Pros: powerful, maneuverable, rugged
Cons: several annoying quirks
For some reason the dealer wasn't even too enthusiastic about selling us an 833R... apparently he knew something i didn't. He began by mentioning that this wasn't one of MTD's popular models but it was just the size machine we were looking for and there weren't many other choices.
So we took delivery and the guy who was showing me how to run it had less of a clue than a four year old would sitting in the cockpit of a 727... Luckily, there really wasn't too much to know and any mechanically-minded individual could have the 833 memorized in ten seconds.
The 833 is built solidly and simply which makes the rare field repair easy. Changing a drive or blade belt is easy, and almost as easy is the blade synchro (spindle) belt. Oil changes are a snap (literally) with the drain petcock and included tube that fits on the end of it. Basically, you can have the thing apart with a screwdriver and a pair of monkey wrenches.
The Briggs & Stratton 8.5hp I/C engine is up to the challenge of nearly any grass height and any uphill slope- as long as the tank is at least half full. One thing that baffles me (and the dealer) is the fuel system design. The tank is long and flat and the fuel drain has no low point so whenever the ground is rough or sloping, it starts backfiring and eventually quits from fuel starvation (it's done this from the beginning and I know the lines and filters are clean.) I experimented with it on my own and found it to run much longer on the tank with it raised about an inch to provide the carburetor with a tad more pressure. I have no idea why Briggs would design something with these problems. Other than that, after three years of normal use and regular maintenance, the engine runs just as strong as always and no oil burning at all.
The most annoying feature of the 833 is unfortunately the most important one- deck design. The engineer's head was obviously still between his sister's legs when he created and did R&D on this model. It's a 3-in-1 deck design for discharging, bagging, and mulching but does neither very well, leaving spots that the mower doesn't cut, especially taller, thin grass and dandelion stems. I mainly use it for discharging and actually wrote to the company in hopes of locating non-mulching blades (because of their uncommon 17" length and an oddly shaped spindle) but her answer was that those 3-in-1 blades were all that's available for the 833. I still have research to do and will update this if i find otherwise. Until then, when i need a really good looking cut i'll use my die-hard 12yr old Toro push mower. The deck's only redeeming feature is the infinitely adjustable deck height mechanism.
Sadly, the combination of a large engine and big, easily-removable sheets of metal make for some loud resonations at full speed. That and some other rattles necessitate the use of earplugs or 'muffs while mowing.
When looking for mowers, we needed something that was really maneuverable and could handle steep grades on a regular basis. The 833 does an excellent job in those areas whereas a rider or push mower would leave the operator pinned underneath his machine in a patch of poison ivy at the bottom of the hill.
engine: 8.5hp I/C Briggs
deck: 3-in-1, 33" cut, optional bagger, mulching adapter included, infinite height adjustment
transmission: belt driven- 4 forward, reverse, neutral