Fairly loud -- even from 50 feet away. In one leading test, the Hitachi RB24EAP proves fairly loud, both at the operator's ear and from 50 feet away (neighbor distance). It's louder at 50 feet than the top-rated Stihl BG 55 (*Est. $150) handheld leaf blower, for example.
Experts say you'll definitely need hearing protection while you're running the Hitachi. Owners don't complain about the noise, though.
"The whine of the engine is high and loud at maximum speed, but very gentle at idle," one Hitachi RB24EAP owner writes at Amazon.com user. Another says, "It's a little loud but compared to other models, it is acceptable."
Extremely lightweight. Several owners say they picked the Hitachi specifically because it's so lightweight. At just 8.6 pounds, it's even lighter than the 9-pound Stihl BG 55 -- and they're both noticeably lighter than most 10-pound-plus handheld leaf blowers.
"I used it on the roof to blow out the gutters of leaves, and it is so light that it makes it easy, without the worry of carrying a heavy load on the roof, and fear of falling," writes one Hitachi RB24EAP owner at HomeDepot.com.
One oddity that several owners notice: Hitachi designed this blower to be carried left-handed.
"If you're right handed, you have to hold it away from your body or you'll block the air inlet," one Amazon.com user says. "If you're blowing a yard full of leaves, that can get tiresome." And you can't sling it over your shoulder. "There's no strap or place to hook one."
Like rival handheld leaf blowers, the Hitachi has a variable-speed trigger, so you can work softly around delicate plants and the like. But unlike its rivals, there's no trigger lock (you have to keep squeezing the trigger the whole time). Some owners wish for a trigger lock, while others say it's not a big deal -- but one review source rates the Hitachi lower than the Stihl BG 55 for ease of use, largely because of the missing trigger lock.
Nearly as efficient as the top-rated Stihl -- but owners complain that the Hitachi breaks down. The Hitachi RB24EAP blows leaves very well in two tests -- just not as well as the Stihl BG 55.
"We found it worked well moving soggy leaves and prickly seedpods," say testers at Popular Mechanics. But "the blower nozzle is too short, reducing the effectiveness of the airstream. The nozzle needs to be able to get in close to debris."
Another source agrees. The Hitachi sweeps piles of leaves just as efficiently as the Stihl, but -- although it's very good at loosening embedded leaf bits in the turf -- it's not quite as outstanding as the Stihl.
Still, most owners find this lightweight blower plenty powerful -- as long as it's working properly. "For normal yard cleanup where you can't justify one of the expensive backpack units, this one has plenty of grunt," one owner writes at Amazon.com. Various users say the Hitachi can blow small rocks, sweet gum tree balls and wood chips left over from chainsawing trees, as well as the usual leaves and grass clippings.
But the Hitachi broke down quickly for about 15 percent of owners at Amazon.com. Usually, the fuel lines have split, crumbled or come loose. The Hitachi comes with a seven-year warranty, but some owners say Hitachi either didn't cover the repairs or told them to ship the blower to Georgia -- at their own expense -- for repairs.
The Hitachi RB24EAP blows leaves nearly as well as the best-reviewed Stihl BG 55 handheld gas blower, so it's got appeal. But resist that temptation: Durability concerns arise from owners repeatedly complaining that the Hitachi breaks down, making it hard to recommend.
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Report Credibility: Excellent ConsumerReports.org tests 11 handheld gas leaf blowers, including the Hitachi RB24EAP. Testers rate each one's ease of use, noise level and performance. Each blower gets an individual review, too.
Review: Hitachi RB24EAP, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, As of October 2012
Report Credibility: Very Good The Hitachi RB24EAP works well in this test, but not quite as well as the Stihl BG 55. The too-short nozzle prevents it from getting close enough to debris.
Review: Which Leaf Blower Is the Best? We Test 8 to Find Out, Roy Berendsohn, Not dated
Report Credibility: Good The Hitachi RB24EAP earns almost perfect ratings here from more than 30 owners. One says he got a lemon, and another didn't want a two-stroke engine, but the rest are happy with the Hitachi's light weight, power and variable speed.
Review: Hitachi 170 mph 441 CFM Hand Held Blower, Contributors to HomeDepot.com, As of October 2012
Report Credibility: Good Most of the more than 260 owner-reviewers here like the Hitachi RB24EAP, but more than 15 percent give it low ratings, saying it died quickly.
Review: Hitachi RB24EAP 23.9cc 2 Stroke 170MPH Gas Powered Handheld Blower (CARB Compliant), Contributors to Amazon.com, As of October 2012