Among the improvements Roborock made between its first and second generation robot vacuums, the new functionality in the Mi home app is certainly at the top of the list. You may have seen from our first and second gen compared video that the cleaning power of the Roborock S5 is identical to the first generation model, also known as the Xiaomi Mi robot vacuum. Where it clearly differs is the ability to traverse thicker carpet without issue, thanks to those newly designed wheels, and the overall design is a bit more efficient as well.

But let’s take a look at what truly separates the Roborock S5 from most other robot vacuums: the app. The interface is quite different from the first generations, with quick buttons to clean the whole house, return to the dock to charge, clean specific spots in the house, or even clean specific zones of the house as well. The difference between these last two might not be terribly obvious but here it is.

Spot cleaning is the same functionally as before, however, now you can tell it to go to a specific place and clean that spot instead of having to drag it over there yourself. It’s a manual control of sorts and it also doubles as a bonus since it can return to the dock and keep the map of your house intact without having to rediscover and redraw everything all over again.

Zoned clean up allows you to draw a box over any area of the map and the vacuum will then clean all the available space within this box. Multiple boxes can be drawn too and you can tell it to make one, two, or even three passes in each of these spaces. This situation has pretty much pinned itself out a couple of times now, although with less bonbons.

All this is possible because the app now actually saves the map of your home and allows you to use it for these tasks in the future. This isn’t the first robot vacuum that does this. We’ve already reviewed quite a few that have. But it does it in a way that’s more consistent with keeping the historical data instead of redrawing it every time.

You’ll still find times that the map gets erased, though, such as if someone picked it up and moved it around physically and then started a spot cleanup or something similar. And this is one of the only true annoyances I had with the vacuum at all.

Just as we wished for on the Deebot R95, we wish there was a way to permanently save the map data of your dwelling and use it at any when the map gets messed up or erased. Navigation overall, though, is as good as ever and that new refined design ensures that the vacuum gets stuck far less often than the previous generation, if for no other reason than that the radar hump on the top is more centered instead of positioned all the way to the back.

I still had it get stuck on two of the radiators in my house though, as they’re just the right height for the vacuum to run under and subsequently get itself lodged in as it tries to turn and get out. For these moments and likely in any number of others too, manual control can be taken straight from the app without much hassle.

It’s a bit more buried than it should be. You have to go to the remote controls under the settings menu within the vacuum’s own section in the Mi home app. Got all that? Yeah. It’s a bit much but it’s really cool once you get there.

Two different kinds of manual controls are available: buttons for moving forward and then turning left or right and then a joystick that gives you slightly more control over these. The obvious missing piece of the puzzle is that there’s a complete lack of ability to simply just move backwards. No idea why that’s not an option but it makes things annoying if it gets stuck somewhere and just needs to back up a bit.

We’ve covered cleaning power in the first gen comparison article, and without any substantial difference in actual cleaning, it’s pretty safe to say that this is still one of the best robot vacuums for general cleaning of your home. The new mop accessory is cool. It adds a bit of a twist to the usual vanilla robot vacuum experience. But without a way for the vacuum to identify carpet quickly and try to not mop it, it’s really only useful for a spot cleaning in a small area if you have any sort of carpet in your home at all. Those with hardwood floors all throughout the home might find this a little bit more useful.

There are other more universally positive improvements, though, like the inclusion of a little cleaning tool under the hood for removing hair or strings from the roller for instance. There’s also a larger dustbin versus the first gen vacuum, 100 milliliters to be exact, which is good in any scenario making it 500 milliliters in total.

Battery life seems to be about the same as the original so not much of an improvement here, but it does clean the same amount of space more quickly, as pointed out in the comparison article. For reference, it cleaned about 750 square feet or 70 square meters with about 60% battery left at the end of the cleaning cycle. It’s, of course, going to vary wildly depending on how many objects you have in your home for it to navigate around versus simple, straight, and square areas so take my particular numbers as a single possibility only.

There’s a few things that could boost battery life significantly in your home too and sanity as well. By default, the vacuum runs in balanced suction mode which provides a pretty quiet operation with a good amount of suction. If enabled, the vacuum can automatically detect carpet and jack that suction up to maximum helping to better clean out carpets and not waste this suction needlessly on hard floors. It worked relatively well in our testing but the vacuum takes a few seconds to detect the carpet before it kicks that suction up.

In comparison, something like a Roomba 980, which has a dedicated sensor changes suction almost immediately upon jumping on the carpet and certainly could make carpets cleaner overall because of it. Still, it’s nice to have this feature in any capacity and it keeps general noise down and battery life longer at the end of the day.

The Roborock S5 is an incredibly well-rounded product that improves some key areas over the original, and for about $100 more, you’re getting a vacuum that’s easily among the top tier of robot vacuums on the market, which for the price, is absolutely impossible to beat. Brains, beauty, and brawn make up this package and it’s a total must buy for anyone that’s looking to upgrade from a cheaper dumber robot vacuum or even someone who just wants something extremely good from the get-go. There’s no official smart home integration, though, and no support right now for systems like Alexa or Google assistant, so if these are must-haves, you might want to take a look at other robot vacuums and what they have to offer instead.