Cordless, rechargeable chainsaws combine the best and worst features of their gas- and electric-powered competitors. They're typically less powerful than gas chainsaws, and unlike plug-in electric chainsaws, their runtime is limited. But on the plus side, 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 electric chainsaws, if not quieter. They start very easily, with no starter cord to tangle with, and they can be paused in the middle of a job with no need to worry about a problematic re-start.
The EGO CS1401 (Est. $200 and up) cordless chainsaw gets top marks in professional tests, and it comes highly recommended by owners as well. Powered by a 56-volt, rechargeable lithium battery, this 14-inch, 13.5-pound chainsaw runs at a speedy 6,300 rpm. It also has all the safety and convenience features found on the top-rated gas chainsaws and corded electric chainsaws, including a chain kickback brake, tool-free chain tensioning, and an automatic lubrication system. It's backed by an impressive 5-year warranty, beating out the 2 years and 3 years offered by Husqvarna and WORX, the manufacturers of our Best Reviewed gas and electric chainsaws, respectively.
In professional tests, The EGO CS1401 not only powers through wood as fast as most electric and light-duty gas chainsaws, it gets top marks for both safety and ease of use. Users at HomeDepot.com, where we found the most feedback for this tool, describe it as surprisingly powerful and easy to use. They find its size and weight comfortable, and they say it's so quiet you don't really need ear protection. They also like the fact that it doesn't have the maintenance needs and pollution associated with a gas chainsaw. When you're done using it, all you have to do is pop the battery on its charger and hang it up.
Unfortunately, you may need to do that a bit sooner than you'd like. Users say battery life is the EGO chainsaw's greatest weakness, with some saying they can only run the saw for 5 to 15 minutes before the battery needs recharging. Users also lament that the battery has a pretty short lifespan; several say it took only a few months before the original battery lost its ability to hold a charge. If you want the power and convenience of this cordless chainsaw, owners recommend shelling out the $200 for a spare battery to go with it so you won't be hampered by the short run time.
If you're willing to trade off a bit of power for longer battery life, the Oregon CS250 (Est. $210 and up) is worth a look. This 14-inch saw comes with a choice of three batteries — 1.4, 2.4, or 4.0 Ah (amp-hours), or without a battery at all — and weighs between 11 and 12 pounds depending on which battery you choose. Its top speed is only 2,350 rpm, less than a third of the EGO's, and in professional tests, it's doesn't cut nearly as fast. However, reviewers at Amazon.com say it's still powerful enough to go through trees up to 12 inches in diameter, and it's quiet and lightweight to boot.
Compared to the EGO chainsaw, the Oregon's battery life is definitely more impressive. Users with the 2.4-Ah battery typically it's good for 30 to 60 minutes of sustained, heavy-duty cutting. Sal Vaglica of This Old House says the Oregon chainsaw was able to make 125 cuts through a 3-inch log before it needed recharging. If that's not enough for you, you can add a spare battery for about $140.
The Oregon CS250 is also about as close to a truly maintenance-free chainsaw as you can get. In addition to an automatic lubrication system like the one found on the EGO CS1401, the Oregon saw has a built-in chain sharpener that owners love. 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. However, 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.
If you want a cordless chainsaw mainly for trimming dead branches rather than cutting down large trees, another option to consider is the WORX Cordless JawSaw WG320 (Est. $150). Like the corded WORK JawSaw WG307, this specialized tool has a 4-inch toothed "mouth" that fits around a branch, securing it in place while the bar and chain emerge like a tongue to slice through it. Owners find this tool safer and more accurate than a standard chainsaw for small jobs like cutting through branches or clearing canes, and older users say it's also much easier to handle. However, its design makes it unsuitable for cutting larger trees or splitting firewood.
Elsewhere in this report: