Robotic vacuums used to be a luxury product, but they've trickled down into the mainstream. For lots of folks, the math just works out: It costs less than the value in saved time, and those extra moments can be spent more productively. So if you want a high-end model with more granular controls, room mapping and detection, and Assistant integration, then the Roborock S6 might be a good choice. That is, if you can stomach the $650 price tag and a few noteworthy drawbacks.

Specs

Cleaning Vacuuming, mopping (via reusable or disposable pads)
Battery life Rated at up to three hours — can automatically recharge and continue mid-cleaning
Suction 2000Pa rated (does not always operate at maximum suction)
Clearance Can tackle obstacles/changes in height of up to 0.8"
Virtual assistant compatibility Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa
Miscellaneous Mapping features, zone or room-based cleaning, virtual barriers, carpet recognition, scheduled cleaning, in-app maintenance tracking
Dimensions ~14" diameter, 3 1/4" tall (3 3/4" tall at radar tower), ~43" circumference, ~8 lbs

The Good

Performance Vacuums very well, didn't leave anything behind in my apartment.
Quiet You can hear a TV over it while it's running.
Efficient Cleans spaces very quickly, no superfluous overlapping or doubling-back.
Room mapping Creates a detailed layout of your home and allows you to clean on a per room or zone basis from the app — incredibly useful.
Smart home Digital assistant integration for Alexa and Assistant means voice controls and routine support.
Built-in maintenance tools The brush and detangling razor live in the hatch on the back, Roborock app keeps track of consumables and maintenance.

The Not So Good

Mopping Didn't clean as well as a manual mop.
Room mapping again By default, it doesn't even save your map. Room detection isn't that great.
Assistant controls Room and zone-based triggers also don't work with the Assistant integration, which is too bad. Pretty much just on/off.
Price $650 is a lot of money, there's no way around that.

Also, I apologize in advance for the wrecked state of my floors in the photos below. Blogging isn't that glamorous; I rent, and my landlord DGAF.

Design, hardware, what's in the box

The Roborock S6 is immediately identifiable as a modern robotic vacuum by its shape alone: It's a big plastic puck. Ours is white, but they also come in black. The big circular tower on the center holds the laser mapping gear, which sweeps around to gather depth data continuously while it's running. The front is studded with some proximity sensors and a wrap-around bumper switch. Wheels are on the bottom together with the brushes, vents are on the back — you get the idea. The only important thing to remember about the physical design is that the back half of the top hinges up for the dust receptacle/filter, and the mopping attachment snaps onto the bottom back.

Left: Spare parts/pads. Right: Charging dock and floor-protecting base.

In addition to the vacuum itself, the box comes with two filters, the mopping water tank, two reusable cloth mopping pads, a handful of one-time use pads with a plastic frame, some water filters, the charging base station, an AC adapter for the base station, and a plastic mat for it to rest on when charging and which protects your floor from water when the mopping pad is attached. In all, it should be enough stuff for the Roborock S6 to last you at least a few years.

Software, performance, battery

If the Roborock has a single failing, it's the software. And that's not to say it's bad, it just could stand to be better, and it's the one area that I wish Xiaomi would focus on for improvement.

General overview of app setup and use.

Xiaomi is now pushing its Roborock customers away from the Mi Home app, telling them to use the standalone Roborock app on supported models instead. As the 2.6-star average review (at the time of writing) would indicate, this app isn't without its shortcomings. One of the most annoying, in my experience, is the fact that by default, the Roborock app and vacuums are configured not to save a map of your home, opting instead to waste time generating a new one every single time. You have to go into settings to tell it to save them instead. And if you elect to save a given map, it won't always update that map with changes made to the space. I don't understand why those are the only two options.

When it works, that mapping is pretty accurate, but you can still run into trouble. If the vacuum stumbles onto a problem — like if it gets stuck and you have to physically lift it up and untangle it from stuff — it has a habit of losing its place if you don't set it back down precisely where it was. And if it gets too confused, it will just throw away your saved space and start from scratch, not only generating a new map, but re-cleaning your whole home, too. That’s pretty obnoxious.

Left: Room detection is a bit derpy. Right: But you can just select as much as you need.

Room detection (the biggest feature that differentiates the S6 from the S5) is also not the best. It works if you have large open spaces separated by doorways, but in more cramped city apartments, like mine, it tends to get confused by furniture pretty easily, splitting up areas more than it should. That's not really a problem, since you can just re-combine them manually by selecting them all when you choose areas to clean, but it's still not ideal. And I'd like to note (though it should probably be obvious), you have to perform one full-home cleaning with a saved map for the room detection to work.

Even if you don't have that issue, the Roborock app likes to spit repeated (but entirely ignorable) network errors when it loses focus in the background. They don't interfere with the vacuum's operation, but it is pretty derpy and annoying if you come back to the app to check your vacuum's cleaning progress later. Although the app has a lot of options and controls, it could use some polish, and some of the translations for bits in it are pretty indecipherable.

The Roborock app keeps track of how many hours have been recorded by different consumable components (like filters, brushes, etc.) and tells you how close they are to needing replacement or attention. Some stuff, like the sensors, simply need a quick wipe every 30 hours or so, while others actually need drop-in replacements. For the consumable parts, it comes with a handful of spares right in the box, and more are available at Amazon. You'll also need to take out the brush, check the brush bearing, and clean out long hairs that get tangled around stuff every couple of runs. It's quick and easy to do, especially with the needed tools conveniently stored right on the unit itself.

Assistant

Setting the vacuum up to work with Google Assistant is as easy as linking your Roborock account with the Google Home app, just like any other device. Once linked, there are quite a few Assistant voice commands for the Roborock S6, and all of them worked in my testing (though the integration seemed to randomly break a few times). You can easily do things like turn the vacuum on and off, pause it during a cleaning cycle, tell it to dock/go home, charge, and ask if it's charging/docked.

There's a lot you can do with just your voice, but I wish there were a few more commands. For one, although the app has three cleaning modes (Room, All, and Zone), the Assistant controls will only trigger an "All" clean. If you have it set to save your home's layout and you also manually set no-go zones, you can ensure it does a more restricted or controlled clean each time you turn it on via the Assistant, but you can't actually give it any new or different restrictions with your voice. I'd much rather be able to set a series of custom cleaning routines in the app for certain rooms/zones and be able to trigger them individually as required via the Assistant — and the Assistant should support that, if Roborock/Xiaomi can figure things out on their end.

Vacuuming

Outside the software experience, when it comes to actually cleaning your home, the Roborock S6 does a pretty great job. Excluding spots that I knew it wouldn't be able to reach (like beneath furniture with insufficient clearance, or between things too tightly packed for it to fit) it left my apartment as clean as a pass of an old-school manual vacuum would, but with none of the old-school manual effort.

...it left my apartment as clean as a pass of an old-school manual vacuum would, but with none of the old-school manual effort.

The Roborock S6 is surprisingly quiet when set to its default "balanced" cleaning setting. It certainly isn’t silent, but it makes less noise than I expected, and far less than my now-ancient (but very well-maintained, thank you) Roomba 530 did. You could watch TV while the Roborock S6 was cleaning and it wouldn’t be too obnoxious — though you still might need to turn up the volume a little.

It's also gentle enough you can run around in bare feet while it's running and not worry about mangled flesh or stubbed toes. It will bump into you (surprisingly delicately), and the outward-facing brush will trill against your feet, but you’ll survive. And in the end, all the dust and hair and crud on your floor ends up in an easily removed bin on the back of the Roborock S6. But there are a few specific things you should be aware of.

Easily-removed dust receptacle — just be wary of the hole on the back, or it will all spill right back onto the ground. 

This isn't an issue exclusive to the Roborock S6, but I should point out that you can't just unleash a robotic vacuum on your home without a little bit of preparation. The biggest problem you're likely to run into is that the Roborock S6, like all similar vacuums, can tangle itself up in something as simple as a single loose USB Type-C charging cable or a lamp's power cord, given sufficient length. Again, that’s not a special limitation here, but if, like me, you had hoped automated vacuums had progressed to the point that our gadget-heavy, cable-draped lifestyles didn’t require an earlier, redundant, preparatory round of cleaning up, you're out of luck. We don't live in that future, robotic vacuums will only let you be so lazy.

There was also one other issue I did run into more regularly that I couldn't eliminate, and that was traction in certain circumstances. I have a very thick, high-pile, actual wool rug that I keep in my living room, and the Roborock S6 did not like it. It cleaned it just fine, but it had some obvious traction issues trying to move around on top of it. In my testing, that carpet is the one place it was most likely to get stuck, especially when trying to steer around obstacles, though it had no issue with any of the carpeted areas in my home.

Mopping

With the tank and mopping pad attached, the S6 turns into a combination vacuum/mop, but keep in mind that you can't "turn off" mopping except by removing the tank and pad: When the tank is on, it does both.

You also need to wet the mopping pad before mopping, the tank doesn't apply enough water to do anything except replenish that lost to the floor. You'll need to saturate the pad, wring it, fill the tank, and slide it onto the back bottom of the Roborock S6 to mop. You also have to clean the pads every 60 minutes of use — frankly, I'd at least hit it with some soap and squeeze/rub it after every run — and replace filters in the tank every once in a while (the app keeps track and will let you know). You should also store the mopping pad and tank off the Roborock when it isn't in use.

Reflection shows even coverage while mopping.

Performance when mopping wasn't quite so good as when vacuuming. It did not clean very effectively, even just wiping down the area it had just ostensibly mopped with a damp paper towel revealed plenty of grime left on my kitchen tile. You'll also need to specifically adjust the water flow rate via a switch on the tank. There are just two options, but unless you live in the jungle, the default won't give the pad enough flow to keep it saturated during use. Frankly, I found the mopping too inconvenient to use, though I might feel differently if I had a large enough space to require it more regularly. There's a lot of prep work involved for an ostensibly automated solution. Personally, I wouldn't buy this for the mopping, it's a much better vacuum.

One thing I did specifically test was whether or not it would get carpeted areas wet with the mopping tank/pad attached, since the path from its charging station to a tiled area could take it through a carpeted room in some homes. In my experience, it did not, but I think that's a function of how little it seemed to keep the mopping pad wet enough to function correctly most of the time, not any special effort on the Roborock S6's part to keep carpets dry.

Battery life

When it came to battery life, my ~1,100 square foot apartment wasn't enough to tax the Roborock S6's battery, and it never ran dry. I did see it drop as low as 20% in its first mapping run, but after that, it never went under a 50% charge. Most of my apartment being hard surfaces likely contributed, it probably wouldn't last as long if you have a lot of carpet. Because the Roborock S6 can return to the charger automatically and continue cleaning once recharged, if you do manage to run it dry with the sheer volume of space to clean, at least that only means a delay. Your map should be preserved, and it won't re-clean any areas it hit before.

Should you buy it?

Roborock S6
8/10

The Roborock S6 gives you a lot of control when it comes to cleaning, without the hassle of actually doing it all yourself. There are just three noteworthy drawbacks: Don't buy it just for mopping, it's pretty expensive at $650, and it would be way more useful if you could do zone and room-based cleaning with the Assistant. In fact, if the company can add that last feature to the Roborock S6's Assistant integration, I'd be happy to give it our Most Wanted accolade. Even just giving us the ability to set a number of routines configurable via the app would be nice.

I also wish the mapping functionality was a bit better — saving your map shouldn't preclude any updates to your home's layout, there needs to be a middle ground — but it's a minor nitpick when generating a new map is pretty simple to do, and most of us don't rearrange furniture too often.

If you specifically want a robotic mop, the Roborock S5 Max (which I have also briefly used) has a bigger water tank and electronically-controlled water flow, making it better able to clean different types of floors with more precise settings and across larger spaces. It's also a tiny bit cheaper, at $600. If you want a vacuum but the S6 is too rich for your blood, the older Roborock S5 also has some of the same features for less. But the S6 is the Cadillac unit, with automatic room mapping, quiet but good performance, and Assistant integration. I definitely recommend it, for those that can afford it.

Where to buy

The Roborock S6 is available from Amazon in both Black and White colorways for $650.