Robotic lawn mowers

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Do they make the cut? (KFSN)

Consumer Reports tested several to see if you can turn over your lawn care to robots.
Consumer Reports' Bernie Deitrick can relax. A robotic mower has been cutting his grass for the last six weeks: "I haven't had to mow my lawn at all, which is great."

Bernie is one of four people trying out robotic mowers for Consumer Reports. And Consumer Reports is also conducting more scientific testing at Cornell University - a top turf research center.

Under test, the Worx $1,000, 2 from Robomow for $1,200 and $1,800, and Husqvarna for $2,400. With each of the mowers, you lay a wire along the perimeter, stake it into position, and install a charging base. The mowers are programmed to go out frequently, and they wander about the test plots cutting as they go. Peter Sawchuk with Consumer Reports evaluated the results: "The robots, with their random pattern, leave a surface that looks rough. It's evenly cut, but it looks rough."

That's in contrast to those smooth parallel lines you get from a regular mower. And the robot mowers don't cut the grass as cleanly. Some of the ends are frayed and have turned brown. Sawchuk observed: "Aside from just the appearance, the brownish cast that's on the top of the grass, it also stresses the grass and also makes it prone to disease." And if you have uneven ground, robots can get stuck and the wheels just spin around.

So far, Consumer Reports is most impressed with the Worx. It's particularly easy to set up and program. But at $1,000, it costs far more than the $400 self-propelled Honda, which actually did a better job. In addition to that self-propelled Honda, Consumer Reports recommends the Toro 20353, which is also$ 400. Both are multispeed mowers. A single-speed costs even less. Consumer Reports named the Toro 20370 a best buy at $280.

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