Welcome back to another edition of Just Fun Tech – the part of GameSpace where we get to cover the wonderful and sometimes weird world of technology cresting the outer reaches of the gaming sphere.
In keeping with our theme for Summer 2019, we have one more edition to the Roborock family of robot vacuum cleaners. This little brother to the Roborock S5 and Roborock S6 enters the Amazon marketplace with promises of technical improvements, a discrete aesthetic redesign, and a more accessible price tag. This is a review of the Roborock S4!
- Current Price: $399.99 (through Amazon)
- Suction Power: 2000pa
- Battery Life: 150 minutes (approximately)
- Mop Function: No
- App Support: Yes
- Integrated Mapping: Yes
- Modifiable Maps/Custom Cleaning: Yes
- Sensor Array: 1x 360-degree laser distance sensor, 4x cliff sensors, 1x wall sensor
- Key Features:
- Revamped drivetrain and ultra-Precise Laser Navigation
- App remote
- New transparent design
- Google Home, Amazon Alexa integration
As we take a look at the Roborock S4, I want to take you through the journey from start to finish. Since this is fairly niche technology as well as my first experience with a unit like this, I want to walk you through my experience so that you might avoid some of the issues I faced. Do not let that statement dissuade you, I was pleasantly surprised but the S4. Let’s dive in.
Out of the box, the Roborock S4 has an easy to follow instruction manual, a network connection guide, extra filter, maintenance tool, and docking station. What was not immediately easy to follow was the app setup. Within the network connection guide, the printed QR code and written instructions send you to download the Roborock app from either the Android or iOS stores, respectively. This is where my set-up experience took a confusing turn.
After downloading the Roborock app* and setting up my account, I was able to connect the S4 to my wireless network without issue. I did, however, have issues with the app communicating with the unit itself. While this next detail was not one I wrestled with, it is important to note that this particular unit will not connect to a wireless network running on a 5GHz band.
A few hours after testing different methods of connection and researching know issues with past Roborock units, I decided to download the Mi Home app from Xiaomi – a company invested in Roborock and connected through their technological ecosystem. Only after doing this did I see that the main instruction manual refers the owner to Mi Home.
Once the app was set up, a new account created, and the vacuum reconnected to the network, we were poised for our testing!
The Cleaning Experience:
Before we get into this, I need to give some context. In my house, my wife and I have (what we would both consider being) a very fair division of labor. So, when Roborock approached us about reviewing the S4, I was pretty giddy since vacuuming is within my portion of chores! With our household consisting of myself, my bride, and our mini-Schnoodle, there is not a whole lot of mess to clean up after. However, while our dog is of the non-shedding variety, we are not. Loose hair has a history of vexing our vacuums.
This was an initial concern, but our intrepid automaton did not seem to be phased. Not only does Roborock account for this in the design of the main brush, the included maintenance tool has a safety blade meant for cutting hair loose. It is also designed to be easily disassembled on the fly. Speaking of maintaining the S4 unit, the Mi Home app does give you a readout of how your unit is performing, giving percentage indicators to each sensor, the brush, dust bin, and filter.
Enough about cleaning the vacuum cleaner, how does this robotic vacuum clean?
That really depends on how you set up the S4. Within the Mi Home app, you can set what type of suction you want the vacuum to have. This will impact both battery usage and noise levels of the unit while it is about its task, but by adjusting these settings, you can adjust for your specific cleaning needs. On the balanced clean setting (a balance of power efficiency and suction), the Roborock S4 cleaned our nearly 1200 square feet (111 square meters) house in 97 minutes, using approximately 60% of the battery before tucking itself neatly into its charging dock. This particular cleaning session did include the S4 mapping the house for the first time.
When it came to cleaning different types of surfaces, the Roborock S4 adjusts on the fly. The house we live in is made up of mostly hardwood and tile floors – with a smattering of area rugs. Some of the transitions between rooms have fairly steep transitions between them which the S4 does a decent job navigating, but it does not always get the angle of approach right the first time.
The more difficult transitions seem to be those between the hardwood floors and the area rug, specifically the smaller sized rugs or bathroom mats. The speed at which it approaches those rugs tends to flip the edge of the carpets up, making the clean less thorough and occasional setting off errors in the robot’s process. We did have to block off one zone where the transition was repeatedly too difficult for the S4 to make it over. This was an easy solution with the Mi Home app. After the house is mapped, you can draw barriers that the S4 will not cross and designate “no-clean” zones.
Once it figures out those mobility issues, the Roborock S4 does a surprisingly good job cleaning whatever surface it runs across. It even cleaned up all of the excess hair left behind from sheering our Schnoodle on the tile floor… a fact that the Schnoodle was less than enthused about.
Outside of its automated controls, the Roborock S4 does have a remote control option within the Mi Home app with both button controls and a virtual joystick. The button controls allow you to rotate the unit to the left or right and move it forward. These controls felt a little stiff, but the virtual joystick was spot on! This control system allows you to bring the S4 back to an area in need of some extra attention… or to chase your dog around – whatever you need it to do.
One thing that I picked up on, and it is worth mentioning, is that the Roborock S4 is a bit aggressive with its bumper system. Since we just moved into our house, we had a few framed pictures leaning again the wall while we figure out where to hang them. While cleaning in that area, the S4 not only bumped into them but started to push them around. Fortunately, I was there to redirect the unit and to move the picture to a more protected location. While the S4 does not move at high enough speeds to knock most household objects over, if you have anything fragile that you do not want it pushing into, you may want to draw some virtual boundaries for it.
If you are on the fence about robotic vacuums, the buy-in entry point keeps getting closer to that of a traditional vacuum cleaner. With its ease of automation as well as operational status updates through the Mi Home app and it’s thoroughness in cleaning – especially in spaces untouched by most vacuums, the Roborock S4 creates a convincing argument for its place in the modern household.
- House mapping allows the user to set no-go zones or barriers
- Easy to maintain with included tools, replacement filter
- Great surface cleaning – tiled, hardwood, and carpet
- The slender profile allows the S4 to vacuum under most furniture
- Smart alerts let me know of issues or completion even when I am away from home
- Current Roborock App does not suppose the S4 (not documented)*
- Wireless connectivity limited to 2.4Ghz bands
- Has difficulty with some surface transitions (hardwood to area rugs, steep door jams)
The product discussed within this article was provided for review by Roborock.
*This issue was resolved by Roborock following the release of this review.