“If you don’t mind dedicating an afternoon to setup, Robomow’s flagship RS630 will power through even the most unforgiving terrain and make your lawn look like a golf course fairway at the push of a button.”
Impressive cutting ability
Relatively quiet operation
Painstaking setup process
Old school control interface
For some, mowing the lawn is a calming, Zen-like experience. For others, it’s a boring chore to be avoided like Tom Sawyer on fence painting day. If you’re in the latter camp, we’ve got great news: technology is here to save the day.
In case you haven’t heard, robotic lawnmowers are all the rage right now. Believe it or not, they’ve actually been around for most of the past decade, but only recently have they become affordable enough for the average consumer.
Today, you can get yourself an autonomous robotic lawnmower for about the same price you’d pay for a traditional gas-powered self-propelled lawnmower. But given that only a tiny fraction of the population welcomes blade-equipped robots onto their lawn, user reviews are still relatively rare.
This is where we enter the scene. We got our hands on Robomow’s flagship robotic lawnmower RS 630 and took it for a spin in our yard; we’ve recorded our experience with it here to give you an idea of what it looks like. Here’s what we thought of this humble, mean-spirited automated grass cutter:
Setup and configuration
Unfortunately, setting up a Robomow isn’t nearly as easy as setting up a robot vacuum. Robotic vacuum cleaners have clearly defined boundaries – walls. Robotic lawnmowers cannot lean against walls because not all lawns have such borders. For this reason, you must set them up before you can release the bot on your Bermuda section.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder
The first step is to define the boundaries of your yard with green wire and a bunch of stakes. They are not ugly and actually blend quite well. The wire sits directly on the ground and stakes hold it in place right on the surface. The robot actually rides right over the top of the wire to find its way, so these things sit pretty low to the ground and won’t ruin the aesthetic appeal of your lawn – something we were definitely concerned about at first.
We won’t sugarcoat it, though: wiring is a pain. You need to make sure they are relatively flat, level with the ground and set at a fixed distance from the edges. And if you have obstacles in the middle of the yard that you want the bot to go around, you’ll need to line up the wires a certain way for Robomow to understand. It’s a bit of a chore for sure, but the idea is that after the initial setup you’ll never have to mow your lawn by hand again, so it’s a give and take situation.
Getting the stakes and wires into the ground is the hardest part – after that it’s smooth sailing. Despite being a bit old school, the Robomow’s controls are simple — just leave it on the charging station for a while, flip the main switch to “on” and press the big green “Go” button on the button panel.
The control interface is not as intuitive as we would like, but it is not particularly difficult either. Accessing advanced functions like mowing modes, schedule and zone control is difficult, but as long as you can read the owner’s manual, you’ll be fine. And if the physical interface confuses you, you can always download the smartphone app (iOS or Android) and configure it that way.
Performance and use
When people first see this bot, they mostly describe it as a “Roomba for your backyard,” and to be perfectly honest, that’s a fantastic comparison. Robomow mows your grass in a remarkably similar way to how iRobot’s iconic robot vacuum tackles the dirt on your living room carpet. Whichever way you choose, it takes a seemingly random and inefficient path around your yard, haphazardly bouncing from border to border, but somehow managing to cover every square inch until it’s done. If a robot stopped in the middle of a job, you’d think a drunk mowed your lawn. Fortunately, if Robomow runs out of battery mid-mow, it will return to its home base to recharge a bit and then finish the job.
Robomow never once got into a situation it couldn’t get out of.
There is no powerful gas engine behind the blades (two silver-plated, round, triangle-shaped ones), but they still work quickly with grass, weeds and other greens. Unless the robot hits a patch of vegetation with particularly thick stems, it shouldn’t have much trouble chewing its way through your yard. It’ll mow just about anything you point it at, and it even has adjustable height controls — but unfortunately, you’ll still have to do most of the edging work yourself.
Robomow also doesn’t collect the grass for you, but in our experience, that’s not a big problem. First of all, this saves you the trouble of emptying all the parts, which is great. Second, because you can schedule the Robomow to trim the grass more often than you would normally do it yourself – say, every other day – the bits it creates are much smaller and tend to break down and disappear fairly quickly.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder
It’s also worth noting that because this little bugger runs on an electric motor, it’s extremely quiet – several orders of magnitude quieter than a gas mower. This means you can run it at night without worrying about waking everyone in the neighborhood.
Even if your lawn is full of bumps, holes, hills, sticks, giant cones and huge tree roots, Robomow will handle it. The yard we unleashed it on was one of the most unforgiving training grounds you can imagine, but the bot went through like a boss.
We were delighted with the type of terrain that the Robomow can handle
If it hits something solid, it will simply stop the blades, shut off the engine, back up a few feet, and then head off in a new direction. If the obstacle is still there or a new one is encountered, the procedure is the same. Robomow just keeps jerking until it works and gets out of the trouble spot, returning at some point to finish off the area thanks to random mowing patterns.
We were delighted with the kind of terrain the Robomow can handle: overgrown grass and weeds barely slowed it down, bumps and roots were easy to negotiate, and pine cones tripped it up only momentarily. Going uphill and downhill didn’t seem like a problem, and even with the many potholes in our yard, the Robomow never once got into a situation it couldn’t get out of.
This bot is a tough little bastard, and after seeing it navigate the neglected jungle we call our backyard, we’re confident it can handle most normal lawns. In our testing, we noticed one weakness… of sorts. Due to the seemingly random navigation pattern, it sometimes has trouble getting to certain parts of the yard, especially if you have an oddly shaped lawn.
We have two large patches of grass connected by a narrow corridor, and the Robomow had trouble moving from one zone to the other. At first it seemed like a fatal flaw, but after going back to the manual for guidance, we realized that this problem is easily remedied with Robomow’s “Zone” feature. This setting allows you to designate separate areas for the robot to cover, so not only is it great for directing the robot when it’s having trouble, it’s also the best way to get the Robomow over a walkway or fence that separates two areas of your yard.
One of the biggest concerns we had when we first took the Robomow out of the box was how well it would withstand the weather. Being an outdoor robot (and one that doesn’t have a roof to live under), we weren’t sure it could handle the heavy downpours that the Northwest is known for. Robomow proved us wrong. Even after a week of sitting unprotected during multiple heavy rain storms, this bad boy took off right away and continued mowing as soon as the rain stopped. As if nothing had ever happened. Things like rain, mud, dust, and pollen don’t even bother this robot, so we give it big points for resilience.
After spending over a month with this robot, we are absolutely blown away by how well the Robomow has performed. Based on the videos we saw before testing it ourselves, we thought it was designed for flat, level lawns without major obstacles. God, we were wrong. No matter what horrible jungle-like ecosystem we went through, the RS 630 handled it with ease and handled itself as a high-end robotic lawnmower should.
If you’re willing to invest some cash and don’t mind taking an afternoon to set it up, this durable little robot will ensure you never have to trim your grass by hand again.
- Impressive cutting ability
- Relatively quiet operation
- Weatherproof design
- Painstaking setup process
- Old school control interface