Earlier this year at CES, Roborock unveiled its next generation of robot vacuum cleaners, the S8 series. Its three new robot vacuums have finally arrived in Australia, but the one to watch is its top-of-the-line Roborock S8 Pro Ultra.
The first time I got to have a look at the S8 Pro Ultra, I was blown away by its specs alone. It’s an all-in-one robot vacuum, featuring sucking, mopping, self-emptying and self-cleaning. Its docking system (dubbed the “RockDock Ultra”) will wet its mop before use, as well as wash and dry it once its cleaning cycle is complete.
It’s a promising self-contained system, but with so many high-end specs, it’s unsurprisingly that it’s been slapped with a hefty price tag. Even I whistled after hearing it was being offered for $2,699. If you’re going to throw all your money at it, you want to make sure it’s well worth it, right?
The Roborock S8 Pro Ultra robot vacuum has a clean, flying saucer-esque design minus the big sensor plate that most robot vacuums possess. Instead, the front of it has a compact sensor that allows its 3D structured light and infrared image technology to do its thing.
On the reverse side, it features dual rolling rubber brushes that are supposedly meant to improve suction while preventing hair/fur tangles. The underside is also where you can get a good look at the mopping plate, which comes with an interchangeable microfibre mopping pad. You can remove the microfibre pad if yours is getting a little worse for wear, but you ultimately cannot remove the mopping component at all, which is unlike previous Roborock models.
Otherwise, it looks pretty much identical to every other robot vacuum on the market, especially Ecovacs’ N10 Plus. Its primary difference is that it’s equipped with only one feeler/spinner instead of two.
As for the RockDock, its wide and short but reasonably heavy. Inside, it houses two tanks with liftable lids – one for clean water and another where the dirty water is emptied into – as well as another box where the internal dustbin is stored. It requires a mini ramp to be attached, which allows the robot vacuum to more easily climb its way back to the dock for the self-cleaning process.
Its floor-mapping, obstacle avoidance and app control
Signing up and setting up the S8 Pro Ultra is a breeze and doesn’t require much aside from downloading its app and ensuring you have a stable internet connection. The reason I know about the latter is because mine was a little patchy around the first couple of days I used it, so there were a few times I had to continuously re-pair it to my Wi-Fi to get it to work.
The Roborock’s first attempt at mapping my house took a good hour and it ran out of battery after mapping my living room. Thankfully, this isn’t a reflection of its overall battery life. However, even though every room was open and clear of obstacles, the robot vacuum somehow skipped my study once it had decided it had accurately mapped my home.
What was interesting, however, was that it managed to capture a solid guestimation of the bathroom, kitchen, balcony, laundry and study despite the fact that it hadn’t entered those areas. I will note that it updated its map on its second clean to accurately record the study it missed the first time around. But, as you can tell by the map above, the map wigged out in the red area, generating a strange beam-like blip.
This brings me to a nice jumping-off point to discuss its navigation and obstacle avoidance. The S8 Pro Ultra is a cautious little fella, expertly avoiding bumping into most obstacles or scratching itself (unlike these two Ecovacs did). It moves at a couple of inches at a time, pausing to ensure it’s sucked up everything underfoot.
In the doorway of my kitchen and living room, there’s about a 2-inch tall gap where the tile starts, which saw robot vacuums I previously reviewed repeatedly try to mount, resulting in them damaging their sensors (only cosmetic damage, thankfully). However, the S8 Pro Ultra did a fantastic job at recognising the gap was too high for it to climb and wisely chose to not risk it.
During occasions when I carried it to the kitchen to mop, I was impressed at its cliff detection and how it very gently and slowly lowered itself back to the carpet once it had finished.
While the S8 Pro Ultra will bump into a few things here and there, it very quickly learns to avoid certain obstacles in future cleans. In fact, it can coast very close to the walls and edges of furniture as it navigates.
The one thing it does not excel in is cable avoidance, though this is common with all robot vacuums. It appears the Roborock S12 Pro Ultra has a vendetta against the Nintendo Switch, seeing as it tried to drag not one, but both of our Nintendo Switches from beside the TV in separate rooms. But, at least the robot vacuum is very respectful of my cat’s personal space, stopping just short of her whenever she decides to challenge it.
Once you’ve created your first saved map, you can go forth and alter its settings to your liking. And I have to admit, the Roborock app is one sophisticated piece of work. It features almost every customisation option you could dream of, from various suction modes and levels, to setting schedules and changing its voice’s accent (but only for English-speaking languages).
The options are overwhelming. For starters, suction power has four modes, the scrub intensity has three and there are even two cleaning modes – fast and standard. You can customise the mop or vacuum itself, as well as customise the level of suction and mopping intensity for each room. You can also set no-go zones or tell it to clean certain rooms.
What’s also interesting is that you can alter its reactive obstacle avoidance, from deactivating its structured light and 3D imaging algorithm to turning off its “less collision mode”. These features allow it to detect and avoid obstacles in real-time or foresee walls and furniture in advance.
There are, frankly, too many to mention, but there are also customisable carpet cleaning, dock settings that let you control how frequently it washes the mop or automatically empties and dries.
One helpful mapping feature is “Pin n Go”, which allows you to select a target on a saved map and order the robot to clean that area only. It’s quite helpful if you want it to sweep up some crumbs after dinner, but you might still feel more inclined to just pick up your stick vacuum than let the robot handle it.
How is its suction?
Now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at how well each of these components work.
The Roborock S8 Pro Ultra’s key selling point is its 6,000Pa suctioning power, which is perhaps the strongest suction we’ve seen so far in a robot vacuum. Most robot vacuums tend to sit between 2,000Pa and 3,000Pa and while it doesn’t quite do as great of a job as a stick or barrel vacuum, it’s still impressive.
As the S8 Pro Ultra zips around my home, it leaves plenty of fluffy trails around my almost fully carpeted apartment. No crumbs are missed or left behind and seeing as I’m also the proud owner of a long-haired cat, her fur is non-existent after a cleaning cycle. But the best part is that barely any human hair or cat fur gets caught up in its rubber brushes. And even at its highest suctioning capacity, the robot vacuum is blissfully quiet.
Battery life also stretches far, even on the highest suctioning level. It can successfully complete a sweep of my two-bedroom, one bathroom apartment in about 30 to 40 minutes without needing to return to the dock. However, the recharge time is nothing special. While Roborock does promise fast charging, I observed that it took just under three hours to charge its battery once it had depleted to zero.
As for mopping, I’m always a sceptic when it comes to these robot vacuums. While all shine in their suctioning and smart detection quality, I’ve yet to find a robot vacuum that truly delivers.
Roborock’s S8 Pro Ultra differs from other robot vacuums with a new innovative way to mop. While the iRobot Combo j7+ is unique in that it sports a retractable mop, the S8 Pro Ultra has a 5mm liftable mop. What does this mean? Well, most robot vacuums force you to manually attach and remove its mopping pads, otherwise it will wet your carpet as it moves along. However, the S8 Pro Ultra doesn’t.
Instead, it cleverly keeps its mopping pad raised as it moves around, only lowering it once it’s completed its suctioning. While 5mm seems like a short distance, it surprisingly does well at not dripping onto the carpet.
The S8 Pro Ultra does a solid job, eliminating lighter stains and spills. Depending on which cleaning pattern you’ve selected, it will take a couple of go-overs to fully wipe away any messes on the kitchen floor. That said, tougher stains or those that have dried for a longer amount of time won’t budge entirely.
While Roborock describes its mopping component features vibration-based technology, it appears to wipe at stains instead of scrubbing over them since it only goes over tiles in its path. What’s missing is that it doesn’t seem to be able to detect stickier or more difficult to clean spills and instead runs over them without another thought.
Self-cleaning and self-emptying process
After the S8 Pro Ultra has completed its run, it sets off for the docking station where it will begin its self-cleaning and emptying process. The emptying process is efficient, however, it takes about three minutes and is very, very loud. I’m talking hurricane loud. It was akin to the experience I endured when reviewing LG’s CordZero self-emptying vacuum.
The S8 Pro Ultra’s self-cleaning mop stands out among other robot vacuums. On the occasions that I was able to mop (I’m really limited to my kitchen and bathroom here, folks), the Roborock vacuum would make its way back to its docking station where it would automatically empty its water tank and dispose of the dirty water.
Thanks to the Roborock’s solid white design, you don’t have to look at the dirty water tank all the time, but you also won’t be able to check how long it’s got left at a glance. The app will tell you if it’s full and ready to be tipped out, however, unless you lift up the flap of the tank yourself you won’t know. The water tanks do a great job at masking any odours, however, once you open the dirty water one, you’ll be hit with the rancid smell, so you’ll need to ensure it’s sanitised regularly.
One thing that bothered me was that even though my floor map clearly marked that the robovac’s primary cleaning area was all carpeted, the S8 Pro Ultra still insisted on refilling its water tank at the beginning of every clean. While I would’ve welcomed this feature had all of my floors been non-carpeted, I felt it delayed the time it took to complete its cleaning process. It also seems that I simply couldn’t command it to skip this step, which was surprising considering how much choice the app does give you.
But the good news is that you don’t have to clean the mop at all. At least, not until its gotten very old and manky. The RockDock uses a combination of water and hot air to clean the mopping pads and it does a remarkably A+ job. There aren’t any stains left over after it’s cleaned and it never smells.
The cost factor
While yes, we know that this robovac does robo-rock, it’s still hard to justify its price. At $2,699, it’s the most expensive robot vacuum in the market right now. It costs $200 more than Ecovacs’ Deebot X1 OMNI, which arguably packs a little bit more into its price.
Like any robot vacuum, you’ll need two of them if you want to use them to their full potential in a multi-level home. While you can carry it from storey to storey, it defeats the purpose of letting the robot return to its dock on its own. Now, this isn’t a problem that’s exclusive to Roborock, but imagine forking out up to $5,400 to have two of these.
From there, all robot vacuums need to have their accessories updated regularly, whether that’s the disposable dust bags or new side brushes. Those accessory packs can set you back about another $100 every six months to a year, depending on how often you use your robot vacuum.
Lastly, while the Roborock S8 Pro Ultra is fairly clean with its hot air and water system, you might find that adding some cleaning solution will make a big difference. This’ll cost you $49.95 a bottle, but it does stretch far since it only requires a few drops every so often. But again, more down-the-track costs.
Final thoughts on the Roborock S8 Pro Ultra
The Roborock s8 Pro Ultra is one hell of a robot vacuum. It’s almost inconceivable to reflect on how little assistance this robot vacuum needs from me. Not only does it suck all the fur and dirt off my floors with no problems, but the S8 Pro Ultra demonstrates near-excellent cable avoidance, a tentative yet efficient navigation routine and little-to-no hands-on assistance.
While its mopping capabilities don’t quite beat the manual action of me doing it myself and its upkeep costs are a tad worrisome, you can’t knock the quality of this robot vacuum. Overall, the app is easy-to-navigate, while the robot itself is intelligent and cautious, reducing the risk of damage to itself and furniture.
For $2,699, you sure can’t complain about Roborock’s newest high-end robovac, because I really struggled.
Where to buy the Roborock S8 Pro Ultra
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