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12 best robot mowers to take the effort out of summer lawn care

Long on grass but short on time? Here are the machines that can help out

Jon Axworthy
Wednesday 19 July 2023 17:54 BST
<p>Whatever size the lawn, we wanted the cut to resemble Centre Court at the start of Wimbledon</p>

Whatever size the lawn, we wanted the cut to resemble Centre Court at the start of Wimbledon

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You only need to enter “robot fails” into Google to see the many and, frankly, hilarious videos of hapless robots that haven’t been up to the task they’ve been created for.

From Sophia, the AI talking bot, who claimed she would “destroy humans” during an interview, to the many attempts to replicate a human walking that have resulted in robots staggering around like they’ve had one too many during their last software update.

Robot mowers, on the other hand, are a resounding success story and are getting more sophisticated and capable of keeping your lawn trim without you having to lift a finger.

Some machines still require the laying of boundary wire and locating and connecting a charging station, but there is an increasing number of “drop and go” machines available that are almost entirely autonomous, relying on cameras and AI to enable them to do everything else.

Regardless of how the machines navigated, we needed to test two major metrics. First, we wanted to know how manoeuvrable the mower was around the garden, did it have the ability to get out of sticky situations (like a rather nasty, gnome-based tangle) without us having to come to its aid; or was it equipped with the tech smarts to avoid getting stuck in the first place.

Secondly, in what condition did it leave the lawn and how did the finish compare with traditional manual mowing. All the mowers on test were mulchers, because they can’t drag a grass box around with them, so, any clippings are returned to the lawn to self-fertilise the soil.

When it comes to taking over the chore of mowing the lawn, these are definitely the droids you’re looking for – offering a healthy-looking lawn and navigation so good it won’t terrorise the family tortoise.

How we tested

Mowers can be tricky to test without having access to the grounds of a country house, so testing involved finding willing homeowners to lend us their lawns, so we could find out just how good the mowers are. This gave us ready access to all sizes of lawn, from half a tennis court upwards of three or four – whatever size the lawn, we wanted the cut to resemble Centre Court at the start of Wimbledon.

We set up a tricky obstacle course, which included permanent obstacles, such as a hard path and a fish pond, as well as some less permanent ones, such as footballs, a garden hose and a fake tortoise.

As always, we also looked at the price of each product to assess its price-quality ratio.

The best robot mowers for 2023 are:

  • Best robot mower overall – LawnMaster VBRM16 lawnmower: £349.99, Cleva.com
  • Best drop-and-go model – Worx landroid vision L1600 lawnmower: £2,399,99, Worx.com
  • Best for compact gardens – Gardena sileno minomo lawnmower: £694.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best value for money – Flymo easilife go 250: £568, Amazon.co.uk

LawnMaster VBRM16 mower

VBRM16-Indybest-robot-lawn-mower-review
  • Best: Overall
  • Recommended lawn size: Up to 100 square metres
  • Height of cut: 20mm to 60mm
  • Width of cut: 16cm
  • Maximum slope: 35 per cent
  • Boundary wire: N/A

This is a “drop and go” mower for a fraction of the price of the other truly autonomous mowers on this list.

Savings have clearly been made by the fact that there is no accompanying app and no charging station, so everything has to be done manually from plonking it on to the lawn in the first place, to manually stopping it by pressing the prominent red button on top of the machine once you’re happy with the coverage.

The machine has an ergonomic carry handle, though, so you can pick it up easily for storage or set it aside while you put the battery back on charge. The navigation is based on a camera and it was very good in recognising all the obstacles and kept cutting over areas of the lawn that were a bit patchy and brown, where we thought it might struggle.

Using the machine’s interface, you can choose between “auto cutting”, which is random, and “spot cutting” which moves the machine in ever increasing circles from a particular spot up to around 2 square metres, after which it reverts back to random mowing. This is very useful if you have, for example, a trampoline in the garden, so you can stay on top of the growth underneath it.

The LawnMaster didn’t miss anything and left behind a lovely, smooth, even lawn surface, considering the price.

  1. £329 from Cleva.com
Prices may vary
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Worx landroid vision L1600 mower

WORX-Landroid-Vision-Indybest-review
  • Best: Drop and go model
  • Recommended lawn size: Up to 1,600 square metres
  • Height of cut: 30mm to 60mm
  • Weight: 13.5kg
  • Maximum slope: 30 per cent
  • Boundary wire: N/A

The 2023 vision retains all the characteristics that we love about WORX robotic mowers, from the “cut-to-edge” feature that does such a good job of leaving a nice border finish, to the intuitive app (which is in our top three along with Flymo’s and Husqvarna’s) by which you can control and manage the machine.

But what really sets this machine apart is the on-board HD camera that juts out from the machine’s body to give it a wide-angled field of view of what’s in front of it.

When this electronic eye is combined with in-built AI smarts from the embedded chip, which processes one camera frame every 0.05 seconds, it allows the machine to be totally autonomous. Its collision detection was astonishingly good, from tree roots to a discarded badminton racquet, the mower picked up on both and even detected a length of hose – that was green and buried in long grass.

The camera doesn’t seem to be affected by bright sunshine either and cutting after dark is even possible, thanks to a powerful LED (add on), which should be enough to either scare off any nocturnal animals or illuminate them enough that the mower can take evasive action.

In terms of the cut itself, the mower works randomly, but just a few days’ worth of outings from the charging station was enough to leave the lawn looking neat and healthy with no missed sections.

The machine is designed to stay within solid zones of grass, however, if you want it to leave an area you can guide it to the next one with the use of RFID tags, which are included in the package.

  1. £2,399 from Worx.com
Prices may vary
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Flymo easilife go 250 mower

Flymo-easilife-Indybest-review
  • Best: Value for money
  • Recommended lawn size: Up to 250 square metres
  • Height of cut: 20mm to 50mm
  • Width of cut: 16cm
  • Maximum slope: 25 per cent
  • Boundary wire: Yes

The easilife range has been around for a while, but Flymo has tweaked it slightly with this model, to simplify the setup process, so there’s no LCD screen on the machine itself and everything is controlled through the EasiLife app.

This puts a lot of emphasis on the app’s efficiency, and we’re pleased to report that, during our time with the machine, it performed really well, pairing effortlessly with a smartphone, rarely dropping out and allowing us to set up the mower to take care of the lawn, which it does in a random pattern.

It’s another mower that goes about its cutting job with tireless efficiency, mulching well and leaving a nice uniform cut behind it without any patching or scalping, with the blades cutting cleanly and reliably. When it did bump into one of our removable obstacles, the mower was very quick to find a way around it and always found its way back, when the obstacle was cleared, to mow what it had missed.

Permanent obstacles were dealt with well by the sensors, too, and the mower never fell prey to the frustrating behaviour of some mowers that just seem to continually head back towards an obstacle.

It occasionally had to have a couple of gos at docking in the charging station, but this is a minor quibble for a well-priced machine, and, if you’re thinking about retiring your manual mower and replacing it with a robot, the easilife go is a very capable entry-level machine that simplifies the setup process.

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Bosch indego S+500 mower

Bosch-Indego-S500-Indybest-review
  • Best: For neatness
  • Recommended lawn size: Up to 500 square metres
  • Height of cut: 30mm to 50mm
  • Width of cut: 19cm
  • Maximum slope: 27 per cent
  • Boundary wire: Yes

The Bosch has a similar spec to the WORX M500 but goes about its job in a slightly different way. The first thing the Bosch will do to your lawn is map it, using the boundary wire as a guide – although it will cut as it goes around, which gives you a good idea of what cutting height you need to set it to for the body of the lawn.

It will then start every full mowing session by going around the border first before moving into the main lawn zone, and the S+500 is a traditionalist, because, once its mapping cycle is complete, it will trundle up and down in straight lines, like you would do if you were manually cutting the lawn. This leaves a very good finish, incredibly neat with no missed patches.

The machine coped admirably with all the obstacles that were placed in its path, and the line-by-line coverage means you know any spots that have been left will be eventually mown within the next one or two cutting cycles.

  1. £780 from Diy.com
Prices may vary
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Gardena sileno minimo 250 mower

Gardena-sileno minimo-50-Indybest-review
  • Best: For compact gardens
  • Recommended lawn size: Up to 250 square metres
  • Height of cut: 20mm to 45mm
  • Width of cut: 16cm
  • Maximum slope: 25 per cent
  • Boundary wire: Yes

This user-friendly model is ideal for smaller gardens with plenty of immovable obstacles, or lawn areas that include passageways of grass. Its sensor will see it through the trickiest twists and turns without missing a blade of grass on the way.

An intuitive programming assistant takes the headache out of the setup process, and we had no problems laying the guide wire while the mower was on its initial charge. The lawn was cut randomly without leaving any evidence of the mower’s tracks and, thanks to the fine layer of cuttings that it left behind, the lawn looked healthy and well cared for. The machine handled the obstacles well and we particularly liked the machine’s spot cutting, which left hard-to-reach areas looking well-kept and cared for.

As with all the other machines on test, cleaning was also straightforward with the minimo, and you can turn a hose on to the deck to clear it of any grass or residue and make sure that you extend the life of the blades and the machine itself.

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Honda miimo HRM 310 mower

honda-miimo-hrm-310-Indybest-review
  • Best: For large gardens
  • Recommended lawn size: Up to 1,500 square metres
  • Height of cut: 20mm to 60mm
  • Width of cut: 22cm
  • Maximum slope: 45 per cent
  • Boundary wire: Yes

The extra mowing capacity of this 1,500sq m mower is reflected in the price tag, but the machine was impressive, performing smooth turns as it approached the wire – rather than stopping and backing up. We also liked the way that, when it runs over clumps of uncut grass, its spot-cutting function deals with them efficiently by spiraling over the patch until they’re cut.

Navigation was very efficient and not a blade of grass was missed, while all the traps we set for it were avoided and it left the lawn looking in excellent condition.

We also liked the handy lawn planner on the Honda website that finds your lawn on Google maps and then simulates how your miimo will work over a week of cutting. It’s also a fully waterproofed machine, so you won’t have to retire it if the British summer fails to deliver.

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Gtech RLM50 mower

Gtech-RLM50-Indybest-review
  • Best: For medium-sized gardens
  • Recommended lawn size: Up to 625 square metres
  • Height of cut: 25mm and 55mm
  • Width of cut: 18cm
  • Maximum slope: 30 per cent
  • Boundary wire: Yes

The Gtech is purely controlled from the machine’s on-board panel, but as you’d expect from the UK manufacturer, this was very user-friendly and we just had to punch in when we wanted the machine to start and end each day, and we were ready to mow in minutes.

The machine mows randomly, so, every time it’s fully charged, it heads out in a different direction to the previous outing. It averaged a respectable 70 minutes of cutting time from each charge, which meant we went from jungle to Wimbledon Centre Court within a week. Long cutting times like this also mean that, when you are starting from long and want to gradually reduce the cutting height, you can get to your required cutting height more quickly. There are other cutting modes too, one that focuses on particular zones and another that cuts radially from a designated point on the lawn.

Motion sensors worked well, so you’ll never have to have a difficult conversation with a child about where a small family pet has “gone” and it left lush but manageable lawn behind it.

  1. £899 from Gtech.co.uk
Prices may vary
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EcoFlow blade mower

ecoflow-blade-Indybest-review
  • Best: Premium mower
  • Recommended lawn size: Unspecified
  • Height of cut: 20mm and 76mm
  • Width of cut: 26cm
  • Maximum slope: 51 per cent
  • Boundary wire: N/A

It may be the price of a small car but the autonomous blade created quite a buzz at this year’s CES, rolling away with an innovation award, and we can see why. It’s probably as close as you can get to an off-road robo mower, with large, aggressively treaded wheels that get lots of traction and can pivot, meaning they can easily get over any encroaching tree roots.

Its styling houses lots of futuristic tech to help it mow precisely without any need for boundary wire – instead, you program in a virtual boundary using the EcoFlow app, which turns the blade into a (very expensive) remote control car, which you then guide to draw the boundary that you want. This is then interpreted by the machine’s camera, LiDAR sensor and real-time GPS to create a 3D map of the lawn, which the blade will then mow in a zig-zag pattern until the job is done.

As you would expect from a machine with a price point as punchy as this one, you won’t have any complaints about the lawn’s finish, and the floating blades on the cutting deck produce a wonderfully even and close cut without leaving a scratch.

The blade was a match for all the obstacles that we threw at it, quite literally, it managed to re-route in real time around tennis balls that were being lobbed onto the lawn as it mowed.

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Husqvarna automower aspire R4

HUSQVARNA-aspire-R4-Indybest-review
  • Best: For space saving
  • Recommended lawn size: Up to 400 square metres
  • Height of cut: 20mm to 45mm
  • Width of cut: 16cm
  • Maximum slope: 25 per cent
  • Boundary wire: Yes

The R4 is part of a new product range of garden tools geared towards space saving, with all seven tools (including the R4) being able to be hung from a storage rail when you’re finished using them.

The cutting pattern left a nice finish and well-mulched grass cuttings, and as it was the quietest mower on test – we were even able to set the mower to mow overnight without upsetting the neighbours.

The Automower Connect app is one of the most user-friendly you’ll find – within it, you can switch between the mower’s usual random operating mode to a systematic one when it’s moving through a tighter passageway of grass, so it delivers complete mowing coverage.

Manoeuvrability and navigation around the garden was excellent and it never looked like it was going to get snagged or snared on obstacles. Plus, it never failed to find its way back to the base station for charging.

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WORX Landroid M500 Plus mower

WORX-landroid-M500-indybest-review
  • Best: For undulating lawns
  • Recommended lawn size: Up to 500 square metres
  • Height of cut: 30mm to 60mm
  • Width of cut: 18cm
  • Maximum slope: 30 per cent
  • Boundary wire: Yes

When you’re initially unboxing the M500 plus, you’ll probably notice that the machine’s blades aren’t centralised within the deck and are instead positioned to the right of the machine. This seems like a pretty simple but effective way to ensure the mower cuts as close to the boundary as it possibly can, and it certainly worked well on our test lawn, leaving a crisp finish that meant manual strimming was kept to a minimum.

The other attribute of the cutting deck (and the reason for the “plus”) is that it’s self-levelling, which is really good if you don’t have a pancake-flat patch, as it doesn’t leave any scalping and instead cuts with the contours of the lawn.

The landroid performed superbly on test and navigated efficiently, so it didn’t have to spend half the day finding the base station to recharge. Traction on inclines and wet grass was good, thanks to some well-designed, gnarly, rear wheels and the grass cuttings were distributed back into the lawn, so we weren’t left with lots of mounds to contend with.

Collision detection is one of the customisable add-ons but we found the machine coped well and stayed out of trouble without ever getting beached.

The app is well designed, intuitive and we liked some of the modes that have come along since we last reviewed a WORX mower. “Edge routine” restricts the mower to lawn borders only, which could be useful the next time #NoMowMay rolls around. “Party mode” pauses the mower’s schedule if you’re having a garden barbecue, and there’s even a “save the hedgehogs” mode, which stops the machine going out after dark when our prickly friends are most active.

  1. £759 from Worx.com
Prices may vary
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Stihl RMI 422 iMow mower

Stihl-rmi-422-imow-Indybest-review
  • Best: Set it up and forget about it mower
  • Recommended lawn size: Up to 800 square metres
  • Height of cut: 20mm to 60mm
  • Width of cut: 20cm
  • Maximum slope: 35 per cent
  • Boundary wire: Yes

There’s no app to accompany this entry-level model but it’s equipped with very responsive sensors that navigated well around all the obstacles that were laying in wait, without reducing the quality of the cut. Overall, the Stihl produced one of the best lawn finishes on test, cutting the very tops of the grass on a regular basis and then depositing the shreddings back into the lawn to promote healthier growth.

If you want to gradually reduce the height of the grass, you can cycle through the 25 different cutting heights available until you achieve the look you want.

The Stihl will automatically return to its charging station if it detects some spots of rain, and the overall autonomy of the machine was impressive, adapting its cutting schedule on its own, so there was minimal fine-tuning needed after initial setup. So, you really can set it up and leave it alone to deliver you a great-looking lawn.

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Cobra mowbot 1200

cobra-mowbot-Indybest-review
  • Best: For lawn finish
  • Recommended lawn size: Up to 1,200 square metres
  • Height of cut: 20mm to 60mm
  • Width of cut: 18cm
  • Maximum slope: 36 per cent
  • Boundary wire: Yes

We’re sure Sir Mo would approve of the name of the UK manufacturer’s robotic machine, and we found, after spending some time testing, it has one other thing in common with the long-distance legend - a spectacular finish.

The mowbot works to a randomised cutting pattern but after its first full cut of the lawn it looked lush, uniform and carpet-like and it observed the boundary well and never failed to find the dock when it needed to recharge.

Obstacle avoidance was excellent and the app paired easily and was easy to navigate. The Mowbot sets itself apart from other mowers with the fact you’re not stuck with the colour of the machine you buy, as there are carbon fibre, camo and floral covers that are interchangeable if you fancy a swap. Mowbot victory dance optional.

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The verdict: Robot mowers

When it comes to robot mowers, you have to pay for the privilege of fully automating your lawn mowing schedule, which is why we really like the LawnMaster VBRM16, as it side-steps the task of laying boundary wire and gives you a taste of what a fully autonomous model can do for your lawn (and your life) while delivering excellent performance at a relatively affordable price. Meanwhile, the Worx landroid vision L1600 would have to be our pick of the fully autonomous machines, as it really is a vision of the future of robotic mowing, free from boundary wires. However, wired mowers still have plenty to offer in terms of affordability and utility and the Cobra mowbot 1200 was one of the best on test.

For more garden essentials, check out our round-up of the best garden shears and secateurs

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