Roborock S5 Max review: The best pound-for-pound Roborock you can buy

It's not quite the flagship but it's mopping the floor with the competition

Roborock S5 Max review
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Roborock undoubtedly makes some of the finest robot vacuum cleaners, but it has one of the largest and most confusing ranges of cleaners, too.

Here, you can safely ignore all of the model numbers, as I can tell you that the Roborock S5 Max is currently the company’s best all-round robot vacuum cleaner, and it’s a rather good mop, too.

If you want a few more smarts, then you can pay extra for the Roborock S6 MaxV or the new Roborock S7, while the cheaper Roborock S4 Max gets you back-to-basics vacuuming only.

But if it's the ultimate Roborock all-rounder you want, then read on to find out more about the Roborock S5 Max.

Roborock S5 Max review: The best pound-for-pound Roborock you can buy

Roborock S5 Max: Design and build

Line them up and you’d be pretty hard-pushed to tell the difference between any of Roborock’s vacuum cleaners, with the S5 Max looking pretty much like any other model. It’s a short (less than 4-inch) round robot, available choice of glossy white or black.

On top, there are two physical buttons: power (start/stop clean) and a Home button to make the robot return to its dock. You miss out on the spot clean button that some of the more expensive cleaners have, but I’ve never actually used this feature, as control from the app is better.

Roborock S5 Max review: The best pound-for-pound Roborock you can buy

Flip the back panel open of the robot and you’ll find the 460ml dust bin, which is now the standard size for Roborock cleaners.

It’s a big enough container that you’ll need to empty every few cleans, depending on the size of area that you’re tackling and how dirty it is; I typically find that I need to empty my bin once a week.

You get the standard cleaning tool, which combines a brush and a razor for cutting away hair wrapped around the underside.

Roborock S5 Max review: The best pound-for-pound Roborock you can buy

Flip the vacuum cleaner over and you get the regular Roborock layout: there’s a motorised floor brush in the middle, that can be removed for cleaning, and a single side sweeper, which pushes dirt from the edges of the room into the path of the main vacuum.

Roborock S5 Max review: The best pound-for-pound Roborock you can buy

All components are replaceable and compatible with other Roborock cleaners, which means that you can pick up replacements cheaply online. And, the app will tell you when it’s time to clean or replace anything, too.

Where the S5 Max particularly deviates from past models is that there’s a 290ml electric water tank, which is app-controlled to set the water flow. With older models, the water tank was gravity fed, which led to some uneven results.

There’s a single microfibre wash pad in the box, so I recommend picking up a spare so that you can keep mopping when one cloth is in the wash.

Roborock S5 Max review: The best pound-for-pound Roborock you can buy

To prevent damage to the floor, Roborock provides a stick-down plastic base that sits around the charger, stopping water from seeping into your floor.

Roborock S5 Max: Features and everyday use

The main reason that we love Roborock vacuum cleaners so much here at The Ambient, is because no other cleaners come close to the navigation and map management features. A lot of this comes down to the quality and range of sensors available.

On top of the S5 Max is the LiDAR unit that gives the robot laser navigation and mapping. And, you get cliff sensor, compass, gyroscope/accelerometer, trapped wheel sensor, odometer, wall sensor and bumpers.

Roborock S5 Max review: The best pound-for-pound Roborock you can buy

Everything is managed and controlled by a 32-bit quad-core CPU, which brings some serious smarts to the equation, including adaptive route planning, which lets the vacuum cleaner learn the best way to tackle each room.

You can choose the amount of water to use (from none to max) and the power level to use. Power settings are a little confusing, with the choice of Quiet, Normal, Turbo and Max - what’s the real difference between Turbo and Max? I mostly just use Max, which provides excellent cleaning on all surfaces.

Another great option: Roborock S6 Pure review

This model has a suction rating of 2,000Pa, and only the S6 MaxV has more power, rated at 2,500Pa.

The S5 Max will automatically map your home and can store up to four different levels. Smartly, the vacuum can automatically work out where it is, so there’s no need to fiddle about with the app before you start a clean.

As with other Roborock cleaners, the vacuum speaks to you to let you know when it’s starting or stopping a clean or if something is wrong.

Roborock S5 Max: Mopping function

Older Roborock vacuum cleaners have used a passive, gravity-fed water system for the mop, which has been rather unimpressive. The S5 Max was the first to use a pump to control the amount of water that’s used, although the top-of-the-range S6 MaxV also has the same system.

In addition, the mop has a spring-loaded system that keeps the microfibre cloth pressed against the floor, even as the water tank empties and it gets lighter.

Alternative: iRobot Roomba i3+ review

The combination of these two features means that mopping is now a useful extra, rather than something you’ll never use. Getting the robot to whizz around my kitchen, which frequently gets dirty thanks to three cats walking in and out, the mop picks up the dirt that the vacuum misses.

Typically, by using the S5 Max daily, I only need to do a proper manual mop once a week.

Roborock S5 Max: App and digital assistants

Roborock S5 Max review: The best pound-for-pound Roborock you can buy

Roborock has transitioned its vacuum cleaners to work in its own app, rather than the older Xiaomi Mi app. Once your cleaner has been around your house for the first time, it creates a map.

Roborock will attempt to identify rooms automatically, although you can manually split up areas. For each zone, you can customise how the robot will clean, including setting the amount of water to use (from none to max) and the power to use.

Each room can have no-go zones added, which can include standard ones that prevent the robot from entering that area in any mode, and a no-mop zone, which only applies when you have the mop unit inserted. Even smarter, you can adjust the sequence that the S5 Max will tackle your rooms in, getting your ideal cleaning order lined up.

Big name rival: Dyson 360 Heurist review

You can start a clean from the app, choosing to clean everywhere, or your choice of Rooms. Either option will use the default settings that you chose for your map, although pick a room and you can choose how many times that the S5 Max should do its rounds (one to three).

You can also clean a Zone by drawing a box where you want the S5 Max to go, which is great for picking up localised spills and is better than having a spot clean button on top.

Roborock also has Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa skills, so you can start or stop a clean with your voice.

If you don’t want to get involved at all, you can set scheduled cleans instead.

Roborock S5 Max: Battery life and maintenance

There’s a 5,200mAh battery inside, which will last for up to 180-minutes when running on Quiet mode. I have my vacuum cleaner set to Max and it will easily do the entire downstairs of my house in less than an hour, leaving plenty of juice to tackle another clean if needed.

If the vacuum starts to run out of power, it will go back to the dock, top itself up to 80% and head out to finish off the clean.

You get warnings in the app when it’s time to do any maintenance jobs. You should clean the highlighted sensors when prompted, and you can clean the main filter, although replacements are available. You also get warnings when it’s time to change the floor brush or side sweeper.

Rated at 69dB, the S5 Max is a little louder than the older S6 but it’s far from noisy.

Roborock S5 Max
Slightly cheaper than the S6 Pure, the S5 Max has roughly the same cleaning performance and the same smarts but it has far more powerful mopping. While the S6 MaxV is slightly more powerful and has AI object detection and avoidance, it’s not particularly worth the premium with results a bit hit and miss (literally). Of all of Roborock’s cleaners, then, it’s the S5 Max that hits that perfect spot between price and performance. Outside of Roborock’s cleaners, the Dyson 360 Heurist is a little more powerful but it can’t mop and it’s a lot more expensive. For the price, then, the S5 Max is the best robot vacuum cleaner that I’ve tested.
  • Great price
  • Smart mapping and navigation
  • Superb vacuuming
  • Excellent mopping
  • Slightly confusing power modes
  • Noisier than S6

TAGGED    robot vacuums

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