A battery-powered mower that, like other robotic mowers we've seen, mows by itself within an area you've defined using wires placed along the perimeter, and on a schedule you select. When its nickel-metal-hydride battery gets low, the mower returns to its charging station.
Once we got through the arduous setup—it can last at least three hours—we tested the Automower on sites up to 3,000 square feet. This robotic mower worked as intended, mowing an 8.7-inch-wide swath in a random crisscross pattern within the set boundaries, never going beyond. The engine also cut out immediately when we tried to lift it while mowing, a test that the LawnBott LB3200 Evolution had failed. (Owners of that LawnBott model can get it repaired as part of the recall.)
It's best to cut grass no shorter than 3 inches to help the roots go deep, but the Automower's specs indicate a maximum cutting height of 2.4 inches. (Our own measurements came in a quarter inch shorter.) At such heights, the average August sun would likely scorch your lawn. Also, small sticks, leaves, and even grass higher than about 4 inches easily bogged down the thin, swinging blades.
As with other robotic mowers we've tested, the very concept of the product suggests unattended mowing. Yet the manual says, "Never use Automower if persons, especially children, or pets, are in the immediate vicinity." That warning could be difficult to heed, since most people would likely set this Husqvarna mower to run at least a few days a week.
You could save $2,000 by buying a new walk-behind mower that will cut at a height that's good for your lawn and—given the workout you'll get while mowing—your health.
Look for our full report on walk-behind and zero-turn-radius mowers and tractors in the May 2009 issue of Consumer Reports, on sale and on newsstands in late March.
For expert advice on lawn gear and ways to keep your yard looking its best, visit our Complete Lawn & Yard Guide.