[Jan 29, 2019] This post has been updated with additional info under entry #8.
[Jan 19, 2019] This post has been updated with a new entry, #8.
Over the past 24 hours, I have been looking forward to finding dust bunnies and hair on the floor because that means I can start up the robot again even if it is just for a spot of cleaning (get it?).
Anyways, I was fielded questions about the device, and so I did some experiments. Here is the Q&A to do with the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum.
#1 Does it play well with mats?
Yes, if you have mats with no loose strands. If you have a mat with loose strands like what you can see in the pictures below, and that strand gets sucked in, then you’re going to have a problem.
I took several screenshots out of a 1 minute plus video of the robot trying to wrestle with the play mat. Obviously, it couldn’t eat up the whole mat but it doesn’t seem to be succeeding in the escape-the-mat department either. It was painful to watch.
When I stopped the camera and the robot to release it from this dance of death, it turns out that one loose strand from the mat was sucked way too deep into the dustbin. There was no way the robot was going to escape. I believe that if you have a more rigid type of floor mat, you won’t have problems with the robot.
#2 How is it with stairs?
It’s clever enough to detect the edge of the stairs and I can confirm that it won’t dive off the edge. It will however give you mini-heart attacks every time it comes close to the edge. You’ll get used to it, eventually.
Note to self: I don’t really need a virtual wall or to block the edges off with laundry baskets.
#3 What’s the noise level like?
Loud. Take my word for it.
There are four different settings and the Quiet setting is perhaps tolerable at best. You can’t really hear yourself think (and so you can’t blog) when it comes to the other settings: Balanced, Turbo and Full Speed. That said, with the doors closed, this no longer poses a problem.
I would have loved to make a video of this but unfortunately, my phone can’t really do justice to the voice level. It keeps coming out sounding a lot softer than it actually is. You can check out videos of the robot on YouTube but it would be best to get a live demo to really gauge the noise level.
#4 How fast does it vacuum? How’s the Battery life like?
The Mi Robot did my top floor (two bedrooms and one hallway) with a total area of 25 m2 within 31 minutes. This was on Balanced mode. I didn’t keep track of the battery life for this particular cleaning session because it didn’t cross my mind.
So I did a more controlled experiment involving a cleaning session of my ground floor. It involves the kitchen, dining room, a small area under my staircase, and the living room.
As you can see from the screenshot above, over a total cleaning area of 30 m2, the robot used up 31% of the battery life (from 100%) and completed cleaning in 42 minutes under Full Speed mode.
It will return to the dock by itself and start recharging until it reaches 100% again.
#5 Should I get this one or the 2nd Gen which also mops?
The Mi Robot is a first gen robot. The second gen robot is the Roborock. I don’t own a Roborock but research is not hard to do these days. Here’s what I found.
The Roborock has a mopping feature which involves a mopping attachment you need to put on it yourself. It’s not for heavy-duty mopping so for moms who are particular about hygiene, they may not be impressed with this feature.
Furthermore, there isn’t a separate mopping mode that you can enable on the Mi Home app. What this means is the robot doesn’t know when it is mopping and when it is vacuuming. Keep that in mind while you read the next section.
Other than that, the second gen robot is more efficient in the vacuuming department, and even does the same cleanup in less time compared with 1st gen. And it does better with carpets (see #5.5).
For those with budget considerations, there is a RM400-RM500 difference (depending on the vendor) between the 1st gen and the 2nd gen robots. Note: When choosing the vendor, take note of how long their warranty coverage is and whether you need an adaptor for the power cord (some sellers give you one for free, others don’t).
If you want to know more, best to check out the Roborock official website.
#5.5 How is it with carpets?
Yeah, the Mi Robot doesn’t do well on carpet. Heck, it almost choked to death on a cloth floor mat.
I did find out that this is no longer a problem with Roborock because of a change in design which allows it to climb onto thicker carpets and rugs. It will also increase its suction power automatically when on carpet territory.
Sounds like a godsend until you find out that it can’t differentiate between vacuuming mode and mopping mode. So the Roborock will mop your carpet if you let it roam free.
Still, it does mop. The 1st gen Mi Robot doesn’t.
#6 Does it have problems with sucking up hair?
If it does, then it is a crummy robot vacuum. And luckily, it’s pretty good when it comes to sucking up dirt, hair, bits of paper and even sweet wrappers.
You know what it’s also good at? Letting me know subtly just how bad I am with housecleaning.
The robot had a problem with thread though. A piece of thread that was lying around twirled itself around and then got stuck near the brush-propeller section. It tangled that part up so much that it made a pretty bad sound.
Nothing a quick pause and some untangling can’t fix though and it is back on the road again.
#7 How is it with furniture?
As long as it can get through between the legs of your chair, it will clean whatever area it can get into. Under sofas, under the coffee table, under your children’s study tables, kitchen racks; if it can get in there, it will clean out the place.
You might hit a snag with low-hanging curtains, the kind that extend all the way to the floor. Even in the scans, you can see that it can’t get to the edges of the room because the curtains are in the way (circled in orange). Best to keep those curtains wide open and then spot clean the corners when you have the time.
Next up, something a bit more unorthodox. The sofa I have is a detachable one and while I can take out the sofa covers to wash, the other more permanent parts of the sofa requires vacuuming by hand. So… guess what I did?
Yup. I let the robot take care of that for me. Because the surface isn’t as flat and smooth as an actual floor, I made it go twice on the sofa to really get the job done.
[NEW] #8 Are there any hiccups I should be worried about?
Well, there’s a 2nd generation bot so I think the answer to this question is a yes, there are hiccups with the Xiaomi Mi Robot. #nothingisperfect
If you carry it there, you need to carry it back.
I had a Roomba around ten years ago. That bot can find its way back to his charging base (dock) no matter where it is in the house. The Mi Robot can’t. If I carry it to any area of the house instead of using the app to ask it to go to that spot, it will not be able to find its way home.
When it goes home, it needs to charge.
I don’t have a dedicated power outlet for the charging base. I unplugged the charging base to power up my steam iron, then forgot to plug the Mi Robot charging base back on. I totally forgot about this when I let the robot do a run. Thirty-five minutes later it has done its job and it tried to get home.
Well, it got home but it kept on pushing against the charging base, and would not stop because it hasn’t started charging. It’s like a zombie that couldn’t climb walls but can’t stop walking headlong either. Once I plugged the charging base back on, it settled down, started charging, and went to sleep.
What this means is that if you forgot to keep the charging base switched on, the Mi Robot will probably push against the charging base until it runs out of battery life.
Today, I did my first manual cleaning of the bristles and the filter, which is something you should do weekly to keep the vacuum in optimum condition. I pulled out maybe 2 strands of hair that was in between the bristles. They weren’t even tangled or anything. In other words, I could have skipped this.
The problem came after I put everything back in place. My Mi Robot started squeaking while on a cleaning mode, like how rubber soles on a sport shoe would squeak against a gym floor.
After trying a few things, I figured out that it was the safety frame that kept the bristles in place that was causing the squeaks.
I’m still searching for a way to fix this. It is an under-reported (but still reported) issue that only some users face. Maybe we didn’t put the frame back correctly? (Although it’s essentially just a putting the right pegs in the right hole kind of setup.) Maybe we unknowingly dislodged a safety mechanism that kept the frame from brushing against the floor it’s cleaning.
I’ll be back with answers. [29/01/2019 update:] So I tried taping the bottom of the frame so that the frame doesn’t drop that much, thereby minimising friction with the mosaic floor — but this save is temporary at best. The squeaks didn’t totally go away because of this attempted taping even though it eventually did go away because … aliens? I don’t know what happened. It disappeared just as mysteriously as it appeared.
[29/01/2019 update:] Remember how I mentioned that the robot is smart enough to detect the edge of the stairs and thus will not try to jump off it?
Well, while it won’t jump off the top of your staircase, if you leave a bathroom door open, it will enter your bathroom and dive over that 1-2 inch height difference then continue(!) vacuuming the bottom of your bathroom floor.
I was lucky that we had put in an anti-slip rubber mat to prevent the children from slipping in the bathroom. So while it had a three-second lead, I was quick enough to rescue it before it got onto the actual slightly wet, bathroom floor. Phew!
Keep your bathroom doors closed, people!
Weak Notifications / Lack of Sleep Mode
I had my Mi Robot die on me twice. And I’m talking 0% battery power left. Lights out. Zip. Nadda. Zilch. The first time was when it had one of its cleaning runs interrupted by a floor mat. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it but it choked on the mat, again.
This time though, I didn’t hear its cry for help or notice its notification on my phone. So by the time I found it later that evening, it was literally dead.
The second time was when I let it do a cleaning run on the second floor while I ran out for errands. I totally forgot about it until it was near bed time. Again, it died while waiting for me to send it back “home”.
If anyone from Xiaomi’s research team is reading this, you need to give your robots a Sleep Mode to help them conserve their battery power. That, and tune up the aggressiveness when it comes to app notifications. Maybe send a notification in 10-15 minute intervals until the user returns an acknowledgement of sorts. Anything to help prevent the robot from dying on us.
What Remote Control?
The Mi Robot has a Remote Controls feature which looks like it could be fun. Based on the interface, I’m guessing that you can control the robot using buttons or a joystick but I never really got to try out the feature because the app refuses to let me play with it.
When I tap on the Remote Controls feature, I get this message: “Testing Network and Checking Firmware Version”.
Then I get this message: “Make sure both the vacuum and the phone are connected to the same network”, which it always is.
I tap on Got it every single time, and every single time, I get booted out to the menu page. So, I got no comments about this particular section. At least until I can get in to try it.
And that’s all the answers I have for you. If you have more questions, let me know and I will add them to this FAQ.