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I tested the Tesla Cybertruck of robot mowers - and it's better than I expected

The EcoFlow Blade is a groundbreaking robot for lawn care, but is worth the money and time? I find out.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
EcoFlow Blade with Sweeper Kit

The EcoFlow Blade with Sweeper Kit is a sight to behold.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Mowing the lawn isn't a chore in my house; it's a privilege. I've always loved mowing, but my husband never has. But with three kids under six, he's come to crave that hour or two of mowing the lawn with his AirPods in and no one else around. I enjoy all aspects of gardening -- even cutting the grass -- so his more recent hobby has been an "always" one for me.

So, committing to testing out the new EcoFlow Blade was bittersweet. I was hesitant to have a robot replace one of our weekend relaxation methods, but I was more curious to see what the technology could do, especially with how groundbreaking its design is.

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The $3,599 EcoFlow Blade is a robot mower that stands out from all others. It has all the basics: a lithium battery and charging dock, three blades to cut the grass, four heavy-duty wheels, and more. But it's unique in two ways: it's the first robot mower with a sweeper kit and one of the few on the market that doesn't require a boundary wire.

View at Us.ecoflow

While there are no boundary wires to install, setting up the EcoFlow Blade took some work and the better part of an afternoon. The mower works with GPS technology, and it comes with a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) antenna that must be positioned just right for the robot to clean effectively -- and this task is much more challenging to do than it is to say.

It took about two hours of playing around with different areas of my yard to get the antenna to receive radio signals and position the mower where it could communicate. 

EcoFlow Blade
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

This process was notably exasperating, I can't lie, mainly because you don't get to decide where you want the antenna or charging station to go in your yard, and I was a little paranoid about theft. Still, EcoFlow claims the Blade is protected with anti-theft technology powered by 4G, GPS, and an integrated eSim.

I had to move the antenna (taller than me, though not heavy) several times, walk around with my phone checking for a signal, and do it all over again. After giving my neighbors the impression that I was about to make tinfoil hats for the whole block, I found a spot that worked. And to be fair, this niggly process was more manageable than burying wires along my property line.

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The EcoFlow Blade is not a heavy robot -- it weighs just over 30lbs -- but it's not a device you'll be carrying around. It looks light and sleek, and it's made to be held by the chassis and dragged on its wheels if you need to move it. 

EcoFlow Blade

The EcoFlow Blade as seen with the Sweeper Kit installed.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

It also features three adjustable grass-cutting heights, from 0.8 to three inches, which you can adjust through the app. Once you have the Blade set up, it's mapping time. 

To create a map, you have to follow the EcoFlow Blade along the perimeter of the area you want it to cover and you do this with the app in mapping mode, while you guide the mower in front of you like a remote control car (which was very fun). 

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The fenced-in area of my yard has about 3,000 square feet of grass, but there's a deck right in the middle of that, so the backyard is two halves connected by a path along the edge of the deck. Because the Blade would have to travel the four-foot-wide gap to the other side after it's done with one side, I initially decided to set it up to do only half the yard. I didn't want it to get lost or have issues on its way to the other side.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

For weeks, the EcoFlow Blade maintained half of our yard so well that it became a nuisance to mow the rest. Admittedly, there were some inconsistencies with mapping, as it consistently missed a few feet of area on the edge every time it mowed. Still, it was one corner by the fence and no more than a couple of feet. And was something that was corrected when we remapped the yard.

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The EcoFlow Blade is exceptional at maintaining grassy areas. It never missed spots in the middle of its coverage area and it consistently ran several times a week automatically, keeping our one-half of the yard mowed (lawn stripes and all) without us having to lift a finger. 

EcoFlow Blade

The EcoFlow Blade is equipped with sensors and LiDAR to avoid obstacles.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Of course, we still had to cut the edges along the fence with an edge trimmer, but that's something that you have to do when you have a standard lawnmower, so that wasn't unexpected. 

The robot has a rain sensor that detects showers or lousy weather and either stays docked or returns to the dock to avoid getting stuck in the mud. We were able to experience the rain sensor first-hand since we had it running on an automatic schedule.

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And with curious little kids obsessed with the little autonomous car running around the lawn, we also got to see how well the LiDAR and visual sensor worked together to intelligently avoid obstacles. You can see how it did below.

The EcoFlow Blade expertly avoids a daydreaming toddler.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

As I tested the mower in the spring, I haven't given the sweeper kit as much use as possible. But with a backyard that backs up to the woods, I'm looking forward to seeing what it can do come September.

EcoFlow Blade with Sweeper Kit

EcoFlow Blade with the Sweeper Kit from the top.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

To test the robot's limits, my husband and I followed the Blade with bated breath as it began to mow an uncharted path, the easternmost side of my yard that connects to the woods. Surprisingly, it reached the other side and got to work immediately, mowing around flowerbeds as I had mapped it to do so.

This process lasted until it was about 75% of the way done when it started going over one strip of land back and forth consistently -- I stopped counting by the eighth time. I'm unsure if the robot mower got confused about where it was, but then it went around a patch of land and returned to the charging dock, proudly declaring in a confident male voice that it was done with its work. 

It wasn't, as evidenced by the triangular-shaped mohawk of long grass in the middle of my yard. 

EcoFlow Blade

The EcoFlow Blade's three replaceable blades at the bottom.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Alex Murphy, as I named the Blade in the EcoFlow app -- because of that aforementioned Robocop-like voice -- didn't do as well as I hoped with the expanded map, not even in the second, third, or fourth pass, when it got stranded under the deck.

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I can't fault the Blade for its efforts because my lawn is a challenging layout for even humans to mow. And I had much more luck setting up both halves of the yard as separate zones to cover, rather than as an entire area. 

EcoFlow Blade does a decent job of adding lawn stripes with minimal effort on your end.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Since then, I've found it's much more relaxing to watch a robot mow your lawn than doing it myself. The most rewarding part of it all is coming out to the yard and always having it perfectly mowed with no effort on my part. I can only assume that's how my children feel when they see their folded laundry and clean bathrooms. 

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Setting up the antenna and getting everything aligned to communicate effectively required the most effort. However, if an alternative is as labor-intensive and invasive as burying boundary wires, I prefer a few hours of satellite searching. 

EcoFlow Blade with Sweeper Kit

EcoFlow Blade on the charging dock.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The EcoFlow Blade is not the greatest at sticking to the initial map you create. This was one of the consistent issues I found with this robot mower and perhaps the only one that bothered me. 

As a new product, I loved seeing how the different firmware upgrades detailed the bug fixes that the EcoFlow team made to the robot mower to improve the user experience. I can appreciate that many of these bugs I encountered will likely be addressed in time with software improvements, as the hardware itself is already very outstanding. 

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