Powered hedge trimmers are handy tools for grooming shrubs and hedges in a fraction of the time it would take with manual clippers. Most residential-grade hedge trimmers have a blade that's16 to 25 inches long with a cutting surface on both sides for shaping shrubs. Hedge trimmers may be powered by electricity, a rechargeable battery or gas.
Corded electric hedge trimmers are lightweight, quiet and easy to start, making them the most popular choice for residential use. However, the cord limits your range and can easily tangle while you're trimming. Cordless hedge trimmers are equally quiet and easy to start, and the rechargeable battery offers more freedom of movement. The tradeoff is generally less cutting power and a limited runtime. (Stihl recently introduced a 36-volt cordless hedge trimmer with a longer runtime and more power.)
Gas-powered hedge trimmers are favored by homeowners and yard maintenance professionals who need mobility and maximum cutting capability. However, many residential users find gas-powered hedge trimmers to be loud, heavy and difficult to start, to say nothing of the fumes their engines produce. As with other gas-powered lawn tools, they also require maintenance; you must periodically replace the air and fuel filters.
Although now very dated, one of the most useful sources we found is Popular Mechanics magazine's 2004 comparative review of six electric, cordless and gas hedge trimmers. Popular Mechanics also offers single-product reviews and an interesting article comparing the performance of electric and gas-powered hedge trimmers based on head-to-head tests. ThisOldHouse.com also provides informative reviews, as does About.com's landscaping guide. ConsumerGuide.com reviews eight hedge trimmers, though the reviews date back to 2006 and 2007.
We also looked at user reviews at Amazon.com, Lowes.com, HomeDepot.com and Walmart.com. Sears.com is the best place to find reviews of their Craftsman brand of hedge trimmers.
Commercial electric and gas hedge trimmers are primarily used by yard and grounds maintenance professionals. Reviews for these hedge trimmers are fewer in number, but we found a few useful sources. GardenWeb.com is a forum for gardeners that offers some interesting discussions about gas hedge trimmers. We also found some helpful overviews of commercial brands at Yard & Garden magazine and Grounds-Mag.com, which are geared toward landscape professionals.