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Robot lawnmowers have been around for more a decade, although you’d be hard-pressed to find many in the wild—not because homeowners prefer to tend to their lawns themselves, but because the cost remains a significant barrier to entry. Even mid-range models cost several thousand dollars, and Husqvarna’s high-end Automower 435X AWD is certainly no exception. Priced at $5,200, this go-anywhere mower costs more than most high-end riding mowers that can do more than just cut grass.
The good news is that you’ll get what you paid for. This is an outstanding mower whose two-piece design and all-wheel drive endows it with a tight turning radius to reach every corner of your yard. I let the Automower 435X AWD loose in my yard for a three-month test and came away impressed. That said, this model—which is capable of autonomously mowing up to nine-tenths of an acre—is overkill for the size of my property. If I were to buy one, I’d most likely consider one of Husqvarna’s simpler and less-expensive models, such as the Automower 315X.
Free installation is worth it
When you pay this much for a lawnmower, the manufacturer should roll out the red carpet for you. And Husqvarna does. Buy one of its higher-end models (the Automower 115H starts at $1,199) and you get professional installation as part of the deal. If you’d really rather go it alone, however, I’ve heard of some purchasers who convinced the company to just ship the installation kit to them.
I don’t recommend going the DIY route. Robot mowers are very different from robot vacuums. You’ll need to set up an underground boundary wire encircling the area you want the mower to roam, plus a guidewire that runs through the center of your lawn to guide the mower back to its charging dock in the event it gets lost. You can run the wire across your sidewalk and driveway if you need to, and you can route it around flowerbeds, trees, and shrubs. But if you make a mistake in this process, the mower might wander out of your yard or it might not work at all. Plus, the wire isn’t cheap if you damage it and need to replace it.
So, let a professional do the job. Husqvarna’s contractors have a unique tool that automatically digs and buries the boundary cable, making this step easy for a pro. You should plan the mower’s route before the installer arrives, however; we used stake flags for this step. With that done, our installer was able to finish setting up our small suburban property in less than an hour.
Design and functionality
The Automower 435X AWD is a hulking beast, measuring 36.6 x 21.7 x 11.4 inches (LxWxH) and tipping the scales at a hefty 38 pounds. A sleek grey body with oversized wheels and narrow LED headlights gives the mower a decidedly futuristic appearance. It looks like a cross between a sports car and a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica.
Its large size also attracts a ton of attention. While I’m sure this model sticks out a lot less on a multi-acre property, it looked absolutely massive in our yard. Within the first week, I think we talked to more of our neighbors than we had in the previous five years we’ve lived here.
You can establish a Bluetooth connection with the 435X and use Husqvarna’s Automower Connect app on your smartphone to customize its settings. The mower also has a GPS navigation system onboard that knows where the perimeter and guide wires are installed, and then automatically maps its route, so it won’t waste battery power repeatedly covering the same area. If the mower is lifted up or tips over, it will automatically shut off its cutting operation and sound a loud alarm. If a thief still tries to make off with it, its GPS will track the mower’s position and send notifications of its location to your smartphone.
The test: A Mid-Atlantic summer
The mower arrived from Husqvarna in July, during the hottest part of the year. As you’d expect, our yard was dormant due to hot temperatures and lack of rain. But we did get a few wetter periods, and as the grass started growing again, the yard’s appearance dramatically improved.
Husqvarna recommends you mow the grass to a low height before installation and first use, which I did. Since the mower moves randomly to ensure its wheels don’t roll over the same spot frequently, your yard will look awful if you let it loose on tall grass. It should only be cutting off the tops of your tallest blades of grass anyway; that’s the best method to ensure a healthy lawn. What’s more, the trimmings will quickly break down and return to the earth, feeding the living grass. Over time, I concluded that a setting of 6 on the mower’s cutting-height dial was best for my lawn. The dial has nine positions to provide a cutting-height range of 1.2 to 2.8 inches (in 1/8-inch increments).
As I mentioned, the Automower 435X AWD uses its onboard GPS to map out your yard, so that it becomes more efficient each time it mows (you can override this with your own custom settings if you prefer). Over time, the mower settled on splitting our lawn into sections: two in the front half and another two in the back, mowing the larger areas more frequently and the smaller areas less so.
The mower had no problem navigating any part of our yard, including a depression where the previous owner had removed a tree more than 10 years ago. The 435X effortlessly moved in and out of this area—it can climb up to a 35-degree incline—but it just wasn’t cutting the lawn there to my satisfaction, so we eventually filled the sunken area in. I’d recommend you do the same for any imperfections in your yard to ensure the best cut possible.
The Automower 435X AWD can operate for about 100 minutes on a charge, and it requires just 30 minutes to recharge (automatically returning to its charging base when needed). But with a cutting width of just 8.4 inches—about one-third that of a conventional walk-behind mower—know that it will take longer than you might expect to cut the entire yard. It is very quiet, though. Husqvarna rates it at just 62dB, and we could barely hear it operating above the ambient noise in our neighborhood.
The Automower 435X AWD was a mostly trouble-free experience for me. The mower never ventured outside its perimeter, though it did need boundary wires to stay out of features in the yard. As with any mower, you’ll need to perform periodic maintenance, including cleaning cut grass from the underside of its deck.
The lawn looked a bit rough after the first week, and we noticed that some grass and weeds began to grow more horizontally if the cutting height was too high. But our lawn eventually took on a carpet-like appearance. And as time went by, we also noticed how much better the rest of the yard looked—because not having to mow freed us up to accomplish other gardening chores. We arguably have the best-looking yard on the block these days.
Smart home ready
Husqvarna’s Automower Connect app is very easy to use. You can control the mower remotely, sending start, stop, and park commands; see where it is on your property and where it has been; adjust various settings; and establish a mowing schedule; all within a few taps.
Husqvarna also supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and you can use IFTTT applets to connect it to other smart home devices. While it does have a “weather timer” feature designed to calibrate the mower’s working time with conditions for grass growth—mowing less in dry weather when the grass is growing more slowly—the adjustments aren’t actually triggered by the weather. Instead, the mower measures the resistance against its cutting surface. Controlling it based on actual weather conditions requires an IFTTT applet.
The bottom line
I love the Automower 435X AWD. It has saved us oodles of time and our lawn has never looked better. As I said earlier, however, it’s much more lawnmower than I need for my yard. In my case, Husqvarna’s Automower 315X would fill my needs for less than half the price ($2,499 on Amazon). It’s only suitable for yards up to 0.4 acres and it isn’t as maneuverable, its battery provides 70 minutes of operating time on a 60-minute charge, and its two-wheel drive limits it to inclines up to 22 degrees. But it has the same GPS, uses the same app, delivers all the same smart home connectivity features, and the same professional installation is included in the price.
But if you live on a larger parcel and the $5,200 price tag isn’t an impediment, you’ll dig what the Automower 435X AWD can do. It’s an absolute workhorse.