The Best Robot Lawn Mower of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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After a summer of testing, we’ve included more first hand impressions, including situations we’ve found to be incompatible with robot mowers. Lawn Aerators

The Best Robot Lawn Mower of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

New robotic lawn mowers have eliminated the nuisances that kept older models from delivering what most folks are hoping for: a big lawn mowed constantly, with zero oversight and minimal maintenance.

Several such mowers are emerging in 2023, and they’re quite pricey. But they’re already looking good enough to shift the conversation on what’s possible in lawn care.

We’ve tested one model so far (with plans for testing more as soon as they’re available). It’s the Husqvarna Automower 450XH EPOS. We’ve been more than impressed with its capabilities, but it may not be for every lawn.

A premium model with unmatched features, this mower raises your capabilities while reducing your effort. It corrects many limitations of older bots, but it’s not perfect.

I’ve been writing about tools and outdoor power equipment since 2007, and I’ve been testing lawn mowers and outdoor power equipment for Wirecutter since 2013. To learn more about robot mowers, I spoke with four leading manufacturers: Ambrogio, Husqvarna, Toro, and Worx.

Consider a robot lawn mower if the following features and capabilities particularly appeal to you.

Robotic mowers are tireless workers. Instead of mowing an area once a week, they can cut it once a day or every other day. This consistent maintenance not only keeps a lawn looking pristine but also improves turf health, because the mower is cutting only the very tip of each blade of grass, and the small cutoffs quickly feed back into the soil. In addition, most robotic mowers cut with small razor blades, so the cut is smooth, not the jagged tear you get from traditional mower blades once they’ve dulled a little. With that cleaner cut, grass is less likely to develop brown tips.

The new generation of robotic mowers can do more. Like a robot vacuum, a robot mower needs a clearly defined work area. Until now, defining that area has required the use of a boundary wire—either buried a few inches deep or pinned down with clips—around the perimeter of the lawn. Installing the wire is a fiddly process, and if it is ever damaged by an animal, a snowplow, or an errant shovel, finding and fixing the break can be difficult. To reshape the work area, you install additional boundary wires. The new mowers eliminate the need for the wire, using satellite positioning or onboard sensors instead, and their app-based controls allow for scheduled cutting, multiple work areas, cutting-height adjustments, mowing patterns, and even weather monitoring.

New robot mowers can handle bigger yards. How much acreage a robot mower can handle is determined by the battery life, namely how much can it mow and charge in a single day. Previous robot mowers worked in random patterns, which is not the most efficient method. New mowers can move in organized patterns, such as straight lines across a yard. Your lawn can look nicer as a result, and the mower doesn’t waste time criss-crossing over previously mowed areas. Thanks to this increased efficiency, a mower battery that could have handled 1.5 acres previously can now cover up to 2.5 acres. This kind of large-scale cutting puts the best robotic mowers alongside comparably priced tools such as riding mowers and zero-turns.

But it might not be a good fit for your yard. If you have a very active lawn, especially one that kids play in, a robot mower can become exhausting and stressful due to the relentless attention you have to pay to the tidiness of your yard. Remember: the robot mower is always mowing. Four kids live at our test location, so it’s not uncommon for the yard to be strewn with hula hoops, soccer nets, baseball gloves, sweatshirts, socks (?), dolls, jump ropes, and action figures. If left out during a scheduled mowing, these items will either get bumped into or mowed over and sliced up.

And it’s not just kids' items. We had a load of firewood delivered and ended up removing the robot mower from that area because it kept getting trapped in the maze of logs surrounding the pile. Another time, the mower managed to wedge itself under a truck that was temporarily parked on the lawn. Robot mowers work best for tidy lawns that don’t have many variables coming and going. It’s true that the mowers can be programmed to avoid these temporary obstacles, but that programming gets time consuming and isn’t always practical.

You still may need a push mower. For the above reasons, there could be times when you have to shut off one of your mowing areas, or maybe there is a location that the robot mower is unable to get to. We would have struggled to keep things from getting overgrown without a regular mower on hand.

As of spring 2023, boundary-free robotic mowers are just being released in the US. We found two available models, the Husqvarna Automower 450XH EPOS and the Ambrogio Twenty ZR. We’ve spent more than a month with the Husqvarna model as of May 2023. We plan to test other models from Toro, Worx, and possibly Ambrogio as soon as they’re available at retail.

We installed the Husqvarna Automower 450XH EPOS on a complex lawn in rural New Hampshire. The hilly lawn is roughly 2 acres and is littered with obstructions including blueberries, a wood shed, multiple flower gardens, a vegetable garden, a chicken coop, six apple trees, maples, soccer nets, and a fire pit. Mowing this lawn with a riding mower takes roughly two hours. Our intent was to set up the robot mower on only a portion of the lawn and see how it did, but once we got into testing, we kept increasing the number of mowing areas until the entire lawn was being mowed by the relentless little machine.

A premium model with unmatched features, this mower raises your capabilities while reducing your effort. It corrects many limitations of older bots, but it’s not perfect.

The Husqvarna Automower 450XH EPOS is a boundary-free robotic mower that relies on satellite positioning to maneuver around a yard. The associated app allows you to create and manage mowing zones, stay-out areas, mow patterns, cutting-height adjustments, and more. In our testing, it worked well beyond its listed capabilities, proving itself to be an excellent lawn-maintenance tool. It’s not ideal for every lawn—using it involves some annoyances, and it needs good satellite reception and a wide-open sky. But in locations where it’s a strong fit, it’s worth considering, even with its nearly $6,000 price tag.

The package consists of four parts: the mower, the charging station, the reference station, and the app. You have some restrictions on where to set the pieces up, due to the system’s reliance on satellites. According to the manual, the reference station, which looks like a weather station, should have 160 degrees of clear sky above it, so installing it up high and on a pole is recommended. Don’t mount it on the side of a building. Note that the reference station is responsible for the heightened accuracy of the mower—down to about a centimeter—so if the installation is loose, and the reference station moves or swings around on the mounting pole, the entire lawn map will shift accordingly.

You have two ways to connect the phone app to the mower. Option one is Automower Direct, which uses Bluetooth; option two is Automower Connect, which uses cell reception. Certain features, such as mapping a mowing area, appear in the app only on the Bluetooth connection. The cellular connection lets you control the mower from any remote location (though we had problems setting it up). You can also connect the mower to Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

The most time-consuming part is setting up the mowing areas. You accomplish this by driving the mower around the edge of the defined area, using the app as a controller, and marking points to create the boundary. Once you’ve established the perimeter, you can create stay-out zones for objects such as flower gardens, a birdbath, a child’s play structure, a tree, or a berry patch. Finally, you create a path for the mower to return to the charger. You can create multiple areas, too. Depending on your property or yard, this can be an involved process, and figuring everything out takes a while. Thankfully, once you’ve established an area, you can move the boundary points; in our tests, after the mower cut an area a few times, we could see where our initial points were off and could make slight adjustments.

With the mowing areas established, the fun begins. You can customize each work area with its own schedule, mowing height, and mowing pattern. Because everything happens through satellites, the mower can also work at night (it has headlights that you can turn on for safety), in the rain, or whenever is convenient. For example, the kids get home from school and often play in the yard around 3 p.m., so we kept the mower off-duty at that time.

We were surprised by how well it could handle our test lawn. All set up, our lawn had eight mowing areas and 21 stay-out zones. It worked—and it’s still working. Mowing that lawn with a riding mower typically takes approximately two hours, once a week. Going all mowing season long with the Husqvarna Automower 450XH EPOS, that will be at least 50 hours we’ll have back. We’ll also have no need to deal with refilling gas, changing oil, or winterizing an engine.

The mowing patterns are customizable. We kept things simple with a straight-line mow pattern, but you can also choose a cross pattern or a triangle pattern. You can fully customize the direction of the mow lines, as well, so you can have them run parallel to the front of the house, perpendicular, or at any angle you want. Unfortunately, you can’t mow words into your yard. (Everyone asks that question.)

It cuts with three small razor blades attached to a spinning disk. The blades are double-sided, and each time the mower goes out to work, it reverses the direction of the spin, adding life to the blades. Husqvarna recommends changing the blades every six weeks or so—a simple process that you can do with a screwdriver. The cutting path is roughly 9 inches, and the body of the mower is about 28 by 21 inches, so the design puts a good 7- or 8-inch buffer zone between the edge of the body and the spinning blades, far more than on a push mower.

For added safety, it has a sensor. When the mower encounters an object that is not programmed as a stay-out zone—such as a person, a picnic table, or a delivered package—it slows down so that it bumps the object at a very low speed. Once it feels the bump, it reverses and starts to figure out how to get around the object, a process that leads to a lot more bumping and a lot more reversing. We found that it’s easiest to create a stay-out zone through the app for any object that will be on the lawn for more than a day or so, such as a kiddie pool.

But it does not detect smaller items. You need to clear your lawn of stuff that’s small enough to fit under the mower’s housing. We found this task especially tricky with four kids living in the house. Because we had scheduled most of our mowing for the nights and early mornings, each evening we needed to do a thorough check for baseballs, hula hoops, cornhole bags, sweatshirts, dog toys, socks, and anything else strewn about.

Hitting something might not be a disaster. On a couple of occasions, we missed an item, but the damage was minimal. The blades are smaller than a traditional mower blade, and they’re hinged to the spinning disk like a flail, so if they hit something, they can spin out of the way. A baseball that got run over had only a few nicks on it—a significant difference from all the baseballs we’ve chopped in half with a traditional mower.

Security and privacy don’t appear to be an issue with the app. As we do for all app-based devices, we sent a security and privacy questionnaire to Husqvarna, asking about the company’s security policies and practices for handling a device owner’s data. Among other concerns, that includes login practices, whether the company supports two-factor authentication, what user data is encrypted, and what data is recorded and shared. Husqvarna’s responses were standard for what we’ve seen and didn’t raise any questions.

Not surprisingly, it’s expensive. The mower and charging station together cost about $5,000, and the reference station adds $800. You can purchase the Husqvarna Automower 450XH EPOS only through an authorized dealer, who can do the installation at an additional charge, though we think a moderately handy person should be able to perform the install themselves. That is a lot of money, but the multi-acre capability of the 450XH EPOS, not to mention the convenience, makes it comparable to a riding mower or a zero-turn mower, which are up in the $2,000 to $6,000 range, depending on the size and features. Add in the time you recover by not mowing, maintaining, or winterizing, and the value of this Husqvarna robot mower starts to come into focus.

Cluttered or busy lawns make for a stressful experience. As we mentioned above, the mower can be difficult if your lawn is an ever changing landscape of toys, patio furniture, vehicles, and clothing. With four kids in our test house, things got so difficult that we took the mower off its schedule and activated it manually every couple of days—but only after a thorough yard tidy where we got all of the jump ropes, tennis balls, sweatshirts, and flip-flops cleaned up. We also found that outdoor seating areas, like fire pits, can cause issues. The pit itself can be programmed as a no-go area, but the shifting positions of the chairs around it had the robot mower spending way too much time bumping around the legs of the chairs, not getting to spots, making a bit of a mess of the mowing pattern, and finally getting completely trapped.

The app is functional, but it has room for improvement. Using the app is mostly intuitive, but at times we were confused about how to navigate it. We also would have appreciated more mapping features, such as the ability to add a mapping point to an existing work area, and we found other little things, like inconsistencies between metric and US measurements. When we spoke to Husqvarna representatives, they indicated that the app and the satellite technology in general are still evolving, so we expect to see incremental improvements to both.

Satellite coverage can be an issue. During our testing, the Husqvarna mower exceeded its documented capabilities, working fine in many spots where it had no line of sight with the reference station, but it did drop out of satellite communication under dense tree cover or when it was directly against a two-story structure. Often it would recover on its own, but other times we had to manually restart it. If you’re not sure about the density of your tree cover, it’s a good idea to have your lawn looked at by a Husqvarna dealer prior to investing in the mower.

Cloud? Bluetooth? Hello? We had problems connecting to the mower through the cloud. This was probably due to the lousy cell reception at the test property, and it’s likely not a universal issue, but it did limit what we could do with the mower. Because we could connect only via Bluetooth, we needed to be within close proximity in order to control the mower. So if it was raining out or if it was nighttime, and we wanted to change the schedule or stop the mower, we needed to suit up and head outside, instead of making the changes from our living room.

Most manufacturers we spoke with agreed that there are still some properties where a boundary-wire robot mower is the better fit. Some properties, for example, may have too much tree cover, or they might be simple and small enough for the lower cost of a boundary-wire mower to make more sense. Right now, the Husqvarna Automower 450XH, the boundary-wire version of our pick, costs almost $3,000 less.

A number of other manufacturers are in the process of releasing their own boundary-free robotic mowers. We are excited to try several firsthand.

Ambrogio, a popular robotic mower manufacturer in Europe, is set to release in the US the 4.36 Elite RTK mower, which shares a lot of features with the Husqvarna Automower 450XH EPOS, including the use of satellite positioning and an app. The specs show similar capabilities between the two models.

The Worx Landroid Vision is a much simpler mower, better equipped for smaller, well-defined lawns. It operates more like a robot vacuum, randomly bopping around the yard until it has cut all of the grass. Instead of requiring a boundary wire or satellite coverage, it uses cameras to determine what is grass and what is not grass. If it sees grass, it cuts; if it sees something that is not grass, it tries to go around. Though this mower does not need a boundary wire, it does need a well-defined yard, one that is preferably enclosed on all four sides by sidewalks, driveways, and a house. This mower is limited in capability in comparison with the Husqvarna model we tested, but it could be a great fit for certain yards. Worx is set to release four versions: 0.25 acre, 0.5 acre, 0.75 acre, and 1 acre. Pricing will range from $2,000 to $3,500, according to company representatives.

The Ambrogio Twenty ZR is similar to the Worx Landroid Vision but uses radar for sensing its surroundings, as opposed to a camera. Currently available, it works on spaces up to a quarter acre and appears to be in the $1,800 price range.

Toro is in the process of releasing a robotic mower, and we’re very curious about it. The technology behind this model sounds like it splits the difference between the simplicity of the Worx Landroid Vision and the complexity of the Husqvarna Automower 450XH EPOS. Like the Worx design, it relies on onboard cameras to find its way around, but it also lets you map out multiple mowing areas and stay-out zones. While it doesn’t have mow patterns, it does offer scheduling. Toro has not released any pricing or availability details, but representatives indicated to us that the cost would be in the range of a zero-turn mower, likely putting it in the $3,000 to $4,000 range.

We did not consider any models that use a boundary wire. This is a large group of mowers that have come and gone in recent years; the current lineup includes the Husqvarna Automower 430XH, the Robomow RK4000, and the Worx Landroid WR147. Such models may work for some people and situations, but the new boundary-free mowers, though more expensive, offer much more customization, larger work areas, and none of the frustration associated with burying and maintaining a wire perimeter around your lawn. If you have a smaller, well-defined lawn and decide to take this route, we recommend starting your search with Husqvarna, Worx, and Ambrogio.

This article was edited by Harry Sawyers.

Doug Mahoney is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter covering home improvement. He spent 10 years in high-end construction as a carpenter, foreman, and supervisor. He lives in a very demanding 250-year-old farmhouse and spent four years gutting and rebuilding his previous home. He also raises sheep and has a dairy cow that he milks every morning.

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The Best Robot Lawn Mower of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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