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Mowing the lawn used to be one of the least enjoyed gardening chores for all but a few folk who revel in the satisfaction of a neatly trimmed strip of grass. The task would often require bulky equipment, powered either by a ready supply of stinky fuel or attached to a distant electric socket with a cable that constantly gets in the way. And, worse of all on a hot day, it required physical effort.
But in recent years, robot mowers have been a viable alternative to the labour intensity of lawn mowing and we are now at the point where they are a genuine option for those wanting a bit of relief from mowing duties. Not only have power and performance vastly improved, but there’s now a huge choice of robot mowers available with various technological attributes attached to them to set each one apart. In this list we’ll be showcasing just a small selection of the best of available.
What is a robot mower?
A robot lawn mower is essentially a fully automatic grass cutting device. Using rechargeable batteries, robot mowers steer themselves around your lawn without you needing to be pushed and without electric leads getting in the way.
In order to stay within your lawn, and out of the flower borders, the common solution was to mark the boundary of the lawn with a special wire. This would send a signal to the mower to let it know not to go any further. However, with technology moving so quickly you’ll now find an increasing number of mowers using alternative technology that do away with the boundary wire.
Most robot mowers need a docking station, which you place on or beside your lawn so the mower can return to it and recharge its batteries, besides plugging in the boundary wire. This means you’ll need to be able to have a regular outdoor power source for the station to plug into.
Before your robot mower sets off to chomp the grass it first needs to be programmed. For many of the higher spec mowers – and particularly those that receive satellite signals to help navigate – it’s advisable to get your robot mower’s dealer to run through the initial programming. With numerous mowers you can then control functionality through an app, and you’ll often find extra little tricks that you can set, such as a mowing schedule or height adjustment for various areas of the lawn.
As your mower will be regularly cutting your lawn for you, it will only be skimming the surface each time. Rather than the big, whirling blades of traditional mowers, robot mowers tend to have three small blades (which are easily replaceable) that spin quickly, chopping the grass into small pieces so that they compost into the lawn.
What should I consider when choosing a robot mower?
Robot mowers can be quite a pricey investment so it’s well worth making sure you’ve got the best option for you and your lawn. Check to see how much power and running time it has – if you only have a small area of grass then you can look at the lower end of these ranges, but large gardens will need mowers with extra performance. Where a company has a range of mowers available it will give you a guide on mowing coverage you can expect from each machine. If your garden is small or has awkward shapes then make sure it’s nifty enough to maneuver around.
Some expensive mowers are fitted with sensors, which can be a bonus safety feature if you’ve got children or pets scampering around the lawn. Others can detect rain, allowing them to pause their schedule until it dries out. Finally, if good looks matter to you, then make sure you’re happy with the design of your mower – it will spend a lot of time resting in its dock so will often be on display, even when not in use.
To come up with this list we’ve researched the current mower market, consulted a few experts and have poked and prodded around numerous mowers, besides letting some of them loose on our own grass. As every garden is unique then it pays to thoroughly check what each mower is capable of in detail before taking the plunge. But use this list as a starting point and, once you’ve decided on the right mower, your lawn will be regularly cut without you feeling the strain.
Covers: Lawn area up to 600m2
Pros: Lots of added functionality, including automatic passage handling
Cons: Quite pricey
Husqvarna robot mowers are well built, multi functional devices, and this 405X has theft-tracking, LED headlights, frost guard and front bumper to give it added security. GPS tracking works in combination with a boundary wire to allow you to control it remotely, and you can set target heights for extra lawn care, besides mowing up to 40% slopes.
Its patented ‘automatic passage handling’ allows it to detect narrow strips of grass and vary its route through them, thus avoiding track marks. An good choice for those who want reliability and pristine mowing performance in a small garden with awkward spaces.
Pros: Cheaper than many competitors
Cons: Less functionality than many competitors
If you’re looking for a good, reliable robot mower to efficiently handle a medium sized garden then Cobra’s Mowbot is a respected performer that can cut up to 800m2 of lawn. It uses a boundary rope for navigation and, like other mowers, connects to an app for remote mowing.
The basic features are all there – such as rain sensors and an adjustable cutting height of 20-60cm – but it doesn’t have some of the more specialist features of other high tech mowers. This means it’s considerably cheaper than many of its competitors so, if you have a standard, flat lawn and simply want to take the strain out of mowing, it’s well worth considering. Unusually for a robot mower, it also comes in seven different designs to help it blend in with – or stand out from – your garden’s colour scheme.
Lawn area up to 2,100m2
Pros: Smart looking, compact mower with good coverage
Cons: Less functionality than some newer mowers on the market
Stihl’s RMI 522C mower is one of the smartest looking mowers around and, despite its compact size, can cover a good sized area thanks to a powerful Lithium-ion battery. Peg out the boundary wire and connect to Stihl’s iMOW® app and you can control it remotely, entrusting it to perform a neat cut and finely shred the clippings to feed back into the lawn.
Features include a rain sensor which, combined with information it receives from online weather forecasts, detects the best time to mow and adapts the cut accordingly. It’s a sturdy little robot that can handle tougher lawn conditions than most and can also adapt its speed for slopes up to a 40% incline.
Pros: High spec mower for large gardens
Cons: Not cheap
Honda has built a great reputation for high spec mowers. Although they come at a price, you’ll get top notch technology and cutting prowess, and with the Miimow HRM3000 – their largest robot mower – you can cover an area up to a whopping 4,000m2.
Among the fancy features Honda highlights are ‘smooth turn technology’, which allows it to turn away from the boundary without stopping to increase mowing efficiency; and ‘zone management’, which allows you to choose five additional starting points besides the docking station.
It also adjusts cutting time according to season and grass condition and has other more common features such as anti-theft and remote height adjustment, while it can handle slopes up to and impressive 25°.
Recommended lawn area 600m2 (up to 1,500m2)
Pros: No installation needed
Cons: Works best with clearly defined grass areas
The Worx Landroid Vision mower doesn’t need a boundary wire and you don’t need to go through the lengthy initial setup of other mowers – once the battery is charged you simply ‘drop and mow’.
The mower finds its way around your lawn by identifying grass with a HD wide angle camera, with obstacle avoidance kicking in quickly should anything stand in its way. A cut-to-edge function gives you neat lawn edges and its multi-zone function allows it to cross over paths to mow connected lawns. The 2 Ah battery can also be used on other Worx products.
Lawn area up to 100m2
Pros: Excellent value
Cons: Only suited for small gardens
Another drop and go mower that uses grass recognition software, this LawnMaster is a great budget choice for small gardens. It lacks the sophistication of more expensive mowers but, providing your lawn has a fairly even coverage of grass and clearly defined edges, you can trust it to get on with the job.
It has two mowing patterns and adjustable cutting heights, and if there’s an area you want to avoid then simply place an object in the way and it’ll head off in another direction. You charge the battery through an adaptor and plug it in, meaning you can store the mower in the shed without the need for a specialist dock.
Lawn area up to 3,000m2
Pros: Latest satellite technology does away with boundary wires
Cons: New technology comes at a price
Once your STIGA autonomous mower has been set up through an app it uses a combination of 89 satellites to help guide it around your lawn, meaning you don’t need to mark out the boundary with a wire.
This freedom and flexibility allows you to easily modify mowing patterns as your garden changes – for example, the introduction of some kids’ play equipment or the appearance of bulbs in spring. It also means it’s happy to cross a path to a separate lawn without any boundary rope telling it otherwise. These new-tech mowers come in a range suitable for three lawn areas – 1,500m2, 3,000m2 and 5,00m2 – but are at the pricier end of the market.
Lawn area up to 500m2
Pros: Several features to help create neat laws
Cons: Mapping with the boundary wire can be a lengthy process
If you pride neatness in your lawn then Bosch’s Indego S+ 500 has a few features that should help you achieve cutting nirvana. Setting up the boundary wire so the mower can correctly map the lawn can be a lengthy process but when running, its intelligent scheduling technology, managed through an app or Alexa, learns about your lawn and adjusts cuts accordingly.
It’s designed to start at your lawn’s edges, cutting a neat border, before proceeding to cut the rest of the lawn in parallel lines. It will then define a different mowing direction for subsequent sessions to avoid track marks. It can map out and memorise up to three different lawn areas and, with its SpotMow feature, can target small areas up to 9m2 (such as under furniture) for intricate mowing.