Comparing the Best Robot Vacuums
I love a good gadget.
And I hate cleaning.
So when I heard about robot vacuums a couple years ago, I was instantly intrigued. I've tried two of the most popular smart vacuums – the Roborock S5 and the Roomba 6+/7+ – and thought it was time to share a comparison of the two robot vacuum brands.
I know it might be kind of weird to obsess over a vacuum, but trust me – after you use a robot vacuum once, you'll be amazed why you didn't get one sooner.
You'll no longer have to vacuum yourself (heaven forbid) or count down the days until your cleaning lady comes. With a smart vacuum, your home will be clean and dirt free… without lifting a finger.
Here's a look at the pros and cons of the Roborock and Roomba robot vacuums, and which is ultimately better!
Roborock vs Roomba
iRobot Roomba Overview
If you're based in the U.S., chances are you've heard of Roomba.
Roomba, under the iRobot brand, is the original creator of robot vacuums. They manufacture their products in Bedford, Massachusetts and were founded in 1990.
iRobot was created by three members of MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab, who worked on robots for space exploration and military defense. Like nearly every exciting consumer invention (the TV, the microwave), government gadgets eventually trickle down into consumer products.
Xiaomi Roborock Overview
Roborock on the other hand, might not be as familiar to you.
Roborock Technology is a robotic cleaning appliances company, backed by Xiaomi (a huge Chinese electronics company and maker of the popular Xiaomi smartphones).
Roborock developed quite recently in 2014 and their first product launched in 2016. While that might initially turn you off, don't discount them!
China is, in many ways, much more advanced at producing tech gadgets and when their robot vacuums were first released, the brand won rave reviews for better performance at a more affordable price point.
The second iteration of their robot vacuum (the version I have) launched in 2017 via crowdfunding, and raised over 10 million yuan in just 4 hours of going live.
(Note: the 6+ is basically the same as the 7+, it seems like one was marketed for Amazon and one was sold directly by Roomba).Read more: Does the Roborock Robot Vacuum ‘Suck'? REVIEW
First, let's talk about what robot vacuums can do. These small machines are really functional!
I probably sound a little too obsessed, but now that I'm in my 30s, I get less excited by clothes and beauty products… and way more into home products and gadgets that make my life easier.
And let me tell you – robot vacuums are a game changer. You think you don't need one until you have one. Then you wonder how you ever did without!
What Both Robot Brands Can Do
the Roborock uses LIDAR sensors to scan + map a room for cleaning while the Roomba uses a camera on the device
Essentially, both are very smart robots.
They charge on their own, can clean under furniture (if you have legged furniture with space beneath) and can be controlled with a mobile phone app.
Both robot brands can handle almost any size of home (well, maybe not a McMansion). They're smart enough not to tumble down the stairs and you can even set up zones where you'd like them to clean, or where you'd like them to stay out.
If either robot runs out of charge, both will head back to their respective charging stations to power up, and then resume cleaning back at the spot they left off at. They'll even send you phone notifications on the app!
And speaking off the phone apps, both are pretty great.
Visually they look slightly different but functionally, both are available in English and very easy to sync to your home wifi network.
After each cleaning, the robots will digitally map your home (it's kind of cool seeing your floorplan) and show you where they cleaned.
So what makes them different?
Roomba vs Roborock
As they say, the devil is in the details. When it comes to robot vacuums, the two main criteria are:
- how well does it vacuum up dust, dirt + hair
- how well can the robot navigate your home
But every home is different so I'll discuss the pros and cons of each robot vacuum brand below!
As a general rule, iRobot's Roomba vacuums use a camera to map your home and clean in a row by row pattern.
Roombas have stronger suction power which you may prefer if you have thick carpet or just generally need a deep clean. This is great if you have pets, kids or maybe if you wear shoes inside the house.
Roomba's higher end models (6+, 7+ and 9+ have a bagged feature, where the robot self empties the bin into bags. As of 2020, this is the only robot vacuum company with this feature and it's amazing.
You do have to buy replacement bags, so it's not as environmentally friendly. Each individual bag can hold quite a bit of debris though.
I have a Miele canister vacuum (to clean furniture, wall moldings, curtains etc) that uses bags and is a completely sealed system, and I go through about 2-3 bags a year. I assume I'd need about the same bags per year with the Roomba.
Roomba vacuums are more expensive – the bagged vacuums cost about $800-1000. You can check the current prices here.
If you want to regularly vacuum and mop, you'll need to buy a separate mopping device called the Braava.
On the other hand, Roborock's vacuums are more navigationally advanced. Their robots use sensors to map out your home and the LIDAR technology is more nuanced than a camera.
Roborock's vacuums all have dual cleaning functions. Their smart robots can both vacuum and mop and are slightly more affordable.
Roborock vacuums are slightly more affordable – generally around $500-600. If you want a two in one gadget at a more attractive price point, it's hard to beat Roborock.
You will have to manually empty the robot vacuum every time!
I guess this is more eco friendly though. You can also wash the dust bin and filter, which I recommend doing every couple months.
Roborock actually included a second filter which is nice. I swapped out the original filter after about 18 months (at that point no matter how much I cleaned or washed it, it still was pretty dirty).
So factor in about 3 years of use without having to buy new parts – that's pretty good!
In my opinion…
Roborock S5 vs. Roomba 6+
Which I Prefer
I live in a small apartment with hardwood floors and large area rugs. I shed a ton of hair and so for me, the most important criteria is not having to empty the bin.
I bought the Roborock first and the gadget itself cleaned just fine. The bottleneck to cleaning was me.
I hated having to empty the bin and seeing the mushroom cloud of dust blow upwards. I also have long hair that sheds so fast you'd think I was bald. I'd use the robot once a week, or once every 2 weeks, simply because I hated emptying the bin and de-tangling the brush.
With the iRobot roomba, I literally never have to be involved.
It runs in the morning, 3x a week, on its own and empties itself. It's like a dog that you don't have to walk! Because of this handy bagged feature, I've switched to just using the iRobot Roomba and will give the Roborock away.
HOWEVER, if Roborock ever came out with a bagged robot vacuum, I would probably prefer their model.
Pros of the Roborock
The Roborock is a gentler vacuum and while ‘navigational technology' sounds jargon-y, the reality is the Roborock is quieter at vacuuming and much more sensitive.
It can gently circle around furniture legs, avoid crashing into door stoppers and oh-so-gently slow itself down before reaching a wall.
If you are standing in the path of the Roborock, the sensor is delicate enough to guide the robot vacuum around your feet.
The Roborock does have one weakness: cords.
I find the Roborock S5 cannot avoid thin power cords and will shriek for help as it gets stuck. So before running, I tuck away all the iPhone chargers and small cables lying around the house. That's also a slight roadblock to running the Roborock more often.
The Roborock is also much less obtrusive.
The charging dock is slim and short, so I hide it under my dresser and the entire robot vacuum is out of sight.
Then there's the 3 noise settings, Quiet, Max and Turbo.
If you have mostly hardwood floors you can use it on Quiet and the robot will automatically adjust itself and work harder when it encounters carpet. Even at the max level, you could comfortably watch TV or chat with the robot vacuum running.
If you have a big house, the Roborock app will also show you the robot in real time as it cleans around your place. Little lines spool out to show where the robot has been.
After three years of heavy use, my Roborock looks pretty much brand new. My walls and furniture look fine too.
The integrated mop feature is nice to have. You fill the small compartment with water, and the robot vacuum is smart enough to mop only your hardwood floor areas.
Oh and the company is constantly making updates and improving the vacuum's usability. The phone app has updated itself multiple times. There's English support, English voice and frequent firmware updates.
Three years ago, you had to purchase separate “no zone” strips to let the robot know you wanted it to avoid cleaning a certain area.
Now, you just tap on the floorplan in the app and it will stop. Or, you tap spot clean on the app and it will clean just that little spill!
If you're more price conscious and want a robot vacuum that will last the long term (and don't mind emptying up after it), the Roborock is a champ.
Pros of the Roomba
The Roomba, on the other hand, works like a small truck.
It's much noisier and honestly… it seems a little dumber when moving around. I've watched it scrape back and forth under a door stopper as if it's trying to do the Limbo. It fails every time and my door stoppers are loose in their sockets.
If you're in the path of the Roomba, the camera doesn't seem to pick you up and will run right into you…
It also jams itself under my office chair over and over, and knocks itself into wall moldings. After just two weeks of use, the top of the Robot has rough scrapes and dings on the top.
I'm kind of OCD about keeping things looking ‘new' so this does bother me. Below is a close up photo of each device.
the black Roomba has white scuff marks and deep gouges all around the rim after 2 weeks of use while the white Roborock looks virtually new after 3 years of use
However, the Roomba is much smarter about avoiding cords lying on the ground!
I don't have to ‘prep' my home to clean – the Roomba is smart enough to avoid cords and obstacles. If it does run over an iphone charger, it doesn't get stuck!
But it is a little loud.
I actually program the Roomba to run in the morning as an alarm clock.
It's so loud it helps wake me up! So for me I don't mind the noise too much, because I need all the help in the world to get up. (I also set 5 alarms every morning and use smart light bulbs, programmed as a sunrise alarm clock.)
But fair warning – you probably couldn't take a conference call with this running in the background.
I also think the Roomba has more power to deep clean. I don't have pets and I don't leave spills lying around, so I can't speak to cleaning stains like that, but it does seem to provide a more ‘heavy duty' clean.
The app will even show you a floor plan of your home and illustrate zones where the Roomba had to ‘work harder' because of extra dust and dirt.
Comparing the Mobile Apps
Both Roomba and Roborock share the same functionalities in their mobile apps. I just find the Roomba app a little cleaner and more visually pleasing.
iRobot Roomba App Review
I find the Roomba app more intuitive to use. It has one main page, where you can set a schedule and see a history of all past cleanings.
You can also mark up the floorplan of your home into rooms (kitchen, living, bath, bedroom, etc). Then, you can either have the Roomba clean the entire floorplan, or clean just a room (or selection of rooms).
For example, I schedule the Roomba to clean my kitchen more frequently than the rest of the house, because I constantly have crumbs on the floor, ha.
The app will even show you where on the floorplan the Roomba had to ‘work harder' because of extra dust and dirt.
If you have areas where you don't want the Roomba to go, you can set up red zones to tell it to avoid sections.
Mi Home Roborock App Review
Xiaomi and Roborock share an app called Mi Home, where you can control any device you buy from the brand.
This makes it a little more complex to use if you only have the one robot vacuum. But, if you have a suite of products or a larger home, then Roborock's app is actually more refined.
There's two tabs on the app home screen, where you can toggle between rooms or devices.
- Devices: Xiaomi makes a ton of gadgets (like air purifiers, pet water dispensers, smart lights, scooters, security cameras, etc), so if you own a bunch of them it's probably nice seeing them all on your app home screen at a glance.
- Rooms: if you have multiple gadgets throughout the house, you can quickly control them in each room on this tab.
You can also set up schedules, timed cleans, or more custom “if this, then that” programs on the Mi Home app.
A nice feature is that the app will track the robot vacuum as it moves, so you can see where it is in your house during a cleaning. This is probably really nice if you have a large home or if you're running the device when you're not home.
It will also allow you to set up a “no clean” zone as the robot is doing it's job. This is helpful if you have a pile of kid's toys or clothes on the floor that you want it to avoid.
I'd say the Roborock's app is more useful if you have a large house with multiple floors or own multiple products from the brand. Otherwise the extra features are not as necessary.
At the end of the day, robot vacuums are meant to be used and functionally, the Roomba is better for my lifestyle.
The bagged feature is a game changer and particularly great for anyone with a busy lifestyle, or homes with sensitivities to pollen and dust.
I currently program it to run 3x a week and my apartment has never looked better!
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