It’s easy to see why robot lawnmowers haven’t yet hit the mainstream – they’re expensive. Early models cost up to £3,000, which is around ten times the cost of a traditional petrol-powered lawnmower. Flymo’s 1200R, however, is looking to buck the trend. Priced at a much more affordable £650, this lawn-based robot is hoping to encourage more of us to make the switch.
Do I really need one?
If your first question is whether you really need a robot to do your lawn for you, then the answer depends on how much you value your free time. Or indeed how much you love doing the mowing. I’ve been testing the 1200R over the past month on my reasonably sized lawn (it’s around 330m2, give or take a few square metres), and let’s just say that I, for one, welcome our new robotic lawnmower overlords.
In short, the 1200R fulfils its billing; it keeps your lawn neatly trimmed with the minimum of fuss, giving you the chance to spend time doing more enjoyable things. If you’re the kind of person who spends more time looking out the window thinking about mowing the lawn than actually doing it, it’s likely to prove something of a revelation.
Setup is relatively straightforward, but can be a little fiddly. It involves pegging out the supplied “loop” wire (it comes with a 150m roll, which is more than enough for most gardens) around the perimeter of the area you want mowed. This process took about an hour and a half in my garden, but this only needs to be done once – and if you set the mower on charge while you do this, you’re all set to go as soon as you’re done.
Word to the wise, though: it’s worth making sure the loop wire is pegged down securely, or buried. If it’s not, the mower blades can potentially cut the loop wire. Although this isn’t dangerous, it’s a bit of a pain to re-joint.
This loop of wire connects back to the “base station” – the docking port where the mower recharges itself, which is in turn connected to the mains. The mower returns to this docking station automatically when it needs to charge up its 18V/1.6Ah lithium-ion battery.
The mower itself doesn’t require any assembly whatsoever. Once its battery reaches full charge, it’s just a case of setting the cutting height, which is easily done by twisting a large rotary knob on the top of the unit (the adjustment allows for a grass height range of 2cm to 5cm), and setting the mower on its way by closing the control panel.
You can decide when, and how often, you want the 1200R to mow your lawn using its simple-to-use interface and menu system. This allows the owner to programme different mowing times or days using the large selection panel and LCD display above. Once set, the mower simply wakes itself up and gets to work at the appointed time.
And just like that, the little 1200R (or “Bob”, as our three-year-old named him) sets off about its single task, quietly and unobtrusively zigzagging across the garden. It travels at a slow walking pace, in straight lines, and comes to a stop every time its sensors detect the perimeter loop wire. At this point, it performs a graceful-looking three-point turn before setting off again in a new direction. And as the 1200R always mows the lawn in a random pattern, it doesn’t leave any unsightly wheel marks.
The mower doesn’t collect the grass clippings – because the intention is that it cuts your lawn little and often, it instead “mulches” them, cutting them into tiny pieces that disappear back into the soil and act as a natural fertiliser.
It’s worth mentioning that the 1200R isn’t a completely fit-and-forget purchase, though. The strip of grass between the perimeter “loop” wire and the boundary of the garden won’t be cut by the robot lawnmower, so depending on your garden layout – for instance, whether it’s cutting alongside borders or fences – you may need to tidy up certain areas manually. The 1200R does the lion’s share, but I wouldn’t sell your regular mower, or your strimmer, quite yet.
Is it safe?
Flymo has given a lot of consideration to safety issues for its robot lawnmower. First, it has lift and tilt sensors that stop the blades from spinning when the mower is lifted up, or if it reaches a tilt angle that could expose the blades. There’s also a large space between the housing and blades to ensure that errant fingers and toes are kept out of harm’s way. A large, easy-to-access stop button on the top of the mower allows it to be stopped at any time.
And the Robotic 1200R also has collision sensors built in. The marketing blurb says that these are to help the robot mower to avoid collisions, but this isn’t actually the case. In fact the mower doesn’t avoid obstacles at all – it trundles right into any objects left in its path, and once it has gently bumped into them, it pauses, reverses a few centimetres, changes direction, and sets off again. This only adds to its bumbling robotic charm.
The only exception to that rule is if you have a garden covered in kids’ toys, or tend to leave the garden hose out – the Robotic 1200R mower doesn’t detect “shallow” objects, so will run right over them. If you don’t want to risk your hose getting slashed, or end up shelling out for recently obliterated toys, then it’s worth making sure your grass is kept largely obstacle free.
The 1200R has one further benefit that may be of interest to the apiculture-inclined. As I have a couple of beehives in my garden, mowing around them with a traditional mower normally involves the faff of donning a beekeeping suit. The Robotic 1200R has no such concerns: it happily mows right up to them and navigates around them, and keeps the grass around them perfectly trimmed.
The Flymo Robotic 1200R delivers all the benefits of a robotic lawnmower for (relatively) sensible money. It’s well built, can be used in all weathers, and is reassuringly packed with safety features. Most importantly of all, though, it performs its task without fuss, and leaves the lawn looking healthy and well maintained with minimal effort on your part.
Price-wise, it’s still a very expensive purchase compared to its traditional counterparts, but if you detest cutting the lawn – or simply don’t have the time – then £650 may not seem like such a hefty investment after all.