Review: EcoFlow Blade
Simon Hill[photo1]6/10I have never much liked mowing the lawn. I remember struggling with an antiquated hand-push lawn mower as a kid. Nowadays, I dread my weekly battle with the big, heavy, indestructible gas mower I inherited from my grandfather. The idea of a robot mower filling in for me as I lounge with a cold drink has always appealed, so I was excited to test the EcoFlow Blade.Not only does this thing have a cool name, it looks like it rolled straight out of Robot Wars, with big chunky wheels, an angular frame, and a central chassis that can go up and down to your preferred cutting length. Since it uses GPS for navigation, there's no need to faff with boundary wire, and a front-facing camera combines with lidar to ensure it avoids obstacles. But the EcoFlow Blade does not come cheap, and has some disappointing quirks.[photo2]Setup was surprisingly quick and easy. I unpacked the mower and followed the instructions to set up the charging station and plant the 4-foot-tall GNSS antenna. The mower relies on satellite navigation. Picking a spot was tricky, as the antenna and base require a location with a strong GPS signal and nothing too tall close by. Trees and buildings can block the signal. The EcoFlow Blade employs real-time kinematic positioning (RTK), triangulating GPS modules in the mower and the charging base with the GNSS antenna to get an accurate position.Once the EcoFlow app was satisfied with the signal, I drove the mower around my lawn like a gigantic remote control car to set a mowing area. You can set no-go zones and define multiple mowing areas. Within an hour of unboxing, the EcoFlow Blade was busily cutting my lawn. You can set your preferred grass length between 0.8 and 3.1 inches in the app, schedule the Blade to mow, and tell it to make multiple passes around the edge.By default, the EcoFlow Blade connects to your phone via Bluetooth, which takes a few seconds and has limited range. But you can also connect via Wi-Fi or use an eSIM. It can track its own position, so if anyone pinches your EcoFlow Blade, it will stop working. Then you can use the app to locate it.Thankfully, you don't need the app to use your mower. There's a big red stop butto
n on top for safety and a trio of buttons to turn the power on or off, start mowing, and return to base. It takes just over two hours to charge and works for up to four hours.[photo3]EcoFlow says the Blade can cover over 30,000 square feet of lawn and handle slopes up to 27 degrees. Most robot mowers are designed for much smaller areas and struggle with inclines. The EcoFlow Blade's front two wheels are angled in, which enables it to turn sharply, and the back wheels have teeth for better traction. It certainly had no trouble with the gentle slope in my modest lawn and cut the grass in neat rows.I set a biweekly automation schedule, and the EcoFlow Blade has mostly completed the job without any input from me. But it hasn't been perfect. I encountered a few errors where it simply refused to start. The first time this happened, a firmware update got it running again. The second time, I had to contact support. The app is still in beta, so hopefully reliability will improve. When it works, the Blade is speedy and cuts grass well.With an IPX5 rating, the EcoFlow Blade and charging base are fine out in the rain, which is just as well because it has been very wet here recently. Just like any mower, it cannot cope with wet grass. The Blade has a rain sensor, and you can set a rain delay in the app so that it waits a while after the rain stops to start mowing again. The one morning the Blade started up when the grass was still dewy, it became clogged and told me it was stuck about two minutes into the job.The front wheels have gaps that get clogged pretty regularly. Thankfully, the open design makes it pretty easy to clean, and you can even turn a low pressure hose on it. For some reason, snails seem to love it. I have had to clean them out of the front grill several times.My kids frequently leave stuff on the lawn, and the EcoFlow Blade impressed with its obstacle avoidance. Small objects, like a sandcastle bucket and a football, were given a wide berth. But the flip side is that it leaves a border around the lawn uncut. At the bottom edge, which opens onto a path, it cuts right to the edge, but around the side where there are plants and other obstacles it leaves a strip about a foot wide. Narrow paths are also a problem. If you have two sections of lawn you want mowed, but the path between them is less than 3 feet wide and there's a fence or wall on either side, the EcoFlow Blade probably won't be able to get there.You can always use manual control in the app if the EcoFlow Blade gets stuck, but it's only for guiding the mower back to the charging station or marking out cutting areas. Sadly, you can't have it cut while you manually control it. That means you are stuck getting the regular mower or trimmer out to do the edges.While the EcoFlow Blade is nowhere near as noisy as a regular mower, it is loud for a robot mower. My Apple Watch reckons it went as high as 65 decibels. It also makes an annoying reversing sound, says "Charging" when it hits the base, and utters a few other phrases. Thankfully you can turn the speech and sound volume down in the app. You can also turn off the superfluous light on the mower but not the bright green light on the charging station.[photo4]Everyone who spotted the EcoFlow Blade grinned and asked about it, but when I revealed the $2,899 price, they all pulled the same horrified expression. It is a lot. You can also buy it bundled with a Lawn Sweeper Kit that can clear away leaves and other debris before you mow for $3,199 (MSRP $3,599). For folks in the UK, those prices are the same in GBP.Considering the asking price, I expected a smoother experience. EcoFlow must work out the kinks if it wants happy customers. Unless you have a big lawn (certainly more than 1,000 square feet), I would not consider the EcoFlow Blade. There are other robot mowers that require a trickier setup and lack some of the smarts, but are also far cheaper. And unfortunately, for a near-seamless experience, you may have to pay much more; Husqvarna's premium robot mower is almost twice as much (9/10, WIRED Recommends).