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  • By Caroline Miller & John R. Quain

Roborock S8 MaxV Ultra Review: You Had Me at "Hello, Rocky"

You may not be able to buy an autonomous car (yet) but there's one autonomous device that is already a big hit: robotic vacuums. The latest and greatest in the category is the Roborock S8 MaxV Ultra, a vacuum and floor mop with a raft of technical tricks that makes cleaning the house actually fun.

Character Traits

With a list price of $1,800, the Roborock S8 MaxV Ultra is a top-of-the-line model that not only vacuums but can also automatically sense smooth floor surfaces and clean them with a wet mopping system. The robovac uses Wi-Fi to connect your home network and lidar to navigate around your home. It responds to voice commands and has a live video camera you can monitor on your smart phone via an included app. When you're away, you can use the app to berate your dog for sleeping on the couch or tell the cat to quit riding the vac—or conversely give kitty a ride using a remote control feature. The Roborock S8 also includes more mundane but practical features, such as a variety of programmable options for scheduling and mapping your home.

Given all these technical flourishes, the S8 MaxV Ultra is remarkably compact. The base is just 19-inches high, 16 inches wide, and 18-inches deep. It fit neatly in the pantry area of our test kitchen, right where we previously kept a mop and dust pan. The all-in-one docking bay charges the vacuum and two vertically mounted, removable storage containers alternately hold clean and dirty water.

For such a complex machine that does so much (“Max” and “Ultra” are both in the name, so you know it’s going to be a beast), it was easy to set up straight out of the box. The two water containers, for example, have icons that make it clear which needs to be filled with clean water for the mopping function and which one is for the dirty water that needs to be dispensed with. Mastering all of the options via the app takes some time, as do the prescribed voice commands, but if you don't want to read the instructions, you don't have to.

The Nitty Gritty

After giving the Roborock a trial run, we scheduled a twice weekly cleaning and were generally pleased with the results. The first floor surfaces include hardwood floors, large and small area rugs, and ceramic tile in the kitchen and bath. The S8's small whirring brush with an extending arm means it can reach out into tiny nooks and crannies. In addition, we were impressed by how it automatically switched from mopping to vacuuming depending on the surface it detected.

After three cleanings, Rocky had mapped out a fairly accurate depiction of the main floor, including furniture placement. We were also able to edit the room maps easily to add or adjust furniture, partition rooms, rename rooms (on some it had guessed incorrectly), and identify specific floor surfaces, if necessary. One of our open areas includes both the living and dining rooms, so we used the editing option to create a divider and labeled each separately so that later we could tell the RoborockS 8 to just clean the dining room, for example.

"Tell" isn't a figure of speech. Uttering the words, "Hello Rocky" causes the vacuum to spin around (as if it were looking at you) and respond in a lilting female voice, "I'm here." You can then tell her to perform specific tasks such as to clean a specific area, pause cleaning (so you can get a snack in the kitchen), or return to its base. If only everything in life were that simple. Furthermore, Rocky is bilingual; she understands French, so you can use her to supplement your Duolingo lessons.

In terms of overall cleaning power, the S8 has a rating of 10,000 Pa. The Pa stands for Pascal pressure units, a measure of its suction power. By comparison, vacuum-only models at half the price usually have less cleaning power, about 6,000 to 8,000 Pa. In fact, the Roborock S8 is the highest rated robovac to date, yet it is quieter than many iRobot models we've tested.

Specifications aside, we found Rocky was an excellent housekeeper, handling everything from 1-inch pile carpets to tile floors with ease. Rarely did we have to send it back to an area to repeat a cleaning. In addition, the mopping function was a welcome relief; honestly, before Rocky we didn't mop the hardwood floors that often. Furthermore, while the Rockrock S8 was gentle on hardwood floors, after a few weeks on the job it made a significant and visible difference even on floors with small tiles.

Rocky was also able to overcome some challenges. A wooden floor threshold rail about half an inch high between our kitchen and family rooms was enough to foil sub-$500 robovacs. Initially, it seemed as if the barrier would thwart the Roborock S8 as well. But then it made some slight adjustments, backed up, seemed to rev up a bit for some extra “oomph” and came at it from a different angle. It did this several times until it found the right speed and angle to get over it, essentially learning how to accommodate it all future cleanings.

Rocky proved to be remarkably flexible, too. After installing the base in a hallway for a few days, we decided to move the dock to the kitchen. The S8 quickly discerned where it was in the house and re-mapped the first floor accordingly. Robo vacuums can't climb stairs, unfortunately, but Rocky lets you check a "multilevel" box and carry her to another floor, which we also did. And she recognizes her limitations, demarcating one opening with “Cliff Detected." We had inadvertently left the door to the basement steps open, so the Roborock S8 learned to avoid this area and thus avert disaster.

As with all the robovacs we've tested, Rocky did occasionally get stuck. One small area rug of ours tended to snarl up the Robovac S8, so we moved it, and occasionally untidy humans left items such blankets or shoe laces strewn about that prevented the vacuum from making its appointed rounds. That's when the built-in video camera came in handy. When you get a notice that Rocky is stuck you can turn on the camera to discover she's either trapped in a corner by a rolled up rug or has imbibed a cord from a pair of earbuds that had fallen under the couch. We should also note that to allay security and privacy concerns, in order to activate the camera for remote viewing you must enter a separate code or password each time. Better still, when the camera goes on, Rocky announces, “Remote viewing activated,” so that people in the house know they are being watched (or rather, that their feet are being watched).

The Ultimate on the Ultra

No robovac is perfect, and Rocky certainly has her faults. She didn't always obey our voice commands (who does?), and we found some instructions lacking, such as detailed directions on how to empty the dust bin. But overall, the Roborock S8 MaxV Ultra lived up to its name with category-leading performance and a set of features ranging from remote control to live video feeds that should please any homeowner.


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