Robot lawn mowers used to be the preserve of affluent gardeners with acres of grass – but not any more! There are now models tailormade for smaller lawns and tighter budgets, bringing all the advantages of these clever little machines into the reaches of us modern gardeners.
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While it’s still a major purchase, a robo-mower will pay back the investment in units of time – but that’s not the only reason to buy. Regular mowing is the single most important aspect of lawn care to achieve the lushest swathe. And while you won’t want to be pushing a lawn mower around that often yourself, a robot lawn mower embraces this little-and-often approach, leaving your lawn looking its very best.
The benefits of a robot lawn mower are fairly obvious. They free you from cutting grass yourself and this may be worth its weight in gold if lawn mowing is a task you loathe even more than cleaning the bathroom. You don’t have to collect the clippings with a robot lawn mower either because the robot lawn mowers discard them finely as mulch.
However, if you have done any previous research into robot lawn mowers, you will no doubt have noticed that they are quite pricey. Good models kick off at about £500, and go a long way from there - you can spend thousands. Meanwhile, electric hand-propelled lawnmowers (one of the best of is the Murray EC320) begin at under £120.
At Modern Gardens, we've taken a look at robot lawn mowers, how they work, if they are worth your investment, and which models are best.
Best robot lawn mowers at a glance:
Modern Gardens' favourite robot lawnmower models:
Best robot lawn mower
The McCulloch robot lawnmower offers performance and quality with its S400 model. As the name
- Results in a perfectly mown lawn
- Flexible charging station
- Unsure about winter storage
Best for complex gardens
For complex or feature gardens, we recommend the Gardena Sileno Minimo 250. What we like about the
- Straightforward controls
- Works in wet weather
- Tricky to set up
Best robot lawnmower for app compatibility
The Worx Landroid M500+ WR165E is a beast, weighing in at 16 kilos and being about 40cm in length
- Accessible and frees up a lot of time
- Detects obstacles with a collision sensor
- Takes a while to install and fine-tune
Best for small gardens
The Flymo EasiLife 350 is a solid competitor to the Gardena Silena. The EasiLife 350 has a
- Super quiet and can be scheduled
- You have to install a wire around the perimeter of the area
Best charge time
The Cobra Mowbot mower is actually capable of covering a larger area than even the Worx unit. In
- App control, with obstacle detection and a reliable performance
- Easy to monitor and control
- Needs flat ground
Best for virtual boundaries
Handling lawns up to 1,500m2, this smart cookie from Segway uses GPS technology to set its cutting
- Choice of seven cutting heights
- Blade safety system
Best for simple programming
Designed to cut lawns up to 500m2, this compact mower has a push pad with simple LED indicators
- Suitable for lawns up to 500m2
- 5 cutting heights (20-50mm)
- Compatible with smartphone app
- No reviews yet
Best looking design
This streamlined mower from Cobra is a winner with design lovers and is available in a choice of
- Built-in rain sensors
- Can be controlled by an app
- No reviews yet
Best for sloped terrain
The Al-ko Robolinho 500 E is relatively light at 7.6kg and fitted with chunky wheels, this model
- Light and easy to carry
- Small but mighty
Best for speedy set-up
Sophisticated sensors including front, rear and lawn-edge drop means that this mower has no need
- Connect to the Ambrogio app through Bluetooth for even more convenience
- Simple to use
- Front and rear sensors
- Cutting area not as large as some on this list
Best for voice control capability
This top-tech design from Honda is Bluetooth compatible, operates off a Smart Timer that receives
- Security features
- Bluetooth compatible
- Suggests using a lawnmower for the first cut of the season and then let Miimo take over
How do robot mowers work?
Robotic lawnmowers are powered by rechargeable batteries (usually lithium-ion) and use a charging station, dock or home that it returns to once it’s finished cutting or the battery is depleted and needs recharging. The charging station uses a mains electricity supply, so needs setting up within reach of a weatherproof power outlet.
It’s relatively quick and simple to get started, depending on the size and shape of your lawn and whether there are any obstacles to manoeuvre around. Most mowers are kept from straying by an electronic perimeter wire, unobtrusively laid around the lawn edge just under the surface of the turf. This also helps orientate the mower, and guide it back to the charging station. A few of the latest models, such as the Segway H1500E above, use a virtual boundary that’s set up using an app.
To set up the mowing programme, most models have simple push-button controls and some can be customised remotely via a smartphone app or virtual assistant such as Alexa. You can then also get status updates, such as whether the mower is charging or cutting, even when you’re away from home.
You don’t need to worry about the clippings either. Because robot mowers cut the grass so regularly, the clippings can be left on the lawn as a mulch to return nutrients to the soil. Some mowers have fast or double blades that chop the clippings finely and, like a mulching mower, blow them down into the grass.
Most robotic lawnmowers come with all you need to install the mower and set it up, but do check what’s included, especially if your lawn isn’t a standard patch as you may need to purchase different accessories.
What to consider when buying a robot lawn mower:
• Lawn size. Robotic mowers have a maximum lawn size that they can easily cut without having to continually recharge. Don’t choose a small mower for a lawn larger than the maximum quoted; for a start it may not come supplied with enough perimeter wire.
• Lawn finish. Faster blades give a finer cut, while double blades will chop the cut grass into a finer mulch that won’t be noticeable. Check to see what grass cutting height options are available: most will offer heights from 3cm to 6cm in 1cm increments, but some offer a wider range of lengths or 5mm increments.
• Lawn shape and style. Some mowers are better than others at coping with sharp angles and oddly shaped nooks and crannies, likewise any bumps and hollows in the lawn.
• Slopes. Most can easily handle a gentle incline but if your lawn steeply slopes, some models will happily tackle angles of up to 45°.
• Obstacles. Depending on the model, you may need to mark off any in-lawn permanent obstacles such as trees, sculptures and beds. If you’ve got lots of obstacles then it’s quicker to use a mower that uses a virtual boundary than one using a perimeter wire, or one that relies on sensors to detect obstacles and automatically manoeuvre around them.
• Run time. Most lithium-ion batteries give 45-60 mins of cutting time from each full charge, in as little as 30 mins. The output, measured in volts (V), is an indication of how powerful the battery is. The amp hour (Ah) rating refers to the amount of charge it holds, which affects how long it runs before it needs recharging. Some mowers remember where they left off before recharging and return to this position afterwards, which saves on power.
• Rainy days. Some higher-grade models can cut grass in wet conditions but if your lawn is small, there’s no need for this option. Some have a rain sensor and return to their dock when the rain starts falling, and resume when it stops.
• Lawn use. If you’ve got pets who use your lawn then an obstacle sensor is a must.
• Noise level. Some of the newer models are incredibly quiet, emitting nothing more than a satisfying hum.
• Security. If you’re worried about the mower being stolen, choose a model with built-in
anti-theft devices. These include alarms if the mower is moved outside of its perimeter boundary, security sensors, PIN codes and GPS tracking to monitor its location.
How to care for a robot lawnmower
Being designed specifically for outdoor use, robot lawnmowers are hardy and able to deal with adverse weather. However, in winter, when temperatures drop low, and lawn mowing is not required, it is best to store the robot lawnmower and the charging station in the garage or similar in order to protect it from harsh winter weather.
All the robot lawnmowers above can be cleaned easily with a hose on low pressure, not high pressure. You can also use a brush on the body and underside around the blade disc.
In terms of placement of the charging station, it needs to be on the edge of the lawn, somewhere as sheltered as possible.
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