The Roborock S4 robot vacuum was pitched if you ask me as a refreshed model with an updated design and an all-new app. Considering that Roborock’s models S5 and S6 were two of the better robot vacuums I’ve used, that was bittersweet news. Experience has taught me that an excessive amount of tinkering can just as easily spoil a maturing product as improve it. But my fears became unfounded.

Generally, the Roborock’s updated design is nothing dramatic. Both laser turret and the hinge for the most notable lid have already been moved nearer to one end of the vacuum, and the energy button has been reshaped and repositioned to the other end. The removable rubber-and-bristle roller brush and silicone-strip side brush which were introduced with the S6 remain present, though, as may be the 0.6-liter dustbin located beneath the lid.

The most glaring change is that the mopping function, an attribute of most prior Roborock vacuums, has been eliminated. Which means you won’t discover a water tank, mopping cloths, or a moisture-proof mat in the box. Roborock says it’s also made tweaks to the LIDAR navigation, therefore the robot vacuum can better maneuver around furniture and other obstacles, and refreshed its drivetrain to prioritize reverse power, allowing the S4 to cool off from obstacles that could trap other robots.

Roborock
The Roborok S4 has improved navigation and a refreshed drivetrain to raised maneuver around furniture.

A brand-new Roborock iphone app replaces the Mi Home iphone app used to use the brand’s previous robot vacuums, and I was impressed with it immediately. A huge plus sign, marked “put in a device,” appeared the very first time I logged in; so when I pressed it, it scanned for the S4, which it found instantly, prompting me to get on my Wi-Fi network. That whole process took merely seconds, however the firmware update I had to set up tacked on another 5 minutes.

The 1st time you run the S4, it generates a map of your floor plan (this function should be activated in the iphone app ahead of running the vacuum), and it automatically partitions the map into zones. In my own case, the living room, kitchen, entryway and bathroom comprising my downstairs level were evidently delineated as separate rooms. Following this initial recon vacuuming, the iphone app loads the map every time you take up a cleaning job. After that you can opt to clean the complete floor plan, only specific rooms, or designate zones that you’ve defined in the app. In virtually any of the cases, the S4 plots the most effective path through the region, leading to quicker cleaning times and more bang per battery charge.

It’s hard to tell just how much the LIDAR adjustments Roborock made have improved the bot’s navigation. The S5 and S6 both maneuvered around obstacles and over different floor surfaces perfectly, and the S4 does, too. It cruised seamlessly over carpet, hardwood, and linoleum in my own testing, never getting hung through to the transitions among. Also like its predecessors, however, the S4 was too tall to get under my couch and kitchen cabinets because of its turret, so those areas always required more attention during deeper cleanings with my stand-up vacuum. The S4 didn’t get stuck often, but on the rare occasions it did, I was alerted to the precise problem by the vacuum’s voice system and a notification in the app.

Roborock
The Roborock S4 has four cleaning modes with increasingly high suction.

The S4 has four cleaning modes with increasingly high suction: Silent, Standard, Medium, and Turbo. Standard appeared to provide best balance of power and battery efficiency, nevertheless, you can transform modes in the iphone app as the vacuum is cleaning.

The app
The Roborock application could be better referred to as “rebranded,” instead of “completely new,” for the reason that layout and functionality look practically identical to the Mi Home iphone app the company’s robot vacuum’s used previously. The ground map displays in the heart of the screen. Real-time data on how big is the region cleaned, battery level, and cleaning duration run above the map; and buttons for starting/pausing cleaning jobs, and sending the S4 back again to its dock are below that.

Just like the Mi Home app, you can modify the map from an edit button that provides you options for setting virtual boundaries, editing zones-areas you designate with bounding boxes on the map-and restoring to a previous map. The spinning-brush icon that opens a menu of the vacuum’s cleaning modes has been brought over from the Mi Home software as well.

Michael Ansaldo/IDG
The Roborock application lets you customize maps of your floor arrange for better cleanings.

Further controls are found in the settings menu. Many of these are of the set-it-and-forget-it variety-language and volume settings for the voice prompt, a scheduling timer, a do-not-disturb option-but there are always a couple you’ll access more often. One is a “head to” feature that enables you to deploy the S4 to a specific spot by dropping a pin on the map and activating spot cleaning mode once it arrives there. Another is an in depth cleaning history that logs information on every job individually and in aggregate. Finally, you can examine the status of the S4’s brushes, filter, and sensors to observe how long each has until it should be cleaned or replaced.

Verdict
The S4 appears as an incremental update, with improvements evident in the entire user experience, however, not necessarily noticeable on a feature-by-feature basis. That’s a very important thing. Despite the fact that the mopping function was bettering by the S6, it had been never the Roborock’s best feature and I didn’t miss it here. If anything, its omission strengthened an already formidable robot vacuum and makes the S4 exquisite for anyone looking for advanced functionality at a realistic price.