Pros: Clean, healthy, and MUCH better for the grass.
Cons: Plastic gears are too fragile. Blades dull quickly. Better brands available.
Update: This mower died. It's important to separate two halves of this review: Item (A) below addresses this brand. Items 1. through 8. address Reel Mowers in general.
(A) Quality - American Lawn Mower uses low-grade plastic gears to drive the blade. That's important because the blade has to spin many times faster than the wheels in order to cut the grass. If the gears start slipping, the blade stops spinning. The issue becomes a major problem when you hit a stick or nut and the blade jams. Jams are clearable, but the fragile gears can't take the sudden stop. Additionally, the more expensive brands (see my Brill review) have better gauge steel on the blades, reducing the sharpening. I began to notice a lot of zebra-striped grass blades that weren't getting cut. Tightening the blades may have contributed to the mowers failure. But the mower was one year old and it was having difficulty cutting. I note that I switched to Brill and have been amazed at the difference.
I made the decision to switch lawnmowers after my doctor gave me the fear-of-Jesus speech about my weight, and gas hit $3.00 per gallon. I found that these mowers are surrounded with more misconceptions than reality.
1. They are not necessarily hard to push. They're only 15 pounds compared to 70 pounds for some gas mowers. That being said, you have to keep up with your grass. These mowers ARE a nightmare in heavy grass. I did keep my gas mower, but I use it about 3 times a year. Once in the Spring to "set" my yard and deal with the inevitable tall tufts when my fescue comes back to life. Then a couple times in the fall when I'm bagging the leaves for compost.
2. They don't cut well. Wrong on all counts. First - unlike gas mowers, these actually cut grass like scissors. Gas mowers typically just beat the grass into submission. Think about it - try cutting something by whacking at it with a butcher knife. How effective is that going to be? Then factor in the "dull factor" because few people actually sharpen their mower blades each month. (I did, but I'm weird that way.) NOTE: Don't just use the mower out of the box. You should get a wrench and ever-so-slightly tighten the bolts that adjust the blade tension. You want the blades to make a slight clicking sound that happens when they actually strike. People who mow and see ragged lawns typically have the blades too loose, and the mower doesn't actually cut, so much as pinch and pull. This also makes the mower harder to push, since you have grass pulling back. Not to mention how much damage that can do to your lawn. You might as well bring back the gas mower - it tears grass pretty badly too. The one drawback (but it makes up in safety) is that sticks and nutshells can cause it to stop suddenly which is a major aggravation. You then have to run the blade backward an inch to clear the debris.
3. Easy to clean. Spray this puppy down, then roll it up to the garage to airdry a bit, then spray it with some WD40 to keep it rust and squeak free.
4. Small and light. These are rather small items compared to their gas-powered cousins. At 15 pounds you can carry them inside if need be. Heck - you can put this in the hall closet since it takes up about the same space as a vacuum cleaner.
5. Exercise. These do require more of a cardiovascular effort than a gas mower. But in an era when people are stressed for time and trying to lose weight - you can kill two birds with one stone.
6. Grass catching. There are grass catchers available, but you're better off leaving the clippings on the ground. Typically, if used correctly (not waiting until the grass is a foot tall) the clippings are small enough to break down on their own.
7. Maintenance: No sparkplugs, airfilters, oilfilters, throttles, etc. You push, it spins. End of story.
8. Safety. Unless you're Arnold Schwartznegger, even a 3yo's finger will cause these blades to stop. Any debris that gets flung only goes a short distance and there is little safety threat.