Segway’s robot mower spared me from my least favorite chore

I’m sure some of you have looked at robotic lawnmowers as Roombas for your yard, but unfortunately, many of them require you to install boundary wire around the perimeter of your lawn. Any product that requires digging a trench is the opposite of “low effort” to me. That’s why I was interested in trying out Segway’s Navimow i105, its £945 (about $1,200) GPS-equipped lawnmower that takes the hard work out of it. Keeping your lawn neat and tidy is a busy job.

Ask any gardener and they’ll tell you the secret to a great lawn is to plant a patch of flat soil seed and then mow it. Regular, aggressive mowing destroys all other flora and allows only grass to grow until everything is well taken care of. But this relentless reaping takes a lot of time, a luxury I never had. This is the kind of job a robotic lawnmower was born to do, as it can move around and mow without you.

Segway’s i Series is the company’s latest, more affordable offering compared to the more expensive S Series. The new units have a smaller battery and range, the i105 can handle areas up to 500 square meters. Unlike some GPS mowers, the i105 is equipped with a forward-facing HD camera with a 180-degree field of view. So even though it relies on satellites for positioning, it will have enough sense to stop before hitting an obstacle. It doesn’t pack sophisticated computer vision capabilities, but it will play it safe to avoid harming a pet, a careless family member, or a precious flower.

I wanted to test Navimow because I have everything you might call the opposite of the platonic ideal of the Good Gardener (™). My house sits at the bottom of a hill with a terraced garden along its height and a lawn 1.5 meters above ground level. There is a clear drop at the nearest edge and a foot-long drop on the side where the road cuts into the ground. It’s a high-stakes test to see how accurate the placement of the unit is, considering what happens if things go wrong. Plus, I’m not green-fingered and my lawn is usually filled with an orgy Borage It grows faster than I can cut it.

Installation requires you to place the Navimow i105’s docking station and connect it to power and a standalone GPS antenna. Once the unit is paired with the app, you’ll use your phone as a remote to control it around the perimeter of your lawn. You’ll also quickly learn that what you thought was a flat lawn has many hidden bumps and dips. This meant that my first few mapping runs left me with a very hard edge that I had to keep tweaking.

Image of Navimow i105Image of Navimow i105

Photo: Daniel Cooper / Engadget

You should also mow your lawn well before starting the Navimow, as it is clearly not built to clean up untidy masses of grass. Give me an idea, as I was testing it in a typical British April, where there is equal measure of torrential rain and bright sunshine. This will give your lawn and the weeds hiding there time and opportunity. The unit’s dodging of the obstacles even put it under some grass and weeds, leaving me with a patchy cut that forced me to pull the mower out again.

Installation took about half an hour, which wasn’t too difficult considering there was quite a bit to do. It’s easy enough to place the GPS antenna, run the cables and connect the charging station. I am lucky that there are no tall buildings or obstacles blocking my GPS signals. Once everything was working, all I had to do after the initial run was let it work its magic unattended. And on flat ground in fair weather, the Navimow does everything you could ask of it.

Note that Navimow will have the same limitations as any other robotic household aid (like a robovac). The cutting blades sit under the center of its body, so it can’t do the edges unless you choose to extend the machine beyond its limits. If you can’t do this, then you’ll need to pick up weeds to cut the unreachable edges of your lawn. But I’ll admit that I’m a lot better than most people.

I was worried about leaving the Navimow out in the weather, but the IP66 rating for water and dust resistance means I shouldn’t worry. The company will sells you a canopy that can sit on top of a charging station to protect it from the elements. You’ll have to bring the unit indoors from late fall to early spring each year, but that’s hardly a shock.

That said, it’s a relatively minor annoyance, and I’ve enjoyed the ability to set this thing to run out regularly. Once the inclement weather and weed growth subsided, the unit proved its worth by eliminating 90 percent of the busy work I would otherwise have had to do. I was happy to have a neat lawn that only needed a quick trim around the edges. Now I spend more time in the garden, otherwise it is more beautiful than mowing.

Basically, if you have a piece of land that has been turned into a lawn and don’t have time to do it yourself, take a look at this. This may not be the set-it-and-forget-it solution you might hope for, but it will reduce the amount of effort to almost nothing. And while it may cost a grand, if it lasts more than a few years, it will cost less than hiring a gardener to do the same job.

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