Best for smaller yards, electric hedge trimmers (sometimes called corded hedge trimmers) are the first option many homeowners consider. With prices usually below $100, they're very economical; they're also the smallest and lightest of the trimmer types, and very easy to maneuver overhead and in tight quarters.
All three of the electric trimmers in this report are quiet -- all the better for endearing yourself to nearby neighbors, especially if you like to work in the yard early in the morning. They're also backed by two-year warranties and offer very good durability when used for the light, occasional work they're designed for -- so deciding between models comes down to a question of features, weight and brand loyalty.
The 3.3-amp Black & Decker HH2455 (Est. $70) is our top choice, thanks to two features the other models lack: an on-lock trigger, which lets you lock the power switch "on" so you don't have to continuously squeeze it as you work, and a rotating handle that swings through a full 180-degree arc, letting you change the angle of the blade for trimming in tight quarters or awkward positions.
The HH2455 is also light enough for anybody to handle comfortably at 6.5 pounds, although it's the heaviest of the electric models evaluated here. The Black & Decker TR117 (Est. $35) weighs just 4.3 pounds, and the Toro 51490 (Est. $55) weighs 6.1 pounds.
All three models are favorites with women, who say they're very light and easy to use; but as you might guess, the lightest-of-them-all Black & Decker TR117 is a particular favorite when it comes to maneuverability. Its 17-inch blade is also the shortest in the report, which makes it ideal for trimming small, rounded hedges and tight spots -- but if you want to trim larger hedges or simply get through the job faster, you'll do better with the 24-inch Black & Decker HH2455 or the 22-inch Toro 51490.
The Toro 51490 has the most power -- 4 amps -- although the 3.3-amp Black & Decker HH2455 claims the most cutting capacity (it can handle branches up to 3/4 inch in diameter). The Toro 51490's 9/16-inch capacity isn't far from that, and the 3.2-amp Black & Decker TR117 claims a 5/8-inch maximum capacity.
In all three cases users say the trimmers work great when used to cut small, live (soft) branches. All three of them start to slow a bit as they approach their maximum capacity or encounter old, dead branches, and they may even require you to do a few over-under cuts -- but they'll still get the job done.
If you don't want to spend a little extra for the Black & Decker HH2455's excellent features and capacity, both the Black & Decker TR117 and Toro 51490 are excellent alternatives. In fact, they're so similar that many users have divided into camps based simply on brand loyalty.
If you prefer a handle that's in line with the axis of the trimmer, you should opt for the Black & Decker TR117; and if you'd rather have a loop handle that runs perpendicular to the trimmer's axis (and extends equally to both sides, so it's friendly for left-handed users), go for the Toro 51490.
And finally, if nothing bothers you more than the extension cord falling out of an electric trimmer's plug-in, you might feel better using one of the Black & Decker models. All three trimmers mentioned here have cord locks meant to keep those "oops" moments from happening, but judging from user comments, the Black & Deckers' cord lock works a hair better than Toro's.
The Black & Decker HH2455 and its two runners up all excel at what they're designed for -- quickly trimming lots of small branches, twigs, leaves and grasses. But if you want to trim larger branches, work far away from a power outlet or simply not worry about cutting or tangling a long cord, consider purchasing a larger and noisier, but significantly more powerful gas trimmer. Or if you need extra mobility for small jobs, consider an eco-friendly cordless trimmer that's powered by rechargeable batteries.