Welcome to Just Fun Tech, our series of reviews focused on hardware and tech that’s fun to own, fun to use, and fun to explore. Earlier this year, we kicked off this series with the Roborock E25 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner. It was cool, like a step into the future where robots complete all of our menial tasks. Since that time, Roborock reached out to us to see if we’d be interested in taking a look at their next model up, the Roborock S5, which uses a laser guidance system. Um, yes?!
We’ve had the S5 in-house for about a month now – is it worth the $569.98 asking price or are you better off sticking with a push vacuum? Join us as we find out!
- Current Price: $569.98 (Amazon)
- Suction: 2000Pa (enough to lift AA batteries)
- Sensor Array: Cliff Sensor, Cover Bumper Sensor, Bumper Sensor, Wall Sensor
- Battery: 5200mAh/150 minutes of constant suction
- Wireless: Smart Connect
- App Control: Mi Home
- App Functions: Customizable schedules, suction power, zoned cleaning, barrier tape, real-time monitoring, direction control
- App Notifications: Yes, cleaning updates, maintentance reminders
- App Platform: iOS, Android
- Smart Home Compatible: Yes: Alexa
- Safety Features: Anti-collision
- Weight: 3.5kg
- Rated Voltage/Power: 14.4VDC/58W
- Key Features:
- 2000Pa Suction (enough to lift AA batteries)
- Auto-adjustable brush speed and suction pressure when along walls on carpet
- Real-time laser mapping, intelligently uses distance information to plan optimal cleaning route
- Much more precise than “bump navigation”
- Highly reliable custom cleaning functions
- Can accurately identify walls and increase brush speed
- Can accurately detect carpet and increase suction
- Advanced climbing ability of obstacles up to 2cm high
- Anti-Collision for Safety
Before trying out the Roborock S5, my family had used the next model down, the E25, for a good five months. If you’ve never had a robotic vacuum before, believe me when I tell you that it’s life changing. I don’t mean that in a “OMG THINGS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME” way, let’s not be hyperbolic, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t change our lives. Going into the E25, we were skeptical about how good of a job a small, automatic vacuum could actually do. After we started using it, I could count the amount of times we went back to a push vac on one hand and that was only because it was already in the same room as the mess that needed cleaning.
When Roborock approached me about reviewing the S5, I was curious about how much better it could be. After the E25 learned the layout of our house (about 1400 square feet where it’s located downstairs), it frankly did a fantastic job. We have hardwoods and the combination of brush and suction worked well. It’s strategy of pathing a room to do walls last was also great and kept things from just being brushed to the side. The only negatives we’ve come to are 1) that the E25 could get confused navigating around tables and chairs and 2) that it needed max suction to really do a good job on carpets, so unless you wanted to switch it mid-clean, you had to leave it there. Considering that we really only needed to do a deep vacuum once and then normal pressure on the following days, this really wasn’t a big deal at all.
So what does the S5 bring to the table? It turns out a lot. Compared to the E25, the S5 maps your rooms using laser tracking. More than that, it’s scanning in a 360-degree radius around itself five times a second and calculating the distance between itself and everything around it. This makes the S5 immediately and noticeably more aware of everything that’s around it and an all-around safer device.
Our house is filled with tiny humans and animals. My youngest son is only one year old and is fascinated by shiny things, of which the S5 definitely is. More than once, I’ve seen him crawl at to explore what this fun new toy driving around his playroom. As an attentive father, I stood by ready to swoop him up out of harms way. The S5, however, saw him coming and stopped and changed course to navigate around him. The brush swept harmlessly over his fingers and the S5 went about its business, leaving my baby perplexed at being actively avoided.
At other times, I’ve set my hand or foot down in front of it, mid-path through the room. It stops, thinks for a new moment and calculates a new path without ever touching me. The one shortcoming is with chair legs which is still bumps into from time to time, but it’s much more gently, as if feeling if it can navigate around the narrow leg, unsure of its own width.
The biggest benefit of this is that it’s much more effective at avoiding small obstacles that might get sucked up into the roller. With small kids in the house, sometimes toys, blankets, and stuffed animals get dropped on the floor, even after we’ve picked up before turning the vacuum on. Several times, the E25 would roll over a toy with a bit of string that would then get tangled. The S5 simply avoids these obstacles, though blankets with tassles can still be a problem (our fault, not the vacuum’s).
The navigation system of the S5 is powered by 13 different sensors. Cliff sensors keep it from falling down stairs (it never did). Sensitive bumper sensors live on the edges so when it does touch a table leg or other obstacle it immediately stops and backs up. Another bumper sensor sits on the top of the vacuum, so as it cleans under furniture, it will explore until it gets too narrow and then reverse to keep itself from getting stuck. Finally, a wall sensor keeps track of the position of the wall so when it does it’s final wall sweep, it’s perfectly positions so the outer brush just whisks the floor board, pulling any debris that may have blown to the side of the room into its main roller.
One of the best features of the Roborock S5 is how it intelligently determines the best pattern to clean a room. Unlike many robotic vacuums that seem to navigate at random, the S5 will learn the layout of your room over the course of several uses, plot out walls and furniture and map back and forth lines in sections, just like how you would use a push vacuum. This makes sure that it never misses a spot and completes its cleaning cycle as efficiently as possible. Before moving on to the next room, it will roll a circuit along the outer floorboard as a smart final step.
If you pick up the S5, just plan on letting it run several times to really learn its space. The first couple of cleans take longer, especially if there are things out on the floor (like toys or controllers) that it has to take into account over multiple cleanings. In our case, we started the first cleaning cycle after dinner on the first night and set it to run again overnight through the Mi Home app. By the next day, it had a good eye on the layout of the house and was running an efficient cleaning cycle. You can also check this map yourself through the app and use it to set barriers, which is great if you only want to clean a single room or part of the house.
The S5 doesn’t stop at improved navigation, however (though that is definitely the coolest upgrade). The section power has also been upgraded. It now sits at 2000pA, which is enough to lift a AA battery off the floor. Using the app, you can also enable it to automatically detect when it’s on carpet and increase the suction just for that area. This is a fantastic feature that solves one of the shortcomings I found with the E25.
It also features improved climbing ability. When we refinished the floors in our home, we added nice transition strips that the E25 sometimes struggled to get over these, leading it to either get stuck or not leave the room, eventually returning to its dock. The S5 can climb obstacles up to 2cm high, so those between-room transitions haven’t been a problem even once.
But how does it clean? Remarkably well. Much better than I would have expected before trying the E25 the first time. The outer brush on the rim of the vacuum sweeps debris into the main roller which easily sucks it up into the dust bin. My kids are terribly crumby when they’re eating and the S5 makes my dining room look perfect without my wife or I having to lift a finger. I mean that literally, we usually press the Clean button with our toe. If you use Alexa, you can also use voice commands even down to specific rooms!
With the S5, vacuuming every day is far easier and more convenient than with a push vac. One of the things we didn’t expect when buying a house with hardwoods is how quickly they can look dirty. With three kids, a puppy, and three cats, it was a frequent problem and finding time to vacuum 1400 sq. ft. usually meant missing out on time together in the evening. Now, our floors look great. Thanks to the auto-carpet detection, the area rugs also look great without any intervention from us.
If you’d rather not clean the whole floor, you can easily narrow the scope by naming the different rooms of your house and cordoning off where it cleans. If there’s a smaller mess, you can press the spot cleaning button and the S5 will intelligently clean up a small rectangular area until you tell it to return to its dock.
The only downside here is that the bin is rather small, so if you’re not cleaning regularly (and why wouldn’t you?) you may have to empty it mid-clean. For us, once a day is enough but you will have to empty it regularly. When it’s full, or runs into any obstacle or maintenance need, it will send a notification to your phone so you’re never left wondering. At the same time, I wouldn’t recommend getting the S5 unless you have a smartphone capable of running the app as you’ll lose out on some major functionality.
The S5 also features a mop function. Since the main focus is on its vacuuming ability, I didn’t go in expecting a lot. Getting started is as easy as attaching the mop to the bottom and filling the basin. It works for light cleaning but don’t count on the S5 to do any major scrubbing. The mopping is a nice side-feature for light cleaning needs, however.
What it really comes down to is this: The Roborock S5 is incredibly good. It’s far better than I imagined it would be and offers features and suction power that out-do even much more expensive options. More importantly, it’s given us part of our life back. We no longer have to push vacuum the whole downstairs to avoid the chronic dust bunnies or dirty-looking crumbs. Instead, we press a button, let the S5 do its things, and know that it’s going to take care of itself, right down to returning the charger when it’s done. If you’ve been on the fence about buying a robotic vacuum, hop down. It’s saved my family one of our most persistent and annoying chores, removed stress, and given us more time together as a family. It’s hard to get much better than that.