Smart Gadget ENVY - you know, when your friends get the latest Tech and you're left feeling that you're missing out ....... I'm usually pretty lucky with this job as I get to play with and review a whole host of different toys, but early last year I was looking slightly green when Dave (Vesternet CEO) grabbed the opportunity to review one of the new Robomow automated mowers himself!
To be fair it was a busy time of year for me with quite a few bits of kit in the testing queue and he'd just moved into a new house with a big garden, so I didn't really mind ...... much! In any case he did a cracking job with the review and it was interesting to approach it from more of an end-users perspective as opposed to digging more into the technical side.
But finally I get my own autonomous mower to play with in the form of the Robomow RX20u - a newly released budget line of devices that promise to break one of the biggest barriers to ownership - the price!
It's a bit early in the year weather-wise to unleash the beast on my mud-pit of a back garden, so I'll have to wait a while before I get it outside, installed and set-up. So this will be a quick first look unboxing of the device I've been sent and a look at the new range in general.
New range, new (lower) price!
As mentioned above, one of the main comments we've gotten before is that the price of a Robomow can be a significant chunk of your hard-earned cash which can make it a difficult purchase to justify!
The new range hopes to address that problem and offers two models - the entry level RX12u and the slightly more advanced RX20u. Recommended Retail Pricing is £599 and £799 respectively, so it's a massive drop from the £1,199 of the previous entry model the RC304u.
On the face of it the RX12u and RX20u essentially have the same specifications hardware-wise and the main differences seem to be within the software capabilities - the RX20u can handle slightly larger lawn sizes or up to 5 zones as well has having a mowing schedule and access via the Robomow Android App.
Check out the full comparison table here.
So it can be seen that Robomow have clearly worked their magic in order to meet a lower price-point, but does that mean that they've cut corners in the specifications from the RC range? Clearly to meet that lower price there's been some sacrifices, a quick scan of the differences here will show technology changes such as lead acid batteries in place of lithium which means a charge time of 16 - 20 hours compared to 50 - 70 minutes.
The RX range are also much smaller machines physically, but really, when you look at the target market for the RX range you can't really compare them directly with the RC range. Those have a recommended lawn size of 500 metres square and can cut up to 1000 meters square, that's a huge lawn even at the smaller size! Whereas the RX is sized for a much smaller garden at up to 250 meters square.
What's in the box?
We love a good unboxing and the Robomow doesn't disappoint in that respect with bright colourful box and well packaged contents.
Once all the packaging was removed the RX20u could be seen in all its glory. It ships sat on its base / dock with the "charging head" tucked neatly under a separate accessories box which contains all the things that are required to complete a Robomow install.
Flicking through the instruction manual (available in several languages) it's clear that Robomow have put a lot of effort into the directions for installation. The accessories also seem plentiful, with three bags of wire stakes, coil of perimeter wire, stakes for the base / dock and various tools to assist.
One thing to be aware of is that the Robomow is shipped with an EU specification PSU and while this is supplied with an EU to UK adapter it might mean that modifications to existing garden electrics will need to be made in order to accommodate both the PSU and the adapter.
In a nod to the TV show Robot Wars at this point my son announced that the RX20u would now be known as "Sir Mowalot" - that sounds good to me and certainly beats the name "Dusty" that got assigned to our upstairs Roomba cleaner a few years ago!
This is the first time I've seen an automated mower up close and personal so I don't have much to compare it to, but it certainly seems well constructed. I do however have an in-depth knowledge of our Roomba cleaner so I quickly found my way around the RX20u!
I particularly liked the floating deck arrangement and the "glider" rear not-wheel as I think that will be less likely to drag and catch on lumpy bits in the grass, paving, stones or edging - all of which we have in our garden. The compact 18" width of the mower body also suggests that it will be quite nimble and suited to the smaller garden - I think with careful planning of the perimeter wiring I should be able to get it to weave in and out of our planted areas too.
I was also surprised to see that the cutting blade underneath seems to follow a conventional mower design, I was expecting to see some sort of Flymo inspired razor blades, the sort of thing that relies on centrifugal force to throw the blades out to the edges. This looks much more robust, so that's definitely a bonus!
I also noticed that the blade diameter seems to extend beyond the wheel positions, so it should actually cut right up to the edge if the perimeter wire is laid correctly. Robomow are the only automated mowers that will cut right to the edge but looking at how far the blade is from the front of the body there's still going to be the need for a bit of trimming up against walls, fences or raised borders. I can live with that :-)
We'll finish up with a final shot of the RX20u where you can see the nice and simple controls on the top and the cutting height adjustment on the right-hand side.
The base / dock with the charging head are also shown - looking at the manual the charging head is a simple snap-and-fit to install and an even simpler push-fit connection to hook it up to the perimeter wire once our garden has dried out and we get a chance to do the install.
Interestingly there's also a "security key" which can be removed from the front of the RX20u which prevents it from being used in the event that it's stolen, another pretty neat feature!
By the way, it's well worth checking out the resources available on the Robomow web site too where they have a number of helpful comparison guides and feature sheets as well as a whole host of videos such as the one below.
At this stage it's obviously too soon for us to say whether the Robomow will be a positive addition to our Automated Home as we've not yet installed it!
Even with the lower pricing and very generous 3-year warranty it's still quite an investment and to be honest, I personally don't mind cutting the grass anyway. I quite enjoy gardening and DIY in general and it only takes an hour or so to whizz the petrol mower round our garden and then trim the edges after with the petrol strimmer, so for me the lure of the automated mower is less attractive.BUT, where I am intrigued is with the idea of "constant maintenance" - where the mower can be scheduled to regularly cut the grass two or three times a week during the height of the season. Historically our lawn hasn't been kept in the best of shapes, despite my best efforts, so I'm hoping that by passing the responsibility to Sir Mowalot there will be a marked improvement over time.
If I can also tie that into dynamic scheduling based on the weather forecast then that would be even better and we also have an automated lawn sprinkler system so it would be good to be able to water the grass directly after it's been cut too.
If all of those things come together well in the coming months and our lawn improves significantly then that would definitely be worth the cost as far as I'm concerned!
We hope that you enjoyed this first-look review of the new Robomow RX range, check back in the next few months when we'll be posting a full review and give ongoing updates on the progress!
So get yours on order today!
Bye for now,