Best electric chainsaw 2018: cordless branch loppers from the cutting edge of tech

The best cordless chainsaws are just as good for most purposes as the fuel-powered ones

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And so we come to the scariest power tool of the lot: the chainsaw. Mere mention of this spinning toothed beast sends shivers down the spine. However, it should be stated that most of those fears stem from the petrol-powered variety, which make an absolute din, vibrate like hell and weigh a ton. Don't worry, though. The best electric chainsaws do the same job in a much more modern and convenient format.

And here is an ordered chart of specifically cordless, electric chainsaws, so you know which one to buy. You can still buy a few chainsaws with cords but being boring old health and safety nerds, we just aren't that keen on devices that combine razor-sharp, whirring blades with flimsy cables containing hundreds and hundreds of volts of electricity. However, the one corded model here (an Einhell) comes highly recommended by online reviewers.

What is the best battery electric chainsaw?

Our top spot goes to the magnificent Greenworks GD40CS40, a more than capable beast that scythes through anything made of wood. 

We’re similarly enamoured of the German-engineered Stihl MSA 120 C-BQ and the similarly specced Ryobi OCS1830.

Cordless electric chainsaw buying guide

Petrol chainsaws may have more machismo to them but they aren't only off-putting due to their horror movie associations. Believe me, you ain’t seen scary till you’re halfway up a tree trying to hold onto something that is doing everything in its power to behead you.

Cordless chainsaws on the other, unsevered, hand, are a much more sedate option. Yes, they will still hurt you if mistreated, but they don’t vibrate as much and they certainly don’t make anything like as much of a racket. They’re not attached to a cord either, which means you’re not tied to the mains while using something that is just itching to cut through the cable. With a cordless model you can wield that baby anywhere you like, within reason of course.

Cordless chainsaws work in exactly the same way as petrol and electric models and they all come with a raft of safety cut off features. Most models will carry on running for at least 20 minutes on a full battery charge, which, in real world terms, amounts to a lot of cutting. Cordless chainsaws are naturally heavier than electric models but much lighter than petrol ones. 

Chainsaws, even cordless ones, do require a little TLC from time to time. Firstly, you’ll need to purchase some bona fide chainsaw oil and keep the reservoir topped up. This reservoir feeds the chain and gears little drips at a time, making everything run smoothly. You might also need to put the chain on yourself, which ideally requires a pair of gloves. 

You also need to make sure the chain is put on in the correct orientation or it won’t make any impact on the wood and cause the wood to start smoking through friction. This is an easy mistake to make (read our Ryobi review) so look for the little arrows on the chain and the main unit and you’ll get it right first time.

Now go forth and start giving those branches what for. You won't believe what they've been saying about you behind your back.

The best cordless electric chainsaws, in order

1. Greenworks GD40CS40

The best cordless electric chainsaw

Specifications
Power: 40v
Bar length: 40cm
Weight: 5.1kgs
Battery included as standard?: No
Reasons to buy
+Excellent performance+Good run time+Comes with fitted chain
Reasons to avoid
-Quite heavy

The mean green Greenworks is equipped with a long 40cm (16-inch) Oregon bar and chain, a brushless motor that will last forever, and a full gamut of safety features, including the obligatory brake guard hand protector that must be pulled back to engage the drive. The whole shebang is powered by a large 40-volt G-Max Li-Ion battery that runs for around 25 minutes on a full 90-minute charge.

The Greenworks is available with or without a battery and charger. If you already have one of the company’s excellent lawnmowers – or any other Greenworks products – you’re in luck since the batteries are easily swappable. Otherwise you’ll need to fork out another £108 for the battery and charger. 

The package I got also includes a tough plastic chain guard and, even better, a chainsaw-shaped bag to carry it in. Aside from the battery, the only item not supplied is chain oil, but that’s readily available at most hardware stores (B&Q produces its own brand at £5.74 a litre).

Despite being quite weighty (which can be a good thing), this chainsaw is ultra efficient at cutting though tree trunks, branches and logs up to a whopping 70cm (28 inches) in diameter; as long as you adopt the seesaw technique you should have no trouble using it. 

The other huge bonus with this excellent cordless trunk trimmer is that it comes with the chain ready fitted so there’s no chance of cocking up by putting it on the wrong way round. 

Hang on a minute, is that the strains of Monty Python’s ‘Lumberjack Song’ we hear fluttering over the garden fence?

2. Stihl MSA 120 C-BQ

Best 'prosumer' electric chainsaw

Specifications
Power: 36v
Bar length: 30cm
Weight: 2.5kgs
Battery included as standard: No
Reasons to buy
+Nice and light+Quite quiet

Stihl’s chainsaws currently hog four out of six of Which?’s Best Buy awards and are the chainsaw brand of choice among professional tree surgeons, so the German-based tool manufacturer must be doing something right. The MSA 120 is a brilliant, albeit slightly pricy electric chainsaw. 

It comes with a similar 12-inch bar (30cm) and feature set to the Ryobi below. 

Stihl’s Ematic oil admin system is said to ‘reduce bar oil consumption by up to 50%’. There's also a fuss-free brushless motor, tool-less chain tensioning and a two-stage battery insert system that prevents accidental use while transporting it. For those of you who don’t already own a Stihl product, the battery and charger is available separately. Expect around 35 minutes of sawing on a full charge.

This is the perfect chainsaw for lucky folk with nice big fireplaces and a woodland out the back – please, no cutting down of living trees or we’ll set Prince Charles onto you. It tackles six-inch logs, smaller tree trunks and wide branches with ease, is light in the hand, pretty quiet and – like most other Stihl products – exceedingly reliable.

3. Ryobi OCS1830

Close rival to the Stihl above

Specifications
Power: 18v
Bar length: 30cm
Weight: 3.2kgs
Battery included as standard: No
Reasons to buy
+Compact+Quite quiet
Reasons to avoid
-Martian instruction manual

Right, here’s today’s lesson on how not to assemble your chainsaw. As is the case with so many chainsaws, this small-bodied 30cm (12-inch) model required fitting the chain to the bar. What could possibly go wrong?

In my defence, the Ryobi instructions are anything but clear – there are no illustrations for a start – and as a consequence  I didn’t notice the teeny-weeny chain direction arrows on the bar and on the chain so inadvertently put it on the wrong way round. A genuine schoolboy error that sometimes even catches out some chainsaw pros. The result? Just a lot of smoke from the overheated chain and absolutely no impression on the log trying to be cut. Bear this in mind because wrong chain orientation is the most common problem with chainsaw owners. I would suggest watching the official Ryobi instructional video for extra peace of mind.

With the chain in the correct orientation, the little 18v Ryobi made incredibly short work of the task in hand; it literally carved through the log like the proverbial butter. Like all good chainsaws, this one is fitted with an impressively reliable brushless motor, a reassuring hand protector and a plastic sheath for the chain bar. It also comes with a little bottle of chainsaw oil.

As is so often the case with power tools these days, this one is packaged without a battery and charger so you’ll need to fork out a bit more – unless you already own a Ryobi product that uses the same style of battery.

In the arena of regular gardening tasks, this one’s a great option. It’s light enough in the hand (3.5kgs), small enough for easy storage and it tackles weekly log-sawing duties with aplomb.

4. Einhell GH-EC 2040

Best electric chainsaw with a cable

Specifications
Power: AC
Bar length: 40.6cm
Weight: 3.2kgs
Battery included as standard: No battery at all
Reasons to buy
+A great performer by all accounts
Reasons to avoid
-Clearly, not cordless

This cable-powered chainsaw is a massive hit on the web so I'm including it in this roundup, even though it’s one of the few garden tools I haven’t actually had a chance to play with personally. 

The Einhell comes with a 40.6cm chain bar with ‘kick back’ cut-off protection and the usual gamut of other safety features. It’ll saw a 20cm log into two before you’ve even thought about it – which is one reason why you always need to be on your guard and stand with braced foot stance, ready for a quick retreat. 

Watch out for that cable, too…

5. Black & Decker GKC1825L20

Best budget electric chainsaw

Specifications
Power: 18v
Bar length: 25cm
Weight: 3.1kgs
Battery included as standard: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Very compact+Highly affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Shortish run time-Not for the heavy stuff

Here’s a fab, keenly-priced midget option for those with only occasional chainsaw needs. It comes with a battery and charger, too. 

With many contented users online, the B&D is very well balanced and capable of scything through branches, trunks and logs up to about ten inches in diameter. Although it’s more comfortable dealing with smaller stuff, one adventurous owner tells on Amazon reckons he’s felled and logged 15 trees using this little fella without so much as a glitch. He must have one hell of a garden.

The 18v battery doesn’t last much past 20 minutes, so you might consider purchasing a spare. Otherwise, this is a great, budget-priced model for beginners, those who require a chainsaw only for occasional use, and the odd enthusiast with a passion for domestic forestry.

6. Wolf Garten PSA700 High Cutter

Best electric chainsaw for reach

Specifications
Power: 18v
Bar length: 20cm
Weight: 4kgs
Battery included as standard: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Long reach+Good run time
Reasons to avoid
-Pretty hefty

If you have some high, inaccessible branches that need addressing, consider this splendid telescopic model. It's blooming handy for cutting the upper branches of trees without having to teeter on top of a ladder while holding a chainsaw, which isn't everyone's idea of a good time.

The Wolf Garten is equipped with a stubby 20cm Oregon chain bar, good for branches up to 7cm in diameter, a 2.95-metre telescopic handle and a body strap to help balance it while you prune the out-of-control apple tree. 

The 18v battery provides enough power for around 70 cuts or 30 minutes. If you and your neighbours are encircled by tall trees, perhaps consider pooling your finances and getting one for the street. This one’s pretty specialised and not a model for everyone but in certain circumstances it could be exceedingly useful.

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