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This review is based on the Friendly Robotics Robomower RL1000 I received from the US distributor November 1,2005 with software updated March 1, 2006.
Special Note: The latest Robomowers now ship with a rain sensor and illuminated, anti-glare LCD screen on the manual controller. However, the Robomower RL1000 no longer ships with a perimeter switch or manual recharger.
The first thing that I noticed about my new battery-operated Robomow is the size. It is big. The second thing was that the Robomow is heavy. Everything you want to know about the Robomower RL1000 starts with Big and Heavy, oh yeah and Safe. Probably the most underrated, most important feature of this Robomower is the safety features. Another understated fact is how incredibly over-built this automatic Robomower lawnmower is.
This Robomow measures out at 26w x 35l X 12 1/2 h, weighing an All-American hefty 78 lbs with the batteries. The Robomower RL1000 is designed to handle lawns up to 16,500 sq ft. (1/3 acre) with slopes of 15 degrees. The two heavy-duty batteries should give about 2 1/2-3 hours of mow time each outing. The charging base takes about 20 hours to fully recharge the batteries, so it can effectively go out once a day 7 days a week if needed.
The Robomow RL1000 sports 3 blades that turn at an incredible 5,800 rpm. The manufacturer states it is the equivalent of a 5.5 horsepower gas lawnmower.
Reading the Robomower manual is a must. Oh boy is reading the manual a must! As daunting as it sounds, it is really simple to read with lots of pictures and diagrams. I'm not going to go into all the boring details, if you want to read it click here Robomower RL1000 Manual.
The Robomower manual is chockfull of warnings and advisories. Please, pay close attention and follow EVERY ONE of them. I get emails on a regular basis telling me how their Robomower RL1000 exceeds the recommended safety specifications and nothing bad happens. I usually reply with, "Do you know the last 3 words a redneck says before he dies? Hey, watch this!"
This Robomow comes with an installation DVD. It is very simple to follow and makes installation a snap. The lady reading the script is very annoying, to the point of being like one of those low-budget British Bean comedies. Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard and she constantly mispronounces words. I cannot tell you how many times she says the word perimeter (parry-meet-er). If nothing else buy a Robomower for the DVD. Watch it the first time by yourself, then bring friends over to watch it together for even greater enjoyment. By far this is the funniest-serious instructional video I have ever seen.
I agree that the Friendly Robotics engineers err on the side of caution but according to Ames Tiedeman, the National Sales Manager for Systems Trading, Corp., the US Distributor for Friendly Robotics, there were 72,000 emergency visits in 2005 involving lawn mowers. ZERO involving robotic lawn mowers. Let's keep it that way.
The Robomower is definitely not designed to be opened. It takes special tools and it is a bear to get back together. I am not going to discuss the internal safety devices, suffice it to say there are built in redundancies and disabling one may cause your new Robomower to not function at all.
The Robomower RL1000 comes with 1,000 ft. of wire which is way short of what I needed so I went to Lowe's and picked up 1,000 ft. of 14 gauge Thnn solid copper wire. I prefer the 14 gauge solid copper because it is more durable and will last longer.
The Robomow also ships with 250 pegs, I'd recommend using about 1 peg every 3-5 feet. It wouldn't hurt to order a couple of extra bags of pegs.
The RoboRuler is really top notch. I like the markings, it made it very easy to place the wire where it needed to be.
Setting up the perimeter, similar to an invisible dog fence, is not difficult. It just takes some planning. Laying out the wires rather loosely and staking it here and there initially is a good idea. (The video does an excellent job explaining this.)
After making a full loop with the wire back to the charger I was ready to get mowing.
The Robomow will not operate in the self-propelled mode without the presence of the signal from the perimeter wire. So if power is lost or the wire is cut, the Robomower will just stop. If it should be forced outside of the perimeter it will also stop, so you don't have to worry about it mowing the neighbors yard or running down Main Street.
The first thing the Robomower needs to do is to orient the internal compass. This is a one time event. So I drove it out to the middle of the yard and pressed the Go button. The Robomower would turn in a slow circle and stop, this went on for about 5 minutes. Finally I got a "Test Passed" message.
Now I was ready to test my wire layout. I drove it back to the charger then once again pressed the Go button. The Robomower asked if I wanted to skip edging the border. Since there wasn't a No button I had to wait about 15 seconds. Then my new Robomower friend backed out of the charger and stopped while the "Warming up Roboscan" message came on the controller. Finally after another 15 seconds or so it made a hard turn left and stopped. Finally the blades ramped up and after another short pause the Robomower started moving forward. The Robomower did a slow arc around the charging base looking for the perimeter wires.
The Robomower moves at a very slow pace. Animals and people will be able to get out of the way quite easily. Even if the Robomower should run into some one the sensitive 360 degree bumpers would stop the mower and turn it another direction at the slightest touch.
After finding the perimeter wire the Robomower straddled it right down the middle. I followed the Robomower around the yard, fine tuning the wire placement and adding more pegs. One more test run proved to be perfect. I am an now an officially certified Robomower wire installation technician!
Finally, I am ready for the first full run of my new Robomow! Once again, I pressed the Go button and let it go through all the procedures. As expected the Robomower ran the border to perfection, came all the way back to the charging base and stopped, backed down, paused, turned left and started out in to the yard. As the Robomower reached the wire at the opposite end of the yard it started going in reverse, turning slightly. Wow! That was unexpected. Instead of turning around and going forward, it spends as much time in reverse as it does mowing forward! When the Robomower reached the other end of the yard it started going forward, once again turning slightly. Creating a weaving pattern across my yard, as it did it left good sized V patterns of uncut grass.
When my new Robomow RL1000 reached the end of the yard it turned about 30 degrees and started weaving back. This time I had twice as many smaller V patterns of uncut grass. On the third pass it had got the entire yard with no noticeable missed patches.
NOTE: The latest Robomow RL1000's no longer ship with a Robomower perimeter switch or Robomower indoor charger!
The Robomower RL1000 perimeter switch (now available as an optional purchase) allows mowing in entirely different, closed areas, such as this diagram below. The Robomower has to be driven to these areas and then when it has completed the task it has to be driven back to the Robomower RL1000 charging base. This is a whole lot easer than mowing it yourself!
The Robomower RL1000 controller is like a Nintendo controller. Although simple to operate, it does take some getting used to. When backing up to turn left, you have to press the right arrow. This requires some thinking on my part. After a little practice I was zooming here and fro with the skill and daring of Yoshi and Mario.
The way to get the greatest benefit out of automatic lawnmowers is to mow frequently. By allowing the grass to get too high and then cutting it too low causes thatch. Thatch is that long dead cut grass and leaves that smothers the roots and prevents the morning dew from reaching the tender roots on top. It also acts like a blanket in the hot sun. By allowing the Robomower to cut frequently only the very tips of the grass are cut. Since the clippings are very small (think of why you chew food) it breaks down very rapidly and becomes a natural fertilizer.
The Robomower uses no gas or oil. In today's world that is a big plus and worth using just for that. It is also maintenance free, change the Robomower blades when they get dull and Robomower batteries when they no longer hold a charge.
The Robomower is way overbuilt. The ABS plastic, tortoise shell thick, outer casing can handle almost any household accidents without cracking. The 3 mowing motors are way too powerful for just maintaining an ordinary lawn. The 2 heavy-duty driving motors can easily climb slopes steeper than the 15 degrees the Robomower is designed for.
The problem is the Robomower batteries are located behind the back wheels and may cause it to be unstable. Another problem is steep hills cause excessive wear on the gear case, not an inexpensive repair!
Somehow the Friendly Robotics engineers continue to improve on their product. They've added thermistors to monitor and shut down the Robomower if the motors get too hot, greatly extending life expectancy. Parts that have high failure rates are re-engineered. The internal software is under constant review as well as the functions that the end user notices.
At to an upgrade it can seem expensive, but each improvement is well worth it. The '05 version that came with my Robomow originally had many problems for the rough terrain and contour of my backyard. Most of those have now been eliminated or minimized.
The three heavy-duty Robomow blades do an excellent job of mulching. The Robomower comes with high-cut blades. A set of low cut blades for mulching the leaves in the fall is an excellent investment.
Pine cones have not created the problem I expected. Smaller pine cones do have a tendency to jam-up the blades. Keeping the yard free of debris is important. Running over pine cones and sticks will rapidly dull the blades, not a good idea.
My backyard is a proving ground for robotic lawnmowers. The garden area is rough terrain mixed with very soft ground surrounded by a 1 inch depression. There are small boxed-in areas that are difficult to find blindly. There are odd angles and tight spaces. Everything but a steep hill.
So, Kerry, how do you like the Robomower RL1000?
I like the new software a whole lot better than the '05. It does a very thorough job cutting my back yard. There are no uncut patches and it mulches very well, I have no thatch problems.
I send the Robomower out 7 days a week. Two days a week it edges then mows and 5 days it just mows. I see no benefit in just letting it mow once or twice a week. Well, that and I have to keep the neighbors amused.
BUT CAN IT MOW MY YARD?
The Robomower has proven to be quite capable of handling a wide variety of situations. Creative wire layout can get around most problems. Anyone who has played with a Robomower for any length of time can become an authoritative expert.
Since the '06 upgrade, the most annoying thing is the signal from the charging base. For some reason after about 5 hours or so it shuts the signal off even if the Robomower is not in the charging cradle. So if the Robomower is still out I have to go back to the charger and turn the perimeter wires on, then go to the Robomower and send it back to the base.
The Robomower cannot mow automatically in areas of less than 5.5 feet wide. I have several corridors that I have to mow manually. It really isn't an annoyance, or really even a con. It is just a point of fact. It only takes a couple of minutes and I enjoy driving it.
The Robomow gets stuck on the leg of my swing set. The angle is such that the bumper does not detect hitting the leg. The ground is very soft so it will dig a trench.
The Robomow is terribly territorial. Two Robomower wires cannot be active at the same time. If you and your neighbor have a Robomower, 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.
Even at 25 feet from the Lawnbott wires the Robomower 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.
The Robomow mows automatically. At first it seems strange, like when I first got a cell phone. Now, I can't see my life without a cell phone or a robotic lawnmower.
The Friendly Robotics Robomowers are very safe. The 360 degree bumpers, the front wheel lift, instant blade stop action, all of this makes the Robomower probably the safest battery operated lawnmower you can buy today.
It is easy to set up and use. The DVD, although comical, makes setting up the Robomower fast and easy.
You and your Robomow will become instant neighborhood stars. After showing off the Robomower, take them inside for a movie (GRIN).
Great life expectancy. There are still a lot of Robomower RL500 users. They are now approaching 5 years old. Robomower engineers have dramatically improved the hardware and software so the ones bought today should last 3 times longer than the ones bought just three years ago.