I love it when a new product proves me wrong. Since my first encounter with a robot vacuum cleaner with a large cushion attached to the back, hybrid mop and vacuum cleaner robots have left me overwhelmed. The mop part has felt like an afterthought, one that fills up too much and does too little, while often lubricating your rugs with a dirty, damp cloth. As with many two-in-one concepts, robotic vacuum cleaners that can also mop have not done any of the tasks very well.
But the Roborock S7 Plus ($ 950 with the automatic empty dock or $ 650 for the bottom only) has convinced me that these multi-tasking robots have some value after all. This hybrid vacuum cleaner / mop performs both tasks well, thanks to three features that are lacking in most competitors’ offerings. First is a large 300ml water tank that holds enough water so your floors actually get wet when the bot is running. Second is a sonic mop technology that vibrates the mop pad up to 3,000 times a minute to create some friction that loosens dirt instead of just smearing it around. And the third is some carpet magic.
Like others, the S7 can detect blankets automatically, but rather than just increasing the suction power to get the dirt up, as most do, the Roborock S7 also lifts the mop up when it encounters something with a thread count. This is called “VibraRise”, and the result is that your floors are vacuumed and washed, while your carpets and rugs are also vacuumed without being left a little soaked.
The Roborock S7 Plus is the Beijing-based company’s current flagship model alongside the Roborock S6 MaxV. Roborock has a staggering number of models to choose from, ten at the current number. But the main difference between the two topbots is that one has a compatible autotom dock (S7 Plus) and the other has an AI-powered camera that can detect obstacles (yes, including poop). Both can mop, but only the S7 can do as the hedgehog and sonic mop.
In addition to its mop capability, the S7 Plus is the first Roborock vacuum cleaner to come with an auto-empty dock. This is a charging station that sucks the dirt out of the robot’s trash can when it’s done cleaning, saving you the hassle of doing it yourself. It also helps it continue cleaning for longer as the S7 can recharge and empty its container in one step before resuming its cleaning cycle.
Roborock is a bit behind in the competition with this dock. And despite its ingenious name – “Rock Dock” – it’s a disappointing first attempt. Rock Dock often clogged in tests and lives up to its Hollywood namesake by being huge (it squeezes a large filter in as well as removable dust bags – $ 18 for a three-pack – that were flimsy and cracked easily). It will be difficult to find a discreet place for this cliff.
You can buy the S7 without the dock for $ 650 (the Plus moniker in the name indicates that it comes with the dock). I generally recommend auto-empty docks as they take much of the duty out of owning a robotic vacuum cleaner. But this one really is not worth the extra $ 250 when you take into account the hassle of having to clean it up often. It will be a little more attractive if you can find a good deal on the combination option.
Deals are likely to be found as Roborock recently announced a new model that combines the features of the S7 and S6 MaxV. The Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra will have sonic mopping, avoiding AI obstacles, dual suction power from the S7 and an automatic emptying dock that can clean and refill the robot’s mop – the first in the room. But the S7 MaxV Ultra will only be sold as a bundle of $ 1,400 when it arrives in the second quarter of 2022, even more expensive than Samsung’s very expensive Samsung Jet Bot AI Plus (which, however, can not be moped).
That leaves the S7 as the best option for a bot that can mop up at a semi-affordable price. Ecovac’s Deebot T8 with the Ozmo pro mop system is the closest competitor I’ve tested. Deebot works with a smaller giant auto-empty dock, but it has a lower suction power (1,500 Pa compared to 2,500 Pa), it can not raise the mop, which means that your carpets are not vacuumed, and the optional scrubbing mop costs $ 70 extra and must be removed when charging the robot.
This video shows how the Roborock S7 lifts its mop board up about 5mm to pass over the carpet without making it damp. You can also hear the suction rise when it detects carpet.
The Roborock S7 also has other cool features that make it a great robotic vacuum cleaner, including an app that is easy to navigate; plenty of fine-tuning options for cleaning your room (you can choose between four suction forces and mop intensities per room); and voice control with Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s assistant, and Apple’s Siri (using Siri shortcuts). I also set up an Alexa routine that fires the robot every time I leave home. There is room specific cleaning so I could refer it to clean the kitchen floor after breakfast with just a few words to one of the three assistants.
The S7 is a wide robot – almost 14 inches, and with a height of 3.8 inches, it is significantly larger than most Roombas. However, it was small enough to fit under my low sofa and between the legs of all my stools and chairs – with the bonus of being a bit more gentle than the rough and tumble Roombas, who routinely overturn a chair or two in my test. .
The S7 navigates using lidar technology, typically in most advanced robotic vacuum cleaners (except Roombas). This allows for super-accurate navigation and fast mapping. The S7 mapped exactly my entire floor downstairs at once, while Roombas generally needs a few excursions to crack it. The mapping allows for room-specific cleaning, and it is easy to name rooms in the app. I was also able to create multiple maps so the S7 could clear each of my three floors. I liked that you can just put the robot on each floor and it automatically finds out which card it needs.
Another great feature is a spot clean button on the device that you can press and get the robot to perform a quick, enclosed cleanup. Many newer robotic vacuum cleaners have dispensed with this feature in favor of app-enabled stain cleaning, but the less I have to get out of my phone to use a device, the better.
Other design features that are worth noting include a flexible housing for the roller brush, which allows it to move up and down when facing different floor surfaces. Roombas have a similar feature (though a different design), but most other robots I’ve tested have a firm, immobile housing. The S7 relies on a small, single roller brush, which is disappointing in such a large robot. A spider-like side brush helps bring dirt into the roll, but it still missed in some places, even though its navigation was methodical – it starts by cleaning the edges of a room and then begins on a deep S-pattern to get the interior .
The S7’s roller brush, combined with its powerful suction power, did a fantastic job on hardwood floors – sucking up everything it encountered – including a whole bag of screws and anchors. (Unfortunately, its eyes are bigger than its belly, it routinely swallowed dirt that its auto-emptying dock could not handle).
The roller brush was not tangled with hair (a common problem with brushes, which is why many of these vacuum cleaners come with a small cutting tool). But it was not so impressive on the carpet – even low pile carpets. Despite having the ability to detect carpets and increase suction, the S7’s rubber brush appears to slide over carpets instead of grabbing dirt. If you have a carpet-heavy home, this is not the vacuum cleaner robot for you – but if it is, you probably will not have a mop bot anyway.
The main reason for getting this over Roborock’s other offerings is for its mop capability. The S7 was able to vacuum and wash my entire house – carpets, rugs, hardwood floors and all – without having to replace parts or reprogram it. Its VibraRise feature worked as advertised and lifted almost imperceptibly, but left no damp residue on my short-haired rugs (Roborock says it is best suited for rugs no taller than 4mm). To the high-ceilinged rug in my living room, I just added a “no mop zone” in the app, and it left well enough.
But I encountered a few problems. First, it does not have AI obstacle detection, a feature that allows robotic vacuum cleaners to avoid hazards – such as charging cables, shoes and the new puppy’s oopsie. I created “keep-out zones” in the common problem-solving app, but a stray cat toy and a carelessly discarded sneaker got stuck in the brushes and required a rescue mission.
The second problem was the battery life. Although it could get around my entire 500 square foot main area of ”balanced” vacuum power and “moderate mopping” on one charge as I bumped it up to “max” and “intense” (the two settings that proved to be most effective ) had to juice up after an hour, despite having an impressively large 5200mAh Li-ion battery. The downside is that the battery takes three to four hours to charge.
The S7 also has a mop feature – which fails to vacuum and moves in a tighter “Z” pattern while going over the floors twice. This left my floors shiny clean. But I had to plan this in advance as you first have to send it out to vacuum, let it rest and recharge, and then send it out again to mop. I also needed to fill up the water tank to clear the entire room. All in all, the whole process took about six hours.
Disappointingly, you can not add your own cleaning solution to the water tank (which you can with both iRobot and Samsung’s stand-alone robot mops). One trick is to spray a cleaning solution on the removable, washable pillow, but it will not last long. While the manual specifically states that one should not add an “unapproved” solution to the water tank as it “can corrode or block” it, I was told that a Roborock-labeled floor cleaner is coming soon. There is also no notification that the water tank is empty, and a few times I thought the bottom mopped when it had run dry or had no water in it to begin with.
The S7 is a really good robot vacuum cleaner that can vacuum and mop relatively well. As with all robotic vacuum cleaners, it is not a real substitute for a proper weekly cleaning. But it will keep your floors beautiful on a daily basis. If you want a bot to clean your floors in depth, the standalone iRobots Braava Jet M6 is a better option, mainly because it carries more water (440 ml) so it can clean more floors at once. But for daily maintenance of hardwood floors and occasional low pile rugs, the S7 is the best hybrid robotic vacuum cleaner you can buy right now.
Photograph by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge