Xiaomi's not playing games. Already going toe-to-toe with the tech powerhouses in smartphones, PCs and wearables, the Chinese behemoth has made a big song and dance over the last few months with regards to its smart home range.
Actually, that should be raaaaaaaaange. There's an absolute shit ton of Xiaomi smart home tech that's not only affordable, but is also brilliantly made and functions just as well - if not better - than its more expensive, and better known, rivals.
The company's second major crack at the robot vacuum cleaner market (there are more than two Xiaomi vacs, but this is the genuine successor to the original Mi Robot; ignore the iterations inbetween) - the dual branded Xiaomi Roborock S50 (sometimes referred to as the S5 or simple the Mi Robot 2) - definitely fits that bill.
Coming in at around half the price of the heavy hitting duo of the Dyson 360 Eye and the Neato Botvac D7, I've actually had the Roborock running alongside the former for the past few months. So first up, I owe an apology (mainly to The Ambient's editor, Hugh) that it's taken me so long to get this review up.
On the flip side though, I know this machine - and its flagship rivals - inside out and, believe me: it's been worth the wait.
Xiaomi Roborock S50: Design and build
Looking a lot like the original Mi Robot - the S50 definitely sticks to Xiaomi's objective of making stuff look like Apple stuff. I know it, you know it, they know it - does it matter? Probably, now that Xiaomi wants to be a major player outside of China that's its lawyers' worry, not ours. For now, let's just enjoy a robot vacuum cleaner that looks like it comes out of Cupertino, but with a price tag that makes it clear that it doesn't.
We can't really go further without mentioning the price - you'll find it on sale through reputable Chinese retailers such as GearBest for less than $430. As mentioned, in the intro - that's around half of what you'd have to pay for The Ambient's previously two highest rated robo cleaners from Dyson and Neato.
Back to the design and it's a slimline (less than 10cm) round robo design with bumpers on the front, a sensor engine up top and three buttons on the front panel - for starting / stopping, sending it back to its dock and initiating a spot clean.
Flip it over and you'll see the cleaning brush, a corner spinning brush, and also that half of the base is slightly inverted. That's to make room for a water tanks and a mopping pad. Yep, that's right - this little robot can also mop up your stains. I told you Xiaomi's not playing games.
Xiaomi Roborock S50: Performance and features
There are a total of 12 sensors packed into the S50, including an ultrasonic radar sensor, a cliff sensor, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a speedometer and an electronic compass.
However, it's the trio of dedicated processors for the simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) movement algorithm, combined with the laser distance sensor (a small disc you can see spinning up top) that wins the top-tech-smarts prize for Xiaomi. As mentioned, I have the S50 living alongside the Dyson 360 and I'd say it's better than its roommate at navigating. Xiaomi states that it's constantly planning the optimal cleaning route minutes ahead. There's obviously no way to verify this, but it's easily the least clumsy robot vacuum cleaner we've tested. I sometimes even try and put stuff in its way to try and make it cock-up, but no - it sees everything, the clever little so and so.
Sure, like ever single robot vacuum cleaner in existence, it gets stuck on things every now and again - but the frequency of this is much less than on any other model I've tested. And I've tested so many. Seriously. I'm absolutely sick of testing robot vacuum cleaners. Please don't make me test anymore Hugh.
Okay, so it's all well and good that it can navigate well. But does it clean well. You know it does. You can tell from the tone of this review that I'm impressed by every aspect of it can't you? Just buy one if you're thinking about it, save yourself the time of reading this review.
It's got four cleaning modes, ranging from Quiet to Max. I'm not going through all of these and saying how well they did picking up various types of dirt. We're not that site. Go somewhere else for that level of intensity. What I will say is that a 2,000Pa suction rating is right up there with the flagship devices of other vacuum brands and the Carpet Mode - which increases suction power when it senses it's gone from hard floor to a soft shag (ha!) - is unique in the robo vac world.
Everything can be set in the Xiaomi Mi Home app - more on that later - and the S50 also talks to you... it tells you when it's starting a clean, when it's going back to the dock and it'll also give you a spoken error code if something does go wrong. There are bout 15 different voices to choose from - however, only one of those is English.
Xiaomi Roborock S50: Mopping up
If you're looking for an effortless robo vacuum that will keep your floors dirt free - but are worried that the mopping function offers a level of complexity and hassle you're not prepared for - worry not. The S50's USP is very much an additional extra. In the last few months I've only done it a handful of times.
It's not hard to get it set up, but it's not as easy as pushing a button either. You fill the little tank up with water, slide the mop pad on, and click it in place. It's then good for mopping up for around an hour - obviously having vacuumed up the path it's mopping as it goes. At the end, you need to pop it off and stick the pad in the washing machine.
I regularly steam clean my hard floors - I've got two small kids who love spilling stuff - and so I'd say my floor is pretty 'clean' most of the time. However, whenever I have set the S50 the task of mopping up, the pad has always been dirty at the end... so it clearly works.
Xiaomi say it's got a "smart water effusion" system. I say it's impressive it mops such a large area from a tiny little amount of water. The tank only holds 140ml. Efficient.
Xiaomi Roborock S50: The app and digital assistants
The Roborock S50 lives in the Xiaomi Mi Home app, alongside a gazillion other connected Xiaomi devices. The good news is that app is getting better and better all the time. I mean, it might have always been good - but I couldn't tell as I can't read Chinese.
That's not a problem as much now though and, once you have got it all synced up you're in for a world of delights. Timers, maps, zones, go to points, remote control... it's all there. The S50 is easily the most controllable robo vacuum I've ever used (I've used a lot, I mentioned that right?). You can literally make it go to an exact point in your house and clean a very specific area, a set number of times. That's awesome if you have two small kids who love spilling stuff. And I do. I already told you that.
Now... the first big negative point. Although it's not that negative. In our Botvac D7 review I waxed lyrical about it's No-Go lines feature, which let you draw virtual lines around troublesome chair legs, areas where wires are on the floor, pet bowls‚Ä¶ you get the idea. Rather than putting down those magnetic strips, or beacons, that other robot vacuums use, you can create little (and lots of) areas in your house you never want the D7 to venture into. It's awesome - it's unrivalled in the robo vac world.
Xiaomi has had a bash at its own version of that with its Map Saving Zone mode - where you can use the map layouts it has learned to set no-go zones and create virtual walls. And it works just fine... it's just not as precise or easy to draw a zone as it is with the D7. I've given up trying to make it avoid the bases of our kitchen stalls (which cause it bother every now and again). Bigger no-go zones and virtual walls are much easier to set up.
Smart assistants are in the mix - although it's a slightly clunky affair getting them hooked up. In the States there's a dedicated Roborock Alexa Skill that makes things easier, in the UK you'll have to use the Xiaomi Mi skill - and then you're discovered S50 will have a Chinese character description, which is easy enough to change. Google Assistant is a bit easier.
Xiaomi Roborock S50: Battery life and maintenance
The S50's whopping 5200mAh battery will, at the lowest setting (which still does a great cleaning job), give you of 2.5 hours of cleaning. I have mine on Turbo - the highest - and it easily gets around my downstairs in around an hour with plenty of juice left in the tank.
It's the familiar story of, when it's done, it returns to its base and let me tell you that the S50 is, once again, the best in class at doing that. I've even unplugged the base before and put it somewhere else (I make my own fun) and it still got home.
On the maintenance front, the app will tell you when you need to clean sensors, brushes and filters. On filters - they are cleanable - but you can also buy spares very cheaply online. The app also tells you when to empty the dust bin. As does the built in voice. And that'll be often as it's only diddy at less than 500ml.
- Amazing navigation skills
- So much bang for your buck
- Superb cleaning performance
- Mopping up
- Dust bin is a bit small
- Map Saving Zone isn't polished
- Xiaomi Mi App can be daunting
- Smart assistant set up is clunky