Review: Honda Miimo robotic lawnmower

<![CDATA[A couple of weeks ago I tested Roomba from iRobot, a gadget that vacuums while you're out.

The idea appealed but the reality – poor performance, clumsy navigation and a tiny dust compartment – was less exciting.

This week I’m looking at what is essentially the outdoor equivalent of Roomba, Honda’s Miimo. Robot lawnmowers aren’t new – Husqvarna have been making them since 1995 – and in the past 18 months the market has warmed up with more than a dozen models from companies such as John Deere, Bosch and specialists Robomow. Honda’s models are noteworthy because of the robotic experience the company brings. Since revealing its Asimo humanoid robot in 2000, Honda has been at the forefront of computer vision, robotic movement and battery technology.

The Miimo comes in two configurations. The first costs £1990 and can cut up to 2200sq m while the larger model costs £2235 and can cut up to 3000sq m. Both are estimated to use around £12 of electricity per season to run.

The system requires professional installation, which includes fitting a recharging station and installing a perimeter wire which is neatly hidden at ground level among the grass blades and prevents Miimo from straying into your prize rhododendrons.

For much of the Central Belt that installation task falls to Honda specialists Russell Gas & Mower Centre in Stirling. The cost depends on size and complexity and it can usually be done in a day.

I had my first hands-on experience of Miimo at the vast – and notably indoor – Birmingham NEC. Despite the artificial surroundings and AstroTurf lawn, the test demonstrated some useful things. Firstly, unlike the Roomba, Miimo can manoeuvre in defined patterns including straight lines – much more useful for lawns than the random-only setting of the Roomba. Secondly, Miimo handles obstacles neatly. Raised beds, people, footballs and even other Miimos were detected and skirted around minus the bump, stop and reverse action I’ve seen with other robots. Rather than picking up clippings, Miimo chops grass into tiny pieces which it then disperses as fertiliser.

As a fairly new product there are no definitive reports on whether Miimo improves lawn quality over time, but other robotic mowers that use this chop-and-disperse approach are praised for improving grass consistency and weed control. It seems the combination of fertiliser and regular mowing – the Miimo mows several times a week, weather permitting – helps keep things more healthy than a weekly or fortnightly manual mow.

Miimo has a lot going for it, but like all robotic mowers it’s hard to recommend. Gardening is meant to be a leisure activity and we could all do with a reason to drag ourselves outdoors. Do we want robots to get all the fun and exercise?

Positives Sturdy build, good weather sealing and an intelligent mowing pattern.

Negatives Takes away the only genuinely pleasurable household chore.

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