The best mower robots: What lawnmower robots can and can’t

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Robots make everything better! Of course, only as long as they do not take power and wipe out humanity. Until then, however, they will do everything better.

A prime example of this may already be in your own four walls. And if not at your home, then we bet that you have at least one person in the circle of friends who already uses his services: the services of a vacuum robot!

The online portal for market and opinion research Statista estimates that manufacturers are selling almost 13 million household robots this year. This would virtually double the number of sales since 2015. The category includes not only vacuum robots, but also those that clean windows or other vertical glass surfaces, such as shower cubicles, for example. However, the vast majority of these devices are likely to be devoted to dust.

Apple HomeKit

With Apple’s smart home solution, you’ll limit your choice, but you’ll experience a clear added comfort in operation.

Either way, robots are increasingly taking away our jobs, which we are often reluctant to do ourselves. For some, vacuuming in particular may also have a meditative character.

Robotic mower: Robots in the garden!

For many, this also applies to lawn mowing, which in the end differs only slightly from vacuuming in purely terms: you push a noisy device through the area – and once you have reached every corner of the area to be processed, it looks better there than before.

If you replace the rotating brushes of the dust-sucking robot with blades, you already have a robotic mower. Well, the blades should be better protected than the brushes and the case still needs to be weatherproof. But the principle is at least very similar.

More and more new and well-known manufacturers of garden accessories are recognizing this. The development seems to be progressing faster than it did with the dust-sucking robots – probably also because you don’t start from scratch.

Water march! Or not. Smarthome valves allow you to conveniently control the sprinkler system.
Water march! Or not. Smarthome valves allow you to conveniently control the sprinkler system. (Picture: Manufacturer)

The spearheads of the mowing robots available in Germany are the usual suspects: Bosch, Husqvarna, Gardena – the latter of which has been part of the Husqvarna Group since 2007. So we can assume that we share a technology platform here.

Functional principle of mowing robots

Cheap mowing robots, which still work a bit, are currently at a street price of 500 euros and upwards and can work on an area of 250 to 300 square meters of lawn. More expensive models, which are also suitable for larger gardens, usually differ only in the size of the installed battery. For example, if you have a 500-euro mower trim the lawn of a football field with a good 5,000 square meters, the automatic mower will probably have to take so many loading breaks that you will never find a evenly cut lawn.

By the way, where the robotic mower is allowed to do its job and where it does not, it recognizes by a wire, which you first have to lay about ten centimetres deep in the ground and which can be energized by connecting to the robot’s base station. Basically, this wire (attached with herrings, as you may know it from tents) can also be laid above ground, which in our experience only leads to problems. The work of burying the wire is worth it.

When the robot reaches this wire as it travels through the garden, it does not continue to drive, but turns and mows in a different direction. This, as with the vast majority of vacuum robots, is probably done according to the principle of chaos.

More expensive models, such as the Husqvarna Automower 430X with a price of 3,200 euros, also come with a GPS module. However, the position data obtained in this way only serve not to drive off already mowed areas again and thus to shorten the total mowing time. We do not know of a solution that relies fully on GPS and dispenses with a guide wire in the ground.

Husqvarna Automower 430X | Robotic mower I Lawns up to 3200 m2 I Incline up to 20% I

€2,979.00

However, all the robots we have tested or tried so far suffer from the same disease as their dust-sucking colleagues: sometimes they do not find their way home. There may be strange situations: Our current gardena test device reports the error “Charging station blocked” to the associated app in a nice regularity. When looking into the garden and looking at the mowing robot parked 90 degrees twisted on the base station, one would always like to shout a more or less friendly “And by you!”

What is the result of the work of a mower robot?

But for all the shortcomings of technology (we don’t have to be afraid of an imminent takeover of power, at least by robots), what Chancellor Kohl already knew and shaped into a bonmot applies: “What comes out at the back is decisive!”

And that’s a lot for mowing robots. As a rule, they do not work with a catch basket for the cut material, but according to the “mulch principle”: The lawn is mowed so often that the length of the cut grass snails can be measured in millimetres rather than centimetres. What is cut off remains lying and fertilizes the lawn.

This requires that the robot starts several times a week. But first, robotic mowers are usually much quieter than the lawnmower you push through the garden by hand. And secondly, it does not depend on your presence and can be programmed, for example, so that it is always finished mowing before you come home.

Irrigation also an option in the “Smart Garden”

Luckily, not all the smart devices you can use in your garden are so complex and in need of explanation. Supplying your plants and lawns with enough water is another topic where you can support modern technology.

With “Aqua”, Eve offers an aid that you can easily install between the tap and the hose to the sprinkler – and your irrigation system is intelligently time-controlled in the sense of time-controlled.

Eve Aqua – Smart Irrigation Control via Home App, with Schedules Automatically Irrigating, Siri, Easy To Use, Remote Access, No Bridge, Bluetooth, HomeKit

€102.00

The “Smart Sensor Control Set” from Gardena is a bit smarter. In addition to a device that regulates the water flow similar to Eve Aqua, you also get a ground sensor here. This not only measures the temperature and luminous intensity at the site of use, but also the moisture in the soil and can thus provide a valuable indicator whose measured values want to help you not to dry the garden but also not to get too moist.

Gardena smart Sensor Control Set: Intelligent watering computer, incl. smart water control, smart sensor and smart gateway, controllable with smart app, frost warning system (19102-20)

€314.00

Weather stations complement the smart garden setup

What all of us do lack is the inclusion of weather data. If the weather forecast for 12:30 p.m. anyway, a longer rain shower is counterproductive, it is counterproductive to already artificially irrigate the garden at 8:00 in the morning. It would therefore be really smart to wait in the knowledge of the weather report and, for example, to keep an eye on the air pressure and, of course, the actual amount of precipitation, in order to react appropriately.

There would already be such practical and, on top of that, visually attractive solutions – for example from Netatmo. For 240 euros you get a set, consisting of a module for indoor and outdoor use as well as a rain knife. And in fact, the Netatmo weather station is HomeKit-compatible (and also works with Amazon Alexa and the ifTTT automation service), so other devices that are also integrated could be relatively easy to access the data. This would be interesting not only for irrigation systems, but also for robots, so that after two days of continuous rain they can probably break more than you would like when they stir up the mud.

Netatmo Smart Weather Station – Wi-Fi, Radio, Indoor and Outdoor Sensor, Weather Forecast, Amazon Alexa & Apple HomeKit, Hygrometer, Air Quality, NWS01-EC

€149.00 (€74.50 / count)

Smart sockets – in the garden but please weatherproof

There are certainly approaches from different manufacturers to nest lehes in HomeKit when it comes to gardening. Gardena, for example, has already made its first attempts at walking in this direction: Outdoor sockets and irrigation systems can already be integrated into the Apple solution – lawnmowers unfortunately not yet. However, Apple does not envisate this as a product category in HomeKit – nor, by the way, do vacuum robots.

As indoors, the beauty of so-called smart sockets is that they not only own “intelligence”, but also make other devices smarter. In the garden, lighting installations from the lamp to the string of lights can benefit from this, which you can use from now on via app or depending on otherdevices can be switched on and off and which can become part of a presence simulation in the case of a holiday.

Gardena now has several Smart Garden products in its portfolio, some of which also communicate with each other.
Gardena now has several Smart Garden products in its portfolio, some of which also communicate with each other. (Image: Gardena)

No garden? No problem!

There’s a new trend you may not have encountered yet: indoor gardening. One of the pioneers is the company Emsa with “Click & Grow”. In Germany, Bosch is one of the fastest-growing companies with its own product, “Smartgrow”. The concept is very simple: you order the “Indoor Garden”, which usually consists of a plastic bowl and a height-adjustable lighting system. To do this, you order the seeds for the desired plants, which – for example, Bosch – delivers in capsules on rock wool, so that you don’t even need soil anymore. The systems usually also take care of irrigation.

These indoor gardens are not only suitable for people who have a brown rather than a green thumb. Because such a garden, consisting of ornamental or useful plants, is also quite a decorative element in the kitchen or living room.

Conclusion: This is the good robotic mower

None of the smart garden gadgets available today behaves truly intelligently. Any human assistant who had similar shortcomings would be dismissed after the second day of work.

Practical, however, are the pseudo-smart garden helpers. Even if you have to position the robotic mower correctly on the charging station by hand from time to time, this is still much less effort than mowing the lawn itself.

The whole thing becomes even more interesting if the interaction of the different components would work even better. This is often already the case in the house: here, various devices can react to a sensor and act depending on other devices. Until this is also the case in the garden, not too much time will pass.

What we will be able to maintain for the foreseeable future is the comparatively high prices for outdoor smart home devices. These can be explained by the higher demands on robustness and, of course, the need for waterproof, if not waterproof housings.

Nevertheless, with the beginning of spring, now is the right time to deal with modern garden helpers. Even if you come to the conclusion that the “smart garden” is not yet an issue for you. Sometimes waiting for better technology eventually pays off.

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