The Return to Popularity of the Smart Lawn Mower

Even if you don’t own one, you’re probably well aware of the trendy robotic vacuum cleaners that methodically scour home carpets and hardwood floors, ricocheting off walls and furniture to eliminate dust and dirt with virtually no human involvement. But what you may not know is that very similar devices exist for mowing lawns, and after years of popularity in Europe, they’re on the verge of making a splash in the U.S. as well.

Why Buy a Smart Lawn Mower?

Like their vacuum cleaner cousins, robotic lawn mowers can save you an eye-popping amount of time and effort. According to the American Time Use Survey, the average American spends 70 hours per year doing yardwork—the equivalent of nearly two weeks of paid time off from our day jobs. You can probably think of dozens, if not hundreds of ways you’d rather spend that time than pushing a lawn mower. And in the heat of summer, taking care of your lawn is often unpleasant and even downright dangerous, considering the risks associated with heat illness, insect bites and UV exposure.

In addition to these benefits, robo-mowers are much gentler on the environment than traditional mowers, emitting zero emissions and requiring no fossil fuels to operate. They’re also much quieter than other mowers, allowing you to complete your lawn chores at almost any time of day without disturbing your neighbors.

Cutting-Edge Robotic Technology: Husqvarna Automower 435X AWD

Without question, the premium brand Husqvarna reflects the cutting edge of robotic lawn mower technology. The company has been manufacturing these time-saving tools for more than 20 years, although they’re just now beginning to catch on in the U.S. market.

While it’s not yet available for purchase—Husqvarna teased audiences with it at MWC Barcelona earlier this year—the Automower 435X AWD previews the innovative features that will eventually trickle down to more affordable, consumer-grade robotic mowers.

This hard-charging all-wheel-drive model is equipped to tackle challenging terrain, capable of navigating inclines as steep as 70 percent with ease. The unit’s double-body design, joined by a magnesium bridge, allows it to maximize traction while nimbly maneuvering around obstacles and into tight spaces.

While the Automower 435X AWD gives users the freedom of hands-off mowing, it also allows for an impressive amount of control when you want it. Through the Husqvarna Connected smartphone app, you can schedule mowing sessions, adjust cutting height and much more from anywhere. The machine’s GPS connectivity allows you to monitor where the mower has already done its work.

With an extended battery life of roughly 100 minutes, the mower can handle large swaths of grass in a single mowing session, and if you’re mowing an extremely large area, the battery requires only 30 minutes on the charger to return to full power.

Husqvarna takes smart lawn mowing to the next level by including voice control integration with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. You can also incorporate it into IFTTT routines and other smart-home systems through its open API. The mower is also compatible with the GARDENA smart system, allowing you to maximize efficiency within your overall lawn care and irrigation strategy.

While the idea of a robotic machine equipped with large blades rolling freely around your yard may raise safety concerns in your mind, the Automower 435X AWD includes a robust range of safety features to prevent potential mishaps. Ultrasonic object detection allows the mower to avoid toys, tools or other obstacles in its path, and the mower automatically stops cutting when it’s picked up or turned over. Onboard headlights provide added visibility for late-night mowing sessions.

While an official U.S. release date has yet to be announced, availability is anticipated at some point in 2020, giving you time to start saving: the estimated price tag is expected to be at least $5,500.

If the cost of the Husqvarna is too much to stomach—or you’re not prepared to wait for it to hit store shelves and online retailers next year—consider the three best-in-class robotic models below. Not only are they a little easier on the wallet than the 435X AWD, you can get them to work in your yard almost immediately.

Best Budget Robotic Mower: Worx Landroid M 20V Cordless Robotic Mower ($1,000)

This wallet-friendly model covers all the basics with an easy-to-use interface and simple operation. The Worx Landroid M is delivered fully programmed and ready to mow, saving you from having to sort through pages of instructions to establish your settings. And if you do prefer a higher level of customization, the Landroid app lets you adjust schedules, cutting height and more with just a few taps.

The Landroid is built to handle small- to mid-sized lawns with ease, covering about a quarter-acre of yard in a single charging session. Cutting height settings range from 1.6 to 3 inches. The unit is designed to be used daily, so your grass stays neat and never requires a heavy-duty cut. When the battery runs low, the mower automatically returns to the charging unit to power up before resuming its task.

The Landroid uses an included boundary wire and lawn stakes to keep it confined to your property, while onboard shock sensors direct it around obstacles in its line of sight. The integrated rain sensor sends it back to the charging station when inclement weather arrives.

Premium customer support, a three-year warranty and automatic software updates ensure years of smooth, nearly effortless mowing, leaving you with hundreds of hours to spend doing something other than sweating behind a noisy lawn mower.

Specifications

  • Weight: 21.2 pounds
  • Noise level: 63 dB
  • Cutting width: 7 inches
  • Maximum incline: 20 degrees
  • Charging time: 90 minutes

Quietest Robotic Mower: McCulloch ROB 1000 ($1,250)

While the Landroid’s operation measures at about 63 decibels, the McCulloch ROB 1000 takes the prize for the quietest robotic mower at a modest 57 decibels, allowing you to run the mower at virtually any time of day without risk of annoying your neighbors.

Like the Landroid, the ROB 1000 can tackle lawns of up to a quarter-acre on a single charge, although it takes significantly less time—just 50 minutes—to recharge and complete larger areas. It can also handle slightly steeper inclines than its competitor, something to consider if your property is hilly or sloped.

In addition to keeping your lawn nicely trimmed, the ROB 1000 can actually improve the health of your turf, as it continuously cuts minute amounts from the tips of each blade of grass. The resulting fine grass clippings are reincorporated into the soil and function as a natural source of nutrients for future growth.

Built-in security features ensure peace of mind, even when you’re away from home. The unit is equipped with a PIN code to keep unauthorized users from changing the settings, and a penetrating alarm is activated if an intruder attempts to remove the mower from the confines of the boundary wire.

The weatherproof design allows the ROB 1000 to keep working even when rain threatens other outdoor activities. If the mower encounters a random object or obstacle in its path, the pivoting blades will rotate inward to avoid it, while the blades stop instantly if the mower is tilted or flipped over.

Specifications

  • Weight: 15.4 pounds
  • Noise level: 57 dB
  • Cutting width: 6.69 inches
  • Maximum incline: 25 degrees
  • Charging time: 50 minutes

Best Multi-Zone Robotic Mower: Robomow RS612 ($1,899)

For yards with varying terrain or turf types, the Robomow RS612 is the ideal solution for keeping your entire yard trimmed and healthy. It can be programmed to cut up to four separate zones with varying heights, perfect if you’ve recently planted new grass in some areas or simply have different maintenance needs throughout your property.

The Robomow RS612 delivers about an hour of cutting time, plenty for completing a quarter-acre yard. Heavy-duty twin blades cut even thick turf types with ease, and its extra-wide 22-inch cutting width gets the job done quickly.

Adjusting schedules and settings is easy using the Robomow’s mobile app, and the mower recently added Alexa integration to its arsenal of features, so all it takes is a simple voice command from you to send it on its way.

Like its competitors, the Robomow RS612 includes a host of safety features, such as auto-stop when the mower is lifted or tilted and a child lock system to prevent curious kids from tinkering with the unit. The required PIN code also prevents potential thieves or pranksters from interfering with your mowing schedule.

Specifications

  • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Noise level: 78 dB
  • Cutting width: 22 inches
  • Maximum incline: 20 degrees
  • Charging time: 90 minutes

Final Thoughts

Considering the amount of time, sweat and effort that most of us put into keeping our yards looking attractive, it’s surprising that robotic mowers haven’t outpaced their robotic vacuum cousins in terms of popularity. If you have the extra money to invest in a robotic mower, you should seriously consider the added convenience and time savings that these innovative machines can bring to your life. Instead of laboring in the hot sun behind a noisy, fume-generating traditional lawn mower, you could be sipping a cold drink on your sofa, watching your robotic mower do the work for you—at a cost that’s roughly equivalent to what you’d spend on a riding mower.

 

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