Gifts Under $30 Gifts Under $50 iPhone Emergency SOS Saves Man MyHeritage 'Time Machine' Guardians of the Galaxy 3 Trailer White Bald Eagle Indiana Jones 5 Trailer Black Hole's 1,000 Trillion Suns
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

The Robomow Diaries: Taking a seat to see what the mower can do

This week, we leave the Robomow to its own devices on automatic mode. But sometimes, you still have to help a mower out.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET
Now playing: Watch this: Time to sit back and leave the Robomow alone

(This is the third installment in a weekly series documenting our tests with the Robomow RS612. Read previous posts here and here.)

July 22, 2016

The barking gave it away. I woke up early one morning to the sound of one of my neighbor's dogs howling nearby. I looked out my bedroom window to the front yard and saw what was making so much commotion: the Robomow RS612 was cutting my lawn.

For two weeks, I sent the $1,599 battery-powered robot lawnmower out on manual runs across my yard (i.e., I initiated cutting sessions) to observe its path and general ability to cut the grass. This week, I turned on the Robomow's automatic feature so that it would venture out on its own from its charging base station. The mower decides how often it needs to mow the yard based various settings you can adjust: the size of the lawn, how frequently you want the Robomow to complete a mowing cycle (ranging from once a week to once a day), and any days or times you set to be "mowing free," such as overnight hours.

The Robomow has missed this patch of grass in my front yard. I hope the mower will get to it during its next cycle.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Robomow's automatic mode is designed to be a set-it-and-forget-it option, but I've found that you still have to keep an eye on the mower's LCD message screen and occasionally lend a helping hand. For example, I noticed that the Robomow hadn't left its charging station for about 12 hours. When I examined the screen, the "Check Mow Height" message was on display. According to the Robomow's troubleshooting guide, the probable cause was that the system "is in overload due to a very tall grass or an obstacle that is stuck or wrapped around the blade." To fix the problem, I had to clear out the undercarriage of the mower (which the company suggests you do once a month), raise the desired mowing height of the grass and switch on the TurboMode, a setting that allows for a faster and stronger cut. Once I made those changes, the Robomow was back at it, cutting strips of grass with gusto.

Having the Robomow for three weeks has shown me a few things about this device:

  • The robot lawnmower is designed for maintaining a yard, not working miracles on a neglected grass-and-weed jungle. With that said, the Robomow can handle overgrown patches of grass as long as you use the right settings.
  • You have to be patient. As I've mentioned earlier, Robomow advises that the mower will need to run a few cycles before you have an entirely even lawn, which means the grass will be patchy for a while. My front yard looks a lot better after one automatic cycle than it did when I was making manual runs, but there are still a few long patches that I'm eager for the Robomow to even out.
  • The Robomow turns you into a bit of a stalker. I've been peeking behind my curtains all week to see if the mower has left the base station. Yes, I could just check the power box (see picture at right), but that's not nearly as fun as seeing an empty base station and going from window to window trying to spot the mower. One evening, I just took a seat and watched the Robomow for about 15 minutes. If nothing else, there's some built-in entertainment.

This box powers the Robomow's charging base station. When the Robomow is docked, the button on the top left lights up. The bottom left button illuminates when the mower is in the yard.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Since I'm off the hook from mowing the lawn, I guess I'll spend the next week tending to other yard-care needs. Or maybe I'll grab a popsicle and watch the Robomow do the heavy lifting while I enjoy the comfort of air conditioning. Either way, I'll still keep watch over that message screen.