While we wait impatiently for robot vacuums to grow legs to tackle our stairs, Roborock has added an arm to its newest flagship model. Launching at CES 2024 in Las Vegas this week, the Roborock S8 MaxV Ultra has an (admittedly very small) arm that pushes the robot’s side brush out further to get into corners. Okay, so it’s not going to be picking up your slippers and bringing them to you, but hey, it’s an arm! On a robot! In your house!
The $1,800 (gulp) S8 MaxV also includes a new voice assistant for controlling the vacuum without another smart device, 10,000 Pa of suction power, support for Matter, and a new camera — enabling AI-powered obstacle avoidance and video calling.
The robot’s mopping system is getting an upgrade, too, adding an extra spinning mop next to the flat, vibrating mopping pad. That pad can now vibrate faster (4,000 times per minute) to scrub your hard floors and lift up 20mm to avoid carpets when it’s vacuuming and mopping — a big increase over the 5mm lift of the S8 Pro.
The RockDock Ultra charging dock that empties the robot’s bin and fills its water tank has a sleeker look and new features. It can now connect directly to your home’s drainage system, eliminating the need for big bulky water tanks, and wash the robot’s mop with hot water and dry it with hot air to help prevent it from getting stinky.
Roborock is also launching the S8 Max Ultra for $1,599.99. This is very similar hardware-wise and works with the new dock, but it doesn’t have the camera and has a lower 8,000 Pa of suction. It also doesn’t have the voice assistant or support Matter. Both models will be available at Roborock.com and Amazon in April.
Roborock’s Marcus Lai told The Verge that support for Matter is only coming to their top-of-the-line S8 MaxV Ultra initially. “We want our most powerful model to be at the forefront of this new and exciting technology,” he said. “We can’t rule out the possibility that more models will support the Matter protocol in the future.”
Matter support should mean you can control the vacuum in Matter-compatible platforms like Apple Home. However, none of the major platforms have added support for robot vacuums through Matter yet. Roborock vacuums also work with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Siri Shortcuts.
It’s good to see cameras back on the Roborock robots. While the excellent but discontinued S7 MaxV Ultra had a camera, the company’s most recent top-of-the-line S8 Ultra Pro model dispensed with one. The video calling function is arguably of limited use (unless you really need to remote control a robot around your house and shout at your kids and pets through the app). The real benefit is powering the robot’s AI obstacle avoidance. A camera allows the bot to see and recognize common household objects and decide whether to clean them up (Cheerios) to avoid them (dog poop, socks, cables).
If you don’t like a camera on your robot, Roborock has some new models that are camera-free. The S8 Max Ultra uses 3D structured light tech to “see” and avoid things that might trip the robot up. In my testing of Roborock’s S8 Pro Ultra model that uses the same tech, I’ve found this to be less effective at dodging smaller items like socks and cables, but it’s also less intrusive.
The voice assistant, named Rocky, is an interesting addition. Like Ecovacs’ Yiko voice assistant in its Deebot robots, Rocky is built into the robot, so you don’t need a smart speaker to control it. Instead, you can shout commands directly at the bot — clean the kitchen, empty the bin, and mop the bathroom — and it should get to it. Roborock says you can even control it remotely with voice through the video feature.
If you are interested in these new features but not the crazy price tag, Robrock is bringing some of them to the latest models in its midrange Q line that are also launching in April.
The new Q Revo MaxV ($1,119.99) has a camera on board, so it sports improved obstacle avoidance (although it’s not as smart as the S8 MaxV Ultra), video calling, and Rocky. The Q Revo Pro ($999.99) is another step down: no camera, no video calling, no voice assistant, and a more basic obstacle avoidance tech.
However, both Q models are getting a new maneuverability trick that allows the robot to extend its mop out to clean closer to edges like baseboards and around chair legs. The Q line uses oscillating mop pads, different from the S8 line with its flat pad. These can be more effective at deep cleaning your floors, although I find they’re prone to getting stuck on things.
Both Q models have 7,000 Pa suction power and can lift their mops 10mm when a carpet is detected to avoid dampening it. They come with the new Q Revo Dock 2.0 that charges the robot, auto empties the bin, washes the mops with hot water, and dries them with warm air.