Gas-powered models tend to be the loudest and most powerful type of chainsaw. Two Husqvarna models rise to the top of our list: the Best Reviewed Husqvarna 450 (Est. $360) and the runner-up 440E (Est. $300). The 450 is brawnier, with a 50.2 cc motor that can power a 13- to 20-inch bar, versus the Husqvarna 440E's 40.9 cc that can handle up to an 18-inch bar.
Whether you actually need the 450's power and the extra 1.5 pounds or so that goes with it depends on what you'll use the chainsaw for. Reviewers say the Husqvarna 450 is both powerful and reliable; only a few complain that it can throw its chain or clog with a mix of sawdust and oil generated by the auto-oiling chain. One user even reports having a 10-inch log fall on his Husqvarna 450 with no resulting damage.
Others sing the praises of this chainsaw's combination of muscle and maneuverability. "It took down a dead 50' oak and sliced it up in no time at all! It has lots of power and runs great," posts one owner at ChainsawsDirect.com. "So far I have cut and split about 4 cords and other than a quick brushing and lubrication for the sprocket, and of course keeping the chain sharp, the 450 has been running perfectly," says another at Northern Tool + Equipment.
The Husqvarna 450's chain tensioner is neither automatic nor tool-free -- it requires a wrench -- but most users don't seem to mind. It also comes with an inertia-activated chain brake and a chain lock that can sometimes engage a little too firmly, requiring some jerry-rigging to get the saw to work again. Yet even with these occasional complaints, it's still the most powerful, maneuverable and overall capable chainsaw we evaluate.
Aside from a little less power, a slightly smaller bar and a quirky starting mechanism that frustrates a fair number of users, the Husqvarna 440E is a worthy and less expensive alternative. Both it and the 450 have excellent anti-vibration handles that reviewers say make a long day of cutting less fatiguing. The 440E also has a tool-free chain tensioner, which users say they can easily adjust one-handed.
That eccentric starter, however, is the 440E's Achilles heel. A few owners say it stalls very easily when cold, so you have to stay on the throttle to keep it going, and one reports that he had to run the throttle while starting the chainsaw to get it going at all. At least half the reviewers who comment on the Husqvarna 440E's starter say it works easily, but if you struggle to get a chainsaw started anyway, this probably isn't the model for you. Consider the easier-starting Husqvarna 450 or an electric or cordless model, both of which start easier than gas models.
Once you have the Husqvarna 440E running, owners say it cuts quickly and ably. "Powerful, light...cuts wood faster than any other saw I ever used," posts one user at ChainsawsDirect.com. On the other hand, Sal Vaglica at This Old House magazine evaluates a 16-inch version of the 440E, saying it cut through 6- and 8-inch-diameter logs with no problem but larger logs "required a bit of finesse to prevent the saw from binding." If you plan to deal with heavy timber, it might be worth springing for the larger and more powerful Husqvarna 450.