Automowers are a relatively rarified smart device. Think “autovac but for lawns” and you know pretty much what you need to know.
But taking care of an outdoor space is a very different animal than maintaining a static indoor one. To be successful you have to have something that’s smart enough to handle the variances of a literal ever-changing landscape, rugged enough to survive outside, and, hopefully, priced well enough so that it’s not out of the reach of consumers.
Mammotion’s Luba AWD may just be the first device that does all three.
I’ve previously reviewed the Husqvarna 450XH and while it’s an excellent device, perfectly capable of maintaining a standard suburban parcel of lawn, with a solid (if not occasionally frustrating) app, the price is punishing and a dealer has to set up the mower for you.
So what does Mammotion do with the Luba AWD that’s different?
What is it?
The Luba automower started out life as a crowd-funded project (with all the hassles and problems that complex technology Kickstarters tend to accrue) by Mammotion. They’ve graduated from those roots to full-fledged distribution and have three Luba mowers that can mow up to .25, .75, and 1.25 acres. The larger battery of the Luba 5000 gives it better slope performance as well, able to handle up to a 37-degree slope as opposed to the base-model 1000’s 33-degree slope max. All models have a max cutting height of 2.8 inches (perfect for Florida lawns).
But I’m getting ahead of myself. What is Luba? It’s an all-wheel-drive automower with dual cutting plates, that uses RTK-GNSS to navigate your yard without having to install a perimeter wire. It has independent suspension for each wheel to navigate even rough terrain and a built-in rain sensor. App-driven, you can use the Mammotion app to set up the zones, manage schedules, and install OTA firmware updates.
It also looks really cool. Unlike the turtle-like shells of their competitors, Mammotion has created Luba with a race car-like design.
Setting it up
I picked the Luba AWD 5000 for my lawn to get the extra battery life and better slope performance. The bot comes mostly assembled in a very large box. All you need to do is install the bumper and insert the security key.
The Luba AWD requires a GPS reference station. Mammotion recommends attaching an extension pole to the side of your house but I opted to use the 20-foot pole attached to a side fence that Husqvarna used when installing my 450XH (one point to their professional installer expertise here). Once everything is set up and powered on, you can get to the fun part, setting up the perimeter.
OK, “fun” is a stretch but after connecting the Luba AWD 5000 to the Mammotion app (points off for not letting me rename the bot to something fun) you can drive it around like a giant RC car, marking off your zones. In my case, I’ve just got one big zone, but the 5000 can handle up to 10 discrete zones (the 3000 can do 6, and the 1000 only does 3).
Having observed the Husqvarna installer, I had an idea of what to watch out for (I’ve got a hedge that blocks GPS signals) but I also did things that they didn’t want to do like take my border all the way out to the street and go just a titch closer to the lake behind my house. I still left a pretty good strip of grass that I’ll need to use the string trimmer on (I don’t need the Luba drowning itself, even if it has IPX6 water resistance).
After setting up my border and no-go zones, I let the Luba get a full charge and let it get to work.
How does it mow?
And work it did…for eight hours. Granted, that first mow was on the most thorough setting, which required multiple back-and-forth passes and it got stuck a few times as I discovered the portions where my border needed to be edited to keep the mower out of GPS dead zones. Subsequent mows were quicker, taking about two hours and not requiring a recharge (which the Luba AWD handles on its own).
But the key thing to note is that I didn’t have to be out there with the mower. In fact, most of the time I could just connect through the app and drive the mower out of whatever fix it had gotten itself into, even if I was sitting on the couch and couldn’t see it.
After several weeks of letting the Luba AWD 5000 do its thing every other day, my lawn is pristine. Yes, I still need to mow around the no-go-zone and down by the lake where I stopped the border but it’s about 10 minutes of work…and that’s if I decide I want to do the edging as well.
Luba recommends mowing every 5-6 days, but that isn’t taking into account the inch-per-day growth of your average Florida lawn in the summer. As the weather changes, I can easily deactivate some of the daily schedules I’ve set up in the app (multiple schedules is a very nice quality of life improvement that Husqvarna would do well to copy). Plus, letting a 44-pound mower putter around the yard is much less damaging than driving over it on a regular basis with a 113-pound battery-powered ZTR.
While operating, I can barely hear the Luba. There’s just a faint whirring and the occasional chirp as it pauses to get GPS coordinates. If I’ve failed to clean up the yard before it runs, I’ll hear a bit of crunching at some point as the Luba runs over a fallen palm frond or branch. The zero-turn front wheels give the Luba precise maneuvering, letting it cut clean lines.
I’ve had a few instances where it went out of the GPS boundary (thankfully never by the lake or road) but over time even that has stopped happening. That’s likely due to the recent OTA firmware update that improved performance even more.
Is it reliable?
Being a new company, Mammotion has had some growing pains. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find plenty of Reddit threads with upset early backers, something that I’ve seen for pretty much every technology Kickstarter ever. There’s also a few videos of early adopters demonstrating the supposed fragility of the device by dropping it and breaking the front axles. Which I kind of feel is a bit of a cheat. I’ve dropped plenty of devices from a short height and some of them are fine, some of them break. It’s all in the nature of the fall. End of the day, the Luba is an $3,000 autonomous robot and should be treated with a bit of care.
In day-to-day use, I haven’t found any evidence that the Luba AWD is more or less durable than the Husqvarna. Yes, those independent axles do provide a point of potential breakage in a fall as opposed to Husqvarna’s enclosed design but I don’t expect the Luba to fall or be dropped as part of regular usage. Plus, the independently suspended wheels let it easily navigate uneven terrain (I’ve got lots of holes and ruts in my backyard).
Early customer service issues seem to have cleared up now that Mammotion is better established. For crowd-funded companies, customer service is often an early pain point so it’s nice to see this has improved.
Where can I get one?
Not having to manually mow my lawn has been an absolute game changer, giving me hours back every weekend. Sure, that first mow in the spring provides a nice sense of accomplishment but it grows old. Fast. Especially as the heat index climbs into the nineties and hundreds, mowing the lawn is a punishing chore. Automowers like Mammotion’s Luba AWD 5000 don’t care that it’s hot and humid. All they need is a bit of open sky and a picked-up yard to deliver a consistently cut lawn with practically no effort on your part.
With a cost that’s thousands less than their competitor’s AWD, GPS-enabled automower, Mammotion is poised to make these devices accessible to a whole new audience.
The Luba AWD 5000 is $2,799 at retail but is $250 off right now for their fall sale. That sale also includes lots of extras including a reference station power adapter and replacement cutting blades. Check it out on the Mammotion website.