We think this unit sits somewhere between the Stihl "R" cutter and the Stihl "T" trimmer (see p39). This Echo prefers trimming privet to cutting Escallonia but it gives a neat cut on both. "It coughed and sputtered with the Escallonia - it just seems to struggle a bit with the thicker material," says Gardner.
Vibrations are not an issue on this hedgecutter but we do think the primer bulb is a bit exposed if you are using this one on thorny material. The 161 also benefits from a revolving back handle. It's a bit fiddly compared with the swivel handle on the Stihl but does provide flexibility for the user.
Of the two machines, we prefer the 23.6cc 331. "For a single-sided machine, this one flies down the hedge compared with the 161 double-sided machine. And it cuts nicely - a really neat trimmer," confirms Gardner.
The 331 weighs just 5.8kg, is well balanced and has a 76mm blade. We could feel no vibration on this model and we like the transparent fuel tank.
Models HCR-161ES, HCR-331ES
Engine 21.2cc two-stroke, 23.6cc two-stroke
Blades 62cm double-sided, 76.4cm single-sided
Weight 5.5kg, 5.8kg
List price (ex VAT) £329, £379
Contact Echo Tools, 01844 278800
The test was conducted in December so there was no fear of disturbing nesting birds. Conditions were cold with heavy downpours of rain; material cut included an Escallonia hedge.
THE REVIEW PANEL
Andre Gardner, grounds manager, Bridgwater College - Cannington Campus
Faith Ayrey, gardener, Bridgwater College - Cannington Campus
Graham Bell, senior gardener, Bridgwater College - Cannington Campus