We called it Robi (my son named it).