OVER AT POPULAR MECHANICS, they’re doing abusive lab testing of lawn mowers. In this case, though, I think it’s the operator who was being abused some of the time.

Still, the unpowered reel mower that they test — it’s very similar to the one that I own — gets high marks:

This archaic, human-powered technology still has its strengths. At a run, it was faster than the walk-behind mower. It was the most maneuverable and lightest machine, and the easiest to store in a crowded garage. The sweat level was high, but it scored well on moral superiority: No emissions, little noise, and the only fuel to buy was Gatorade. Big complaint: It rolls over weeds without cutting them — a real drawback at my place.

That is the main drawback, one that I deal with by using one of these. Another advantage of the unpowered mower is that you can start your kids mowing with them earlier — my daughter mowed her first lawn at the age of 9. And the PopMech advice to wear earplugs when using any kind of power mower is good advice — I’ve done that since I was a teenager (also for live music and shooting), and my hearing remains surprisingly good.

And they’re right that this is good up to about .7 acres. More than that and I’d want something I could ride.

UPDATE: While we’re on the subject, here’s a list of must-have gardening tools — though I wouldn’t agree with all the choices, it’s got some interesting stuff. And — timely enough — a list of items aimed at gardening moms.

I confess, however, that I continue to be unhealthily fascinated with the robot lawn mower. But then, who wouldn’t be?