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Robomower Evolution Review

These two are going to fight it out yard by yard!

 

 

 

 

 

When I first wrote the now world famous LawnBott Evolution Review  and Robomower RL1000 Review, I had no idea the impact it would have.  Since this Robomower-LawnBott Evolution Review I have written two more, LawnBott LB3500 Review and LawnBott LB1200 Review.

 I am basing this review on models shipping direct from the US distributors on November 1, 2005.  Both companies may modify or change model performance and specifications over time.  I realize that many "experts" are going to read this and send me emails of performance enhancing techniques, I'd love to hear every story.

This is meant as an out-of-the-box comparison review for someone who has an internet education in robotic lawnmowers or someone looking to upgrade from an another model.   I'll try not to go into the technical aspects any deeper than I have to.  My purpose is to highlight the differences, strengths, and weaknesses for an average user.  As corrections need to be made I will be updating this review so please check back frequently.


Commonality?

Mow the yard.  Simple enough right?  How can two robots assigned to this common task be so diverse?  How do you equate two similar items that are incomparable?  Which is best?  How many nasty-grams can my email box hold? 

It is shorter to list how they are alike than how they differ. 

       *They both need a perimeter wire (well, actually the Lawnbott Evolution doesn't NEED a perimeter wire to mow). 

       *They both have rechargeable batteries, well the Robomower RL1000 uses two lead acid while the Lawnbott Evolution uses one lithium ion (a second  can be added). 

        *They both use a blade to cut, well the Lawnbott Evolution uses a single 4-edged blade while the Robomower RL1000 uses 3 double edged blades. 

        *They both have wheels, well, the Lawnbott Evolution has 4 and the Robomower RL1000 has 3. 

        *They both automatically return to a charging base, even that is about as different as day and night- one goes clockwise and the other counter-clockwise. 

         *I guess the only thing they have in common is they are waterproof.  Oh yeah, and they both do an excellent job mowing the yard.

Market Share

The Israeli made Friendly Robotics Robomower RL1000 robotic lawn mower has a huge US market share lead against an under marketed, Italian made, Zucchetti Lawnbott Evolution automatic lawnmower.  Since the beginning, the Robomower has enjoyed dominance of the US market, but they are a big fish in a tiny, tiny pond.  Can they keep ahead of the competition as the market grows and new robotic mowers enter the market?

Since 2000, Friendly Robotics has kept the same outward appearance, only changing the color.  The inside however has been constantly upgraded with new firmware, motors, and self-protection devices.

Zucchetti (makers of the Lawnbott line) however continues to change looks with performance.  The Lawnbott Evolution, Deluxe, and Professional, while on similar chassis have different internal parts and external hoods.  As of this writing they have several mowers for smaller yards in Europe.

Size and weight

The Robomower RL1000 (left)and LawnBott Evolution

LawnBott Evolution and Robomower RL1000

LawnBott Evolution and Robomower RL100 from the rear

The Robomower RL1000 is definitely the heavy weight in this match coming in at 78 lbs with a huge size advantage at  26w x 35l X 12 1/2 h. 

The Lawnbott Evolution weighs a mere 22lbs and a tiny 16 1/2w X 22 1/2l X 10 1/4h . 

Can the 'Efficiency is Everything' European philosophy over come the SUV 'Bigger is Better' US mentality?

The Robomower RL1000 being wider means that it can cover more space with each pass, it also means that it cannot get into some tight spaces.  10 inches can mean the difference between weed eating and not around trees and garden areas. 

The Robomower RL1000 brags 3 -150 watt blade motors turning at 5,800 RPM.  The Lawnbott Evolution has a single 24 volt blade motor spinning at 3,200 RPM.   Common sense would say that the Robomower RL1000 would do better in thicker taller grass but both did equally poorly in my neighbor's uncut yard, going about the same distance before stopping and giving me warning messages.  Both are meant to maintain a yard automatically, thus there should be no need to thrash through a jungle.  Both manufactures recommend cutting your yard the traditional way if the grass is too tall.               

Batteries

The Robomower RL1000 uses 2-12 volt lead acid batteries that run for about 2 1/2-3 hours on a fully charged battery.  An optional power pack allows fast changing of one set of batteries to be pulled and charged while the other is in the mower.  The standard charge time is about 20 hours, with an optional fast charger it can be reduced to about 6 1/2 for a full charge.

The Lawnbott Evolution comes with a lithium ion battery.  Unofficially a second lithium ion battery can be added that can add about another 1/4 to 1/2 acre.  With one battery the Lawnbott Evolution can run about 3 hours and a recharge time of about 4.  A second battery gives about 5 hours of running time and no significant increase in charging time.   The lithium ion batteries are much lighter than lead acid batteries, they recharge faster, and do not suffer from the "memory" problems.  In fact the Lawnbott Evolution weighs about as the Robomower RL1000 battery pack.

Looks

The Robomower RL1000 robotic lawnmower looks like a lawn mower.  The Lawnbott Evolution automatic lawnmower looks like a sleek European sports car (driver not included).  

Coverage

The Robomower RL1000 robotic lawn mower was rated for 16,000 sq ft., although on the official website they now have 21,500 sq ft. of actual grass.  The Lawnbott Evolution automatic lawnmower can cover 33,000, unofficially a second battery can be added to push that number closer to 50,000 sq ft (over 1 1/4 acres).  I say unofficially, the manufacturer has approved the use and recommends it in some circumstances, it just isn't documented.

Hills and slopes

The Robomower RL1000 can handle slopes of up to 15 degrees.  Power is not the problem, it has a long body and the front sensor is very low to the ground.  The manual is quite explicit on not exceeding the 15 degree recommendation.  One of the problems is steep hills will dramatically decrease the life of the gear case, not an inexpensive repair!

In a mower-pull contest the Robomower RL1000 could drag the Lawnbott Evolution around like a kid sister, okay, a pretty kid sister.

The Lawnbott Evolution can handle slopes of up to 27 degrees.  I have seen the Evolution take some pretty serious climbs with no power loss.  The downside is in possible safety issues ( I may be overly concerned on this, call me the Ralph Nader of robotic lawn mowers).  It is not unusual for the Evolution to pop a wheelie trying to climb a tough slope (from a distance it is really cool!)  It also means that the bumper has to be higher off the ground with the potential danger of running over very low solid objects such has tree roots or concrete steps, for this to be a problem the blade has to be set very low.

For extra traction spiked wheels are available.  My yard is fairly flat except for the slope to the curb.  I have the spiked wheels because I like the look. In fact, if you are going to get an Evolution, get the spiked tires, the added traction is well worth the price.

Home Base

Both will return automatically to the charger.  When the battery level runs low (or if they are on a timed mowing sequence) they will both search for the perimeter wire and follow it back to the base.

The Robomower RL1000 has an open base with the recharging points on the nose.  It follows the wire in a counter-clockwise direction.

The Lawnbott Evolution has a little garage.  The charging points are on top.  It follows the wire in a clockwise direction.

I don't see any disadvantages to either method, although many people that I talk to prefer the Evolution's closed garage for aesthetic reasons.

Blade

The Robomower RL100 uses three blades.  It comes with the high blades.  A low blade which is good for mulching is available.  The Lawnbott Evolution uses a single 12 inch blade that is reversible, use one side until it is dull then flip it over.  The Robomower RL1000 has a built in time sequence to tell you to change the blades every 200 mowing hours, I like that.

The Robomower RL1000 mow height adjustment is done by a screw on the front wheel and a latch on the back in the battery holder it is adjustable from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches with the standard high blades and down to about an inch with low cut blades.  The Lawnbott Evolution requires an allen wrench and a little more consideration, it can be adjusted from about 1/4 inch to 2 3/4 inches, there is a marker on the telescopic arm that shows the depth.

Noise Level

The Robomower RL1000 is rated at 90db, from a distance it sounds like a buzzing beehive The Lawnbott Evolution is rated at 58db.  From inside the house I can hear the Robomower RL1000 mowing, but not the Lawnbott Evolution, in fact, it is difficult to hear the Lawnbott Evolution at all outside of 20 feet.  The difference in noise is noticeable but definitely not bothersome.

Perimeter Wire

Running the perimeter wire for both mowers is not really all that difficult or hard work.  Both come with rulers, but I prefer the Robomower RL1000 as it has the markings, the Lawnbott Evolution is just a plastic generic metric ruler. 

The Robomower RL1000 comes with 500 ft. of 16 gauge single strand copper wire.  While the Lawnbott Evolution comes with 500 ft. of stranded steel wire.  For extra wire I use 14 gauge THHN wire from Lowe's.  All three wire types work equally well in my yard.  The Lawnbott Evolution has been running fine on 1,500 ft. of the 14 gauge.  There is nothing mystical or proprietary about the wire used.

It is very important that the wire for the Lawnbott Evolution be tacked down every few feet otherwise the wire will get sucked up into the blade.  I didn't have that problem with the Robomower RL1000, I suppose because the front wheel kept the wire down.

Zones

The term "zone" has different meanings to both mowers.  The Robomower RL1000 has a main zone with the charger, additional, entirely different areas can be setup using a perimeter switch.   The Robomower RL1000 can be programmed to automatically come out at a specified time in the main zone and mow without human intervention.  The Robomower RL1000 must be manually driven to each of the other zones and the perimeter switch manually turned on.  When it has finished it must be manually driven back to the charger.

The Robomower RL1000 can be set to mow for a defined period of time for up to 4 different zones.  This is nice if the area is a very small.

The Lawnbott Evolution requires one continuous wire from the charger, around the perimeter and back to the charger.  This means the wire must be placed over the driveway, sidewalk, or other non-grass surfaces. This can require some extra effort, but it is a one time event for years of benefit.

Personally, I just put the wire between the expansion cracks in the concrete, but I have heard of people renting concrete cutters.  A water-forced hose attachment to dig a tunnel under the pavement would work too, I have used those for running PVC pipe.

The Lawnbott Evolution can be programmed for up to three different zones.  The Evolution will drive itself to that area to mow.  It too can be set for a defined amount of time or until the battery starts to rundown and then it will find the wire and return back to the charger.  In other words it will mow the primary zone, then go back to the charger, next time out it will go to the next zone, go back to the charger, then the third zone, then back to the charger, then cycle back to the primary zone.

A closed-off zone is not an option with the Lawnbott Evolution.

Theoretically, the Robomower RL1000 could use the entry point option to simulate the Lawnbott Evolution zones.  The manual makes no mention of it, but some creative wire laying and programming should do the trick. It is probably advisable to only set up two zones and have two different entry points into each zone as the Robomower RL1000 uses a set pattern of angles which could cause some places to be consistently missed if using only one entry point.

Remote control

The Robomower RL1000's remote is attached to the mower while the Lawnbott Evolution has an IR wireless remote.  Both have advantages and disadvantages.

The Robomower RL1000 has the LCD screen and controls on the remote so most changes and commands can be done while standing or sitting.  The LCD is easy to read but it is not back lit.  This creates major headaches for me at night because the controller really requires two hands which leaves no hands for a flashlight.

The initial set up is somewhat of a chore, but after that the menu selection system and choices are easy to understand.  They are displayed in plain English.

Driving can be a bit annoying, it drives like a tank.  When backing up you have to hit the right arrow to turn left, for me this requires a bit of conscientious forward thinking.  Sometimes when I'd hit the left arrow it would start to backup and turn to the right.  It can turn on a dime when stopped, a left turn will cause the right wheel to go forward and the left wheel to turn backward, this is nice for getting into tight spaces.  To mow from the controller requires two hands and some dexterity.

The Lawnbott Evolution control panel and LCD screen is permanently attached to the mower so accessing the panel requires crouching.  Since the wireless remote can be used to start, stop, and return to base, this is a minor disadvantage.  Some menu options require the manual, going  through all the options is beyond the scope of this review, but having the manual readily available makes the initial set up go smoothly.

The LCD screen is backlit, this is nice at night.  As the Lawnbott Evolution is mowing it displays the two wheels and blade speed, it also shows the digital battery meter.  When the battery meter reaches a certain level it will go back to the charger.  

The wireless IR is nice, but not without its limitations.  For one you must be directly behind the mower and within about 10 feet during the day and about 20 feet at night.  The remote needs fresh batteries otherwise operation even close up becomes sporadic.  Oh by the way, throwing the remote against the house in frustration does not help.

Since these two robotic lawnmowers are marketed to the less mobile the controller is an important feature, maybe even something that could be a deciding factor, neither are ideal, but I would have to give the advantage to the Lawnbott Evolution just because once it is programmed the control panel becomes unnecessary and the IR remote makes manual driving easier and going back to the charger a simple two button operation from a distance.

Automatic Operation

The Robomower RL1000 can be set up to mow the main zone up to once a day, seven days a week.  It can be set for different times each day say Saturday at 9:00 am and Sunday at 1:00 pm.

The Lawnbott Evolution can be programmed to mow up to twice a day with at least 4 hours between mowings.  It will go out at the same time everyday, there is no provision for different times each day.

However the real strength of the Lawnbott Evolution is the self programming feature.  When parked in the garage the screen displays the next scheduled start time.  This is one of those AWE factors when showing it off to friends.  The mow time parameters can be limited , for example from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.  For some, it is best to select daytime hours or when you are likely to be home because of theft concerns.

As the Lawnbott Evolution mows it will determine the size of the area and the resistance of the grass (or leaves) against the blade.  When it goes back to the charger it will calculate the next time it needs to come out to keep the yard cut at the optimal height.  This is an important feature, particularly during rapid growth times (and when the leaves are falling).

Another feature that isn't really mentioned much is how the Lawnbott Evolution controls the blade.  With the Robomower RL1000 the sound of the blade is a constant hum.  The Lawnbott Evolution in low cut areas such as crossing the driveway or in previous cut areas slows the blade down but ramps up rapidly when resistance is detected and ramps up even more in higher grass.  I suppose it is to save energy, but it is another feature to show friends.

Robomower RL100 mowing method

 Lawnbot Evolution mowing pattern

LawnBott Evolution mowing pattern

Manual Operation

The Robomower RL1000 is very methodical.  It uses an onboard compass-like device to navigate in relation to the perimeter wire.

Pressing the GO button to manually start to mow can best be described as "Hurry up and Wait."  The display will ask if you want to skip edging.  There is not a NO button so if you want it to edge the perimeter you will just have to wait about 20-30 seconds, selecting yes by pressing the GO button will have the mower back up out of the charger for another long pause as the Roboscan warms up.  Then the blades will start to ramp up and the mower will turn to the left, after another long pause it will finally start to mow.  Once it hits the wire or an object it will back up turning slightly and then start going backward until it hits the wire again.  Then it will move forward, turn slightly and start to mow forward.

When it hits one end of the yard it will weave its way back.  It can be programmed to enter at 4 different points so  you can have it start one time going North and South, then the next time it will drive to a point that will have it start to mow East and West, this will help eliminate any missed spots.

The Lawnbott Evolution is much more impulsive.  Once it is commanded from either the panel or remote to go, that is exactly what it does, go!  It will back out of the charger turn to the right, get its bearing and take off.  When it runs over the wire or hits an obstacle it will backup, turn a random direction and start running again.  

Another feature of the Lawnbott Evolution is the Smart Spiral.  When it detects high or thick grass it will start in a tight spiral and work outward.  This not only gives extra cut time, it will help make sure there are no missed patches.  The Lawnbott Evolution is fun to watch, I'd say less exciting than football but more exciting than baseball. 

Speed-wise Lawnbott Evolution can literally run circles around the Robomower RL1000 (especially using the remote).

Obstacles

The Robomower RL1000 brags 360 degree bump sensors.  While mowing inside the perimeter it only takes a light touch for the Robomower RL1000 to stop, BEEP, and go the other direction.  Hitting the back bumper while it is moving forward sets off a BEEP, but does not affect operation.  I have turned off the non-safety related sounds on the control panel yet the collision BEEPing continues.

The only real safety concern I have with the Robomower RL1000 is when it is following the wire, either edging or going home. If it runs into an obstacle while following the wire it will stop, BEEP, backup a little and proceed forward with determination.  If the obstacle is still there it will BEEP, backup and through brute force try and move the obstacle like a tank possessed.  Only after the third try will it finally try to go around.  Kids, trees, or garden borders all get the same treatment.  How can something so gentle in the yard can become such a rabid dog trying to get back to the base?

The Lawnbott Evolution has only a front bumper detection system that works moderately well.  It doesn't have the sensitivity that the Robomower RL1000 has, but it won't knock over a flower pot either.  If it detects an obstacle following the wire back to the wire it will stop, backup turn the right and make a left-arc back to the wire.  It doesn't have a rear detection system, but it doesn't backup far enough to run over anything.

Rain Sensor

The Robomower RL1000 does not have a rain sensor.  This is bad, particularly for its weight class.  I have heard stories of Robomower owners keeping bags of sand at the ready when their mowers get stuck in the soft mud and dig trenches.  I have also heard tales of having to wash the clumped grass from the mower blades.

The Lawnbott Evolution has a rain sensor and a marginally effective wet grass detector.  If it starts to rain or it detects wet grass it will head back to the charger.

Upgradeability

Many Robomower owners have upgraded their machines by replacing the EPROM.  This normally costs or more.  It is not uncommon to replace the motherboards either.  Friendly Robotics used to sell an EPROM upgrade (and the charging base) from the RL850 to RL1000, but have recently stopped.  Upgrading the Robomower to a certain level is achievable for a price.

The Lawnbott firmware is upgradeable through the internet with an optional cable.  This is a free service to customers.

Pine Cones

The Lawnbott Evolution handles pine cones extremely well.  I have had no problems.  The Robomower RL1000 however has a tendency to get smaller ones lodged in the mowing chamber.  Gumballs do not other either mower.

Fenced Yards

Neither one can automatically open and close a fence gate.  The Lawnbott Evolution can be put in a fenced in area and ran without a perimeter wire.  It is really not advisable, but doable on the user control panel.

Playing Together

The Robomower RL1000 is terribly territorial.  Two Robomowers wires cannot be active at the same time.  If you and your neighbor have a Robomower RL1000, a coordinated schedule must be made to ensure that only one wire signal is active at a time!

The Robomower RL1000 definitely DOES NOT play well with any Lawnbott!  The Lawnbott wire signal is always active, even when in the docking station.  This is because a Lawnbott may have more than one mower active in the same zone (call me for details).

The Robomower RL1000 wire needs to be at least 25 feet from the Lawnbott wire.  During a demonstration with both wires active I have seen the Robomower RL1000 leave its zone and jump the curb into the street before I was able to retrieve it.  So if you have an Robomower RL1000 make sure your neighbors do not get a Lawnbott!

Even at 25 feet from the Lawnbott wire the Robomower RL1000 may get confused and just stop, but at least it won't head for my wife's flower bed.

The Lawnbott mowers are not affected by the Robomower signal.

If you like your neighbor's Lawnbott you don't have a convenient option of using the Robomower RL1000.   The Lawnbott solves this by making available an optional 'B' channel.  This will allow simultaneous Lawnbotts in two separate coverage areas with no interference.

Which One is Best?

They both have little things that drive me crazy sometimes, but it is far, far less time consuming than mowing it myself.

The Robomower RL1000 has the most problems.  Sometimes it will just stop.  Unfortunately after a few minutes of inactivity the screen goes blank so when I finally get out there I don't know what the problem was.  When I get the screen back on it will say something like "Move elsewhere."  (My wife has been telling me that for years, so I am used to it.) So I have to manually drive it inside the yard.  It doesn't happen at any particular spot and it doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen.

If the RL1000 is  "lost" in the yard overnight it will not respond at all until I pick up the battery box for about 5 seconds and the drop it back in.  But then I have to reset the time.  It's not difficult, just aggravating, it remembers all the other settings, so why not the time?

I have a depression from what used to be a garden, it has about a 1 inch lip.  The Robomower RL1000 has a tendency to get stuck on it with a "Front Wheel Problem."  Once again, it is not all the time, just sometimes.  I get the same "Front Wheel Problem" if it pulls into the charger but the charger is not plugged up or the power goes out. BEEP BEEP BEEP

The Lawnbott Evolution is not without annoyances either.  Their is a small drainage hole in my side yard.  For the most part it would hit that hole and move on like the Army during Desert Storm .  But from time to time it gets trapped.  There is also a tree that BUMP, BUMP, BUMP, no problem but just at the most inconvenient time it will try and climb that tree and get stuck.  I finally had to run perimeter wire around both of them.  The hole I could see, but the tree shouldn't have been a problem.  Another attention grabber is the beeping noise it will sometimes make back at the charger, I'll be outside and BEEP BEEP BEEP, why it's beeping I don't know.  No error messages, no intervention needed it just gets lonely sometimes I guess, heck maybe it's a mating call. 

The Robomower battery pack needs to be replaced every 2-3 years for those reaching the 1/2 acre coverage.  The higher costs of the blades and batteries average out to about 0 more per year for the Robomower RL1000 over the Lawnbott Evolution.

Good News!

The good news is they both do an excellent job of keeping the yard cut.   My neighbors like coming to the fence as the mowers are out, in fact they love throwing leaves in front of them like they're feeding a horse or something.  Even after several months they still have to tell me they saw one or the other out recently, giving me a full report of who else was watching.  They know that the Robomower RL1000 will be out at 7:00 am and on what days.  The Lawnbott Evolution is more elusive because in the summer and when the leaves are falling it may go out twice a day, but now it goes out once every 28-30 hours and makes like Punxsutawney Phil if it starts raining.  By changing a setting on the control panel I could have it go out a lot less often, but I am afraid that my neighbors would bring out their lawn chairs and wait for it like some UFO watch.

The Robomower RL1000 does a good job for a defined area.  If you don't mind manually driving it from one section to the next then it is a good choice.  In spite of the occasional trek out into the yard to send it back to the charger, it really does do a good job.  

I think that if most people were given both to try that the Lawnbott Evolution would be the overwhelming favorite.  The Lawnbott Evolution is far more sophisticated and advanced, it is also more expensive.  I have it mow my side yard as the primary zone and the front yard as the secondary zone.   The rain sensor is significant as is the self-programming feature.  Since cordoning-off the hole in my side yard and around the tree, the Lawnbott Evolution has been on auto-pilot, without any help from me.

Final Advice

Since you have read this review completely, allow me to offer one last piece of advice, please do not buy a robotic lawn mower from anyone based on price.  Find a knowledgeable dealer that you trust and can work with you after the sale if you have problems.  I get many emails and phone calls from people who read my reviews after-the-fact.

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