Chainsaws tested and reviewed: battery v petrol

How do the latest battery models shape up against new petrol chainsaws when tested at Bridgwater College? Sally Drury reports.

Makita DUC353Z chainsaw - image: HW
Makita DUC353Z chainsaw - image: HW

Reviewed this issue

-Makita Duc353z
-EGO CS1600E
-Harry ZM4630
-Makita EA3201S
-MTD GCS 4600/45
-Cobra CS620-20
-Echo CS501SX
-Makita EA5600F

Review panel

Mike Cullen, head of arboriculture, Bridgwater College; Giles Prewett, arb technician, Bridgwater College; arboriculture students, Bridgwater College We asked arboriculture department staff at the Bridgwater College Cannington Campus to try out a selection of petrol and battery chainsaws. Helping them were students already working in the industry.

They are all regular chainsaw users but mostly with either Husqvarna or Stihl saws. We had no Stihls or Huskies but a wide range of other branded rear-handled units to test on the log piles at the arb training facility. With the rising popularity of battery power, we had models from 56V cordless specialist EGO Power+ and from Makita, in the form of a twin 18V saw, with a view to checking power and runtimes and to compare them to petrol power.

Makita also loaned us a standard-spec landowner chainsaw and the very latest "farmer" model, the EA5600F. We also got our hands on Echo’s CS501SX professional ground saw and three saws priced under £200 — Cobra Garden’s CS620, which at 62cc is the company’s most powerful; the 45.6cc Harry from FGM Claymore; and a similar sized MTD chainsaw from EP Barrus. Conditions on test day were cool and cloudy. Drizzle threatened but it stayed dry for the event.

Makita Duc353z

Introduced at the beginning of the year as a standard-setting cordless chainsaw that matches petrol performance, this twin 18V (36V) machine attracts much attention from our testers.

They already have experience of Husky and Stihl battery chainsaws and are eager to make a comparison. With all the benefits of cordless tools, this saw boasts a 36V direct-drive brushless motor with a rated output of 1kW, making it similar to a 32cc petrol machine.

It comes fitted with a 35cm bar and provides a fast chain speed of 20m/s. The testers are impressed with the power of this cordless unit and also with the weight — just 5.2kg in operational mode, whereas Makita’s 32cc unit with a full tank is 5.6kg.

Inspection of the machine shows it to be well built. We like the ergonomic soft-grip handle, variable speed trigger and constant speed control. The automatic electric brake on the trigger release is responsive, as is the kickback brake protection.

The oil tank has adjustable flow through the pump with metal gears to the automatic chain lube system. We like the fact that there is an oil window to keep a check on the level — it is important because you do not have the same "fuelling stops" as with a petrol saw.

Makita’s own trials show the saw, fitted with two fully charged 5.0Ah batteries, can deliver more than 60 cuts through 5in-diameter timber. That is seven linear metres of cutting per charge. But what will our testers make of it?

"The Makita wins hands down," declares one. "In fact, I reckon it wins over our Huskies and Stihls." Discussion breaks out. Husqvarna and Stihl have entered the cordless market after many years of producing petrol-powered products. We wonder whether Makita has an advantage with its background and long history in manufacturing battery tools.

Specifications

Battery Twin 18V (36V), 3.0Ah, 4.0Ah, 5.0Ah or 6.0Ah
Bar 35cm
Weight 5.2kg ready to work
Runtime Dependent on timber but 5.0Ah batteries give 60 cuts of 5in diameter
Recharge time 3.0Ah 22mins, 4.0Ah 35mins, 5.0Ah 45mins, 6.0Ah 55mins
Price Expect to pay around £200 + VAT for body only
Tel Makita UK — 01908 211678

EGO CS1600E

"It’s a Power Ranger saw," jokes one tester. Certainly, in terms of looks, the EGO chainsaw is in a class of its own. It has been designed to be stylish and no doubt it will appeal to some users, particularly if viewed alongside more traditional chainsaws on a shelf in a shop or store. But looks are not everything. We want to know what it can do.

EGO Power+ entered the cordless market a couple of years ago with a range of tools including hedge trimmers, grass trimmers, mowers and blower. They all have the same aesthetics and all work off the EGO 56V battery system. There is a choice of 2.0Ah, 4.0Ah, 5.0Ah, 6.0Ah and 7.5Ah. According to EGO, the 2.0Ah battery will give 100 cuts — but we do not know whether they are talking twigs or logs — the 5.0Ah battery 300 cuts and the 7.5Ah cutting 450 times. Charging times span from 25 to 60 minutes using the rapid charger. This saw has quick chain tensioning via a dial on the side.

The chain break is responsive. Auto-lubrication is supported by a quick-check window in the oil tank. These features, along with the fact that it is battery powered, should suit irregular or less experienced users. We are disappointed to find that the saw has been delivered with just the 2.0Ah battery. Fitted with 40cm Oregon bar and chain running at 13.5m/s, it is pushed to the limit.

We cut substantial and hard logs. "It’s got quite a lot of power," says one tester, with a surprised expression. But less than 15 minutes later, we are walking back to the shed to stick the battery on charge. We really need a bigger-capacity battery, even though using a 7.5Ah would put the weight up from 5.2kg to 6.8kg.

Specifications

Battery 56V with a choice of 2.0Ah, 4.0Ah, 5.0Ah, 6.0Ah or 7.5Ah Bar 40cm
Weight 5.2kg ready to work with 2.0Ah battery
Runtime Dependent on timber
Recharge time 2.0Ah 25mins, 4.0Ah 30mins, 5.0Ah 40mins, 6.0Ah 45mins, 7.5Ah 60mins
Price £239 including VAT for body only
Contact EGO Power+ (email) — eu.support@egopowerplus.eu

Harry ZM4630

Like the Cobra and the MTD, this can be classed as a value-for-money chainsaw. It also gives you change out of £200 — and that is for a full package including complete chainsaw, face mask, gloves, funnel and a bottle for preparing two-stroke mixture.

The true classification of the Harry ZM4630 is "hobby", but it is not mean on features. Developed for firewood preparation and light timber work, it boasts a Walbro carburettor, fuel primer, 16in Oregon sprocket nose bar and 0.325in chain.

A 45.6cc engine generates a peak of around 1.8kW. The build is good, the balance is nice and the weight is a comfortable 4.9kg. We appreciate the easy-start, spring-assisted starting mechanism. A short tug is all that is need to fire this saw into action.

It revs well and the Oregon chain is the business when it comes to giving a clean cut. Chain speed is 21.2m/s. But oh the vibrations at high speed — much more than our testers expect. "It’s like a pneumatic drill," one of them protests. We refer to the manual. It clearly states 9.112m/s2.

The price is very appealing but the saw will only appeal if you expect short bursts of use now and again.

Specifications

Engine 45.6cc delivering 1.8kW
Bar and chain 16in (38cm) bar, 0.325in pitch
Weight 4.9kg
Oil tank 0.26 litres
Fuel tank 0.52 litres
List price £189 including VAT
Tel FGM Claymore — 01789 490177

Makita EA3201S

An environmentally friendly chainsaw from Makita, using a catalytic converter, the EA3201 is a 32cc, lightweight and compact entry-level unit that should appeal to landowners.

It is simple to use, has oodles of grunt for logging and is nimble and manoeuvrable for use in tight spaces. It is light enough and plenty comfortable for use over long periods. We especially like the starting mechanism. There is no chance of flooding the carburettor.

This saw has an on/off choke combination switch. A light touch is all that is needed to stop the engine and then the switch automatically returns to the start position. It is quick to start too, the force required being significantly reduced by the spring-assisted recoil.

An accumulated electric charge system makes restarting so simple and an intelligent ignition coil controls stable idling and increases output power at a practical RPM range. It has an adjustable oil pump, tool-less tensioning and a fleece air filter.

At 0.4 litres, the fuel tank is about right for the size of the saw and its likely use. As with the "farmer’s choice" EA5600F (p57), a three-year warranty is offered if registered and serviced in the first year.

Specifications

Engine 32cc
Bar and chain 35cm bar, 0.05in gauge, 3/8in pitch
Weight 4.1kg
Oil tank 0.2 litres
Fuel tank 0.4 litres
Price Expect to pay around £150 + VAT
Tel Makita UK — 01908 211678

MTD GCS 4600/45

Distributor EP Barrus says the MTD GCS 4600/45 is "designed to offer domestic users the performance levels of a professional chainsaw but at a really low-budget price".

We discover it is powered by a grunty 46.4cc engine that delivers a surprising amount of torque and relatively fast cutting speed, aided by the 18in bar and low kickback 3/8in Oregon chain, making it suitable for felling small trees, logging and general timber work.

This saw features a primer and recoil start. It takes more effort than others in the test to fire into action and once in use it is supported by a generous 55ml fuel tank. From the running and maintenance points of view, we find it has lateral chain tensioning and automatic chain oiler.

We are impressed with the instructions actually on the saw — an important reminder for those not using chainsaws every day. The weight of 5.4kg is achieved in part by an aluminium cylinder and crankcase. But, and for some it will be a big "but", vibrations find their way through to hands and arms.

It has a factory recorded vibration level of 8m/s2. That might still make it useful for estates where infrequent or short spells of use are needed and, with a price of £179 including VAT, it is a goer for those situations.

Specifications

Engine 46cc
Bar and chain 18" (340m) bar, 0.325" Mini Oregon
Weight 5.4kg
Oil tank 0.26 litres
Fuel tank 0.55 litres
List price £179 including VAT
Tel EP Barrus — 01869 363636

Cobra CS620-20

Sitting at the top of Cobra’s range of chainsaws, this UK-designed unit is intended for everyday jobs such as pruning, logging and prepping firewood. There is no denying this is a powerful saw. It has spirit, but pick-up is a little on the slow side for our testers.

The 62cc engine winds itself up to deliver 2.3kW of cutting power and then, thanks to the 20in Oregon-brand bar and low-kickback Oregon chain, it completes a clean and neat cut without struggling. Features include a Walbro carburettor — good for low emissions and fuel consumption.

It also has an automatic pump with adjustment for continuous oiling. Build quality is also good — this chainsaw is not going to fall apart on you. The automatic chain brake can be operated manually and it comes with a handy nylon carrying case to keep it neat and tidy. Cobra says this saw is built to "tackle the most demanding jobs".

We add a "but" — although it cuts smoothly, because of vibration we think you will not want to use it every day. There are no vibration figures declared in the specs or in the manual. But then, let’s be absolutely honest here, it is the amount of power you get for your pounds that makes this saw so attractive.

If you have a limited budget and need a high-powered chainsaw with a very nice bar and chain that you will use now and again for clearing a branch or two after a gale or for preparing firewood, this could be the one for you.

Specifications

Engine 62cc delivering 2.57kW
Bar and chain 50cm bar, 0.050in gauge, 0.325in pitch
Weight 6.9kg
Oil tank 0.3 litres
Fuel tank 0.55 litres
Promo price £199.99 including VAT
Tel Cobra Garden — 0115 964 5915

Echo CS501SX

We get off to a bad start. Heavily used as a demo machine, we find the chain needs sharpening, but lost time is quickly made up. This 50.2cc forestry chainsaw has muscle. "It feels like a Husky but looks about 10 years older," says one tester.

Looks aside, the CS501SX is packed with power. It means the saw does the work. You do not have to push it. Machine weight is just 4.7kg, thanks in part to the die-cast magnesium crankcase, and it delivers 2.57kW of power, giving it an excellent power-to-weight ratio.

The engine is Stage-2 emissions compliant and gives a pleasant working environment. Features include Echo’s G-Force air pre-cleaner, providing solid component protection and enhancing reliability. Access to the air-filter requires no tools and tensioning is accessed from the side.

The inboard clutch allows easy cutting-gear removal and replacement, while captive nuts should eliminate undergrowth searching when out in the forest. Other features include inertia-activated chain brake for fast response, rotating chain catcher and replaceable metal bumper spike for improved control when cutting. None of our testers report vibration concerns.

Rubber double moulding to the rear handle isolates engine vibration and provides comfort for the user.

The testers are concerned that the choke might snap off, although Echo reports no problems with this in the past. Clearly, the company has given a lot of thought to the design.

We especially like the way the recoil pull handle can be used as a tool for opening the tank caps. The CS501SX comes with a two-year commercial warranty.

Specifications

Engine 50.2cc delivering 2.57kW
Bar and chain 40/45/50cm bar, 0.058in gauge, 0.325in pitch
Weight 4.7kg
Oil tank 0.29 litres
Fuel tank 0.5 litres
List price £574.17 + VAT
Tel Echo Tools — 01844 278800

Makita EA5600F

Makita classes this as the "farmer’s choice". It is also ours — we love it. The ergonomics are perfect, it has power and it responds well. In fact, it impresses some of our testers so much they admit to being tempted to buy it over a Stihl or Husqvarna for general felling and logging work.

The EA5600F bristles with new and improved features. Power comes from an advanced two-stroke 55.7cc engine, delivering high-torque 4.1hp and including a Stratified Air Scavenging exhaust system that directs unburnt combustion charge back to the induction port, reducing emissions and fuel consumption without electronics.

The saw is also fitted with a centrifugal air cleaner and heavy-duty air filter. Spring-assisted starting is a doddle. A primer pump and anti-icing port keep fuel flowing freely in cold weather. Makita’s "touch and stop" engine control switch has been made wider, making it simple to find with a gloved hand.

The saw is supplied with a 45cm chain bar and carries a 0.058in gauge, 0.325in pitch chain. It has an adjustable-flow chain oil system with 0.32l capacity. Weight is 5.8kg and, with a large-diameter forward grip bar and isolated rear grip handle, balance is spot-on perfect and vibration is minimal. Makita has thought of everything.

A useful fuel-level window lets you keep a check on the contents of the fuel tank, captive sprocket cover nuts are less likely to be lost out in the field and it is supplied in a robust metal carry case.

On top of all that, registering the saw online and having it serviced in the first year gets you a three-year warranty.

Specifications

Engine 55.7cc
Bar and chain 45cm bar, 0.058in gauge, 0.325in pitch
Weight 5.8kg Oil tank 0.32 litres
Fuel tank 0.57 litres
Price TBC
Tel Makita UK — 01908 211678


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