Husqvarna Automower 450X Review

With its ability to handle rough terrain and large areas, the Husqvarna Automower 450X robot lawnmower is a practically maintenance-free way of keeping large lawns looking their best with absolutely no effort.
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Pros

  • Outstanding lawn finish
  • Accurate navigation
  • Near maintenance-free
  • Extremely quiet operation
  • Outstanding app

Cons

  • Needs careful installation and set-up
  • Won’t mulch leaves or twigs
  • Professional install extra

Key Features

  • Review Price: £3200.00
  • Fully automatic mowing
  • For lawns up to 1.25 acres (5000sqm)
  • Slopes up to 45% (24 degrees)
  • Razor blade cutting
  • Automower Connect app
  • GPS-assisted navigation
  • GSM/PIN anti-theft
  • Alexa voice control
  • 3-year guarantee

What is the Husqvarna Automower 450X?

Topping the company’s robot range, the Husqvarna Automower 450X is a serious robot mower capable of handling lawns up to a whopping 5000m² (1.25 acres). It incorporates GPS-assisted mapping, can handle slopes up to 24 degrees (45%) and, unlike yours truly, is prepared to mow day and night, whatever the weather.

Effective, efficient with a razor cut and velvety lawn finish, the Automower 450X is an outstanding large lawn robot with a brilliant control app. Professional installation is pretty much essential and will add 10% or so to the cost, but the 450X will save you money in the long run and more than justifies the total outlay.

Husqvarna Automower 450X – Design and features

At £3200, the 450X is on par with other flagship robot mowers that we have tested and is about the same outlay as a middle-spec ride-on petrol mower. That is where the similarities end. The Automower 450X is a fully autonomous mower, bristling with GPS-assisted mapping, GSM networking, PIN-based security and ultrasonic obstacle detection. Even Alexa voice control is imminent yet not available at the time of this review.

The Automower’s moving pattern is random, backing up and spinning around at different angles when it detects an obstacle or the perimeter wire. It runs for over three hours on a single charge, at up to 3km/h on the open lawn. The cutting width is only 24cm across but covering that much ground, up to 18 hours a day and seven days a week, gets the job done. Run timings, days off, pause, dock and full scheduling are all configured from the app or direct through the mower’s keypad and LCD.

The cutter system itself is unlike any other mower blade we have seen. A two-part disc houses three doubled-sided, razor-like blades on loose pivots. As the disc spins, the blades rotate outwards through centrifugal force. The grass is cut very cleanly yet the blades fold in immediately if they hit a twig, for example. The lower steel-coloured disc spins freely, so will stop on small mounds of soil rather than scalp the area. It’s very clever, leaves a super-clean cut and replacing the razors is a whole lot less faff than sharpening traditional mower blades.

Ultrasonic sensors detect larger obstacles and slow the machine’s pace, ensuring it very gently contacts anything in front of it. That included a couple of trees that were not annexed by the perimeter wire, the dog and Jackie. She said it crept up on her.

That is a testament to just how quiet the 450X is too. It is near-silent and the only sound you hear from more than a few metres away is the gentle ticking of the grass being clipped. If you set the machine to mow regularly, those clippings are tiny at just a few millimetres long. The clippings mulched into the soil almost immediately and the 450X didn’t need cleaning the entire spring and summer.

Not being a collecting machine does mean that lawn debris, such as leaves in autumn, remain untouched. Robot mowers with traditional blade systems do begin to chop up leaves and light debris, but the 450X will sail straight over them. Nor are you going to get lawn stripes with its narrow wheels and random mowing pattern. What you are going to get is a very smooth and even cut all summer long that encourages greening and low growth. And you don’t have to do a thing. What’s not to like?

Husqvarna Automower 450X – Installation and controls.

Theoretically, installation is as simple as installing the Automower docking station and tacking down a perimeter wire to border your lawn. The lawn shape is all but irrelevant for the guide wire, allowing the mower to navigate tight corridors and awkward obstacles like trees or low tree roots (that the 450X’s ultrasonic sensors would not detect). Fixed areas can be annexed off using paired out/return wires to create no-go islands. More robust impediments like trees and bordered flower beds will be detected by the 450X’s ultrasonic and bump detectors anyway. Several other guide wires can be laid out across the lawn to aid navigation, mark off obstacles and give the 450X the fastest route home.

It all looked straightforward when we watched Husqvarna’s excellent Field Support Engineer, Robert Trott, do the professional installation. The mower subsequently ran faultlessly, pretty much until I decided to make some DIY changes to the perimeter wire installation. Experience counts it seems. More on which later.

Robert wired out the main lawn, leaving about 50cm of space between the wire and the vague demarcation line into the woodland trees, The machine overshoots the perimeter wire by 20-50cm, defined in the app. He annexed some trees and roots and placed three guide wires the full width of the lawn. Given the lawn is around 50m x 70m, that was over half a kilometre of guide wire and a huge box of ground pegs. My back ached just watching him.

The 450X connects to the outside world, and more importantly the Automower Connect app, using GSM mobile data. There is nothing to register or sign up to as a 10-year data contract is included in the mower price. As we struggle to get Wi-Fi to the end of the lawn, that is a real plus point. The 450X never lost connection all spring and summer on test.

While not enabled during our test, Husqvarna has demonstrated a beta version of Alexa voice control for all its Automower range, which should roll out to connected units in September/October 2018. This first version will be able to take care of the most commonly used commands such as start, stop and park, and the company is working on a raft of voice control commands for future updates.

Related: Amazon Alexa Guide

Core set-up can be done using the 450X’s keypad and LCD, or the app. The keypad doesn’t cover all the features of the app but it’s useful if you are beside the mower and don’t have a phone handy. The keypad covers main functions including cutting height, messages and basic settings. The keypad also acts as the security PIN input.

The Automower Connect app is available on iOS and Android platforms, and there is even a dedicated version for the iWatch. It is by far the most comprehensive and easy-to-use mower app we have tested to date.

For starters, the basic Dashboard page is straightforward, clear and concise.

The main setting menus are equally logical with an obvious hierarchy of menus and features.

Adjustments include cutting height, albeit in arbitrary 1-10 numerals rather than an actual measurement, and set-up of the GPS-assisted navigation. You can control how far it reverses when it meets an obstacle, what angles it moves off at, how far it passes the guide wire and the width of the corridors for narrow strips of grass or between lawn areas.

Deeper into the menus still and you get long-grass sensing spiral cutting option, which is handy if you have bits of the lawn that grow quicker than others. You can deploy a weather timer to cater for different growth rates and engage an ECO mode that turns off the boundary loop signal when the mower is docked.

Given the 450X navigates by a combination of GPS, ultrasonic sensors and boundary wires, the inclusion of headlights, LED signature style ones at that, is purely for cosmetics. Oh, how we sniffed at such a feature… before we spent fun evenings watching it hoon around the lawn in the dark,  lighting the way and scattering rabbits. The lights do flash if it gets into trouble, which sort of justifies it.

In Husqvarna’s native Sweden, pimping your robot mower is huge. Making them look like animals, cars and even Star Wars ships is something of a national pastime, and there are even competitions. We resisted giving our review sample a makeover.  We did, however, rename it in the app as Husky. That lacked imagination, I grant you.

Husqvarna Automower 450X – How does it perform?

Quietly. By far the quietest robot mower we have tested, the Husqvarna is close to silent in operation. It absolutely doesn’t sound like a lawnmower. The drive motor and motor that spins the cutting disc are super quiet, so the only noise you hear over their low hum is the blades clipping the grass. Annoying the neighbours isn’t going to be possible. Well, unless they get jealous when you are kicked back with a brew while they are still pushing their traditional mower.

Those razor-blades cut extremely clean too. Looking closely at each blade of the cut grass reveals a very neat line with virtually no feathering or tearing of the leaf. Ragged cut grass tips tend to go brown while cleanly cut grass makes your whole lawn look greener. The razors work very well indeed.

On the flipside, the lightweight fold-in razors didn’t cut-up lawn debris, such as leaves and twigs. That might be a good or bad thing depending on your lawn care schedule and environment. Woodland surrounds our lawn, so tree debris getting cut up and mulched into the lawn is a good thing or we would be forever picking it up. That simply isn’t going to happen with the Automower. If you have a cleaner, tidier lawn and fewer nearby trees, it won’t be an issue.

Thanks to the blade’s fold-in action when they hit something, they stay sharp for an extremely long time. After three months in action, the blades were pretty dull but still cut the grass OK. We flipped them around, as they are double sided, and another pack is supplied with the mower. That should see you through a hefty mowing season with ease.

Other than an occasional blade replacement, maintenance of the Automower is nonexistent. Thanks to the incredibly small clippings it doesn’t get clogged up with grass like a traditional mower, even after several months of being outside and mowing in all sorts of weather.

In spring, the main lawn had already received its first cut as we let bluebells grow through the turf until May. What was left for the new 450X install was 4-5 inches of rough-cut grasses and stems. A bowling green it wasn’t.

Fast-forward to August. Despite the ridiculously hot weather, a game of bowls was a definite possibility. As we have found with previous top-notch robot mowers, the grass finish is outstanding and looks like velvet all of the time.

Compared to a ride-on mower, there was no letting the grass get ragged before you mow, and then scalping areas. No brown patches where you let it get too long before cutting. And, frankly, no breaking into a sweat on a Sunday morning while listening to your ‘Mowing Playlist’ on noise cancelling headphones to drown out the din.

As the Automower established its routine, the lawn went from rough to a bit messy, to well-trimmed and eventually to velvety. The constant cutting successfully mulches tiny little pieces of grass back into the lawn, encouraging low growth and delivering an all-over look that would require putting green-level time and effort to achieve with a normal mower.

On the downside, the very same was true of weeds like clover and moss. These lawn invaders seemed to learn the Automower’s cut-height and started spreading out low to the ground in order to survive. This slightly peculiar issue is true of all robot mowers with continuous cutting action. You might want to give the mower a week off occasionally to let the weeds get their heads up enough to be lopped off on the next outing.

Large obstacle detection was top-notch throughout. The ultrasonic sensors would noticeably slow the machine as it approached fixed objects like trees and mobile ones like the dogs. Domestic and wild animals alike got used to the Automower’s quiet operation very quickly, with rabbits simply hopping out of its path as it approached. Ziggy, our new puppy, was intrigued but the Automower sensed his approach, slowed and stopped as it bumped into his leg. No animals were harmed in the making of this review.

The Automower app showed its class during testing. You can control all of the 450X’s functions from the comfort of the living room, get great updates on what it is doing and alerts if something goes wrong. We particularly liked “Automower upside-down” message when we swapped the blades around. Using the mower’s GPS, the Automower’s movements and locations are instantly available too. You can view them as a standard map.

Or if you fancy something a little more realistic, you can overlay satellite photography, presumably pulled from Google Earth.

That proved useful for the two times the Automower 450X went ‘feral’. The mower sent an alert the moment it left the perimeter wire and pinpointed its location on the map. It would do the same if it were taken outside the perimeter wire by thieves, of course.

The 450X’s errant moments were largely due to, erm, ‘user issues’. Around two months after installation, I cut and extended the perimeter wire to encompass another 300sqm of lawn, mostly steeply sloping banks up to 30 degrees. Laying out the wire is a bit of pain, requires a lot of pegs to keep it low to the ground and you need to pay careful attention to the install guidelines in the manual. I got the perimeter wire too close to a critical pond edge over a very steep section and failed to avoid a really rough section of broken ground.

Both mistakes caused the 450X to bounce over and break out of the perimeter wire. It ended up stuck in a bush and hanging precariously over the pond flashing its headlights in desperation, respectively. See note above about opting for professional installation. These were mistakes an experienced installer wouldn’t make.

The good news is that whatever the weather, the 450X had no problem navigating up, down and at jaunty angles across the steep banks as part of it revised mowing schedule. As this sloped area is normally a complete PITA to mow, the 450X won us over here despite its escape shenanigans.

Our only other caveats to ownership are common across all robot mowers; they won’t create lawn stripes, they won’t pick up lawn debris like leaves in the autumn, they can’t handle rough overgrowth like brambles, and they can be a bit of a thief magnet in exposed lawns, even if the PIN code disables them. The leaves and brambles are a bit of an Achilles’ heel here chez Stevenson so we would end up as a two-mower family: an old petrol unit for the leaf pickup and rough stuff cutting once or twice a year, and an Automower 450X for the rest of the season. Perfect.

If you don’t have those issues, the Automower’s labour-savings, running cost-savings, negligible maintenance, fabulous velvety lawn finish all summer long, brilliant app and top-notch eco credentials make a petrol ride-on mower look like a dinosaur. The 450X is a truly outstanding robot mower for large lawns and, based on the same technology, we would heartily recommend Husqvarna’s smaller Automower models for those with more sensible-sized gardens.

Why buy the Husqvarna Automower 450X?

For big lawns up to an acre and a bit, Huqsvarana’s Automower 450X is a very quiet, incredibly effective robot mower that gives a super-sharp cut and velvety smooth lawn finish. It handles steep slopes up to 30 degrees like a mountain goat, deals with the most complex lawn shapes and multiple grassed areas, and is controlled by a truly class-leading mower app.

Installation is fraught with pitfalls for those without robot mower set-up experience (or ability to read the manual…) so you do need to factor in 10% or so on the asking price for professional installation. It won’t do lawn stripes or pick up leaves in the winter, but for kicking back with a glass of vino and enjoying your expansive lawns looking lush, green and velvety all summer long, the Automower 450X is hard to beat.

Verdict

A superbly designed, near maintenance-free robot lawnmower with excellent control app and the ability to take on the most complex of lawns.

Score


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