(Pocket-lint) - It seems that Roborock is doubling down on what it does best - creating better and better robot vacuum cleaners on a regular basis. We've seen the Roborock S5, then the S6, since which the S5 Max has been announced, and now the S4 is here for review.
The company seems to be working on the basis that incredible robot vacuums don't need to cost the earth to perform well. The Roborock S4 is the latest example of that. It is, on paper, a feature-rich robot vacuum cleaner with a power and feature set that defies the price tag.
But is it another great cleaner or does it just plain suck? We've been living with it around the home to find out.
Overall design and features
- Dual-action anti-tangle main cleaning brush
- Single edge brush
- Washable dustbin and filters
- Semi-transparent design finish
At first glance, the Roborock S4 looks the same as other robot vacuums you might have seen. It's round, it has a raised sensor system on top to track where it's going and it has a single edge brush protruding from its side. It has a bump rail, multiple sensors and charging rails to connect with its charging dock.
But it's under the hood where this robot vacuum cleaner shines. Small design aspects make for an overall great cleaning bot. The main cleaning brush, for example, is a large dual-action anti-tangle brush. A combination of classic bristles and rubber fins means this brush works on both carpet and hard flooring too. It's also cleverly designed to avoid getting knotted with hair as much as other brushes.
If it does get tangled, there's an included tool for de-knotting it. You can also remove the tips of the brush to pull any tangled hair or fibers off easily. Being able to keep the bot clean is an important part of ensuring it functions as it should.
There are even tiny design features built to minimise the amount of effort you have to put in to keep this bot in tip-top shape. For example, brushes on the underside are there to brush the main intake brush to keep it problem-free.
Other design features, such as a washable dustbin and filters, also means you're not regularly spending a fortune on maintenance as well.
On a basic level, the Roborock S4 is also easy to use on a daily basis. There's a power button and a home button on the top of the bot. A press on one sends it out for the clean, while the other sends it back to the dock for a charge. Simple.
Robot setup and cleaning cycles
- Android/iPhone app
- Remote control functionality
- Scheduled, zone cleaning and room cleaning options
From within the app, you can do things like adjust vacuum settings, set up timers, view cleaning history logs and even use simple commands like "find my bot" to make the robot shout - if you can't find it for some reason.
This app also gives you access to interesting data and the useful power of the intelligent mapping system.
Real-time intelligent mapping and room scanning
- 11 sensors including 4 cliff sensors, clog sensors and more
- Real-time mapping system
- LIDAR laser scanner
The Roborock S4 is packed to the brim with sensors and cleaning smarts. One of these is the LIDAR laser scanning system, which is one of the sensors driverless cars use. This enables the bot to make use of a real-time mapping functionality. As the robot cleaner moves around your home, it scans the room to work out what the area looks like, to suss out obstacles that might get in the way and work out where it needs to go.
As it's done in real-time, this mapping system works really well - even if you adjust the layout of the room regularly. If you move a footstall, rearrange the chairs or just leave a large box in the hallway for collection, the bot will adjust for it. It will also work out which rooms it has been in and report where it had any issues too.
This real-time laser mapping also means the Roborock S4 is less likely to get stuck. That isn't to say it doesn't run into problems though: if it sucks up a sock or runs over a tissue that then gets wrapped up in its wheel it'll soon be begging for a helping hand.
Should this happen the Roborock will send an audible notification, including a notification on your phone detailing the problem. Whether that's a case of the bot has run over something it can't get off, or the wheels or brush are tangled and blocked. You can then use the app to find where the bot is in the house according to the map and go rescue it.
We found we rarely had to do this as the S4 is great at both getting about and getting back to its dock. It moves well, navigating rooms and making its way around or over obstacles with ease. We also like that even when the dock is nestled in a tight corner it still manages to get back there easily.
Obstacle detection and room cleaning capabilities
- Multiple suction modes: Silent, Standard, Medium and Turbo (up to 2000pa)
- Supersized 5200mAh LiPo battery, up to 3 hours cleaning time per charge
You can use the app to send the bot out to clean the entire house (on the floor it's located, these bots still can't climb stairs), specific zones or even certain rooms. This cleaning can be carried out with the choice of multiple suction modes, including Silent, Standard, Medium and Turbo.
Silent is reasonably quiet (not totally silent) and could be used to clean the house before you even get up in the morning - depending on how heavy a sleeper you are. The quieter cleaning modes mean the bot can clean for longer before needing to charge, but won't clean as effectively as when on the higher suction modes.
We found Turbo mode to be effective. We regularly found ourselves emptying the dustbin when using this mode, which in itself is fair proof that the S4 is a good cleaning machine. It also managed to pick up dirt and dust when out for a clean after another competitor bot on test had already given the house a sweep.
The Roborock S4 can clean for as much as three hours on the lowest suction level, but we usually found that it would get through four or five rooms in under 40 minutes in a satisfactory way before returning to its home.
The Roborock S4 cleans in a regimented way. It moves from room to room, passing up and down in a z-shaped cleaning pattern, zig-zagging its way about. On thicker carpet, it leaves pleasing track marks in the fibres showing off where it's been in the same way a professional lawn mower leaves lines in the freshly mowed grass.
It also performs well on any surface. We witnessed the S4 cleaning both plush carpet and hard wooden floors. The floating main brush means it can clean between gaps and adjust to compensate for the area it's cleaning. The edge brush has a dynamic speed and works well at cleaning the edges of rooms and skirting boards too.
Beyond auto cleaning, you can drag and select a cursor over certain sections of your home within the app to send the bot to clean that area or just pick a specific room for it to go and deal with. There's also a pin-and-go functionality to let you drop a pin on the virtual map and tell it to go spot clean.
If there are areas you don't want the Roborock S4 to go, then you can set "no-go" zones and virtual barriers, meaning you can stop it from going into rooms without even having to close the door. It also means you can specify areas within a room which the bot should avoid too, be that to avoid knocking over a vase or a pile of Lego a child is playing with. The cleaning options are incredibly flexible.
We're often impressed with Roborock's robot vacuum cleaners. These are feature-rich cleaning machines that don't cost the earth - and the S4 is no different.
There are no mopping options with this bot, however, so it's a pure vacuum cleaner and that's it. But it does well at what it's designed for, whether on carpet or hard floors. It's also packed with features and plenty of customisation options within the app too.
For the money, the Roborock S4 is a real bargain. It's a fantastic and intelligent cleaning machine to add to your home. If you've got a bit of extra cash then the S6 is an even more feature-packed alternative.
If you like the sound of the Roborock S4 and have a little extra cash to splash then the Roborock S6 should appeal too. Take all the features and fun of the S4 and add in some mopping capabilities and you've got an even more capable cleaner.
iRobot Roomba i7+
It's considerably more expensive, but the iRobot Roomba i7+ is also a feature-rich cleaning bot that's worth looking at. This one comes with the ability to empty its bin (into a larger one) when it's finished cleaning so you don't need to empty it as often. Superb cleaning capabilities, smart mapping and more are also highlights here.