The idea of a single device that can clean all of your home’s floors is an appealing one. Unfortunately, it’s still just an idea. The Roborock S6 is probably the best we can do at the moment.
The S6 is a fairly standard robot vacuum, with most of the bells and whistles you’d expect from its premium price. It’s extremely competent at the basic task of handling carpets and hardwood dirt, with a smartphone app that’s surprisingly intuitive. But its standout feature, an integrated mopping system, is a bit of a letdown.
The mopping function itself is lacking, in the limited capacity of both a home robot and one that’s attempting to be a convergence device. With all the extra steps necessary to engage the mop, and get it working in a specific area, you might as well roll up your sleeves, break out the bucket, and do it the old-fashioned way.
Like an iPod and a Dyson Had A Baby
The Roborock doesn’t look especially eye-catching as a home appliance, and perhaps that’s the point. But the all-white plastic version we were sent as a review unit is appealing, and its understated charging station should fit into most homes’ decor even if you go for black or a little rose gold trim. It’s the standard sci-fi pizza layout, with a small disc on the top of the device that acts as the vacuum’s air exhaust.
The super-simple looks belie a more complex interior. Flip up the access port beneath the exhaust and the three control buttons and you’ll find the dustbin, which comes out for easy emptying without needing to flip the robot over. (It’s not quite pricey or complex enough to do it itself, like some top-of-the-line models.) If you do need to flip it, you’ll find easy access to the roller brush assembly and the slot for installing the optional mopping components.
It’s a sharp-looking package altogether, and the exhaust port on top is as distinctive as these things can get. But here’s a tip: Go for the black option if you’re in a house with pets. In fact, that’s true of almost everything in a house with pets.
Serviceable Sucking with a Great App
The S6 can handle fairly large spaces on its own, at least for the vacuuming component. Its array of onboard laser and pressure sensors will actively map out an entire floor plan, then get to cleaning every single spot it can find. The motion is kind of weird—it looks random and disjointed—but it gets the job done.
In hours and hours of cleaning, I had only a couple of complaints about the vacuum function. One, it tends to send out “brush blocked” messages fairly easily, especially when the dust reservoir is close to full. And two, it isn’t at all obvious how you’re supposed to put it into Wi-Fi connection mode. (Hold down the home and map buttons simultaneously—you’re welcome, Google searchers.)
You can get the S6 working right out of the box, just set up the dock and press the central button. But to really take advantage of this gadget, you’ll need to install the Roborock app on your phone (Android, iOS). This will show you a live map of what it’s doing, give you alerts for when the vacuum is stuck, full, or otherwise needs attention, or even help you locate it if it’s lost.
The vacuum itself can do basic voice feedback and it works with boundary strips (also known as barrier tape), but the app brings it all together rather nicely. I only wish that it would connect with my Google Home system—the vacuum works with smarthomes, but only if they’re using MiHome from Xiaomi. That seems like a very small amount of users outside China. Luckily, the scheduling and “quiet hours” functions in the main app cover all of what I want to do.
In operation, the S6 is surprisingly quiet, enough that my dog was merely puzzled instead of spooked, and its sturdy rubber wheels can jump over floor barriers of more than half an inch thanks to a neat “shock” system. It runs for about 2.5 hours unless it gets hung up on something. That’s enough to clean all the carpets in my 2-bedroom condominium. It handles basic vacuuming of hard flooring too. . . but then you get to the mopping.
All Mopped Up
If you want to use the S6 as a robot mop, you’ll have to fill the optional water reservoir, apply the mopping brush, and install it—and that’s assuming you already have the moisture-blocking cover applied to the dock and that it’s on a hard surface. Once all of that’s done, the robot will squirt water through the brush and clean it up for about an hour before it needs to be refilled. Oh, and the device makes no distinction between carpet and hard floors as a function of its map: If you want to keep the wet brush off of the carpet when mopping, you’ll have to set up a custom zone in the app, use barrier tape (also known as boundary strips), or just put down barriers on the floor.
I hesitate to call this “mopping,” since the size and weight of the unit mean it’s more of a light swish with a bit of water. The thing just doesn’t have the pressure necessary to clean any mess bigger than a bit of juice. For the price of this all-in-one unit, you could get a more basic robot vacuum and a robot mop from the Braava line—or indeed, just do it with an old-fashioned mop if you don’t have much hard flooring to clean. It’ll only add a little more time and effort to your cleaning regimen.
All this would be forgivable if it weren’t for the fact that the user manual tells me not to leave the mopping component in the robot when it’s in normal vacuum operation mode. That’s two annoying steps added to a system that’s supposed to be almost effortless.
(Don’t) Come Together Right Now
Based on my experience with the Roborock S6, I’m happy to recommend it as a vacuum. . . if you can find it at a significant discount. Its excellent mapping system and app control are laudable, and based on those, I think buyers should check out the E20 and E25 models from the same company, at about half the price of the S6.
The mopping leaves a lot to be desired. It’s interesting that one machine can do both, but in practice, the hassle of switching modes from vacuum to mop wasn’t worth the mediocre result of the cleaning. If you want some light, periodic mopping done automatically, spend the difference on a second, dedicated robot.
Here’s What We Like
- Great app functionality
- Quiet operation
- Excellent mapping system
And What We Don't
- Mopping is ineffective
- . . . and requires extra setup
- Smarthome functions are lacking