One of the main things that prevents robot vacuums from being entirely autonomous is the need for us humans to empty the occasional vacuum bag or water tank. Switchbot’s newest robot vacuum, the S10 aims to automate those tasks—and it works quite well.

The Switchbot S10 ($1,199, but you can get an additional $100 off with promo code LIFEHACKR100 at checkout until June 12), the new robot vacuum from one of my favorite smart companies, allows you to tie the water inlet and outlet for the mop directly into your water line, enabling the robot to fill and empty itself. If you commit to the work of making the water line connections (it is optional, but recommended), this bot can go for months without human intervention.

While I have some nitpicks about a few things, I was still impressed by the S10 and what it means for the future of robots in the home. 

Installation requires some basic plumbing

Before you even buy the S10, you can use Switchbot’s compatibility check to ensure you have somewhere to make the water connection properly. Luckily, you can tie the S10 into almost anywhere water comes into your home, whether it’s the toilet, the washing machine, or a faucet, and the S10 ships with every kind of connection you could possibly need.

To get an idea of how the S10 works, it’s helpful to think of it as having four parts: the robot itself; a vacuum dock where the robot charges, empties the vacuum, and dries off; a dock to hook up to wherever it gets and dumps water (more on that in a second); and water tanks, which you’ll need if you forgo hooking the S10 up to a water line. Unlike other floorbots, these docks aren’t all one large piece of hardware—they’re separate, and while each is smaller than most robot vacuum docks, I would have preferred only having to dedicate floor space to one thing.

Back to the water tank situation: Ideally, the S10’s water station is hooked up to the water line, but you can use the optional water tanks instead, if that’s not an option. If you do decide to skip the water line installation, it’s important to know that these tanks are smaller than most you see in modern robots. Therefore, using the tanks will require you to empty and fill the tanks quite frequently, thus eliminating a lot of the automated convenience that makes the S10 so nice.

Switchbot has done everything possible to make installation of the water line something the average person can do, but it’s still basic plumbing, and you might run into the same problem I did: too many items demanding the water line. To tie the S10 into my bathroom plumbing, I had to either choose between my bidet and the Switchbot or have a plumber add a connection. (As smart tech continues to proliferate, I suspect the problem of tech demanding access to our waterline will become increasingly common.)

Easy setup and quick mapping

Setup for the S10 was simple. First, the Switchbot app prompts you to map its two stations (water and vacuum debris). Next, you send the S10 out to map your floor, and like most other bots that use LiDAR (a laser method measuring light and distance), this was an accurate process that happened quickly.

Once mapped, you can begin to play with the various settings to customize it to your liking. The feature I use most on robot vacuums is the intensity setting, which allows you to control how much suction the vacuum uses, or how much water and vibration the mop uses. The S10 has limited customization here, so you can’t mop only, for instance. The mapping also felt limited: I couldn’t add furniture to my rooms, which is helpful in setting up zones. These aren’t huge misses, though, and could be dealt with in a future software update. Most of the features I love, including remote control, the ability to see the maintenance status of parts, and the ability to tie into most voice assistants were all there—and since the S10 has support for Matter, there’s a lifeline for Apple HomeKit users.

The S10’s mop is great, but its size can cause problems

One of my favorite robot vacuums ever was the Switchbot K10+, which was a spectacular vacuum both in terms of how well it sucked up debris, and also in its tiny size. Because it was so diminutive, the K10+ got into spaces no other bot could, making tight turns around chair legs, etc. Unfortunately, the mop on the K10+ sucked.

The S10 has the opposite problem: it’s huge. At 14 inches wide, the S10 can’t make those tight turns or get into corners the same way as the K10+, and without extending arms that some competitors have, it left corners throughout my house with debris in them. Still, the S10 was able to get most small- to medium-sized debris, although it flunked my dog toy floof test. (When trying a new robot vacuum, I like to leave a piece of floof from a dog toy to see if the bot will suck it up or read it as an obstacle and avoid it. The S10 surfed very near the floof, but avoided it.)

On the S10, the mop is really the headliner here. This model is part of a new class of robot vacuums that don’t just deploy new water on the floor—like the Eufy S1, the S10 cleans the mop while it’s out and about, ensuring there’s only clean water on the floor and the dirty water is suctioned away. But unlike the S1, which didn’t mop very impressively in my home, the S10 cleaned up wet debris and dug into dried debris on the floor. I was impressed at how much less dingy my white tiles looked after a pass, and two passes got rid of most dried stains, too.

However, this all led to a minor issue with the S10—everything we’re asking this robot to do drains the battery, and so the bot would frequently have to put itself in time out at the dock to recharge. This meant that big jobs rarely got done all at once. This would be a bigger problem if the robot needed intervention from me to clear debris or refill the water, but generally speaking, the robot and I have led separate lives, which is quite the point. 

Bottom line: good value, and a lot of promise

The S10 is the device I anticipated most this year and in many ways, it lived up to the hype. I had no issues at all with the refill and empty station, and I look forward to the additional devices that Switchbot will offer in the future to work with the S10 (the app already has humidifier settings available in it, but the hardware is not available yet).

As mops go, I was impressed, and while the vacuum wasn’t as good as some of my favorite Roborock models, it was still pretty good. You need to have some patience with the S10, both in dealing with the multiple docks, and how it will need to recharge often. But as a tradeoff, you’ll almost never need to intervene in the robot’s life.