I used a cheap robot vacuum for a month – here's what I loved and hated about it

Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop
(Image credit: Future)

When I was asked to test the budget Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop, I jumped at the chance. As a lifestyle journalist who has reviewed numerous home appliances, friends often ask me, ‘Is it worth buying a robot vacuum cleaner?’ so I’m always on the hunt for a good-value option to recommend. My standard response is that the best robot vacuums from the likes of Roomba, Dyson and Philips are effective but can be expensive, so if you have a spare $300 / £300+ to spend, go for it. 

While a robot cleaner can help with household chores, you’ll probably still want to have one of the best vacuum cleaners to hand for getting high up to curtain tops and right into corners like robot cleaners simply can’t. And if funds simply won’t stretch to the more expensive designs, finding the best cheap vacuum that does well to match the higher-end models in terms of performance is key. That’s why coming across a cheap robot vacuum such as the Ultenic D5s Pro, which promises a similarly high-performance suction and control as a premium design, is intriguing.

The Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop is currently on sale in the UK for just £94.84 at Amazon. It doesn't appear to be available in the US, however if you need a very similar option, Ultenic sells the D6S Robot Vacuum and Mop for $129.99 (it'll cost you $199.99 at Amazon).

To find out whether the Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop can match up to its promise, I tried it for a month in my own home. Here’s what I discovered… 

1. It has a good spec for its low price

I’ll admit that while I think the best robot cleaners are excellent for keeping on top of everyday mess on hard floors and carpet, I’ve yet to find a decent design that can match the suction power of my trusty old Henry vacuum. 

I’ve tested numerous robot vacuum cleaners in recent years from the likes of Roomba, Roborock and Eufy and even tried the more expensive Ultenic T10 Elite robot vacuum and mop, but I’ve never used a cleaner as competitively priced as the Ultenic D5s Pro. I found its design spec impressive for such a compact and unobtrusive design, which made me eager to start using it.

Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop with all its accesories

(Image credit: Future)

The robot can be controlled via the Ultenic app on your smartphone, and you can pair it with Alexa for voice control, too. There’s also a separate remote control in the box should your phone run out of battery. The robot can vacuum, sweep, roll and mop and can glide across hard floor, wooden floor, carpet and rugs to pick up dust, debris and pet hair. On board it has ‘ultra carpet boost technology’, which will ramp up the suction power from 2200PA to 3000PA when it detects carpet. The app has options to spot clean, edge clean and adjust the power levels, and it comes with a small charging dock that sits neatly up against the wall. 

Unlike the more expensive designs I’ve tried, the Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Cleaner and Mop carries its 500ml dustbin within its body, as opposed to in a separate charging station. This means that it will need emptying regularly as opposed to every few months like some more expensive models. While this isn’t ideal, regularly cleaning your appliances is something I’ve realised is a must for well performing tools, anyhow.

2. It's pretty easy to set up and pair to my phone

What I instantly like about this robot is that at H2.9 x W12.7 x L12.8" / H7.3 x W32.4 x L32.5cm, it’s slim enough to glide under the furniture when in use and sit neatly up against the wall while charging.

In the box there are a lot of parts and while on first inspection it felt overwhelming, I found the vacuum surprisingly easy to set up. The charging unit sits up against a wall and the surplus cable can be stored neatly in its trunking.

Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop in its box

(Image credit: Future)

I turned the robot over to insert the two side brushes onto the base and switch on the power button. The kit comes with two spare side brushes and a cleaning tool for unclogging any dirt and hair that gets stuck in them. There’s also a spare filter and some boundary strips. These can be taped onto the floor to create a virtual barrier and mark off any areas you don’t want the robot to clean. It’s worth noting that the best robot cleaners allow you to mark off areas virtually using their app as opposed to having to manually use stickers on your flooring.

Underside of the Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop

(Image credit: Future)

There’s a remote control in the box, but you’ll need to refer to the instruction manual to find out what all the buttons are for. I downloaded the Ultenic App and had a few problems pairing my phone to the robot as the network connection failed on the first few attempts. The robot only supports the 2.4g frequency band, and while I have a dual-band router, I had to fiddle around with the router to finally get the device to pair. Once paired to the app, things got easier and I was able to start vacuuming by pressing the Auto mode. So far, so good.   

3. It cleans well, but directing it is tricky

I used the robot downstairs in my home across my open-plan hallway, living and dining area where there is hard wooden flooring, a large Persian carpet and a small doorstep rug. The vacuum also had access to the vinyl floor tiles in my kitchen, which leads off this area. On a full charge, the vacuum is meant to offer up to 150 minutes of uninterrupted run time, but unfortunately, I never really found it got more than 30 minutes before attempting to return to its dock.

The Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop in its dock

(Image credit: Future)

If the battery is low mid-clean, the robot will immediately try to head back to the dock. While it managed this successfully a few times, there were occasions when the vacuum failed to find its way home. On more than one occasion and after waiting patiently as it fussed around and failed to find its charging station, I had to pick it up and place it back on the dock myself.  

One thing the robot doesn’t have – and I noticed this instantly – is a strong mapping system. Without the LiDAR technology that some of the premium robots have, it can’t create detailed 3D maps of your rooms so you can see where the robot is and where it has cleaned.

Two screenshots of the Ultenic app with the Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop blurred in the background

(Image credit: Future)

The app does give you a basic map outline each time it vacuums, but this doesn’t seem to provide a good picture of the layout of each room and where the robot had cleaned. And while you can spot clean within a certain area by pressing the spot cleaning button on the remote control, you can’t pinpoint and control the exact area you want to clean using an app like you can with some robot vacuums. If there was an area I really needed cleaning, I had to pick up the vacuum and place it in the vicinity and then make use of the spot cleaning feature on the remote. When I used the Single Room Cleaning button on the remote control, I could also ensure that the vacuum cleaned for 30 minutes without leaving the room.  

4. It manages to mop floors without soaking them

To make use of the robot’s mop feature you need to take out the dustbin and insert the filled water tank. A spare cloth comes as part of the set too. I’ve tried robot mops before and have found that they can sometimes end up soaking the floor as opposed to evenly cleaning it.

The Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop mopping a hard floor

(Image credit: Future)

After filling the water tank with fresh water, I turned on the auto vacuuming and mopping setting via the robot’s app. There’s a setting that allows you to adjust the water flow from high to low depending on how dirty the floor is. It seemed to work well, giving the floors a quick refresh. You do need to remember to take the water filter out before charging the vacuum again, however.   

5. It has good suction and can sense stairs

The robot has excellent suction power that can easily be switched from low to medium to high using either the app or remote control. I was impressed at how well the vacuum picked up general dust, hair, pet hair and dirt on my floors, and it systematically moved up and down so it didn’t miss a section. 

I sprinkled oats on the floor to mimic larger debris and the vacuum managed to pick up the majority of these, while flicking a few around the room as it passed. I then switched to spot cleaning mode, which instructs the robot to intensely clean a localized area by spiraling outward about 3 feet (1 meter) in diameter and then spiraling inward to where it started. 

The instructions advise that before you start to clean you should pick things up off the floor and tuck in carpet tassels so that the cleaner doesn’t get stuck on them. I did this and the robot seemed to make the transfer from hard floor to carpet easily. I left the short tassels of the door mat on show and the robot seemed to glide effortlessly over them without getting stuck. The vacuum didn’t bang into doors and walls with too much force either as the front bumpers softened the impact when it approached an object. It can climb objects of less than 0.63in/16mm in height too. 

The Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop at the top of a staircase

(Image credit: Future)

As well as using the robot downstairs, I also used it on the carpet on my landing. I was keen to find out how well the anti-drop sensors did at keeping the device from falling off the top stairs and I am pleased to say it noticed the danger and didn’t tumble down the stairs.

Noise levels were bearable too: 65.2dB on highest setting and 59.6dB on the lowest. Unfortunately, there’s no specific night mode. You can schedule cleaning so that the vacuum will come on at a certain time – every day, every week or at a set frequency. 

Should you buy the Ultenic D5s Pro?

I found the Ultenic D5s Pro to be powerful and effective when I needed a quick spruce up of my hard wooden flooring. It managed to pick up fine dirt on carpet too, and its anti-drop sensor meant it didn’t fall down the stairs when used on my landing.

The Ultenic D5s Pro Robot Vacuum and Mop cleaning a hard floor next to a rug

(Image credit: Future)

Having tried it over the course of a month, I found it both helpful and rather frustrating at times. I would have liked to have a more intelligent mapping system on board; without one the robot seems to map out a random way and you have limited control on where you can direct the vacuuming and mopping. It also needed quite a bit of help to find its way back to the charging dock, which became annoying. 

But while the vacuum isn’t the most intelligent option you can buy, it’s a good basic model and very reasonably priced compared with other robot vacs on the market. With its slim design, powerful suction, mopping feature, bearable noise levels and the option to schedule cleaning, I think it provides a good introduction into robot vacuuming.

Emily Peck
Lifestyle journalist

Emily is a lifestyle journalist who writes for a range of publications including TechRadar, Livingetc, Wired, Ideal Home and GQ. She writes about interior design and smart home, gardens, wellbeing, food and fitness and has tested everything from food processors to paddleboards, and bee hives to the best beds. When she’s not typing away at her computer, she can be found tending to her Dorset-garden, trying the latest water sport at the beach or acting as chauffeur to her two young kids.