If you want the best in performance and convenience -- and the price won't scare you away -- reviewers recommend the Stihl BGA 85 cordless blower. As Sal Vaglica of This Old House magazine says, it offers "the power of gas without the maintenance, noise and emissions." True, the battery and charger need to be bought separately, which can add $200 or more to the price. But experts lavish praise on this model, saying it's quick and effective.
Lots of power. The Stihl BGA 85 is considered very powerful for a cordless model. Sal Vaglica, who tests the BGA 85 against other blowers for This Old House magazine, says its combination of 36-volt motor and two-stage, inline-fan design generates almost as much force as Stihl's midlevel gas-powered blowers. A top testing organization reports similar results, noting the BGA 85, which operates at 102 mph airspeed, is quick at moving leaves, but it says the tool doesn't do as well loosening embedded particles. We found only a few user comments, but these are quite positive, confirming that the model handily clears away leaves, dust and debris.
Quiet and maneuverable. Partly due to its superior handling, the Stihl BGA 85 earns the highest score in a comparison test conducted by Wired. David Wolman writes that the unit is "more manageable and precise than backpack models" and can "reach over and around hedges and yard furniture for strategic blasts." It is also one of the quietest blowers around and has a run time of up to 23 minutes. On the downside, Sal Vaglica of This Old House magazine reports that "the 2½-pound lithium-ion battery throws the blower out of balance, so you have to work at pointing the nozzle down."
Durable, but costs can add up. When you add on the price of the battery and charger, the Stihl BGA 85 is the most expensive blower we evaluate, running $500 or more. Even so, reviewers say its solid construction and durability make it a good value. Roy Berendsohn at Popular Mechanics says the price is worth it "for users who value timesaving, quietness and not having to worry about exhaust or handling tools with hot mufflers." Because the BGA 85 is only available at independent dealers, few owners post comments on durability and long-term reliability. Stihl warranties the tool, battery and charger for two years.
Editors review multiple gas and electric leaf blowers, evaluating them on their ability to move leaves quickly and loosen lawn debris from grass. Ratings on noise and handling are included in the final score. The site also has a buyer's guide for leaf blowers, as well as some user comments.
Review: Leaf Blowers, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
2. This Old House magazine
The Stihl BGA 85 gets a Very Good rating for blower performance in a comparison test with nine other models. Vaglica says it provides the power of a gas model without the maintenance, noise and emissions, but adds that it isn't well balanced because of its heavy battery.
Review: TOH Tested: Leaf Blowers, Sal Vaglica, Not Dated
Stihl's cordless BGA 85 takes the top spot in this comparison test, beating out three gas-powered blowers. Wolman says it has plenty of power, good maneuverability and great precision. He notes, however, that it's as loud as some gas models, and because there's no shoulder strap, it can feel heavy.
Review: Leaf Blowers, David Wolman, Sept. 29, 2011
Berendsohn doesn't conduct side-by-side testing with cordless leaf blowers, but draws on years of experience to make comparisons. His test of the BGA 85 is pretty casual and his review is short, but he calls Stihl's cordless tools "light, clean, quiet and fast" overall and worth the premium price.
Review: No Gas, No Problem: Stihl's Battery-Powered Tools Get the Job Done, Roy Berendsohn, Not Dated