I Was Convinced Robot Vacuums Were a Cleaning Placebo—Until I Tried the Roborock S4 Max (Which Is $150 Off Right Now)
- Value: 16/20
- Functionality: 17/20
- Ease of Use: 19/20
- Aesthetics: 18/20
- Suction: 18/20
Update: November 29, 2021
More than a year after my review, one thing's for certain: I'm more grateful for the Roborock S4 Max than ever before. It's proven reliable and easy to clean (even when my hair has gotten tangled in its wheels), and its edge-detection technology is the smartest of any model I've tested, including the almighty Roomba. After more than a year's use, the sensors and suction remain as powerful as ever, which is why when I found out the machine was $150 off for Cyber Monday, I had to spread the word immediately. It's the ultimate holiday sanity-saver—less cleanup! More time for the 139 other things on your to-do list!—and the holiday gift people will only appreciate more the longer they own it. Trust.
Original Review: October 23, 2020
When robot vacuums first came out, I was intrigued—finally, we’re one step closer to the life The Jetsons promised me!—but quickly, I convinced myself I didn’t need one. They were pricier than a traditional vac. They could be a tripping hazard. And honestly, weren't they really more of a placebo, made to make you feel like your house is clean when really, they’re just shuffling dirt and pet hair around? That last part was my biggest sticking point—I wasn’t convinced a robot vacuum could clean as well as a traditional one. Well, times have changed, and gradually, I became a bit more open-minded. Then the Roborock S4 Max entered my life, and my entire perspective cracked open. I’m a robot vacuum person now. Here’s why.
Pro: It’s Easy to Set Up
You download the Roborock app and sync your device to it, and from there, cleaning is as easy as the press of a button (either on the vac directly or using the app). You can schedule times for it to run and even set invisible “walls” or “no-go zones” to prevent it from getting into rooms where you don’t want it to clean. (I thought such a place didn’t exist, until I realized my daughter’s room was a landmine of small toys and doll accessories it could pick up.) All in all, setting it up took less than five minutes.
Pro: It Adjusts Its Suction, Depending on What Surface It’s On
The Roborock S4 Max features a floating main brush, which allows it to drop closer to the ground when it’s cleaning hardwood floors and move up when it’s cleaning carpets. Even better, there’s nothing you need to do on your part—it automatically detects what type of surface it’s rolling on and adjusts accordingly.
Con: It’s Kind of Loud
I don’t have to worry about tripping over Roborock, because I’m always pretty aware of where he is (though if he does get lost, there’s a “Find my robot” button on the app). The S4 Max has four cleaning modes—quiet, balanced, turbo and max—as well as a “carpet mode” option in the app, where it will adjust its suction to suit your carpeting. On balanced and turbo, it’s about as noisy as your traditional vacuum—meaning you may want to turn on subtitles if you’re binging Emily in Paris while it zips through your living room. But on quiet mode, it’s like having a white noise machine running in the background. I typically keep the device on “balanced,” since I run it every other day.
Pro: It Cleans Where I Don’t Dare to Go (and Cleans It Better)
Despite its bubbly shape, I’ve been impressed with how the S4 Max can slip under my entertainment center, console tables and bed—even a low platform bed frame. I tried the old white-glove test after each one, and I couldn’t find any dust left behind. And that’s a feat, because I’ll be honest with you: Some areas had tumbleweeds of dust brewing under there. What’s more, it’s had no problem picking up dust, dirt, hair, cookie crumbs, rice and Elmo fur (my toddler’s beloved Halloween costume has a serious shedding problem).
Con: It’s No Match for Shag Rugs
The S4 Max handles low-pile rugs and carpets with ease, and easily climbs over bulky transitions between wood and tile floors, as well as maneuvering from hardwood floors to plush rugs (a common complaint about robo-vacs). But I learned the hard way that fringy, high-pile rugs are best avoided altogether. The long shag rug’s fibers got tangled in Roborock’s side brush, causing it to whir like crazy. Hearing its yelps of anguish, I raced over, desperately trying to untangle it…and accidentally tore off a couple bristles in the process. Sorry, little guy.
The Bottom Line: I’m a Robot-Vacuum Person Now
OK, I know I’m late to the party, but is there a feeling more delightful than kicking back on the couch, knowing that the chores are being handled by your future robot overlord? It’s pricey for sure, but I console myself that it’s less than a Dyson…and it requires almost no effort on my part, save for emptying the dustbin once a week. (BTW, the Amazon-exclusive model features a larger bin than previous Roborock models, so you don’t have to clean it as often.)