HDIM Reviews Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum (FAQ)

[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.

Yikes!

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.

Unlike walls, curtains produce squiggly lines on the scan

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.

The Mi Robot vacuums my sofa.

[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.

Squeakitty-squeak

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.

The grey thingie that’s holding up the orange and black thingie.

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.

The Dive

[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.

HDIM Reviews the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum

[New!] I’ve updated the review to include new observations, hiccups and surprises in my follow up post:HDIM Reviews Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum (FAQ)

I had a robot vacuum about ten years ago. It saved me so much time I didn’t mind the weekly surgery I had to perform on it to keep its internals clean. When I moved away, it didn’t come with. And that’s how we grew apart.

Fast forward to today, after a particularly busy period where I could barely find time to sleep, I did some research (aka asked other moms on Facebook) to enquire about the latest and worthiest of robot vacuum brands. Little did I know that Xiaomi had been making waves in the robot vacuum industry.

After a mom suggested I check Xiaomi out, I googled it and decided that this is worth looking into. A while later, I submitted my funding request via WhatsApp and voila, the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum became my first impulse buy of 2019. #theresmorewherethatcamefrom

Where To Buy The XiaoMi Mi Robot

The Internet.

I bought it on Lazada from the Official Xiao Mi store. It arrived via Lazada Express within 47 hours of my purchase. Yes, that’s a good delivery timeline judging how I don’t even live in the same city.

The device comes with a 1-year warranty, and will set you back a good RM1199. It’s also WiFi-enabled and you can control it with an app called Mi Home. We’ll look more into how this app makes this device quite interesting a little later on because first, we need to look at what a beauty this thing is.

Once you unbox it, you are greeted with this protective styrofoam and the user manual (in English!) in a card envelope that fits onto the styrofoam itself. Nice. The same instructions are also available from the app, some in video form. Double nice.

Fleeting but nice unboxing of the Xiaomi Mi Robot

The robot is encased in a thin strip of plastic and is accompanied by a power cable, a cleaning comb and a charging base. I can’t help but notice that they put some effort into giving you an unboxing experience, much like when you unbox a phone. I got over it pretty quickly. #whohasthetime

My Xiaomi Mi Robot has arrived!

Here it is at its charging base for its first charge. My unit comes pre-charged at 65% so I was making it work for my money within half an hour of receiving it.

Xiaomi Mi Robot charging at home base

Lift the lid and you will see an instruction leaflet atop the internal dustbin. The bin is easy enough to open and clear that I have entrusted this job to my 9 year old. (As for the manual cleaning, I’ll update this part after the first “service”.)

Busting the lid wide open on this little robot

Booting Up The Xiaomi Mi Robot

You’ll need to register an account with the Mi Home app in order to punch in the password for the robot to connect to your WiFi.

It took a while for it to connect to my home WiFi and I had to reset not only the robot vacuum two times (long press both the power and the home buttons for three seconds), but also my router once.

Connecting the robot to my WiFi router

Once it is connected however, a lot of the management comes from the app itself. This for me is a huge leap from that robot vacuum I got ten years ago (yeah, it deserves another post).

Scanning and Cleaning With the App

As you can see in the pictures above, it has like a little dome that protrudes from the top. That’s the scanner for the robot. And what it scans, it reproduces in the Mi Home app for you.

The yellow dot you see in the image is the robot vacuum, making its way around the perimeter of my kitchen. The white line is the path it took up to the point this screenshot was taken.

The Xiaomi Mi Robot scans and vacuums

Also shown above is the cleaning area it has worked on, how much battery life it still has, and how much time it has spent cleaning. From the app you can also choose for it to GO, DOCK, CLEAN (paused) and do ZONED CLEANUP.

The good thing about the app tracing the robot’s path is that you can see how many times it has vacuumed over the floor, which areas have been cleaned and which areas have not.

Cleanup Pathways of the Xiaomi Mi Robot

The “spray patterns” that you see indicate the edges of the walls in the other rooms within its view. The scans will flesh out better once the robot enters that particular room and can do a much proper scan.

So How Did It Do?

Con: It’s Loud

During the start up, it literally sounds like a jet engine. During cleanup, the sound is still pretty loud. Noise is an influential factor when it comes to regular, daily house cleaning. Ask your mom.

The good news is you can adjust the suction mode on this robot via the CLEAN UP MODE setting. There are four settings: QUIET, BALANCED (default), TURBO and FULL SPEED.

But I’m sorry to report that even with the QUIET setting, this is pretty loud in my book. If you have pets at home, this is going to freak them out a bit.

Con: Still Needs a Virtual Wall

You need to purchase a virtual wall separately for this model. A virtual wall is something you “put up” to prevent the robot from going places you don’t want it to go, say, off the top of a flight of stairs.

Alternatively, you can put up a few laundry baskets or toy storage boxes to block off paths during a cleanup.

Second alternative, you set up the robot to do zoned cleaning. It’s where you find a squarish spot on the map and send the robot to do targeted cleaning in that area.

There doesn’t seem to be a limit on the size of the area you choose. The only drawback is the robot doesn’t work as hard on targeted areas. It spends less time and does fewer rounds on it.

Zoned Cleaning

Pro: It’s A Really Good Vacuum

I only realised after I’ve made my purchase that this model doesn’t come with the mopping function (it’s an impulse buy, leave me alone). The good news is it does such a wonderful vacuuming job that I’d be happy to do manual mopping myself. #squeakycleanfloors

The problem with vacuuming by hand is that sometimes you miss certain spots and it is while you mop that you notice what’s left behind. It’s a simple annoyance that now can be absolutely removed. #miniyay

And it does a good job under the sofa or with furniture your hand vacuum can’t normally go into without you crawling on the floor like Smeagol.

PRO: It Has A Soft Touch And Good Sensors

This robot is aggressive with cleaning but not aggressive with your
furniture. If your bedroom door is half open when you let the robot go in to the cleanup, when you are back, the door is still going to be half opened at the same angle.

I’m impressed with this because it shows just how sensitive the robot’s sensor is. It does well cleaning around the legs of tables, and tall curtains that go all the way to the floor. I thought the robot would snag on the feet of the curtains but you’re a clever little robot, aren’t you? #yesyouare

Con: The App Needs Improvements

The app is powerful but not very intuitive. For instance, the app allows me to log in a type of room. I thought that this meant it could “remember” the layout of a room so next time if I choose for it to clean the living room, all I got to do is click on the living room?

No. Wishful thinking. Either that or I haven’t figured how to work that part out yet.

That said, the app gives me a higher level of control over what this little robot can do. And that is a post for another day.

Leave me questions on what you want to find out about the robot vacuum, and I’ll feature your question and the answer in my next post.