Walter Shillington writes about products he knows firsthand. His articles focus on healthcare, electronics, watches, and household items.
Every six months, I run a new robotic vacuum through a series of tests and write a review based on its features and capabilities. Because the field of robotics is relatively new and rapidly advancing, each vacuum I evaluate tends to perform better than its predecessors.
Today’s subject is the Roborock S5 Max. This unit boasts LIDAR-based navigation, compatibility with Alexa, and an unusually sophisticated floor washing system.
The Roborock S5 Max arrived packed within a cardboard box along with a power cord, charging dock, and cleaning brush. A moisture-proof mat, mop cloth, mop mount, and a user’s guide were also provided. This robot is slightly less than 14 inches across, rises 3.8 inches, and weighs 7.75 pounds.
A rapidly spinning laser is housed within a top-mounted turret. The unit’s removable dustbin, cleaning brush, reset button, and Wi-Fi indicator can be accessed by opening a hidden cover. This device can be started or sent home by pressing the appropriate button located on the upper surface of the vacuum.
The Roborock S5 Max is equipped with four types of sensors. Cliff sensors, located beneath the robot, ensure it will not inadvertently tumble down a set of stairs. A plastic bumper, which wraps around the front of the vacuum, covers a series of mechanical switches. When the robot brushes against an object, one of these hidden switches will activate, directing the robot to back away and edge around the obstruction. Infrared wall sensors ensure the robotic vacuum reduces speed as it approaches walls and large pieces of furniture. A LIDAR provides navigational support.
This vacuum maneuvers throughout a room, powered by a pair of large spring-loaded drive wheels. A sturdy caster is utilized to provide balance and the ability to change direction.
A side-brush sweeps debris within reach of the vacuum’s main brush, which quickly grabs this material and deposits it into the dustbin. The Roborock’s rate of suction maxes out at an impressive 2000PA.
Located at the bottom of this robot are the charging contacts and battery compartment. The 5200mAh Li-ion battery will power this robotic vacuum for about two and a half hours.
A removable water tank fits into the rear edge of the robot. This 290-milliliter container is equipped with a mesh filter and a switch intended to control water flow. When the S5 Max is used to wash floors, a mop cloth and its mount must be slid into position beneath the tank.
The Roborock S5 Max works best if used in conjunction with the Roborock application. If you like to control your world with Alexa, the Roborock Plus skill must also be linked.
- Manufacturer: Roborock
- Model: S5 Max
- Country of origin: China
- Color: White
- Weight: 3.5 kilograms (7.75 pounds)
- Diameter: 35.3 centimeters (13.9 inches)
- Height: 96.5 millimeters (3.8 inches)
- Battery: 5200mAh lithium-ion; 14.4 volts; 58 watts
- Battery charging time: 3 - 4 hours
- Battery run time: 150 minutes
- Dock: Input (100-240VAC); Output 20VDC 1.2A
- Dustbin: 480ml (16 fluid ounces)
- Water tank: 290ml (variable flow)
- Scheduling: Yes
- Voice control: Alexa
- Suction power: 2000PA
- Coverage: 242 square meters (2600 square feet)
- Navigational system: LIDAR
- Multilevel mapping: Yes. Includes exclusion zones
- Cleaning technique: Suction, main brush, and side brush
- Climbing ability: 0.8 inch (2 centimeters)
- Filter: E11 rated, washable
- Accessories: Recharging base, cleaning brush, moisture proof mat, mop cloth, mop mount, and user’s guide.
Roborock is trademarked by Beijing Rockrobo Technology Co., Ltd., which was founded in July 2014. This company specializes in the research, development, and production of robotic home cleaners. Roborock is based in Beijing, with R&D and branch offices in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Their latest product is the Roborock S5 Max.
Light Detection and Ranging Navigation
This robotic vacuum is equipped with LIDAR (light detection and ranging). A turret-based laser, mounted on the top of the robotic vacuum, illuminates objects to assist in determining their location, size, shape, and distance. The laser rotates rapidly, calculating distance by measuring the time it takes the laser beam to reach an obstruction and be reflected. This information is used to build an accurate map and to guide the unit as it travels from room to room. Michael O’Reilly has produced this fascinating night vision video demonstrating how LIDAR functions.
The Roborock Application
The Roborock application allows a smartphone to be used as a remote control. More importantly, it provides the ability to read the maps produced by the vacuum and adjust specific parameters. The operator can set barriers and exclusion zones which take effect while vacuuming. Additional exclusion zones can be established for floor washing operations. Up to four maps can be saved for multilevel buildings.
This application can be linked to Alexa through the Roborock Plus skill.
Maneuverability and Robot-Proofing
The usefulness of a robotic vacuum depends on the device’s ability to start automatically, effective vacuum its cleaning area, and then return to its dock.
To prevent the vacuum’s wheels and brushes from becoming entangled, I have secured all cables and wires to nearby baseboards using clips.
While robotic vacuums will sometimes sandwich themselves between the floor and a couch or cabinet, this did not prove to be a problem with the Roborock. However, it did experience difficulties crossing a furnace air intake grating with holes large enough to trap the robot’s caster. I fixed this problem by setting an exclusion zone using the Roborock application.
Thresholds—the strip of wood at the bottom of doorways where rooms connect—are sometimes too high for a robotic vacuum to cross. The Roborock navigated quickly—albeit sometimes noisily—between my threshold-separated rooms.
Several rugs were used to test the ability of the Roborock. The vacuum played well with the thick and heavy mat located in my living room and my well-secured Turkish rug. The robot pushed around but did not attempt to ingest a thin, towel-like mat. The biggest surprise was the thick memory foam pad in my bathroom. The Roborock is the only vacuum I have tested that could mount and navigate successfully across this mat.
The dock should be positioned in an area where there is room for the robot to maneuver. The Roborock, which incorporates a navigational system, requires less room than most of its competitors.
As the vacuum enters each room, it circles and begins to edge clean. Then it changes to a Z pattern, sucking up the debris it encounters. The Roborock application can be used to order the robot to tackle a single room or spot clean particularly dirty areas.
This vacuum may be scheduled to start at a specific time each day. It can also be controlled using Alexa, the Roborock application, or by simply pushing the start button located at the top of the vacuum.
While manufacturers are continually improving their robot’s ability to vacuum, advancements to floor washing systems have been confined to standalone units such as the iRobot Braava. Roborock, however, has made a determined effort to put together a cleaning system that actually works.
A 290ml tank feeds water to a mop pad fitted below. When the robot is charging at its dock, water flow is halted, and a moisture-proof sheet of plastic, mounted in front of the charging unit, prevents the damp mop pad from damaging the floor.
The amount of water dispensed from the tank can be adjusted using the Roborock application. This is useful because I’d prefer to use plenty of water on my kitchen tiles but very little on my wooden floors. Please note that the S5 Max also vacuums as it mops.
The lidar navigational system, in conjunction with the Roborock application, allows exclusion zones to be set, preventing the robotic vacuum from trying to wash my rugs and carpets.
A traditional mop benefits from the use of hot water, detergent, and elbow-grease, cleaning better and reaching areas that a robotic vacuum is too large to enter.
The adoption of repetitive cleaning can be utilized to counter this advantage. On even-numbered days, I vacuum. On the odd-numbered days, I mop. While this might seem time-consuming, it is a quick and straightforward chore to prepare the S5 Max for either task. Those with wooden floors will be pleased to know that, when cleaning, this vacuum does not leave the swirl marks commonly left by a traditional mop.
Sadly, every couple of weeks, I must still drag out my old Swifter mop and clean where the floors meet walls and under my couch.
This robot is equipped with a powerful 5200mAh lithium battery and, according to its specifications, can run for 150 minutes.
It takes about 40 minutes to clean my medium-sized house. After vacuuming the floors three times in succession, the battery level had dropped to 25%.
When I experienced difficulties connecting my new vacuum to Alexa, I sent an email to Roborock customer service, requesting assistance. They responded quickly with a set of well-written instructions which helped me to correct my problem.
This robotic vacuum performs exceptionally well and, because it is very agile and can take advantage of exclusion zones, may be left unintended while it is cleaning.
Excellent battery life, combined with the robot’s navigational system and its ability to map, ensure that even large cleaning areas are vacuumed quickly and competently. If you are looking for a robotic vacuum that can also mop your floor effectively, the Roborock S5 Max is your best choice.
© 2020 Walter Shillington
Liza from USA on January 10, 2020:
I have been using the Roborock vacuum for almost two months, and I really love it! By the way, I have Dyson Ball Animal 2 pet vacuum cleaner as well because I have a cat. It works well. However, I started feeling tired of carrying that heavy vacuum around :) So, Roborock has helped me a lot of cleaning around the house especially the areas that I can't reach with Dyson.