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I wasn’t familiar with Roborock when I reviewed its S5 robot vacuum/mop last year, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it performed on par with my favorite big-name-brand models. I was even more excited to see the Roborock S6 take all that I loved about that model and add a bunch of upgrades, including increased suction, carpet recognition, map editing, and more.
You wouldn’t know all this just by looking at it. The Roborock S6 wisely keeps the Roborock S5’s award-winning industrial design, including its clean white finish, and it’s roughly the same dimensions. Behind the top-side turret housing the robot’s laser distance sensor is the familiar lid-accessible compartment with a 0.6-liter dustbin, and a cleaning tool for untangling hair from the main brush.
Flip it over, though, and you’ll see the first of its improvements. The main roller brush has the same rubber-and-bristle construction as the S5, but the bristles on the S6 are softer and more dense—250-percent more dense, according to Roborock, making them tougher on dust without scratching your floors. Also new, the bearings on either side of the brush can be removed, making it easier to untangle pet and human hair.
The spinning side brush has also been revamped. The bristles are gone, replaced by five strips of silicone, each split partway in half. This new design is apparently more efficient for sweeping debris into the vacuum’s vent.
The mopping module also has a welcome addition. A simple switch allows you to select how much water dampens the mopping cloth. The lesser level it dispenses is enough for maintenance cleaning, and it leaves your floor with a light sheen of moisture. The higher level provides more water for softening stains, making them easier to remove.
Setup and performance
The setup remains a simple affair. First, snap the moisture-proof mat onto the charging dock—it will keep residual water from dripping on your carpet after mopping—and then place the S6 on the charging pins and power it on. Download the Mi Home app and add the S6 as new device. The app guides you through connecting to the robot and then your Wi-Fi network.
The first time you use the Roborock S6, it will map your space and display a floor plan in the app, partitioned into rooms. With this layout, it can plot the most efficient path through your home, and Roborock says improvements to the navigation algorithms can result in up to 20-percent faster cleanings.
In daily usage, the S6 managed to clean the lower level of my condo in 20- to 30 minutes. That’s slightly faster than what I experienced with S5. The robot vac/mop combo easily traversed transitions between hardwood, linoleum, and carpeted floors in my entryway, kitchen, bathroom, and living room respectively. The different flooring gave the S6 a chance to show off its new carpet-recognition feature, too, which automatically boosts the suction power to its max of 2,000pa. (Note that this function, and the map-editing feature discussed below, must be turned on in the app settings before you can use them.) The vac never got trapped, the way non-mapping robot vacuums often do, in the obstacle course that is my living room.
Most importantly, though, it was a whiz at sucking up all the pet hair, food crumbs, dust, and dirt from my floors. I was consistently amazed at the amount of debris filling the dustbin after each cleaning, since the floors never seemed that dirty to the naked eye.
I like the mopping function much more here than I did with the S5. My complaint with the older model was that while it was fine for removing loose surface dirt, it left stains unchanged and required me to pull out my stick mop more than I like. The mopping method here is the same—you fill a flat tank with tap water, affix one of the supplied cloths to it, and then slot the tank under the rear of the vacuum, which drags the dampened cloth across your floor. But the ability to control the amount of water used on the cloth makes it much more effective on spills and stains. I still had to do some manual mopping from time to time, but not nearly as frequently.
When you select Roborock S6 from the list of devices, the app loads the current floor plan with several control options beneath it. An Edit button lets you modify the map. You can change the room divisions, set up no-go zones to keep the vacuum from entering forbidden areas, or restore the map to its original state. The app can store up to three maps—perfect for multilevel homes—and you can choose which map to load from here as well.
On the far right is what looks like a spinning-brush icon. Tapping this allows you to select one of four cleaning modes: Quiet, Balanced, Turbo, and Max. On the bottom is a pair of buttons, one to start/pause cleanings, and one to return the S6 to its dock.
When you initiate a cleaning job, you can opt to clean the entire floor plan, individual rooms, or “zones”—small areas you designate with bounding boxes on the map—by selecting the appropriate button under the map. As the S6 cleans, you can monitor its path, which is displayed as white lines on the map. The current cleaning time and area in square meters is always displayed at the top of the screen, along with the remaining battery percentage.
On top of this fine-tuned cleaning control, the app also provides a detailed cleaning history and some flexible scheduling options, tracks the life cycle of its brushes and filter, adjusts the volume level of the robot voice, and more. Pretty much any function not on the control screen can be accessed from the three-dot menu.
In addition to working as part of the Mi Home ecosystem, the Roborock S6 supports both Amazon Alexa and Google Home integration. Curiously, the available Alexa skills only allow you to turn the S6 on and off, not actually run it. There are more Google Assistant commands, allowing you to start and stop cleaning jobs, dock the vacuum and ask if it’s running or charging.
The Roborock S6 is an exceptional robot vacuum. With its improved navigation, mopping function, and app, it’s not only a thoughtful step up from the estimable Roborock S5, but a clear contender with big-brand robot vacuums, including iRobot’s Roomba 960 and Neato’s Botvac D7 Connected. It’s available at Newegg for $629.90. That’s still fairly low for the premium features it offers. If that falls within your budget, it’s well worth considering along with those more well-known brands.