Kobalt 80-Volt 18-inch Cordless Chainsaw - Review
As part of our ongoing festivities with Chainsaw Week (TM), we're now going to take a look at the new Kobalt 80-volt 18-inch Cordless Chainsaw ($300).
The first thing I noticed is that it's an 18-inch model, which is rare for a cordless chainsaw. Most of the manufacturers seem to opt for the smaller 12 or 14-inch bars. But this one is backed by a mondo 80-volt battery, so it can supposedly crank out enough power to chug the longer bar through wood.
Setting the saw up and getting it going is really easy. Just pour in some bar oil, press a little electronic start button and pull the trigger (while holding down a safety toggle). This ease is just fantastic when compared to the tedious nature of a gas powered saw. Really, raise your hand if you love to mix gas and oil. No one? Then there's pull starting, working a choke and 2-stroke maintenance. If you're not into the upkeep of a gas engine, these things are 100% hassle. Of course, they are by no means total obstacles, we've been getting by fine with gas chainsaws for decades, but when someone hands you a tool and you just start it with a button, you realize just how easy the good life can be.
But the trade-off is that the cordless chainsaws have no power, right? Well, maybe not. I have to say that I was really impressed with the power of the Kobalt. Really impressed. It wasn't as fast as a gas saw, but it wasn't standing still either. I spent about a week testing it on some good sized logs, some of them close to 20 inches in diameter. This was serious work, not just trimming small branches, and the saw relentlessly cut through everything I put in front of it. There were a couple stalls here and there, but that didn't really bother me given the circumstances.
For safety, the saw has the traditional hand guard chain brake, but it also has some kind of electronic shut off that engages a few seconds after the saw is shut off. So for short pauses, like re-adjusting your hand position or shifting the log, you only need to pull the trigger to get it started again, which is a small touch that we liked. Constantly pushing the electronic start button would be annoying.
In the hands, the saw feels fine. The battery set-up doesn't take the whole thing out of balance. Basically, it's balanced like a gas chainsaw.
If there is a downside to the Kobalt it's battery life, but in all honesty, I didn't think it was too bad. Granted, I was throwing everything I could at the saw and I was getting about eight or so slices (through 15-20-inch logs) on a single charge. So the less aggressive you are, it only goes up from there. When I was working on the thinner longs, the numbers were higher. Personally, with the amount of cutting strength the saw had, I was impressed with the battery life. According to Kobalt, a fully charged 80-volt battery can make 150 cuts through a PT 4x4. I'm sure their test was run in a completely controlled setting, but it gives an indication of what the tool can doo under less strenous circumstances.
The Kobalt batteries fully charge in 30-minutes (which is fast for such a large battery). I'm testing out some other Kobalt tools, so I had access to a second battery meaning I could basically work without interruption, given the time it was taking me to shift logs around and do the cutting. If I ever had to wait for a battery to charge, I just picked up the splitting maul and got back to work. Seems like with a big wood pile there is never a shortage of things to do. But a second battery is something to think about if you're really going to use this saw to the fullest.
But the problem here is that batteries aren't free. The saw alone is $300 and another battery is going to set you back $179.
So for a full-on "I wanna Chainsaw Chainsaw Chainsaw" experience, it gets costly. Even the $300 for the saw and one battery is a lot of dough. That's the same cost as a nice Echo that doesn't need any recharging and is probably stronger and faster at cutting. Poulans, which I think are nice saws, are mostly in the $150-$200 range, quite a but less than the Kobalt.
So it's really up to what your specific needs are and what you're willing to pay for the convenience of not having to deal with a 2-stroke engine (and that could be a lot). It's also worth mentioning that this chainsaw is only one part of a larger Kobalt lawn and garden line-up, which also includes a mower, string trimmer, and leaf blower. That said, if you invest in a couple of these things, you'll have all of the batteries that you could ever need.
Like I said, I'm quite impressed with this tool. It has surprising cutting ability, it's easy to use, and it feels safe in the hands. I could see a lot of people getting a lot of good use out of it, you just need to figure out a way to pay for it first.
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Posted by Doug Mahoney at August 18, 2015 9:00 AM