Craftsman has come out with a new cordless 40-volt dual-blade 20″ cordless push lawn mower for 2014, and we were anxious to put it to the test. The new mower boasts up to 70 minutes of runtime with two batteries and is said to be an efficient mulcher, thanks to its dual-bladed design.
The most interesting feature about the new Craftsman 40V mower is its 2-battery power system. It is only powered by one battery at a time – and can switchover automatically once the first is drained – but the ability to mount two batteries means potentially longer mowing sessions before you have to return the batteries to the charger.
At a street price of only around ~$370 the new Craftsman cordless mower looks like a sure winner.
- Two 10″ blades for “up to 50% better mulching” than single blade mowers
- Kit includes (2) Craftsman 40 volt Li-ion batteries (one 4.0 Ah and one 2.0 Ah).
- Automatic battery switchover powers the mower by the second charged battery after the first is drained
- Up to 70 minutes of runtime with included batteries
- Automatic cutting speed adjustment for best performance and runtime
- 2-in-1 cutting deck allows mulching or rear bag mowing (bag included)
- Weighs only 42 lbs
- 5-position height adjustment using a single lever
- Folding handle for compact storage
Upon receiving the mower I promptly unpacked and prepared to assemble it. To my pleasant surprise it only needed to have the handle unfolded and locked into place. After removing a few pieces of packing materials the mower was ready to go!
Before the first mow, I fully charged both batteries using the included charger. The batteries are inserted into two covered compartments at the top of the mower, and the covers feature LED lights that illuminate to indicate which of the two batteries is currently in use.
I started on a section of lawn that I had mowed with a gas mower just a few days earlier. I hoped to mow the grass a little lower than my first few cuttings of the season, so I set the single lever height adjustment to its 3rd (middle) setting.
The height adjustment moves very smoothly and is a very nice feature to have on a push mower, compared to having to adjust individual levers on each wheel. Speaking of wheels, the Craftsman mower has rather large rear wheels that, combined with the mower’s light weight, make it very easy to maneuver.
To get the mower going, you must press and hold a start button, and then depress the bail/control lever. Release the start button once the cutting blades begin to spin. There is a small instructional graphic near the switch that shows this procedure, but the startup sequence was still not obvious to me until I read the instructions.
For those unused to battery or electric powered mowers, you will be greeted with an eerily quiet-sounding whir. It made me think of a toy airplane or quadcopter.
As I started my first pass, the whir of the blades changed as the mower sensed the grass resistance and automatically adjusted motor speed for performance. The cut quality was certainly nothing to get excited about; many blades of grass looked torn or frayed, which I would either attribute to the new blades not being very sharp, or turning at a lower velocity as the mower adjusted itself.
The cut is still acceptable, and can likely be improved by sharpening the blades, although this shouldn’t be necessary for a brand new product that came straight out of the box.
A little while into my mowing the blades gently spun down before speeding back up. This was accompanied with the battery compartments’ LED lights indicating that the second battery was taking over after the first was depleted. I mistakenly thought that the battery changeover would be seamless, but the mower essentially stops and restarts in the span of a couple of seconds as it switches to the fresh battery.
With renewed vigor the mower sprang to life and I was back to mowing the next few rows. Only a few minutes later, the entire mower stopped and could not be restarted. I checked the batteries, and they were both drained. A look at my watch showed that my mowing session had lasted the grand total of 26 minutes.
The batteries went back to the charger with the hope that battery life would improve after a few charges or once my lawn was under control. My second and third mowing sessions both lasted 36 minutes. I tried to be careful to not to cut the grass as low, but runtime was still far short of the advertised runtime of up to 70 minutes.
On my fourth mowing session, the batteries lasted 50 minutes. This is a great improvement over 26 and 36 minutes, but I am not sure yet if this is due to the batteries improving after the first few charges, or if the mower had to work less, stretching the runtime. I suspect it is the latter and plan to do additional testing to see if battery performance improves any further.
On paper, the Craftsman mower looks sure to beat every other option on the battery-powered mower market. However in real-world use, I’ve so far found that the battery life is quite short and that it has generally required 2 sessions to mow my lawn. In the last test session I was able to completely mow the lawn before the batteries gave out, and plan to continue testing to see if runtime improves further.
The battery charger does not charge quickly: the larger 4.0 ah battery takes about 2 hours and the 2.0 ah takes an hour to fully charge. This usually means that I start mowing the lawn one day and have to finish up another day. Because of the narrow compartments the batteries mount into, and how the latch is designed, it is somewhat difficult to remove the batteries from the mower.
Much of the mower is made from a tough plastic material, making it very light and easy to maneuver around the lawn. Although it helps save space, I found the handle’s folding mechanism to be very clumsy. There are locking levers on four points that need to be adjusted for tension pretty tightly to keep the handle it from feeling floppy and cheap.
Overall, the mower is capable enough to adequately handle smaller lawns and mowing needs, but its runtime performance could be a problem for those looking for a new battery-powered mower than can handle larger lawns.
Buy Now(via Sears)
Model #: 25081
Ease of Use: 4/5
Pictorial diagram on starting mower is unclear, and the batteries are somewhat difficult to remove from covered pockets due to latch design. Overall the mower is still very easy to use.
Build Quality: 3/5
Folding handle and latches are flimsy, battery covers feel very fragile, blades are very thin, mostly-plastic construction leads to some concerns over long-term durability.
Very light, large rear wheels make the mower easy to maneuver.
Cutting Performance: 2/5
Dull blades or variable speed left many “torn” looking blades of grass. Good blades should cleanly cut and not rip/tear grass.
Cutting thick grass dramatically reduces runtime. Longest runtime observed was still more than 25% shorter than claimed runtime of “up to 70 minutes”.
Thank you to Craftsman for providing the review samples unconditionally. Review samples are typically given away, donated, or retained for editorial and comparison purposes.