Review - Trimmers and brushcutters

These indispensable tools fall under the spotlight as our reviewers try out the latest handheld and wheeled units under the watchful eye of Sally Drury.

EGO ST1500E string trimmer - image: HW
EGO ST1500E string trimmer - image: HW

Should you work in the green landscape, the trimmer and brushcutter are indispensable. Available in a variety of formats and sizes, there is one for every type of application. Some are ideal as grab-and-use machines for trimming up around trees and obstacles once the mowers have passed. There are larger, more powerful units for mowing swathes of long grass and weedy vegetation.

Choose one with an engine mounted in a backpack and you have a machine that is easy to carry and to operate on slopes. Those on wheels are perfect for extensive areas such as verges or on sites such as cemeteries. Where a quiet, fume-free environment is needed, battery powered brushcutters will give you performance with little noise and no emissions.

In this test we look at handheld trimmers and brushcutters - petrol and battery units - plus a wheeled trimmer. Conditions were less than perfect. Heavy rain on day one was followed by more rain on days two and three. A brief lull in the weather still provided difficult conditions on day four so it was necessary to look at some models several weeks later in drier but much colder conditions.

Tested This Issue

- Mitox 4500UK PRO

- Mitox 430UX-a

- Mitox 240LX

- Mitox 2700LK PRO

- EGO ST1500E string trimmer

- Makita DUR365UZ twin 18V cordless

- Cobra WT56B wheeled trimmer

- MTD 1035K

Review Panel

Mike Baldwin, director of horticulture, Derby College, Broomfield Hall Campus

Mark Ekin, agriculture and countryside co-ordinator, Derby College, Broomfield Hall Campus

Mitox 4500UK PRO

Top of the Mitox range, this cowhorned machine is for experienced users. It is a heavy-duty unit designed for work in the commercial environment. It has aggression and is seriously powerful, delivering 1.42kW (1.9hp).

Suitable for forestry applications as well as clearing long-established vegetation, the 4500UK is powered by a Kawasaki engine that automatically tunes itself to match conditions and so minimise emissions. Oodles of torque is delivered to the cutting head thanks to the use of a sintered clutch and an extra-large bevel-type transmission.

The 4500UK features the same Kawasaki Advanced Recoil (KAR) starting system as the 2700 PRO (p66), so just a light pull is all that is needed to fire the machine into life. When it is up and running, the 0.9-litre fuel tank means you can keep it running for up to an hour-and-a-half.

Coming as standard with a three-toothed metal blade and 2.4mm-diameter cord, plus full harness, it gives a lively performance but also has a soft side. It is easy to adjust for balance. The handles are comfortable, all controls (including stop/start) are within easy reach of the grip and vibrations register at 2.6m/s2 left and 3m/s2 right. Three-year commercial warranty applies.


Engine Kawasaki 45.4cc two-stroke

Power 1.42kW

Fuel tank capacity 0.9 litres

Handle type Cowhorn, in-line for transport

Dry weight 8.6kg

Cutting heads Bump-feed nylon line and three-tooth metal blade

List price £599 including VAT

Tel Rochford Garden Machinery - 01963 828000

Mitox 430UX-a

From the Mitox Premium range, this high-end, heavy-duty domestic unit could provide garden contractors with a trimming and mowing machine at a very reasonable price. What we especially like about this model is the full-enclosed engine - great when you are working near shrubs and brambles - and the quick-adjust handles.

A huge wing nut allows precise adjustment of the operating angle, making the 430UX-a ideal for situations where several people of varying heights may need to share the same unit. Where operators might be occasional users, starting instructions are clearly printed on the machine.

One of the most powerful brushcutters in the Mitox range, it develops a not-to-be-sneezed-at 1.25kW (1.7hp). The machine's 42.7cc two-stroke, air-cooled engine is a smooth runner and there is the option of working with a 2.4mm- diameter line or an aggressive three-tooth blade.

As with the 240LX (p66), this brushcutter features the stress-free Auto-Choke system that provides set positions for cold and hot starting and then automatically returns to idle when the throttle is pulled. The generous 1.2-litre fuel tank reduces downtime by minimising interruptions for refuelling. It requires a 40:1 mix.


Engine 42.7cc air-cooled two-stroke

Power 1.25kW

Fuel tank capacity 1.25 litres

Fuel mix 40:1

Handle type Cowhorn

Dry weight 7.9kg

Cutting heads 2.4mm diameter nylon line and 255mm three-tooth metal blade

List price £279 including VAT

Tel Rochford Garden Machinery - 01963 828000

Mitox 240LX

For a domestic machine, this is premium quality. It has a loop handle, making it ideal to grab for a quick trim but also compact for storage, carrying and transport.

At the heart of the 240LX is a 23.1cc air-cooled two-stroke engine. It is surprisingly powerful, delivering 0.7kW, and is responsive to trigger engagement. The Auto-Choke system features set positions for cold and hot starting and then automatically returns to idle when the throttle is squeezed.

Ekin is impressed with the weight, finding this trimmer light and easy to manoeuvre. We do not have figures but the anti-vibration system works well and none of the testers report any concerns. In fact, their only negative comment about the whole machine related to the "slightly flimsy" OPC (operator presence control).

It comes with a nylon-line cutting head and 255mm three-toothed metal blade. While it will munch effortlessly through the grass, it is perfectly happy to rip through thistles and the odd thin sapling that gets in the way.

Bearing in mind the low price, the 240LX might suit gardeners occasionally needing to trim up or someone starting a garden round and seeking value-for-money kit to get themselves earning.


Engine 23.1cc air-cooled two-stroke

Power 0.7kW

Fuel tank capacity 0.4 litres

Fuel mix 40:1

Handle type Loop

Dry weight 5.3kg

Cutting heads 2.4mm-diameter nylon line and 255mm three-tooth metal blade

List price £219 including VAT

Tel Rochford Garden Machinery - 01963 828000

Mitox 2700LK PRO

Another grab-and-go loop-handled trimmer from the Mitox brand, but this one is distinctly commercial - check out the quality of the trigger mechanism. It is chunky and sturdy, built to last the bangs and knocks of life in the commercial market.

With a Kawasaki engine and made in Japan, the 2700LK benefits from Kawasaki Advanced Recoil (KAR) starting. We love the recoil on this, the most recent addition to the Mitox family.

"I wasn't prepared for that," says Ekin. "It's no effort at all to turn the engine over." Grass starts flying immediately he puts the head to the ground. It is a bump feed, but a four-toothed metal blade is also available for denser vegetation.

In use we find the 2700LK is lightweight but powerful. It has a 26.3cc two-stroke engine delivering 0.77kW. It is also well-balanced - there is no struggle to hold it at the right working angle - and for a two-stroke it is not that noisy. Vibrations are recorded at 5.0m/s2 left and 5.2m/s2 right.

While we reckon this trimmer is suitable for the contractor, we have to point out that wire exposure is a concern. Get it caught and you may find your day grinding to a sudden halt. Hey, but look, it has three-year warranty for commercial operators.


Engine 26.3cc two-stroke

Power 0.77kW

Fuel tank capacity 0.5 litres

Handle type loop

Dry weight 5.4kg

Cutting heads bump-feed nylon line and four-tooth metal blade

List price £389 including VAT

Tel Rochford Garden Machinery - 01963 828000

EGO ST1500E string trimmer

Entering the market only last year, EGO Power+ is already making inroads into the professional gardener market with a range of kit that includes a hedge trimmer, blower, mower, chainsaw and string trimmer. More models are expected later this year.

The first thing you notice about EGO kit is the smart modern design. Like other products in the brand, this trimmer is powered by a 56V lithium-ion battery and boasts all the benefits of cordless products - no petrol to spill, little noise, hardly any vibrations and no fumes. It is a no-fuss unit, but will it do the job?

The ST1500E gives a 38cm cutting swathe using a dual-feed 2.4mm-diameter nylon line. We are not disappointed with performance. The trimmer makes quick work of tidying up after the mowers have passed and it does not complain when being put to work on a patch of weeds in the grass verge. The long shaft length and constant speed control make mowing work comfortable and a flick of a quick-release lock is all that is needed to adjust the loop handle for balance.

The motor has soft start but it is not so slow that it causes annoyance and there is a handy gauge to monitor the power and give an instant indication of what is left. The bump feed works well and string replacement is simple - just hook it, wrap it and go. What's not to like?

There is a choice of three batteries: 6.0Ah giving up to 75 minutes of runtime; 4.0Ah providing 50 minutes; and 2.0Ah just 25 minutes. A rapid charger takes between 25 and 45 minutes to recharge the batteries, which weigh between 1.3kg and 2.9kg depending on the capacity.


Handle type Loop

Cutting width 38cm

Cutting head Bump-feed dual 2.4mm nylon line

No-load speed 0-5,800rpm

Weight 3kg excluding battery

Battery 56V lithium-ion

Battery sizes 2.0Ah/4.0A/6.0Ah

Approximate runtimes 25 minutes/50 minutes/75 minutes

Charging times (rapid charger) 25 minutes/30 minutes/45 minutes

Battery weight 1.3kg/2.1kg/2.9kg

Price £179 including VAT (excluding battery and charger)

Tel Henton & Chattell - 0115 986 6646

Makita DUR365UZ twin 18V cordless

I absolutely love this machine. It suits my requirements down to the ground. It is so lightweight that it turns a chore into a pleasure and it is so quiet that you can almost hear the grass cry. But it is the balance that does it for me - you have to experience it to believe it.

What makes the DUR365UZ different is having its motor in the head. That, plus the adjustable handles, makes the balance perfect and keeps vibration levels low. But this brushcutter also has three speed settings so you can adjust the revs to suit conditions and hence get more running time out of your charge.

When it comes to battery products, that is the first thing on everybody's mind - the runtime. The next is the charge time.

With two 5.0Ah lithium-ion batteries fitted in the DUR365UZ, you can expect 90 minutes running on low speed. That is sufficient for the normal trimming work around trees or between picnic benches. Set it on medium and you will get 52 minutes of medium-duty mowing. Where grass is dense or there are tough weeds such as docks and thistles, it is necessary to rack it up to the high setting, but you will still get 31 minutes out of a charge.

The choice of batteries includes 3.0Ah and 4.0Ah as well as the 5.0Ah. Recharging takes between 22 and 45 minutes depending on the battery used.


Handle type Cowhorn

Cutting width 35cm

Cutting head Bump-feed dual nylon line

No load speed 3,500-6,500rpm depending on setting

Weight 5.2kg excluding battery

Batteries Twin 5.0Ah 18V lithium-ion

Approximate runtimes (5.0Ah) 90 minutes on low speed/52 minutes on medium speed/31 minutes on high speed

Price £420 + VAT (body only but with goggles, hex wrench, blade cover and shoulder strap)

Tel Makita UK - 01908 211678

Cobra WT56B wheeled trimmer

Designed in the UK, this wheeled trimmer claims to cater for the changing conditions of the British garden. We certainly have changing conditions this week and it copes as well in the wet as it does in the dry.

Powered by a Briggs & Stratton 750Ex Series engine and incorporating a 22in cutting width, the WT56B can make light work of those hard-to-reach places. Having a Direct Overhead Valve engine, it really talks torque, but it is also quiet.

The heavy-duty 350mm-diameter wheels have thick rubber tyres and are spoked for strength. Ekin has no trouble manoeuvring the machine up and down bumpy verges near the college. "It is very easy to start and couldn't be simpler to use - there's a throttle and a lever to engage the cutter head," he notes. "The balance is good and the large wheels make it easy to push and turn."

With a 4mm-thick heavy-duty cutting line, it ploughs its way through thick grass. We reckon this is a great machine for anyone who needs to trim areas such as verges and the edges of rides or perhaps cut a pathway through a meadow.


Engine Briggs & Stratton 750Ex Series

Cutting head Adjustable

Cutting width 22in (56cm)

Cutting height 38-76mm

Rotating speed 3,600rpm

Weight 33kg

List price £379.99 including VAT

Tel Cobra Garden from Henton & Chattell - 0115 986 6646

MTD 1035K

Designed in America, built like a rock and with comfort, this brushcutter is ideal for professional gardeners working in demanding landscapes. For starters, it is well balanced with loads of adjustment.

There is a big hand nut to give adjustment to the cowhorn handles and there is a choice of five holes to attach the padded double shoulder harness that is supplied with the machine. There is simply no excuse for being uncomfortable.

Core to this unit is the 34.4cc two-stroke Kawasaki engine. It develops ample power for our needs (1.34kW) and has a full crank for low-vibration operation, reduced wear and longer life between services. It has an Easy-Start engine, so you should not strain a muscle getting this one started. In fact, all it takes is a gentle pull - and with a 0.7-litre fuel tank you should not need to stop and refuel too often.

A 42cm bump-feed line is supplied as standard and it perhaps benefits from a new design as we seem not to have the drag problems it caused when we tested it a year ago. We find it copes well with tough weeds and grass clearance. A 25.5cm metal brush blade is also supplied. It has got everything going for it, but look at the price. It is excellent value at £389 including VAT.


Engine Kawasaki 34.4cc two-stroke

Power 1.34kW

Fuel tank capacity 0.7 litres

Handle type Cowhorn

Dry weight 7.4kg

Cutting heads Bump-feed 3mm nylon line and 25.5cm metal blade

List price £389 including VAT

Tel Barrus - 01869 363636.

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