Update 8/12/19: The Roborock S6 is now available on Amazon! Roborock is currently offering a steep discount, lowering the price to $579, down from the $649 MSRP. The sale runs from today to Sunday, August 18th, 2019.
Welcome back to Just Fun Tech, our series where we spotlight the fun-to-own technology that reminds us why we fell in love with tech in the first place. Today is a special day as we’re looking at the third product in a series from the folks over at Roborock with the Roborock S6 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner. It’s a peek inside our Jetsons future, at least that’s how it feels when you break down exactly how this efficient little robo-buddy functions. Let’s dig in!
- Current Price: $649.99 (Amazon link coming soon, Official Website, eBay)
- Suction Power: 2000Pa (1500RPM fan)
- Battery Life: 150 mins
- Mop Function: Yes
- App Support: Yes
- Integrated Mapping: Yes
- Modifiable Maps/Custom Cleaning: Yes
- Virtual Barriers: Yes, 1.3 – 33ft
- Sensor Array: 360-degree sensing, 14 sensor types, 300RPM room sensing during cleaning cycle
- Key features:
- 20% faster cleaning that previous models
- Selective cleaning
- 50% quieter than previous model
- Voice control
- Smart home integrated
It was only in June that I first looked at the Roborock S5 and, unboxing the S6, for the first time, I was struck by how similar they are. Roborock has kept the aesthetics intact, so if you were a fan of the clean, minimalistic design like I was, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. Roborock has made a number of improvements under the hood to warrant the full “model up” in name, however, and over the last month of using it on a daily basis, I can say without reservation that this is a much better vacuum.
That might sound odd because, if you read that original review, you’ll know that I really liked the original S5. It was also great and, if you’ve never used a home robot before, prepare to be impressed. I’ve gone into each of these reviews skeptical for different reasons and in each case I’ve walked away more excited about how far technology has come and how where we might find ourselves in another few years.
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. The Roborock S6 – a vacuum cleaner, remember – uses a laser navigation system. Three hundred times a minute, a sensor array spins and maps your room, sending that information to its onboard computer to create an accurate diagram of your home. Along its bottom and sides and hidden inside its body is a network of 14 different sensors that keep track of its exact location, position, orientation, and surroundings. It’s smart enough to know when there’s an obstacle in front of it and to find its way around without slamming into things and possibly damaging furniture or getting itself stuck and will remember that obstacle for next time. One that route, if the obstacle is no longer there, it will update its map to know it’s safe to clean there again. It even develops an efficient cleaning path to make sure that it doesn’t miss any spots or those pesky build-ups of dust along the baseboards.
Let all of that sink in for a moment. This is a vacuum cleaner that laser scans your room, uses its “brain” to navigate your house do its own chore, then uploads that information to an online app so you can monitor it from anywhere in the world. When my wife turns on the vacuum to spot clean up after our little ones, I know because an app on my phone tells me. And when I decide to remote control the vacuum like a little helpful RC car, they all know too. Because I make it chase them around the house. Yes, I’m that kind of dad.
Compared to the S5, things might seem fairly simple on the surface. They both have the same 2000Pa suction power, they both have app control, custom scheduling, multiple suction modes, and more. The S6 has a few tricks up its sleeve, though, that has allowed it to fit all the better into our family.
The biggest is that it’s quieter. The S5 wasn’t exactly loud – definitely quieter than a push vacuum – but you could still hear it pretty clearly when it was in the other room. The S6, on the other hand, is quoted at being half the volume. I don’t have a decibel reader to take a scientific measurement but I can tell you from experience that it’s much quieter. On its normal suction setting, it’s audible but far less intrusive on other things we might be doing. I still wouldn’t want any vacuum in the room with me if I were watching TV but this one can cheerily do its thing one room over and leave me undisturbed. If we’re upstairs or it’s on the far side of the house, all you can hear from it is a faint whirr which is a really solid improvement.
Another neat thing I really appreciate is that it doesn’t require intervention when switching from hardwoods to carpets. We have hardwood floors, which is perfect for a vacuum test like this, and toddlers who tumble which they’re not so perfect for. As a result, we have several area rugs the S6 has to be able to navigate on and clean effectively. The problem is, cleaning a carpet requires significantly more suction than a hardwood floor. The S6 easily climbs the lip of the carpet and automatically adjusts the suction power to make sure it’s getting a deep, thorough clean.
But let’s pause for a second here and talk about toddlers. They are a nightmare. Don’t misunderstand, I adore my children more than words can describe but when it comes to keeping a house tidy, they’re little tornadoes that touch down every single morning and spin until the sun sets. When they eat, it’s as if they want to wear their food; in the hair, in the ears, around their legs, pretty much anywhere other than their mouths but especially the floor. Combine those things and you have a challenging environment for a robotic vacuum test.
The S6 does an absolutely stellar job of cleaning the floors, all things considered. On a daily basis, it’s tasked with navigating a room that may or may not have toys in the middle of the floor. For the most part, it straight our avoids these. If my son leaves his Mario doll on the living room floor, the S6 will stop, assess the situation, and navigate around the obstacle before getting back on its path, all the while cross-checking what it has and hasn’t cleaned with its floor space map (which you can view in real-time using the Mii Home App). This is also true of human obstacles. If you cross in its path – or are curious like my youngest who just turned one and straight-up block it, the S6 will pause in its tracks. It has never once risked running over a foot, tiny finger, or stray cat’s tail.
Small toys, like my daughter’s play clothes for her dolls, are another matter. Those are low enough to the ground where it may not pick up on them and, like any vacuum, it will suck strands up fabric right up. At these times, it will alert you with a message on your phone, with an audible voice prompt, and pause until the roller has been cleaned out.
Another improvement with this generation is with the S6’s mopping functionality. It comes with a set of disposable mopping pads and another that is reusable. The S6 will release water to the pads so it’s evenly distributed and then trace a room for easy mopping jobs. I found it more effective than the S5 or E25 but at the same time, it’s not able to provide the extra downward force tough mopping jobs require, so it’s really for light cleaning only. Still, a nice feature to have.
The smart home integration and app functionality is very full-featured. If you use Alexa, you can install the Roborock skill and get voice command functionality. Inside the app, you can control all of its settings, like suction power, set a schedule, edit your map, update the vacuum’s firmware, and much more. It also keeps a running log of vacuum’s maintenance needs. It will tell you when it’s time to replace the roller, empty the bin (which you should do every time; it’s a small bin), clean the sensors, everything. These vacuums aren’t cheap, so it’s nice to have this part of their upkeep automated to help you protect your investment.
We’re a clean family but there were always crumbs before we switched to Roborock. We’d keep after them but inevitably, it would be 9 PM, my wife and I are exhausted and we’d find out we had a mess to clean somewhere. Those days are gone thanks to the S6. Now, we can press a button, let the vacuum do the hard work, and have that precious bit of extra adult time at the end of the day. If this is the start of our smart home future, count me in.