Key Robot Vacuum Features & Our Top Pick

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the essential robot vacuum features you should look for, along with our top brand recommendations. We’ve identified Roborock as the brand which meets or exceeds all our criteria. The ideal robot vacuum should offer LiDAR navigation, intelligent mop lifting for seamless transition between surfaces, rubber rollers (one or two, depending on the model) for efficient cleaning without tangles, a floating vacuum head, cleanable and washable air filters and mop pads for durability and cost-effectiveness. Additionally, we found that fancy auto-emptying docks are only necessary for very large homes. While we recommend any of the newest Roborock models with higher suction and more features, for those looking for a budget-friendly yet effective option, the older former-flagship Roborock S7 remains a tremendous robot vacuum and a spectacular budget pick. It just works, and that’s just exactly perfect for us.

If you find our review helpful, please consider purchasing via our Amazon link.

This post will focus on key factors vital for any robot vacuum, rather than individual model reviews. I’ll share why Roborock is my top choice after using it successfully for four years. In our busy home, where practicality reigns, these vacuums stand out for their ease of use and reliability.

Robot vacuums, once a novelty, are now indispensable in managing home cleaning efficiently. Our Roborock handles cleaning while we manage daily life – a true game-changer. After extensive research and testing, I believe Roborock leads in performance and value. We bought one as a gift for my elderly parents and even they find it user-friendly, easily operating it for effortless cleaning.

If you find our review helpful, please consider purchasing via our Amazon link.

Understanding Essential Robot Vacuum Features:

When considering a purchase, these essential robot vacuum features are what set apart a mediocre model from a great one.

1. Robot vacuums need the ability to lift their mop when passing over carpets:

A robot vacuum’s ability to mop hard floors is a huge time-saver. Yet, many struggle with carpets, often dragging wet mops across them. This leaves carpets damp and soiled. Roborock tackles this issue brilliantly. Its smart mop lifting feature automatically detects carpets and raises the mop, ensuring it doesn’t wet them. This feature allows for a smooth transition from hard floors to carpets, all without needing to manually intervene.

If you find our review helpful, please consider purchasing via our Amazon link.

2. Brush rollers on robot vacuums need to be made of rubber and not bristles:

Rubber brush rollers excel in handling hair and avoiding tangles from common household debris. Bristle rollers, less effective in comparison, are best avoided. For pet owners or those with long hair, rubber brushes are a godsend, requiring less maintenance and offering quieter operation. We find them needing rare cleanings, usually just monthly. Roborock’s newer models like the S8 series feature dual rubber rollers, enhancing their cleaning efficiency. While a single roller does the job, the dual-roller system in these advanced models is a worthwhile upgrade for those who can afford it.

If you find our review helpful, please consider purchasing via our Amazon link.

3. Hands-down, robot vacuums require LiDAR enabled navigation (the little turret that sticks out of the top and spins), not a camera-based or visual system:

LiDAR allows the vacuum to operate in total darkness and makes navigation and positioning highly accurate and fast. Brands like iRobot/Roomba use a camera-based visual system that has issues with dark environments, navigating under furniture, and it generally does not work as well as the LiDAR systems Roborock and others use.

Navigation is a vital part of the most effective modern robot vacuum experience. How well it can map your home, how fast it can do it, how well it knows precisely where it is and where it has been, and how well it avoids obstacles & plans its cleaning route are all extremely critical.  It’s the heart of the whole vacuum and what took these from toys to useful home assistants.

We found that LiDAR enabled navigation is far superior to camera-based visual systems in many ways. For those that need a bit of a refresher, LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging, and it uses a spinning invisible laser to scan the surroundings and create a precise map of your home. You can tell a unit uses LiDAR by looking for a small spinning turret, normally on the top of the vacuum.

LiDAR enabled navigation has several advantages over camera-based visual system:

  • It can work in total darkness, unlike cameras that need light to see.
  • It can see under furniture, unlike cameras that have a limited field of view, or need to see landmarks on ceilings, etc.
  • It can measure distances with pinpoint accuracy, unlike cameras that can be affected by many environmental factors.
  • It can update the map extremely quickly from almost any position in a room (the vacuum can be in one area but the lasers reach across the entire room), while camera based systems need to get much larger surveys and stitch things together.

Roborock is one of the leading brands that have pioneered the use LiDAR enabled navigation in their robot vacuums. Their models have a small turret on top that houses the laser sensor. This turret allows them to scan 360 degrees and create detailed maps of your home in real-time.

TIP & WARNING: Do not flip the vacuum over and let it rest on the LiDAR turret, as it can be damaged.  Instead, remove the water tank and stand the unit up on its rear edge to access the undercarriage.

If you find our review helpful, please consider purchasing via our Amazon link.

4. Cleanable and washable (when necessary) air filters are a key requirement, and cut the operating cost significantly:

A good air filter is essential for any robot vacuum cleaner, especially if you have allergies or asthma. The air filter captures dust, pollen, pet dander, and other allergens from the air and prevents them from escaping back into your home.

However, air filters also need to be replaced regularly to maintain their efficiency and hygiene. This can add to the operating cost of your robot vacuum over time.

That’s why we appreciate Roborock’s washable air filter design. Their models come with a high-efficiency filter that can be easily removed, knocked out with a few taps on a hard surface, and washed with water if needed. This way, you can reuse the same filter for a long time and save money on buying new ones.

We have been using Roborock vacuums for four years and we have never purchased a new filter. We find that simply knocking out the dust from the filter when we empty the waste bin is enough to keep it clean. We recommend doing this every time you empty the dust bin, and knock it out outside.

If you find our review helpful, please consider purchasing via our Amazon link.

5. Reusable/washable mopping pads are also key:

As we mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of a robot vacuum is that it can also mop your hard floors. However, not all mopping pads are created equal. Some of them are disposable, while others are reusable.

We greatly prefer reusable/washable mopping pads over disposable ones for several reasons:

  • They are more eco-friendly, as they reduce waste and plastic consumption.
  • They are more cost-effective, as they can be used for years and do not need to be replaced frequently.
  • They simply work better, as they can absorb more water, dirt, and debris, as well as scrub more effectively by maintaining their integrity over time.  Disposable pads wear out almost immediately – before finishing even one cleaning run.

Roborock’s models come with reusable/washable mopping pads that are made of microfiber material. They can be easily attached and detached from the mop module and washed with water or in the washing machine. They are also durable and soft, and do not scratch or damage your floors. We frequently rinse ours in the sink then leave out to dry, or toss into the laundry machine.

If you find our review helpful, please consider purchasing via our Amazon link.

6. Floating vacuum heads are a valuable feature:

The floating vacuum head feature in Roborock vacuum cleaners is not a gimic – it really does make a difference and it’s enough to set this brand apart from others. We have seen firsthand that it enhances cleaning effectiveness, especially on various floor types. This feature allows the main brush of the vacuum to move up and down – independent of the of the vacuum – staying close to the ground on hard floors and carpet for vigorous cleaning. This adaptability makes it particularly effective against challenges like pet hair, sand, or larger debris, ensuring that the vacuum can provide a deep clean on both hard surfaces and carpets without the need for manual adjustment. This versatility is a surprising key factor in the effectiveness of Roborock vacuum cleaners and a strong recommendation from us.

If you find our review helpful, please consider purchasing via our Amazon link.

6. Advice regarding Self Emptying Docks – and yes, they’re cool:

Some robot vacuums come with a self-emptying dock, which is a base station that automatically empties the dust bin of the robot into a larger bag or bin, and can even clean the mop pad and fill the water tank. This can be convenient for some users who do not want to manually do these tasks every time, and at the bottom of this section we share who we think can benefit from them.

However, we found that the automated docks are not necessary for most applications, and they have some drawbacks:

  • They are very expensive and substantially add to the initial cost of the robot vacuum.
  • Many models require buying replacement bags, bins, or filters.
  • They are noisy, and make a loud suction sound when they empty the dustbin. Not so fun in the middle of the night. Yes, you can set it to do the routine at a later time.
  • They are bulky and take up much more space than a regular charging dock.  We love docking our vacuum under a couch, out of sight.  You can’t do this with the very large and bulky automatic self-emptying docks.
  • They are not foolproof and can sometimes fail to empty the dustbin completely, cause clogs or leaks, or only partially clean mops – causing unpleasant odors.  They also need to be cleaned on occasion.

We have been using Roborock vacuums without self-emptying docks and we have no complaints. Their models have a large dust bin capacity which is enough to clean an entire floor of our home. We find that emptying the dustbin manually is not a hassle at all, and it only takes a few seconds.

The only scenario where we think a self-emptying dock might be useful is if you have a very large home or office where the floor you are cleaning is so big that the robot vacuum fills up before it can finish the job, or you have lots of dirt or pet hair which quickly fills the onboard bin. In that case, having a self-emptying dock might save you some time and trouble.

If you find our review helpful, please consider purchasing via our Amazon link.


With this guide, you now know the essential robot vacuum features to look for in your next purchase. Of course, there are other factors that you might want to look into, such as battery life, suction power, app control, voice assistant compatibility, etc. but we feel Roborock has all these covered extremely well.

As we mentioned before, based on our years of personal experience and research, we believe that Roborock is one of the best brands in the market that offers high-quality robot vacuums with all the features we mentioned above and more. We have been using their models for three years and we are very happy with their performance, reliability, and customer service.  We consistently recommend them to anyone who asks and we have never heard anything other than positive feedback.

If you are interested in buying a Roborock robot vacuum and you like our recommendation, please use the links in our blog post as we get a small referral fee from Amazon.  We have no affiliation with Roborock other than being a very satisfied customer.

If you find our review helpful, please consider purchasing via our Amazon link.

Hope this helps!


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