Depending on what sort of cordless, rechargeable chainsaws they've used in the past, most owners say they combine either the best or the worst of gas- and electric-powered models. On the downside, cordless saws are typically less powerful than gas saws and, unlike a plug-in electric model, their runtime is limited. Yet cordless saws can go anywhere just like a gas saw, and like an electric model they're not going to spill fuel or belch exhaust in your face. They also tend to be as quiet as or quieter than electrical chaisaws, start very easily with no need to yank a starter cord, and can be set down to clear brush or cut wood without having to worry about a problematic re-start.
In this report, the cordless Oregon PowerNow CS250 stands out as the most competent for handling trees and other sizable cuts, with a 14-inch cutting bar that's the largest in this class. But that power comes at a price: short battery life. Depending on whether you get the CS250S with its 1.25 Ah battery (Est. $350) or the CS250E with its 2.4 Ah battery (Est. $400), you'll get just 30 to 60 minutes of sustained, heavy-duty cutting. And the CS250 doesn't spool down gradually as battery power fades; it just stops. You can bring other batteries with you for extra working time, however, and an LED system indicates how much charge remains.
Users like this chainsaw's performance, calling it great for heavy-duty use. They attribute its tendency to stall on a safety feature that deliberately stops the engine if you try to force it through the wood. As long as you let the saw do the work, owners say it cuts quickly and quietly. Consumers add that the CS250's trigger-operated chain brake works beautifully: Press the trigger to run the saw, then release it to stop the saw when you set it down.
The Oregon PowerNow CS250 also has a built-in chain sharpener, making it as close to a truly maintenance-free chainsaw as you can get. Just pull the lever to bring the sharpening stone into contact with the chain and it should be as good as new in a few seconds. The saw's automatic tensioner doesn't offer tool-free adjustments -- you'll need a screwdriver -- and you must replace the chain and sharpener as a unit. Even so, its overall performance is effective and versatile enough that we name it our Best Reviewed pick.
If you want the portability of a cordless saw but don't need to cut anything wider across than 6 or 8 inches, the compact, 10-inch Greenworks 20092B (*Est. $100) is small and light enough to go almost anywhere, and reviewers report an impressive 4 hours of battery life per charge or more. "I was done before this saw. Cut and cut and cut and still had 25% battery life," says one user. Its overall performance is great as long as you don't tackle large trees. "Although it is very light it doesn't feel flimsy at all, nor does it bog down even if I apply pressure during cutting," writes another reviewer.
The Greenworks saw has its own quirks, however, including an auto-oiling reservoir that continues to seep oil even when not in use. So once you're done with the saw, you must drain the reservoir.
Both chainsaws go through oil quickly, but at least the Oregon PowerNow CS250 comes with a small sample bottle to get you started; the Greenworks 20092B does not. It goes through so much oil that one user reports refilling the reservoir every 45 minutes. The 20092B's chain also doesn't auto-tension, but its no-tool, quick-adjust knob is easy to use. In either case, you can always carry extra batteries, which will set you back $150 and up for the Oregon PowerNow CS250, or $45 and up for the Greenworks saw.
If you plan to clear only brush and very small trees, the 8-inch Black & Decker CCS818 is exceedingly small, light and easy to maneuver. At just 30 minutes of runtime and about 8 hours per recharge, however, it's a less attractive choice than the Greenworks 20092B.