Cordless weed whackers bring a lot of positives to the job of trimming grass -- push-button start, no emissions, no engine maintenance and (relatively) quiet operation. Their run time is limited, but the best models can keep going long enough to handle a typical suburban plot. If you need more than that, you can keep a charged spare battery on hand, but for larger properties, a gas-powered string trimmer might be a better choice. Of course, run time isn't an issue with a corded electric string trimmer, but your range is limited by the need to be able to reach an AC outlet with your extension cord. Corded electric weed eaters are lighter and cheaper than cordless models, and those are certainly pluses, but tend not to do as well in reviews -- both expert and user.
Finding a top weed whacker among cordless models was a cinch for this update, as experts and owners have nothing but praise for the Ego ST1501-S (Est. $180). This 15-inch model with a straight shaft is the top-rated cordless electric string trimmer in one large comparative review, and is also named a Best Buy. Despite its light weight, that site's editors noted that it's the most powerful battery model it has tested, even able to handle tall grass and weeds, something that's beyond the capabilities of most cordless trimmers. Handling is also well liked.
Other experts agree. At ProToolReviews.com, Clint DeBoer sings the praises of the Ego ST1501-S, describing it as a "Pro's tool for home use." He tests it on his own property over a two week span and is impressed by the power. "There is a substantial amount of torque on this trimmer, and you can feel it as you work—and you can hear it as the motor refuses to bog down," he says.
Handling and ergonomics are a plus as well, DeBoer says. Though he longs for an anchor point for a shoulder strap, he notes that the trimmer "felt good in the hands and was easy to both lift and maneuver." Starting is effortless and controls are simple. One small nitpick is that there is a longer "soft start" than he would prefer and that the trimmer takes about a second to get up to full speed, but once it gets there, "cutting power is impressive."
A 56 volt, 2.0 Ah battery and charger are included. If you already have other Ego Power+ tools, you can use that battery instead and opt for this weed eater as a bare tool, the Ego ST1500-S (Est. $130). Spare batteries, Ego BA1120 (Est. $130), are also available. Run times will vary with speed and the trimming task, but Ego estimates between 25 and 45 minutes and user feedback indicates that that's about right -- many say that they get more than 30 minutes without issue.
Speaking of feedback, most owners indicate that they like their Ego ST1501-S very much. Though some feedback was originally posted at the Ego site, we see a rating of 4.6 stars based on nearly 180 reviews at HomeDepot.com, with 94 percent giving it a recommendation. The biggest complaint is with the bump head -- which allows you to feed out additional line by tapping the cutting head on the ground -- not working reliably. This was an issue with a previous model that most say has been addressed in the current one, though a handful say that they are still not pleased with its operation. While HomeDepot.com is the primary retailer of Ego power tools, they are available elsewhere as well. Feedback at these retailers, such as Amazon.com, is more limited, but what's there is similarly positive. The Ego trimmer is covered by a limited five-year warrant (three years for the battery and charger) for home use, and one-year for professional use.
The Ryobi RY40220 (Est. $150) is an interesting alternative to the Ego. In expert testing, it proves to be just as adept in trimming, edging and even in handling tall grass as the Ego. In a free article at ConsumerReports.org, Ed Perratore says that in limited testing, it rivaled the power of mid-level gas weed whackers. It's also more versatile -- the line can be set to between 13 inches and 15 inches -- and can accept attachments (including a blower, cultivator and edger) that let it do more than just trim grass. A recent price cut makes it a touch less expensive than the Ego, too, though prices can go up quickly if you opt for some of the extra gardening tools. However, user satisfaction, while good, is a cut below that of the Ego. While most owners are pleased, we saw far more negative feedback regarding units that failed than with the Ego -- leading to a 4.3 star rating at HomeDepot.com, with 86 percent offering it a recommendation. Like the Ego, this weed eater features a straight shaft.
While the Ego and Ryobi weed eaters do a good job with tall grass and weeds, if clearing that type of growth is a top priority, the 20.5 volt Core CGT400 (Est. $270) should get a look-see. In expert testing, it doesn't fare especially well at mundane tasks, such as trimming and, especially, edging. However, it was the only cordless string trimmer to deal with tall grass and weeds as effectively as the top gas models. It's covered by a five-year residential warranty, and two years for commercial use; the battery and charger are covered for one year.
Marissa Munoz at StringTrimmersDirect.com notes that the 14-inch CGT400 uses a motor technology that can produce as much power as a two-cycle gas engine, and that it can deliver similar run times -- it's specified at 70 minutes, and we saw user reports that say that, depending on the task, hour run times are easily achievable. "If you're looking for a lighter weight, cordless string trimmer to keep your yard or property well-manicured and looking neat, this CGT400 from Core will definitely fit the bill," Munoz says.
User feedback is strong. It earns an overall rating of roughly 4.5 stars at StringTrimmersDirect.com based on more than 50 reviews. Around 91 percent say that they would recommend the trimmer. At Amazon.com, we also see a 4.5-star rating for this straight shaft string trimmer based on roughly 120 reviews.