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The Best Battery-Powered Chainsaws

Popular Mechanics logo Popular Mechanics 6 days ago Roy Berendsohn
text: We sliced our way through a truckload of white-oak logs with these saws. The ones that made the cut (pardon the pun) proved to be light, quiet, and fast. © Staff, Courtesy of Husqvarna We sliced our way through a truckload of white-oak logs with these saws. The ones that made the cut (pardon the pun) proved to be light, quiet, and fast.

Many homeowners are turning to battery-powered chainsaws for simplified, quiet, and speedy yard cleanup. These saws are unlike their gas-engine counterparts in that you don’t need to store fuel or worry about that fuel chemically degrading over time. And chances are you already also own a string trimmer or other cordless tool that uses the same battery as the chainsaw. Removing a downed limb or dropping a small tree is as easy as swapping out the battery from another machine and sliding it into the chainsaw, filling its bar oil reservoir, and cutting. The entire operation is clean, quiet, and devoid of hassle. What’s more, professional-level tools compare very favorably with gas-engine saws when it comes to power.

Take a look at quick info below of the five best chainsaws from our testing, then scroll down for buying advice and more in-depth reviews of these and other top-performing models.

Selecting the Right Saw

Pro-duty battery saws are expensive, costing in the range of $300 to $400; a mid-duty saw is likely to cost about $250, and an inexpensive saw suitable to handle the occasional downed tree limb is going to cost roughly $150 to $200.

Also, an inexpensive homeowner-grade saw designed and priced to cut the occasional downed tree limb is not going to churn through a pickup truck’s worth of firewood in a morning. Our top-tier professional saws can make as many as 100 cuts (or more) through a six-inch-diameter hardwood log. Other saws that we would classify as professional are not quite as effective as our top performers; they produce 40 or 50 cuts. A homeowner-duty saw will make 20 to 30 cuts through the same log.

The longer your cutting session, the more wood you expect to cut in that session, and the more frequent the sessions, the more saw you need to buy. Really, it’s that simple.

Cordless vs. Gas

There are many differences between a gas-engine chainsaw and one powered by an electric motor. The latter is noticeably quieter. Gas-engine chainsaws are loud–about 105 decibels; a cordless chainsaw is roughly equal to a corded electric circular saw, at about 100 decibels. (You need hearing protection for both tools.) As to weight, cordless chainsaws are equal to or a couple of pounds heavier than their gas-engine equivalents. A fueled 50-cc gas-engine saw, with an 18-inch bar, weighs 11 to 12 pounds. The cordless chainsaws we tested weigh anywhere from 11 pounds to about 14 pounds. For small jobs, a cordless chainsaw may be faster than a comparable gas-engine model, because you don’t have to take the time to add fuel. Just push in a charged battery and go. On the other hand, gas-engine saws excel at big jobs: timber felling for lumber or firewood, storm or disaster cleanup, and tree removal.

Both types of saws require bar oil and a sharp chain. That means knowing how to hone that chain, and you’ll need at least one spare in case you get the saw’s nose into the dirt or hit a nail buried in the log.

The Best Cordless Chainsaws © Trevor Raab The Best Cordless Chainsaws

How We Tested

We ran our test saws through a truckload of hardwood logs (ash, white oak, locust), each about six inches in diameter. We charged each saw’s battery, strapped a log onto a saw buck, and proceeded to rapidly and repeatedly cut test discs (or “cookies,” as they are called) by pivoting the saw through the log. The test exposes vibration, stalling, hesitancy, and lack of trigger response. If the saw has a low threshold for thermal cutoff to protect the battery and circuitry, that will shut the saw off. Rapid repeat cuts through hardwood generate a lot of internal heat in the tool, both from current flow and in the chain drive. For a handful of these saws, we used them to cut up trees felled by storms. (For these saws, you’ll see the disc count marked as N/A.)

Read the reviews below to find your next great wood-cutting tool, and here’s to a neater yard or some firewood neatly tucked away for winter.

―TIED FOR BEST OVERALL—

Stihl MSA 220 C-B

Volts: 36 | Number of discs: 96

MSA 200 C-B Chainsaw © stihlusa.com MSA 200 C-B Chainsaw

$389.95

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The Stihl is power tool excellence and one of the best we’ve ever used. To put that all-encompassing statement into perspective, consider that in the more than 30 collective years our test editors have been on this job, we’ve used saws designed to cut rock, concrete, steel, construction lumber, hardwood lumber, drywall, combined materials, plastics, and trees. Some of those cuts have been in test materials, but in other cases they were in the real world, made through car parts, house walls, floors, roofs, and tree roots and during disaster relief work where flooded houses and their contents were caked with mud. That’s a lot of cutting, sweat, and dirt. In terms of its power, productivity, safety, handling, quietness, and convenience, this Stihl is as good as any we’ve used­–and that includes many gas-engine chainsaws. It’s slim and powerful and pivots nicely through the cut without stalling or vibrating. And when it comes time to add oil, you’ve got a quarter-turn bar oil cap that’s quick to release and tighten. Adjusting the chain tension is easy, requiring no tools.

―TIED FOR BEST OVERALL—

Husqvarna 540 LiXP

Volts: 40 | Number of discs: 124

540 LiXP Chainsaw © baileysonline.com 540 LiXP Chainsaw

$609.99

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You take one look at the number of discs this saw produced and you think, that’s some machine. And you’d be right. What that number doesn’t tell you is how quickly and easily it gets to that number—without stalling, vibration, or tiring the user. This saw is equipped with a massive 9.36-Ah battery, and that certainly helped boosts its number. But there’s more to it than battery girth. Clearly it’s got a great motor and drivetrain. As far as comparing it to the Stihl, we need to be clear that its test discs were slightly smaller in diameter. The MSA 220 C-B cut so many, we ran out and had to revert to the next smaller size when it came time to run the Husqvarna. Still, this is a formidable power tool that competes directly with the Stihl. The 540 LiXP is perfectly capable of firewood production, storm cleanup, and landscaping maintenance and closes the gap between electric and gas-engine saws.

―LEAST FATIGUING―

Craftsman CMCCS660

Volts: 60 | Number of discs: 29

a close up of a toy car: CMCCS660 Chainsaw © amazon.com CMCCS660 Chainsaw

$269.00

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We were very pleasantly surprised by this unusual-looking saw, the only one with a bottom-mount battery. As we mentioned, lack of vibration improves saw durability and lessens your fatigue, so we liked this spunky cutter’s ability to move rapidly and smoothly cut after cut until its battery died. We liked its tool-free chain tightening, but disliked the inability to see the battery gauge, which is not clearly visible below the handle.

—QUICK TO CHARGE—

Ryobi RY 40580

Volts: 40 | Number of discs: 43

RY40580 Chainsaw © homedepot.com RY40580 Chainsaw

$349.00

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We found the Ryobi to be a good, fast-cutting saw, with an ability to hang in there in difficult cuts without tripping the thermal overload switch. You can be confident in its ability to handle the yard work you need to do. We particularly appreciated several of its features: its long bar reduces the amount of stooping you do to get at wood you need to cut, Also, it’s equipped with a chain brake to protect you against kickback, not merely a front hand guard. Finally, its rapid charger is four times faster than a standard one. You can do a lot of cutting with this saw, take a rest break, and put sufficient charge on the battery to cut some more. We found that it leaks oil while not in use. But there are steps you can take to reduce that, such as storing the saw without bar oil and turning down its adjustable oiler.

—CUTS A LOT FOR THE WEIGHT—

Worx WG385

Volts: 40 | Number of discs: 78

Nitro WG385 Chainsaw © amazon.com Nitro WG385 Chainsaw

$254.99

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Two side-saddle, 20-volt batteries (4-Ah apiece) supply the hefty side-mount motor on the Worx. It looks like, feels like, and cuts like a solid little saw, as its disc count more than amply illustrates. Other features we like are its crisp chain brake, large bar-oil reservoir, easy-to-grip oil cap, tool-free chain tightening, and well-located button to help you quickly determine how much charge is left. If you’re invested in Worx 20-volt and 40-volt power tools, the chainsaw would make a sensible addition to your arsenal.

―EASY TO USE―

DeWalt DCCS670X1

Volts: 60 | Number of discs: 43

DCCS670X1 Chainsaw © homedepot.com DCCS670X1 Chainsaw

$349.00

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DeWalt fans will not be disappointed with this saw. It’s a powerful cutter, and the cookie count doesn’t convey how enthusiastically it goes about its work, thanks to the great big motor and an equally massive battery to provide the needed current. It’s an easy saw to use, with excellent battery access and visibility. The tool-free chain tightening further improves our opinion of it. Our only dislike is the thumb-activated safety switch, which is too stiff.

―COMPACT―

Makita XCU07PT

Volts: 36 | Number of discs: 37

a close up of a tool: XCU07PT Chainsaw © amazon.com XCU07PT Chainsaw

$379.00

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With this Makita, you get a compact saw that exhibits outstanding fit and finish, in line with the company’s other power tools. Consider that at its widest point, the saw is only 5.5 inches across. Sure, others produced more cookies, but they’re more than two inches wider; bulk and weight add up the longer you use any power tool. We also like the Makita’s crisp chain brake, its sensibly located power switch at the front of the handle, and a bright, well-placed battery gauge that you can read even in harsh sunlight. If you’re already invested in the company’s 18-volt power tool platform, get this saw. No, it didn’t have the guts of the Echo or the Milwaukee. But it’s adequate for landscape maintenance and a whole lot lighter than those other saws, by about three pounds.

―QUIET―

Ego Power+ CS1604

Volts: 56 | Number of discs: N/A

a close up of a toy: Power+ CS1604 Chainsaw © amazon.com Power+ CS1604 Chainsaw

$229.00

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The CS1604 produces impressively little noise and boasts a large dial to tighten the chain. It can zoom through even large-diameter hardwood logs, and it comes with a five-year warranty. A couple of words of warning regarding user-friendliness: The filler neck for bar oil is narrow and easy to overfill, and the cap isn’t tethered to keep it from getting lost or rolling around in the dirt.

―HEAVY DUTY―

Milwaukee 2727-20

Volts: 18 | Number of discs: 41

a close up of a tool: 2727-20 © Courtesy 2727-20

$289.00

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Contractors who are fully on board with Milwaukee’s 18-volt platform will appreciate this stubbornly powerful tool that runs on the same batteries as its drills and other saws. It cuts viciously, and we pushed it as hard as we could. You get a saw that speeds through the log, cut after cut until its battery is done. And you also get a little more convenience than the other guys. The big red machine is equipped with onboard storage for its scrench (screwdriver-wrench). The tool clips into a compartment on the bottom. The downside is that if you really try to produce firewood with this saw, you’ll quickly wear the bar out. We did, and that’s exactly what we found. But maybe that’s okay. We produced a shed full of wood in the process.

―SIMILAR TO GAS-ENGINE SAWS―

Echo CCS-58VBT

Volts: 58 | Number of discs: 56.5

CCS-58VBT Chainsaw © amazon.com CCS-58VBT Chainsaw

$249.00

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Anyone who has followed our tool reviews knows that we’re fans of Echo outdoor power equipment, especially the company’s string trimmers and chainsaws, which are simple to use and very effective. So it is with this saw. If you’re moving over from a gas model to a cordless, this would be a good choice. Yes, it’s heavy like a gas-engine chainsaw, and its length, width, and balance will feel familiar to gas-engine users. But its cut performance is similarly very good. Our only complaint is a small one. We’re mystified why the company put such a puny timber spike on the saw. And it’s plastic. Even on these saws, a sharp metal timber spike is a necessity to dig into the log and form a pivot point.

―SHARPENS EASILY―

Oregon Max CS300

Volts: 40 | Number of discs: N/A

Max CS300 Chainsaw © amazon.com Max CS300 Chainsaw

$299.00

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This was the only self-sharpening saw. To use this feature, called PowerSharp, you run the saw and simultaneously pull the red lever. It’s easy and incredibly fast, producing a razor-sharp chain in seconds. All of the saw’s other features were likewise designed for speed and ease, from oil filling to chain tightening.

―NIMBLE―

Greenworks 2016602

Volts: 24 | Number of discs: 25

Greenworks 2016602 © lowes.com Greenworks 2016602

$199.99

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Equipped with a 12-inch bar and a whole lot of spunk for a small saw, this Greenworks turned in a fast and reliable performance. It churned through one cut after another until its battery was spent. Let’s say you had another battery on hand, that would enable a decent morning’s work turning out a small batch of firewood, dropping small trees, or removing over-grown bushes. The hand guard at the saw’s front is not a chain brake, but at least it’s not awkwardly positioned or sized to prevent a view of the cutline. Other things to like about this little saw are its large, tool-free handle that flips up to tighten the saw chain, the large oil fill cap on the side of the saw, and a well-designed handle that permits a good grip while wearing bulky work gloves.

—BIG AND AGGRESSIVE—

Greenworks CS40L412

Volts: 40 | Number of discs: 78

CS40L412 Chainsaw © amazon.com CS40L412 Chainsaw

$237.61

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About two cut discs per volt is a good metric for cordless chainsaw performance, and the Greenworks got there easily and rapidly. It made one neat slice after another. That disc count and its rapid performance shouldn’t really come as a surprise. This is a reasonably hefty power tool, with a 40-volt motor. With the bar oil reservoir topped off, it weighs nearly 12 pounds. We’d classify it as a light to medium-duty firewood cutter or as perfectly adequate for landscape and trail maintenance, and it’s certainly adequate to deal with the occasional downed tree or limb. Saws in this class are equipped with a chain brake (this one is), not just a hand guard, and a large bar oil reservoir. Given its aggressive performance, we think it could user a slightly more aggressive bumper spike (the spikes are rounded off), but that’s a small complaint. At least it has a bumper spike, which is more than we can say for many mid-duty cordless saws. Our other observation: tool-free chain tightening? No. You’ve got two bar nuts and a slot for a screwdriver.

―BEST FOR PRUNING―

Stihl GTA 26

Volts: 10.8 | Number of discs: N/A

GTA 26 Chainsaw © Ace GTA 26 Chainsaw

$159.99

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One of the most remarkable chainsaws we’ve tested recently is the little GTA 26, a 10.8-volt model weighing about three pounds with a four-inch guide bar. It’s built for pruning and woodworking, yet it’s surprisingly capable and can punch well above its weight class. How far above? Up the street from our office an eight-inch-diameter tree limb snapped off and fell across a sidewalk, completely blocking it. It took just 15 minutes of work to cut through the tangled chest-deep mess using this petite saw. The biggest limbs it hewed through were the six-inch-diameter branches coming off the trunk of the main branch. And in the course of the work, we tackled a number of spring poles that were bent under tension. The saw is so light, you can hold a branch in one hand and saw it with the other. When the work was done, we tucked the saw, its battery, a pair of work gloves and safety glasses in a small tool bag (designed for a cordless drill) and walked back to the office. A number of pedestrians out on their lunch break strolled through the newly restored path, branches heaped up on either side of it. The tool is so quiet, the walkers seemed unaware that a chainsaw had just been used to clear the way.

―GOOD FOR SMALL JOBS―

Craftsman CMCCS620M1

Volts: 20 | Number of discs: N/A

a close up of a tool: CMCCS620M1 Chainsaw © Courtesy CMCCS620M1 Chainsaw

$179.00

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One way to look at this little 20-volt saw is that it’s the kid brother to the 60-volt Craftsman above. It appears that the brand intended it as much for carpentry and fence building as it did for yard cleanup, since Craftsman equipped the saw with a pair of bubble levels (picture topping posts level to the ground, for example). The saw is small (it has a 12-inch bar) and light, weighing just 10 pounds with its four-amp-hour battery. We didn’t do any carpentry with it, and you’re not going to use this saw for firewood production, but we did some general yard cleanup on fallen branches and found that it has enough oomph to get the job done.

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